“Don’t freak out. Even if you’re not feeling her, Avery isn’t dead. It doesn’t work like that because Sebastian is still able to feel Ella through death. She must be unconscious.” I’m not sure if this should make me feel better or not.

“That means he took too much of her blood if she has passed out.” And that’s a danger to our baby.

“Or maybe she fainted because she’s pregnant. A lot of women do that when they’re expecting and it doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with them or the baby.”

Side effects this early don’t seem likely. “If Avery’s pregnant, it’s only a few days. It seems entirely too soon for something like that to happen.”

“Chansey’s pregnancy didn’t progress at a normal rate and Avery’s won’t either so who’s to say it’s too soon?”

I wanted to believe in Curry’s theory–and I appreciate him trying to encourage me–but my heart was telling me Avery was in trouble. The only solace I could find was in knowing she wasn’t dead. But how long could she last with Vincent if I didn’t find her soon? “I’m going to inflict so much pain on that bastard when I find him.”

“As much as I’d love to be the one to take him down, your beef with him is much larger than mine so I’ll happily stand aside and watch as you kill him slowly.”

A wooden stake through the heart was far too compassionate for him. He deserved something much slower and more painful. “Have you ever seen a vampire die in the sun?”

“Yes and it looks like an excruciating way to go. You hear this sound that can only be compared to food being dropped into frying oil. And the smell … it’s intolerable. A vampire’s decaying flesh releases a putrid stench as it burns in the sun. The odor is well beyond that of a human’s body as it burns by fire.”

Good. That sounds like the perfect way for Vincent and Gloriana Godfrey to die.

A week passes and then another. Two weeks. That’s how long I’ve been separated from my agápe and and I’m losing my mind.

Avery’s menstrual cycle is due today. It will come or it won’t. If it doesn’t, she’ll know she’s pregnant but I won’t be by her side to share in the joy. I’ll remain in the dark–unknowing if I’m to become a father or not until we find them. And then I remember how quickly Chansey’s pregnancy progressed once the first two months were behind her. What if we don’t find them soon enough and Avery gives birth while she remains with Vincent? That would be a disaster.

“You’re in deep thought. What’s on your mind?” I turn toward the voice calling upon my attention but I don’t respond because I’m not quite sure what to say. I don’t know Anna well enough to confide my feelings. “Don’t worry. You’re going to get Avery back. And my granddaughter will be returned as well.” She looks down at her great-grandson in her arms and then reaches over to stroke the head of her great-granddaughter lying on the couch next to her. “And these two will be reunited with their mother very soon.”

This woman has led a dynamic life. She was once a blood swan and then later became the grandmother of an agápe because her daughter was one of Anteros’s chosen few. Is it possible for that to be a coincidence? “Do you mind me asking how you became a blood swan?”

“My sister was turned when she was eighteen. I wanted to support her and being a blood swan was the best way for me to do that.”

I remember she didn’t remain an active blood swan for more than four years. “Why did you stop after such a short time?”

“I met someone–a vampire–and he didn’t want me to share my blood with others. He wanted it only for himself.”

That could only mean one thing. “You became his blood doll?”

She nods, unashamed. “For almost three years.”

Who terminated their relationship? “You ended it because you met your husband?”

“No. He called it off because I was in love with him and begged to be turned. I wanted to spend eternity with him so I pleaded constantly but he refused. He said he had come to love me too much to turn me into a monster like him.”

She must be mistaken. “Vampires don’t love humans unless they are agápe.”

“I don’t know how it’s possible but he loved me. I don’t doubt it for a second.” She’s very confident about it.

“You never saw him again?”

“Not once in half a century but it isn’t from lack of trying. I searched for a couple of years but gave up when I realized he wouldn’t be found if he didn’t want to be.” The sadness is still in her eyes after all these years. “Being in Savannah brings back all of those memories.”

Savannah? “You were here with your vampire?”

“Yes. His house was on East Broad Street. It was our home for almost three years.”

Incredible. I remembered seeing Broad Street on the diagram we were using to map out our search but we hadn’t made it to that side of town yet. “Would you take us there? He could have returned to Savannah. Maybe he has information about Avery and Chansey’s captor and where they’re being held.”

