Authors: Bella Forrest
OF VAMPIRE SERIES
Derek & Sofia’s story:
Rose & Caleb’s story:
OF KIEV TRILOGY
EAUTIFUL MONSTER DUOLOGY
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© 2015 by Bella Forrest
Cover design inspired by Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations LLC
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to collect a large amount of human blood—larger than ever before—and we had to do it quickly. Thanks to the Novak boy, at least we didn’t need to keep our activities hidden now. This was the only thing that made our task less daunting.
I had given all our witches an hour to recuperate after the battle. I headed straight to Isolde’s rooms at the top of the castle and hurried toward her bedroom where she lay resting, cradling an injured elbow. Burns covered every visible part of her skin, as with Julisse and me. But burns were the least of our worries right now.
She looked up at me, the torture of the setback we’d just experienced still fresh in her eyes.
I brushed aside my own disappointment, and touched her shoulder.
“Will you be able to accompany us?”
She nodded, reaching for a glass of wolf blood by the side of her bed and taking a deep gulp. She wiped her mouth against the back of her sleeve. “I’ve been thinking carefully about this next step,” she said, her voice hoarse. “Since we don’t have much time, we need to be very precise in our targeting.”
“I’m listening,” I said.
“Young blood is what we need. It will be at least four, possibly five times more effective than adult blood. We ought to target adolescents.”
I nodded. “I will plan a route accordingly.”
I walked over to my aunt’s desk in the corner of the room, reached up to a shelf above it, and pulled down a map. I began paging through it until I reached one of the nearest inhabited shorelines to us. Isolde slid out of bed and walked over to me, looking down at the map from behind my shoulder.
“We still have some werewolves back in our dungeon on the other side of the gate. If we have time, we could also collect some more wolves from their realm… And there are also a few humans left in our dungeon, but they’re mostly shriveled and sickly by now.”
“Hm,” I grunted, barely paying attention to her words as I pulled out a pen from the drawer and began making markings on the map. “I have our route now,” I said, tearing out the page from the map, folding it, and slipping it into my cloak pocket. I walked into the bathroom and stopped in front of the sink, splashing cold water over my face. I raised my head and looked at myself in the mirror. The words Mona had spoken to me echoed through my head.
She said that I looked older.
I shook thoughts of that witch away and dried my hands and face with a towel before re-entering Isolde’s bedroom. She had finished the last of the wolf blood and was fastening a cloak around her.
“How is your elbow?” I asked.
“Better now that I’ve finished that,” my aunt replied, nodding toward the empty glass.
We vanished ourselves down to the entrance hall at the bottom of the castle, where all our other capable witches, including Julisse, were waiting for us.
Julisse shot me a questioning glance. “Have you decided on our first destination?”
I nodded. I didn’t want to waste time explaining where. They would find out soon enough. We all formed a circle, touching shoulders, and disappeared from the spot.
Moments later, we had reappeared at the side of a dusty road. The sun blazed down overhead, reflecting off the cars whizzing past us. I pointed to the gate on the opposite pavement. As my companions looked at it, they all seemed to understand. We crossed the road quickly, not even bothering to conceal ourselves with an invisibility spell, and approached the gate. I peered through the bars, pleased to see so many of our targets all in one place. One schoolyard.
We reappeared on the other side of the gate. I looked over the crowd of teenagers. Some had noticed us already and were eyeing us curiously. Most were still too wrapped up talking.
Three adults who’d been conversing in a corner noticed us too late. I had already released three curses. Each hit them square in the chest. They collapsed to the ground dead in a heap.
The youth began to shout. We needed to act fast now if we wanted to avoid delays. The last thing we needed was for humans with guns to show up and complicate matters. We surrounded the crowd of adolescents, ushering them closer and closer into the center of the yard with a burning ring of fire. The heat made them retreat quickly and soon they were so close together that their shoulders were touching. Confident they were compact enough, I nodded toward the other witches and relinquished the fire.
A few seconds later, we had vanished along with our first batch of young blood.
to Caleb’s strong arms around me. He hadn’t stopped holding me since we’d fallen asleep. I stared into his peaceful face. His breathing was light, his lips slightly parted. I leaned toward him on the pillow and planted a soft kiss on his forehead. Slowly, his eyelids flickered open. His lips curved, his warm brown eyes lighting up. Caleb’s smile was the only sunrise I needed.
“How did you sleep?” I asked.
He responded by pulling me closer and claiming my lips.
I chuckled as he drew away. “I’ll take that as well.”
He sat up and looked at the clock in the corner of the room.
“We’ve slept too long,” he muttered.
“Oh, my,” I said, my eyes traveling to the clock too. “We have.” We had been through so much in the past twenty-four hours, and we’d both needed to rest, but neither of us had intended to remain in bed this long. More than six hours had passed.
We climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom. After we’d finished brushing our teeth, Caleb stripped and stepped into the shower. I left my own clothes aside and followed after him. The water felt strangely cool. I adjusted the taps, adding more hot water.
Caleb backed away from the water. “That’s hot.”
I frowned, looking back at the taps. It barely felt warm to me. “Sorry,” I muttered, adjusting the shower to its former temperature.
Caleb moved behind me again, positioning himself beneath the water, and ran his palms down my arms. “Your body’s changed. You barely notice heat.”
“Hmm… I guess. Speaking of heat, do you think the dragons have left already?”
“I assume so,” he replied. “They said they’d leave after they’d finished meeting with your parents.”
Once we’d finished, we stepped out of the shower, dried off and got dressed.
“Let’s go see my parents,” I said.
