“She lost her ability to love me the moment she gave herself over to the witches. It’s one of the things she sacrificed.”

My mind was beginning to reel. I leaned against the wall to steady myself.

“Fighting me… it’s the closest she can feel to loving me.”

He left me by the window and walked back over to the other side of the room.

“Caleb,” I said softly, looking after him. “I think she does still feel for you. I saw her bawling her eyes out.”

He shook his head. “She can feel pain, yes. But not love. I learnt that long ago.”

Leaning against the wall, I sank to the ground and pulled my knees against my chest.

I didn’t know what to say to him. But finally now, it was clear why he put up with her day in and day out.

Caleb feels responsible for what she’s become.

Had he not turned her, none of this would have happened.

He thinks he caused her ruin.

“It’s late,” he said, finally breaking the silence. “I suggest you leave.”

Chapter 33: Rose

Caleb stayed away from me after that night.

I didn’t seek him out. I wouldn’t have known what to say to him if I had.

I stayed locked up in my room and tried to distract myself with music. I now felt doubly grateful that he had sent the harp down to me.

But as much as I tried to put thoughts of the vampire out of my mind, I couldn’t. Those old photographs remained etched in my mind, his broken love story replaying over and over in my head.

Most of all, I wondered what would become of Caleb.

Once I escaped from this island, I wondered if this was how he would live for the rest of his immortal life. I wondered how long he had lived like this already. Bound to this frozen island. Held hostage by the witch’s curse and his own guilt.

That man deserves more than this.

Thinking about him made my chest ache with frustration and sadness. And I felt a crushing sense of loss. Loss of what, I didn’t understand.

I felt taken aback by the strength of my emotions.

None of this is even my business. I should just be thinking about getting back to my family.

Why do I care so much?

That question haunted me as I tossed and turned in bed in the early hours of the morning. I ended up getting out of bed and walking out on the balcony for some fresh air. I found myself looking up toward his balcony, as if hoping I might see his arms leaning against the banister.

But he wasn’t there.

I returned to my bed and just as I was tucking myself beneath the covers, I heard a click. It sounded like the unlatching of my front door.

Caleb?

I got up and approached the hallway. A tall dark figure stood in the doorway.

But it wasn’t Caleb.

The figure walked toward me, his face coming further into the dim lighting of my bedroom.

It was the ginger vampire with light blue eyes.

“Stellan,” I gasped, stumbling back toward my bed.

A smile crept onto his lips.

“That’s right, princess,” he whispered. He looked around my room, and an expression of mock relief appeared on his face. “I see there’s no hot kettle to help you this time.”

“Wh-what are you doing here?”

“Taking you for a little rendezvous.”

He launched himself against me, crushing me between his steely arms and flinging me over his shoulder.

“No!” I screamed, lifting both knees and slamming them down against his rock-hard stomach. I was sure that I did more damage to my kneecaps than I ever caused him. I shouted again as loud as I could. Positioning my palms against his lower back, I managed to push myself up enough to wrap an arm around his neck. I pulled tight, pressing against his windpipe and locking him in a choke.

He grunted in frustration and threw me back down against the bed.

“So you want to make this rough, huh?”

He scrambled onto the bed on top of me, pinning both of my arms above my head. Pressing his knees down against my shins, he slid them slowly upward, hiking my dress up my thighs as he moved. He’d stretched my body out so thin, it felt like I couldn’t budge an inch without tearing a muscle.

He took my wrists in one hand. His other hand lowered to my face. Claws shot out. He ran a finger against my cheek. I exhaled sharply as he drew blood. His gleaming eyes settled on the blood on my cheek. He groaned, leaning down toward me, his face now barely an inch from my own. His cold tongue ran against my skin, and as soon as it did, his whole body shivered against me.

“What are you doing?” I hissed.

“Taming you a little,” he whispered, lowering his eyes to my mouth.

His free hand made its way down to my inner thigh. I clenched my jaw against the pain as he made another mark on me. He loosened his grip around my hands as he lowered his head down toward the fresh blood he’d just shed.

I shot my hand out toward the bedside lamp and, tearing its socket from the wall, smashed it down against his skull.

I was sure that it had done little to hurt him, but it disoriented him enough to give me a few seconds to slide out from under him, roll onto the floor and make a dash for the exit.

I ran out into the corridor and made it to the top of the first staircase before he caught up with me and slammed my back against the wall. His eyes burning with anger, he hurled me back over his shoulder—lowering me down further this time so I had no hope of reaching my arm around him—and began speeding down the stairs.

“Don’t take a step further.”

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