Chapter Twenty-Six

59.2K 2.7K 255

My brain went completely slack, any excuses I could have given sliding through my mind like water. I just stood there, dumbly gaping at Ava. She should have been at work, not standing in front of me with cold anger in her eyes. 

Her gaze flicked to the piles of her clothes sitting on the floor. I expected her to start yelling; instead she said in a low voice, "What have you got behind your back?" 

I hesitated. I was already in trouble for invading Ava's property, and revealing that I'd found what was obviously a private photograph wasn't going to make things any better. On the other hand, it wasn't like I could bluff my way out of this one so I was probably better coming clean. Ava hated lying almost as much as Noah did.  

Ava held out her hand. "Give it to me," she demanded. 

I handed the photo over. 

Ava's eyes fractionally widened, her lips parting as if she was going to say something. But no words came out.  

For a moment that seemed to span an eternity, neither of us said anything.  

"Why were you going through my things?" Ava said at length. 

"I...I don't know." 

"You invaded my privacy and you don't even know why?" Fresh anger edged her voice. 

"I just wanted..." My voice trailed off. 

"Wanted what?" 

There was no getting out of this. "I wanted to know if you and Noah were ever happy together." There, I'd said it. I held my breath, waiting for the storm to hit.  

Ava blinked, her throat convulsing as she swallowed. Suddenly she looked older, as if time had caught up with her in one swoop. The anger faded from her face, leaving behind a wretched sadness. "We were once," she whispered. 

Had I heard that right? Was Ava actually talking to me like a normal mother might talk to her daughter? 

Ava studied the photo, the happiness of nostalgia warring with sadness on her face. "We were both raised by hunting families, as you know, and as far as our families were concerned, your father and I were going to end up together. When I was your age I had other ideas, of course. I was convinced I was going to break out of the hunting world and -" She stopped suddenly, embarrassment colouring her cheeks. 

"What?" 

"I was convinced I was going to be a film-star," Ava confessed. 

I couldn't have been more surprised if she'd told me she harboured secret ambitions of riding elephants bareback around a circus ring, while wearing a frilly tutu and a top hat. How could my jaded mother have dreamed of the big screen and the red carpet? More to the point, when had that dream died? 

"My parents wouldn't hear of it. They'd been born hunters themselves, and they were determined I wouldn't stray from their path. They were delighted when I married Noah." A sad smile touched her lips. "I think they thought he was going to keep me in check." 

Ava sank down onto a corner of the bed and after a moment's hesitation, I joined her.  

"There was a time when Noah and I were in love. We were happy," Ava said. 

"What happened?" I asked. There was no pointing ignoring the elephant in the room; Ava wasn't happy and I was starting to realise she hadn't been happy in a very long time. 

Ava shrugged. "Life happened. This world we live in - it takes so much from us. Even after I married your father I thought there might be a chance for us to break free but...that was before my parents were killed. There's nothing like seeing the people you love getting torn to shreds to make you realise your priorities." 

When Darkness Falls (Darkness Falls Book 1)Where stories live. Discover now