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She shook her head. “Of course not.”

Jeramiah nodded curtly. “Then, given the circumstances, I would like to propose that our stay on this island be… a little prolonged.”

Chapter 15: Ben

Jeramiah once again drew out the wind instrument from beneath his robe. Holding it, he raised it in the air and in one abrupt motion, brought it crashing down against his knee. The wood cracked and the instrument broke into two. He discarded both pieces unceremoniously, dropping them to the floor and kicking them to the wall.

“Why did you do that?” Amaya asked, furrowing her brows in disdain.

“My father is gone,” he replied, his voice baritone. “I have no further use for it.”

The vampire’s face had become stony again, almost unreadable, though a storm was brewing behind his eyes.

“So we will remain away from The Oasis,” Amaya said, shifting her eyes away from the shattered instrument to Jeramiah. “That much we have decided on. But why stay here longer? I don’t understand what more you’d want to put these people through. You’ve done more than enough.”

Jeramiah’s jaw tensed. “Maybe you’re right,” he said, his voice low and dangerous. “Perhaps, wherever my father’s soul might be now, he might have appreciated the gesture and been satisfied with my efforts so far…” He paused and walked over to the table upon which the witch’s magic knife rested. He picked it up and tilted it slowly from side to side, staring at the blade, his eyes glazing over. “But you see, Amaya… my soul is not satisfied. It still burns. My hunger for vengeance still disturbs my mind, and until I feel I’ve had it, I’m not sure I will ever be able to find peace.”

Amaya let out a breath. “But Jeramiah—”

His gaze intensified. “You do realize that, had it not been for the people who inhabit this island—my own flesh and blood—my father would still be alive? I would have been able to meet him face to face, and he would be ruling over this place. I would be the prince, and my life would be full. I wouldn’t have had to struggle for years trying to discover who I was… I would have an identity.”

Amaya didn’t argue further. She pursed her lips and fell quiet as Jeramiah resumed his prowl around the room.

When he spoke again, his voice was calmer. “Now that it appears Nuriya no longer has a hold over us, and I find myself still in The Shade—the legendary island of the Novaks—I cannot bring myself to leave now. Not yet.” He gestured with a hand toward the witch. “Of course, I cannot make you stay. You’ve returned your favor to me already with all that you have done to help me up until now, and I could not expect you to stay longer…. Though, of course, if for old times’ sake you decided to remain even for another day, I would be indebted to you.”

Amaya pursed her lips as though she was seriously considering his proposal. “Well,” she began slowly, “if it’s just for another day or so, I will stay with you… for old times’ sake.” Then her eyes narrowed on the vampire. “But exactly what more do you wish to do to these people?”

Jeramiah took his time in answering. He roamed slowly back over to the table and replaced the blade. His back still turned to the witch, he replied in a whisper, “I need to end the lives of three people. Derek and Sofia Novak, and Aiden Claremont. If I can see these leaders fall, I will be able to move on. I believe that I would be able to relieve my mind from the burden of revenge, and stop living in the past.”

He looked disconcertingly calm as his eyes searched Amaya’s face for a response. Her complexion had paled, though she was showing no signs of faltering or withdrawing her offer of help.

“I’m confused, Jeramiah,” she said. “If you wanted to end those three—Derek, Sofia and Aiden—why did you request me to target their homes with fire while they were out? Why did I not do it in the dead of night, or some other time when you were sure that they were inside, asleep? It would have been easy—they could’ve been scorched by now.”

The vampire took a seat in the chair next to her. “The reason for that is simple,” he replied, leaning closer to her. He gazed at her thoughtfully, even reaching out to tuck a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. “You see, Amaya, I could have done that. As you say, it would have been easy. But that’s just the problem. It would have been too easy.” He shook his head. “No. When I requested you to burn down the buildings, I had already resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t have time to pull off their end the way I wanted it. I just satisfied myself with the knowledge that, once I’d gained more favors from Nuriya, I’d be able to return a second time to finish the job the way it should be done. But now that we find ourselves with more time, I need to end the trio who caused the most suffering to my father, in a way that does justice to him… And really, there’s only one way to do that.”

“What exactly are you thinking?” Amaya asked, her eyes widening.

A small smile crept across Jeramiah’s lips. The way it split his pale face made him look snakelike. “I think I’ll leave the exact details of their demise to the hunters. They’ve been incredibly patient in waiting outside the island’s boundary for so long. I think it’s about time someone threw them a bone… Don’t you?”

Chapter 16: Ben

No. No!

My mind spiraled into a panic as Jeramiah left his seat and walked over to the mantelpiece, where he picked up an old piece of parchment and a quill.

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