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A Fall of Secrets(A Shade of Vampire,Book 15)(3) by Bella Forrest

I opened the window further and called inside. “Mom? Dad?”

When there was still no answer I looked back at Caleb.

“I think we’re going to have to climb through the window,” I said.

“You think they’re sleeping?” Caleb asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Caleb supported my feet and helped lift me up on to the windowsill. I climbed inside, over the counter, and lowered myself onto the floor. I called for my parents again. I entered the living room. It was empty. I headed straight for my parents’ bedroom. I placed my ear against the door. Sure enough, I heard light breathing. They were both sound asleep. I wasn’t used to my parents being such deep sleepers. As vampires, they were easy to wake. But, like Caleb and myself, they were exhausted after the battle. I headed toward the front door. Picking up a spare key on the way out, I re-entered the veranda. Caleb was leaning against the railing.

“They’re both asleep,” I said. “Let’s return in an hour. In the meantime, we can see for ourselves what improvements have been done on the island since we last saw it.”

We headed back down the tree and went first to the Port. I was half expecting to see the same scene of destruction that I’d laid eyes on only hours ago. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. Our witches had been working hard. What had previously been a scene of destruction—a landscape of nothing but lumps of ash and black charcoal—was now a fully reconstructed port, hardly different from the one that used to stand here. Even the jetty was made of the same type of wood, and the sand on the beach was back to its light golden color and soft texture. While the affected trees hadn’t re-sprouted, the burnt timber had been cleared away. I was just thankful that the majority of our forests remained intact. Thank God I attracted those dragons’ attention when I did. If I hadn’t, the whole island would have been burnt to the ground.

Caleb and I began walking further up the beach that had borne the brunt of the attack. Caleb pointed to a patch of sand to our left. “That was where the witches lined up their prisoners,” he said, his eyes distant. “I honestly thought we’d lost them.”

“Thank heavens those witches saw enough value in them to keep them.”

Caleb averted his gaze to the ocean. “If it weren’t for your father, I wouldn’t be standing here now. Rhys almost finished me off.”

I shuddered, tightening my grip around his hand.

Sensing my discomfort, Caleb changed the subject. “We still don’t know how Mona ended up in the middle of the lake…” Caleb’s voice trailed off as his eyes fixed on something in the waves. He pointed toward a large round object bobbing in the distance. I squinted as we hurried closer to the water’s edge.

“What do you think it is?” I asked, anxiety gripping me.

“Oh… It’s just the ogre.”

“Brett?”

Caleb nodded. “It looks like he’s bathing.”

I strained to make him out in the distance. Now that we were closer, it did appear as though he was cleaning himself. I hadn’t even known that ogres could swim and I certainly hadn’t known that they cleaned themselves. It sure didn’t smell like it…

Caleb and I were about to move on when one of his thick hands shot up into the air and began waving at us.

“Princess Rose!” he bellowed. “Hello!”

“Hi, Brett,” I yelled back.

He began swimming toward us until he was in shallow enough water to stand up. I gasped, thinking for one horrifying moment that he was wearing no clothes. His massive chest was bare, rolls of flab drooping around his stomach. Then to my relief, I noticed a loincloth on his waist as he stepped onto the sand.

“How are you?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“How are you getting along with Bella?”

He shrugged again.

“Have you talked much since I introduced the two of you?”

“Not much,” Brett mumbled.

“Are you glad she’s here?” It felt like trying to draw blood out of a stone.

He looked down at his massive feet, shuffling from one to the other. “I don’t know…” I could have sworn I detected a slight blush in his muddy brown cheeks.

“I think she likes you,” I said.

Truth be told, I had no idea whether Bella liked Brett. I just wanted to see whether the blush I thought I’d detected was real.

There it was again. A slight warming to his cheeks.

“Is she mean like other girl ogres?” I asked.

He shrugged again. “I give her my food, so… that’s why she’s not mean.”

While I was amused by Brett’s take on Bella, I couldn’t help but be saddened too. I could only imagine what he’d been through at the hands of other ogres.

I frowned at the ogre in mock disdain. I shook my head. “You should consider the possibility that she might like you for more than just your cooking.”

He let out a deep sigh that rumbled through his chest and made the flab around his stomach shake. He shook his head, then turned his gaze toward the sea.

I didn’t want to make the ogre any more uncomfortable than I had already, so I looped my arm through Caleb’s and said, “Well, I will see you around, Brett.”

“Bye, Princess Rose,” Brett mumbled, still avoiding eye contact as he began trundling back toward the direction of his cave.

Caleb and I spent the rest of the hour exploring the parts of the island that had been most affected by the dragons’ flames. Like the Port, most other places had been restored. After we were done touring the island, we headed back to my parents’ apartment. We ascended in the elevator and, arriving on the veranda, I let us in through the front door. This time, my parents were both seated at the dining table in the kitchen. They both looked up as we entered.