Chapter Seventeen: Close Call

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Duke cradled my hand in his as he fed from me, the sting of his bite already forgotten. Everything melted away as I was bathed in a sea of warmth and desire pooled in my belly. My breath caught in my throat, while a pleasant ache nestled uncomfortably between my legs.

It was just as agonizingly euphoric as I remembered, being fed upon. But it was short-lived.

"Thank you," Duke mumbled, not looking me in the eye. "After this is over, if I should lose myself like Nero--"

"You won't," I interrupted, using my other hand to lift his chin. "I promise."

I wasn't sure how I could keep that promise, but I'd try.

With black pupils nearly consuming his dark irises and an unshakable resolve, Duke made his way to Nero. He carefully crossed over Lucius and Aiden without looking down, and tilted Nero's face up.

"Stop this madness at once." Duke's voice was cool, authoritative.

Lucius and Aiden stopped writhing instantly, and Nero went limp in Duke's grasp, his whistling ceased.

"Remember who you are, why you are here. Stop allowing yourself to be consumed by the Lust. Fight it!"

After that, both he and Nero slumped to the floor.

Thoughtlessly, I ran over to Duke, and put a hand on his shoulder. "Duke? Duke, are you okay?"

I felt him tremble beneath my touch.

"Your blood," he gasped. "It's too strong."

Before I could breathe, he knocked me on my back and straddled me.

"More," he growled, ripping the bandage off my neck.

Fear clawed at my insides, made my heart thump painfully. Duke leered down at me, at my throat, in savage conquest. Then, he lowered his head.

"Duke, please!" I shoved at him, but he grabbed my arms and pinned them down. "Damnit, Duke, get off me!"

His teeth sunk harshly into my neck, and I let out a cry. His sudden erection dug painfully into my hip bone as he began to suck, sending a wave a nausea over every inch of me.

He wasn't gentle like he had been before. Instead of cradling me, Duke gripped me tight, like a predator clinging on to it's prey. I thrashed against him, desperate to buck him off, and I was sobbing. "Duke, that's enough. Stop!"

And just like that, he let go.

I was gasping for air when he sat up. His eyes looked normal again, the pupils receding to an average diameter. But they were watery, horrified and remorseful.

"Audrey..." He reached out to touch me, but pulled back when I flenched. Wordlessly, Duke got off me, then held out a hand to help me.

"Can you stand?" He whispered when I didn't move.

Still shaken, I could do nothing else but cry.

It was foolish of me, sticking around. I should have ran the minute I found this stupid cave.

"Lucius was right," I sniffled, covering my eyes with trembling hands. "I should go." What was I thinking? Willingly offering myself to a vampire? I could have been killed.

It's not like anyone would miss me if I had died. I found myself thinking miserably. I don't have a family. No one loves me.

It was a thought I'd had so many times growing up. I couldn't remember the last time time I had given it any attention, but now that it reared it's ugly head again, there was no ignoring it.

"I'm sorry,"

I was suddenly scooped up into a set of strong arms. It was then that I realized just how weak I was, trying and failing to push Duke away.

"I'm so sorry, Audrey." He had pulled me into his lap, his lips pressing into the top of my head. "Please don't cry, and don't leave. We've waited for you for so long."

I cried harder, this time out of frustration. There were a million things I wanted to say, to ask.

Why had they been waiting for me?

What was I to the vampires of Lachlan Island?

How dare he ask me to stay after what he did!

But I didn't have the energy to speak, and I couldn't blame him for what happened. Not completely. So I sat there, weeping in Duke's tender embrace, until I fell asleep.

A/N*
Another short chapter, I know. But I hope you guys like it anyway, and thank you all so much for reading!

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