A hero of realms, p.1
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       A Hero of Realms, p.1

         Part #20 of A Shade of Vampire series by Bella Forrest
 
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A Hero of Realms


  A Shade of Vampire 20: A Hero of Realms

  Bella Forrest

  Contents

  Also by Bella Forrest

  Copyright

  1. Chapter 1: Ben

  2. Chapter 2: River

  3. Chapter 3: Corrine

  4. Chapter 4: Ben

  5. Chapter 5: Derek

  6. Chapter 6: Ben

  7. Chapter 7: Ben

  8. Chapter 8: Ben

  9. Chapter 9: Ben

  10. Chapter 10: Sofia

  11. Chapter 11: Ben

  12. Chapter 12: Ben

  13. Chapter 13: Ben

  14. Chapter 14: Ben

  15. Chapter 15: Ben

  16. Chapter 16: Ben

  17. Chapter 17: Ben

  18. Chapter 18: Ben

  19. Chapter 19: Ben

  20. Chapter 20: Ben

  21. Chapter 21: Ben

  22. Chapter 22: Ben

  23. Chapter 23: Ben

  24. Chapter 24: Ben

  25. Chapter 25: Ben

  26. Chapter 26: Ben

  27. Chapter 27: Ben

  28. Chapter 28: Ben

  29. Chapter 29: Ben

  30. Chapter 30: Ben

  31. Chapter 31: Vivienne

  Read More by Bella Forrest!

  Also by Bella Forrest

  A SHADE OF VAMPIRE SERIES

  Derek & Sofia’s story:

  A Shade of Vampire (Book 1)

  A Shade of Blood (Book 2)

  A Castle of Sand (Book 3)

  A Shadow of Light (Book 4)

  A Blaze of Sun (Book 5)

  A Gate of Night (Book 6)

  A Break of Day (Book 7)

  Rose & Caleb’s story:

  A Shade of Novak (Book 8)

  A Bond of Blood (Book 9)

  A Spell of Time (Book 10)

  A Chase of Prey (Book 11)

  A Shade of Doubt (Book 12)

  A Turn of Tides (Book 13)

  A Dawn of Strength (Book 14)

  A Fall of Secrets (Book 15)

  An End of Night (Book 16)

  Ben & River’s story:

  A Wind of Change (Book 17)

  A Trail of Echoes (Book 18)

  A Soldier of Shadows (Book 19)

  A Hero of Realms (Book 20)

  A SHADE OF KIEV TRILOGY

  A Shade of Kiev 1

  A Shade of Kiev 2

  A Shade of Kiev 3

  BEAUTIFUL MONSTER DUOLOGY

  Beautiful Monster 1

  Beautiful Monster 2

  For an updated list of my books, please visit my website: www.bellaforrest.net

  Join my VIP email list and I’ll personally send you an email reminder as soon as my next book is out! Click here to sign up: www.forrestbooks.com

  Copyright © 2015 by Bella Forrest

  Cover design inspired by Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations LLC

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Chapter 1: Ben

  I hadn’t wanted to watch Corrine leave with River. I remained outside my bedroom until I was sure that they were gone before stepping back in.

  My eyes fell on the empty mattress. The sheets where River had lain were still molded with her form. I walked to the center of the room and stopped at the edge of the bed. The deathly silence of the jinn’s atrium surrounded me. A hollowness gripped my stomach.

  I didn’t remember ever feeling so alone in my life as I did in that moment. Even when I had first left The Shade, my home, I’d held a glimmer of hope that I would solve my problems and be able to return.

  Now it felt like I’d been flung into a void. A void where no matter how many loved ones and well-wishers waited for me, not a single one could reach me.

  I breathed in. River’s scent still lingered in the room.

  River.

  She’ll return to her family now and get on with her life. And hopefully, she won’t be stupid enough to wait for me.

  The only semblance of a plan I had was to delay the oracle’s prediction. To delay my “inevitable” end.

