Chapter Seven

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A howl of horror burst from my throat.

Rachel grinned at me, her mouth glistening wetly, painted red, and dropped Georgia like a broken doll. I tried to run to her, but my feet gave out and I ended up crawling. My fingernails scraped across the concrete ground. Georgia lay in front of me, her eyes staring and her cheeks stained with her final tears. Her throat was a ragged, bloody hole.

Bile climbed into my mouth.

"Why?" I whispered, and I didn't know if I was asking Rachel or Fate, which always seemed to conspire against me.

"It's your fault, you know," Rachel told me, calmly licking blood off her fingers. "You shouldn't have been her friend."

I closed my eyes, grief tearing through me. Rachel had killed Georgia because of me, because of some misperceived bond between us.

"She wasn't my friend," I whispered.

Rachel put a bloodied hand behind her ear and leaned forward slightly. "What's that? You'll have to speak up."

"She wasn't my friend, you evil bitch," I screamed.

"Really?" Rachel shrugged. "Oh well."

I squeezed my eyes shut again, trying to force away the awful image of Georgia's staring eyes and bloody throat. But it was seared into the back of my eyelids.

When I'd first started work at the Waffle House, I'd been grateful that Georgia had kept her nastiness to a minimum, and now I realised that might be what had caused her death. If I hadn't threatened her all those weeks ago, she'd never have known that I wasn't such an easy target. She would have carried on being her usual, poisonous self, and no one in their right minds would ever have taken us for friends.

Rachel wouldn't have killed her.

It seemed that no matter what I did, no matter which path I took, every decision I ever made came back to haunt me.

"I know what you're trying to do, Kiara," Rachel told me. "Leon was very talkative before he died."

I clenched my teeth until my jaw hurt. Leon hadn't looked like much, but when it came to getting information he was a tough nut to crack. After he'd kidnapped Riley and refused to divulge her whereabouts, Ethan and I had handed him over to Clara so she could beat the truth out of him. Leon had held up better than any of us had expected, so I couldn't begin to imagine what Rachel done to get him to talk.

I didn't blame him for talking. No one could hold out under torture forever. I just wished that he hadn't had to suffer like that before he died.

"Trying to bridge the gap between vampires and hunters?" Rachel shook her head and wagged a finger at me. One side of it was still coated in Georgia's blood, slick in the moonlight. "Oh no, little Kiara, I can't allow that."

"Don't you care that I'm doing this to help vampires?" I spat. "I'm trying to protect innocent vampires – your people – from being killed by hunters who don't know any better."

Rachel pursed her lips, actually appearing to consider the question. For a fleeting, blinding moment I thought that I might have got through to her, like I'd got through to Leon. I actually thought there was a way of ending this without further bloodshed.

Apparently, no matter how bad things got, a little spark of naive hope inside me stubbornly refused to die out.

Rachel shook her head. "Vampires do not need help from humans." Her lips curled on the last word, and my eyes were horribly drawn to the blood staining her chin and mouth. "There is a natural order in this world – vampires are dominant and humans are cattle. You hunters subvert that order."

"And I'm trying to change that," I screamed, almost crying with frustration.

Rachel didn't like her people being killed by hunters, and I didn't like hunters killing any vampires they came across without knowing if they even drank human blood. Our way of looking at the world was completely different, but what we wanted from it wasn't poles apart.

Why couldn't Rachel see that? Why did she keep trying to stop me, when what I was doing would benefit everyone?

"You can't," Rachel hissed. "If there's a problem with the rats then it's the cat's job to change it. You're still thinking of humans and vampires as equal, and we most certainly are not. I will not allow you to pervert the natural order any more than you already have."

She swiped a thumb through the blood on her chin and licked it clean. "By killing you, I will put a stop to your ridiculous delusions."

I glared up at her, shaking with rage. Suddenly it didn't matter that I wasn't armed. I felt like I could tear her apart with my bare hands.

"Then what are you waiting for?" I said, my voice vibrating with anger.

Rachel smiled sweetly at me. Her porcelain skin and blonde hair gave her an angelic appearance, a hideous contrast to the blood coating her mouth. "Don't be silly, Kiara. We haven't had nearly enough fun yet."

I leapt to my feet, anger making me shake all over. "Aren't you bored of these stupid games?"

She laughed again. "These games are only just beginning. There's no fun in killing you outright, Kiara." Her grin deepened. "Not when I can make you suffer first."

She held up her hands and moonlight trickled through her fingers, highlighting the savagely pointed tips of her nails. I couldn't take my eyes off them, couldn't forget the way they had sliced through Georgia's throat, sharp as any knife.

"Everyone you love, Kiara, everyone that you care about is going to die." Rachel's smile twisted, morphing into a gory sneer. "Starting with your boyfriend."

Her hair was a blonde streak on the air and then she was gone, melting back into the shadows in that ghost-like way that she did so well. If it hadn't been for Georgia's body crumpled at my feet, it would have seemed like Rachel had never even been here.

For a moment I couldn't move. My feet were fastened to the concrete path beneath me, my whole body rigid with terror. Rachel had killed Georgia because she thought she was my friend – because she thought it would hurt me. And now she was going after...

"Luke," I whispered, and a hoarse scream ripped from my throat. "Luke."

I ran like my feet had wings.

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