Chapter Thirteen

Christian clasped my hand in his as we strolled through the park, the wind gentle but just strong enough to make leaves swirl in the air then spiral down onto the ground. An immediate tingle shot up my arm and, instinctively, I attempted to snatch my hand back but he didn't let go.

Of course.

What had I been thinking? The only time he acted like a mule was when I didn't want him to. A scowl was stamped upon my face, clearly showing my displeasure, and in response, his eyes sparkled at me in a deep green as he tugged me closer to him in one sharp movement. I was unprepared and, as a result, fell against him in an ungraceful heap.

"Christian!" I barked, a warning apparent in my voice, and struggled to stand up properly again. But Christian had other thoughts in mind. He held me tightly against him and chuckled gleefully. My heart warmed at the sound of his laughter as it had the very first time I had heard it.

But all the sunshine and laughter in the world couldn't make me relax in his arms, at least not in public.

"Christian! I hate PDA," I hissed, silently adding that I was only just getting used to the idea of affection, let alone public displays of it.

"Get used to it," he teased, and buried his face in the curve of my neck. He sniffed me once, then twice, curiously.

"What are you doing? Sometimes you're so weird," I snarled, feeling unusual redness in my cheeks. I managed to slip my hands in between our bodies and once more attempted to maintain some distance by pushing against his chest. He stumbled a little and, within that instant, I slipped out of his grasp and stepped away from him.

"You smell different. Mmm…fruity," he murmured, sending a knowing smile in my direction.

I bared my teeth at him but didn't answer. I'd just felt like a change. He'd had no impact on my decision to go out and buy a new moisturizing lotion that smelt divine. Nope, none whatsoever. Admittedly, I felt a small spurt of satisfaction that he'd noticed.

At times like these, I realized how close I had been to losing him, to losing myself, who had put so much faith into one person, the reason for which I cannot fathom. I treasured every moment of laughter and happiness that he invoked in me and I mentally captured every smile he sent my way. Just in case.

Mischief lit up his face and his eyes glinted with a predatory light. He mimicked the act of stalking, taking one slow step after the other. I backed away, amused, and it became a kind of dance, him taking one step forward and me taking one step back. That was until he backed me up against a tree, drawing so close to me that our breaths mingled with each other.

"Will you let me kiss you?" he asked, quietly, staring into my eyes.

I was so nervous and felt my palms grow clammy. My pulse sped up to a maddening pace and my throat was dry. For an afternoon in the park, it sure was quiet. No dogs barking, birds chirping or people exercising.

I was quite sure that awkwardness oozed from my very pores.

I didn't know how to respond. What was I supposed to do? Or say? I was sure there was a script that I was meant to follow but I didn't know what it was.

When my only response was no response, he leaned in, placing both arms on either side of me.

My eyes flickered nervously and I held my breath, standing stock-still.

His hand swept away some errant strands of hair from my forehead before it cupped the side of my face and tilted my chin upwards.

My heart raced and my palms were collecting sweat as his face grew closer and close. Nervousness clung to me like soggy clothing and worries about how my breath smelt, whether he would notice that new zit on my face or how bad I might be at kissing danced through my mind.

When his lips met mine in a gentle caress, my eyes were still wide open, watching his eyes close and the length of his eyelashes sweeping away the slight shadows beneath his eyes.

"Close your eyes," he mumbled against my lips, each millisecond of contact as soft as butterfly kisses.

I smiled against his lips and closed my eyes.

After I had done that, I realised why people kissed with their eyes closed. It was as if the whole universe had disappeared and there was only me and him, entangled in each other, and an endless warmth that infused me with desire for him.

We parted, out of breath and slightly panting. I missed his warmth immediately.

"You're blushing," he whispered, his forehead resting against mine.

"And you're out of breath," I retorted, voice still a little shaky. The intensity in his eyes astounded me.

"So are you."

I blinked and smiled slowly.

"You're mine," he said, moving his lips over mine once again. The indignant response I had formed in my mind slipped out as we stepped from reality into our secret world.

The second time we parted, I went with my instinct and, instead of letting him go, I held him close, so closely that I found I couldn't breathe without the length of his body pressing against mine.

A harsh laugh in the background shattered the illusion instantly.

"So this is what you've been doing behind my back," a scathing voice remarked.

We both turned to stare at the person who ruined our utopian moment.

