A vial of life, p.1
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       A Vial of Life, p.1

         Part #21 of A Shade of Vampire series by Bella Forrest
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A Vial of Life

  A Shade of Vampire 21: A Vial of Life

  Bella Forrest


  Also by Bella Forrest


  1. Prologue: Julie

  2. Chapter 1: Ben

  3. Chapter 2: Sofia

  4. Chapter 3: Derek

  5. Chapter 4: Derek

  6. Chapter 5: Ben

  7. Chapter 6: Ben

  8. Chapter 7: Ben

  9. Chapter 8: River

  10. Chapter 9: Derek

  11. Chapter 10: Rose

  12. Chapter 11: Rose

  13. Chapter 12: Ben

  14. Chapter 13: Ben

  15. Chapter 14: Ben

  16. Chapter 15: Ben

  17. Chapter 16: Ben

  18. Chapter 17: Ben

  19. Chapter 18: Jeramiah

  20. Chapter 19: Ben

  21. Chapter 20: Ben

  22. Chapter 21: Ben

  23. Chapter 22: Derek

  24. Chapter 23: River

  25. Chapter 24: Sofia

  26. Chapter 25: Ben

  27. Epilogue: Aisha

  Read More by Bella Forrest!

  Also by Bella Forrest


  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 Vial of Life (Book 21)


  A Shade of Dragon 1

  A Shade of Dragon 2


  A Shade of Kiev 1

  A Shade of Kiev 2

  A Shade of Kiev 3


  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.

  Prologue: Julie

  Eighteen years. That was how long I’d been waiting for Benjamin Novak to show up at The Tavern.

  It had all started when I’d lost my parents and four siblings to a fire. It had been a warm summer night. I’d decided to sleep in the neighboring farmer’s barn to get relief from the heat. Had I not, I would’ve died too when our bungalow went up in flames. Although I’d been only fifteen at the time, with my whole life ahead of me, on many a day in the aftermath of their death, I’d wished that I had burned with them.

  I had no immediate relatives who were willing or able to help me, and with all our belongings burned in the fire, the thin nightdress I wore was the only possession I had in the world. I didn’t even have shoes.

  Within the span of several hours I found myself without my family or a roof over my head, and facing the prospect of sleeping that night on the street.

  The only thing I could think to do was find work as a maid. I was willing to do any cleaning work, no matter how menial or laborious, to put food in my stomach. But dressed as I was, I didn’t even know who would employ me.

  By some mercy, the family who owned the farm next door took pity on me and allowed me to stay with them. I offered to work for free in exchange for food and a room. And so a little room at the base of their farmhouse became my home for the next few months… until one night the eldest son of the farmer slipped into my room and tried to force himself on me.

  I narrowly escaped by striking him with the lantern that hung near my bed, but then I found myself without shelter yet again. I tried for the next three days to find another job in the nearest town, asking in shops, pubs, even private homes whether they could use some domestic work. Due to the state of me, people took me for a tramp and nobody would invite me in.

  After three days without a meal and drinking the drabs of clean water that I managed to come across, I arrived outside a building I’d hoped to never enter. The town brothel. But if I didn’t eat soon, I was going to pass out.

  Even then, as I walked through the door into the narrow, dimly lit entrance room, I was afraid that they would reject me. But as it turned out, I never got far enough into talking with the lady behind the desk to receive a rejection from her. I’d begun to explain my predicament and what I was willing to give up in exchange for a bed and a meal when a man I hadn’t noticed interrupted our conversation.

  Turning around, I was taken aback to see that he was a white man. I’d grown up in a remote and rural part of China, and this was the first white man I’d ever seen in the flesh.

  He was… beautiful. Tall, broad-shouldered, with skin as pale as ivory. He had intense dark brown eyes that almost matched the color of the thick hair that touched the sides of his chiseled face. As I gazed at him, I found myself short of breath.

  He spoke my language and asked if he could have a private word with me outside. I couldn’t tell from his accent where exactly he was from, but it sounded soothing and exotic. I agreed, not sure what else a girl in my position ought to do, and he took my arm, his skin bizarrely cold against mine. He led me outside and told me that this wasn’t a place for a girl like myself. That I deserved better. He wanted to take me home with him, with the promise of a hot meal and a soft bed.

  This man could’ve been the devil, but I didn’t know what other kind of monsters I might meet during a stay in that dark, dingy building. I figured that it was better to go with the devil I knew—or at least had met—than the devil I didn’t.

  And so I agreed.

  He pulled up his horse—a towering black steed—caught my waist and placed me upon it before climbing up himself. As the horse sped up, I clung to the man’s chest, feeling taut muscles through his shirt beneath my fingers. As he rode with me away from the town, he asked me what my name was and told me his. Hans Manson. And those were the only words we exchanged as we traveled along a remote, winding road, further and further away from any signs of human settlement.

