"Kiara," he said, and his voice was quiet and heavy. "If I tell Samuel that there's a whole team of vampire hunters in town, hell-bent on slaughtering us, he'll pack the whole family up and move us far away somewhere." He caught my hand between his, clinging to me like he was afraid Samuel was about to swoop down and rip us apart. 

Understanding sunk in. If Samuel thought his family was in danger, he'd do what was necessary to protect them, and that meant vanishing. If the family vanished, Luke would vanish with them. I'd lose him. 

I felt like I'd swallowed acid. Every part of me burned. 

"I can't lose you, Kiara, I won't," Luke said. 

"It's not as simple as that." Each word was heavy and poisonous in my mouth. "You can't put your entire family at risk so we can be together." 

"So what am I supposed to do? Pack up and leave you behind? Samuel would move us far away. I'd never see you again." 

"Then we have to keep it from coming down to that," I said. "Somehow we have to keep the attention away from you. It's not permanent, remember? If there are more rogue vampires skulking around then all we have to do is get their path to cross Noah's. If he kills the rogue vamps, he'll think the job is done. He won't be looking for vampires if he thinks he's killed them all." 

"You make it sound so easy." 

I prodded his shoulder. "Could you stop being defeatist?" 

"Sorry." A faint smile touched his lips. "I'm just worried." 

"So am I, but we always knew it was never going to be easy for us to be together," I said. Ethan's words from this morning - it felt like much longer ago - flashed into my head. He believed my relationship with Luke would end in disaster. I was determined not to let that happen. Somehow we'd find a way to get through this. 

Something solid hit my cheek and I realised I'd slumped sideways onto Luke's shoulder. Exhaustion had snuck up and poleaxed me. I sat back up. "Sorry," I muttered, trying to scrub the tiredness from my eyes. Flakes of drying blood clung to my eyelashes and I grimaced.  

Luke cupped my face in his palm. Gently, he picked the flakes of blood from my lashes. Then he kissed me. I melted into him, letting him chase away the shadows that clung to the corners of my mind. No one else could make me feel safe the way he could. No one else could make me feel loved.  

Tiredness swept over me like a warm woollen blanket but I forced myself to keep my eyes open. I knew what was waiting for me if I fell asleep - nightmares. They'd been getting better since I met Luke but what I'd witnessed tonight was going to bring them back tenfold.  

"You can sleep if you want to." Luke's voice was a soft murmur. 

Stubbornly, I shook my head. 

"Why not?" 

"Because..." I trailed off. What I hated most about the nightmares was how weak they made me feel. I was a trained hunter yet the demons in my head terrified me. 

Luke didn't prompt me, he just waited.  

"Because of the nightmares," I admitted. "I've had them for as long as I can remember but they're always worst after -" I broke off. It seemed so...insensitive to whine about having bad dreams after helping kill Luke's kind. 

I shook my head. "It's silly, I know. They're only dreams." 

Luke laced his fingers with mine. "I know how you feel." 

"You do?" He'd never mentioned nightmares before but then neither had I. 

"I told you I was very angry for a long time after my parents were killed. What I didn't tell you was that I dreamed of them dying every night. Even after Samuel helped me get rid of my anger, the nightmares remained." He stared down at our entwined fingers. "I don't get them so much these days but" - he lifted his eyes to mine - "I do know what it's like."

"Why didn't you tell me before?" I asked. 

He lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. "Why didn't you tell me?" 

"Good point," I conceded. 

"Maybe you won't have the nightmares if I'm here," Luke said. 

"I'd like to believe that."  

"Look at this way," Luke said, tracing his finger along my chin. "You can sleep a couple of hours with me and let me protect you from the monsters in your head or we can both go home and sleep alone." 

I didn't want to be alone tonight, I really didn't. And I was so tired...I sank into his lap and he wrapped his arms around me. When he held me I felt as safe as if I was in an iron-bound fortress. Maybe the nightmares wouldn't come tonight.  

The last sight before I closed my eyes was Luke's face looking down at me. His eyes were bright with love, tinted silver by moonlight. He was a guardian angel that had come to earth to keep me safe. Bending down, he pressed a gentle kiss to my forehead. That was all I remembered before sleep overwhelmed me, and I sank down into darkness.

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