"Ryan? What on earth are you doing here?"

I didn't bother hiding the incredulity that I felt. Christian's grip on me tightened and I knew, without looking at his face, that his jaw was clenched and his eyes were flashing dangerously.

A burst of disbelieving laughter came out of Ryan.

"I came back here to take you back and I find you making out with this," his lip curled up in a disgusted manner, "pretty boy," he hissed. Christian was ready to pounce so I knew that I had to defuse the situation in my own way. He wasn't somebody who I could disregard so easily, not any longer.

This time, it was me who laughed.

"And why would I want you back?"

"Why wouldn't you want me back?" Ryan asked, genuinely confused, "You were so nice to me before. I know this person is just practice so you can perfect yourself for me. Come back to me, Ava. I'm glad you sorted everything out now. We'll be happier now."

I started seeing red. Digging my nails into the closest object near me, I started my hunt.

"Are you insane?" I sneered, shooting frozen daggers at him, "Perfect myself for you? And nice to you? I thought I could help you get through a hard time but obviously nobody can help you through this craziness. I'm with…" I faltered. What were Christian and I now?

His generally melodious voice was hardened like a stone's edge.

"She's with me."

Ryan snorted.

"Dude, are you blind? She's using you to get to me. She knows how annoyed I get with this kind of stuff."

Christian released a harsh laugh.

"There's no point in talking with crazy people. You get nowhere," he muttered and pulled me away from Ryan.

"Hey! Hey! Ava! This is your last chance! You'll never get another! Where are you taking her, you bastard?! I know you want to come back to me! Ava!" he screamed, infuriated by the situation.

Christian was snickering as we fled from the scene of the crime, glad that Ryan's voice was slowly getting out of ear shot.

Whilst the entire thing was amusing to Christian, I couldn't help but feel responsible for Ryan's actions. Had I really driven him mad? Was it that taint I was worried about?

"Ava, are you okay?" Christian asked, his amusement fading as he realised that I wasn't smiling or enjoying the hilarity of it all.

"Of course," I snapped, feeling wound up. Christian nodded slowly and clasped my hand in his. A smile naturally appeared as I caught sight of his dimple winking at me.

The gentle, tender atmosphere that had been prevalent just a few moments ago was gone.

"Christian, I'm sorry, okay?" I muttered, my eyes sliding to the left to avoid eye contact. He just squeezed my hand and continued walking, our pace considerably slower now that we couldn't hear Ryan's voice any longer.

I needed to learn to curb my tongue. Maybe, physically, I had grown used to Christian but being so emotionally attached to another human being was still uncomfortable for me. The thought that I had affected Ryan so badly cut into me deeply and Makoto's words about me using and abusing people rose in the back of my mind. What if I did the same thing to Christian?

"Hey, my birthday is coming up soon and I always have a party every year so…"

My heart sank with dread. I knew what was coming. Ryan and Makoto could wait while I pondered this new dilemma.

"You'll be there, right?"

I smiled weakly in response. Christian, I could withstand but all those other people who either hated me, thought I was an icy bitch or were overly interested in our relationship? I would probably tear them apart and send them home in tears.

"Mmm… we'll see."

Christian stopped in his tracks and looked at me thoughtfully for a while.

"I won't have any fun without you there. The birthday boy might go into a corner and cry and it would be all your fault," he said solemnly with a twinkle in his eye.

"It's not like as if we're dating or anything," I pointed out. It was true. He had yet to ask me out and I was an old-fashioned girl, well as old-fashioned as a girl like me could get.

Christian's brow was furrowed as he processed what I was saying. He opened his mouth to speak, but, yet again, another interruption occurred, this time in the form of Zach. An arm was roughly thrown around Christian's shoulder and I could hear the almost inaudible sigh coming out of his mouth.

"Hey guys! Oooo!" whooped Zach when he noticed our interlaced hands.

Immediately, I withdrew my hand from Christian's and asked in a clipped tone, "What are you doing here, Elevator Boy? How the hell did you know we were here?"

"Why so angry, Karate Girl? Is it 'cause I ruined your 'alone' time with my brother?" he teased. My eye twitched. Christian, sensing that I was about to dole out punishment of some form to Zach, quickly intervened. He pulled me towards me and wrapped his arms around me, bending down to snuggle into my neck. Tingles shot up and down my spine. Whatever I had been about to do or say disappeared in the blink of an eye and the red flush in my cheeks re-emerged. Subconsciously, I leaned back into his embrace and tilted my head back slightly so that it rested against his shoulder.