  A wild forest came into view in the early hours of the morning and we embarked along a narrow path that wound through the dense mass of trees. As I felt close to fainting from hunger and the exhaustion of holding on to him, we arrived in a clearing in the midst of the forest and I found myself gazing up at a… castle. A castle I hadn’t even known existed in these parts. It was strange to see such a type of building in China. It had wide turrets and was distinctly European in design.

  Entering the building, he led me up a grand staircase. I would never forget how nervous I felt walking up the steps with him. I was fully expecting him to take me straight to his bedroom, to hav
e his way with me even before he fed me. But he didn’t. He led me to a bedroom, but it held only a single bed. He told me that it would be mine so long as I wished to stay here. He left me alone so that I could take a shower and change into a set of clean clothes that were already laid out on the bed—a beautiful silk gown. Though it was too long for me, I was grateful for it all the same. Then I returned downstairs to find him waiting to greet me. He led me into a dining hall where there was a long wooden table, already topped with food. It was simple food—hot bean stew, rice, and warm flatbread—and it couldn’t have tasted more delicious.

  Over the days that followed, he still made no mention of my joining him in his bedroom, and I found myself wondering exactly what he wanted of me in exchange for my lodgings. I offered to do work around the building, but he declined with a slight smile, saying that he already had a maid who came to clean for him. Though he said, if I was agreeable, he would like to spend time with me. Time doing what, he didn’t specify, though it became clear over the weeks that followed.

  Hans was a lonely man who wanted company. We spent hours sitting and talking. He was most curious to know about my background, though, slowly, he also began to share his own past. He said he was from England, although he had Swedish roots, and that he was a widower, having lost his love many years ago. He said he took pleasure in having a female companion, and that my presence lightened his dark castle. I didn’t know what type of work he did, if any. He was always cryptic about it, but whatever he did, he seemed to be a man with a lot on his mind. As for his coldness, I could only think that he had some kind of medical condition. Or maybe people from those parts of the world were just cold-blooded? I didn’t know.

  I was surprised by how much I began to relish the time we spent together. He took on the task of teaching me English and proved to be a patient, conscientious teacher. We spent evenings together poring over books in the sitting room and he always sat with me at the dining table at mealtimes, even though he never ate in my presence. He just watched, as though me spooning food into my mouth was somehow fascinating. I chalked it up to a cultural difference. After all, I had no idea how people in England behaved. Perhaps it was considered rude for a host to eat at the same time as his guest.

  After weeks of staying with him, I began to feel less like a guest and more like a part of his life. And I didn’t quite know when, or even how, but I found myself falling for him. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. After two years of living with Hans in his castle, I was in love with him. In all that time, he’d barely touched me even in a friendly manner, and by the time my seventeenth birthday came around, I found myself wishing that we could draw closer. Even as he sat next to me on the sofa, he always seemed so… distant. Unreachable.

  I wanted more. Of him. Of us. I wanted to feel his cool hand rest on my thigh as we sat together in the library at night, reading and discussing literature. I wanted to know what his lips would feel like pressed against mine. I wanted to feel the strength of his arms wrapped around my waist. Hear the beat of his heart through his chest as I rested my head against him.

  I had fallen deeply in love with Hans Manson, a man who was still very much an enigma to me.

  One cold, wintry night—the night after my seventeenth birthday—as we sat in front of the fire, Hans reading to me from one of his favorite novels, I found myself gazing into his handsome face. I summoned the courage to finally unleash what I simply could not hold back any longer. I reached up and closed my hand around the top of the book. I pushed it downward. My heart pounded as his soulful brown eyes rose to mine. I still remembered to this day the slight frown that set in on his face, the way he said my name in question.

  Even as my pulse raced, I leaned closer to him. Reaching up, I touched his face and before I could have second thoughts, I closed the distance between our lips and kissed him. Slowly, hesitant. He tensed and didn’t respond at first. Horror gripped me and I was about to pull away, afraid that I had overstepped the mark. But then his hands slid into my hair. When his lips responded to mine, kneading hungrily against them, I only fell deeper for him.

  I clung to him as he reached around my body, stood up with me and set me on my feet. He continued tasting my lips while his hands ran down my back and explored the curve of my waist. I was sure that he would’ve ended that night with just a prolonged kiss. But I made it clear from my body language that I was ready to give him more. So much more.

  And so, in two years, that was the first night I shared Hans’ bed. I was a virgin, and my parents had sheltered me. I had no idea what to expect, or even how it all worked. Despite the muscles I felt rippling beneath his skin, Hans was gentle and patient with me. Waking up in his arms the next morning, our bare forms still entwined, I didn’t remember ever feeling so happy in my life.

