Just a few steps up toward goodbye forever.

He raised his eyes to me and, reaching for my hand, planted a chaste kiss over it.

“Goodbye, princess,” he said softly.

He motioned to let go of my hand, but I gripped on tight. I began shaking my head.

“No. Not yet. Come with me,” I said, tugging at him to climb up through the hatch with me.

“No. This is where I leave you.”

“Caleb, you’re coming with me whether you like it or not.” I began climbing the ladder to the open hatch, gripping his arm and pulling him with me with all the force I could manage.

Sighing, he caught hold of a pipe sticking out of the wall and pulled himself back.

“Don’t.”

“Look, it’s just for a short while. I promise. Please?”

He frowned at me. “For what?”

“I want you to meet my parents. Th-they’ll want to thank you for everything you’ve done.”

He looked even more reluctant at the mention of my parents. But after several more minutes of my begging, he eventually gave in to my request and followed me out of the hatch.

Looking around the port, I saw the large submarine moored in the harbor. I caught his cold hand, and, entwining my fingers with his, walked toward the entrance of the woods.

I watched his face as he took in the surroundings of our warm island. His expression was a mixture of fascination and apprehension.

“Mom?” I began to shout. “Dad?”

If they were on this half of the island they would hear me easily. One of the many benefits of having vampires for parents.

No reply.

But then a few moments later, my grandfather came into view, rushing along the forest path toward us.

“Grandpa!” I yelled, running toward him.

His face broke out into a huge smile and tears of relief filled his eyes as he swept me up in his arms. “Rose! Oh, Rose! I don’t remember the last time I slept. We’ve all been sick with worry.” He showered my cheeks with kisses and hugged me tight before finally putting me down. “How did you get here?”

“This is Caleb,” I said, smiling and tugging at Caleb’s sleeve. “He’s the only reason I’m here. Caleb, this is my grandfather, Aiden.”

My grandfather stood up straight, his eyes settling on Caleb for the first time. He reached out for Caleb’s hand and shook it. Then he pulled Caleb against his chest for an embrace.

“I don’t know anything about you, boy. But I’m forever in your debt for returning my granddaughter to me.”

Caleb nodded, and gave him a small smile.

“Where’s Ben?” I asked.

My grandfather’s smile faded and worry creased his forehead.

“We found him unconscious in one of Stellan’s submarines. He still hasn’t come to, but we’re hoping he’ll be okay. Corrine’s treating him now in the Sanctuary.”

“What about Mom and Dad?”

“They’re still looking for you. As soon as we realized you weren’t with Stellan, your father managed to coerce one of the vampires there to reveal the location of his island. Vivienne, Xavier and a large group of other vampires are still with them storming the place and searching for you. I had to return early with Corrine and a few other witches in one of the submarines to care for your brother.”

“And Anna?”

“She’s here too. She’s been here all along. Your parents never planned to hand her over. They pretended to have her just so they could ambush their submarines… but that’s a long story. Now I must call your mom.”

He reached into his pocket and, pulling out a phone, dialed my parents.

“Sofia? Darling, I’ve got her. Rose. She’s here. Your daughter is back here in The Shade. No, I’m not joking. What kind of a joke would that be? You want to talk to her? Yes, of course. Hold on a second.”

He passed the phone to me.

“Mom?”

“Oh, God. Rose!” My mom began gasping. I heard her pull away from the phone and yell, “Derek! Rose is back home! We can leave now! Yes, she’s back!” She returned to speak to me. “Sweetheart, are you all right? Are you injured? How did you get back?”

“Mom, yes, it’s me. I’m fine. A handsome knight in shining armor rescued me,” I said, winking at Caleb. He smirked and rolled his eyes. I could have sworn I saw a slight blush in his pale cheeks.

“We’re coming home right now, honey. We’ll be back as fast as we can, in a few hours. Just stay where you are. Don’t go anywhere.”

“Don’t worry, Mom,” I said, half laughing. “I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

No sooner had I put the phone down than someone shouted out my name.

I turned around to see Griffin racing toward us. His face was pale, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He looked as though he hadn’t slept properly for days.

“Rose?” he gasped as he reached me.

I wrapped my arms around him and I felt him cling to me, breathing heavily against my neck.

“You have no idea how much we’ve all been worrying about you.”

“Griff, I can’t tell you how sorry I am. What we did was incredibly stupid. I—”

“How the hell did you escape?” he asked, looking down at my face.

I took a step away from him and reached for Caleb’s arm, pulling him closer to me.

“This is Caleb. He helped me escape. Caleb, this is my friend Griffin.”

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