Authors: Bella Forrest
I found it sickening the way she talked about Derek like he was some sort of hero, but if one thing was clear to me at that point, Derek
had done something to warrant her trust. Still, though he might have fooled her, he wasn’t fooling me.
Tears moistened her eyes as she was finally able to force herself to look at me. “I’m so sorry, Ben. If I didn’t wander off t
hat night, you wouldn’t have…” She choked on her words, biting hard on her lower lip. She grabbed my hands and squeezed hard.
I wanted to comfort her, tell her that it wasn’t her fault. She couldn’t have known. She was a victim too. However, I didn’t tell her the things that I should’ve told her, because I was t
oo preoccupied mulling over what I couldn’t bring myself to tell her.
I couldn’t tell her that after what Claudia put my body through, my sense of touch was so dulled I could barely feel
Sofia’s hands on mine. I didn’t want any more of her pity.
I also couldn’t tell her that Derek was the vampire who killed Eliza, because in spite of everything we’d been through, I was no longer sure of where her loyalties stood and the idea that she wouldn’t believe me, that she could still choose Derek over me was one that I found terrifying.
You shouldn’t have let her go.
I tried everything I could to shut out my sister’s words and keep
them from continuously circling in my mind, but it was impossible. They gnawed at me and reminded me of the truth that I already felt so immensely. Sofia was no longer around, and no matter whom I surrounded myself with or what activity I tried to immerse myself in, I could still feel her absence with every fiber of my being.
Of course, I’d
lived long enough to mask what I was going through as I continued my strict schedule of meetings with the vampires I needed to carry out my commands. By the end of the day, word was already out all over the island:
The prince is wide awake. He’s done taking a break and is about to get right to the bloody business of keeping The Shade safe.
I hated to admit it, but Vivienne was right. It was all a ruse, a show I had to put on in order to distract myself from the void that formed upon
After I wrapped up the last meeting of the day, I pulled Cameron to the side. “I can trust you, can’t I?”
He nodded. “You know you can.”
“I want you to find my older brother. We had a falling out…”
He almost killed Sofia.
“It was a pretty big fight and he’s running scared of me now. You know how cowardly Lucas can get.”
A smirk formed on Cameron’s face. It was
recognized by a handful of us that Lucas wasn’t the kind of
we’d like to end up on the battlefield with. He’d be sure to throw us at the enemy’s cannons if it meant he could save his life.
“What do you want me to do, Derek?” Cameron asked in his typical Scottish slur.
“I need you to find him. He’s hiding on this island somewhere, or maybe he’s even out with some of the scouts looking for new slaves he can exploit. I don’t know… I just need to know where he is.”
“What do you want me to do once I find him?”
I hesitated, but nodded when I realized what was needed. “Lock him up. In the Cells.”
I can’t afford to have him go after her.
“Then report back to me immediately.”
e king isn’t going to like that. Neither will your sister.”
“Vivienne will understand. She’s always been on my side. As for my father, I’ll take care of him when he gets here. It’s just of prime importance
right now that I know where Lucas is located at all times.”
Cameron nodded. “I’ll be on the lookout for him.”
Satisfied that the search for my older brother was left in capable hands, I eventually retreated to my penthouse, ready for a well-deserved rest. The moment I entered my house, however, I realized that my day was far from over. Ashley, Paige and Rosa, the other three girls who, along with Sofia, completed my harem, were waiting for me.
I grimaced at the word.
What a foolish connotation.
It was another one of those innovations The Shade had come up with during my four-hundred-year slumber. Keeping a house full of young, gorgeous and nubile human slaves was a reckless and lavish indulgence the Elite and some of the other Lodgers – naturalized vampire citizens of The Shade – enjoyed. From the moment I was introduced to the idea, I was never an avid fan of it, but it was this very indulgence that brought me Sofia.
I scowled at the three lovely teenagers, standing
in the middle of the hall, waiting for my arrival. Seeing them only reminded me of Sofia.
Hell, everything about this place reminds me of Sofia now.
Sofia?” It was the blonde, Ashley, who spoke up. Of the three, she’d always been the gutsier one.
Half of me planned
to just walk past them and head directly for my room. Something told me, however, that they would simply follow right after me so I sat on one of the couches in the living room. “I don’t know where she is exactly, but she’s definitely no longer here.” I motioned for them to take their seats across from me. The girls exchanged glances as they sat next to each other on the largest couch.
“She escaped?” Ashley asked.
“Yes,” I nodded. “Her and that boyfriend of hers… Ben.”
“Ben’s not her boyfriend,” Rosa, the pretty petite one with the short, wavy black hair spoke up. She was the one who always looked like she would die of fright whenever I was around. She still looked that way, so I had to give kudos to her for being able to speak up in front of me for what I believe
d was the very first time.
I exhaled, annoyed by her clarification
, before nonchalantly waving a hand in the air. “I don’t really care.”
I knew it. They knew it.
Bold-faced, Paige, the sporty brunette, scoffed at me. “
Oh, sure. You
about her. Look… We know Sofia. She would never leave without us. She wouldn’t betray us like that.”
“But she did, didn’t she? She’s no longer here.”
“What did you do to her?” Ashley managed to ask, her voice mixed with accusation and fear.
“I helped her escape.” I grimaced even as I glared at her for daring to question me that way. “Look. If it’s any consolation, she begged me to let you come. I wouldn’t hear of it. I couldn’t ris
k The Shade by just letting you loose.”
“But you trust Ben enough to let him go?” Paige’s voice betrayed her frustration.
