I lost count on how many times we made love last night and now I was lying here next to a sleeping Asher and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
The sun had risen over the horizon hours ago but I didn’t move a muscle. I didn’t want him to wake just yet because I wasn’t ready to leave his bed. I could actually stay here for days.
“Like what you see?” Asher’s raspy, sleep filled voice startled me as I giggled into his shoulder.
“Sorry,” I replied as a blush crept into my cheeks.
He opened his eyes and looked down at me with a sexy grin. “Don’t be sorry. I like what I see, too.”
Flashbacks from our too close and personal moment in his kitchen weeks ago came flooding into my mind and my heart rate picked up.
And then I go and ruin the moment. “When do you leave?”
He groaned and ran his hand over his face. “Really? You have to go and start talking about that right now?”
“Sorry. It just sort of came out.”
He stared back into my eyes, studying my face. “I wish things could be different but we both know how this ends, right?”
My heart dropped and tears filled my eyes as I nodded.
“You hungry?” Asher asked as he sat up in bed and jumped over me, grabbing his clothes from the floor. It was clear that he didn’t want to talk about his leaving and I couldn’t blame him, but I also couldn’t help but notice that he was acting strange all of a sudden too.
“I could eat,” I replied as I slipped out of bed myself and got dressed.
“Harper’s probably up there. You ready for that?” Asher eyed me.
I took a deep breath. “I guess I have to be, right?”
He only nodded as he opened the door for us to exit his bedroom. Our one last night together was ending and I felt like I was going to throw up.
When we made it upstairs I was surprised to find Mrs. Creed cooking breakfast while Harper and Tate giggled at their spot at the table.
Nobody looked at us weirdly or gave us judgemental looks. Not even Harper. So what the the hell was going on here?
“Good morning, you two!” Mrs. Creed sang as she grinned at us.
Asher didn’t say anything as he walked over to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup, then he looked over his shoulder at me and asked me with his eyes if I wanted a cup too. I nodded.
I looked toward Harper and she was smiling at me, but held a tinge of sadness in her expression.
“Morning,” I finally replied, standing awkwardly in my spot.
Asher handed me a cup and stood next to me, sipping his.
That’s when I noticed Mrs. Creed beaming at us. “Oh! I am so glad you two finally came to your senses! Just wait until your dad hears about this, Ash.” She was clearly thrilled at the sight in front of her. Which was me and Asher standing dangerously close to each other.
That’s when Asher pushed away from counter, away from me, and took a spot at the table.
“Let’s not make a big deal out of this, okay?” Asher grumbled, hiding behind his cup of coffee.
“But it is a big deal!” Mrs. Creed exclaimed. “We’ve all been rooting for you two to get together.”
I looked at Harper who gave me a small smile and lightly nodded. Her too?! But I thought... What the hell was going on?
“You guys are so cute together and my brother is clearly happy,” Harper cooed.
Asher slammed his hand down on the table, shutting everyone up. “We aren’t together!! I leave tomorrow! Or have you all already forgotten that?”
Asher didn’t look at me when he spook and I stood frozen to my spot. He was right, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear.
“Oh, honey. You’re moving to California...not Spain. I’m sure Layla will wait for you,” Mrs. Creed added.
Asher stood up then and walked by me. “I didn’t ask her to.” Then he disappeared and left me in an awkwardly quiet kitchen as everyone stared at me.
Mrs. Creed came over and hugged me. “He’s stubborn just like his dad. He’ll come around.”
But I didn’t reply. As much as I had wished in the past that he would come around, it was different now. I knew that nothing would happen between us and I had accepted it. It still hurt like hell, don’t get me wrong, but Asher Creed would never truly be mine.
“You okay?” Harper asked me softly.
I just stared at her. “You’re still talking to me?”
She laughed. “Of course I am. Believe it or not, but I’ve known about you two for a while now.”
I glared at her. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I was hoping you would,” she shrugged and then added, “I was livid at first, but Tate made me realize how good you were for my brother and how he was changing when you two were together. I’m just mad now that he isn’t manning up.”
I let out a small laugh. “You know Asher as well as anyone else. He was never mine,” I said the last part sadly, mirroring my emotions. “I should get home now, though. My mom got home last night and I know she’s dying to spend time with me.”
“She did?!” Mrs. Creed sounded thrilled. “Tell her to call me.” Then she walked back up to me and held my hands. “I know Asher can be a huge pill to swallow, and I’m sorry he’s acting like this, but I want you to know that you will always be apart of our family, whether Asher and you are together or not.”
Damn it. Why did she have to go and say something like that?!
“Thanks, Mia.” I hugged her tightly before I turned on my heel and headed for the front door. I needed to cry and I didn’t want anyone to see me do it.