"I'm irritated because you ruined a very important moment," Christian said, emphasising the 'I'm' and 'you'.

Zach snorted, his eyes dancing. "Little brother, if there was an important moment, I think that I have the right to witness it, right, Ava?"

I knew what he was referring to. If he hadn't talked to me all those times, then we would have never gotten passed what had happened before.

"And how do you figure that?" Christian asked.

Zach's eyes met mine. Something forbidden flashed in his eyes before he smirked and shrugged, as if to say 'why don't you answer that?'

I didn't want Christian to know how many times I had talked to his brother separately about our problems or that we had a history more colourful than a rainbow. For some reason, I wanted to keep the memories a secret and locked away. They bespoke how much trust I had in Zach and I didn't like it much at all.

As my usual habit was, when I panicked, I either a) said that most stupid thing or b) did the most stupid thing. Take your pick.

"I'll go to your party," I said clearly, hoping it would be a good diversion.

Christian released me abruptly and, suddenly, I found two sets of identical eyes looking at me in astonishment, one curious and the other delighted. My heart leapt when I saw the two of them right next to each other. All you had to do was alter a little bit here and there and you could possibly have the same person, physically anyway. I knew that, personality wise, they were two distinct people.

"I have to talk to you."

Zach materialised in front of me as I was about to throw the rubbish into the large bin outside the apartment building.

"Shit, Zach. You scared me," I hissed furiously.

"I know that you think Chris is the superman to your damsel-in-distress but he wasn't always that way," Zach said quietly, looking around furtively.

"What are you talking about? Damsel-in-distress? And isn't it meant to be knight in shining armour not Superman?" I sneered, furious with even the idea of it. Zach sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"Just listen to me for one minute, okay?"

His eyes pleaded with me not to reject him. Seeing the familiar expression in an identical set of eyes, I felt my heart softening and nodded my consent.

"Christian, he… He wasn't always like the way he is now." Zach hesitated.

I stayed silent for a moment then said, "Okay, genius. Anything else?"

"Look. Be careful with the way you handle him. Don't hurt him. He's my brother and he's been through hell and back. Haven't you even thought about the possibility that he might not always have been so warm and open? Don't you care about anybody except for yourself?" Zach snarled.

My ire rose at the accusations he was flinging at me. But my mask, as it had been before Christian, was flawless and spoke for me.

"Is that it? May I be excused?" And my smile was terribly, terribly cold.

Zach gritted his teeth in frustration.

"I'm sorry. It's just, I don't like talking about it. But you need to know that you're good for him and nothing, nothing should stop you from being yourself with him."

My mask stayed the same.

"Our little brother…" Little brother? I thought it was only the two of them. "He…I don't want to tell you because I want Christian to but…"

The way those eyes were staring at me looked so forlorn and lost that I felt my mask tremble.

"Promise that you won't hurt him," he begged.

"I can't promise you that. He can't promise me that he won't hurt me. That's the way life is," I answered bluntly.

I ignored the trace of fire his hand left when he sadly clasped my shoulder.

A secure hug and delighted laughter broke my reverie and I watched Zach, over Christian's shoulder, who was smiling sardonically at me. One question I'd wanted to ask was if Zach had also been through hell and back, carrying Christian, but I had never found the courage to ask.

All of a sudden, I wished that uni would hurry up and start already. It would be much easier to bury myself in studying and textbooks than getting ready to go to a party where I knew I would be an all too visible outcast.

Throughout this entire time, there had been a subtle tension between Christian and I because neither of us had had the guts to define our relationship. I fretted about what to get him, but what frustrated me even more was that I couldn't decide whether something was too intimate or not intimate enough because of this relationship fog we were in. I contemplated asking Zach for help but every time I saw him, he avoided me. This, too, was confusing as I was supposed to be the queen of hermits and avoidance and because he called me a friend but didn't treat me like one.

That was the problem with sharing your heart with other people. It was inevitable that they were going to leave you.

So I had spent the past week, tossing and turning, even in my sleep, about what to get Christian. How was I supposed to show him what he meant to me when I had only just learned to emotionally walk once again? I only hoped that what I had prepared for him was something that he would appreciate and not laugh at. I had even avoided his calls all day - that was the extent of my anxiety.

