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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(2) by Bella Forrest

“Of course, you are welcome to stay with us as long as you want,” I said.

Caleb glanced at Rose, giving her a small smile. “I’ll stay as long as your daughter wants me here.”

Rose’s cheeks flushed as she slipped a hand through Caleb’s and squeezed it. Then she looked back at us, a small frown crinkling her forehead.

“Now it’s your turn,” she said. “What’s happened all this time?” She looked around. “And where is Ben? Does he even know I’ve returned?”

Her words made my stomach flip. I’d been hoping we could delay telling Rose about her brother for a little longer. She’d just had such a traumatic experience, after all. I didn’t want to lay this burden of worry on her now. But of course, I couldn’t have expected a different reaction from her. She wanted to see her brother.

I exchanged weary glances with Derek.

That only made Rose tense further. She stood up and gripped my hand. “Mom? Where is he?”

“He left, honey,” I croaked.

Her eyes widened. “What?”

I heaved a sigh, bracing myself to relive the harrowing experience again. “We were so worried about what the witches had in mind for you two, we made the decision to turn him early, before his eighteenth birthday. We’d hoped that the turning would go smoothly. It didn’t. He had symptoms unlike any we’d seen before, and—”

“What symptoms?” Rose gripped my shoulders.

“He was unable to stomach animal blood. His body just expelled it as though it were poison.”

She gasped. I really didn’t want to give all the details, at least not yet—and especially not about Yasmine’s death. “Rose, your brother decided to leave because he felt that he was a threat to the humans of The Shade.”

“B-but where did he go?”

“He took a submarine,” Derek replied, and I was relieved that he took over for me. It was so painful recounting it. “He’ll return, darling. Don’t worry. He just needed time for himself.”

“A submarine? What do you mean a submarine? He can’t just live in that. How will he feed?”

Tears were beginning to brim in her eyes. Derek stood up and drew her in for a hug. He wiped the tears that were escaping down her cheeks with his thumbs. “Ben’s a fighter. He’ll find his way back to us in one piece. Just as you did…”

She still looked devastated, though Derek’s words seemed to comfort her somewhat. She took a seat next to Caleb, who wrapped an arm around her and squeezed gently. She nestled her head closer to Caleb’s chest as she continued to look at us worriedly.

“Why do you think his turning went so wrong?” she asked, her voice hoarse.

“We don’t know. We can only guess that it’s something to do with his blood.”

“His blood?” Rose looked at me with confusion.

Of course, she hadn’t been here when Mona had told us what she believed was different and special about our twins—the unique trifecta they had.

I took this as an opportunity to segue from the subject of Ben. Derek and I explained what Mona had told us about Rose and her brother’s blood, as well as everything else that had happened on the island since she’d been gone.

Her expression turned from curiosity to terror as the story progressed.

“We still don’t know what happened to Mona and Kiev during their visit to The Sanctuary,” I said. “We’ll go to speak to them in a few hours…”

Rose bit her lip. “Do… Do you think the same thing would happen to me, if I turned? Do you think I would end up like Ben?”

“We don’t know,” Derek said. “It’s possible.”

She swallowed hard. “Because I was thinking, after everything that’s happened to me… I want to stop being a weak human. I don’t want to ever feel weak and vulnerable again.”

Derek and I fell silent as we looked at each other. Of course, I understood why my daughter would want to turn early after everything she’d been through. I’d wanted to turn back into a vampire for a similar reason—to not feel so vulnerable in the face of danger. But after what happened to Ben, I didn’t think I could handle watching my daughter turn too. At least, not yet. Not until we understood exactly what had gone wrong with Ben’s turning.

I was relieved that she seemed to be thinking the same thing.

“But I guess,” she continued, “after what happened to Ben, we should wait for him to come back before I turn.”

I nodded. “That’s what I was going to suggest.” Although Mona had returned to us, if a number of black witches attacked at once, they might be able to overpower her. This meant Rose was still in potential danger, but after what happened when we turned Ben, turning her now seemed like madness. At least she was back with us on the island. For now, we’d just have to protect her as best as we could. I could see that Derek was just as relieved as me that she’d come to this conclusion by herself.

A silence fell between the four of us as we stared at one another, the stories we’d exchanged still playing on our minds. It was Rose who eventually cleared her throat and stood up. Still clutching Caleb’s hand as though she might never let go, she said, “I’d like to show Caleb around a bit.”

“Aren’t the two of you exhausted?” I asked.

Rose cast a glance at Caleb. “Are you, Caleb?” she asked.