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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:37

“This is my fault,”she whispered at the kitchen table, listening to Sari plan the evacuation of the entire community. Orsala sat on one side. Damien sat on the other. Irina bustled around, listening for instructions and then setting about tasks as Sari gave them.

“No.” Damien gripped her hand. “You did nothing wrong. Mala is sure you were not tailed from Bergen. This is from some other crack in our defenses. It was… surprising. But we had become too complacent. It was probably inevitable after so much time. There have been so many who have used Sarih?fn as a refuge over the years. No magic is impenetrable. And with the Grigori becoming more aggressive, we should not be surprised.”

Far from chaos, a quiet urgency lay over the house. There was no shouting or panic. The Grigori soldiers the guards had apprehended in the woods had been killed, but plans were underway to empty the haven. If there were two, there would be others. Listening to Sari give instructions to Mala and Astrid, Bruno and Karen, she realized that this had always been planned. As secure as Sarih?fn was, the Irin were a people constantly at war. No place was truly safe.

And Ava realized it would always be this way.

Even before the Rending, they had hidden. Hidden from the humans. From the Fallen. The Irin lived as a people under siege. It was frightening. Exhausting. And this was her future.

No mate. No family. Constantly on the move. Half of her reasoned it wasn’t all that different from how she’d lived before she knew she was Irina. The other half just wanted to run like she had in Bergen.

Where would she run next?

Families were evacuated first; multiple backup plans were already in place. Irina with mates were calling them, finding places to meet. There were other havens around the world. Other havens could be formed in out-of-the-way places. Some Irina would go to them while others would scatter. For many, Sarih?fn had provided a place to train and grow. Now they could fight their own battles.

“What will they do about money?” Ava asked. “And the farm?”

“I have money. More than I need. If any of them—”

“Keep your money, sister.” Damien placed a hand on her shoulder. “They will be fine.”

“They planned for this.”

“Yes,” he said, a note of sadness in his voice. “After the Rending, we knew no place would be safe forever.”

Within hours, cars and trucks were already leaving the barn. People took only what they needed. Furniture would be left behind. Perhaps, at some point, it could be retrieved, but safety was more important than sentiment.

“We’ll stay here a few days with Sari,” Damien said. “We’re still deciding where our family will go. Sari and I have different ideas about what should happen now.”

“You’re coming with us, of course.” He smiled. “That we all agree on. You still have many lessons with Orsala. And you’re part of our family.”

Her throat tightened. “I’m not sure I’m a very safe person to be around right now.”

“Good!” Sari’s voice sounded from across the room. “Then my plan it is, Damien.”

Damien shook his head. “Milá…”

“I know you want to go someplace safe and hidden, my love.” A wild smile crossed Sari’s face, and there was fire in her eyes. “But I cannot agree. I have taken care of my sisters. I have sheltered those who needed it. I have been peaceful too long. Give me an enemy to bloody my hands on.”

“We know what we need.” Ava hadn’t expected the soft-spoken Karen’s voice to be so strong. “And that is not to have others dictate to us. Bruno and I can take care of those who need shelter. There is a house that belonged to my mother outside Prague. It has been empty for many years. Bruno and I will create a safe place and let you know when it is ready. I am not a warrior.” She looked up at her mate. “And my Bruno knows this. But your mate is, Damien. And you know that.”

“I will go with Karen and Bruno,” Astrid said, looking at Ava. “And know that you can always come to my door if you need healing. Any of you.”

Mala signed something to Sari.

“Mala will go with them, as well, at least for a time,” Sari said. She looked around, frowning. “Has anyone been able to call Renata?”

Ava said, “Candace was trying to call her mobile. She’s not at her apartment in Bergen. She might still be in Oslo. Candace and Brooke are going to the scribe house there with Chelsea. Her mate is stationed there.”

Sari nodded, then she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. In that moment, Ava could see the years on her face, though it remained the smooth porcelain of youth. The kitchen was almost empty. Within hours, the evacuation would be complete.

“We always knew this place could not last forever,” Sari said, reaching for her grandmother’s hand. “Change has come. We are ready. Now let this quiet war end.”