Chapter Thirty-Two

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Cool night air washed over me as I stepped outside, a caress of wind ruffling the hair off my face. It occurred to me I should have asked Anna where exactly she'd been accosted by the hunters. Right now I was walking around hoping I'd just bump into them. But it was too dangerous to go back. Anna and Madeleine had escaped Caleb by the skin of their fangs. Even now he'd be tracking them, hunting them down. For all I knew he was close by and if he saw me going back to Luke's house...I shuddered. If that happened I really would have brought hell to their doorstep.  

I picked up the pace, trying to put distance between me and Luke's house. It wasn't long before I spotted them - Noah leading the team up the street. They were in full hunt-mode, moving with the stealthy purpose of predators. I couldn't see any weapons - they weren't stupid to carry them where anyone could see them - but I knew they were all armed to the teeth. 

A wave of nausea rolled over me and I gasped. For a brief time I'd allowed myself to think maybe I could be free of them, free of this life. My own foolishness disgusted me. The life I led was a cage; every time I thought I might be able to break out, the bars closed in on me tighter than ever. 

Noah stopped when he saw me. For a moment I dared hope I'd see something like concern or relief in his eyes, any sign that he'd been worried about me. I wasn't stupid enough to think he'd rush over and scoop me into his arms. But if he was at all bothered by my unexpected re-emergence he didn't show it. His face was as controlled as ever. I should have known but I still had to tamp down a surge of disappointment.  

"Kiara. You're okay," Ava said. I thought I detected a note of relief in her voice but it might have been my still-hopeful mind playing tricks on me.  

Caleb's cold eyes rested on me. "How...fortunate." 

Ava strode over to me. Her face wasn't as composed as normal, as if the blank mask she usually wore had cracked and I could see hints of emotion peering through those cracks. Maybe she had been worried about me after all. 

My jaw tightened. Good. It was about time she showed some sign of caring. 

"Where are they?" Clara asked. Her arms were bare and muscles flexed under the skin as she curled and uncurled her fists. She reminded me of a dangerous dog straining on its leash. 

I feigned ignorance. "Who?" 

"The vampires. The ones that kidnapped you." Clara's voice rang with impatience. Her fighting blood was up; she wanted to kill something.  

I glanced back at Caleb. His eyes darkened and I felt like I was staring into the deepest depths of the Arctic Ocean.  

"Nobody kidnapped me," I said, squaring my shoulders and glaring at Caleb. 

Noah blinked. It was as close to surprised as I'd seen him in a long time. "But Caleb said -" 

"Caleb was the one that attacked me, not a vampire." 

"Poor Kiara's a bit confused," Caleb jumped in. "A vampire broke into the house and attacked her. I was on my way over when I heard the scuffle. I tried to protect her but the vampire was too strong." 

Rage boiled through me. The earnestness on Caleb's face, the touch of regret in his voice, was Oscar-worthy. He'd probably been practising this since that night in the kitchen.  

"You liar," I spat. "If vampires kidnapped me then how am I standing here?" 

"Obviously you escaped." Caleb clapped Noah on the back. "No doubt thanks to the skills your father taught you." 

Noah looked smug. I wanted to scream.  

"Don't you believe a word I'm saying?" As soon as the question left my mouth, I knew the answer. Noah would never listen to me if I was contradicting Caleb. Caleb knew it too; the side of his lip curled in a smirk.  

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