Chapter Three

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It was strange having another person inside my house.

When Malachi had stopped by last night, it had been quick, close to the door and temporary. He had tainted my beautiful little house with his underhanded techniques and I had spent a good while, scrubbing the places he had touched with those long, lithe fingers.

In contrast, Ethan looked so comfortable and at home, lounging on my antique couch. Faded cushions were crushed under his weight and his arms were carelessly thrown over the top of his head, dangling off the edge. It looked as though he belonged in my little sanctuary and I wasn't sure how I felt about that.

I felt embarrassment because I knew he lived in a much bigger house with much better furnishings but he didn't seem to notice, or if he did, he didn't care.

My tiny, one-storey house had been left to me in my great grandmother's will which had been a surprise to everyone in the family since she had never showed the slightest bit of interest in me. It wasn't much but it was still something and had allowed me an avenue of escape from my mother. Everything in the house had been willed to me and, the rest of the family, finding nothing of value, hadn't appealed the decision my great grandmother had made.

I flicked my hair away, not realising that Ethan's sharp eyes had caught what I wanted to remain hidden.

"Do you want something to drink? I don't have much. Coffee, tea…"

I twisted my head around to catch his response only to find him staring intensely at me.

"Well, what do you wa-"

"Sit down," he growled.

My eyes widened slightly.

Talk about bipolar.

He was the one who had called in the morning and demanded to know my new address so that he could come over and annoy me. What had made him so angry in the split second my back was turned?

Suddenly, it dawned on me.

He must have seen the hickeys.

So I sat.

Shifting uncomfortably in my seat, I cleared at my throat and shot Ethan a pointed look. Heat flooded my cheeks when he wouldn't lift his eyes from the discolouration on my throat, glaring hard enough for me to imagine lasers shooting out from his eyes.

It was evidence of my addiction. For heroin addicts, it's the telltale scars and bruises on their arms. For cocaine addicts, it was the constant sniffling. For pot addicts, it was the thick, sweet odour that seemed to follow them around and the glazed look in their eyes. But for me? It was hickeys and shattered self-confidence.

"What are you looking at?" I snapped.

He finally averted his eyes.

"Who gave you those hickeys?"

So that was how it was going to be.

"Nobody you would know. After all, you haven't been around for the last part of my life, have you?"

A strangled noise came from his throat.

"Wendi. I told you to stay away from him, didn't I? Trust me, you don't want to get involved."

Resignation sat upon his brow.

"What do you know that I don't, huh? And why were you acting all buddy-buddy with him last night?"

That was what really had my curiosity piqued. I knew without a doubt that he had hated Malachi in high school but last night it had been like he had been part of Mal's old crew and he'd also been at the café the other time.

"Trust me, Wendi with an i."

He reached out and tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear. His hand slid down my cheek and cupped it as tenderly as one might handle fine china. I leaned into it and revelled in the familiarity of his touch.

"Do you trust me?"

I opened my mouth to say yes but was surprised to find that it didn't come out. In high school, my automatic response had been 'yes' to everything he said. I would have given up my life for him back then.

I guess time changes people.

My hesitation made him frown.

He changed his tactic.

"Will you promise me that you'll stay away from him?"

I had no answer.

He didn't understand, he couldn't possibly fathom the depth of my need for Mal. I couldn't make that promise because I knew I would break it. My heart was already aching at the memory of his beautiful eyes and crass use of me. I hated myself but I still wanted it. I was a glutton for punishment.

"Will you promise me?" he pressed.

I stood with a frozen smile on my face.

"So did you want tea, water or milk?"

"Don't avoid the question."

"I only have green tea so I don't know if you'll like it. I know you like sweet things. Or at least you used to."

Ethan slammed his fist onto the coffee table, making me jump in surprise.

"Fuck me. Don't tell me you're going to see him again? Can't you see that he's using you? He has a girlfriend. Did you know that? He's cheating on her with you!"

It hurt.

It hurt so much worse when it was him telling me what I already knew.

Did he think that I was doing this to myself on purpose? Did he think that I wanted to be treated in such a degrading manner?

I didn't want to be yesterday's news. I wanted to be the front page for someone for the rest of my life. But, for people like me, things never turned out that way, so we had to get what we could. And for me, Mal was it.

I didn't want Ethan to look at me in that betrayed, wounded way but I didn't want to make that promise. I needed him. Couldn't Ethan see that Mal was all that kept me alive? Truly alive? Not just breathing for the sake of living but he got my heart racing, my blood pounding, my adrenaline rushing.

I didn't feel half as alive with anybody else.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said stiffly.

"Stop it. Just stop lying, okay? It's me. You can't lie to me, Wendi."

He sighed again.

My eyes burned and I turned my head away.

I closed my eyes and swallowed the ache in the back of my throat. Why couldn't he understand? I didn't want to fall into that pit of numbness again and I couldn't rely on him to be around to stop it from happening.

To feel nothing, to be void of emotions, to know nothing except daily routine was something I didn't ever plan to go back to.

Suddenly, I found myself against Ethan's chest with his arms twined around me. He embraced me tightly but instead of feeling suffocated, I felt secure and at ease. Strangely, this only increased the pain in my heart and tears spilled out from under my closed lids.

"You don't understand, Ettie."

I whispered my pet name for him. It had been a name that been the cause for much argument between the two of us a long time ago. He had claimed that it made him sound like an old biddie but I had liked it so much that he had grudgingly started answering to it when I called him that.

