When we arrived outside the door, my spine tingled as my ears caught the crying of an infant. Sofia gasped.
“Oh, my God, it’s happened already!” Rose exclaimed.
Worries about my son momentarily drifted into the background as excitement overtook me. I forced open the front door, too impatient to wait for somebody to come to answer it, and barged into the entrance hall. We hurried toward the crying, stopping outside one of the bedrooms.
“Vivienne?” I spoke up, a slight tremble in my voice.
The door flung open a moment later, and we found ourselves standing face to face with Corrine. Her thick brown locks were wrapped tightly above her head in a bun, beads of perspiration shining in the roots of her hair.
Her eyes widened, and a look of relief washed over her face. “Oh, thank goodness you’re back. Come in! Come in!”
We rushed in to find Vivienne lying on a double bed, cradling a blanket-clad baby in her arms. Xavier sat next to her on the bed. Vivienne looked drained and exhausted, but both of the new parents were positively glowing with happiness.
My throat tightened. My voice choked up, and I could hardly even greet them. I broke out into a smile, joy billowing up within me.
I hurried to Vivienne’s bedside and kissed her forehead while looking down at her beautiful baby.
“A boy or a girl?” Sofia asked, arriving by my side along with Rose.
“A girl,” Vivienne replied, tears moistening the corners of her eyes as she gazed at her baby.
“How late are we?” Rose asked, smiling at the baby girl.
“A few hours,” Xavier replied. His eyes had the same glistening quality as his wife’s. They both looked in a daze, lost in their own little bubble with their new child.
Vivienne raised the baby from her chest and handed her to me. I held her in my arms, taking in her features. Fine strands of dark hair covered her head and her eyes were bright blue, closer to my mother’s—and my—eye color than to Vivienne or Xavier’s. I dipped down and planted a kiss on her tiny nose.
“So you’ve named her Aurora?” I asked.
“We thought that’s what we’d name her… Xavier and I decided on that name months ago if we had a girl. But when she came out and I looked into her eyes for the first time… I wanted to name her after our mother, Derek.” Vivienne’s eyes shimmered with melancholy even as she smiled. “Victoria.”
We had lost our mother hundreds of years ago. Her death—caused by a vampire—had been the catalyst to my becoming a hunter before my siblings and I were eventually turned into vampires. My mother had died so long ago that she was but a distant memory. I had been only a teenager in human years, and so for the vast majority of my life, she had been absent.
But the look in my twin sister’s eyes stirred up memories of Victoria Lisette Novak. Memories of a beautiful, strong, dutiful woman. A woman my father Gregor Novak hadn’t deserved. I wished that she could be here now, that she could hold her new granddaughter in her arms and remark on how similar their eye colors were.
“I’m glad,” Rose said, her voice breaking through the haze of my memory. “I prefer the name Victoria.”
My daughter was standing several feet away from me, behind Caleb. I had sensed her take a step back as I’d picked up the baby, and now she had moved to the furthest end of the room, where she stood watching the scene. She was wise to do that. Although she’d made great progress in controlling her bloodlust, she still hadn’t been a vampire for long, and the blood of babies was particularly sweet.
I placed Victoria into Sofia’s ready arms, giving her a chance to greet her niece. Sofia kissed her puffy cheeks and stood with her a while before handing her back to Vivienne. My sister readjusted the blanket before resting Victoria against her chest.
We moved from the bedside and took seats around the room just as someone knocked on the door. Rose, being closest to the door, pulled it open to reveal Aiden standing in the doorway. He held a bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers. He’d come better prepared than us.
“Congratulations,” he exclaimed. Corrine took the flowers from Aiden and arranged them in a vase on Vivienne’s bedside table while my father-in-law approached the bed. He gestured to the flowers. “I didn’t know if I’d find you with a boy or a girl, so I opted for a neutral color.”
“Thank you.” Vivienne grinned, allowing Aiden to greet the newest member of our family.
“So how has everything been since we’ve been away?” I asked.
Xavier tore his eyes away from Victoria to face me. “Other than the arrival of Victoria, quite uneventful.”
“What happened with you?” Vivienne asked anxiously.
I didn’t want to bring up the news of Benjamin now. Not on one of the happiest days of my sister’s life.
“It was… eventful,” I muttered.
“Well, did you manage to reclaim Ben or not? Where is he?” Vivienne pressed.
I was relieved when Corrine came to my rescue.
“Vivienne,” she said, her voice taking on the tone of a scolding schoolteacher as she eyed my sister sternly. “As your midwife, I insist that you keep your focus on your baby and on your recovery. No other topic shall be discussed in this room until you’re fully recovered and strong enough to move back into your penthouse with Victoria. Okay?”
Vivienne was clearly not “okay” with it, but Corrine had a way of speaking with finality and my twin didn’t argue. She just pursed her lips and nodded reluctantly, while her eyes remained on me, silently pleading for more information about our trip.
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