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Chapter 18


I didn’t remember falling asleep last night, but when I woke it was early morning. The sun barely came up over the horizon, and Asher was still fast asleep next to me.

Very quietly, I slipped out of bed and found my gown on the floor. I slipped back into it as quietly as I could, and then stopped to stare at Asher in bed.

He looked so peaceful and lovely. His tousled hair was sexy and I wanted to run my hand through it again, but I didn’t. His tattooed arms rested next to his head as the sheet came up just below his navel, the V disappeared into the sheet to what I knew laid beneath it, and my mouth watered at the memory of last night.

I turned and left the room as I headed back to my own so I could change out of the gown and hopefully get in a walk before everyone woke up.

My room was barely lit from the rising sun as I made my way in. I saw Mark asleep in the bed and when I squinted my eyes I saw two other people lying with him. Tate’s colleague and... was that the date he brought? I chuckled and shook my head. Mark was a freak!

I grabbed my bag and tip-toed into the bathroom, closing the door behind me.

The trail was quiet and the cool morning air was refreshing and I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my face; a grin put there by Asher.

Maybe if I got back in time I could slip into his bed before he woke up. I’d love to see his sleep filled eyes when he woke and found that I was still there.

But when I made it to the hot spring, I knew I wasn’t going to make it on time. I looked around and then got undressed before I slipped into the hot spring and sighed in relief.

This was amazing!!

Last night’s memories with Asher flashed through my mind again and I instinctively started touching myself, and damn did it feel good. Mix it with this hot spring water and this could work out in my favor.

Then I heard gravel crunch from footsteps as my eyes whipped wide open. I spun toward the sound while I made sure my breasts were under the water.

“H-hello?” I called out in a shakey voice.

The sound stopped, but I could still feel someone’s eyes on me.

And I was freaking out. I really should stop getting butt ass naked in the middle of the woods. Even being this far from the cabin, it was still a huge risk.

The footsteps crunched again but I couldn’t see much into the woods because the sun hadn’t risen high enough yet. I realized the footsteps were going away from me and as soon as I couldn’t hear them anymore, I jumped out of the spring and got dressed as fast as I could.

I kept my eyes peeled on my way back to the cabin, but didn’t see a soul.

That was until I finally walked into the yard and saw a few people were awake. They were enjoying their coffee on the deck and my body shook from the chill in the air. A nice cup of hot coffee was much needed.

I climbed the steps and saw all the familiar faces from last night. Then I spotted Asher’s and bee lined it toward him.

He was sitting on the couch with his feet on the coffee table, ankles crossed, while he sipped his coffee and stared into his phone.

When I sat down next to him he gave me a small smile.

“Mornin. Where’d you go off to this morning?” He kept tapping on his phone.

“Did you go for a walk in the woods by chance?” I tried to keep my voice steady but even I could hear the panic in my words.

This caused him to stop what he was doing and look at me with concern. He pulled his feet from the coffee table and turned his full attention to me as he grabbed my hands.

“You’re shaking. Are you all right? What happened? Tell me right now.”

I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. It was probably nothing.

“I’m fine. I was just out for my morning walk and I was...,” I bit my bottom lip, “I was wading nude in the hot spring and I heard footsteps and felt like someone was watching me.”

“Who was it?” He looked concerned and a bit pissed off.

The old Asher would have joked and said something stupid about me being naked, but this Asher was different. He was actually concerned about what had happened.

I shook my head. “I have no idea. I couldn’t see anyone. I could just feel them...”

He pulled me into his arms, the scent of sandalwood consuming me as I buried my face in his neck.

“Do you think it was someone from here?” I asked, sitting back as Asher kept his hands on me.

He shook his head. “I’ve been up for awhile and nobody has really been out here until just a few minuted ago. Unless one of them did go for a walk, but I didn’t see anyone.”

I nodded. I probably wouldn’t ever know who watched me this morning. It was an unsettling feeling and for the rest of our stay, I wouldn’t leave Asher’s side if I could help it.

“Can I get you some coffee?” His voice was very sympathetic and I loved how he wanted to take care of me.

I nodded. “That’d be great. Thanks.”

He kissed my hand before he stood up and went inside. I looked around and didn’t see Harper or Tate and wondered if they were still sleeping.

