Chapter Twenty-Five

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Turn to Stone Pt. 1

The sound of my hand slapping Wesley's right cheek is loud enough to wake the dead.

But the silence that follows? That's enough to wish I were dead. For a moment, we just stand there staring at each other.

My mouth is agape, lips still tingling from his lingering touch. Wesley watches me with an intensity that unnerves me – but not in a good way. His eyes are dark and stormy, green but no longer the colour of spring buds.

No. Now, Wesley's eyes are blades of grass in a morning frost, frozen and unrelenting. His eyes are dangerous, something to slip on when you least expect it. Something to break your neck on.

I turn around, leaning my elbows on the countertop. I run my hands over my face and through my hair, releasing a sharp exhale of breath, one I hadn't realised I'd been holding. It chokes through my lips and the sound makes me cringe.

I feel stupid. I feel like I want to cry again. My eyes are burning and my cheeks are hot. I bite my lip as hard as I can, doing anything I can to hold myself back. How did we get here? How is Eden still missing and how does Wesley think it's okay to kiss me like that?

Nobody should be able to kiss me like that. Nobody should make me forget for just one second all the horrible things I've done. I, more than anyone else in this world, deserves no less. God. I feel like a fool for allowing him to get this close. I feel like an idiot.

No. Sorry. I'll correct that: I am an idiot.

'Haley,' Wesley says, 'I'm sorry.'

His voice is horse, like he's been screaming into an endless void. It sounds different, though, and that's when I realise it: something has changed between us, something deep and profound, like the flick of a switch from the day's light to the night's suffocating black.

No matter how hard I'll try to convince myself, I know it will never be the same again. We will never be the same.

I almost laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Wesley isn't touching me anymore. Our shoulders aren't brushing and his lips aren't against mine. Hell, I can't even see those piercing eyes.

All of these facts are true, and yet I still feel him all over me, on every inch of my skin.

'I'm sorry,' he repeats.

This time, Wesley reaches out and touches my shoulder. I flinch. The feel of his skin against mine makes me tense. I'm doing everything I can to hold myself together, to keep my armour strong.

Wesley can't know I'm fighting back tears. He just can't.

'Why are you apologising?' I turn around and look into his eyes, swallowing the lump in my throat. This time, it's he who winces. 'You haven't done anything,' I say. 'I'm the one who slapped you. I'm the one who left that red mark on your cheek.'

He looks at me for a second, silent. 'And I was the one who kissed you.'

I shake my head, turning back around. 'Shut up.'

His eyes turn to stone and he twists me back. His hands hold both sides of my cheeks, forcing me to look into his gaze.

But his touch isn't rough – it's soft, delicate as though he's afraid to break me, as though one wrong step and I'll be gone forever.

'No, Haley, I won't shut up.' His eyes flicker to my lips and then back to my eyes. 'I kissed you. I kissed you and it felt good. You liked it. You kissed me back. Don't tell me that kissing me wasn't like coming up for fresh air. Don't tell me that kissing me back wasn't the best decision you've made since coming here.'

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