“Okay,” I murmured, already steeling myself for what was to follow.

“That’s good,” he said, licking his lips, before finally springing it on me, “So has Heath asked you out yet?”

Oh. My. God.

Why does he have to do this in front of my parents?

“Benedict!” Rose chastised. “Enough already with the whole Heath thing. Leave Grace alone.”

The whole Heath thing. I felt mortified. Does he talk about me and Heath at, like, dinnertimes with his own parents? Who else has he been talking to? I already knew the answer to that: the whole island.

Not that it mattered, anyway.

Still, I kept my eyes firmly trained on the ground, avoiding my parents’ glances.

“You’ll both be old by the time you get together,” Benedict mumbled beneath his breath.

At this, I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Thanks for your concern, Doctor Love.”

“You and Claudia should form some kind of helpline,” Hazel said, shoving her brother in the shoulder.

Benedict moved to shove her back before Caleb stepped between them, foiling their game of Who Can Have the Last Shove before it could commence.

I let out a sigh. Sometimes I wished that I had a sibling… and other times I didn’t. I had plenty of family to keep me busy as it was. In addition to my cousins and second cousins, I had three aunts, Rose, Dafne and Lalia, and two uncles, Jamil and Caleb, not to mention my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-aunts and uncles.

After a couple of minutes, we reached the path that would lead Hazel and Benedict to school in The Vale and parted ways. We continued toward the Dome. I hibernated in my own thoughts for the rest of the way through the forest. I found myself playing back our journey through The Woodlands. As nerve-racking as it was, I couldn’t say that I’d hated it. Being in such a tightly knit group, it felt like Heath and I had gotten to know each other better, something I’d never really gotten the chance to do until now because, well, he was a year older than me. He was in a different class at school and frankly, I was always too shy to go near him. Plus, I’d always assumed that he already had a girlfriend.

Arriving at the Dome, we entered to find that all the League members had already gathered here except Victoria. I guessed that after everything that happened, her parents had persuaded her to remain at home. I also noticed a lot of extra dragons who did not officially belong to TSL standing around the edges of the room, as well as five extra jinn. Whatever my grandfather was planning, it seemed like we would be going into this like gangbusters.

Arwen and Brock were, surprisingly, sitting apart, each with their parents. Brock glanced my way and gave me a smile, making me grin back.

I took a seat with my parents, along with Rose and Caleb. Then my grandfather stood and called for silence.

“Right,” he said, steely determination in his bright blue eyes. “We will be returning to The Woodlands, all of us this time. And the plan is simple. We rescue any wolves they may have taken hostage, then locate every single hunter base there and destroy them one by one. Loss of hunters’ lives will be a factor we cannot take into consideration.”

I blinked. This was certainly a very different approach to how TSL usually did things.

“That’s kind of heavy-handed,” Abby murmured.

It was my father who responded to her. “Nothing but brutality will get through to these people. Some evils should not be given a second chance.”

I smiled to myself at his latter statement. My father was paraphrasing advice an oracle had once given him.

“We need to send them a message,” my grandfather went on, “that invading the land of innocent civilians is no way to combat criminals who might reside there. Not that they are attempting to do the latter anyway,” he added with a scowl. “This is nothing but a thinly veiled excuse for more control. We need to cause them problems in the supernatural dimension. We cannot make this easy for them.”

“They could have invaded other realms by now, right?” Gavin spoke up.

“Yes,” my grandfather replied. “It’s possible. Currently we only know about The Woodlands, hence for now it will be our focus. Does anyone have any objections?”

Nobody raised a hand. I suspected that many in this room were relishing the idea of finally giving the hunters their comeuppance.

“Good,” my grandfather said. “Now, Victoria said that most of the packs she visited were still unaffected. By now, of course, it could be a different story. But whatever the case, it does not seem that the hunters have been there long. I’m guessing that the base we entered is their main base, while others are simply conquered lairs. Hence, we will start by targeting the headquarters.”

“So we have to go to the Philippines first?” Ashley asked.

“No,” my grandfather said, shaking his head. “We won’t take the risk of returning through that portal. The hunters will be on high alert now, not to mention the fact that they have full sanction from the authorities to kill us or do whatever else they please. There is no need, anyway,” he went on. “We will use the portal we traveled through to return to The Shade. That leads to exactly where we need to be—the mountain where the wolves were gathered. So, there will be more questions and details to answer along the way, but seeing that nobody has any objections… let’s go.”

Grace

The plan was to travel in our helicopter-tank, Nightshade, to the portal in the middle of those fields that had bordered the enclosed city. The witches would make the vehicle invisible both during the journey there and also while we kept it waiting for us. My grandfather had already arranged to have the vehicle loaded up with ample weapons and supplies.

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