Dark Longing

Selena Abbott discovers that she isn't what she thought she was and neither was her mother.
Plunged into a dark world will Selena be able to resist the darkness or will she give in to the dark longing?

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25. Chapter Twenty Five: Birthday - Part 3

JUST AS DINNER was being served there was a knock on the door.

“I’ll get it,” Lisa said, jumping out of her seat and rushing into the hallway.

I exchanged a glance with Hayden who was sat beside me. He gave me a smile and held my hand under the table. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kayleigh watching us. Dad brought in the final plates of curry and set one where Lisa was going to sit and the other where another place had been set. I didn’t know who the other place was for.

“Look who’s here,” Lisa said, leading Ash into the room.

Ash’s happy expression dropped the second he saw Hayden sitting next to me. He narrowed his eyes and muttered, “Happy birthday, Sel.”

I didn’t talk much throughout the meal but Dad, Lisa and Kayleigh more than made up for that; they all bombarded Hayden with questions which he answered with ease. Ash, who was seated opposite me, spent the whole meal glaring at Hayden. After the birthday cake we moved through to the living room where I opened my presents. Dad and Kayleigh had gotten me some clothes, bath stuff and other little bits. Lisa gave me a voucher for a clothes shop in the local shopping centre, saying that she didn’t know what to get me.

Ash stood up and retrieved something from the hallway. Coming to sit near me, he handed me an A4 sized rectangle. I tore off the wrapping paper to find a huge photo frame. It was a collage of photos of Ash and me from all the years that we had known each other.

“Oh wow, Ash, this is lovely.” He had obviously gone to a lot of effort. I scanned the photographs smiling at the memories.

Pointing to a picture where Ash and I were roasting marshmallows over a small fire, Ash said, “Remember this? Your marshmallows ended up perfect but I kept mine in the flames for too long so they all disintegrated.”

I laughed, replying, “Yes, I got annoyed at you for wasting so many. Then you stole some of mine.”

Ash flashed Hayden a look but I had no idea what it meant.

“My turn,” Hayden said, withdrawing a box from his pocket. “Happy birthday, Selena.” He placed it in my hand, his fingers brushing mine.

Surprised, I replied, “I thought that . . .” I stopped when I realised that only Lisa knew about the spa. I cleared my throat and instead said, “Thank you, Hayden. You didn’t have to buy me anything.”

“Of course I did.” He smiled.

Taking off the paper, I opened the box to find a necklace with a purple stone pendant on a platinum chain.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered. “Thank you so much.”

“I saw it and thought of you-it reminded me of the colour of your eyes.”

I wondered briefly by no one had mentioned Hayden’s eyes which were the same as mine.

“Here, let me put it on you,” he said. Hayden lifted the necklace from the box and gently placed it around my neck. I blushed and hoped that Ash and Dad didn’t notice.

“Who wants another drink?” Dad asked, getting to his feet. Yep. He’d definitely noticed.

“I’ll give you a hand,” Ash said, standing up.

I gazed at him not liking the look on his face. He was planning something, I could tell.

“Wait.” I followed after Ash. “What are you doing?” I hissed, grabbing his arm.

“He needs to know.”

Swearing under my breath, I pulled Ash outside to the patio. When I had closed the door behind us I turned to face him. “What do you mean?”

“That man is a murderer, Selena,” he snarled, pointing at the house. “And you’ve let him into your home. As if it wasn’t bad enough that you don’t care about your own life you’re risking your dad’s, Kayleigh’s and Lisa’s lives as well.”

“It’s not like that,” I protested. “Hayden wouldn’t hurt any of us.”

Ash snorted and grabbed my shoulders, gripping me so tightly it hurt. “He’s a killer and that will never change. Don’t you see what he’s doing? He’s making you think that you can trust him and then he’ll murder you!”

“No, you’re wrong. We’re friends.”

“Friends?” Ash laughed bitterly. “He’s killed people, Sel!” He pulled a newspaper article from his pocket and shoved it into my hands.

It was about the woman I had come across after Hayden had attacked her in the alley behind my work. Her name was Melissa Crowe, she was thirty two years old and a mother of two. She was in a coma and the doctors didn’t expect her to wake up.

