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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(10) by Bella Forrest

“We’ll work on the chest area first, then the shoulders and back,” the witch said. She grabbed a bottle of bright blue liquid and began dabbing it over Caleb’s wounds with a cotton swab.

Corrine looked down seriously at Caleb. “Now, this could be quite painful. Do you want me to give you some kind of painkiller to make it more bearable?”

“I’ll be all right,” Caleb muttered.

I looked at the sharp metal tools Corrine had started pulling out of a drawer and wiping down with the blue solution. She must have caught my expression, because she smirked. “Don’t look so scared, Rose. This procedure looks more primitive than I intend it to be. I’ll mix up a potion that will help the bullets loosen from the flesh and slide out easily. These tools are mostly to help lift them out.” She walked over to me and gripped my hand. “I’ll make this as quick for your man as I possibly can.”

I walked with the witch over to the sink and watched as she began pulling bottles of colorful ingredients off the shelves and mixing them up in a small brown cauldron. She brought the mixture to a boil quickly, then muttered a few words to cool it. We walked with the cauldron back over to Caleb. Setting it down next to her tools, she disappeared from sight for a moment before reappearing with a long, white sheet. I helped her spread it out over Caleb.

As she set to work, I mostly couldn’t see what she was doing because she was deliberately using the sheet as a shield. But it pained me every time Caleb’s jaw clenched.

I stood behind his head and pressed my palms against his forehead, gazing down into his warm brown eyes.

Corrine glanced up at me with an amused expression. “Judging by the look on your face, anyone would think that I was working on you rather than Caleb. Don’t you trust me, honey?”

“I do trust you, Corrine,” I said. “I just…”

I just hate watching Caleb suffer more than he has already.

Although I didn’t say the words out loud, Caleb smiled, his eyes lighting up. He reached up a hand and brushed it against my cheek.

“Hey,” he said. “I’m fine.”

I caught his hand and kept hold of it until Corrine laid her tools down and looked up at us again.

“Okay, that’s the chest area done,” she said. “Now we’ll just wait a few minutes for Caleb’s natural healing capabilities to kick in and close the open cuts I’ve just made…”

After two minutes, she lifted the sheet off him. Caleb propped himself up and we both stared down at his chest. Gone were the dark shadows, and in their place were light scars where his skin had just closed over. My eyes fell on a pile of bloody bullets gathered up in a ball of tissue next to Corrine. I shuddered. “Thank God those are out of you.”

“Now let’s finish the rest,” the witch said.

Caleb rolled over on his stomach as Corrine repeated the same procedure on his back and shoulders. Time seemed to pass quicker this time. Perhaps it was Corrine finding her stride and feeling more confident with the procedure, but it felt like less than ten minutes before she lifted the sheet again and showed me the bullets she’d removed.

“There,” Corrine said, smiling. “You’re a new man, Caleb.”

I handed Caleb his shirt as he sat up. After looking himself over, he began buttoning it up.

“Thank you, Corrine,” he said.

Corrine reached up and ruffled his hair. “Don’t mention it.” She threw me a wink.

Even though her hands were still bloody, I threw my arms around her and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

“Off you go now,” she said after returning my kiss. “Ibrahim and I have some catching up to do. We were unconscious for God knows how long.”

As we walked toward the exit of the witch’s home, we passed Ibrahim in the corridor, still wearing his navy pajamas.

“Bye, Ibrahim,” I said, giving him a hug. “We’re heading out, but Corrine wants you. She’s in the spell room.”

“Try to stay out of trouble this time, Rose,” he said, rolling his eyes and closing the door behind us.

I looped my arm through Caleb’s as we stepped out into the courtyard and made our way toward the woods. “I was going to suggest we stop at my parents’ place for breakfast. What do you think?”

“Sounds good to me.”

To speed up our journey there, Caleb ended up carrying me again. I’d grown so used to feeling the bumps beneath his skin even when he was wearing a shirt, it was odd to feel his shoulders and chest so smooth.

A delicious smell of fresh pancakes drifted through the kitchen window as we arrived up on the veranda. I guessed my mother had been expecting me to show up for breakfast. But I was surprised by the state she was in as she opened the front door for us. She looked… exhausted. She had dark rings beneath her eyes, the tip of her nose was red and her eyelids were puffy.

“Mom?” I asked, taken aback. I reached my arms around her neck. “What’s wrong?”

She hugged me tight before stepping aside and allowing Caleb and me entrance. She still didn’t answer even as she led us into the kitchen. My eyes fell on my father, who was sitting at the table. He also looked exhausted.

“You two look awful,” I said, looking from one to the other. “What’s the matter?”

“Take a seat,” my father said. His voice sounded even deeper than usual.

Caleb and I drew up a seat opposite him as my mom placed a tray in the center of the table containing a jug of blood, a flask of orange juice, and four glasses. She reached for the counter and placed cutlery and a plate of berry pancakes in front of me.