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A Castle Of Sand(A Shade Of Vampire Series Book 3)(1) by Bella Forrest

My blood was pounding within me. A surge of horror rushed through my body as I scoped my surroundings. Gunshots were being fired all over the place. A fiery bullet hit a vampire about seven feet away from me, who screamed in agony as he burst into flames. He was only one among the many vampires present in those tombs-one among many dying excruciating deaths by those fatal gunshots. A few lucky ones were killed with stakes driven through their hearts, but most were shot with the hunters' bullets, uniquely engineered to mete out death on the vampires.

The sight was sickening, but despite my mortification over the sheer magnitude of death surrounding me, my prime concern was Derek Novak.

I can't lose you.

He was a vampire. He was a prince. He was the man that I loved. The mere thought of losing him made breathing a struggle.

I looked around and gasped at the sight of him ripping the heart out of a vampire from the Maslen clan before moving on to breaking the neck of a hunter poised to attack him with a stake. He was headed straight for Borys Maslen. Fearing for his life, I stumbled forward. As I weaved through the chaos surrounding me toward my beloved, someone grabbed my arm and pulled me back.

"Get her out of here!" My father, Aiden Claremont, was pointing toward the exit. He was speaking to the stranger gripping my arm. The sight of my father still confused me. What was he doing here? After all the years he had abandoned me and left me under the care of his best friend, Lyle Hudson, he seemed out of place in this world-my world. His attempts to protect me were irritating. He had no business interfering with my life, not after all those years of ignoring me. Still, his presence moved me beyond words. He was still my father and I wanted to run to him and embrace him, feel his strength surround me, hear whispers of assurances in my ear-assurances that would answer my questions about why he had abandoned me. I wanted to know if he loved me, but there was no time for teary-eyed reunions.

War was being waged all around us and the only thing that mattered at that moment-reaching Derek-was being kept from me. I struggled against the hunter's grasp as he dragged me in the opposite direction. He was far stronger than me and I couldn't break away from his grasp until he was tackled to the ground by a familiar vampire. Claudia.

Her mass of blonde curls covered her face as she let out a scream before ripping the man's heart out. Her big brown eyes then turned toward me, a manic smile forming on her face.

"Hello, Sofia."

I shivered as I looked into her eyes. A broken creature, she embraced darkness like no other and had become one of the most wicked beings I'd ever come across. She surged forward and pinned me against a wall with her bloody hands.

"This is my gift to you," she hissed before sinking her teeth into my neck. I'd been bitten by vampires before, but I felt right away that what she was doing was different. She wasn't simply feeding on me. She was trying to turn me.

"No!" I gasped, trying to push her away. "Claudia, don't... please..."

Before I could fully wrap my mind around what was about to happen to me, I saw my best friend, Benjamin Hudson, hurtling toward us. His blue eyes screamed bloody murder at the sight of what Claudia, the vampire who broke him in many ways, was doing to me. He aimed his gun at her, but she must've sensed him, because she whipped around and tackled him to the ground.

"Did you really think I wouldn't sense you coming to her rescue? Your blood still pumps through my veins, Ben..."

Claudia's hands rose in the air and claws came out of her fingers, poised to wound Ben. I threw my entire weight against her, hoping to push her away from my best friend, but she easily threw me back, and I crashed to the ground. I cast my eyes away in desperation and scanned the hall, only to be met with another bone-chilling sight.

Across the vast hall, Derek stood bleeding and weakened as he faced off with Borys Maslen and three other vampires. And, in another corner of the room, a vampire rushed toward my father, who was fumbling to reload his gun.

Watching with horror as the lives of three of the most important men in my life hung in the balance, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss. Somehow, I already knew that this was going to happen, that the loss of life was inevitable, but finding myself right in the middle of it was something I wasn't prepared for.

A voice echoed in my mind-the voice of a friend who sacrificed her own life to bring me back into Derek's arms. I could almost hear her-Vivienne Novak, Seer of The Shade-speaking to me. Her words not only confirmed my worst fears but painted a future I wasn't sure I wanted to be part of.

The memory of her spoke to me and said, "Blood will be shed."