Mark was there as he sat down in the chair next to me.

“Morning. I saw that you went home with the brother last night.” He winked at me.

I laughed. “That I did.”

He studied me for a minute before saying, “You look happy.”

I thought about that and realized that I was indeed happy. Asher made me happy and knowing that it was my initials on his arm and not someone elses, made me even more happy.

“I am. He’s amazing.”

Mark nodded as he kept his gaze on me. “He better be good to you this time or I’ll kill him myself.” I laughed and he added, “The bride gave me a quick run down of your past with him last night after she drank too much liquor and I’m honestly surprised that you’re giving him a second chance.”

I shrugged. “I’m starting to see that he’s changed since we were kids, but don’t worry, if he hurts me, I’ll be the one to kill him.”


Someone called for him and he stood up, giving me a sympathetic smile before he walked away. I was confused by that smile. Mark didn’t know anything and I wasn’t about to tell him because it was honestly none of his business. This was between me and Asher.

Where the hell was my coffee?

I stood up and went inside toward the kitchen but I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard Asher and some girl whispering.

“I thought things were going to be different this time, Ash. I came up here because your sister invited me and made me think that you and I were going to work things out. Now I see I came here to watch you drool all over yourself for an old high school fuck?”

My heart dropped into my stomach. She was talking about me.

“I let you have your fun. Now let’s go home and I’ll forget this weekend ever happened.”

She was whispering so I couldn’t really tell who she was, but the only person that came to mind was Abby.

“I ended things for a reason,” Asher snarled. “We had a lot of fun, but I don’t want that anymore.”

“I know that now. I can give you what you want, Ash. I can give you my life and have your babies. That’s what you want isn’t it?”

He groaned. “Of course it is, but... but I don’t want that with you.”

Then there was silence. Shit. Did they hear me? There was no way! I’m holding my breath for crying out loud.

“Oh, but that blonde hooker is?”

Asher sighed. “Don’t call her that. You should leave, Abby.”

Ah-ha! So it was Abby he was talking to. What the fuck was going on here?!

“I should leave?! No. You should leave...with me. Please. Let’s go home!”

“There is no home for us!! We’re through!!” Asher’s voice was loud now and he sounded pissed. “I don’t know why my sister invited you but I certainly don’t want you here.”

“You’re an asshole.” Her voice was filled with emotion and then I heard heels click across the floor as they got quieter the farther away she walked.

I took a deep breath and went into the kitchen.

“Did you forget my coffee?” I tried to sound as normal as possible.

When I turned to look at Asher, he studied me as if he was waiting for something. He pushed away from the counter and stepped up next to me at the coffee pot.

“Sorry. I got distracted,” he finally mumbled.

“So, Abby huh?”

“There it is,” he sighed out, “You did hear then...”

I turned toward him and he studied my face. His looked like he was about to cry and I knew by the look on his face that I held all the cards in my hands.

“Why didn’t you just tell me?” I whispered. “You said you were different.”

“I am.” He sounded so desperate as he grabbed my hand. “You have to believe me! Abby and I dated for a few weeks and when I realized she wasn’t who I wanted to be with, I ended things. And now her and my sister are conspiring behind my back.”

“When did you end things?” I needed to know this answer because it would tell me so much more.

He looked a bit guilty but answered anyway, “The night before I knew I was coming here.”

I took a deep breath and just stared at him.

Then he added, “I tried to move on from you Layla, but when I talked to my mom and she said you were going to be here and that you were single... I knew my window with you would close forever if I didn’t show up here.”

Wow. This was heavy.

“So, you broke up with Abby because you knew I’d be here?”

He nodded as he held my gaze.

“I don’t know if I’m flattered or pissed off...” I stepped away from him, needing some space to think.

“Why would you be pissed off?” He asked confused.

I laughed. “Seriously? You were literally in a relationship like 72 hours ago and now you’re here with me?” I was shaking. “You haven’t changed at all...”

I turned and left the kitchen. I needed space from Asher to think. It felt like high school all over again. Would I always be his second choice? I couldn’t go to Harper because she was obviously trying to get her brother back with Abby, and I couldn’t go to Mark because he said he’d kill him if he hurt me again.

Shit. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place all over again.

