I retraced my steps back out of the kitchen and took a sharp right turn. I walked along the corridor until I reached an open door. I peeped through it. In a hall I’d never passed by before, a woman perched on the windowsill, the window flung wide open. Her whole body convulsed as she cried out against the mountain wind.

The witch? Huh?

Her wailing was so heart-wrenching, I had to remind myself how she had treated me and Caleb to stop myself from going up to her and asking her what on earth was wrong. I had never expected such a creature could experience sorrow and grief. Even the witches back at The Shade were guarded with their emotions. So to see this woman howling disturbed me deeply.

I stood dumbstruck for several minutes. I was knocked to my senses only when footsteps came down the main staircase. I scrambled away in time to see three male vampires descend into the entrance hall and walk straight through to the dining room. I climbed back up the stairs and returned to my apartment.

Shivering, I jumped into bed and curled up beneath the blankets, the witch’s wails still echoing in my head. Her grief reached into the marrow of my bones.

Whatever and wherever this place is, its halls are haunted with sorrow and pain.

I miss The Shade.

I miss home.

Chapter 22: Rose

The noises started again soon after midnight. I tried blocking my ears with my hands and curling up in a ball, but I couldn’t stop the sounds from trickling through into my ear drums, disturbing me enough to ensure that night would yet again be sleepless.

I pulled on a dress and my coat and rushed out of the room. I crept up the stairs once again but this time, instead of opening the door, I sat down in a corner of the corridor, outside the room, beneath the shadow of a tapestry hanging on the wall. My imagination ran wild with images of what could be going on in there.

When the door handle finally turned, I held my breath as the witch exited, her hair disheveled, her dress awry. Once she had disappeared down the corridor, I stood up and eased Caleb’s door open. I slid inside and closed it behind me.

I crept along the wrecked corridor and peeked around the corner.

The balcony doors were open, the curtains blowing in the wind. I walked over to them and pulled them aside to see Caleb standing in the cold, leaning against the banister, his muscled back bare and scarred with bloody cuts.

I couldn’t help but gasp. But although he must have heard it, he didn’t turn around.

I stood next to him and looked up at his face. His eyes were fixed on the horizon, where the ocean sparkled beneath the light of the moon.

I was at a loss for what to say to him anymore. He didn’t respond to my questions about anything that was going on. I questioned why I even came up here. Somehow, after I’d heard the noises from the witch’s visit, I just couldn’t ignore it and go back to sleep as if nothing had happened. I had wanted to see his face. Look him in the eye. So instead I found myself mumbling, “Did you bring me these?” I indicated to my dress and coat.

“Frieda,” he muttered, without looking down at me.

“But you asked her to?”

He breathed out and shivered. He walked back into the room. I followed him, closing the balcony doors behind us.

He took a seat in his wooden chair, but this time he didn’t reach for liquor.

“Thank you, is what I was going to say if you’d have given me the chance,” I said, crossing my arms across my chest. I paused, then, still eyeing him closely, said, “Would you like me to play for you again?”

From the blank expression on his face, he hadn’t heard. But then he shook his head.

“Oh. OK,” I said.

I sat down on the bed opposite him and dropped the coat down over my shoulders, staring at him. The bloody cuts on his torso and back were beginning to heal.

“Why did you come here?” he said, standing up abruptly and making eye contact with me for the first time.

Maybe he was just drunk last night when he indicated he’d like to see me again.

His eyes were so intense as they bored into mine, it felt as though I might melt beneath them. But I stood my ground. “So you want me to leave? Is that what you’re saying?” I stared up at him, my eyebrows raised in challenge.

He glared at me. I glared back harder.

He sat back down.

“You know, you don’t exactly strike me as the happiest of sorts,” I said, my hands on my hips as I continued glaring at him. “A little smiling never did anyone any harm.”

Whoa. I sound like my mother. She always was Little Miss Sunshine.

A bitter smile curled at the corner of his lips, then he breathed out a sigh and relaxed a little, his jaw becoming less tense.

“So,” he said after a few moments. “You want to play for me again?”

“If that’s what you’d like.”

He nodded. “All right… Rose.” He swiveled in his chair so that he was facing the lounge.

His eyes followed me as I walked over to the instruments. This time, I didn’t sit down at the piano. I rummaged around until I reached a large instrument which I suspected to be a harp. I pulled off its cover and was pleased to see that my assumption had been correct.

Wiping away the dust from the strings, I sat down on the bench and placed the harp between my legs. I began to strum a melody.

His eyes never left me the whole time I was playing. I could have sworn that his foot tapped slightly to the beat. After I’d grown tired of playing the harp, I moved on to the violin. Then the guitar. Then I sat back down at the piano.

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