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An End of Night(A Shade of Vampire,Book 16)(12) by Bella Forrest

We reappeared again on another islet—quiet, with no signs of the destruction we had just left. We all looked battle-worn—clearly many of us had attempted to battle the mermaids, judging by the various gashes in our bodies. My eyes traveled from Aiden, to Ashley, Landis, Helina, Erik, Ibrahim, Corrine, Micah, Caleb, my father, Matteo… But no matter how many times I looked around, I couldn’t see my mother.

My father’s eyes lit up with panic as he realized the same thing.

“Where is Sofia?” He leapt to his feet and gripped Ibrahim’s shoulders.

“What?” Ibrahim choked. He and Corrine cast their eyes around disbelievingly.

“How could we have missed her?” Corrine gasped.

Chapter 8: Sofia

As I fought to the surface, a slimy hand closed around my ankle.

I was yanked painfully downward, managing to take one last deep breath before my head submerged. I opened my eyes in the murky water and could just about make out the outline of a merman through the weeds. I kicked with all my strength, but his hold on me remained. I tried to bend down to lash out with my claws. He let go of me to dodge, but then another merman approached behind me. He caught my arms and pinned them behind my back.

No.

The first merman reached for my ankle again and the two of them dragged me down. I squirmed and continued to fight, but I couldn’t break free from their grasp. I looked up at the rapidly disappearing surface. As a vampire, I could hold my breath much longer than a human… but not forever.

As we descended deeper and deeper, the weeds grew thinner, the murkiness lifting and the water becoming clearer. My eyes widened at the sight that was now beneath me. I had a bird’s eye view of a magnificent underwater city. Paths lined with coral formed a maze around stone buildings. Gardens of sea flora and forests of tall sea grass were scattered between the constructions.

I was expecting the mermen to begin dragging me down toward the buildings, but to my surprise, they didn’t. They stopped descending and continued swimming with me at this level, past monstrous black sharks, luminous blue jellyfish the size of cars, pure white dolphins, and other alien creatures. We weaved in and out of the bases of the islets that served as majestic columns for the city. I wanted to scream out to them to let me go, but opening my mouth would only hasten my demise. I couldn’t afford to start swallowing water.

We started approaching one of the columns and they began swimming upward again. As they drifted with me higher and higher, I hoped for a moment that they were about to take me back up to the surface, but they stopped about fifteen feet beneath the surface. They swam right up to the rocks and now I could make out a dark hole. They pulled me through it, traveling along a narrow tunnel that had apparently been drilled right through the base of this islet, and I was brought an unexpected reprieve. My head popped above water, sweet oxygen filling my lungs. I gasped, looking around. We were in a cave. They hauled me out of the water and pinned me down against the rough ground.

They tied some kind of rope tightly around my ankles and arms. They were hog-tying me. They rolled me onto my side where I could better make out the cave. It was empty except for two still forms lying in the corner. As the stinging in my eyes from the salt water subsided, and my vision returned, I realized that it was Kiev and Mona—unconscious.

“What do you want with us?” I gasped at the two mermen.

They just shoved me farther away from the entrance to the cave and then disappeared back into the water.

“No,” I groaned in despair. I looked back at Mona and Kiev. “Mona? Kiev?”

No answer. They didn’t budge an inch.

Fear gripped me as I wondered if they were even still alive. They appeared to be tied up, like me, and that was the only comfort I had, for I could not see them breathing.

I lost track of how long I lay there. I had no idea what I’d been captured for, or what they were going to do with me. The wait was agonizing. I found myself wondering if anyone was going to come at all, or whether they just intended to leave me—us—here to rot. I looked across the floor at the pool. I even considered dipping back into the water. But that would be suicide. Whatever they had tied around me was incredibly strong and I couldn’t break free no matter how much I fought.

My head was beginning to feel light—perhaps from shock—and my eyelids were growing heavy. Although I was glad for the oxygen, it didn’t feel like there was much of it in here. It also felt humid and hot. I felt claustrophobic, despite the highness of the ceiling above me.

My eyes shot toward the entrance of the cave as I heard a splash. Green scaly hands gripped the sides of the hole and a mermaid with flaming orange hair and a pearl-studded tiara emerged.

“Please,” I said, before she could have a chance to do anything to me. “You must understand why we are here. We don’t mean to cause harm. We are—”

“I already know what you claim to be here for.” Her voice was much softer to the ear than I’d expected. It was smooth, almost melodious. Quite a contradiction to the screeching sound I was used to these creatures making. A smile formed on her thin lips. “It is insulting that you expect us to believe such a story. Don’t you think you have insulted us enough already by murdering one of our wardens?”

“It is the truth,” I said, as calmly as I could. “We’ve come here in search of a vampire named Magnus because we wish to end the black witches. You must help us. If you don’t, even your own realm could be at risk from them.”