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A Fall of Secrets(A Shade of Vampire,Book 15)(1) by Bella Forrest

Chapter 1: Rhys

We had to collect a large amount of human blood—larger than ever before—and we had to do it quickly. Thanks to the Novak boy, at least we didn’t need to keep our activities hidden now. This was the only thing that made our task less daunting.

I had given all our witches an hour to recuperate after the battle. I headed straight to Isolde’s rooms at the top of the castle and hurried toward her bedroom where she lay resting, cradling an injured elbow. Burns covered every visible part of her skin, as with Julisse and me. But burns were the least of our worries right now.

She looked up at me, the torture of the setback we’d just experienced still fresh in her eyes.

I brushed aside my own disappointment, and touched her shoulder.

“Will you be able to accompany us?”

She nodded, reaching for a glass of wolf blood by the side of her bed and taking a deep gulp. She wiped her mouth against the back of her sleeve. “I’ve been thinking carefully about this next step,” she said, her voice hoarse. “Since we don’t have much time, we need to be very precise in our targeting.”

“I’m listening,” I said.

“Young blood is what we need. It will be at least four, possibly five times more effective than adult blood. We ought to target adolescents.”

I nodded. “I will plan a route accordingly.”

I walked over to my aunt’s desk in the corner of the room, reached up to a shelf above it, and pulled down a map. I began paging through it until I reached one of the nearest inhabited shorelines to us. Isolde slid out of bed and walked over to me, looking down at the map from behind my shoulder.

“We still have some werewolves back in our dungeon on the other side of the gate. If we have time, we could also collect some more wolves from their realm… And there are also a few humans left in our dungeon, but they’re mostly shriveled and sickly by now.”

“Hm,” I grunted, barely paying attention to her words as I pulled out a pen from the drawer and began making markings on the map. “I have our route now,” I said, tearing out the page from the map, folding it, and slipping it into my cloak pocket. I walked into the bathroom and stopped in front of the sink, splashing cold water over my face. I raised my head and looked at myself in the mirror. The words Mona had spoken to me echoed through my head.

She said that I looked older.

I shook thoughts of that witch away and dried my hands and face with a towel before re-entering Isolde’s bedroom. She had finished the last of the wolf blood and was fastening a cloak around her.

“How is your elbow?” I asked.

“Better now that I’ve finished that,” my aunt replied, nodding toward the empty glass.

We vanished ourselves down to the entrance hall at the bottom of the castle, where all our other capable witches, including Julisse, were waiting for us.

Julisse shot me a questioning glance. “Have you decided on our first destination?”

I nodded. I didn’t want to waste time explaining where. They would find out soon enough. We all formed a circle, touching shoulders, and disappeared from the spot.

Moments later, we had reappeared at the side of a dusty road. The sun blazed down overhead, reflecting off the cars whizzing past us. I pointed to the gate on the opposite pavement. As my companions looked at it, they all seemed to understand. We crossed the road quickly, not even bothering to conceal ourselves with an invisibility spell, and approached the gate. I peered through the bars, pleased to see so many of our targets all in one place. One schoolyard.

We reappeared on the other side of the gate. I looked over the crowd of teenagers. Some had noticed us already and were eyeing us curiously. Most were still too wrapped up talking.

Three adults who’d been conversing in a corner noticed us too late. I had already released three curses. Each hit them square in the chest. They collapsed to the ground dead in a heap.

The youth began to shout. We needed to act fast now if we wanted to avoid delays. The last thing we needed was for humans with guns to show up and complicate matters. We surrounded the crowd of adolescents, ushering them closer and closer into the center of the yard with a burning ring of fire. The heat made them retreat quickly and soon they were so close together that their shoulders were touching. Confident they were compact enough, I nodded toward the other witches and relinquished the fire.

A few seconds later, we had vanished along with our first batch of young blood.

Chapter 2: Rose

I woke to Caleb’s strong arms around me. He hadn’t stopped holding me since we’d fallen asleep. I stared into his peaceful face. His breathing was light, his lips slightly parted. I leaned toward him on the pillow and planted a soft kiss on his forehead. Slowly, his eyelids flickered open. His lips curved, his warm brown eyes lighting up. Caleb’s smile was the only sunrise I needed.

“How did you sleep?” I asked.

He responded by pulling me closer and claiming my lips.

I chuckled as he drew away. “I’ll take that as well.”

He sat up and looked at the clock in the corner of the room.

“We’ve slept too long,” he muttered.

“Oh, my,” I said, my eyes traveling to the clock too. “We have.” We had been through so much in the past twenty-four hours, and we’d both needed to rest, but neither of us had intended to remain in bed this long. More than six hours had passed.

We climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom. After we’d finished brushing our teeth, Caleb stripped and stepped into the shower. I left my own clothes aside and followed after him. The water felt strangely cool. I adjusted the taps, adding more hot water.