I was so thankful that both my mom and Dillon were gone when I arrived home. I needed alone time so I could cry my eyes out.
And that’s exactly what I did when I went upstairs and took a hot shower. The tears just kept flowing and my mind kept drifting back to memories of Asher’s mouth and hands on me.
I was ripped from my thoughts when I heard loud commotion coming from downstairs and people yelling.
I quickly shut off the shower, dried as much as I could before throwing my silk robe on, and hightailed it downstairs.
“Dillon!!” I heard Mom scream.
So I picked up my pace down the stairs and found Dillon holding Asher against the wall by his throat.
“Stop it!!” I nearly jumped on Dillon’s back and he was in such a rage that his reflexes took over and he elbowed me right in the face, which made me land with a cry and a thud on the hard floor beneath us.
“Dillon! What have you done?!” Mom exclaimed as she came over to me.
Dillon finally let Asher go when he saw what he had done.
“Layla!” Dillon came toward me but I swatted his hand away.
“You son of a bitch!” Asher barked, coming to my aid as he pushed Dillon out of the way.
“Don’t touch my sister!” Dillon growled, grabbing Asher and pulling him backwards.
And I turned crazy!
“Stop it right now!!” My voice overpowered the room. “If you touch him again, Dillon, it will be the last thing you ever do!”
“Layla!” Mom scolded me but I ignored her as I got to my feet and shoved Dillon away from Asher.
“I’m tired of this! I don’t know what your problem is with each other but it ends today!!” I was livid and shaking and about to blow up.
“You don’t know what he did?” Dillon asked, a snarky tone in his voice.
“Dillon shut the fuck up,” Asher warned.
Now I was looking between the two. Was I finally going to hear why these two have been at each other’s throats for so long?
“He slept with Gina,” Dillon burst out. Which I already suspected. Gina was Dillon’s girlfriend for almost two years. He was in love with her and then one day she stopped coming over and Dillon started hating Asher Creed.
“I gathered.” I rolled my eyes. “But get over it.”
“Dillon, don’t....” Asher warned again. Which only peeked my interest even more now.
“He got Gina pregnant,” Dillon hissed out, throwing daggers in Asher’s direction.
And I felt like I got sucker punched in the gut.
“What?!” Mom finally spoke, looking as shocked as I felt.
“Yeah, and the prick laughed in her face,” Dillon added. “She got an abortion and I haven’t seen her since. And do you think this asshole gives a shit? Stay away from him Layla. He’s poison.”
I was shaking. Really shaking now. And when I looked up into Asher’s eyes, I knew that what my brother had said was true. Asher was looking at me with pleading eyes.
“Layla...” Asher reached out to grab me but I pulled my arm away.
“I think you should leave, Asher.” I pulled my gaze away from him, not able to look him in the eyes anymore.
He sighed. “I just came to say goodbye. I’m leaving tonight.”
His words squeezed my heart as I closed my eyes but it was Dillon who replied.
“Good riddance.” Then he held the door open for Asher and I watched his feet move away from me.
I thought I knew him better. Never in a million years would I ever think Asher could do such a thing. And with someone else’s girlfriend!! I apparently didn’t know him like I thought I did.
When I saw his feet pause in the doorway, I couldn’t help but look up at him and his eyes were red.
“Goodbye, Asher.” I spun on my heels and ran back upstairs.
Once I was in my bedroom I threw myself onto my bed and cried into my pillow. I heard Asher’s truck come to life and a moment later he was driving away.
Asher Creed was officially out of my life.
The next day at school, I realized everyone knew about mine and Asher’s secret affair. Even teachers, who were giving me sympathetic looks.
But why is everyone acting so strange? Me and Asher were sleeping together. Big deal. But to these people, it appeared to be.
“Is it true?” A girl I had never seen before came up next to me at my locker and beamed.
“Excuse me?” I cocked an eyebrow at her.
“Ya know... that you’re the only girl to ever be with Asher Creed more than once... Is it true?” She was looking at me like I was her favorite cast member from the latest MTV reality series.
And then another girl came to my other side, making me whip my head in her direction.
“Yeah! I heard you and Asher were dating behind Harper’s back and that you two were planning on running off together.” She was beaming at me too.
All I could do was let out a snorting laugh. “Calm down, girls, it wasn’t like that at all.”
“How does it feel to be the only girl to take Asher off the market?” One of them asked.
“I didn’t...” Which I hadn’t. He was clearly still doing his thing with other girls while we were sleeping together.
She snorted. “Not what I heard. Apparently for the last few weeks he hasn’t been with any girl. Girls were talking about making out with him, but when it came down to the dirty, he always made up an excuse and bounced. You must feel thrilled.”