It was getting exhausting talking to them. I was Derek Novak. I didn’t have to answer to three teenage slaves, and yet I found myself sitting there, explaining myself to them. “I had no choice. Sofia wouldn’t have left without him.”
“But she left without us…”
“This conversation is going in circles.” I rolled my eyes and
“What are you planning to do with us now?” Ashley’s
face was pale with apprehension.
I sat right back
in my seat and looked at each one of them. I could do whatever I wanted with them… use them, break them, bed them. No one would think worse of me for it. No one but Sofia.
“I really don’t care what happens to any of you. Right now, all I need from you is to make sure that nobody finds out that Ben
and Sofia are gone. Nobody. I already warned Sam and Kyle that they too are not to breathe a word of this to anyone. As far as everyone at The Shade is concerned, they’re still locked up somewhere in this house, or dead. As for the three of you, I don’t know… The only reason you mattered to me in the first place was because you mattered to her.”
“What makes you think we no longer matter to her?”
“What don’t you get, Ashley?” I snapped at her, feeling the rage that was undoubtedly showing in my face. “She’s no longer here! It’s not like she’ll ever return to find out what I decide to do to you. I could swing you over my back, take you to my bedroom and do the most despicable things to you. She wouldn’t ever know.”
It was obvious that the threat stunned them because a chilling silence followed.
It was Rosa who broke the silence. “But you won’t do that, because you still care about what Sofia will think.”
“Maybe so, but so what?”
Ashley smirked. She leaned back in her seat, shaking her head as she focused her almond-shaped eyes right on me. “It’s funny.”
s? What is?”
“You spent so much time with her, practically demanded it of her to give you her time, and yet you still don’t seem to have the slightest clue what kind of girl
I straightened up
in my seat. “What are you talking about?”
“With people she cares deeply about still here –
we know Sofia well enough to tell that she would
to come back.” Ashley stood up and glared at me. “You’d know that too if you actually got to know her all those times you were keeping her in your bedroom.”
Seemingly done chastising me for not knowing
Sofia well enough, Ashley stormed out of the room. Paige quickly followed suit. It was Rosa, however, who gave me that one remaining ray of hope that there was still a possibility I could get Sofia back. She gave me a tentative half-smile and said, “Sofia cared deeply about you.”
I wanted to believe, to hope, but the ever present voice of darkness once again hissed at me.
And look where caring about you got her.
I shook the thought of her coming back away, eliminating all hope that she could once again be in my arms.
Keeping her here would only put her in danger. Just let go of her, Derek. Just let go.
Night was the only time Ben and I chose to stay indoors. We decided to take a one-bedroom suite at the hotel, considering that as best friends, we’d slept in a single bed without malice dozens of times. For some reason, however, things changed and the idea of sleeping in the same bed as Ben felt uncomfortable, almost like it was a betrayal to Derek.
The Shade, after Lucas killed Gwen, Derek asked me to start sleeping in his bedroom. He was more able to protect me that way. I couldn’t even explain why, but it seemed the most natural thing for us to be in the same room. I expected for some period of adjustment, with a lot of awkwardness; him being a virile, attractive young man and myself being, well, a young woman. I was surprised by how well we adjusted to one another. It was like a dance. We just naturally knew how to move around each other. He got me and I liked to think that I got him too.
I couldn’t understand why, but something changed between Ben and me. The rapport we had was gone. Our interactions felt forced. I assumed that the problem was with me and how my mind kept roaming back to Derek, so I shoved thoughts of my vampire captor out of my head. I had to push away thoughts of how much I missed Derek in order to let Ben in again. It was, after all, how Derek got to me in the first place – when I allowed myself to stop pining
sat on my side of the bed, lightly bouncing over it as I grabbed a pillow, I huffed and gave Ben a small pout.
“What?” he asked.
“I hate this.”
This tension … Since when are we so on edge around each other, Ben?”
in his eyes softened. I knew he couldn’t deny that there was some level of awkwardness, because he had barely spoken to me since our trip down memory lane back at the beach. He sat beside me and grinned as he cocked his head to the side, his blue eyes falling on me. “I don’t understand how you could still appear so fair and pink and soft in spite of the fact that we spent the whole day in the sun.”
“Fair and pink and soft? You make me sound like a pig…”
“No… You’re pretty, Sofia. It’s just weird how you never seem to get sunburn.”
“That also means I never get that perfect tan you have.”
I didn’t realize how much I missed the arrogant grin on his face until I saw it again. “Yes, yes… The sun does love me. How did you describe me that one time?” He squinted an eye at me. “I believe you called me a Greek god…”
I rolled my eyes. “You never do get tired of bringing that up, do you? I was being sarcastic.”
“Riiight… You keep telling yourself that.” A self-satisfied smile formed on his lips as he lay flat on his back over the bed.
It was a glimpse of the Ben that I missed. Fun-loving, easygoing, never one to get all hung up over problems, issues or emotions. I smiled as I watched him fall asleep,
and giggled when he once again began to snore. The tension between us having disappeared, I rolled to my side, trying to force myself to fall asleep.
By the stroke of midnight, I gave up trying and silently got up, pulled a robe over my body and quietly to
ok the sealed envelope from the backpack given by the vampires. I didn’t want Ben to know that it contained an envelope addressed to me, because I was hoping that it came from Derek. After everything Ben told me about his experience at The Shade, I didn’t want him finding out about how much I missed Derek. I didn’t want to deal with having to feel guilty that I didn’t have as bad an experience as Ben did back at the island.