Chapter Twenty-Four: Breaking Down

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"Gabriel's father turned you?" I whispered. The memory Dean Lachlan had showed me earlier came to mind, and I shuddered.

"We are not animals! I am not my father!"

That's what the Dean had told my dad, but what did he mean? Just what kind of man--or rather, vampire--was Gildoroy Lachlan?

"The kind you would never want to meet." Duke muttered, gravely.

"Huh? What are you..?" I stopped to cock my head to one side. "I didn't ask that out loud."

More than once, I'd had a sneaking suspicion that Duke could read my thoughts. I hadn't taken the notion seriously, though, and who could blame me?

I mean, vampires are crazy enough, but mind reading vampires? What was this, Twilight?

"Sorry, I wasn't trying to intrude." Duke said with a blush. "But your thoughts just so easy to read." He paused, averting his gaze. "Not that that's a bad thing. I mean, it doesn't mean that you are simple or anything."


"Your thoughts are just so loud. Honestly, it is impossible to think sometimes when I'm near you."

"Duke," I put my hand on top of his, giggling. "It's okay, you don't have to explain."

He gazed up at me, confused. "You're not angry with me?"

"Not at all."

And it was the truth; I wasn't angry in the slightest. Maybe a little miffed at first, but his befuddled ramblings instantly changed my mood.

Who knew a centuries-old vampire could be so adorable?

"Good." He smiled, relieved. "I have already screwed things up with you once; I don't wish to do it again."

"You haven't screwed anything up." I smiled back, feeling more normal than I had all day. "Not now, and not then, either."

Duke's guilt from the attack reflected in his bright caramel eyes. But, thankfully, he seemed to take my words to heart, and the atmosphere between us relaxed.

"So, is that something all vampires can do?" I asked, an attempt to prolong the now light mood. "Read minds?"

"No," he grinned. "Just me."

"What about the others? Do they have any abilities?"

"They do, but only because they're so old. Well, all of them aside from Nero. He's the exception."

My brows knitted together. "He doesn't have powers?"

Duke shook his head. "On the contrary. He has a disturbingly powerful ability for one so young."

"How old is Nero?"


"Twenty?" I repeated, perplexed. "Like, twenty decades?"

Duke had the grace to stifle a chuckle. "No, just twenty normal human years."

"I think the term 'normal' is being used a bit loosely in his case, don't you?"

That time he couldn't hold back his laughter. "Perhaps you're right,"

Talking about Nero made me think of how he was in the cave the day before. The awful things he said, what he did to Lucius and Aiden... had my blood drove him temporarily insane, too?

If that was the case, why hadn't it had an instant effect, like with Duke and Dean Lachlan?

"Nero had a delayed reaction to your blood," Duke again answered my silent musings. "The bullets that pierced his heart kept your blood from coursing through him, effectively keeping the Lust at bay."

He stopped, gauging my reaction. When I didn't speak, he continued.

"Once the bullets were removed, your blood rushed his system, and--"

"Drove him crazy," I finished for him, suddenly feeling sick.

"Please, do not harbor any negative sentiments toward Nero. He wasn't responsible for his behavior." Duke's expression was remorseful, pleading.

And it made me feel worse.

"I know. I get it. None of you can help what you are, how you react to getting what you, um, need." I paused, wondering if I should voice the abrupt conclusion I'd reached. "Especially when I offer myself up to fulfill that need."

Duke shifted to sit on his knees, staring at me intently. "Audrey..?"

"I can't let that happen again," I stood up, resolved to stick to my decision. "I'm sorry, but I can't be around you. Any of you." I added when I saw how hurt Duke looked. "It's just too dangerous."

Duke rose to loom over me, but made no attempt to touch me. "I would never take your blood without your consent. None of us would."

I took an involuntary step back. "I'm not worried about me. At least, not completely. I'm worried about you guys; about the other students here. I don't want to be responsible for any one getting hurt."

I took a deep breath and looked Duke straight in the eye. "I don't want to be the cause of your pain, or anyone elses. I don't want to drive anyone crazy."

A tear slipped out, and I hastily wiped it away.

Why was I crying? Was I really that scared of what Duke and the others were, what they were capable of? Or was it because I decided to distance myself from them?

"Audrey, we have precautions in place. Ways to keep anyone from suffering by our hands." Duke took a step closer, still not reaching out. "You recall the cave from yesterday?"

I responded venomously. "You mean the torture chamber?"

"Yes, I am sure it seems as such. But that's not what it is." Another step closer, this time with his hands behind his back. "It is a quarantine room, designed to house vampires who are consumed by the Lust."

"Is that why Dean Lachlan was suspended from that thing? Why he had those gashes down his forearms?" It was the most gruesome thing I'd ever seen. Though he was perfectly fine now, I just couldn't get that image out of my head.

Who did that to him? Why was it done to him?

"Was it... because of me?" The realization struck me hard, made me dizzy.

"Audrey, you must understand." Duke reached out, but immediately pulled his hand back. "We had no choice--it was the quickest way to purge his body of your blood."

I felt sick, really sick.

Before he could see me breaking down, I turned to walk away, unsure of where to go.

I needed space, distance. I needed to leave Lachlan Island.

I'm back!!!! Though I'm not sure for how long. Sorry for the wait, and the short chapter, but I hope y'all like it regardless. And check out the song I have posted above. I think it fits the chapter pretty well 😊 but what do you guys think? Leave me a comment below!

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