Thrilled is not the word I would use for it.
“If you’ll excuse me...” I pushed through them and headed toward the cafeteria where I knew Harper would help me run off Asher’s fan club.
As I made my way in that direction, I couldn’t help but notice all the faces staring at me and whispering as I went.
“What is everyone’s problem?” I asked as I took my normal spot at the lunch table next to Harper and Tate.
“People are curious to know about the girl who stole Asher’s heart,” Harper replied.
I snorted. “You too?” I rolled my eyes as I bit into my apple.
“Oh, come on, Layla, you can’t tell me you didn’t notice the way Ash looked at you all the time.”
I shook my head and replied, “Asher can’t love anybody else until he can learn to love himself. He was amused by me. Nothing else.” I kept my voice flat.
Then Harper reached over and took my hand. “Are you okay, honey?”
I glared at her and replied sharply, “I’m. Fine.”
“Ya know I do have an in with Asher.” She winked. “I bet I can talk some sense into him.”
“Can you please just let it go, Harper?” I snapped at her before I stood up from the table and marched away.
I didn’t need Harper dwelling on my romantic life and I definitely didn’t need her to beg Asher to choose me. I wanted him to come to that conclusion on his own. If he truly wanted me, he’d be fighting for me.
But he wasn’t.
He was off in sunny California doing his own thing.
I was free from my unhealthy attraction to him. With him being gone I can actually focus on my future and move on with my life.
Sure, my heart hurt, but at least I wasn’t Gina. Just thinking about her and what I found out was tearing me apart. How did I not know anything about this? Did anyone else know? It didn’t seem like anyone did, and I wasn’t going to be the one to tell anyone. Why bring up the past?
I couldn’t be here any longer so I made my way out the front doors and found my car in the student parking lot. I was exhausted and just wanted a nap.
Tomorrow would be another day.
But tomorrow turned into an endless amount of dull, empty days that led me to graduation day.
High school would officially be over at 7:15pm today and then I would be off to art school in the fall. All alone.
Harper was going to Seattle with Tate and I was staying here in Portland. Which didn’t bother me. It would be a completely fresh new start. A place where I wouldn’t know anyone. Well, at least that’s what I hoped for.
As I stood there in my mirror and stared at myself, I couldn’t help but think about Asher. I hadn’t heard from him since the day he left: six weeks ago. And Harper, along with everyone else, stopped talking about him when I was around.
Would he be at graduation tonight? Did I even care? The huge pile of clothes on the bed behind me indicated that I did care. I have been trying to find the perfect outfit all morning and getting frustrated when nothing looked good.
So I stood in my mirror wearing the last thing I put on and didn’t care anymore. This thigh high party dress was about as sexy as I was getting.
Of course I could wear that little black number the night Asher tricked me into thinking I was with Jake, but it wasn’t an appropriate dress for the occasion. I wanted to look sexy, older, confident. Not slutty and desperate.
I finished curling my hair, slipped on some heels, and headed downstairs to meet Mom and Dillon.
Apparently mom and dad split up in Milan and I was too busy to notice because I was caught up in my own drama. Dad was still in Milan and wasn’t going to be home to watch me walk across the stage, but it was fine, I was used to his absence by now.
“Come on, Layla!” Dillon yelled up. “The ceremony doesn’t wait for you!”
I took a deep breath as I descended the stairs and found Mom and Dillon standing in the foyer waiting for me.
“Awe, you look stunning,” Mom beamed as she came over and kissed my cheeks, “and those earrings look magnificent on you!”
I smiled shyly as I scanned my eyes toward Dillon who rolled his eyes at me.
“Can we go, please?”
We all climbed into Dillon’s SUV and took off toward the high school.
I saw Harper and Tate standing by Mrs. Creed so I made my way over to them, Mom and Dillon right behind me.
“Fiona!” Mia beamed, hugging my mom. “I can’t believe our girls are all grown up and going to be on their own in just a few months.”
“Mom, please don’t start crying again,” Harper groaned.
She fanned her face, drying her tears, and I started laughing, but then Harper gave me a weird look and looked over my shoulder.
Did I turn around?
Of course, I did, but now I wish I hadn’t.
Asher Creed was walking toward us and he looked different. Somehow he looked a bit older. He was more tan and... was that a tattoo?! But it wasn’t his looks that had me glaring in his direction.
No. It was the beautiful blonde holding his hand as they walked toward us.
When he looked at me, I could see there was regret there but he quickly built his wall back up and his tough-guy manner was back.
“Oh! You did make it!” Mia beamed as she hugged her son. “It’s nice to see you again, Veronica,” she said this to the blonde.
