Chapter Thirty-Five

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While Ethan and Riley went to fetch Ava and Clara, the rest of us started cobbling together a plan. It was crazy and risky and full of holes, but it was the only one we had. And I was determined to end this, flawed plan or not.

When Ethan and Riley returned with backup, I sat everyone down at the table and explained to them what we were planning.

Clara rested her chin on the heel of her head, her expression thoughtful, but Ava's face paled. "It's too dangerous," she said.

"I've already had this discussion," I said, shooting Luke a sideways look, "and I'm not going to have it again. I know what I'm doing."

"But you said how strong she was –"

This conversation would take us around in circles and I'd had enough of that. "Ava, if you were so worried about my safety, you shouldn't have raised me to be a vampire hunter," I said, my voice sharp as a blade.

Ava went very still, her eyes glassy. Her throat bobbed as she swallowed. Looking at her then, the sudden shock and fear on her face, I wasn't sure she fully realised what she'd put me through as a child. She didn't appreciate exactly how violent and dangerous my life had been. Despite all the progress we'd made, hot anger wormed through my stomach. I'd been twelve years old when an enemy vampire had ripped into my shoulder, tearing flesh and snapping bone. It was the worst injury I'd ever received, and she hadn't spared much thought for my safety then. She was trying to be my mum now and I was trying to accept her, but her efforts didn't erase all the bad stuff that had come before.

I looked away from the hurt on her face before slivers of guilt could crawl into my heart. I didn't have time to deal with this now. Ava and I could sort out the complicated tangle of our relationship when Rachel was dead, not before.

"The last thing we want is to start a war on the streets. We need to ambush Rachel out of town, away from the risk of human casualties," I said. If Rachel thought she was outnumbered or in trouble, she would have no problem using innocent townspeople as human shields. We couldn't allow that. She had to be dealt with as quickly and cleanly as possible. "The best thing we can do is lead her into the meadowland beyond the woods." The vast swathe of countryside surrounding Greylark was just far enough outside Dalwick that most people wouldn't hear a fight, and the woods made reaching the meadows so awkward that even if someone did hear, the police wouldn't reach us in time. Or so I hoped.

"And how are you planning to ambush her?" Clara asked. For once she wasn't playing with a knife, but her fingers curled and uncurled like she was imagining the weight of one in her hand.

"That's where you come in. I want you, Ava, Leon, and Ethan to head into the woods before dusk and take up position there. Spread out so you can see as much of the woods and town as possible, but don't go so far from each other that you can't help if someone gets in trouble. Samuel and Luke can head out and join you the second it gets dark."

There was always the chance that Rachel was watching the house, but if she was, at least she'd only see Samuel and Luke going into the woods. She wouldn't know about the others already hiding out, and I was banking on her being arrogant enough to take her chances with just two. Well, three including me. She'd faced three of us back in Greylark; I couldn't believe she'd hesitate to do the same again.

"What about me?" Riley piped up.

"You're not coming," said Ethan at once.

She scowled at him. "The hell I'm not –"

"Riley, you're not coming," I said, cutting short the escalating squabble.

She turned wounded eyes on me. "But I can help."

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