Chapter Thirty

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Greylark was packed. The whole massive interior was filled with vampires and more of them lined the bottom steps of the great curving staircase, a shifting sea of faces. Their voices filled the room like wind.

There were more vampires here than I'd dreamed, and my stomach gave a sudden heave. Fighting was something I knew how to do. Making public speeches was not.

The door thudded shut behind us, and every face turned in our direction. Whispers rippled through the crowd.

"That's her..."

"...Kiara Morrow..."

"...she's the one..."

"...why we're here..."

"...just a kid..."

"...can we trust..."

"...ex-hunter..."

Self-consciousness rushed over me in a crippling wave and I stumbled back. "Luke, I-I don't think I can do this."

He gave the back of my neck a reassuring squeeze. "Yes, you can. You'll be amazing."

I wanted nothing more than to run out of the asylum, away from the hubbub of whispers and the dozens of pairs of staring eyes. The building was lit only by a combination of moon and starlight filtering through the filthy windows, but I felt as if a spotlight shone on me, drawing every single eye in my direction.

Luke gave me a cheeky pat on the backside. "Knock them dead," he whispered.

The crowd parted for me as I made my way to the front of the room, and the curious whispers grew louder. Here and there I caught the occasional hostile glance mingled in with all the curiosity, and I firmly told myself that I should have expected as much. These vampires might not support Rachel and her mad schemes, but that didn't mean they'd just forget that I was once a hunter and my hands were stained with the blood of their kind.

At the front of the room, someone had provided a crate for me to stand on. I hesitated when I saw it - it made me feel even more in the spotlight. But I was on the short side and if I didn't stand on the crate, only the vampires at the front would able to see me. I wouldn't be much of an inspiring force if most of my potential soldiers couldn't even see me.

I climbed onto the crate. My stomach pitched and rolled, desert-dryness claiming my tongue. So many strange faces stared back at me, and the room seemed to stretch, the vampires multiplying until there were thousands and thousands of them, their whispers rising into a roar that threatened to overwhelm me.

And then Luke was there, standing in front of the crowd, his eyes fixed on me, his lovely lips curved in a smile. I focused on him, my calm in the face of the storm, and swallowed away the dryness in my throat.

"My name is Kiara Morrow," I said, my voice ringing out through the packed space of Greylark Asylum. "For those of you who don't know who I am, I used to be a vampire hunter."

The whispers rose in pitch, a rustle of voices, blurring into each other until I could no longer discern individual words.

I gave them a beat of time to let that sink in before continuing. "I was born to a long line of vampire hunters, raised in a hunter family, and trained from the earliest age to hunt and kill. I believed that vampires were evil, that I was doing the world a favour by helping to wipe them out."

Several vampires blanched at this, whereas others scowled and started to mutter.

Nervousness prickled along my skin, and my hair suddenly felt heavy and itchy. I lifted a hand to fiddle with it, then recalled Riley's advice and clasped my hands behind my back.

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