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An End of Night(A Shade of Vampire,Book 16)(6) by Bella Forrest

“As I said,” Mona said quietly, eyeing a werewolf with a missing hind leg sitting several feet away beneath a tree, “this is an island of outcasts—creatures who were rejected by their own kind. This is where they find their refuge. As for Ernesta, I suspect she came here because she was on the run from the Elders.”

“Makes sense,” a voice muttered a few feet away from me—Kiev’s voice.

I continued observing this strange town as we walked further into its center. Creatures stared back at us curiously, but nobody came up to speak to us, although Mona and Matteo did wave to some of them—old friends, I guessed.

We stopped outside a large stone building with a sign above the entrance that read “The Blue Tavern”.

“This pub is a good place to start,” Mona said. “You should all wait outside while I go in to see Elizabeth.”

Since the front door to the pub was in constant use, we stepped aside so as not to be in the way. Mona reappeared moments later shaking her head. “Ernesta is not in there. Elizabeth advised to try the main square. Apparently that’s where a lot of vampires gather at this time of night.”

We left the pub and wound our way along the streets until we reached a clearing where crowds of vampires were gathered—some sitting around on wooden benches, others standing in clusters talking. Mona walked up to the nearest vampire to us, a short man with a bald head. “Is there a vampire here called Ernesta Helios?” she asked politely.

“Ernesta,” he said, turning to scan the area. “She is over there.” He pointed toward a cluster of females in the far right corner.

“Which one is she?” Mona asked.

“The tallest among them,” he said. “Short dark hair…”

With that, he turned his back on Mona and continued his conversation. As I looked over at the group he had indicated, I could already spot a vampire of that description.

“Ah yes, I see her,” Matteo said. “Ernesta,” he said in a raised voice as we approached but a few feet away from the group.

The tall woman with short dark hair turned her blue eyes on us. They widened as she spotted Matteo.

“Matteo?” she said. “What brings you here?”

He eyed the women surrounding Ernesta. “Could I have a word?”

“Uh, all right.” She looked curiously at each of us before turning to her companions. “I will see you in a bit. Where would you like to speak?” she asked Matteo.

“Your home would probably be best.”

“I doubt all of you will fit inside. You know how small it is.”

“That’s fine,” Matteo said. “We don’t all need to come inside. And hopefully, we won’t be long.”

No further words were exchanged. She led us away from the square and back along the narrow streets. She stopped outside a rickety-looking two-story cottage. Pushing open the door, she held it open for Matteo to step inside, followed by Mona—then the invisible Kiev—then my parents, grandfather, Caleb, me, Helina and Erik. The rest waited outside. Ernesta led us through the dark hallway into a small sitting room. There weren’t enough seats for all of us to sit down, so most of us remained standing.

“Well?” Ernesta said, folding her hands over her lap.

“You can remove the invisibility spell now, Mona.” Kiev spoke a few feet away.

Ernesta’s jaw dropped as Kiev appeared. “Kiev?”

The vampire took a seat between Matteo and Mona.

“What on earth are you doing here?” She looked toward the door, as if checking that it was shut. “You are considered a criminal here, you do realize that, don’t you? Do you have any idea the punishment that would befall me for abetting someone like you? I could be kicked out of this place.”

“As Matteo said, we won’t be long.” Kiev leaned forward in his seat. “We need to know where your brother is.”

“What?”

“Where is Magnus?” Kiev’s eyes blazed into hers.

“I have no idea where my brother is,” she said, exasperation in her tone.

“When was the last time you saw him?” Matteo asked.

She clasped a palm to her forehead. “My… it was many, many years ago. I can’t even remember how long it’s been. I’ve lost track. You see, my brother and I had a falling out. We parted ways due to… irreconcilable differences. “

“What differences?” Mona asked .

The vampire frowned. “That’s a little too personal for me to feel comfortable discussing in front of strangers.”

“Ernesta,” Kiev said, standing up and walking over to her seat. “We need to find your brother. Do you have any idea where he could be now?”

“Why do you need to find him?” she asked.

Kiev exchanged glances with Mona and Matteo, then turned back to Ernesta. “Are you aware that your brother was in love with an Ancient?”

Ernest shook her head. “No. I had no idea… Even when we were in touch, we were never close enough to discuss romantic relationships.”

“Are you aware of the situation with the black witches?” Matteo pressed.

“I have been out of touch with affairs going on outside of this island.”

“Well, now is the time to enlighten yourself,” Mona said impatiently, also standing. “They are attempting to carry out a ritual that has never been done before. If successful, it would have catastrophic consequences not just for humans, but all species too weak to fight off their powers. Even The Tavern would not be safe. Lilith—the Ancient your brother was in love with—is a key part of this ritual they are trying to carry out. We need to end her before they can complete it—”