  After all the oracle had revealed, I should’ve been terrified. But more than anything I just felt numb.

  I realized that since I left Hortencia’s cave, I’d stopped thinking of a life past the next few days, perhaps the next week. If I tried to think further ahead, I would go insane. I just had to take my life one day at a time—or better still, one hour at a time, as I tried to stave off my craving for blood.

  My bedroom’s emptiness eating away at me, I entered the en suite bathroom and closed the door. Gripping the sides of the sink, I raised my head and stared at my face in the mirror. The face of a man possessed. I moved closer to the glass. What are you? I stared deeper into my own eyes, as though I expected to see the shadowy creature behind them. Then again, perhaps I had already seen him. After killing, my eyes always went dark, sometimes pitch black. Perhaps that was him, his influence manifesting itself physically through me.

  A chill ran down my spine. I tore my eyes away from the mirror and lowered my head to the sink, splashing my face with water.

  As I straightened up, I felt a twinge in my stomach, the beginnings of a new wave of hunger. I recalled the last time I drank blood—it’d been at the jinn’s lunch, when Aisha had tricked River into eating human bone. Since River had thrown up all over the floor, and I’d had to take her away, I hadn’t drunk much then.

  I was beginning to feel the consequences of that now.

  My mind wandered to the exquisite human blood waiting for me in my kitchen. I practically salivated just thinking about it.

  I left the bathroom and swept toward the kitchen. Grabbing hold of the handle of the fridge, I ripped open the door and pulled out the chilled blood.

  My stomach tied itself into knots being within such close proximity of it. I wanted to drink straight from the jug, perhaps even drain the whole lot in one go. I imagined the divine liquid sliding down my throat like nectar, invigorating my senses, spreading a rush of strength through my entire body.

  My hands shook with the urge to raise it to my mouth, and it was all I could do to force myself toward the kitchen sink. As much as it killed me, I tipped the jug upside down and emptied its entire contents into the basin. I turned on the tap, rinsing down the remaining traces of blood, then cleaned out the jug. I needed to ask the jinn to stop supplying me with blood.

  I’m going to have to starve myself.

  Although I’d attempted this before—with disastrous consequences—this time at least I had the jinn to assist me. I could ask them to restrain me and not let me out of my apartment no matter what I said or did.

  I still didn’t know exactly what would happen if a vampire starved himself—I’d always found a throat to rip through before getting close enough to find out. I wondered whether starving myself would weaken the Elder. I guessed that it would, but whether it would make him abandon our bond was another matter entirely…

  I froze as there was a knock on my front door. I was surprised to be disturbed at this time of night. But whoever it was, I felt grateful for the distraction.

  I hurried to the door and opened it. To my surprise, I found myself face to face with the Nasiri queen herself, Nuriya. Her expression was soft and filled with compassion as she gazed at me.

  She reached out a hand, her fingers caressing the side of my face. “Oh, Benjamin,” she said, her voice filled with sorrow. “Aisha told me everything. I didn’t realize the situation was this bad.”

  I stepped away from her, in no mood to be touched. She caught my hand
s, and, inviting herself inside, pulled me to the living room.

  “You see,” she said, still holding onto me tightly even as I tried to distance myself, “we jinn know a lot of things, but even we are not all-knowing. We knew about some pieces of your past—that you had been imprinted upon by an Elder for use during their battle with Aviary all those years ago. I just didn’t realize how far-reaching the consequences of that Elder’s touch would be. I-I didn’t know that he was—” Her voice choked up and she stifled a sob. “I didn’t know that he was claiming you for himself for life.” Her eyes lowered to my chest, and she eyed it as though she was trying to see through me, to the spirit within.

  I was beginning to tire of her visit. All she was doing was rubbing in what I already knew.

  “Would you please tell me why you’re here?” I asked, in no mood to be receiving any kind of sympathy, especially not from this jinni.

  I groaned internally as she wrapped her arms around me and pulled me to her in a hug. Her lips pressed against my forehead in a kiss. “Because you are my son.”

