A Trail of Echoes(A Shade of Vampire,Book 18)(5) by Bella Forrest
We headed back to the bank, where Ben retrieved the backpack from the branch and continued running. As the first light of morning showed behind the horizon, we arrived at a harbor on the outskirts of a small town. Looking around, I was disappointed to see only cruise ships.
“What now?” I asked, looking nervously at the sky.
Ben eyed the huge ships.
“We have two options. Keep traveling by foot and hope we find another boat soon, before the sun rises… or buy tickets on one of these cruise ships.”
I stared at him, wondering if the last part was some kind of joke.
“You, on a cruise?”
He looked back at me. “Given the searches on the roads last night, I don’t think it’s a good idea to travel by land. But we need to keep moving.” He averted his eyes to the brightening sky. “Trust me when I say I feel crazy for suggesting this, but I think we’re going to be safer on one of those cruise ships, at least until tonight.” I gaped at him as he continued. “By my estimation, if we pass the day on a cruise ship along the Nile, of course it will go slow, but then we’ll only need one more night of traveling by foot—if that—and we’ll end up in Ismailia. There we’re sure to find a boat to take us down to the Red Sea, toward the Gulf of Aden, and hopefully as far as the Arabian Sea.”
After everything I had seen of Ben’s behavior, I was beyond nervous at the idea of him being stuck on a boat surrounded by possibly hundreds of humans. I wouldn’t be able to leave his side for a moment.
I gulped, then looked toward the small cabin in the middle of the harbor buildings that, going by the sign above its door, was a ticket office.
“Well, first, let’s see if there are even tickets available,” I said. “They might be fully booked.”
We headed down to the building and I was surprised to see it was open so early. Ben moved close behind me, one arm around my waist as I pushed the door open and we stepped inside.
There was a bleary-eyed Arab man sitting at a desk.
“Hello,” he said, forcing a smile.
Ben motioned to take a seat next to me behind the desk, but I sat myself on his lap so that the back of my neck was pressed hard against his face. It was too early in the morning for me to witness another slaughter.
The man raised a brow at me as I looked at him, unfazed.
“Good morning,” I replied in Arabic, clearing my throat. “What cruises do you have available today?”
He pulled out a pamphlet from one of the drawers. “There are quite a few leaving and stopping by this port. Where would you like to go?”
“Uh, any ship traveling north or eastward.”
He frowned. “That’s a little vague, ma’am.”
“What is the earliest you have?”
“The Empress should be stopping here for a short break in… about fifteen minutes, actually. I might be able to find a spare cabin.” He handed me a pamphlet about the cruise and squinted as he eyed his computer.
I glanced through the pamphlet, waiting with bated breath.
“Hm, no… I’m sorry. The Empress appears to be fully booked.”
“Then when would the next—?”
“Oh, wait.” He held up a hand. “Yes, there is a spare cabin. But it’s a very expensive one—the executive suite on the top level of the vessel.”
“Will it be making any stops this evening, after sunset?”
“One stop at about 9pm, though only a very short one.”
“That’s fine,” I said immediately. “We’ll book that.”
When the man told me the price, I barely batted an eyelid. We had more than enough.
Daring to shift my weight from Ben for a second, I reached for the backpack and then sat back down again. Reaching into the bag, I counted the cash and handed it to the man. He issued us the tickets and instructed us where to wait. But the sun’s rays had begun to trickle down upon the harbor.
Although I was anxious to get Ben far away from this man, I asked, “Would it be possible to wait in here until it comes?”
He nodded. “Do you have any luggage that you need help with?” he asked, looking through the window outside as if wondering if we had left it out there.
“No,” I said. “We, uh, travel light.”
He raised a brow and then looked back at his computer.
Ben and I waited in tense silence until a large ship came into view and stopped at the edge of the harbor. It ended up being sixteen minutes late. I thanked the ticket agent before Ben and I hurried out of the office and toward one of the nearest entrances of the long boat that had just opened up.
Since it was early in the morning, apart from the man who greeted us at the entrance and gave us our key, we only met a handful of other humans on our way up to our room on the top level of the boat. Of course, human blood surrounded us, and I kept a tight grip on Ben in the hallways.
Arriving at our suite, I closed the door behind us and locked it. Now that Ben was inside, I could breathe a little more easily.
I moved farther into the room with Ben. It was luxuriously decorated with wide tinted windows, filled with traditional Egyptian furniture and a large four-poster bed. There was a dining table for two—upon which was a platter of welcome food—that looked out onto a small balcony.
I glanced at Ben.
He still looked so tense he was clearly in no mood to talk. I eyed the food laid out on the table. Removing my veil, I took a seat and began digging into the food.