A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(1) by Bella Forrest
As we stopped spinning through the air and my feet touched solid ground, the first thing that hit me was the heat. It felt like I’d just been locked in an oven. My breathing became sharp and shallow. When my vision came into focus, I gazed around. A pale moon in a clear sky speckled with twinkling stars cast down light on sand dune after sand dune. There was no sign of civilization in sight. Nothing but miles upon miles of desert.
I turned to face Jeramiah—who was still carrying an unconscious Tobias—and Amaya, the tall black-haired witch who stood next to him.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“Just follow,” the vampire replied and turned on his heel. Amaya and I followed after him.
I couldn’t imagine where he was heading to. I could see nothing but sand. I was about to repeat my question when Jeremiah stopped abruptly. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small golden key. He lowered himself to his knees and, digging his left fist into the ground, began brushing the sand away until metal showed. I bent down closer to watch him as he slid the key into a hole etched into it. There was a sharp click. The sand in front of us shifted as what turned out to be a long metal door swung open, leaving a gaping oblong hole in the ground. There was a winding iron staircase leading down to what appeared to be… a basement of some sort.
I stood up, still staring in astonishment. He and Amaya began to descend the stairs. I followed after them. The drop in temperature was sharp and sudden—I felt it as soon as I took my first step downward—as though I was descending into a refrigerator.
“Amaya, please close the door behind us.” Jeramiah’s eyes were fixed on me.
With a flick of Amaya’s palms, the metal door slammed above us and the lock clicked shut.
As I gazed around at the well-lit chamber, I realized that calling this a basement was entirely inaccurate. A crystal chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, giving off a warm glow. The walls… they were made of glass. I walked up to the edge, and realized that this wasn’t so much a room as it was a platform. I was standing at the top of a magnificent multi-layered atrium. There were at least ten levels beneath me, from what I could see, and each was lined with an open veranda. At the center of this open court was a stunning communal area—there were lush ornamental lawns, a large pond covered with vibrant blue water lilies, and even a sprawling orchard containing an array of exotic-looking trees. The sweet scent of jasmine pervaded the air.
“Come, Joseph.” Jeramiah was holding Amaya’s hand now, and he was gesturing that I do the same. “We don’t need the elevator while she’s with us.”
The moment I reached for her arm, we vanished and reappeared in the center of the gardens, right at the bottom of this strange atrium.
“Where are we?” I repeated.
Still ignoring my question, Jeramiah walked onto the terrace lining the bottom floor, stopping outside a wooden door. He withdrew another key from his pocket and opened it to reveal a small dim room. Unlike outside, no care seemed to have been taken in furnishings or decorations. Indeed, the walls were rough stone and the floor was dusty and uneven. He headed to the back of this room and unlocked another door. He stepped inside and closed it behind him, not even giving me the chance to follow.
I stepped outside and looked up and down the terrace for the witch. She had disappeared. I walked back to the door Jeramiah had disappeared through and knocked. He reappeared after a minute—without Tobias.
“In answer to your question,” Jeramiah began, brushing his hands together and heading back out of the chamber. Closing the door behind us, he cast his eyes toward the opulent gardens. “This place has had a number of names in the past, and has been used for a number of purposes… But perhaps, most famously, this was once the Maslens’ palace… The Oasis.”
￼Chapter 1: Sofia
Even though she was sitting barely four feet away from me, I could still hardly believe that my daughter had returned. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Even though it hadn’t been all that long, somehow she looked older to me. More grown up. I could tell Derek felt the same as me from the way he was gazing upon her as she told us everything that had happened since we’d parted.
Derek and I remained speechless throughout—from her recounting of Rhys posing as Micah, to Caleb being the one who had saved Derek and I from Annora’s curse, to their adventures through South America, then almost reaching The Shade, once again being caught by Annora, her being kidnapped once again by the ogres, her short visit to the realm of the dragons, and then the journey back here. It all left Derek and I speechless. When she finally brought her story to a close, I barely knew what to say first. I was just staring from her to the young man sitting next to her. We’d believed he had betrayed us. Now it turned out we owed him our very lives.
Rose’s eyes grew wide with expectation. It was Derek who broke the silence, his eyes fixed intensely on Caleb.
He stood up and closed the distance between them. Caleb stood up too, his height level with my husband’s. Derek reached out a hand and gripped Caleb’s.
“I owe you an apology,” he said. “We all do.”
Caleb nodded, averting his eyes to the door. “I understand why you thought what you did,” he said.
“It was wrong of us all the same. We jumped to conclusions,” I said. Once Derek stepped back away from Caleb, I drew him in for a hug. He looked surprised by the gesture as I resumed my seat next to Derek. But my daughter was beaming.