A knock on my door left me panicking. I wasn't even close to being ready to leave for the party!

"Ava! Hurry up!" a rather husky voice called from the other side of the door.

I froze.


What was he doing here? I schooled my expression into a bored one, took a look in the mirror to make sure my eyes were like icicles and opened the door.

"Why are you here instead of Christian?" I asked coolly.

He looked startled by my attire.

"Are you going to the party in that?" he sputtered, " I know that you're trying to make a statement but isn't that disrespecting Christian at the same time?"

I looked down at my baggy grey shirt and navy track pants which were hanging off my hips.

"What's wrong with it?" I shot back, carelessly lifting one shoulder.

When he opened his mouth to speak, I said, irritably, "Calm down. These are my pyjamas. I forgot to change."

He stood in my doorway with a look of disbelief on his face.

"Don't come in. Where's Christian?" I demanded. I didn't want to be near someone who had managed to wrestle trust from me and then spat on it the next moment.

"Why can't I come in? What am I supposed to do while you get ready? Stand here?"

I couldn't be bothered responding so I shut the door in his face and didn't pay any attention to the loud voice that followed me into my bathroom.

I showered, applied make-up and slipped into a black dress. Scrutinising myself in the mirror, I sighed. This was the best that I could do with what I had. I only hoped that the one person I wanted to impress would notice the effort I had made. Hurriedly, I picked up the present and opened the door while slipping on my heels.

"Where's Christian?" I asked, without looking up, busily tying the ribbon up my calf. When I heard slight gasping, I finally looked up to find Zach holding Ryan by the throat against the wall. My heart leapt into my throat but I maintained my mask.

"Are we done here, gentlemen? We're running late for an appointment," I spoke icily, disdain dripping off my tongue. Zach shifted slightly and turned his head to glance at me. His eyes widened and he seemed to lose his grip on Ryan because he fell to the ground, holding his throat and moaning. Ignoring Zach, I stood in front of Ryan's face and toed him.

"Hey, you, why don't you just move into this apartment block since you always seem to be here anyway? Why is it that you're here? I think we need to get better security."

There was no response from Ryan and he had stopped moaning. Shit.

"Zach, what the hell did you do?" I felt brittle and worn thin.

He rolled his eyes at me. "Can't you see that he's faking it? Once we leave, he'll have no choice but to get up and return to the filth from whence he came."

My mask smiled at him.

"You have a bad habit of avoiding all my questions. Tell me where Christian is and tell me what you did to Ryan."

He visibly flinched when he heard my voice.

"He's….mhfnj," Zach muttered.

"I can't hear you," I replied, placidly, ice pumping through my veins. Something was wrong and it wasn't just the person in front of me.

"He had to go pick up Mel and Miriam. Their car broke down on the highway. I offered to go but they wouldn't hear of it. They wanted him to do it," Zach admitted, quietly waiting. He should have known that there would be no outburst from me. Ice splintered my vision. Those conniving foxes.

"Okay. What did you do to Ryan?"

"Is that it? Okay? Don't you feel furious or suspicious or anything?"

"Answer my question, Zachary." My tone brooked no argument.

"I just held him by the throat. There's no way he could have passed out from something like that. Unless he's a complete wuss," Zach added as an afterthought. His cat-like eyes assessed me from head to toe.

"Okay. This is what we're going to do. You go first. We're half an hour late as it is. I'll catch a cab later. I promise I'll turn up. Later," I warned when I saw him about to protest. Ryan let out a low groan.

"But I'm not supposed to arrive without you," Zach argued.

"He's regaining consciousness. Go," I ordered. He hesitated.

"I swear he's faking…" he mumbled to himself before nodding at me and turning around to walk away.

"By the way, I'm sorry," Zach called out over his shoulder. We both knew what he was referring to. I looked steadily at his figure until it went into the next hallway. Funnily enough, he still had my trust.

Sniffling and movement near my feet re-directed my gaze.

"Grandma Leigh," Ryan moaned, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. My heart clenched when I heard him. It felt like he was mirroring what I had gone through since the accident.

"Ryan, are you awake? Why are you even here?" But I didn't have enough heart to soften my tone. Only Christian had that effect on me.

