A Trail of Echoes(A Shade of Vampire,Book 18)(18) by Bella Forrest
Derek also looked taken aback. “So you left…just like that.”
Cameron raised a brow. “Of course, Derek. It was obvious that the only reason they wanted to meet with us was to get intelligence on The Shade. And who knows what means they would have resorted to in order to force the information out of us. Leaving was our only option. We could never betray you.”
“Besides,” Liana said, “it was about time that we returned to visit you.”
“This isn’t a visit though, is it?” I said. “You’re here for good now.”
Cameron and Liana nodded slowly.
I looked at their children for a reaction. They both appeared to be surprisingly resolved about the idea. Of course, we had plenty of youths here they could make friends with. It would just be a shock getting used to life on this strange dark island.
“There are five hunter ships outside the boundary now, watching the island,” Eli said, looking seriously at Cameron through his spectacles.
“But so far that’s all they’ve done,” I said. “Watch.”
A silence fell as Cameron and Liana looked at us uneasily.
“You haven’t considered launching an attack to get rid of them?” Cameron asked.
Derek glanced my way. There was an undercurrent of conflict in his expression, but I was relieved when he replied, “For now they have done nothing to directly harm us. And in the long term, The Shade clashing with the human world will not be good for anyone. We need to avoid bloodshed as much as possible.”
A small smile curved Cameron’s lips. “You’ve changed your tune, Novak. Since when are you a pacifist?”
Derek clenched his jaw, eyeing me once again. “Believe me, Cameron, this tune is grating on my nerves every second of the day.”
￼￼￼￼Chapter 12: River
After the day the blood rain fell, the echoing in Ben’s and my ears became more frequent.
Ben said that he heard not only sounds of the atrium, but a voice too—an eerie chant that played over in his mind. I was bewildered as to how it could’ve known his name—whatever “it” was.
Ben was more determined than ever to reach The Shade. He maintained that there were witches there more knowledgeable and experienced about all things supernatural than he was, and that they might be able to offer insight as to what was happening to us. As soon as we arrived, he said, I would enter The Shade to try to figure out not only whether I could turn back, but also what had happened to us in The Oasis that was causing this torment.
Although the sounds of that desert prison surrounded us instead of the calming waves, as days passed, we didn’t have another incident like the blood rain. In fact, as we sailed through the Red Sea, the journey began to take on an almost lethargic pace. Even despite the echoing in our ears, we started to find a semblance of peace in each other’s company—or at least I did in Ben’s.
Although it had been terrifying, it turned out that the shower of blood had been a mercy for Ben. When the blood fell upon us from the heavens, most of it had escaped as it streamed across the deck, but there had been three empty barrels that had filled almost halfway. As soon as Ben noticed them, he took them down to the small storage room beneath the deck which was the coolest room on the boat. Of course, without any way to treat it, the blood wouldn’t take long to congeal. But I guessed that he’d find a way to consume it and at least wouldn’t starve. I wasn’t sure what happened to vampires without blood. Whether they could even starve. I was glad I didn’t need to find out.
Thinking about what I would do if something happened to Ben made me realize just how dependent I was on him. Without him, I would perish. I’d no idea how to navigate the boat, and much less of an idea of how to live in this world as a supernatural. And being dependent was something I hated. Since my father left, I’d tried to become as self-reliant as I could.
Of course, Ben was just as dependent on me. Heck, he might’ve gone through the whole of Cairo slaughtering people if I hadn’t been there to help him regain control in that guesthouse office.
It was ironic. Despite Ben’s uncontrollable thirst for blood, I realized as the days passed that he was actually an easy person to get along with—at least I found him so. We both worked together to figure out practical day-to-day things, like having clean clothes to wear. Since I had only one pair of clothes, as did he, which were already dirty from our trip even before we left Ismailia, we ended up fashioning clothes for ourselves out of spare bed sheets—clothes being a very generous term. I just cut one to size and tied it around my chest so that it hung like a strapless dress, while Ben wore one around his waist.
As for food for myself, I was lucky that there was a stash of it in the storage compartment—all of it longlife food in packets and tins, and none of it tasty, but it was keeping me full.
Since there was only one bed in the bedroom, and not really enough room for one of us to sleep on the floor, I ended up sleeping alone at night. There was a couch up on the deck, and that was where Ben took naps when he felt like it—although he really didn’t sleep much. It was hard for me to sleep in the beginning. I wasn’t used to resting alone, nor was I used to the rocking motion of the boat, but after a week or so, I’d gotten used to it.
At night, we got into the habit of lighting up a small fire on the deck, inside a wide metal container that we found in the storage room. It was during those nights that I began to enjoy getting to know Ben better. Not just as the vampire, but as the human he’d been before he’d turned, and the human he still was when his bloodlust was at bay.