"Help me understand, please. I want to understand," he murmured. Ethan, with his wicked grin and dancing eyes, had never failed at causing shivers to run up and down my spine in high school and when I felt his breath against my ear, I found that it was still true.

"I…I need him. I think I might love him."

Ethan tensed and dropped his arms from around me. He took a step back. I was too scared to turn around and face him. I knew how revolting I was but I couldn't help but wish that he'd held me for a little bit longer.

It was strange how cold it was without his embrace.

"What did you say?" he asked in a low voice, haltingly.

"You can't ask this of me, Ettie. I need to be near him. He's the reason I haven't slit my wrists or hung myself from the fan yet. He kept me alive while you were gone. You can't just waltz back into my life and pretend that everything's fine and that we're still as close as we were five years ago. I've changed, you've changed. Our friendship…I don't know if it even exists anymore."

I couldn't hold it in anymore. Choking on a sob, I ran to my room and flung myself onto my bed.

I heard the front door slam shut after a few minutes.

My heart fell despite my best efforts to be cynical.

Should have known he wouldn't stick around.

Leaving the first time always made the second a whole lot easier.

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***

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I could smell cigarettes.

They smelt exactly like the ones Malachi smoked. Black Rose.

What on earth…?

"Wake up, sleeping beauty."

His voice made my toes curl and my body cried out for him.

Wordlessly, I sat up and sought him out in the darkness of my room.

Tendrils of smoke rose up from the end of the glowing stick and dissipated into thin air.

"What the hell are you doing in my room? How did you get inside?"

He shrugged carelessly.

"Your door was open."

I narrowed my eyes.

"Don't lie to me."

He sat in my chair, elegance embodied. His tailored clothes, his expensive shoes, his polished demeanour. They didn't fit. It was as though he was an irregularly shaped piece of the puzzle and there was no space specially made for him in my life.

It was clear that he didn't care to satisfy my curiosity.

"Why are you here?"

Once again he shrugged. Now I could smell his spicy aftershave and knew where he'd been, or rather, who he had been with, before he'd broken into my house.

His eyes moved slowly up and down my body and I felt myself reacting involuntarily.

He smirked. He knew exactly what he was doing to me. I desperately drank in the sight of his shirt hanging off his broad shoulders and his dishevelled hair. Even while I knew it would only bring about my personal destruction, I wanted him to want me. Even if it was only to use my body.

"What do you want with me?"

"You know exactly what I want."

His teeth shone in the darkness. A wolfish, craven smile.

The moment he reached out to push up my shirt and I was more than willing to let him, my phone rang.

It echoed throughout the empty house and the spell was broken for the moment.

"I have to get it."

Wordlessly, he stood up and turned away.

The words "Don't go!" and "Please don't leave me!" were on the tip of my tongue but I bit them back.

I grabbed my phone from my bedside table.

"Hello?"

"Tell him to leave. Tell him to get the fuck out of your house, Wendi Charles."

"Ethan?"

Mal's back stiffened and he turned to face me again. There was a cold gleam in his eyes I had never seen before.

"Tell Malachi to get out. Now."

"Are you stalking me?! Where are you?"

I sprang out of bed and looked out of my window.

"Just trust me."

Malachi grabbed the phone from my hand and I felt myself burn at the brief contact. He walked out of my room and closed the door behind him.

Quietly, I opened the door and held my breath when his voice carried down the hallway.

"-ur talking about the deal?"

I heard him laugh sardonically.

"You must be mistaking my for my father. That old man had it coming."

There was a silence.

"That's going to be a little hard to do."

His tone suddenly hardened..

"Don't presume to order me around. Don't ever forget who you're talking to."

The possibilities were endless. Deal? Malachi's father? How was Ethan involved?

He whipped his head around and caught me eavesdropping. I blushed but returned his intense stare.

"I'll talk to you later."

Malachi walked back to me and held out the phone. I felt hot all over and realised that I needed another hit. I needed his body in mine, even if it was for a fleeting moment. The aftermath was horrible but being denied his body was even worse.

"What was that about? You can't just interrupt a phone call like that," I said shakily.

"Nothing that concerns you."

He smiled cruelly.

"Why did you come here?" I blurted out.

"Just wanted to see how my little whore was doing."

I breathed in sharply.

I knew it was true, what he was calling me, but to hear it said so callously and snidely hurt me even more. I think it had been better when I was faceless to him and when there had been no words spoken between us. I didn't realise it then, but the silence had been the only thing protecting me from him.

"I can see that even after calling you that, you still want me. You tremble when I'm near, you can't stand it when I'm not. You don't even mind that I don't care about you. Pathetic."

Tears sprang to my eyes. But I still wanted him.

"Why are you saying this? If you have nothing else to do, then leave. Please." The last part came out as a plea.

I must have been a pathetic sight because all he did was smirk, snuff out his cigarette on my wall and disappear.

I held myself together until I heard the door shut and then I sat down on the floor. It was freezing but I didn't feel it.

I curled up into a little ball against the wall.

His cigarette was lying there next to me.

The smell of Malachi enveloped me in its suffocating embrace.

But it was still cold.

So cold.

My shirt was no protection against the cold.

I cried.

Unloved, used and thrown away countless times.

I didn't that was ever going to change.

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***

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A/N: thanks to all the reviewers =) I'm sorry this update was so late but my holidays do start soon which means that I will have loads more time than I currently do. =) thank you for sticking by this story!