Chapter Thirty-Five

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A certain kind of weariness settled on my shoulders as I dressed once more in my old vampire hunting gear. I was tired of this. I was tired of hunting, tired of killing, tired of feeling threatened, tired of getting hurt, tired of washing the blood out of my clothing. More than anything I was tired of seeing people I cared about die.

Straightening up, I stared at myself in the mirror. There was something else I was tired of too – the anger and hate building up in my heart. I'd lived with those emotions for a long time – anger at my life, anger at my parents for treating me the way they did, hatred of vampires because I'd been taught they were monsters. My old life had felt like a chain around my neck, and then Luke had come into my life and helped me break that chain, link by link. Now it felt like it had been re-forged; different than last time but just as heavy. All the ugliness that I'd emptied out of myself when I fell in love with Luke, had crept back in, filling me up with poison.

It was all Rachel's doing.

Every threat she made and murder she committed darkened my heart a little more. If I could get rid of her once and for all, maybe I could rid myself of this poison all over again, lance my heart and let it all bleed away until there was nothing left.

My reflection stared back at me, weary-eyed but resolute, dressed all in black and with a belt around my waist that bristled with knives. A pair of knuckledusters were tucked into my pocket, along with the little flick-knife. The hard shape of the weapons pressed against my thigh.

I would never truly leave vampire hunting behind; I knew that. My dream for a future in which hunters no longer blindly slaughtered vampires still stood, and in order to make that dream a reality I could never stray too far from the world I'd been brought up in. But I wouldn't have to fight and that was the difference. The years ahead could be spent helping other hunters see the light as I had done. Not all of them would listen, that was a given. Some people didn't want to see the truth, and there was nothing I could do about that. That didn't mean I'd ever stop trying.

But that wasn't the same as strapping on weapons and wading into war. When this was finally over, I didn't want to do that anymore.

I pulled my hair into a ponytail, and twisted it into a tight knot at the back of my head so it wouldn't get in my eyes while I was fighting, or offer a handhold for enemy vampires.

"Showtime," I murmured.

When I made my way downstairs, I found Noah still huddled in the corner of the kitchen that he'd apparently claimed for himself. He barely looked up as I came in.

Looking at him now, a ruined, wretched creature, I couldn't hate him anymore. He'd hurt me so much in the past, but he'd never managed to mould me into his good little soldier, and now he didn't even know who I was. Was that karma? I didn't know. All I knew was that the hatred I'd once felt for this pathetic shell of a man had melted away, leaving me oddly calm. It felt good not to hate him any more, not to have that rage eating me up inside. My heart was still black with hatred for Rachel, but it wasn't the same. The anger I'd felt towards Noah had festered inside me for years and finally being able to let go of that was...liberating.

Though even as I thought it, I wished that there could have been another way. Yes, I'd wanted Noah to treat me better. Yes, I'd wanted him to give up vampire hunting. I'd just never thought it would be like this. I'd never wanted him to be reduced to this.

"Noah," I said, crouching in front of him.

Slowly he raised his eyes to mine. He hadn't made a move to attack any of us, or make some sort of break for freedom, and I had to take that as a sign that, whatever else was going through his broken mind, he knew that he was safe now. He knew that we wouldn't hurt him.

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