  From the way he’d always kept his distance with me, I’d feared that perhaps all he ever wanted was a platonic relationship. I’d feared that perhaps, even despite the two years we’d spent together, he really didn’t feel any more affection for me than he would a friend. But that night, as he’d made slow, passionate love to me, it couldn’t have been clearer that he did. I still couldn’t be sure that his emotions were as strong for me as mine were for him, but I couldn’t doubt the devotion I’d seen in his eyes, the affection of his embrace.

  I realized that all this time, he’d been holding himself back. Perhaps, being the consummate gentleman that he was, Hans had wanted me to make the first move all along. He’d known that I was at his mercy and he hadn’t wanted me to feel obliged to accept his advance.

  That morning as he held me close to him, he asked me if I’d like to move permanently into his room. And so began our love affair. I shared his bed every night for the next two months. If I had fallen for him before, I was lost in him now. Being the unworldly teenage girl that I was, he became my life. I doted on him, and on the odd occasion when he left the castle, I watched the hours go by in misery.

  It felt like every moment I spent with him, every affection he freely lavished upon me, was healing my broken heart. My heart felt full in a way I’d never thought it could again after the loss of my family.

  I could never forget one evening, Hans asked me what he was to me. I felt shy, and wasn’t sure what to say at first. He was my world. My life. He owned everything that I had—the clothes on my back, the food that I ate. And I realized that I wouldn’t want it any other way. I wanted to be his. His forever. I barely saw anyone from the outside world. And I didn’t care. He’d become all that I needed, all that I wanted.

  I’d expressed myself that evening in stumbling words, hoping that he would understand what I meant. From the look in his eyes, he did. He kissed my lips tenderly and held me closer. “Then stay with me,” he’d whispered into my ear. “Be mine.”

  And so I did.

  At least, until fate tore us apart.

  It happened one Sunday evening, six months after I first moved into Hans’ bedroom. Soon after the sun set, there was a knock at the door. Hans and I had been sitting together in the living room. I couldn’t miss the way his face tensed up. In my years of living with him, the middle-aged maid had been his only visitor.

  Hans told me to wait in the room while he went to see who it was. But as he left, I couldn’t help but peer through the crack of the door.

  Hans opened the front door, and I could just about see who was standing in front of him—a tall, slender Chinese woman with short-cropped hair. Strangely, her complexion was only slightly darker than Hans’. She wore a cloak draped around her shoulders, and two robed men stood behind her with their hoods pulled down so low over their faces, I could barely make out their features.

  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what happened next.

  Hans whirled around, his eyes wide with panic as he caught sight of me peering around the door. “Run, Julie!” he hissed.

  I barely had time to move before the woman and two men leapt forward and grabbed Hans. Wrestling him
to the ground, the three strangers overpowered him. A crack pierced the air as one of the men forced Hans’ head to one side and disjointed his neck. I screamed, my whole body shaking as I rushed forward. They’d broken his neck. They’d killed him.

  Before I could reach them, the two men had already hauled Hans’ body off the floor and raced out through the door. They moved with such speed, speed that I’d never witnessed before in man nor animal. They were almost a blur to me.

  The woman, still standing by the doorway, set her focus on me even as the two men dashed off into the dark woods carrying my beloved.

  “Y-You killed him!” I gasped.

  She approached me and gripped the back of my neck. Her hands were so cold, like Hans’.

  “And who are you exactly?” she asked.

  “Who are you?” I screamed.

  “Ah, it seems Hans found a lover to fill his lonely heart. How sweet. Well, fear not. Your man is not dead, only paralyzed. Do you wish to be reunited with him?”

  “Take me to him!” I breathed, barely daring to believe her words.

  “Come with me,” she said, sliding one hand down my arm and gripping it. I was expecting her to lead me out of the door, but instead she held the back of my neck. She bared her teeth, fangs protruding. Her head shot down to my neck and I barely had a chance to cry out before her fangs sank deep into my flesh.

  I wasn’t sure exactly what happened next. It was just a blur in my memory. Perhaps I even passed out from the shock. All I knew was that when I woke up, I was somewhere very different. Somewhere cold and damp. And my insides felt like someone had doused them in acid. They burned so badly, I was convinced I was dying. The next hours were spent in agony until finally, as I looked into the cracked mirror in one corner of the dingy chamber, I found myself staring back at a monster.

  Either Satan had possessed me, or I’d gone mad.

  The woman came back and informed me that I was now a vampire, just like herself. She handed me a pitcher of blood and told me to drink it—which I did without question, hungrily, despite its bitter taste. She told me that I’d been brought to a coven in a different part of China. The vampire led me out of the dark room and along a narrow corridor. We entered another room, where I found Hans sitting in one corner. Then the woman left me. Hans sprang up and, realizing what I’d become, he staggered back, a devastated look in his eyes.

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