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A Vial of Life(A Shade of Vampire,Book 21)(19) by Bella Forrest

“We should just go around knocking on their doors,” Sofia said, eyeing the nearest apartment to us. “We’ll address them calmly and explain that we’re not here to cause any trouble—we’re merely looking for Ben.”

“Or Joseph, which was what Ben called himself during his stay with these vampires,” Rose added. I wasn’t sure if the vampires were still ignorant of Benjamin’s real identity or if the jinn had finally informed them.

The vampires and I split up again into small groups, while the dragon shifters remained in the gardens. I didn’t think that bringing those menacing men to the vampires’ doorsteps would help.

We began knocking on doors, and surprisingly, our method worked. They were alarmed to see us, and asked many questions, but nobody tried to fight us. Nobody knew where Joseph, or Benjamin, was either. We insisted on searching inside their apartments, which they allowed us to do, albeit begrudgingly, as long as we were quick about it. They also warned us that if we dared touch a single one of their humans, they’d wage war on us. We were accompanied by dragon shifters, and we would have won in a struggle, but I reminded myself of how The Shade used to be, before Sofia came along. If we freed the humans from the cells, these vampires would only find new innocent victims tomorrow. Surviving on human blood was how they chose to live, and as much as we had all changed in The Shade, attempting to force our rules on them wouldn’t change a thing. As Sofia and I discussed the matter, I could see that the suggestion of simply wiping out these Oasis vampires was near the tip of her tongue, but she didn’t say it. She never was one to encourage violence as a solution, and she knew what slaughtering my brother’s son and his entire coven would do to me.

Reluctantly, we left the matter behind and continued moving from chamber to chamber. We even came across a handful of witches, though they didn’t attempt to harm us with their magic. We avoided answering as many questions as possible and moved about the rooms in silence.

In the end, I didn’t find myself face to face with Jeramiah.

But we didn’t find Ben either.

After one last sweep around the layered verandas, we admitted defeat and headed back to the desert.

“What about the camel stable up in the desert?” Rose suggested desperately.

Although none of us really expected him to be there, we searched the camel stable. Ben wasn’t there.

Sofia and I locked eyes. There was no point in fooling ourselves any longer. We weren’t going to find Benjamin in The Oasis.

“I believe that Nuriya was speaking truth.” Jeriad spoke up, breaking through the tense silence. “We dragons can detect liars by a mere glance into their eyes. And I didn’t detect untruth in Nuriya’s gaze. I believe that your son indeed left here and is in the supernatural dimension.”

But we had no idea where. Or what state he would be in now, if Bahir had left him as Nuriya had feared.

I clutched a palm to my forehead, closing my eyes and trying to focus my mind.

I let out a breath.

“All right,” I said heavily. “With Jeriad’s assurance, we’re going to assume that what Nuriya told Sofia is correct. We’ve been wasting our time… I have not the first clue in hell what we can do now, if anything, to help my son. But before we do anything, we ought to return to The Shade.”

Chapter 4: Derek

As we traveled back to our island, the dragons’ supernatural speed didn’t seem fast enough. As I’d admitted to everyone, I didn’t have any semblance of a plan for how to help my son. And the thought that we had just made things worse for him by getting the Nasiris kidnapped by the Drizans was eating away at me. What would happen to him without the protection of two jinn? Would the Elder really manage to draw him back to Cruor? The latter shouldn’t even have been a question, for I knew the kind of powers the Elders could have over a person—I knew them too well. I was just fumbling for some hope in this predicament.

When we finally reached The Shade, I was glad that it was overcast again. The spell that Ibrahim had cast over us to keep us in shadow while we were gone had lasted till now, but I didn’t want any hunters detecting our movements.

The dragons remained above the clouds until we were past the boundary, then descended upon The Shade, silently and gracefully. They touched down in the clearing before the Port.

We had been gone longer than I’d hoped, and the first thing I wanted to do was check on my sister and Xavier. I wondered if Vivienne might have given birth already. But aside from checking that she was in good health, and possibly meeting my new niece or nephew, I needed to see how they’d been holding up since we’d been gone.

Sofia and I hurried through the forest to the couple’s penthouse. The lights were on, but as we knocked, nobody answered. Sofia couldn’t detect even the slightest sound of anyone inside. The door hadn’t been locked. I pushed it open and we stepped inside. We moved from room to room, seeing if they might have left a note for us as to their whereabouts in case we returned.

“Derek,” Sofia called from Vivienne and Xavier’s bedroom. I hurried to the room to find her pointing to a wet patch on the bed. “I’m guessing Viv’s water broke already. Maybe she’s been taken to the Sanctuary?”

For all we knew, Corrine was still mysteriously absent from The Shade. But it was possible that Vivienne had been taken there to be tended by other witches.

We descended from the treehouse and ran back through the woods toward the witch’s residence. We bumped into Rose and Caleb, who followed us to the Sanctuary.