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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(4) by Bella Forrest

“Arabella!” I began yelling at the top of my lungs.

Caleb ran for what felt like miles, until I was met with a sight in the distance that soothed my nerves a little. Two bulging figures sat on opposite sides of a fire. As we drew closer, I spotted Brett’s cave, and Caleb stopped in front of the bonfire and set me down on my feet. I found myself staring at Bella and Brett, holding two large wooden bowls that I recognized as Brett’s handiwork. There was a pot of brown stew between them.

I stared from Brett to Bella. I was glad at least that the two had come across each other. That said, I didn’t like the color of the stew sitting between them…

I moved closer to the pot and peered into it. “I hope there are no humans in there,” I said, looking sternly at the two of them.

Brett shook his head vigorously. He looked offended that I would ask such a question. “Of course not, Princess Rose,” he said. “You know I don’t eat humans.”

Bella looked up at me innocently. “I didn’t cook it, Miss Rose. So you’re gonna have to trust what he says.” She pointed a fat finger at Brett.

I looked back at Brett. “Okay, I believe you… So I see you two have introduced yourselves already.”

Both Brett and Bella looked up at me and frowned. Brett shook his head. “I don’t know who this girl is,” he mumbled, casting a sideways glance at Bella. “Was just having my dinner out here and she came up. Asked if she could have some. So I said okay.”

“Oh.” I fought to stifle a giggle at the confused look on Brett’s face as Bella took another long slurp of her—or rather, his—stew. “Well, then, I ought to introduce you. Brett, this is Arabella—or Bella, as she likes to be called. And Bella, this is Brett.”

Bella held out a hand to Brett. He looked at it cautiously before slowly reaching out and shaking it. They held each other’s gaze for a few seconds before they both dipped down to their bowls of stew again.

“Bella,” I said. “You must never, ever, harm a human—or any other resident, for that matter—while you’re here. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Even if someone walks right up to you, you leave him or her alone. If you do touch anyone, you’ll be kicked right off this island… and then who knows what could happen to you?”

She froze and looked frightened just at the thought. “I-I promise, Miss Rose,” she stammered.

“And you should stick with Brett. He’s the only other ogre on this island. Brett, will you help Bella find somewhere suitable to sleep?” I looked around at the numerous caves in this area of the beach.

He shot another weary look at her before mumbling, “Yeah, all right.”

“Good.” Heaving a sigh, I stepped away from the ogres and snaked an arm around Caleb’s waist. “I’ll leave the two of you to your meal. See you later…”

“Bye,” they said together.

I tore my eyes away from them. As Caleb and I continued on our way, I couldn’t help but experience a sense of satisfaction at seeing the two ogres together. I’d made a promise to myself a while ago that I would find a solution to Brett’s loneliness. Although Brett had made it clear that he wasn’t keen on “girls”, Bella seemed different than the other ogresses I’d come across. Of course, I still had no idea if they’d get along… Only time would tell.

I was about to suggest we turn around so I could finish showing Caleb the parts of the island nearest to the Residences when I realized we were so close to the lighthouse, I might as well show it to him while we were here. I climbed onto Caleb’s back and guided him to the rocks where the building was perched.

He set me down at the foot of it. I rarely went up to my parents’ special place, and going up there with Caleb felt wrong, but I wanted to show it to him all the same. It felt like one of the main landmarks of the island. “That up there is my parents’ special place.”

He raised a brow. “Special place?”

“Yeah…” It was an open secret what my parents did whenever they retreated up there, and one I would rather not talk about now with Caleb. Caleb and I need to find our own special place on this island.

We moved on swiftly from there and, with me traveling on Caleb’s back, it didn’t take long to finish the tour of the island. It was early morning now, and there weren’t many people about. Almost everyone was sleeping. Caleb had already heard my story when I was telling my parents, but I had yet to hear what had happened to him while we were apart. So this was a good opportunity for him to tell me. My blood boiled as he described Annora’s deceit, and I had to remind myself that she’d had her comeuppance already to avoid riling myself up into too much of a rage.

Once we’d finished traveling around all the major points of the island, it was beginning to be a struggle to keep my eyes open. I hadn’t slept properly for days, and although the excitement of having Caleb here in my home was still coursing through me, I couldn’t resist what my body was screaming for much longer. I guessed that Caleb was exhausted too—he’d been through trauma just as I had.

“Let’s return to the penthouse,” I said, although I had no intention of sleeping there with Caleb tonight, or any other night. My parents’ sense of hearing was much too acute for me to feel comfortable sharing my bedroom with Caleb.

We reached the foot of our tree and ascended in the elevator. As we opened the front door, I was both surprised and thrilled to see Griffin sitting on the living room couch. He sprang up as soon as he laid eyes on me.