“It is very isolated. I felt very safe there.”
“And I’m sure they would welcome us. They’re very old-fashioned, and Orsala would be highly regarded.”
“But you don’t want to go there?”
Sari shook her head. “No.”
“I’m tired of hiding. This struggle between Irin and Irina, it has to end. I can see that now. Just like my anger with Damien, we have let it fester until we are dying from the inside. If we continue like this, sunk in bitterness, anger, and willful misunderstanding, then the Grigori don’t have to kill us. We’ll die anyway.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to go to Oslo and see some friends. Contact a few allies. Then I want the Irina to return to Vienna.”
Ava’s eyebrows rose. “I don’t see you as much of a politician.”
She smiled. “I’m not. But my grandmother once sat on the council. And our elders’ seats have been empty too long. We are the ones who stepped away. For us to come back, we must be the ones to return. Then we will no longer be silent.”
“The other Irina—the others in hiding—they may not agree with you.”
“Then I will find them and convince them. If I can convince my stubborn mate,” Sari said, “I can convince anyone.”
“You need to go to Vienna, too. It’s time to show yourself to the Irin world.”
Ava’s heart began to race. “I… I don’t think that’s a very good—”
“He was right, you know?” Sari nodded. “Malachi. You are a miracle. It was a miracle that you survived in the human world as long as you did. It was a miracle you found Malachi and Damien in Istanbul.”
“They kind of found me.”
“And if they found you, they can find others. Don’t you think there are others out there, Ava? Sisters lost in the human world? I don’t know how, but I do think they’re out there. We have to find them. Show them who they really are.”
“I have a feeling that not everyone is going to like that idea.”
Sari gave her a rueful smile. “Then it’s a good thing I’ve never cared much about being liked.”
“Where are you?”His voice was urgent, even as he braced himself over her, covering her body with his as they lay under the forest canopy.
“Right here,” she breathed out.
Her heart raced. She held on to him, pulling him down until the broad planes of his chest pressed against her. Her lips tasted the skin of his neck. Her teeth caught his ear.
“Where… where are you, Ava?” He almost sounded like he was in pain. “I need to know.”
She frowned, confused, then pushed him back so that she straddled his hips. “I’m here. With you.” Leaning down, she pressed a kiss over his heart. “Always with you.”
“I came back to you, Ava.”
She felt a phantom pain shoot through her chest. “I know.”
“Truly.” He pulled her down, capturing her lips with his own, their breath mingling in the cold night air. It misted around them, though she didn’t feel the cold. The fog was only a blanket, concealing them from the shadows of the forest. “I came back to you. And I must find you. You need me.”
“So much.” The tears stung her eyes and she tried to focus on his presence. The energy she felt between them. It was everything—everything—she needed. She only had it here. Fleeting. She knew it wouldn’t last. She closed her eyes, desperate to hold on to the comfort of his touch.