As I started playing the keys, Caleb stood up abruptly. Crossing the room, he sat next to me on the bench. I stopped playing and looked up at him.
“No,” he whispered, shaking his head. “Don’t stop.”
Still eyeing him, I continued playing. He stretched out his fingers on the keys of the upper portion of the piano and began playing the perfect accompaniment to my tune. He played as though he knew it by heart. He barely even looked up at the music sheet.
When the piece finished, my hands slid off the keys and I looked at him, my mouth hanging open.
He stared down at the piano, as though he was as surprised as I was by what he’d just done.
“That’s the first time I’ve touched an instrument in a long time,” he breathed.
“Caleb, that was stunning.”
I reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder. He flinched as soon as my fingers touched his bare skin.
“I’m sorry, did I hurt—”
“No. No,” he muttered, even as he shot to his feet and walked back across the room to his wooden seat.
I stood up too.
We stared at each other from across the room.
I don’t know what to make of this man.
Feeling uncomfortable under his gaze, I averted my eyes and looked around the room. It was then, hidden away in a corner, that I spotted something out of place. It was a stereo player. I walked over to it and ran my fingers along its ledge. Beneath it were stacks of CDs.
So maybe this is how he practices his dance moves.
I fingered through the CDs. He had a lot of blues and instrumental stuff. At least, it was more modern than the stuff my dad had brought me up on. Hmm, but nothing you’d dance to in a nightclub. There goes my theory then.
“You have a lot of music over here,” I remarked.
I picked out a CD and pushed it into the machine. I turned up the volume and stood up once it had started playing.
“So… do you want to, uh, dance again?”
He shook his head, the shadow of a smile crossing his face, and leaned further back in his chair. “I’ll watch you.”
I snorted. “Oh, yeah? I can’t dance.”
“You seemed to dance fairly well before.”
“Because you were guiding my every movement.”
He didn’t seem to have a response to that. He just nodded slightly and looked down at the floor.
I walked back over to his side of the apartment and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“It’s late. I guess I’ll go back to my room now.”
He remained still, his eyes remaining on the floor, his body tense again. I was about to reach out a hand for him to shake it, but recalled the time I’d tried to touch him before and thought better of it. Instead I just said, “Good night.”
When he didn’t even respond to that, I picked up my coat, put my slippers back on and headed out the door.
But just as I was closing the door, I caught him whispering:
“Good night, Rose.”
Chapter 23: Caleb
Rose Novak was everything that I wasn’t.
Innocent. Vibrant. Untouched.
She was like a patch of fresh snow among the black ice that was the rest of my life.
I didn’t want anything or anyone to make a mark on it. Least of all myself.
So when she’d tried to touch me with her soft warm hand, I’d recoiled.
When she’d tried to dance with me, I’d rejected her.
Whenever she’d pressed for answers about me and this castle, I’d brushed her off.
I wasn’t refusing to answer her because I wanted to keep her in the dark. I wanted to keep her out of the dark.
I’d just wanted to lock her away. Away from me. Away from Annora.
I didn’t want to tarnish her mind with the things that went on in my shadowy world.
But that night, I didn’t know why I was in such a good mood. Perhaps it was because Annora had told me she was leaving to visit Stellan’s island for a while. Whatever the reason, after I was sure that Rose had fallen asleep, I allowed myself to climb down onto her balcony.
As I caught a glimpse of her peaceful face through the curtains, her expression brought out an ache in me. An ache that both disturbed me and made me feel alive.
I recalled the time I had first laid eyes on her beauty, her face sweaty, her hair disheveled, breath smelling of champagne. She’d behaved like any other teenage girl looking for a night out.
Then she’d told me her name.
And I’d dropped her faster than a hot iron.
I’d heard rumors about the princess of The Shade—not just her beauty, but her innocence, her purity, her light. She was like her mother, they said.
I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining that.
I was responsible for enough evil already.
And now that she was on the island, since I couldn’t allow her to leave—at least for the time being—I swore that I would do my best to shield her from her surroundings.
The truth was, I wasn’t so much afraid of Derek Novak as I was of breaking his daughter.
Chapter 24: Ben
I’d been injected with something shortly after Stellan pulled me back into the submarine and I’d woken up in this dark dungeon. I’d lost track of how much time had passed since then.
I looked around the prison at the other cells, all crammed with humans. I was the only one to have been given my own cell.
My eyes fell on Kristal and Jake behind the gate across the corridor from me. Jake was lying on the floor in the corner, Kristal huddled up next to him, trying to get some sleep. The vampires who had come in to leave us water and bread had refused to answer any questions.
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