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A Fall of Secrets(A Shade of Vampire,Book 15)(13) by Bella Forrest

“Take a seat,” I said, gesturing to the chair opposite mine across the desk. “Do you drink?” I asked the question more out of interest than out of desire to give him alcohol.

Caleb shook his head. “Not anymore.”

I raised a brow, pleased by his answer. “All right. Would you like some other refreshment?”

“Thanks, but I’m fine.”

I sat down in my chair, folding my fingers together and resting them on the table, continuing to look steadily at him. “Since we have this time together, why don’t you tell me your story, Caleb?”

Surprise played across the vampire’s expression. “My story?”

“Yes. I still know very little about you, other than that we owe you our lives. I would like to know more… For example, how did you first become a vampire? What were you before you became one?”

Caleb’s eyes darkened. “That’s a long story,” he said. “But if you have time, I’ll tell it to you.”

I glanced at the stack of papers on my desk, filled with notes and to-do items. I didn’t really have time. But I would make time for Caleb.

As he began to recount his story, starting with his life as the son of a ship merchant, I found myself listening with rapt attention. His gaze was distant, and he seemed to drift off in some parts of the story, reliving his memories afresh. By the time he’d finished, hours had passed. I hadn’t spoken once throughout, not even to ask a question. I was both deeply moved and also surprised by how much this vampire reminded me of myself during my darker times, before I met Sofia.

He paused after he finished, looking down at the table.

“You’re a brave man.”

Caleb scowled. “Not so brave. I allowed myself to live a life of hell for decades. If it hadn’t been for Rose, I might even still be in that castle. In fact, I’m certain that I would be.”

I understood what he meant. I remembered all too well what it felt like to be lost in the darkness. Darkness that was so easy to sink into as a vampire, yet so difficult to climb out of. If it hadn’t been for Sofia, I was certain that I would also still be wallowing in it.

Perhaps Rose is to Caleb what Sofia is to me.

Caleb raised his gaze to my face, and whereas before his eyes had looked distant, now they looked focused. Almost fiery.

“Derek,” he said. “I’m in love with your daughter.”

I believed him when he said it. The sincerity and feeling in his voice was unmistakable.

I nodded slowly.

He wet his lower lip. “And when I feel the time is right,” he continued, “I want to ask your permission to marry her.”

My voice caught in my throat.

My girl, married.

The thought made me shudder.

It wouldn’t be long now until she was eighteen, but she still felt like my little girl, despite how much she’d grown up.

I stood up and walked over to the window, steadying my breathing as I looked out at the swaying trees. I could sense Caleb’s tension as he waited for my answer. He got up from his chair and walked over to my side.

“I promise to protect her with my life. I pro—”

I held up a hand. Caleb had misunderstood the reason for my silence. It wasn’t that I doubted him anymore. I just wasn’t sure that I was ready to let my daughter go… to anyone.

I swallowed hard. Finally, I turned to face him, my mouth parched.

The earnestness in Caleb’s eyes became my undoing.

Even though it killed me, I nodded.

I gripped his shoulders hard. A smile formed on my lips. “I don’t think Rose would ever forgive me if I refused.”

He breathed out sharply. I drew him in for a hug.

I remembered how hard it had been for me to win Aiden’s trust and approval. As difficult as this was, I really didn’t want to be as tough on Caleb. He’d been through enough hardship in his life for me to give him more when all he wanted to do was love and care for my daughter, just as I had for Sofia.

I took a step back, looking him over. “Achilles, eh? Rose Achilles.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “Hm. Doesn’t quite have the ring of Rose Novak… But it’ll do.”

Chapter 11: Rose

I didn’t sleep much that night. My mother invited me to stay the night in the apartment, but I preferred to go back to the cabin and wait for Caleb. I was already asleep by the time he climbed into bed. I woke up again at about two in the morning, feeling his arms around me. I was happy that he’d gone to see my father. I would have given anything to listen in on their conversation.

“How did it go?” I asked, snuggling closer to him on the mattress.

He brushed his palm over my forehead. “Well,” he said.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I helped your father out in his study. He briefed me on a few of the many responsibilities he has on his shoulders.”

“Did you find it interesting?” I asked.

“Very. A lot more thought goes into running this island than the one I used to live on… How did it go with you?”

I heaved a sigh. “Well, we figured out the venue, entertainment, and food. We just don’t know if anyone will actually show up. My mother and I need to go to the Vale”—I looked up at the clock—“in a few hours, actually… in hopes of enticing some ladies to come and meet the dragons.” I grimaced at the thought. I couldn’t have made up a more bizarre situation if I’d tried.