I didn’t want to be in the cabin at the moment and I definitely didn’t want to run into Abby, so I made the walk down the hill toward the lodge. I knew it was early, but I crossed my fingers that the bar would be open because I could use a stiff drink right now.

To my pleasure, the bar was indeed open. Only because they serve breakfast and lunch, but whatever. As long as they had alcohol.

A few people were in there drinking coffee and talking amongst themselves as I made my way over to the bar.

“Good morning, can I interest you in our special for the day? Our chef makes the best omelets.” The bartender smiled at me.

I just glared at him. “Give me a shot of whiskey and a long island.”

He stared at me with a puzzled look but said nothing as he started on my drink order. Once it was in front of me, I downed the shot and then started on the drink.

“Layla Stanford. Are you drinking this early in the morning?”

I spun to find Harper and Asher’s mom Mia walking toward me with a smile on her face.

I returned her smile with a small one. “Hey, Mia... you know as well as I do that your son can drive us to drink.”

Mia waved the bartender down. “On that note... can you make me a bloody mary, Sugar?”

The bartender nodded and walked off as Mia sat down next to me and sighed. I can honestly say that I was surprised to see Mia drinking this early. Hell, I was surprised to see her drinking at all.

“What has my son done now?” The bartender slid the drink in front of her as she took her first greedy sip.

“What hasn’t he done?” I groaned. “Do you know who Abby is?”

She nodded. “That’s his girlfriend. Well, ex-girlfriend. They just broke up not too long ago.”

I nodded. “Well, I just found out that nice little revelation this morning.” I took a long drink from my glass before I turned to her. “I slept with your son last night, Mia, and even after learning about Abby, I don’t regret it. Does that make me a horrible person?”

Mia laughed and then shook her head. “Oh, heaven’s no, child. That just means that you’re human.” She sighed before adding, “He and Abby had a rocky relationship, to say the least. You know how Asher is with the whole girlfriend thing. He basically kept Abby around for his own personal enjoyment and when he needed a girl on his arm for an event. Hell, that’s how it’s been for years. He can’t settle down... and I think I know why.”

“Because he’s a whore?” I spit out, not regretting my words as I looked over at her.

She burst out laughing. “Well, that is definitely a good possibility, but no... it’s because he’s been holding out for one girl.” Then she nudged my arm. “That girl is you, Layla.”

I groaned and looked straight at the bar where I saw my reflection in the mirror. Then I turned back to her and asked, “If that were true, then why did he wait seven years? Seven years!”

She shook her head with a sad expression. “I can’t answer that, but I think it’s because he didn’t feel like he was good enough for you just yet.”

“And now he thinks he is? Dumping a girl and then coming here to bed me?”

She lightly laughed as she stared straight into the mirror before she replied with, “My son loves you. There’s no doubt about it. I can hear it in his voice whenever he asks about you or when Harper and I talk about you his eyes light up like a Christmas tree. Of course, he’ll never admit it, but whenever we’d tell him you became single, he became single. It was as if he was holding out for you this whole time.”

“What do I do, Mia?”

She turned back to look at me and gave me a small smile. “Follow your heart, Layla.” Then she reached over and touched my arm. “Do you love my son?”

My heart started to race and my thoughts were all jumbled, but yeah, I loved him. “Yes,” I finally replied.

“Then screw the past and move forward together. That’s all you two have now.” She took a big gulp of her drink as she faced front again.

Yeah. She was completely right. It was no secret that our past was dark and ugly, but it didn’t mean that our future had to be.

I finished my drink as fast as I could and hopped down from my stool. “I have some things I need to go say to your son now.” I leaned up and kissed Mia’s cheek. “Thanks for the wise words, Ma. Love you.”

She grinned. “Love you, too, daughter-in-law to be,” she said with a wink.

A stupid grin spread across my cheeks. That had a nice little ring to it, didn’t it?

I ran all the way back up to the cabin and went in search of Asher but he wasn’t in the main living area and nobody had seen him. So, I stormed up the steps and barged into his room.

He was lying on his bed over the covers as he looked down into his phone when I barged in.

I was completely out of breath and he whipped his head in my direction. A look of surprise flashed through his gaze when he saw that it was me. My heart pounded as my nerves took over.

“You!” I pointed as I slammed the door. I put my hands on my hips and glared at him.

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