“I’m up for a short tour.” Caleb stood up with her.
I felt uncomfortable about letting her out of my sight even for a moment, but now I had to trust Caleb. He’d kept her alive and well all this time. I owed it to him to trust him to roam around the island with my daughter for a while. He’d just fought off a dragon, after all…
Derek and I nodded and, leaning in to kiss us both on the cheek one last time, she left the apartment. I supposed it would be good to help distract her mind from thoughts of her brother.
Once they exited the apartment, I turned my focus back on Derek. His expression was almost inscrutable.
I reached out and touched his hand. “What are you thinking?” I asked.
“Just… our daughter.” He was still staring at the front door where Caleb and Rose had disappeared.
A smile curled my lips. “She’s no longer our little girl.”
He breathed out heavily. “That she isn’t.”
He stood up and began pacing up and down the room. Still, he looked agitated.
“What do you think of Caleb?” I asked.
Derek shot me a look. “What do you think of him?”
“Not that I’ve known him long… but I have to admit, right from the start there was something I liked about that boy. Before our minds got clouded with doubts about his intentions.’
Derek heaved a sigh. “I… I just don’t know.”
“What do you mean?”
He stopped pacing and looked down at me. “I have to come to terms with the fact that nobody will be good enough for my daughter… but if anyone deserves her, I suppose Caleb appears to be the closest to it.”
I couldn’t stop the grin from splitting my face. I stood up and reached for Derek’s hands, twining my fingers with his. I stood on my tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “He means a lot to her.”
Derek nodded slowly.
Still amused by his lack of enthusiasm, I narrowed my eyes on him. “You remind me of my father. It took a long time for him to come round and accept that you deserved me.”
He paused, looking at me closely. “And what makes you think he was wrong in believing I didn’t deserve you?” He pulled me closer, his arms wrapping around my waist as his hands rested on the small of my back, and whispered into my ear, “Did I ever deserve you, Sofia?”
I bent my head back to look him in the eye and raised a teasing eyebrow. “You didn’t seem to have much doubt about it, all those times you declared me as yours when we first met.”
He gave me a small smile before his restless demeanor returned. He swallowed hard, his eyes traveling back to the front door. I found his anxiousness both amusing and endearing. I slipped my hands into his hair and forced him to face me again. I pulled his head lower to me so I could kiss his lips.
“Yes, Derek,” I whispered. “You deserved me. Just as I think it might be time we accepted that Caleb deserves our daughter.”
￼Chapter 2: Rose
I was smiling as Caleb and I left the penthouse and stepped into the elevator. Although Ben’s departure was weighing heavily on my chest, I couldn’t help but feel relieved at how smoothly Caleb’s reintroduction to my parents had gone. I just had to have faith in my father’s words—that my brother would find a way back to us, just as I had. Driving myself insane with worry wouldn’t bring Ben back. Ben was resourceful, and now he was a vampire, he would be incredibly strong. From what my parents had described, he sounded like he was a match for even my father’s strength.
As we began to descend in the elevator, I looked up to catch a glimpse of Caleb’s face. He was staring through the glass at the branches as we approached closer and closer to the ground.
I moved closer to him and reached up to touch his cheek. “Caleb,” I said.
There was warmth in his eyes as he lowered his gaze to me. “Yes, Rose?”
“Are you okay?”
My parents had given him some blood as we sat talking for hours, but so much had happened in the past twenty-four hours, he looked like he was still in a daze. I could only imagine what a shock to his system it was to be back here in The Shade. An island he’d never thought he’d be able to set foot on again, much less contemplate living here with me.
He smiled and pressed his lips against my forehead. “I couldn’t be better,” he whispered.
My heart soared as his smile broadened.
“So you… you really are happy to be here?” I asked, leading him out of the elevator as we reached the ground.
“I think I’d be happy anywhere you are, princess.”
I felt my face growing red again. Of course, I didn’t feel any differently about him.
We began to walk hand in hand through the woods. As we passed through the Residences, I pointed up at the trees, listing the names of the vampires who lived in each one of them. It wasn’t until we arrived at the Port that panic gripped me.
“The ogress! We forgot about Bella.”
Caleb’s eyes widened. So much had happened, we’d both totally forgotten that we’d left her wandering along the beach before we ran off to try to figure out how to deal with the dragon. For all I knew, she could have come across a group of humans. Bella was a man-eater, and although I hadn’t given her permission to eat anybody, I suspected she would be starving by now and might not be able to resist swiping a human or two for herself.
Caleb bent down and helped me swing myself onto his back. He began racing along the beach in the direction I’d told her to walk in.