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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(6) by Bella Forrest

I made it halfway across the room toward his cupboard before I broke down. Falling to my knees, I choked up, unable to hold back the tears. I clutched his schoolbag against my chest, my whole body trembling.

Ben. Why did you have to leave? I haven’t seen you in so long…

Caleb’s arms slipped around my waist as he crouched down on the floor next to me. I held my brother’s bag closer to me, breathing in deeply, taking in his scent.

“I’m sorry,” I croaked. “I just miss him so much.”

“Hey,” Caleb said softly. “It’s okay.”

I leaned back against his chest and buried my head against his neck, closing my eyes and hugging Ben’s satchel like it was a teddy bear. Only once my breathing became steadier did I open my eyes again. Caleb’s warm eyes were looking down at me as he cradled me in his arms. He pressed his lips against my forehead.

I cleared my throat and sat up. “We should go,” I said, drawing in a deep breath. “It’s been a long night.”

I wiped my tears against the back of my sleeve as Caleb and I stood up. I walked with him to Ben’s wardrobe and opened the doors.

“What do you want?” I asked, beginning to rummage through the closet for something suitable.

Caleb ended up picking a plain navy shirt and black jeans. I also managed to find some fresh underwear and a bathrobe in one of the bottom drawers, which I stuffed into my bag along with my own clothes. I flung the bag over one shoulder and we headed back toward the front door. My parents were waiting there for us, an arm around each other’s waists as they watched us approach. They’d probably heard me crying, and even if they hadn’t noticed, my blotchy face gave it away. But I was glad they didn’t mention it.

I wrapped my arms around my father’s neck and kissed his cheek. “Good night, darling,” he said.

I moved on to my mother. She clung to me so tight it felt like she never wanted to let go. “Good night, sweetheart,” she said.

Then she looked at Caleb. “Good night, Caleb.”

Caleb bowed his head slightly. “Good night, Mr. and Mrs. Novak.”

I giggled at how formal he sounded.

“Good night,” I said, catching Caleb’s hand and pulling him through the front door. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

I was about to pull it shut when my father held the door open. His eyes fixed on Caleb. “Good night, Caleb,” he said. “Be careful with my girl.”

I rolled my eyes. As if Caleb needs to be told that… Caring for me is all he’s done since we met. My father knew this by now, but I guessed he couldn’t help but tell him anyway.

“You have my word,” Caleb said, eyeing my father steadily.

My father reached out and clutched Caleb’s shoulder before finally closing the door.

We descended in the elevator and Caleb scooped me up in his arms once we reached the ground. I directed him toward the mountain cabins and, running full speed, we arrived in just a few minutes.

We chose a cabin that was almost as high up as the top of the mountain itself. Caleb climbed the steps up to it and set me down on my feet on the verandah by the front door. Since it was unoccupied, it hadn’t been locked. As I pushed the door open and looked around the cozy living room, with its rugs and soft sofa and deep burgundy curtains, everything about the homely vibe of the place made me realize how much my muscles and limbs were aching. I walked with Caleb to the master bedroom, which looked out at a stunning view of the ocean, and laid the bag down on the bed. I unpacked the few possessions that we’d brought, then headed to the bathroom.

I stared at my exhausted face in the mirror. I placed the toothbrush and toothpaste on the shelf, then looked around the small bathroom. I walked over to the bathtub and began filling it with hot water. I wouldn’t be able to sleep without a wash first. Come to think of it, Caleb probably wanted to have a bath too.

As if he’d read my thoughts, he approached behind me. Sliding his hands down my arms, he pulled my back against him. Pressing his rough cheek against mine, he began to slowly undress me. As he finished his work, I turned around to see that he’d already stripped.

Pulling my eyes away from him, I stepped into the tub. He got in after me and we sat with our backs leaning against opposite sides of the tub. My eyes lowered from his face to his chest. I propped myself up on my knees and knelt against him. His hands rested on my waist as I slid closer to him and ran my fingers over his scarred torso. I could feel the bumps of the bullets still trapped beneath his skin.

“Tomorrow, the first thing we’ll do is find a witch who can treat you and finally get these bullets out of you.”

Reaching for a sponge, I began soaping him down. After I was satisfied I’d done a thorough job, I allowed him to take the sponge from me. Rinsing it out, he took his turn in cleaning me. Then I dipped beneath the water and wet my hair. Sitting up again, I reached for my shampoo to see that he was already holding it. He slid his legs either side of mine, making space for me to sit with my back against his chest. I closed my eyes as his strong fingers reached into my hair and began massaging my scalp. Once my hair was foaming with shampoo from root to tips, he arched my neck backward and caressed my throat with his lips.

Despite his cool body pressing against mine, heat coursed through me. I was on fire. When Caleb’s mouth found mine, I wasn’t sure how to contain myself any longer.

“Caleb,” I managed as he surfaced for breath. Twisting round to face him, I placed my palms flat against his chest and pushed him back against the wall of the tub. I bit my lip. I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable if he still wasn’t ready to accept my surrender, but he was driving me crazy. He raised a brow as my eyes blazed into his.