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A Dawn of Strength(A Shade of Vampire,Book 14)(9) by Bella Forrest

Eli flipped open a laptop and placed it in front of us. He pointed to a video player with the same footage. “You can watch it more slowly here, pause and rewind it as you will…”

As Sofia worked the player with shaking hands, there was no more denying who this was. His features were unmistakeable even in this fuzzy footage.

It was our son, Benjamin Novak.

I had been too stunned until now to even take in the details of the reports. Now that I listened more closely, I caught the location. Chile.

Her chest heaving, Sofia slammed the laptop lid shut. She shot to her feet, her eyes blazing into me. “We’ve delayed this far too long, Derek. We have to find our son and bring him back.”

“The incident took place some days ago,” Eli said. “Apparently the witness who recorded this ended up being seriously injured—hence the footage was only just discovered and released. There’s no guarantee Ben will still be in Chile.”

Although a part of me was screaming to agree with Sofia, the greater part of me simply couldn’t. I shook my head.

“We can’t abandon our people at a time like this,” I said. “Nor will we spare more people to go after him. Not when he expressly stated he didn’t want anyone following him.”

Sofia’s cheeks flushed, her lips parting to argue back. I gripped her shoulders. “Our son is no longer a boy. He’s a young man. We need to let him live by his choices.”

“But we turned him, damn it. This is our fault!”

“We turned him with his full agreement.”

“Then, if he can’t consume animal blood, we should turn him back into a human,” she said.

“That’s not what he asked for. If he wanted to turn back into a human, he could have told us. He chose to remain a vampire by leaving. We can’t force our son to turn back.”

“Then let’s just bring him back and—”

“Sofia, don’t you understand? He’s got to get over this himself—because if he doesn’t, even if we brought him back here, there’s no guarantee he wouldn’t start murdering our own people. His strength rivals my own, and it’s simply not possible to restrain a vampire like him twenty-four hours a day… unless sedating our son is what you want to do.”

She bit her lower lip so hard I was sure she was about to draw blood. “We could sedate him temporarily, until—”

“Until when?” I shook her. “Until when, Sofia? You don’t understand, because you never went through what I went through. Novak blood doesn’t run through your veins as it does mine and Ben’s. Sedate him for a week, and he’ll wake up the same man. Hell, I sedated myself for four hundred years and I woke up the same bloodsucker.”

“But Derek—”

“You witnessed the state I descended into as soon as you left the island with Ben Hudson.” I raised my voice, determined to cut through her emotions and make her see sense. “The darkness doesn’t just vanish from one’s heart, Sofia. Your light temporarily broke through mine, but when you left, it closed in around me again. There is no magic button. The only way to get rid of it is from within. Ben has to battle it from within himself, the same way I had to. He’ll have to be relentless in his fight, but if he really wants to pull through this and find himself, he’ll find a way.”

Finally seeing the truth in my words, Sofia broke down, falling to her knees. I knelt with her, clutching her hands. “Darling, as much as we want to, this is a battle that we simply can’t fight for him.”

As Sofia shook in my arms, I cast my eyes back up to the TV screen. That vision of my son ripping into the throat of an innocent young woman would forever be etched in my memory.

I couldn’t get over the fact that this was the first time a vampire had been broadcast to the world like this. Even the black witches’ vampires had managed to keep themselves concealed when stealing away humans.

If someone had told me that my own son would be the first vampire to break this code of secrecy, I would have thought them mad.

Chapter 6: Rose

I took Caleb to visit Corrine and Ibrahim in the Sanctuary first thing the next morning. To my relief, not only had the two of them come to, they were walking around their home as usual.

It was Corrine who answered the front door. As soon as she laid eyes on me, her face lit up. She flung her arms around me and pulled me in for a tight embrace.

“Rose, my darling. We have so much to catch up on. You must tell me everything.”

And so we sat in her living room for the next few hours. I recounted all the details of my story to her, and I was stunned as she told me her tale. I was furious at how the white witches had treated their own kind, and I felt incredibly guilty that they’d gone through all that suffering just because they’d been trying to find me. Once we were caught up on each other’s stories, I reached for Caleb’s hand. Corrine had warmed up to him considerably during the course of our conversation.

Standing up, I unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off his shoulders so Corrine could see the damage that had been done to him by the South American thugs.

Her eyes widened as she moved closer to the vampire and looked over the wounds. “These bullets are lodged deep,” she murmured. She shot a look at me. “You might not want to be here to watch this, Rose.”

“I’m staying,” I said firmly.

“Okay.” Corrine sighed and led us to her spell room. She cleared the long wooden table in the corner and placed a plastic covering over it. Grabbing a cushion from one of the chairs, she placed it at the edge of the table as a pillow. She gestured for Caleb to lie down. He lifted himself up and stretched out. I walked to the edge of the table and stood by his head.