"Grandma Leigh," he moaned again.

"Well, you seem fine. Vocal chords in working order." I started walking away. And as if that was his cue, he jumped to his feet, suddenly awake and alert.

"Just tell me why," he challenged. The boy had worse mood swings than me during PMS. Something wasn't right. Him showing up and then pulling an act on me didn't seem like him at all. First off, he wasn't smart enough to concoct such a plan. Secondly, why would he continually pursue me when I knew he was the type of person to throw someone away once he was done with them?

"Why are you trying to stall me?" My mask revealed my entire set of teeth. Why did he turn up on this night of all nights? And why did Mel's car decide to break down tonight?

"S-stall you? Why would you think that?" He laughed nervously.

"Miriam," I stated and carefully watched his reaction to her name. His eyes widened and he scratched his scalp rather vigorously. How did she find out about Ryan? Probably through Mel.

"You can't lie to me. I've known you for too long."

Without another word, I left, emotion fighting the ice in my veins. Something was going to happen while I wasn't there.

I had to get to Christian.


Silence and baleful glares met me as I rushed into the club.

"And here she is. The heroine of the hour having the decency to turn up later than anybody else. Everyone, give her a round of applause." The sarcasm in Miriam's voice was so thick that it was a wonder she didn't choke on it. Where was Christian? Why was she standing on the stage with the mike, as if it was her party? And why was there a projector?

Boos and murmuring started up around me. My heart raced. It was reminiscent of when somebody had found out that I had killed me family in high school and had begun horrible rumours about me.

What was happening? I knew I shouldn't have gone.

I caught whispers of "yea, raw footage" and "bitch".

Hurt hammered itself, creating a crater in my heart. What could these people have seen or heard that made them react to me in such a way?

Where was Christian? Where was Zach?

No. I didn't need them . I didn't need anybody.


Complete ice.

Unbreakable ice.

Then, Miriam shouted, "Throw her out of here!" with her eyes gleaming and voice vibrant with power. The crowd of Christian's fellow co-workers, friends and family surged against me. The sea against the iceberg. The ice berg couldn't hold out forever.

'Christian,' my mind whispered frantically, 'where the hell are you?'

1. A/N: First off, I just want to apologise for the time that it's taken for me to write this chapter. I know that some of you have been waiting for all this time and I'm so sorry XD Please forgive a struggling writer with one massive writer's block. Even though it's been ages, I hope that you enjoyed this instalment of Christian and Ava =)

2. A/N: A HUGE thanks to jelly babies, A. M. Dawson, Sworn-Into-Secrecy, L, Zenia, Queen of Light and Dark and mhb brighter for reviewing! =) Thank you guys so much for your support!

3. If anyone has any preferences/ideas about where this story should go and how it should end…pm me please =) or leave it in your review =D

jelly babies – Hahaha =) No! That most definitely was not that last chapter! Not only are there unresolved issues, I just simply wouldn't know how to end the story like that XD lol But yes! They're finally together keke =) Took long enough, right? =p

A. M. Dawson – rofl! Keke finally inserting a little bit of fluffiness which hopefully balances out the ridiculous amount of angst in the story =p next time I shall be certain to make you cry! (said in the nicest way possible =D) Or at least try to post when you're extremely tired =p

Sworn-Into-Secrecy – Yay! I'm ridiculously thrilled that you were moved to tears even if the song might have helped set the mood =) p.s. I'm totally a secret fan of that song as well =p

L – Hahahaha! Trust me =.= There were times when I thought 'What is wrong with you?' about Ava xp and I'm the one writing her! And yes, I've gotten a sadistic kind of pleasure out of making the two characters suffer =p Oh don't worry I haven't forgotten about those other characters. Now that Ava and Christian think that they are on their way to happiness, the shit hits the fan, again. =p If you spot anything that you think could be fixed or smoothed out, please don't be afraid to point it out =) Since I don't really get a second opinion before I post, all the mistakes are still there =D

Zenia – Yes, I'm so sorry the last chapter took so long It took a lot of time to think of what should happen next. Thank you for sticking with the story despite my tardiness =) Hope you enjoyed this chapter! =)

Queen of Light and Dark - glad you're enjoying this story =) haha there are hidden sides to Christian as we shall soon see ;)

mhb brighter - I'm glad you still like it =) enjoy this update!