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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(5) by Bella Forrest

“Griff!” I leapt into his arms and held him tight.

He kissed my cheek as we drew away from each other. And it was then that I realized how cold his skin felt. I eyed him more closely.

“Oh my God. You’re a vampire!”

He was grinning from ear to ear. “Well spotted.”

“How… Why?”

“I persuaded my father to turn me. I guess I just felt that it was time. And honestly, with everything that’s been going on around the island, I feel more comfortable as a vampire than a human.”

His eyes rested on Caleb, and I expected to see some flicker of jealousy or pain behind them, as I had before when Caleb had visited the island briefly. But I didn’t. Griffin just nodded casually in his direction and said, “Hi.”

“Hi,” Caleb replied.

“How has it been?” I asked. “Adjusting to it and all?”

Griffin shrugged. “It hurt like hell at first. But my parents were surprised how quickly I was able to gain control of myself.”

“So you’re not about to suck my blood?” I teased.

“I mean, I don’t feel like I’m in danger of attacking you now…” Griffin furrowed his brows. “But damn, girl. Your blood smells good. Just don’t tell Becky I said that.”

“Becky?” She was one of my human friends on the island.

Griffin winked. “Turns out being a vampire has other perks too. Even for a freckly red-headed one. It’s been hard keeping girls away recently.”

I laughed. “So Becky’s your girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

My heart soared for him and I hugged him again. “Griff, I am thrilled for you.”

“And I’m thrilled you’re back,” he said. “I won’t keep you long now though. You look tired. I’ll catch up with you another time, okay?”

“Sure thing.”

He smiled again and took his leave.

I caught Caleb’s hand and walked with him to the kitchen, where my parents were sitting and having a conversation.

“Mom. Dad. We’ve finished our tour for now. Caleb and I are going to get some rest.” I paused, gauging my parents’ reaction, then continued before the silence could become too uncomfortable. “My room feels a little too, uh, claustrophobic for the two of us.”

“Uh, Rose… before the two of you go running off, I’d like to have a word in private…” My mother’s voice trailed off as she looked from me to my father. He quickly took the cue and stood up. As he passed me, he planted a kiss on my head and gave me a half-serious, half-joking glare, before leaving the room.

Of course, if he really wanted to listen, it wouldn’t take much effort. He’d hear most of what we said even if he went to the other end of the apartment and we spoke in whispers. But I trusted him to occupy himself with something and give us privacy.

Caleb also stepped outside the front door. I watched him walk up to the end of the verandah and stare out at the dark sky.

I turned my focus back on my mom. Even though it was just us in the room, I still felt my cheeks beginning to burn.

“Just in case you were wondering,” I said, wincing with embarrassment at every word, “Caleb brought me back with my, uh… virtue intact. And I suspect it might stay that way for some time… He’s not your typical nineteen-year-old. He was born, like, over a hundred years ago.”

She smiled. “It would be a lie to say that I wasn’t wondering, but I wasn’t about to ask. I just wanted to give you the space to ask me about any questions you might have, about… starting a relationship with a vampire.”

“Oh… No. I can’t think of any questions,” I said, relieved that she wasn’t about to hit me with a barrage of questions herself. I also realized that it was the truth—I felt so at ease around Caleb. I never felt awkward or uncomfortable. Even though we hadn’t met all that long ago, it felt like I’d known him for ages.

She moved closer and, cupping my face in her hands, kissed my cheeks. She had tears in her eyes when she said, “Okay, Rose. I just felt the need to ask… and I want you to know I’m here for you if you ever want to talk about anything.”

“I know you’re here for me, Mom.” I hugged her tight.

“Where do you want to stay?” she asked.

“There’s at least one mountain cabin that’s empty, right?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll just pack my toiletry bag and some clothes, and Caleb… I guess he can borrow some of Ben’s clothes. They’ll probably fit.”

We embraced for another minute or so before she loosened her grip on me. She had a mischievous, almost bashful, look on her face. “You know… you and Caleb are better behaved than your father and I were.”

“Ugh, Mom.” I pulled away from her. “Too much information.”

She laughed as I left the room. I headed straight for my room where I packed up underwear, pajamas and a set of clean clothes for tomorrow into a duffle bag. I went into the bathroom next door and, rummaging in the closet beneath the sink, found two unopened toothbrushes. I stuffed them into my bag along with body wash and shampoo.

Caleb was waiting outside the bathroom door as I exited. I smiled up at him. “I’m just going to pack some clothes for you and we can leave.”

I headed next into my brother’s room a few doors away. My gut clenched as I swung the door open and looked around his messy room.