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A Trail of Echoes(A Shade of Vampire,Book 18)(4) by Bella Forrest

I didn’t tempt fate while stopping by a clothes store and made our visit quicker than I’d thought possible. I chose the robe within a matter of seconds, and then thrust the cash at the stall owner, not even waiting for the correct amount of change.

We rushed away from the market and arrived at a quiet road. We stopped at the doorway of an old building. Placing the backpack on the ground, he pulled off his robe, then removed his pants, stripping to his underwear. I was supposed to be keeping watch, but I was embarrassed to find my eyes roaming his ridiculously attractive physique.

I tore my eyes away as he stepped into his fresh pants and pulled on the new robe. Bundling up the old soiled clothes, he threw them into a trashcan at the side of the road and turned back to me.

“Okay,” he said quietly. “Let’s continue.”

“Where to now?” I asked.

“Now, we need to head for water. The Nile. Do you have any idea how to get there? Are we going to need to pick up a map?”

“I have a map,” I said, reaching into the backpack. I pulled it out and handed it to Ben.

He opened it up and looked at it. Although it was dark, and there were no streetlights where we were standing, we could both see all the details of the map clearly. My supernatural vision was yet another thing I was still getting used to.

We found our location on the map, then figured out the quickest route that involved passing by the least number of humans. Once we were confident in the plan, I climbed onto Ben’s back, the backpack once again fastened over my shoulders.

Then he ran nonstop, slowing down only occasionally to consult the map he had gripped in his hand to ensure that we were still going in the right direction.

Soon, the night air felt cooler and fresher. I sensed that we were approaching a body of water. When Ben stopped, we were standing in a dark harbor. A myriad of boats surrounded us. There were larger vessels—as large as cruise ships—as well as smaller ones like speedboats.

“So we’re going to need to choose a route and buy a ticket?” I asked.

Ben shook his head. “We need to avoid people as much as possible.”

I had already guessed what was on his mind as his eyes settled on a speedboat about fifteen feet away from us.

“Stealing?” I asked in a small voice.

“I don’t see what other choice we have right now.”

“So you know how to navigate the boat?” I asked.

“I’m used to navigating submarines. I can handle a boat,” he muttered. I slid off his back and watched as he looked quickly around the harbor, then leapt onto the boat. I motioned to follow, but he held up a hand.

“Just stay where you are and keep watch. Shout if you see someone coming.”

I did as he requested. It seemed to be a quiet evening on the harbor. There weren’t many people around at all, making my task an easy one.

About five minutes later the engine chortled and he returned, nodding in my direction.

“Okay. I’ve figured out how to get the boat to start without keys.”

He held out a hand, and I took it as he helped me onto the boat. He led me into the small cockpit in the center of the deck, and we both took a seat. Adjusting the controls, Ben began to navigate the boat backward. As soon as he had maneuvered out of the bay, he ramped up the speed. Soon we’d left the harbor and were moving toward the center of the wide river.

He kept the lights switched off as he looked up and down the river. There were a number of other boats on the water at this time of night. We had to be careful to avoid them because they could not see us.

We sailed north along the river for the next few hours, dodging any boats that passed our way, until the lights along the riverbank began to grow dimmer.

“We’re running out of fuel,” Ben said. “We’re going to have to head for land.”

Surrounding us on either side were tall marshes. Clearly we had traveled a good distance away from the city and were in some kind of suburb. Ben navigated the boat toward land and I gripped the sides of the boat as it hit the bank. As we both stepped out, I winced as mud filled my shoes.

He held my hand and we waded through the sludge until we reached a concrete road. There were no other boats nearby along the bank that we could see.

“We should start heading north by foot. It will be faster anyway. The boat was just to get us out of the city.” He inhaled deeply. “Definitely not as much human blood around here.”

“Good,” I muttered.

I decided that I wanted to run for a while, so we raced along the roads of the sleepy suburbs that passed nearest to the river. The chirp of crickets filled my ears, and the occasional roaring of a truck as it trundled by… and then, once we had entered the early hours of the morning, the sound of helicopters slicing the air above us.

Ben and I sped up, trying to keep out of the spotlights that the choppers were shining down, but they kept hovering nearby. I shot a panicked glance at Ben. Gripping my hand, he tugged on me sharply and pulled us into some bushes to our right. As he kept leading me forward, the shrubbery got thicker and thicker and the ground muddier. Ben removed the backpack from his back and hung it over a low-hanging tree branch, then pulled me into the river until I was chest deep.

“Take a deep breath,” he whispered.

I didn’t have time to draw in much breath before he pulled me under with him. I remained submerged for as long as I could before I was forced to resurface for oxygen. I ducked down quickly again afterward. We remained in the water for what felt like the next ten minutes, until the helicopters seemed to have passed.