Chapter Nine

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Sudden fear shot through me, a bolt of ice that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I'd told myself that I wasn't afraid of Leon, but it wasn't me I was frightened for. It was Luke. He was a vampire and Leon was a vampire hunter. Even if he couldn't match Luke in physical strength, that didn't mean he wasn't hiding a lethal weapon somewhere on his body. A memory seared my mind - Luke shot down by Caleb's crossbow, those horrible black bolts jutting out of his flesh. Almost without realising it, I placed myself in front of Luke. The fear filling me was worse than if I'd been afraid for myself - it was a wrenching blackness in my heart, mixed with steely determination. Whatever Leon wanted, whatever he tried to do, he wasn't getting his hands on my Luke.

Leon didn't seem to notice my protective stance or the sudden tension clogging the air. He just stared at me, as if waiting for me to say something.

Warily I studied the hunter. Leon looked like hell. His cheeks and chin were coarse with unshaven fuzz and his eyes were ringed with dark circles. His clothes were so creased I wondered if he'd been sleeping in them.

"What do you want, Leon?" I tried to keep my voice civil - or at least neutral.

I sensed Luke shift behind me, his tension mingling with my own as he realised who the man in front of us was.

Leon's fingers played with the crumpled hem of his shirt, his movements twitchy. "I've done everything I can to track down the clan that killed my father, but I'm not getting anywhere," he said.

Good. Out loud I just said, "Oh."

Leon's eyes narrowed and fresh unease jolted through me. I had the sudden feeling that something was either already happening or was about to happen, but I wasn't sure what. And without knowing what it was, I was powerless to stop it.

Leon took a step closer and I resisted the urge to back away. The last thing I wanted for him to think I was afraid of him. As far as Leon knew, I was just Kiara Morrow, teenaged vampire hunter, out with her perfectly normal, perfectly human boyfriend. If I gave him any reason to suspect otherwise, Luke's life could be in danger. Although I couldn't help noticing that Leon didn't hesitate in talking about vampires in front of Luke, so he either assumed my boyfriend already knew who I really was, or he was too exhausted to care about monitoring what he said.

"I went back to Noah for help, but he refused," Leon continued.

I stared stupidly back at him, everything I thought I knew falling to pieces once again. Noah had refused to help Leon? Why? Maybe Ava had finally said something when she got back from our meeting at the diner. Maybe Clara and Marc had finally voiced their dissatisfaction over what Noah had done. Maybe Noah had even realised his mistakes on his own. Unlikely.

"I'm not really sure what you want me to do about that, Leon," I said in that same carefully neutral voice.

Leon's face crumpled, his thin shoulders slumping. "I don't understand. Why won't your father help me? He knew this clan was still in Dalwick - he must know who they are."

"If he did, don't you think he'd gone after them himself already?" The thought of Noah going after the clan made me feel physically sick, but it was imperative that I maintain the guise of vampire hunter. If Leon knew that I was with the clan, he'd have a lead back to them.

Leon raked his fingers through his hair. They might share the same eyes but Leon didn't look at all like Caleb. The expression on his face was real human anguish, the kind that might have inspired pity from me if this had been any other situation. Caleb had never been capable of that kind of emotion. The only thing he understood was hatred. I wanted so badly to believe that there was more to Leon.

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