Exiting the cabin, I breathed deeply as the fresh mountain air whipped past my face. Something was very different about our surroundings. Dotted about the mountainside were dozens more cabins than there had been when Caleb and I had first retreated into our own. And they were larger than the regular cabins constructed for the witches. As we began to make our way down the mountainside, I spotted Micah and Kira seated on the steps of a cabin about fifty feet away from our own. They were staring out at the view of the ocean, their arms around each other.
“Micah!” I called.
Micah beamed as we hurried over to them. I still wasn’t sure whether the wolf had sensed me eavesdropping when he’d finally professed his love for Kira on the beach, so I tried to look surprised to see them both together.
“So, you two are a couple now?”
Micah’s cheeks reddened as he nodded, looking down affectionately at Kira.
“Congratulations,” Caleb said, even as he cast me an amused sideways glance.
“And now we are neighbors.” I frowned, confused as I took in all the extra mountain cabins. “I thought the werewolves were going to be housed up in the trees along with the vampires?”
“That was the plan,” Micah said, “but we soon realized that it’s going to be much more practical to house us in cabins. When we’re in our wolf forms, even ascending in an elevator can be inconvenient.” He looked down at his now human hands. “It’s hard to push buttons with paws.”
“Do you know if the witches have finished with construction around the rest of the island?” I asked.
Micah shrugged. “I think these cabins were one of the first projects they worked on. But Kira and I haven’t had a chance to roam around the island much in the past few hours. We’ve been…resting.”
“Okay,” I said. “Well, we’re going to visit my parents now. We’ll see you around.”
We bade them goodbye before continuing down the mountain. Caleb motioned to pick me up as soon as we reached the bottom, but I clutched his hands and stopped him.
“I want to see if I can match your speed,” I said.
Caleb looked at me in confusion. I realized then that he hadn’t witnessed my speed since my fire powers came on.
“I noticed it soon after I discovered I was able to wield fire,” I said, taking a step back from him, casting my eyes toward the entrance to the woods. “My speed has increased. A lot. I’m just not sure how much exactly.” I narrowed my eyes on him in challenge. “So, vampire, race me?”
I didn’t wait for an answer before launching into a sprint across the field. I’d guessed Caleb would overtake me in a matter of seconds. He did. But he didn’t outpace me as much as I’d expected. I was still nowhere near as fast as him, but as he reached the finish line, I was only about twelve feet behind him. Not bad going against a runner like Caleb Achilles.
He stopped at the entrance to the forest, and turned around, watching as I ran the last few feet toward him. He raised a brow.
“I’m impressed,” he said.
When I pulled to a stop, I wasn’t even panting. It was a bizarre feeling. I had often fantasized about running this fast as a child. I recalled in my early childhood years being fascinated watching the vampires whizz effortlessly through the trees. Ben and I used to attempt to match them—attempts that ended up with more bumps and bruises than we could count.
Fire-wielder. Speed runner. I can live with this.
“It looks like you won’t have to carry me around as much now,” I said.
Caleb looked almost disappointed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He shook his head, smiling. “It’s nothing… I suppose I’m just old-fashioned. I’ve come to enjoy carrying you around.”
I couldn’t help but giggle. “You can still carry me around if you want, Caleb.” I wrapped my arms around his midriff and drew him in for a kiss.
He slipped his right arm beneath my knees, his left arm wrapping around my waist as he picked me up and carried me against him. He brushed his lips against my forehead and I held on tight, preparing myself for him to begin lurching forward through the forest. The truth was, although I could run fast myself now, I loved this
side of Caleb. It was endearing and romantic.
It wasn’t long before we reached the foot of my parents’ tree. Caleb didn’t bother waiting for the elevator. With one giant leap, he hurtled us both upward toward the canopy of leaves. I was gasping for breath as we finally landed on the veranda. He set me down on my feet and we walked toward the front door. I knocked.
I knocked again. Still no answer.
I wondered if they were perhaps sleeping. I walked along the wooden floorboards toward the kitchen window, which was ajar.
I should have remembered to keep a spare key.
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.”
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.
“Rose!” My mother beckoned me over.
Caleb and I took seats around the dining table. “You two must have been tired,” I said. “We came by earlier.”
My father let out a yawn.
“I guess the dragons left already?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” my father replied, rubbing his face in his hands. “They left some hours ago.”
“When will they return?” Caleb asked.
“They didn’t specify,” my father replied. “I don’t imagine they will be away long though. They are fetching their prince and about fifty other dragons.”
“And what about their accommodations?” I asked.
“The witches are working on them now. We are converting the storage chambers into apartments for the dragons. They said they like high ceilings and the rooms we had built for humans simply won’t do,” my mother said. “We’re holding a memorial ceremony for our fallen in an hour. I’m going to take a quick shower.” She stood up and headed out of the room.
I reached across the table and gripped my father’s forearm. “Thank you for saving Caleb.”
My father nodded, glancing briefly at Caleb.
The three of us didn’t exchange many more words until my mother reappeared from her shower dressed in a long black robe. I looked down at my own clothes, then at Caleb’s. We ought to change into something more subdued too. I took Caleb’s hand and walked with him toward my bedroom. I didn’t have any long black dresses like my mother’s, so instead I pulled out a smart black shirt and pants, followed by a long black cardigan. I slipped into them quickly before leaving the room again and entering Ben’s bedroom with Caleb. I searched through my brother’s closet until I found a black outfit for Caleb as well. He changed quickly and we returned to the living room. My father had also changed into black clothes.
We all left the apartment together and headed towards the Sanctuary. People—humans, vampires, witches and werewolves alike—were already gathering in the clearing outside of the witches’ temple. Since we had no bodies to bury, we held a similar ceremony to the one we’d tried to hold for my own grandfather and those we’d mistakenly thought we’d lost.