“I don’t want you getting sick again,” I muttered.

I removed my arm from her waist and, taking both her hands in mine, pulled her to her feet.

Still holding her hand, I led her inside the hall. I reached into my pocket and locked the doors.

When I turned around, she reached her arms up around my neck, requesting that I carry her. I obliged, swallowing hard as I glanced down at her soft neck, mere inches from my mouth.

I placed her down outside her room and turned to leave, but she caught my hand and tugged on it.

“I never asked you to return me to my room,” she said, a shy smile lighting up her face. “It’s not my bedtime yet.”

My stomach writhed as she started running up the stairs toward my room, pulling me along behind her.

Once we reached my level, she ran along the corridor and pushed open my unlocked door. Still holding my hand, she pulled me through the hallway until we reached my bedroom.

She slipped off her coat, revealing an emerald-green dress that clung to her delicate curves. Still wearing her slippers, she walked over to the CD player in my lounge.

“Rose?”

She glanced back over her shoulder innocently, looking up at me through her long dark lashes.

“Yes?”

“What are you doing?”

She didn’t answer until she’d pushed a CD into the machine and turned up the volume. She walked over to me and, grabbing my hands once again, tugged at me to join her in the center of the living room.

“Being your light.” She smiled.

If only you knew how much you already are.

“Dance with me,” she said, laughing. “Come on.”

I hesitated, staring down at her.

“You were never this shy before when I asked you to dance.” She wrapped her arms around my shoulders, drawing herself closer against me. I tensed again at her closeness.

“Come on, Mr Achilles,” she whispered, gazing up at me. “You know I’m hopeless without you.” She brushed her fingers through my hair.

Slowly, I allowed my hands to slide down her back and settle on her waist. I felt goosebumps as I touched her.

“Teach me,” she coaxed.

She began moving against me. I went slow at first, watching her as she moved her feet, making sure I wasn’t going too fast. But as the music picked up, I stopped being so concerned since she seemed to be coping with my speed just fine. I raised my eyes to her smiling face. That drew out a smile from my own lips.

“You make me look like I’ve been dancing all my life,” she laughed.

“I do?”

She nodded.

Then she pulled herself up toward me.

Her soft lips caressed my cheek.

My cold, pale cheek.

Chapter 30: Rose

I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face as Caleb led me into a dance. He was so gentle. So hesitant at first. I found it endearing.

I wasn’t sure what made me reach up and kiss his cheek. It was almost as if I wanted to reassure him, to set him free from whatever doubts were holding him back.

He didn’t deserve the life he’d been dealt with. Caleb was a good man. That much was clear to me by now. I wanted to warm him as he’d warmed me.

Once we’d finished dancing, I withdrew my arms from his shoulders. He stepped away from me, though his eyes were still fixed on me. I smiled at his seriousness.

Turning around, I scanned the rest of his apartment. I looked at the ripped wallpaper, the damaged furniture, the smashed mirrors. I walked up to the wall and ran my finger over a torn oil painting.

I turned back to face him, his eyes still following me. I cleared my throat, steeling myself for his response. “You don’t have to live like this, you know.”

He heaved a sigh and turned his back on me. “Don’t,” he muttered.

“I don’t know you, Caleb,” I continued. “But I don’t think that you belong in this castle.”

He remained still, his breathing heavier as I spoke.

“I promise that I’m not just saying this because I want you to take me home. I’m being honest. Even after witnessing what you do along with these other vampires…I just don’t know. There’s something I’m not seeing in you that I should be seeing in you.”

I walked up to him. He avoided my gaze, though he didn’t change his stance.

“I’m not asking you to tell me what goes on here. I guess I’m just asking you to stop treating your life like it’s worth nothing.”

I reached out and touched his arm, hoping that he would look at me and see honesty in my eyes.

“I think you deserve more than this,” I said, gesturing around at the broken-up room. “And if there’s some way that I can help… Well, I guess I’m here.”

I shrugged when he still didn’t say anything. My shoulders sagged and I walked back over to the other side of his room, sitting down on the edge of his bed. He walked over to his piano and sat down, running his fingers over the keys.

“Rose,” he said, heaving a sigh. “Sometimes, choices you’ve made in the past limit the choices you have today.”

“Maybe,” I replied. “But there is always choice.”

He didn’t argue back. Instead, he began playing the piano. But he appeared agitated, his fingers flying off the keys as the tone of his music turned aggressive. He stopped abruptly mid-tune. He shot to his feet and glared down at me.

“I want to show you something,” he said.

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