Chapter Thirty-Four

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I didn't mention the attack to the team. The whole house thrummed with an atmosphere of hatred - I was suffocating in it without adding to it. Luckily we didn't have a phone in the house so no one could phone up wanting to know why I'd run out of college the day before. Though Riley had clogged my mobile with worried texts. She'd heard what happened - apparently Georgia had made sure everyone heard what happened. That was all I needed. People at college already thought I was a freak without being given more ammunition. 

But as I stood in my bedroom, staring at myself in the mirror, I couldn't remember why I cared what these people thought of me. Why had it ever been important that their opinion of me didn't sink any lower? 

I peeled off my long-sleeved shirt. The scars on my shoulder were glaringly ugly but I didn't feel the sense of shame I usually did when I looked at them. They were a part of me and they weren't going away. 

It was time to stop hiding.  

I walked into college that day with my head held high, my scarred shoulder bared to the world. I'd swapped my usual long-sleeves for a blue camisole, and pinned my hair back so nothing could hide the scars. If people were going to stare, let them. I was tired of pretending to be something I wasn't.  

I endured the stares, the not-so-subtle pointing fingers, and the even-less-subtle whispers. It wasn't just my scars that were attracting attention; my swollen hands seemed to be the cause of much speculation. At least the swelling on my lip where Caleb had elbowed me had gone down.  

"Kiara?" Riley's eyes widened as she caught up with me. "Oh my God, what happened?" Her eyes flicked between my scarred shoulder and my battered hands.  

I pulled her into the nearest empty room so we could talk uninterrupted. 

"I was attacked last night. There was a vampire in the garden." 

Riley's eyes widened even more until they resembled saucers. She had outlined her eyes with dramatic blue today; it should have clashed with her hair but, weirdly, it seemed to suit her. "It came to your house? Doesn't it know who you are?" 

"Yes, it does, and that's the problem. The vampire last night knew exactly who I was." 

I told her about the vampires that had attacked me in the woods, the murdered hunters, and the figure I'd seen watching me from the garden a few days ago. "Don't you see, Riley? This all boils down to me. Something out there is stalking me and I don't know why." 

"Because you're a hunter?" Riley offered. 

I shook my head. "So is everyone else in the house. But nothing seems to have gone after them. It's just me." My eyes prickled. "I wish I could tell Luke." 

"You really miss him, huh?" 

I swiped at my eyes to keep the tears from spilling over.  

"Sorry, stupid question," Riley said, mock-hitting her own head. She put her arm around my shoulders.  

"I can't bear being without him but I have no idea how we're supposed to be together. No matter how hard we try there's always something keeping us apart. It's like the whole damn universe is conspiring against us." My aching hands trembled with pent-up frustration. 

"Is there anything I can do?" Riley asked. "Maybe I could act as some sort of go-between? I could pass messages, that sort of thing." Her face lit up. "It would be really romantic if you wrote letters to each other." 

I shook my head. "I can't put you in that kind of danger."

Riley's face fell. Much as I appreciated her support, she didn't really understand how dangerous my world was. It was an adventure to her, something exciting. She had no idea. She was lucky.  

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