Chapter Forty-Two

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Time seemed to stand still, everything slowing into a tableau around me. Luke was a statue, frozen in place. Something dark spilled out of his chest: I realised it was blood. 

"Luke?" I almost didn't recognise the raw, broken voice that came from my mouth. 

The moment I said his name, time snapped back into place. Luke crumpled to his knees. The knife slid out of his chest, gleaming wetly in the moonlight. 

Madeleine gaped at him, wide-eyed with shock and disbelief. That blow had been meant for me, not Luke.  

As if he'd ever let that happen. 

A noise like a drumbeat built up around me. It was the sound of my heartbeat, roaring in my ears. Before today I thought I knew what anger was. I was wrong. It surged up inside me, a churning, raging maelstrom, pouring fire through my veins. 

Roaring like a wounded lion, I threw myself at Madeleine. My knuckles split open against her chin but I didn't notice the pain. She reared up and bit the side of my hand. I punched her in the side of the head. She could tear me into tiny pieces and it wouldn't hurt as much as losing Luke. 

Madeleine slashed at me with the knife. Something flickered through her eyes - fear. She was afraid of me. It was fuel to my fire. I smashed her wrist against the ground but she clung to the knife. She tried to buck me off but I locked my knees around her ribs. If I could squeeze tightly enough to crush her, I would.  

I bent her wrist back until she screamed and dropped the knife. I snatched it up. Madeleine swung her hands wildly at my face, trying to bat me away. Her sharp nails raked down my neck and chest. I felt nothing. The sound of my heart beating was thunder in my ears.  

My fingers curled around the knife. She could do whatever she wanted to me, beat me, abuse me, I could take it. But hurting Luke? I'd kill her for that. 

I was aware that her fist had just ploughed into my cheek. I was aware there was blood on my face and trickling out of the bite on my wrist.  

I didn't care. 

The knife was a streak of silver, slicing through the air and down into Madeleine's chest. She screamed, writhing beneath me. I leaned all my weight on the knife, driving it through her body until the tip of the blade sank into the earth beneath her. Her scream turned into a wet gurgle, her final breath bursting in a red bubble on her lips.  

The strength drained out of my body, leaving me shaking and exhausted. I felt frail, like my muscles were made of paper. 

Ethan touched my shoulder. When I looked at him his mouth was moving but I couldn't hear the words. The roaring in my ears had been replaced by a dull buzz.

I had to get to Luke. 

Stumbling away from Madeleine's body, I crawled across the grass to where he lay. Elena kneeled beside him, supporting his head in her lap. Her face was ashen. She looked up at me and tears spilled down her cheeks. 

"Please," she whispered. 

As if she even had to ask. 

I eased him into a sitting position, trying not to jolt him. His eyes were dark with pain. His clothes were soaked with blood. When I saw him like that, badly wounded, life like a dying candle-flame reflected in his eyes, panic nearly overwhelmed me.  

Squeezing my eyes shut I counted to five, giving myself the luxury of panic for just a few seconds. Then I pushed it all away inside me. I pulled my collar away from my throat and swept my hair to one side. My chest burned from the long slashes Madeleine had inflicted and strands of my hair stuck to the blood.

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