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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(11) by Bella Forrest

“What?” I asked, my patience wearing thin.

My mother sat next to my father as they both exchanged glances.

“Eat something first,” my mom said, looking at me with concern.

Although the last thing I felt like doing was eating, I obeyed her and quickly finished the plate of pancakes. Caleb had downed a couple of glasses of blood by the time I’d finished.

“Now?” I asked, my eyes wide with question.

My mother heaved a sigh as my father cleared his throat. “Your mother would have preferred to not tell you this yet, but I thought it best we stop hiding things… We received news about your brother last night.”

I leapt up from my seat. “And?”

“He was caught on camera attacking a human,” my father replied heavily. “It’s been broadcast everywhere, all over mainstream media.”

I felt like throwing up. “What? Where is he?”

“The footage was taken in Chile. But that was a while ago. We don’t know where he is now.”

I gripped the edge of the table so hard my knuckles whitened.

“There’s also something else we should have told you before,” he said. “But please sit down, Rose.” Caleb guided me back down into my chair before my father continued. “Before he left, there was an accident… he killed Yasmine. That was the catalyst, I believe, for his decision to leave.”

“Yasmine,” I gasped, clasping a hand over my mouth.

It was so much to take in at once, my head was reeling. My father reached across the table and squeezed my hand. It took a few moments before I could compose myself enough to speak again. “What… What’s going to happen to him? He can’t take animal blood… what choice does he even have except to kill?”

“Either he’ll decide he wants to turn back into a human and make his way to The Shade, or he’ll have to find another way to overcome his nature. But he left us a note requesting that we don’t follow him.” My father looked at me pointedly. “So don’t even think about trying to escape this place again to look for him.”

I still couldn’t believe this was my brother they were talking about. It seemed like a different person. I respected my parents’ request that I not watch the footage because quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle it. Hearing about it was one thing, but seeing it would be entirely another.

I sat with my parents for the next hour, attempting to recover from the shock and keep my breakfast in my stomach.

When there were no more questions I could think to ask, my parents stood up.

“You two can stay here if you want,” my father said, “but your mother and I need to pay a visit to Mona and Kiev now.”

I didn’t feel like staying in the apartment. It reminded me too much of my brother and felt so empty without him here. So Caleb and I left through the front door along with my parents. When we reached the forest floor, we parted ways.

Caleb and I walked along in silence for a while as I tried to find a way to drag my mind away from my brother. It would be easy to allow myself to worry and stress about him all day, but I realized I had to adopt the attitude my father had. I had to believe in Ben’s ability to survive and in his strength of will to make the right decision even in the darkest hour.

The problem was, I didn’t feel I even knew this new Ben. I hadn’t been there to see him after he’d first turned.

I just had to pray that he’d find himself again.

Caleb squeezed my hand. “For what it’s worth,” he said, “I noticed the strength in your brother from the little time I spent with him. I agree with your father. I believe he’ll find his way.”

“But what if he doesn’t?” I asked, my voice constricted as I spoke my worst fear before I could stop myself.

Caleb stopped walking with me and held my head in his hands. “Don’t fear what-ifs, Rose. You’ll drive yourself insane.”

I took a deep breath as he let go of me and we continued walking. He was right, of course.

Determined to make a more concerted effort to change the subject, I said, “Let’s go to the sunny beach. It’s the weekend and there will be people there I’d like to introduce you to.”

I was right in my guess that the beach would be packed. It usually was on Saturday mornings. Humans liked to soak up the sun before it got too hot. Vampires often went along too and sat beneath wide umbrellas.

As the forest ground gave way to sand, I cast my eyes up and down the shore. Sticking to the shade created by the trees that lined the beach so the sun wouldn’t touch Caleb, we headed toward the crowds. The first people we came across were Abby and Erik. They both sat opposite each other on deck chairs, covered by large umbrellas. They appeared to be deep in conversation, but Abby leapt up as soon as she saw me.

“Hey, Rose! How are you?”

I swallowed hard, trying to make my smile appear genuine. “I’m fine.” I tugged gently on Caleb’s arm. “I’m just introducing Caleb to people who haven’t met him yet. This is Abby and Erik, Caleb.”

“Hi, Caleb,” she said.

“Hi,” Erik said, turning around to face us.

“Nice to meet you,” Caleb replied.

We left Abby and Erik to their conversation and continued moving. My eyes fell on a sight that brought a full grin to my face. Griffin and Becky, on a sheltered deck chair about ten feet away. She was sitting on top of him, her legs spread either side of his waist as they made out. I was cautious about interrupting them, but Griffin noticed us before we could back away.