Chapter Seven

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For as long as I can remember, I've been plagued by nightmares. Determined to mould me into a good hunter, my parents exposed me at a young age to the horrors of the vampire world. I was six years old when I saw my first dead body, and it wasn't a pretty sight. Noah used live vampires to demonstrate the most effective ways of killing, and he'd punish me if I cried. It was small wonder that blood and death haunted my dreams.  

Tonight was worse than ever. 

In my dreams, I was stalking a vampire. I wasn't sure where I was, but it was night and thick mist roiled around me like ghostly hands. My footsteps echoed on a pavement I couldn't see through the mist, but the vampire didn't seem to hear me. It kept walking, its movements quick and predatory. It was stalking, I realised.  

My hand went to my belt, drawing my knife. The vampire froze and tension coiled through me. It knew I was there , but it didn't turn and face me. Instead, it kept following whatever victim moved ahead of it. 

Hunt. 

Find. 

Kill. 

I lunged. It was ridiculously easy in the end; the vampire didn't even fight back. I threw it across my hip and it landed with a bone-jarring thud on the pavement. Straddling  it, I plunged the knife into the vampire's chest. Blood, hot and sticky, poured out over my hands. The vampire writhed beneath me, agonised moans breaking from bloodied lips. I should have felt elated, but I didn't. Bile stung the back of my throat. I had the feeling I'd just done something horribly wrong. The dying vampire reared up and a thick shaft of moonlight fell across its face. Luke's face. Blood trickled from the side of his mouth, the light fading from his grey eyes. It was like watching the sun go down, leaving only the clouds. His head lolled back on his shoulders, body going limp and boneless beneath me.

"Luke?" I whispered, my voice hoarse. 

But he fell away from me and the blood just kept coming, pouring out of the hole in his chest and pooling around him until all I could see was red. It flowed up around him like a river; I could feel it soaking into the legs of my jeans. I tried to jerk away but it was like I had frozen to Luke's body. He was dead beneath me and I couldn't move. His blood rose like a tide, submerging his body, creeping up round my waist, my chest, my neck.  

I was going to drown in Luke's blood. I screamed and the blood flooded into my mouth, flowing down my throat. I choked and gagged - 

- and jerked awake, my chest heaving, lungs taut with phantom-screams. My hair was drenched in sweat, sticking to my head and shoulders in wet snarls. Since learning the truth about Luke the night before, I hadn't been able to get him out of my head. I told myself it was simply because of what he had told me, and not because of the way his eyes looked like the sky or the iron-grip of his arms when he'd briefly held me. That had nothing to do with anything.  

I glanced across at Sophie's bed, but my night troubles didn't seem to have woken her. I knew I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, so I had two options. I could lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for the next few hours, or I could do something that would clear my head.  

I chose the latter. The only thing that had ever truly cleared my head was running. Noah might have to coerce me into other forms of exercise, but he never had to tell me to run. I loved running and even though it was the middle of the night, it was all I wanted to do. 

Slipping out of bed, I tiptoed across the room and pulled a pair of leggings and a loose-fitting sweatshirt out of the chest of drawers. I changed quickly, shucking my pyjamas onto my bed, and lacing up my trainers. My hair I scraped back in a messy braid.  

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