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CHAPTER 2: SOFIA
"Sofia, he's busy! You can't just barge into his office without being called for…" Zinnia Wolfe was clearly not happy with me.
But I couldn't care less. "Watch me. I'm his daughter and I deserve an explanation."
I barged inside what I knew was off limits for guests like me, knowing that of all the places in the giant estate known as Hawk Headquarters, I was most likely to find my father there.
"You can't go in there!" Zinnia continued to run after me.
I halted only when I was already inside the control center. It was the first time I had ever entered this part of the headquarters. I was shocked by what I saw. Almost like a newsroom, the control center was decked with advanced technology, dozens upon dozens of hunters milling around the room, keeping track on what seemed like a network of at least a hundred computers tracking heaven knows what.
"Too late," I told Zinnia, who was catching her breath beside me. I looked around and caught sight of my father, pointing at a giant flat screen monitor. He looked upset about something.
"Vampires are easier to get a hold of than you," Zinnia hissed. She tried to grab ahold of my arm, but I was already on the move, taking steady, long paces toward my father.
The moment Aiden realized that I was storming toward him, I could no longer keep my temper in check. "Where is he?! Where is Derek?! What have you done to him?!" I yelled.
"Sorry… I couldn't stop her," Zinnia apologized. Aiden had assigned her to keep an eye on me from the moment I arrived with Derek at the headquarters.
Aiden looked around the control room before slightly bowing his head and glaring at me. "Sofia, don't make a scene. We can talk about this elsewhere."
"I don't care where we talk or who hears us. I want to know where Derek is!"
"I don't know where he is. He left of his own free will, Sofia."
"You liar." I shook my head furiously. "Derek would never leave me. Not unless you did something to make him leave. He would never!"
I was trembling. Nothing my father could ever tell me would convince me that Derek would leave me here. Yet deep inside, I was afraid that it was true. He's forever immortal and I am infinitely mortal. Perhaps he thought that it was better for us to be apart. I shook the thought away. No. Derek wouldn't do that to me. He wouldn't abandon me.
My father took a deep breath. "Come with me. Let's go to my office."
As we both followed Aiden, I could sense Zinnia throwing curious glances my way.
"What?" I asked her, unable to reel in the foul mood I was in. I couldn't help it. I was panicking inside.
"I just…" She quickly shook her head. "Never mind."
"Just spit it out, Zinnia."
She hesitated, but eventually shrugged her hesitation off and said, "What's so special about you? They're all enamored by you. Derek, Ben, Borys, Lucas…"
I met her gaze and smiled bitterly. "I haven't got a clue." That was a lie. I knew why they wanted me. Borys wanted me because he was a sick bastard who thought that he owned me and was fascinated by the idea that I'm immune to the vampire's curse. Lucas wanted me because he found me and brought me to The Shade. He also had a taste of my blood and up to his very last breath, he craved me. Ben wanted me because he was my best friend, and there was a time when I thought I wanted him too, but we just weren't meant to be together. I loved him though, and his death still weighed heavily on my heart. Derek, on the other hand…he wanted me because I was in love with him and he felt the same way. Yes, I know why they want me, but it doesn't mean I'm special. I'm just who I am and who I am is somehow entangled in all this mess.
We finally reached Aiden's office, where he motioned for me to take a seat and for Zinnia to close the door behind her.
I chose to keep standing as Aiden sat on the leather recliner behind the large glass desk, which served as the centerpiece of the spacious, beautifully decorated office.
"You're really not going to sit down?"
I shook my head, crossing my arms over my chest.
"You remind me so much of your mother sometimes." He said it with such brokenness, I was taken aback and I couldn't help but soften a little at the sight of his pain. Any mention of my mother was painful. I knew Ingrid was somewhere inside the headquarters-a captive of the hunters. Just thinking of her made me ache. I wasn't even sure if Aiden's claim that I reminded him of her was a good thing or not, considering what an ugly motherly picture Ingrid painted for me in the short time that I'd known her.
"You really did love her, didn't you?" I asked my father. It was the first time I could remember ever sharing such a personal moment with him.
Aiden smiled bitterly, as if he were putting back all his defenses around him. He just shut down. He pulled a cigar from a desk drawer and lit it up before eyeing me. "So why exactly are you throwing such a fit, my lovely daughter?"
