Home > A Tip of Balance (A Shade of Vampire #48)

A Tip of Balance (A Shade of Vampire #48)
Author: Bella Forrest




“How do we get her back?”

Serena’s voice was cracked. The color had deserted her face, leaving her with pale lips and red, teary eyes.

We were still in the grotto, the air riddled with dust particles from Field’s wall-punching and Draven’s obliteration of the passage stone. I had never seen either so upset and capable of destruction. Then again, no one had betrayed us like this before. We’d never lost a friend to the Destroyers, either.

“He knows everything,” Draven muttered, surfacing from the cloud of anguish as he headed outside.

One by one, we followed, unable to say much until the cool night air hit our faces and the sight of the mansion sank in. I looked at it, wondering how it had all gone so wrong, and how not even the Daughters’ magic could stop those monsters from taking Vita.

Rattled by a mixture of grief and anger, we paced around the front lawn, trying to make sense of everything.

“Sverik played us from the beginning,” Draven said.

Hansa and Jax stood next to Serena, who was slowly withering away. Aida was crouching, eyes wide open and lower lip trembling. Field lowered himself next to Aida, finally having enough self-control to be aware of what was happening to her.

I looked over at the Daughter who was sitting on the porch steps with Eva and the two succubi. I felt her pain and sadness as she looked up at me, the corners of her mouth dropped into a frown. Violence was something that deeply troubled her.

Bijarki was the last to come up from the grotto. His expression seemed carved out of gray marble. I could tell from the pained look in his eyes and the ribbons of red and black emotions oozing out of him that he was taking Vita’s abduction hard. My inner-sentry felt everything he was projecting, though I had a feeling he wasn’t aware of it.

“They probably caged him to take any suspicion away from him,” Draven added. “He was carefully implanted into this, and he played us a little too well.”

“He knows everything,” Field said, looking down absently. “He knows who we are and what we’re planning to do.”

“The alliance,” Hansa completed his thoughts. “He knows about Mount Agrith and the rogues.”

“How do we get her back?” Serena whispered, tears trickling down her cheeks.

Draven stopped in his tracks when he saw her. Serena was devastated and unable to process anything. All she could think of was getting Vita back. She’d fallen victim to the same catatonic state as Bijarki and Aida. I wasn’t any better, and neither was Field or Jovi. Too much had happened at once, and our instincts had automatically started to prioritize things.

Draven took Serena in his arms. She hid her face in his chest and sobbed, her cries muffled by the Druid’s shirt.

“We need to warn them,” Jax said.

“We need to get Vita back!” Bijarki lost his temper, his body trembling with rage.

Draven gave Bijarki a sympathetic nod.

“We’ll get her,” the Druid said, trying to sound reassuring.

“With all due respect,” Tamara stepped forward with a straight face and sad yellow eyes. “As much as you might hate me for this, I feel like I need to point out the obvious. We cannot go rescue Vita now.”






I fought the uncontrollable urge to punch Tamara. I felt Draven’s hands gripping my arms as if he’d felt me move and had a pretty good idea about what I was about to do. He held me there, giving me a sideways glance that begged me to find a sliver of patience and hang on to it for dear life.

“You must be joking, Tamara,” Bijarki muttered in response. “Or, you must be yearning to be thrown beyond the shield for the Destroyers to rip you apart.”

Not exactly what I’d had in mind, but it did resonate with my reaction to the Lamia’s words. How could she say that? Vita was my best friend. We were family. She was everything to us, and, regardless of the consequences, we were going to save her. We would go after her.

“I know it’s not what you want to hear right now,” Tamara replied, “but we are in no position to charge out and get Vita back. We’ll be dead the moment we set foot outside the shield, and the passage stone is gone. Most importantly, the alliance is in danger.”

“Azazel has Vita!” I shouted, no longer able to control myself.

“We can’t all die because of that!” Tamara shot back. “We have to think this through. We have to prioritize. We have to do this right, or we lose everything, including Vita, for good!”

Silence fell between us. My heart broke. The thought of Vita in a glass sphere suspended in water felt like knives stabbing me. Draven’s fingers were digging into my flesh, forcing me to look at him. I felt another wave of hot tears threatening to surface.

“I hate to say this, but Tamara has a point,” he muttered, prompting Bijarki’s fists to clench at his sides. The incubus was seething.

“So, what? We let her rot there?” he spat.

“No, we go after her,” Draven replied, “but not right now. Not like this. We have to secure the alliance. The fate of our world depends on it.”

“There aren’t enough ingredients left for the invisibility spell,” Anjani said, looking around at us. “I don’t think we can get anywhere near Azazel’s castle without it. I have a hard time seeing us getting past Goren and his thugs without it, either.”

“She’s right,” Phoenix said. “There’s barely enough to cover a couple of miles for two people, certainly not a rescue mission.”

“Azazel knows we’d be coming, anyway,” Draven added. “He’d be waiting for us with arms wide open. We’ve lost the element of surprise thanks to Sverik.”

“He’s mine,” Bijarki hissed. “Do you hear me? He is mine to skin alive and feed to the shifters!”

I looked around for the first time and saw grief imprinted on everyone’s faces. We’d all been stricken with it. We were all simmering, barely holding it together. With each minute that went by, however, I could see the resolve reluctantly making its way back into our group.

“You’ll get your chance, Bijarki, I promise,” Draven replied. “For now, the clock is ticking, and we don’t have much time. We need a plan.”

“And a damn good one, too,” Jax interjected, giving Hansa a sideways glance. “We’ve got the skills amongst us, might as well use them.”

I hated to admit it, but Tamara was right. We couldn’t storm Azazel’s castle half-cocked and out for blood. We weren’t going to make it ten feet past the shield in our current condition. I could tell that, as much as he hated it, Bijarki was reaching the same conclusion.

He took a few deep breaths to bring himself under a rudimentary form of control, while I allowed Draven’s golden energy to pour through me and mend the breakage that Vita’s abduction had left behind.

“Let’s take this inside,” Aida stood up, brushing the grass off her linen dress. “I can’t stand to be out here for another second.”

Her bloodshot gaze found mine. We both understood that we were going through the same thing. The silent sympathy hung loosely between us, and she allowed Field to put his arm around her shoulder and guide her to the mansion.

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