Authors: Bella Forrest
OF VAMPIRE SERIES
Series 1: Derek & Sofia’s story
Series 2: Rose & Caleb’s story
Series 3: Ben & River’s story
Series 4: A Clan of Novaks
A SHADE OF DRAGON TRILOGY
A SHADE OF KIEV TRILOGY
BEAUTIFUL MONSTER DUOLOGY
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© 2016 by Bella Forrest
Cover design inspired by Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations LLC
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
fter Sendira Mortclaw
departed for the ogres’ realm in search of her cub, I was left alone on Murther Island. Well, not exactly
—the rest of the Mortclaws were still in their cave—but I decided to move away from the prison and put some distance between myself and those murderous creatures for a while, to allow myself time to clear my head after the encounter.
I waited and waited until Sendira finally returned with… bad news. She said that she had managed to find The Shade—or at least where she thought it was, based on the myriad of smells surrounding it. But on arrival, Bastien’s scent was far too weak. She’d concluded that Bastien definitely was not there, and must have left The Shade.
I cursed, wondering where on earth he could be if not The Shade.
Where would he have gone with that wench?
Then it struck me that together, they might have returned to The Woodlands. Where else would they have gone?
I instructed Sendira to search The Woodlands for the couple, in spite of my worry that she might snap up an innocent werewolf or two in the process.
When she returned this time, many hours later, she had a smile on her face—a smile that I couldn’t recall seeing on her lips since before she and her family had been kidnapped by the black witches. She informed me that she had found her son in The Woodlands. She had picked up on his scent, soared over the land following it, and managed to track him down high up in a tree. She’d taken him away to a nearby rock formation where they could talk without interruption.
To my dismay, Sendira informed me that Victoria had
been there—or so Bastien had claimed. I drew in a sharp breath. This was definitely a setback. I still feared for my life every moment that Sendira was outside of that cave. My safety relied entirely on my shaky bluff, and her not wanting to risk that I was lying.
We couldn’t just skip over the first task of ending Victoria and immediately launch into the second condition of our agreement. If Victoria was not taken out of the picture, Bastien would still be clinging to her in his mind. It would be hard enough for him to move on after her death, but knowledge that his little human still lived would make it a thousand times more difficult to ever get through to him, and for him to accept my daughter.
to be eliminated before any marriage could take place.
Thus, as much as it killed me, it seemed that I had no other option than to wait. Hopefully not for too long. I’d witnessed with my own eyes how hopelessly infatuated Bastien was with the girl—I knew he could not stand to be parted from her for long. They would meet up sooner or later…
But I needed it to be sooner.
I did not want to enter a waiting game.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a way for me to speed things up…
all in an utter frenzy over Grace’s condition.
She had been bitten by a Bloodless and she was displaying the first symptoms of turning. After her initial fit on the bed, none of us were sure what to do. What we could do. Then Corrine, shellshocked as she was, took charge.
“P-Perhaps,” she said in an unsteady voice, “Grace’s tremors could be a symptom of something else. Please just… Let’s not assume anything at all, until I have conducted a thorough examination. Dammit,” she added to Grace beneath her breath, “I knew I should have done this as soon as you stepped in here.”
She requested everyone leave the room except for River and Ben, who could hardly be expected to part from their daughter at a time like this. The rest of us piled out into the corridor, our stomachs tied up in knots.
Although we had been asked to leave, every single member of my family remained hovering outside the door, as if bound by invisible chains. But after an hour had passed, I found the wait unbearable. I kept mulling over and over the very worst-case scenario—that Grace’s fae blood was not strong enough to counteract the Bloodless venom. That she was turning, slowly but surely.
As was usually the case in times like these, it was the uncertainty that wore us down the most.
I couldn’t stand waiting outside the door any longer. I rose from the seat by my mother’s side and stood up.
“I need some fresh air,” I said to my parents, my voice raspy.
They nodded, and I took my leave. I had no idea how much longer Corrine would take. I imagined that she was exploring absolutely every possible option before coming to her conclusion. As I made my way out of the hospital and into the flower meadow, the beauty of our island felt bittersweet. Almost taunting. I was close to Grace. Closer to her than many of the girls my own age. I loved her like a sister, and the thought of anything bad happening to her made me feel ill. But this… this was a level of bad that was practically incomprehensible.
I tried to force my mind onto more positive thoughts while winding my way through the sunflowers toward the woods. But it was a feeble attempt. There was no stopping my worry. The most I could do was walk and breathe deeply.
At least all would be clear after Corrine’s diagnosis. We would know exactly where we stood.
I had almost reached the Sanctuary when a voice called behind me. “Hey, Victoria!”
I turned to find myself face-to-face with Brock Novalic. He stood on the forest path with a piece of parchment clasped in one hand.
“I just, uh, came from the hospital,” he said.
“So you heard about Grace?”
“Yes,” he replied grimly. “News is spreading quickly.”
We fell quiet, gazing at each other as we both felt for our friend’s plight. Then Brock cleared his throat. “The reason I came looking for you was… uh, I was by the beach about an hour or so ago, before I heard about what happened to Grace. And a message was delivered for you.”
I knotted my brows. “A message? What do you mean?”
He handed me the parchment, upon which was scrawled a short note in black ink:
“Bastien wishes to see you about an urgent matter. Please return to The Woodlands as soon as you are able to.
I stared at the note, reading it over several times.
Cecil? Bastien’s counselor?
“Wh-who delivered this note?” I stammered, gazing in utter confusion at Brock.
“A woman pulled up in an old boat outside the border. She was in a hurry and, to be honest, I didn’t get much of a look at her. Just noticed she had darkish hair… She simply asked me to give this note to you,” he explained.
“And she left?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
I blew out, glancing down at the note. This was strange. This was very, very strange. Was Bastien in trouble? Why would Cecil be sending me this note via some woman?
“Did she have straight hair?” I asked.
Brock squinted, as if dredging his memory. That wasn’t exactly a difficult thing to remember about someone, but then again, Brock was a guy… “No,” he replied after a pause. “She had curly hair.”
Well, that definitely ruled Brucella out. Her hair was straight, not to mention lightish brown. I was sure there was at least one female member of the Blackhall tribe who had curly dark hair, though… She could have been delivering the note on behalf of Cecil, who was, after all, quite elderly.
“Well,” Brock said, sucking in a breath. “I need to get going. I’ll see you around…”
“Yeah.” My eyes fixed again on the note.
I still couldn’t shake my doubts about it. What trouble could Bastien possibly be in that
, a mere human girl, could help him out of? Unless he was assuming that I’d bring help with me, from The Shade. Dip into our pool of supernatural creatures.
The question continued to nag at me…
What if Bastien really does need me?