Chapter 34

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I'd never thought I'd be that girl. I used to watch movies where the lead was some vapid airhead being pursued by two guys at once and she always made the wrong choice before realising her mistake. I'd always watched that stupid girl and wondered, "How? How can she be in love with both of them? Is she just fickle? Why can't she just choose?"

I would never judge that girl again. Because now that I was her, I understood.

As I stood on the balcony under the lights and stars, waiting for Leigh to return with birthday fire, I was content. In that moment, I was completely in love with Leigh, my best friend, my partner, the guy who was always there to catch me and save me and had never asked for anything in return. As soon as the candles were lit, I was going to kiss Leigh and tell him I loved him. And that was that.

I closed my eyes, breathed the sea air deeply and formed a birthday wish in my head.

A feathery thump right behind me made me startle and spin. Deep in the shadow, away from the birthday lights stood a dark figure framed by black wings.

As if I'd been winded, my next breath refused to come. I couldn't speak as I began to drift towards him, into the dark.

"Keira." I'd never heard my name hold so many emotions before: grief, hope, passion, fear. His sable eyes burned with tears.

I found my voice again. "Noah..."

"I have something to tell you," he spoke, his voice rough and low. "I'm... I'm so sorry. I know that's not enough, I know I've wounded us beyond repair. What I did, it was wrong, even if I did it for the right... for what I thought was the right reason."

Noah was wreathed in black, his face tormented. Perhaps I should have screamed at him, told him to go to hell. After everything he'd done, the hurt he'd caused me, the grief poor Pop and Leigh had been living with, he deserved nothing from me but my middle finger.

But he was talking, actually talking and trying to explain. How could I not listen?

"Even once I accepted you were gone, I couldn't move on. I tried. I attempted every second of every day to put you out of my heart. I couldn't. I can't exist without you. What we are... it's the biggest thing I've ever felt. I can't analyse it, it doesn't make a modicum of sense. When we were together, this feeling almost overwhelmed me, but leaving only made it worse. I'm whole, but without you, I'm not here."

He reached for my hands, and the second his fingers closed over mine, the same jolt of heat jumped between us and I was lost. He was right: whatever was between us was beyond logic. It was almost supernatural.

"I know I was wrong," he murmured, our faces drawing closer. "You have no reason to forgive me, to even listen to me. But I'm sorry." He let out a shaky breath. "And I'm here. And for as long as I breathe, I'll never leave your side again, if you allow me to stay."

I was sailing in the dark ocean of his eyes, physically adrift within the sphere of his magnetism. I opened my mouth to speak, but the wrong name came out. "Leigh... Leigh!" Suddenly the world swam back into focus. "Noah, Leigh and I... we're together."

"I know," he said, his expression wistful but accepting. "I saw. Keira, it doesn't matter what you've been doing." He lifted one hand to my hair, softly touching his feather which was nestled in the twisted strands. Moving to my face, he ran his finger down my cheek, a line of warmth connecting us, the distance between us dissolving. "It only matters what you do next."

"Actually," a voice behind us interrupted, tight and furious, "It does matter what you've been doing." Leigh stood, silhouetted against the light of the house, his face blazing. "So, tell us, Noah, what have you been up to? While we've been here, worrying for you, grieving for you, wondering if you were dead, where have you been? Having fun?"

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