The reason behind the encounter came back to me and I could once again feel my anger rise.
"Where is Derek?" I demanded.
"He's probably on his way back to his kingdom by now."
"He wouldn't leave without me."
Aiden sat straight on his seat, shoulders squared, his eyes staring straight at me. "He told me that if he stayed here, he wouldn't be able to keep himself from drinking you dry."
My gut clenched. How could he possibly know that Derek already had a drink of my blood? Could Derek really have told him that?
"I know I haven't been much of a father to you, Sofia, but why would you ever willingly feed a vampire your own blood?"
Zinnia looked at me like I was insane. "You've been feeding him your blood? What is wrong with you?"
Aiden glared at her. "Stay out of this, Zinnia."
I hated that he was acting like some sort of authority figure in my life. He didn't have that right-not after abandoning me for years, leaving me under the care of the Hudsons and barely acknowledging my existence until a few weeks ago when he suddenly woke up to the fact that I was alive.
"Don't." I shook my head. "Don't start acting like a father now, Aiden. I don't need to explain myself to you."
"Yes, Sofia. You do. Derek Novak is one of the most powerful vampires alive and he is craving your blood on a twenty-four-hour basis. How is this not a reason to be concerned?"
"You don't understand. We are strongest together and we are weakest apart. That may not make sense to you, but you have to realize that a life without him…for me, that's no life at all!"
I should've known that an emotional plea would just sound weak to the rational and calculating mind of Aiden Claremont. Both he and Zinnia stared at me as if I had somehow been brainwashed into loving Derek.
"Do you love Derek Novak?" Aiden asked after a long and awkward pause.
"Yes!" I exclaimed. "I love him. I love Derek."
"And how exactly will this love work, Sofia? He's immortal. What do you intend to do? Turn into a vampire so you can be with him for all eternity? So you can be a bloodthirsty killer like him? Do you even have any idea how many people have died in his hands?"
I knew what he was trying to do. He was preying on my own deepest fears about my relationship with Derek. As if Derek's immortality wasn't already haunting me, my father had to rub it in my face.
"You deserve so much better than Derek Novak, Sofia."
I smiled bitterly as I shook my head. "You have no idea who Derek is, and trust me when I say this, Father…even if I wanted to, I could never become a vampire. I could never become immortal like Derek. Are you happy now?"
He narrowed his eyes at me in scrutiny. "What exactly are you saying, Sofia?"
My jaw tightened as I glared at my father. "It doesn't matter. What matters right now is this: I am going to find out what happened to Derek and if I find out that anything bad has happened to him and that you were behind it, I will never be able to forgive you."
Aiden smirked and the sight of that cold smile on his face as he shook his head at me and took a puff of his cigar sent chills down my spine. "No, Sofia. You aren't going anywhere near Derek. Not again. In fact, until I say so, you're not going to leave this place. You will train as a hunter and learn to defend yourself against these vampires. I will keep you here until your deluded love for him is weaned out of your system."
Despite my shock, I managed to take a few steps closer to him in order to emphasize my point. "You can't keep me prisoner here."
At that, my father scoffed. "Oh yes I can, darling. Yes, I can."
CHAPTER 3: DEREK
Natalie Borgia's safe house was a log cabin out in the country. For the first time in the past few days since I left the hunters' headquarters, I actually felt secure.
Natalie was an old friend of mine. She was also one of the few rogue vampires who had full access to all of the vampire covens. She also had all the covens' sworn protection. In exchange, she was the ultimate diplomat, the main communication line between all vampire covens. She was invaluable to our kind.
I walked along the stone path that led to the luxurious log cabin and knocked on the door. When Natalie opened it, a smile spread across her face as she handed me a glass of blood.
"I'm sure you're famished." The Italian girl always had a way of making me feel taken care of.
I looked at her gratefully as I took the glass and drank its contents in one go. I hadn't had a drop of blood in my system since I left hunter territory. I couldn't bear the thought of killing the humans I had happened to come across during my journey to Natalie's safe house. I was indeed famished.
Natalie welcomed me into the cabin and asked me to make myself comfortable as she poured another glass of blood for me. As I waited for her, I recalled the first time I was able to get in touch with her a couple of days back.
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