SEVEN YEARS LATER
I hadn’t seen or heard a single word from Asher Creed in seven years. Seven long, grueling, lonely years, and when Harper or her mom would bring him up, I politely asked them to change the subject. So, of course, after asking them a few times they learned that Asher was still a touchy subject around me so they stopped talking about him altogether.
The only way I knew anything about him and his life was over the internet. I didn’t get much other than the professional photo’s from his skateboarding career and a few shots from the paparazzi. Asher kept his life a secret. He didn’t even have social media. He was like a ghost in the celebrity world. Nobody even knew where he came from, other than his managers and agents, of course, but his fans were clueless about the details of his life.
I tortured myself quite often when I sat in my office all alone in the evening hours and searched for Asher online. At this very moment, I was staring at the most recent photo the paparazzi snagged of him and I couldn’t stop staring.
Asher had grown up. He was a man now and not a boy. His arms were covered in tattoos and there was something about his face that looked older to me. I think it was his eyes and those muscles! Look at him! As I sat here and stared at the photo, my heart pitter-pattered.
I really have to stop doing this to myself, but as I kept gawking at his photo in front of me, I stop scolding myself. I can look, right?
I jumped at the sound of my name and looked up at my boss who had poked his head into my door.
“Got a minute?”
I quickly closed out of Asher’s photo and smiled up at him. “Sure, come on in.”
He shut the door behind him and took the seat in front of my desk as he grinned at me and I knew a new job was coming up. “I want you to find someone who will be willing to do our next sports campaign.”
I groaned externally and my boss cocked an eyebrow at me, then I replied, “You do realize that I’m the talent recruiter here, right? I don’t deal with that side of things. I don’t find models.”
He grinned at me. “Models have a talent. So you’ll find me a model before the next shoot.”
“What about Mark?” I blurted out. He was a very handsome man and loved being photographed.
“Your boyfriend? He’s already done several shoots for us and even though he’s great at what he does, I want a new face.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I corrected then sighed. “How long do I have?”
“One month,” he answered as he stood up. “Preferably someone whose face is known.”
Great. How am I going to pull that one off? I recruited singers, songwriters, and even artists. I didn’t deal with models. They were tricky and I only had one month to find one?
“Sure thing, Tyler.” I went back to my computer and finished up my work for the day.
The boss stood up then and left my office. But before I could finish my work I got a text from Harper.
H: hey! you and Mark still joining us for dinner tonight?
L: we’ll be there.
We were meeting Tate and Harper for dinner to finish discussing their wedding plans for this weekend. It was adorable that her and Tate stayed together through college and he finally popped the question last Christmas. They were so in love with each other and even though I was extremely happy for my best friend, I couldn’t help but look at my own life and how boring and lonely it was.
Sure, I had Mark that I hung out with most of the time, but we weren’t together. We tried to date a year ago and had slept together a few times, but it just didn’t feel right between us. He must have felt it too because when I told him that it wasn’t going to work between us, he was totally cool about it and we continued to stay friends. He even lives with me. Rent in Portland can be brutal, so with Mark’s cut it really helped out.
I finished my work for the day, shut my computer down, and headed down to the parking garage to my car and took off toward downtown to meet up with Harper and Tate.
Mark was standing outside for me when I arrived and greeted me with a small kiss on the cheek with his hand on the small of my back as we headed inside the restaurant.
“Work go good today?” Mark asked, grinning down at me.
“Work was fine. How was the shoot today?”
Mark was a male model. A very handsome, rugged, exotic, male model. He got jobs quickly and always stayed busy.
“The shoot was great. Did you know...?”
He was cut off by a screeching Harper as she nearly knocked me over when she threw her arms around my neck.
“Hey, Harp.” I laughed, wrapping my arms around her as well. “Had a few cocktails without me?”
“Just a few,” she laughed as she leaned back and ran her hand through Mark’s hair. “Hi!”
Mark chuckled. “Hey, Harp.”
Harper was obsessed with Mark’s long hair and had a weird fetish of running her hands through it every time she saw him, and it was especially worse when she had a few drinks in her.
“Hey, guys.” Tate laughed, hugged me, and then shook Mark’s hand. “Our table is ready.”
We followed them back to our table and took our seats. The waitress brought over menus and grabbed our drink order before she disappeared.
Harper had finally calmed down a bit as she started right into wedding chat.
“So, your boss is okay with actually giving you a few days off?” Harper asked me. “Because I will be pissed if my maid of honor has to dip out because her boss is an asshole.”
Mark leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I need to use the restroom, I’ll be right back.” I smiled and nodded at him as he stood up and walked away.
Then I laughed at Harper. “Yes, I have a few days off. I told him the wedding was out of town and being hosted at a resort in the mountains. Don’t worry. I won’t ditch out on you.”
“Good. I gave you and Mark the other honeymoon suite in our building. You cool with that?” She eyed me speculatively.
Mark and I hadn’t slept together or in the same bed in months, but we lived together and were comfortable with one another. Besides, we were adults.
“I’m sure that will be fine.” Then my mind drifted to the one question that had been gnawing at me for weeks. A question that shouldn’t matter, but it did.
“I don’t know if he’ll be there.” I whipped my head up to Harper and glared at her. I didn’t accidentally ask the question out loud, did I? “I saw it on your face,” she answered my silent mind chatter. “He hasn’t RSVP’d and Tate said he hasn’t talked to any of the guys in a few months.”
I shrugged and sipped my wine when the waitress set our drinks down. “So, you have the dinner finally all figured out?” I had to change the subject and fast.
