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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(12) by Bella Forrest

“Hey, Rose.” He smiled sheepishly, wiping shiny pink lip gloss from his mouth with the back of his sleeve.

Becky hurried toward me and hugged me. “I missed you!” she squealed. “We all have.”

“I missed you guys, too,” I chuckled.

“What happened to you?” she asked.

I groaned internally. At some point, I knew I would have to repeat the whole story to everyone but I wasn’t in the mood to do it now.

“Honestly, Becky, it’s such a long story. We should all get together one of these nights around a bonfire and I’ll tell you everything in one go.”

She looked disappointed, but nodded. She glanced up at Caleb.

“This is Caleb… my boyfriend.”

“Oh, hi, Caleb.”

Caleb was already acquainted with Griffin so, after exchanging a few more words with the couple, we continued moving.

Next, we reached a larger cluster of deck chairs. Among the familiar faces were Anna sitting with baby Kiev, Ariana, Jason, Kyle, Claudia and Ashley. As we approached closer and I got a better look at Anna’s older children, Ariana and Jason, I gasped. They’d turned into vampires too.

They all turned round to face us as we walked up to them. They hugged me one by one, and I officially introduced Caleb. I stopped in front of Ariana and Jason, staring at them.

“You turned! How come?”

“It was because of our blood,” Ariana said. “My parents were scared we might have the same type of blood as yours and be at risk of being targeted by the black witches.”

“Wow… How are you finding it?”

Jason and Ariana exchanged glances.

“It’s okay, I guess. We’ve gotten used to it better now,” Ariana replied.

“Thanks to me,” Claudia blurted out with a smirk.

My gaze fell on the short blonde vampire.

“It’s true.” Anna chuckled. “Ariana and Jason went to stay with Claudia and Yuri immediately after turning.”

“I did such a good job with them,” Claudia continued, “Yuri’s really having to scrape the barrel now for reasons why we can’t have a baby.”

I giggled. This was news to me that Claudia even wanted a baby. They’d both have to turn back into humans like my aunt and uncle.

We spent another fifteen minutes or so walking along the beach, greeting all those who were resting in the shade before we reached the end of the beach and turned to walk back into the forest. But just before we left the borders of the sand, there was a thudding of footsteps behind us.

I turned to see a group of a dozen human girls—most of them classmates of mine—racing toward us. They were all in swimwear and dripping wet, having just climbed out of the sea.

“So the rumors are true,” Silvia announced, narrowing her eyes on me. “Rose finally got herself a guy.”

All eyes fixed on Caleb as they looked him over from head to foot.

“Oh, my.” Jessica winked at me. “Good choice, Rose. He’s a real hottie.”

I giggled at the bemused look on Caleb’s face as he was being examined by my teenage girl friends like an exhibit.

“His name is Caleb,” I said.

“Well, if you ever grow tired of Caleb, please send him my way,” Lucy gushed.

I reached my arms around Caleb’s neck and kissed his rough cheek. “You’ll be waiting an eternity, Lucy,” I whispered, though I spoke the words more to Caleb than Lucy. He chuckled softly.

I managed to disperse the crowd after Caleb endured a further ten minutes of their banter. We moved back into the darkness, walking along in mostly silence as we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the forest. I could see Caleb’s head was still spinning. The Shade was so different from where he was used to living for the past God knew how many decades of his life. He was still taking it all in.

We reached the clearing in front of the Port. I led him toward it and stopped just before the jetty.

“You remember what happened here?” I asked quietly.

His jaw tensed. “How could I forget?”

I walked along the wooden floorboards and stopped right at the end of the jetty. My stomach clenched just at the remembrance of that night he’d left me, the night I was so sure I would never see him again. “The last words you spoke to me here, that night… You said you didn’t belong in my world.”

He cleared his throat as he stood next to me. Reaching for my hands, he held them gently and gazed into my eyes. “I’m still not sure that I belong in your world, princess.”

“Then whose world do you belong in?”

He furrowed his brows, then averted his gaze to the ocean. Letting go of my hands, he lowered himself to the floor and sat down, his feet grazing the waves. I sat next to him, studying the conflicted expression on his face.

“I suppose,” he said finally, “since the night I turned into a vampire all those decades ago, I haven’t been used to the feeling of belonging. Every place I stayed was just somewhere I could survive.”

I swallowed hard. The distant look in his eyes was tearing me up.

“I hope we can change that, Caleb,” I managed. “I really do.”

He wrapped an arm around me and pulled me onto his lap. Facing forward, my back against his chest, I felt him let out a quiet sigh against my neck. We fell into silence as we both gazed out at the dark waves.

After half an hour had passed, I was about to suggest we get up when Caleb pointed toward the ocean. Easing me off him, he stood up and stared into the distance.