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A Wind of Change(A Shade of Vampire,Book 17)(15) by Bella Forrest

We returned to our tent and stepped into our compartment. The first thing I did was look for Lalia’s inhaler. I prepared it, then watched as she breathed in. Her breathing returned to normal after that.

“Feel better?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she mumbled.

“Now, before we sleep, do you need the toilet?”

“Erm…” She bit her lip and narrowed her eyes in concentration. “Nope.”

I sighed. I’ve heard that before.

Although my head was beginning to feel like an oven, I decided to take her to the bathroom anyway. Rather now than in the middle of the night. We moved away from the tents and crossed the stretch of sand toward the ladies’ toilets. We walked inside the caravan to find it empty. It turned out that Lalia really didn’t need to go, so we soon made our way back to the tent. I took it for granted that she would want to share my compartment, so I led her into it and zipped us inside.

“You don’t look so well, River,” Lalia said, looking at me in the dim lighting of the electric lamp at the end of my mattress.

“I’ll be fine in the morning,” I muttered, lying down.

Lalia settled down next to me and after a few minutes, I’d fallen asleep.

* * *

A clammy finger prodded my left cheek. I opened my eyes to see my sister’s round face, dewy with sweat, directly above me.

“I need to pee,” she whispered in a pained voice.

I groaned. “Okay.” When I sat up, my head felt like it was splitting in two. The migraine had intensified tenfold since I had fallen asleep.

“You okay?” Lalia asked, looking up at me worriedly.

“Yeah,” I mumbled, wincing and gripping my head as we stumbled out of the compartment.

I didn’t have a watch on and I had forgotten to look at my phone before exiting, but it must’ve been late because Dafne breathed heavily in the compartment next to us, and on the opposite side my grandfather snored.

As I stepped outside onto the sand, my head felt so faint I could hardly walk. I made it as far as the bonfire—which was still crackling with a few people sitting around it—before I had to stop and kneel on the sand.

“River!” Lalia squealed.

“I’m okay, I just have a really bad headache.”

“Are you all right?” Hassan called from the fire.

I looked up, squinting and trying to see through the pain. He approached and bent down, touching my shoulder.

“I have a bad migraine,” I managed.

“Then what are you doing out here?” he asked. “Go back to bed.”

“My sister needs the toilet.”

“I’ll take her to the ladies’ and wait outside for her. You stay here.”

“Thanks,” I said, looking at him gratefully.

He took Lalia’s hand and began leading her across the dunes toward the ladies’ caravan. The path was lit by dozens of solar flashlights dug into the sand to form a pathway from the tents to the toilets. They reached the caravan. Lalia climbed up the steps while Hassan waited. I could see that he had turned to face me.

I tried sitting cross-legged. Slowly, I was feeling less faint, although my head still hurt like it’d been hit with a hammer. I must’ve spent way too long in the heat. Even though I’d worn a thick headscarf, I just wasn’t used to this harsh climate.

I looked over at the bonfire. Hassan’s father still sat by it with a few other diggers I had exchanged a few words with earlier. Back at the ladies’ toilet, I was relieved to see Lalia had exited and begun descending the steps. She reached for Hassan’s hand and they began walking back toward us.

I had to make it back to the tent. Fixing my eyes on my feet, I stood up slowly so that the blood wouldn’t rush too quickly from my head.

A yell and a scream pierced the night air.

My gaze shot back toward the direction of the toilets.

Shock paralyzed my body as a dark figure collided with Hassan and my sister. It was moving so fast, I could barely even make out what it was. It lifted them both off their feet and dragged them away so fast that after a few seconds their screams had faded into the distance.

I thought standing up again must have caused me to hallucinate, but when I looked back toward the spot where they had been standing, they were gone.

Chapter 5: River

My throat was so tight with terror, I couldn’t even scream.

“Help,” I choked, staring in the direction my sister and Hassan had disappeared. I staggered toward the bonfire. “Help!”

Yusuf was already racing over along with a dozen other men. “Who was screaming? What happened?” he asked, panic in his eyes.

“My sister! Hassan! Someone just took them!” I pointed with a trembling hand. I began racing forward.

“Who?” Yusuf shouted.

“I don’t know! They went in that direction!”

“Someone get a truck!” Yusuf bellowed.

Even as I continued running, several trucks started up and growled, and then one approached behind me. I leapt into the passenger’s seat as it was moving to find Fariss in the driver’s seat.

“Faster!” I urged.

I kept scanning the area, but I could see nothing but empty desert. I couldn’t hear even the faintest scream.

“Lalia!” I screamed out until my lungs felt bruised. We continued to race forward in the truck along with several others who had joined us. We drove further and further into the desert. When Fariss began slowing, I turned on him.