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A Fall of Secrets(A Shade of Vampire,Book 15)(18) by Bella Forrest

I gave Corrine a hug. “Thanks for helping with this.”

“No problem.”

I waited for all the ball attendees to exit the hall before leaving my mother and following after them. I wandered down the tunnel toward the main exit, brushing my hands along the rough walls. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had almost reached the last stretch of tunnel before the main exit when a deep baritone voice came from behind me.

“Princess.”

The dragon prince stepped out of the shadows.

“Theon,” I gasped.

He stopped a couple of feet away from me, his amber eyes boring into mine.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“O-okay.”

“Who do you believe is the most worthy maiden?”

His question took me by surprise. “Most worthy maiden,” I began. “Hm. That’s really a tough question. There are, uh, so many worthy maidens.”

His thick eyebrows furrowed as he scrutinized my face.

“Why aren’t you mingling with any of them to just see for yourself?” I asked.

A smile curled the corner of his lips. “I don’t… mingle as freely as my comrades do.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I don’t just dance or talk with anyone.”

I frowned. “Then I’m not sure how you will ever find yourself a partner. If you don’t—”

“My comrades are now seeing the worth of each of the maidens before suggesting whom I ought to grant a private meeting to. I just thought that, in the meantime, I would ask you for your opinion.”

Oh.

A wave of relief washed over me.

“Well, as I said, that’s a tough question for me to answer. I think you’re better off just waiting for your comrades’ feedback on the girls.”

“Very well,” he said, stepping away. “I’m sorry to have held you up.”

“T-that’s quite all right.”

I was taken aback by his courteous behavior. It left me feeling almost guilty for expecting him to try something with me. As he turned around and began walking back down the corridor, toward his apartment, I realized that perhaps he truly was a gentleman. I hadn’t detected him trying to lure me in. Although his very presence was intimidating, he had acted anything but dishonorably.

As I left the Black Heights and began racing back toward Caleb’s and my mountain cabin, I couldn’t help but feel happy for the girl who would eventually end up with him. He would make her very happy indeed.

Chapter 13: Sofia

Soon after Rose left the hall, I left too. I made my way back to our apartment and headed straight to the bedroom. I changed into my most comfortable pair of pajamas before seeking out Derek. He was in his study, as I had expected he might be. He looked up as I entered, leaning back in his chair and stretching out.

“How did it go?” he asked.

“Much smoother than Rose and I could have expected.” I walked over to him and sat down on his lap. I ran a hand through his hair, placing a kiss on his cheek. “I’m so proud of our daughter.”

Derek’s face filled with melancholy—an emotion I’d grown used to seeing in him since Caleb had told him he wanted to propose to our daughter. Derek just didn’t want to let his baby go. Neither did I, but I couldn’t deny that I was thrilled. I trusted Caleb and I knew that he would rather die than see anything happen to our daughter. He was also more grounded and mature than Rose in many ways, and I saw that they complemented each other.

Derek would get used to it. I knew he would. I held his hands and stood up, pulling him up with me.

“You look tired. Come to bed with me?”

He didn’t resist as I tugged him out of his study, back toward our bedroom. I collapsed on the bed almost as soon as we entered and crawled between the sheets. Derek took a shower before settling on the mattress next to me. He lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling.

“At least Caleb seems a much safer vampire to be around than I was for you.”

“I would have to agree with you there,” I said, grinning. I squeezed his warm cheek, turning his head to face me. “Speaking of vampires, how long are you going to wait before turning back?”

“I’m not sure. I want to wait a while to see how things play out.”

We fell into silence, snuggling closer to each other and staring into each other’s eyes until exhaustion eventually claimed me and I fell asleep.

* * *

Derek and I were woken unceremoniously a few hours later by a frantic knocking on our bedroom door. Derek leapt out of bed and swung the door open.

My heart sank as soon as I saw that it was Eli.

“Eli? What is it? How did you even get in here?” Derek asked.

“You left the front door unlocked,” Eli said. “There’s something on the news you need to see.”

I shot out of bed, rushing to Derek’s side. I clutched Eli’s shoulders. “Don’t tell me this is about Ben again.”

Eli shook his head. “Definitely not Ben.”

I could breathe somewhat more easily, although his expression didn’t give me reason to feel much relief. Since Eli’s TV was the only one on the island that had been hooked up to all the news channels, Derek and I hurried directly out the front door. As we raced through the forest toward Eli’s penthouse, I couldn’t help but feel sad that I was beginning to associate Eli’s visits to us with fear and dread.