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A Trail of Echoes(A Shade of Vampire,Book 18)(10) by Bella Forrest

Now that Caleb and I had made this plan, we didn’t want to delay. Caleb finished the boat quickly with the help of Ibrahim, while I took on the task of packing everything I could think of that we might need. Caleb wasn’t sure how long it might take us to get to New Zealand, and of course it depended on so many things—how long we decided to spend on each island we stopped at, how rough the weather was, whether we just got lost in each other’s eyes in the middle of the ocean for a few days…

The night of our planned departure soon arrived. My parents came early that evening to the cabin, and helped us carry all our baggage to the boat.

When I arrived at the end of the jetty, it was the first time that I had seen the boat completed. It was gorgeous. The covering over the wide deck Caleb had created to give shelter from the sun was made of a dark teak wood, and there was a long sofa in the center with a walnut coffee table, directly in front of the small control room. Beneath the deck were all the amenities we might need—a bedroom with a large window of tinted glass that gave a stunning view of the ocean, an en suite bathroom, a small living room and a storage room equipped with enough supplies to last a month in case of an emergency.

Corrine, Ibrahim, my grandfather, Vivienne and Xavier were waiting for us on the deck. I hugged them each one by one.

“The invisibility and protective spells we’ve placed over the boat will come into play as soon as you leave The Shade’s boundary,” Ibrahim said.

“You two be careful,” Vivienne murmured, worry in her eyes.

“We will,” Caleb said, making his way with a large suitcase toward the staircase leading down to the lower deck.

My parents and I followed him, carrying all the luggage downstairs before returning to say one final goodbye. My mother pulled me close and kissed my cheek.

“Enjoy yourself, sweetheart,” she said, squeezing me tight. “And please… try to stay out of trouble.”

“We won’t be going anywhere where there’s trouble.” I chuckled, kissing her back.

I drew away from my mother and wrapped my arms around my father. His hug lifted my feet off the ground.

“Goodbye, darling,” he said. “Your mother and I will miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” I said, pressing my warm cheek against his.

Then my parents said goodbye to Caleb and stepped back onto the jetty with Vivienne, Xavier, Corrine, Ibrahim, my grandfather and a crowd of people who’d just gathered.

Caleb and I were due to leave now, but we stepped off the boat to say goodbye to the rest of them. Micah was standing—in his wolf form—near the front with his girlfriend, Kira.

“Have a good one,” he growled, butting Caleb in the side with his head.

Then he nuzzled my leg.

“Bye, Micah.” I ran my fingers through the fur on his neck and gave him a pat.

Then we spent the next ten minutes saying goodbye to Claudia, Yuri, Anna, Kyle, Griffin, his parents, half a dozen of my girlfriends, and finally, just as we were about to head back toward the boat, I noticed that at the back of the crowd, Jeriad was standing with his girl of choice, Sylvia.

Leaving Caleb, I walked toward the shifter. I was surprised to see him present. I’d hardly seen any of the dragons since my wedding. It was as if they were avoiding me.

He looked at me steadily as I approached.

“Hi, Jeriad,” I said, looking from him to Sylvia, whose arm was looped through his.

“I wish you a safe journey,” he said, his voice deep and rumbling.

“Thanks,” I replied, eyeing him closely. I was about to ask how he and his companions had been, but he didn’t give me a chance. Taking Sylvia by the waist, he walked off with her into the woods.

I looked over at Caleb. He raised a brow. I shrugged and made my way back over to him.

“Not sure what’s going on with those dragons,” I muttered, sliding my hand into his.

We said our final goodbyes and then, clutching the bag of chocolate bunnies Griffin had given me for the journey, I boarded the boat with Caleb. He headed to the control room, while I remained at the stern of the boat, waving and blowing kisses as Caleb navigated the ship to the boundary. As the figures on the beach grew tiny, I joined my husband. I took a seat by his side and looked at him.

His eyes were fixed forward in concentration. I followed his gaze, then spotted the hunters’ gray ships surrounding our island.

“Do you think they’ll detect us?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Caleb replied. “But it doesn’t matter too much. As long as none of them follow us.”

“Yeah… That wouldn’t make for such a relaxing trip.”

Even though I knew we were safe within the witch’s spell, my palms still grew sweaty as Caleb navigated the boat beyond the boundary. He moved slowly at first, skirting close to the boundary as he kept watch on the ships, and then he began speeding us away along the choppy waves, toward the wide-open waters.

Once we had traveled miles and the ships were nothing but dots in the distance, I was able to breathe more easily.

After two hours, Caleb was confident enough to put the boat on autopilot. He stood up and looked down at me, a small smile curving his lips. Taking my hand, he led me out of the control room and onto the moonlit deck. I breathed in the fresh salt air and looked around at the endless expanse of water, relishing the cool wind against my skin. The star-strewn sky was breathtaking. We walked to the front of the boat and stood listening to the rolling waves.