My throat closed up and I blinked back tears as I recalled the fear I had seen in her eyes. Hayden took people’s souls to survive. He murdered people. How could I have let myself forget that? My mum had done it too and my grandparents still did. It was possible that I had the ability to do it too.

“You need to tell the police who he is and what he’s done. If you don’t then I will and I’ll tell your dad as well.”

“No, Ash, please don’t,” I begged.

“Why the hell not?” I had never seen him this angry before. I hated knowing that it was because of me.

“I . . . it’s complicated. He’s helping me.” Hayden had told me that he would protect me from the other soul eaters. But could I trust a single word he said? What if Ash was right? What if Hayden was still planning to kill me?

“Helping you?” Ash scoffed, looking disgusted. “What is he helping you with, your coursework?” he asked sarcastically.

“No, I . . .” I couldn’t tell him the truth that soul eaters existed and that I was the oldest Halfling alive. “It’s hard to explain, okay? I’m going through something and Hayden’s helping me because he’s been through something similar.”

Furious, Ash said, “What part of the word murderer do you not understand? You could have come to me, Selena. I thought we were best friends?” Tears rolled down my cheeks but he ignored them. “I thought you were smarter than this.” Ash shook his head and turned away.

“Wait!” I wrapped a hand around his wrist to stop him from leaving. “Where are you going?”

“To the police station.” His voice was cold.

“Don’t Ash, please. I . . . I’ll tell them. Just give me time.” I wasn’t sure if I would go through with it or not but they were the only words that would stop Ash.

“Fine,” he snapped, tearing his arm from my grasp. He seemed to hesitate a moment before saying, “Friday. I’ll give you until midnight on Friday.” Ash stalked away through the garden and I dropped down onto the stone patio.

Why was I protecting Hayden? Ash was right, he was a killer. I should have handed Hayden over to the police the moment I knew where he lived. Sobbing, I wrapped my arms around my chest as if they would somehow be able to keep me together. I had endangered everyone I cared about by letting Hayden into my life. It would be my fault if they died.

“Selena? What happened?” Hayden was sat beside me, peering at me in concern. He reached out a hand to touch me but I stumbled to my feet.

“Stay away from me!” I cried, backing away from him. The grass tickled my bare feet.

Frowning, Hayden took a step towards me. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Unable to look at him I dropped my head into my hands. I was unstable on my feet and felt myself swaying. “Go away!” A whirlwind of emotions were raging inside me. I had never felt so confused. Hayden’s arm snaked around my waist to support me and I tried to push him away. “Get off!” I yelled in between sobs as I pounded his chest with my fists. “I knew what you are and I let myself forget! I wanted to forget!”

“What are you talking about? What did Ash say to you?” Hayden pinned my arms to my side and stared at me intently.

“You need to leave.” I spoke quietly but the words were forceful. “I never want to see you again.”

Devastated, he whispered, “No, Selena, don’t do this. Don’t shut me out.”

“I can’t trust you.” My tears were still falling. “You’re a murderer.”

“Look at me.” When I didn’t, Hayden forced my chin up so that our eyes met. “Really look at me, Selena. I haven’t fed since our encounter in the alleyway.”

I reluctantly did as he said. The crow’s feet had deepened and there were wrinkles forming on his forehead. When we had met Hayden had looked to be in his early twenties but now I would have said he was thirty.

“You were going to kill me.”

“But I didn’t.”

“Why not?”

Sighing, Hayden ran a hand through his hair. “You surprised me. You brought out a side in me that I thought was lost.” He stroked my cheek tenderly. “Can’t you see how much I care about you? I would never hurt you.”

I choked on a sob. I wanted to believe him, I really did, because I had grown to care for him too. I enjoyed spending time with Hayden and lately I’d been hoping that our friendship might become something more.

“I want to trust you,” I told him.

Smiling in relief, Hayden said, “Then do. Don’t put your barriers back up.”

My heart was pounding as I murmured, “Okay, I won’t.”

He yanked me into his arms and held me so close that I thought my ribs would break. I buried my face in Hayden’s chest, hoping that I wouldn’t regret my decision.

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