  As weird as I already knew she was, even I was taken aback by the intensity of emotion in her voice as she spoke.

  “You’re one of my own,” she continued, “my dependent. We are meant to be together forever. It is my duty to see to your well-being. I-I feel like I have failed you.”

  I watched with a mixture of disbelief and awkwardness as a tear slipped from her eye and glided down her sculpted cheek.

  Then her hold on me tightened even more. “No,” she said, her voice dropping to a hiss. “He cannot take you away from me. You are mine. My child. Mine forever.”

  In her own warped way, she really does consider me her son.

  I ducked my head out from under her grasp again and created about six feet of distance between us. I wondered whether all jinn were as possessive as this queen—whether all of them developed such an attachment for their serfs, as though they’d borne them from their own womb. Or perhaps with me it was just intensified because of the bond I’d formed with her.

  Whatever the case, I supposed it could only work to my advantage.

  “But how will you stop us from being separated?” I asked, attempting to play on her emotions. “How will you stop him from taking me away from you? You already told me that you don’t know how to help me.”

  Her expression turned all the more desolate. “It’s true.” She clung on to me yet again—as though she was addicted to physical contact. “I do not know how to solve this, Benjamin.” Her chest shuddered as she drew in a rasping breath. “But I will do everything within my power to help you.” Her hands began to shake, her lower lip trembling. “I will take charge of you personally.”

  Though her offer hardly made the situation seem less hopeless, I couldn’t deny that the thought of not having to deal with Aisha any more was a small relief.

  Since I was supposed to be bound to the jinn, I wondered how the Elder claiming me would work. Whether his power would just override theirs—or whether their bond would still remain, but weakened. I had no idea. I asked the question out loud to Nuriya.

  “You will always be ours!” Nuriya replied, her voice now more choked up than ever.

  I decided not to ask her to clarify, since she seemed close to a nervous breakdown.

  “Now tell me,” she said, gulping hard. “How can we help you?”

  I clenched my jaw.

  I wish I knew.

  Chapter 2: River

  I woke up to a cool breeze blowing over me. When I opened my eyes, to my confusion, I felt sand beneath me. I wondered whether I was dreaming. The last thing I remembered, I’d been in Ben’s bed, lying in his arms and relishing the feel of his palm stroking my forehead.

  Now I was on a beach. A long, dark beach.

  Corrine was kneeling over me, a look of concern on her face.

  “Where are we?” I asked. “Where’s Ben?”

  Corrine didn’t answer as I stood up. Too fast. The blood rushed from my head. I felt dizzy and had to sit back down again. I realized now that I was still in my underwear.

  “Put this on,” Corrine said, her voice soft and kind. She held my dress, the light cotton one that I’d changed into back in Ben’s apartment. She pulled the dress over my head and guided my arms through the sleeves.

  As the veil of sleep lifted from me, Corrine didn’t need to answer my questions. A heaviness weighed down my chest. My voice became constricted. “Ben… He’s still in The Oasis,” I breathed. “He told you to bring me back, didn’t he?”

  Corrine bit her lip, and tears moistened the corners of her eyes. She nodded, and tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear.

  “I’m sorry, sweetie,” she said. “I tried to make him reconsider… but this was what he wanted.”

  My breath hitched.

  I played over in my mind the moments we had shared before I’d fallen into slumber. I could hardly say that this came as a complete surprise. His mood … It had reminded me too much of the night he’d let go of my hand. I’d sensed that he was going to make me leave him—sooner or later—even as he’d held me in his arms and kissed my lips like he would never let me go. But although I’d expected it to happen, I hadn’t thought that it would be so sudden, while I wasn’t even awake to say goodbye.

  “What is he going to do?” I managed.

  Corrine shook her head. “He wasn’t sure.”

  How could he be sure? From what the oracle told us, I had no idea where he would even start—if there even was any place to start—or whether he would just come to accept what she had claimed was his destiny.

