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“It’s okay, Bella.” The dragon’s body rumbled as he spoke to us.

“It seems we have arrived,” he said.

Caleb helped me turn round to face forward again so we could both take a look at where the dragon was indicating.

I didn’t know these waters well, especially not from this aerial view, but Caleb appeared to recognize the area, since he’d navigated to the island more than once before.

“Rose, since you’re with us, if we fly right into the barrier, will we get through without problems?” “I think so,” I muttered.

“There’s only one way to know for sure, I guess.” “So fly right ahead, dragon,” Caleb said, his grip tightening around my waist.

Chapter 36: Rose

I held my breath as the dragon sped up and began descending.

We still didn’t know if Brisalia’s words about The Shade being taken over by black witches were true.

But as with the state of the boundary, there was only one way to find out.

A few moments later, the sun vanished.

Bella removed the waistcoat, allowing us full view of the surroundings.

The Shade’s surroundings.

I scanned the shore anxiously, straining to see anything that might give us a clue as to the island’s current state.

I could spot nothing out of the ordinary yet.

We directed Charis toward The Port, and his heavy wings beat around us as he descended onto the jetty.

As soon as we hit the ground, Caleb whispered, “Climb onto my back.” I clung onto him and we jumped down to the ground.

Bella followed soon after, almost losing balance and toppling backward into the sea before regaining her balance.

I wanted nothing more than to just run off into the forest with Caleb to hide and hope the dragon would disappear.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option.

We walked round the dragon’s body until we reached his head and I looked up at him.

“Can you wait here for just half an hour? I will be back by then.” Charis glared at me.

Clearly, I was approaching dangerous territory.

“I’ll give you a quarter of an hour.

If you don’t return by then, I will burn this place down looking for you.” I shuddered, then nodded.

“Of course.” I looked at Bella and pointed to the beach on our left that led toward Brett’s cave.

“Bella, just go for a walk in that direction.

Caleb and I have some business to do.” Bella still looked bewildered as she took in this strange new island, but she nodded absentmindedly and went plodding off.

Charis didn’t seem to have much interest in the ogress after I’d requested her—he hadn’t specified that she would have to return with us—and I wanted her out of his way.

I leapt onto Caleb’s back again and pointed toward the forest.

“Run like you’ve never run before, Caleb,” I murmured.

He lurched forward at the speed of the wind, so fast my eyes watered and I could barely see where we were going.

“Okay,” I gasped.

“Run like you’re mildly hungry.” He let up his speed.

My heart was hammering in my chest as I began yelling out, “Mom! Dad! Ben!” I shouted until my lungs were hoarse.

As we began to near the residences, I was met with a sight that made my pulse race.

It was my father, standing in the middle of the forest pathway, staring at us with his mouth wide open.

“Dad!” I screamed.

I felt Caleb tense beneath me as he laid eyes on him.

“Don’t worry,” I said, grinning from ear to ear as my father lurched toward us.

“I’ll make my dad cool.” My father’s eyes were wide with shock as we came within a few feet of each other—as much to see me as to see me with Caleb.

I leapt off Caleb’s back and hurled myself into my father’s strong arms.

“Rose,” he choked, still looking at me as though I might be an illusion.

He held me in a bear hug as I wept tears of joy and relief onto his shoulder.

I kissed his cheeks as he cradled the back of my head in his hand.

“Dad! Oh, God.

I was so worried about you.” “Worried about me? Do you have any idea of the agony your mother and I have been in?” “The black witches didn’t come for you?” “No.

At least, not yet.

But… What the hell happened to you, my darling?” “I can’t explain now.

I—” I stopped short as I caught sight of my mother over my father’s shoulder.

She had the same stunned look on her face.

“Rose?” she croaked.

“Mom!” My father let me down as my mother approached and threw herself at me.

I almost tripped from the force of her embrace.

“Rose! My baby!” She began to sob hysterically against my shoulder.

My own tears fell afresh as we showered each other’s faces with kisses.

She cupped my face in her hands, then ran her fingers through my hair as she looked me over, as if looking for any part of me that might be broken or injured.

“What happened to you?” My parents’ eyes fixed on Caleb.

I stepped away from them and grabbed Caleb’s hand as I stood next to him.

“Mom, Dad… Everything you thought you knew about this man, you were wrong about.

I don’t have time to explain everything now—it would take hours—but you just need to trust me when I say you both owe Caleb your very lives, as well as my life, several times over.” They both began to speak at once but I cut them off.

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