Mark joined us and Harper stopped talking about Asher. We started talking about the final details once again. Mark and Tate were off in their own little world talking manly things and I was thankful for the distraction. I didn’t want to talk about Asher. I secretly hoped that he would be there for his sister, but I also secretly hoped he wouldn’t show up at all.
That night, Mark and I were watching TV as he rubbed my feet.
“Hey, do you know any hot, well-known, male models by chance?” I asked with a smirk.
He chuckled. “You’re looking at one, aren’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but I need to find a new face for our next campaign. I offered you up, but Tyler wants someone else.”
He nodded as he dug his thumbs into my sore feet. I threw my head back and moaned.
“I can think of a few. I’ll give them a call when we get back from the mountains,” he answered.
“Awesome. You’re a real lifesaver, ya know that?”
He winked at me. “I know.”
We finished our show and then went to our separate bedrooms to fall asleep. Tomorrow was going to be a hectic day.
And we were going into the mountains.
I haven’t really seen the resort Harper and Tate picked out but I hoped it wasn’t a total shit storm. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow when we get there.
The resort was breathtaking. It looked like a photo you’d see in travel magazines to exotic places. They did a good job.
The snow covered mountain made the perfect backdrop and the air was crisp and fresh. But surprisingly I wasn’t cold.
When I got out of the car, I was greeted by Tate who helped me get my things from the trunk. Mark stretched when he got out and then came around to help Tate get the bags.
I took my sweet time making it inside. It was just so gorgeous out here. The lush pine trees smelled amazing and as I walked the gravel crunched under my shoes. It was so peaceful. I could definitely get used to this.
That’s when I noticed a steaming hot tub on the back dack with better views of the mountains and I couldn’t wait to relax in there later.
Most of the wedding guests were staying at the lodge just down the hill, but the wedding party got this beautiful place and I was going to treat it like a mini-vacation. Tyler didn’t give me nearly enough time off so I was going to take full advantage of this long weekend.
“Yay! You’re here!” Harper’s voice drifted toward me as I spun to smile at her, watching her run down the deck stairs.
“Finally,” I laughed, “that’s a pretty long drive.”
She shrugged. “It was worth it though, wasn’t it?”
“Definitely.” We hooked our arms and headed inside.
The interior was even more breathtaking. It reminded me of a log cabin with huge vaulted ceilings and floor to ceiling windows looking out toward the mountains. The stairs leading up to the suites had a balcony that over-looked the living space down below where Harper and I currently stood. A large fireplace sat at one end of the room and I could see myself curling up with a nice glass of wine and enjoying the warmth from the fireplace. Hell, I might even do that tonight yet.
“Let me show you your room,” she shrieked as she pulled me toward the steps.
We climbed the stairs and she pulled me down until we were at the end of the hallway when she whipped open a door and pulled me inside.
“Wow.” Was the only thing that I could say.
The room was enormous! It was probably the size of my entire apartment combined. And in the middle of the room was a huge king-sized bed with windows out to the mountains. There was a fireplace in here too and I thanked the heavens for that. Now I didn’t have to share the fireplace downstairs.
Then she showed me the master bath where I saw my made of honor dress hanging up for me already, and smiled. The room was also breathtaking.
“This place is amazing, Harp.” I smiled at her. “You and Tate couldn’t have found a more perfect spot.”
“Thanks. We think so too.” She hugged me and then added, “Why don’t you get settled and freshened up from the drive and then meet us downstairs. The rest of the wedding party should be here soon and we’re all going to have some cocktails and relax for the night.”
“Sounds amazing.” I smiled at her as she excitedly bounced out of the bathroom and then out of my room.
I went back toward the bed and just sat down when the door opened and Mark entered with our bags in tow.
“Oh! Sorry!” I jumped up and helped him with the bags.
“No worries.” He took a deep breath as he looked around. “This place is amazing!”
“Right?” Then I sat back down on the bed. “I think we’re sharing. You cool with that?” I had forgotten to tell him that little detail.
He only shrugged. “Fine with me.” Then he walked over to some french doors and opened them up to our own personal balcony, the cool crisp air cascading in.
I laid down and breathed in the air. I really just needed a few minutes to relax. I had been working so much lately that I never had time to relax.
“I’ll let you get some rest, meet you downstairs?” Mark’s voice drifted toward me but I was already almost asleep as I mumbled into my arm.
When I woke up it was dark outside.
Shit. How long had I been sleeping?
I heard laughing and light music coming from the balcony door as I pushed off the bed and made my way over. I stepped out into the cool night air and looked down at the deck below.
There were about twenty people here and they were all drinking, laughing, and having a good time.
Harper was going to kill me.
I quickly went back inside and went into the bathroom to freshen up. My makeup was still perfect, so I only needed to fluff my hair a bit. Then I grabbed a light jacket and headed downstairs toward the wedding party.
When I stepped out I saw the night sky and all the stars covering it like sparkles. I stopped dead in my tracks to look up at them. I had never seen the sky so beautiful in my life.
I watched Mark walk toward me as he wrapped an arm around my waist and held out a glass of wine for me.
“There you are, sleepyhead.”
I groaned. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to sleep that long.”
“You must have needed it. Come on.” Then he pulled me toward the bar where most of the wedding party stood. “Here, you have to try this.”
Mark slid a shot in front of me and I could smell the strong fruity smell coming from it, but then I smelled a hint of sandalwood for a split second before it disappeared and my hands shook.
But I grabbed the shot, threw it back, and slammed the glass onto the bar before I sucked in a breath. Holy hell, it was burning all the way down.
Mark burst out laughing as he slid my glass of wine back in front of me.
“Hey, Stanford,” a raspy voice came from behind me and I felt all the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up and my blood run cold.
Holy fucking shit.