Chapter Sixteen

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Ava hit the ground and rolled over, leaping to her feet with the fluid ease of her training. It briefly occurred to me that if we'd properly bonded over the course of my lifetime, I might actually have thought my mum was cool.

I skidded to a halt, and Clara and Luke, bringing up the rear behind me, almost crashed into my back.

Rachel stood in front of us, hands on her hips, posing like a demented superhero. Her long hair fluttered in the breeze, her shadow spilling behind her like a cape.

Behind me, I heard the whisper of metal as Clara drew one of her knives.

Ava faced Rachel, her hands clenched into tight balls at her sides. "Where's my husband?"

Rachel responded with a secretive, maddening smile.

"Tell me," Ava screamed.

"Oh please, do shout at me some more. It's really starting to wear down my resolve," Rachel said, pretending to bite her finger in fear.

Ava darted forward, lashing out with a flattened palm. It would have been a good strike – if Rachel hadn't sidestepped.

"You'll have to do better than that," she said.

My fingers tightened around the handle of my own knife, imagining the blade singing through the air and stabbing into Rachel's face.

Clara's elbow brushed mine, an almost imperceptible gesture meant to subtly catch my attention. "She's deliberately baiting her," she murmured. "If you rush in and get in the way, you'll only make things worse."

As far as I was concerned, things couldn't get much worse.

Rachel's gaze swept over us before landing back on Ava. Her smile widened, showing off the tips of her fangs.

"How about a deal?" she said, her voice silkily poisonous. "If you can beat me in hand to hand combat, Ava Morrow, I'll give back your husband."

"Ava, don't do it." The shout burst out of me.

Rachel glanced at me and amusement crinkled the corners of her eyes. She was loving this.

"Stay out of this, Kiara. My husband, my fight," Ava warned.

"You don't know what she's capable of –"

Ava rounded on me, her eyes blazing with anger and pain. "I have been fighting vampires a lot longer than you have. I can handle this."

Rachel watched us, her eyes shining with glee. We were just puppets for her entertainment; I half-expected her to whip out a bucket of popcorn.

Ava jutted out her chin as she faced Rachel. "If I beat you, you have to swear that you will release Noah."

A smirk curled Rachel's lips. "I swear it."

"Ava, don't be stupid," Clara said. "You can't trust her."

Rachel actually looked offended. "I'll have you know that I value my word, vampire hunter, and I don't go back on it. I will keep to my bargain." Her fangs glinted in the moonlight. "If she can beat me."

I started forward, but Clara grabbed my arm and held me back. "Don't," she warned.

I tried to shrug her off, but she was stronger than me. "We can't let her do this," I cried.

"Do you really think you can stop her?"

Luke touched my other arm. "I think Clara's right. Ava's in such a state right now, she probably doesn't even know what she's doing. If you physically try and stop her from hurting Rachel, she might end up hurting you instead."

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