  I felt sick to my stomach as Corrine wrapped an arm around my waist and helped me to my feet. Still not steady enough to stand, I clung to her as we left the beach and entered a familiar clearing behind the jetty.

  Emotions overwhelmed me. I already felt like I was in mourning for Ben. And I hated myself for it—that I could give up all hope so easily. I just didn’t know where to draw hope from when every door around us seemed to be shut.

  I could barely pay attention to Corrine’s words. She muttered something about taking me to my family. She vanished us again, and we reappeared in the center of some kind of town square.

  “This is The Vale,” Corrine said in a hushed tone. “The humans’ residences.”

  She led me across the square and toward a townhouse near a fountain. A warm light was emanating from one of the windows. She knocked softly on the door and waited.

  A woman wearing pajamas answered the door. A human, I could tell by the scent of her. She had long, straight black hair and was apparently in her mid-thirties. Her eyes shifted from me to the witch.

  “Corrine?” the woman said, sounding surprised.

  “Anna,” the witch replied. “I’m so sorry to disturb you at this time of night.”

  “Where have you been?” Anna interrupted, moving forward and clasping Corrine’s shoulder. “Ibrahim has been going insane with worry. He’s searched for you everywhere. We all have.”

  “I was trapped in The Oasis,” Corrine replied. “I got caught and, well… it’s a long story. I’m sure there will be time for me to give you the full explanation, but for now, I wondered if you know where River’s family is being housed on the island?”

  “Oh, yes.” A smile broke out on Anna’s face, her eyes falling to me again. “We actually offered to take them into our own home. We cleared out two of the bedrooms upstairs. Your mother and siblings are up there sleeping right now.”

  Corrine let out a sigh of relief. “Perfect,” she said. The witch looked back down at me with kind, sorrowful eyes. “Are you okay to go with Anna now?”

  I nodded, my throat too tight to answer.

  Anna reached for my hand and took it, leading me inside the house.

  “Good night, Corrine,” she said.

  “Good night,” the witch replied, before vanishing from the spot.

  Anna closed the door.

  “How are you feeling?” she a
sked. “Would you like something to drink? Are you hungry?”

  I was relieved that she didn’t start asking me about my time in The Oasis. I could have done with some water, but I was in no mood for anything at all. I shook my head.

  “Thanks,” I croaked.

  “Okay,” she said. She led me up the staircase to a spacious landing. She pointed to two doors—one directly in front of me, and one at the end of the corridor on the right-hand side.

  “Your mom and sisters are in this one, and your brother is in the room on the right. His room is pretty small, but there’s room for another mattress in your mom’s room. I suggest you go in there.”

  “Okay.”

  She moved to the door in front of us, and knocked. I could hear the sounds of my family sleeping. I should’ve felt happy at the thought of seeing their faces again. But I just felt numb.

  Anna knocked more loudly when nobody answered. “Nadia?” she called.

  There was the creak of a mattress, and then the door opened. My mother stood before us in a lilac nightie, her hair tied in a braid that hung down one shoulder. “River!” she gasped before smothering me in a hug.

  Anna went about arranging for another mattress and more bedding to be brought into the room. It was her husband, Kyle—a kind-looking man with grey-peppered hair—who helped her carry it all inside. My mother thanked them profusely before they bid us goodnight and left us alone.

  My sisters had woken up during the shuffle, and as I sank down on my mattress, the three of them gathered around me. They asked me dozens of questions—what had happened? Why was I back? Would I stay? I answered them as patiently as I could while giving the least amount of detail.

  “Let’s get some rest now,” my mother said, apparently sensing my mind was someplace else. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk in the morning.”

  She kissed my forehead before ushering my sisters back into bed. Then she switched off the lights, plunging the room into darkness.

  Despite the moderate temperature of the room, a wave of coldness swept through my bones. Gripping my blanket, I enveloped myself in it. I curled up in a fetal position. The same position I had been in just hours ago, when Ben had been holding me.

 
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