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

I led my aunt out of the bedroom and along the corridor outside until we were well out of earshot.

“What is it?” she asked.

“About the final step,” I said, bracing myself for her reaction. “Our plan needs to be modified slightly.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I have a way to make the ritual less prone to failure. We both know how fragile Lilith’s existence is, even in her young form. It’s possible she won’t make it through to the end—and that is a possibility that we can’t afford to entertain. The bond she had with Magnus… it has been enough to sustain her until now, but this ritual will put levels of stress on her that she has never had to bear before.” I paused, studying my aunt’s face for a moment before continuing. “Isolde, I went against Lilith’s wishes.”

“What?” she whispered.

“I imprisoned Magnus.”

My aunt’s jaw dropped. “What? How?”

“When we first came into contact with Lilith and I learned about her secret, I confronted her about Magnus. I told her that we couldn’t afford for anything to happen to him. Even as a vampire, he was and is not invulnerable. I knew that we needed to keep him alive for a long time. Anything could happen to him before we were ready to carry out the ritual. But Lilith refused to even entertain my suggestion. She wouldn’t tell me why, she just rejected it outright. She said that nothing would happen to him and imprisoning him wasn’t necessary. I tried to press at the time, tried to make her see reason, but she wouldn’t hear me out.” I shot a look down the corridor to check that we were still alone. “So I took matters into my own hands. I tracked the vampire down and placed him somewhere… secure.”

My aunt looked dumbstruck. “All this time,” she breathed, “you never told me. Why?”

“I didn’t tell anybody,” I said. “Not even my sisters. There was no point until we were ready to call upon him. I didn’t want to worry you. You had enough on your shoulders already.”

“But… We can’t just bring him in front of Lilith. If she finds out about your deception, your disobedience, she will be furious. God knows what she might do.”

I gripped my aunt’s arm and led her further along the corridor, lowering my voice even more. “She will thank me for it. It will be a shock, no doubt about that. But having Magnus present with her in the flesh will make the bond she has with him as strong as it can possibly be.”

“All this is just your speculation. You have no idea how she will react.”

I breathed out impatiently. “We won’t reveal Magnus until the ritual has started. Do you really think that she would interrupt it?”

Isolde still looked doubtful.

“Look,” I said. “This is just a risk we have to take. And I need you on my side.”

She swallowed hard, then said, “All right. Where have you kept the vampire?”

“I will explain later,” I said. “Now, while Lilith is still recovering, I am going to fetch him and bring him back to the castle. We’ll keep him locked in a room until we are ready to begin.”

“I hope you are sure about this, Rhys.”

I nodded. “In the end, Lilith will thank me for it. As will generations of witches in the future.”

Chapter 11: Rhys

I looked around the silent wood. It had been a while since I had last been here. Still, I knew exactly where to go. I launched into a sprint, whipping through the trees until they thinned and gave way to the foot of a large gray mountain. I had chosen this spot specifically because it was one of the least densely populated areas of the werewolf realm. I began my climb and stopped halfway up.

I pulled myself up on to a ledge and stared directly ahead of me at the rocky wall. To all appearances, this wall looked no different from the rest of the mountain. There were also plenty of ridges like the one I was standing on. The small octagonal mark inscribed in the center of the wall assured me that this was the right one.

I walked up and placed my palms against it. I pressed my right ear against the cool stone and listened. Then, when I uttered a charm, the wall gave way, swinging backward. Dust and small rocks loosened and fell on me as I stepped into a small cave. It was dark and musty—empty but for a long casket lining one wall. Manifesting a flame in my palm to shed light, I headed for the stone container. It was freezing cold to the touch—as it should be. Loosening the two clasps that held down the lid, I pulled it open.

My eyes widened, my mouth drying out.

It was empty.

What?

I looked around the cave again, half expecting to see the vampire stepping out from the shadows. Confusion fogged my brain.

Where is he?

How on earth could he have escaped?

There was no sign of any efforts to break out of this cave, and there were no holes or crannies that he could have escaped through. Besides, I had put him to sleep. How would he have even woken up?

None of it made any sense.

I could only assume that I had been careless in casting my spell upon him, and somehow he had gotten the wall to open. I had been a more inexperienced warlock at that time, after all. I had not yet undergone the sacrifices that had shaped my powers into what they were today.

Sweat formed on my forehead. Lilith was waiting for me to return before starting the ritual. I couldn’t keep her waiting much longer. I had to find this vampire.

At least I knew the first place that I needed to look.