Chapter Twenty-Three

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Kiara slept for most of the afternoon, woken only when someone knocked on the bedroom door. Luke was glad he'd remembered to lock it behind him. Kiara, half-awake, told him it was Sophie checking up on her. They lay still, hardly daring to breathe until Sophie's footsteps receded. 

After that there were no more interruptions and they spent the rest of the day lost in each other. When night started to creep across the sky, Luke sighed and untangled himself from Kiara. 

"I should probably get going." 

Kiara looked like she wanted to ask him to stay, but he couldn't and they both knew it. Even if he didn't have a family to warn, he couldn't stay, not with her hunter family around. He'd heard them as they got home one by one, their different voices drifting through the house. One of them was Clara who liked to rip out vampires' teeth and put them in a jar. 

A shadow of sadness flitted across Kiara's face. "Is this what it's always going to be like for us?" she said. 

"What do you mean?" Luke asked.  

Kiara's eyes moved past him to the spreading night sky. "I used to worry that the only time we could be together was when darkness falls. can it work when we have to sneak around like this? It's like the whole world doesn't want us to be together." 

Luke caught her chin with his fingers. "Screw the world. I don't care how hard it is, it's worth it as long as we're together." 

"I know...I just..." She raised her eyes to his. "I just wish we didn't have to hide. I wish our families weren't at war. I wish everything could just be simple." 

"Nothing worth fighting for is ever simple," Luke told her.  

He kissed her before he left, a powerful, passionate kiss that left them both reeling. Then he jumped out of her bedroom window.  

When he got home Elena was pacing the kitchen floor, her eyes puffy from crying. Samuel stood with Madeleine and Anna on either side of him. Even Nolan was there, hovering in the background.  

Samuel stopped, midsentence, when Luke walked in. For a moment no one said anything. Anna looked nervous, her eyes flicking to and from the door as though she expected a threat to burst through at any second. Madeleine arched a surprised eyebrow and Samuel's mouth hung open. 

"Oh, Luke." Elena flung herself across the kitchen. She hugged him so tight he felt his ribs creak then she stepped back, anger drying her tears. "Where have you been?" 

Samuel strode over and took stock of Luke's appearance. Kiara's blood had worked wonders but the ordeal had left him exhausted. There was no hiding that from Samuel. "What happened?" His voice was hard with authority. 

Luke hesitated. On his way home he'd rehearsed several different stories to explain his absence and none of them would be convincing enough to fool Samuel. In the end he had no choice but to go with the truth. 

"I was attacked last night." 

Anna and Madeleine both sucked in breaths of disbelief and Nolan straightened up, his narrow features darkening. Samuel's face remained impassive, a muscle twitching in his jaw the only sign of his discomposure.  

"By what?" 

"A pair of rogue vampires," - Luke hesitated again - "and a vampire hunter." 

Samuel blinked, startled. "Say that again." 

Luke did.  

Tension crackled through the room as Samuel clenched his fists. Elena laid a hand on her husband's arm but he only half-noticed. "I thought we were safe here." 

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