And it made sense now why nobody talked about Asher around me anymore.
I started to back step away from them, my anxiety spiking through the roof, when I felt Tate behind me. He held onto me and gave me strength, and then Harper was right next to me as well.
She whispered, “You’re far more beautiful and smarter than Veronica will ever be.”
Yeah, but she got the guy, and I didn’t.
I felt Dillon by my side and I took a deep breath and tried to be the bigger person here. I didn’t want Asher to see that he was affecting me. I wanted him to feel a tiny ounce of what I was feeling.
“Asher,” I greeted dryly, “glad you made it.”
He eyed me but said nothing.
That’s when I stepped up to Veronica and held my hand out to her.
“I’m Layla, nice to meet you.”
Everyone stood completely still and stared at me. Even Asher.
But Veronica smiled warmly and shook my hand. “So nice to meet you, too.” She had a russian accent. Which only made her more exotic.
Fuck you, Asher, I thought to myself as I grinned at him and then stepped back to my place.
“We should hurry to our spots, yeah?” I turned and walked away quickly. I had enough strength to do that but it was wanning quickly.
We took our spots and I was nearly in the back since my last name started with an S. While I saw Asher and Harper near the front.
I almost missed my row being called because I couldn’t stop thinking about how Asher had only been gone for six weeks and all of a sudden he comes back with a girlfriend?! I was never good enough for him, was I? Who does he think he is?! I’m Layla fucking Stanford! He can’t treat me like this!!
I whipped my head in the direction of a classmate calling me. My row had stood up except for me and were making their way up to the stage. So I quickly stood up and followed suit.
After I received my diploma I found my mom and Dillon standing with the Creeds and I groaned.
“Congrats, baby sis.” Dillon hugged me and I couldn’t help but stare at Asher who was staring back at me. He was holding Veronica’s hand again but she was oblivious to what was happening around her. Thank God I didn’t fit into the dumb blonde category. Ugh.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, “but we should get going, yeah?” I directed this question to Harper and Tate.
They both smiled and nodded at me as I turned and started to walk away.
“Don’t wait up!” I called to my mom but when I looked over my shoulder I saw Asher glaring at me.
I kept my eyes on him longer than I wanted to before I finally peeled my eyes away and headed to the parking lot with Tate and Harper.
One of our classmates was throwing a huge party to celebrate and before I knew it, I was shit-faced drunk. Probably the most drunk I’ve ever been. People kept setting shots in front of me and I honestly wanted to drown out my sorrows. Seeing Asher today was almost my undoing. I thought I was doing so well with moving on from him but one look at him and I was a moth to a flame once again.
“I n-need some waterrrr...” I slurred out as I hiccuped and stood up from my spot.
I almost fell over when I stood up but Tate helped me steady my feet.
“I’m good... I’m good.” I patted his face and Harper burst out lauging.
“Let me help you, Layla.” Tate wrapped an arm around my waist and helped me in through the back door.
“I got this...”
Someone else grabbed a hold of me, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up when I heard his voice and I swear I sobered up at least a whole BAC percentage.
I looked up into Asher’s face and my knees went weak, but I didn’t fall because he held me tight to his chest. The scent of sandalwood nearly drowned me.
“Hold tight, Stanford, I’ll get you a water.” Asher pulled me toward the fridge with him while he pulled a bottle out and then he had us moving again.
When I thought he was going to bring me to the living room, he took a hard right and down a hallway with bedrooms.
He brought me into an empty one at the very end of the hallway and shut the door behind us. He set me gently at the end of the bed, opened the water, and basically shoved it in my hands.
“Drink that,” he demanded.
But instead of complying with him, I took my own route and asked, “Where’s your girlfriend?” I said girlfriend like I just ate something sour.
And Asher narrowed his eyes at me.
“She stayed at the hotel. Said she was tired.” He glared at me and then added, “Drink the water, Stanford.”
I hiccuped and started giggling.
“Ya know what’s funny to me?” I started and Asher sighed. “That you told me you don’t do the whole girlfriend thing and drag me along until I fall in love with you. Then you disappear and six weeks later you come home with a girlfriend. Hmm. Seems funny.” My words were slurring and I felt extremely tired.
But when Asher didn’t say anything, I sipped from the water and then laid down and closed my eyes. I needed sleep bad.
I felt the bed dip next to me and was only able to open my eyes for a split second and that’s when I saw Asher sitting there staring down at me. My eyes were too heavy so they immediately closed.
“Why wasn’t I good enough for you?...” I slurred out but then my mind went fuzzy and just before I fell into a deep, drunken sleep, I swear I felt Asher run his fingers across my forehead and then I was out like a light.