“Of course I will.”

Anna might possibly recognize the Sigil since she once lived among Savannah vampires. I take the key from my pocket and hold it out for her. “Do you recognize this symbol?” She takes the key from my hand but says nothing as she stares at it.

I hear her heart speed as she rubs her thumb over the design of the key. She looks up with tear-filled eyes and then pulls the neck of her blouse over to reveal the black ink hidden just below her hairline–an exact match to the Sigil. “Vincent insisted I mark my body with it so every other vampire would know I belonged to him.”

“Vincent Godfrey?”

“Oh, God. Is that who took the girls?”

Vincent Godfrey was her vampire? What a small world we live in.

She’s in shock. “I don’t understand. Vincent wasn’t at all like this person you describe. I don’t know what happened to change him but he’s giving us those girls back. Tonight. I’ll make sure of that.”

Curry enters the living room and I’m guessing he heard our conversation by the surprise displayed upon his face. “Anna. You can’t walk into a lair of vampires with us. Chansey would never forgive me for putting you in that kind of danger.”

“Chansey will be pissed off for a little while but at least she’ll be alive so she has the opportunity to be mad.”

Curry and I look at one another but Anna doesn’t give us the opportunity to argue. “What time do we leave?”

Anna directs us to the house on East Broad Street and there it is–the sigil we’ve scoured to find for two weeks. The elaborate design is incorporated into the front door, the ironwork around the front porch, even the back iron fence surrounding the property. A vampire would have to be blind to not see it.

Anna stands in front of the place she once called home and takes it all in while my family and I note other things. There are six vampires inside so we’re evenly matched. And two human agápes.

My instinct is to burst through the door so we have the element of surprise but Anna insists violence won’t be necessary. She believes she can persuade Vincent to give Avery and Chansey over without a fight. We tend to disagree. The Vincent she knew and the one we met a few months ago are two entirely different beings.

Anna’s heart is racing and I’m not so sure it’s a good idea for her to go inside. “You sure you want to do this?”

She doesn’t hesitate in answering. “Absolutely.”

She rings the bell and one of Avery’s vampiric guards from the blood ceremony is the one to answer. He eyes Anna without any regard for us. “Tell Vin I’m here to see him.”

“Anna?” he whispers. He recognizes her so that means this guy has been with Vincent at least fifty years.

“Yes, Demarcus. I look much different than the last time we saw one another but it’s me.”

The vampire hugs Chansey’s grandmother and I realize the high regard in which he holds her. “It’s been a few years.”

Anna’s face is solemn. “It’s been more than a few years. I need to see him.”

The vampire steps outside and shuts the door. “I don’t know if seeing him is a good idea. He’s different now–not at all the person you once knew.”

“What happened to him?”

“He went mad after losing you.”

“He didn’t lose me. He’s the one that left.” Her voice is sad.

“And he never recovered from it.”

“That was his decision. I didn’t get a say in it.” She points toward the house. “Now he doesn’t get a say about keeping those two girls in there captive. One of them is my granddaughter and we’re coming in whether it’s by invite or by force.”

The vampire runs his hands through his hair. “Sheez, Anna. Your granddaughter is a blood jewel. Do you have any idea what that means?”

Demarcus would know Avery wasn’t Anna’s granddaughter so there’s our confirmation. Chansey is a blood jewel as well but we still don’t know what it means.

Anna doesn’t reply as she pushes past him. “Move aside, Demarcus.”

He puts his hand up. “Please don’t barge in this way. Let me tell him you’re here so he can be prepared to see you.”

“Or so he can prepare to fight? Not happening, pal.” I step around Anna and streak past Demarcus because I’ve had enough of this spare Vincent’s feelings shit. He reaches out to grab me but he’s too slow. I’m through the door by the time his brain makes the command for his arm to lift.

My family is on my heels as I enter the living room where five vampires are gathered. I scan the room but there’s no sign of Avery or Chansey. Vincent is the first to notice us but doesn’t move an inch. “Well, well. If it isn’t my good friends Michael and Phillip from the Coven of Landra.”




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