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Chapter 20


My heart pounded as we made our way back through the woods toward the cabin. Someone was still in these woods watching us; I could feel it. The feeling of knowing someone was watching was unsettling and I just wanted to get back to the cabin and lock ourselves back in his bedroom where unseen eyes couldn’t watch us.

The wedding party had dwindled down to just a handful of people and they were all sitting on the deck. The outdoor fireplace crackled from a fresh log and as we joined them, Asher grabbed my hand and held it tightly.

I could feel Asher’s anger rolling off of him and I had no idea what he was about to do.

“Who the fuck was just in the woods?” He growled as he glared at every single person on the deck. They froze in their spots and stopped speaking amongst themselves with pure shock on their faces.

Hell, even I felt scrutinized by him and I wasn’t the one he was yelling at. He still held my hand tightly as he pulled me closer to his side.

It was as if none of them could speak. They almost didn’t dare speak, but their heads shook and I knew they were being honest. Mark stepped forward then with concern on his features.

“What’s going on, Asher?” His eyes moved between Asher and me.

“Someone was just in the woods watching us, and I wanted to know who the hell it was!” Asher fumed. “Which one of you was it?” He stared each one of them down.

Again, they all shook their heads as fear and shock spread over their faces. They clearly had no idea what Asher was talking about, and part of me knew that it wasn’t anyone here. But if it wasn’t anyone here, then who the hell was it?

“Hey, I know that you’re pissed off right now, but I think you’re going about this in the wrong way,” Mark stated as softly as he could. “What did you see?”

I looked to Asher and saw that his jaw was tight before I turned my gaze to Mark. “I saw someone watching me the other night in the woods when I went on a walk. Then again this morning and now they were there again. We couldn’t see who it was and Asher wasn’t able to catch them when he ran after them.” I shook and Asher released my hand to wrap his arm around my shoulders.

Mark looked horrified. “Who the hell would watch you in the woods?” He stepped closer as he reached out to me. “Are you all right, Layla?”

But it was clear that Asher didn’t like him getting too close to me as he pulled me tighter against his side. Mark looked wounded but didn’t say a word.

“Does she look all right?” Asher growled. “Who was in the woods? We don’t give a shit what you saw, we just want to know who was out there. If it was by accident and you stumbled upon us...fine, but please,” he paused and glared at the guests again, “just tell us if it was you.”

Nobody said a word because it wasn’t one of them out in the woods.

I tugged on Asher’s shoulder. “Let’s just go inside. Nobody from the wedding was out there. I just want to go inside now.” I couldn’t help but feel like someone was still watching us from the woods and wanted to go in.

Asher finally looked down at me and nodded as he pulled me away from the guests. They watched us with fear etched on their faces as we headed inside. Now they knew there was a creeper in the woods and probably wouldn’t feel safe either, and they probably weren’t.

I felt chilled to the bone from being cold and I shook from being so damn nervous.

“Babe, are you okay?” Asher ran his hands down my arms as he tried to warm me up. He stared into my eyes and inhaled a deep breath. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

I nodded but said nothing. What could I say? There was a creeper on the loose and I hated that I didn’t know who it was. I leaned into his chest and inhaled his familiar sandalwood scent and closed my eyes before I wrapped my arms around his chest. He could say those things all he wanted but come tomorrow morning, I would be heading back to Seattle with Mark and he was going back to San Clemente, California. We hadn’t had that talk yet, but at the same time, I didn’t have anything to worry about when I went home, right? It was probably just a local weirdo who knew about the hot springs too and watched from a distance.

“Do you want a shower?” He asked as he held me tighter and kissed the top of my head.

“Yeah, that sounds nice.” I leaned back to smile up at him. I didn’t want him to think I was this delicate flower who was afraid of a shadow in the woods, but it was difficult to hide my feelings from him sometimes.

“Come on, let’s get you warmed up.” Asher pulled me toward his bathroom and turned on the shower. “The clean towels are in the linen closet. Can I get you anything else?”

I stared at his features and felt my heart thump. He was being so sweet and protective, but I didn’t want him to leave. I really didn’t want to be alone right now.

When I didn’t say a word, he went to leave the bathroom but I reached out and grabbed his wrist. He stopped and looked at me over his shoulder as his gaze held mine.

I slowly stepped up to his chest and stared into his grey eyes as my hands slid up his chest beneath his shirt. His warm flesh and twitching abs made my lips turn up into a smirk. I loved the feeling of him beneath my hands and kept sliding up until they were resting on his pectorals.

“Shower with me,” I whispered.

He looked down into my eyes with a question on his brows, but it was clear he wanted to. A flash of darkness ran over his eyes and I knew then that he would be joining me.

Without hesitation, I slid my hands back down his chest and lifted his shirt up and over his head. My eyes fell to his torso and how fucking sexy he was. The ink spread across his skin like it was meant to be there and my eyes stopped on my initials on his arm. I wondered when he had gotten that done because those two letters had started to fade.

He didn’t move or say a word as I traveled down to his jeans. I unbuttoned them and tugged at the zipper before I hooked my thumbs into the top and slowly pushed them down. His gaze held mine as his mouth slightly opened. I wanted to scream with excitement at how calm Asher was as I undressed him. I was in complete control and I felt like a boss.

Asher lifted his feet out of his jeans as I stood back and appreciated the man standing gloriously naked in front of me. My mouth watered at the sight of him and I wanted to reach out and touch him, but I didn’t.

Our gazes locked on each other as I slowly undressed right in front of him. I was careful to go slow and sultry to tease him. He ran his perfect teeth over his bottom lip as his eyes left mine and trailed over my body. I heard him let out a small growl and I knew he enjoyed the view of my naked body just as much as I enjoyed his.

The room filled with hot steam as I reached for his hand and pulled him into the shower behind me. The hot water cascaded down our bodies as I let out a moan and leaned my head back under the stream. This felt so fucking good.

I closed my eyes and relished in the moment when I felt Asher grip my throat. My eyes whipped open and straight into his hooded eyes that were filled with so much passion and ecstasy. His hand slid up to my jaw before he pulled me to him, and I went willingly.

His lips crashed onto mine as he lightly bit my bottom lip. I instinctively opened for him as his tongue slid against mine. I moaned into his mouth as he claimed me while his groan vibrated against my own lips.

My hands slid up his arms, over his shoulders, and tangled in his hair as I pulled him close. This kiss affected me all over, especially between my legs as I met his carnal desire.

He broke the kiss and left me breathless as he leaned his forehead against mine and stared into my eyes. There was something about his gaze that left me panting and weak.

“Asher,” I breathed as he shushed me by capturing my mouth again.

This time his hands slid down my body until he cupped my ass and lifted me. My legs wrapped around his waist as he pressed me against the warm shower wall. His tongue tasted, claimed, and danced with mine and I let him.

My skin was flushed and I knew I was slick between my legs. When it came to Asher Creed, I was always ready and hungry for him.

His solid erection pressed against my aching sex as I let out a breathy moan. It was as if he knew exactly where to thrust and press against me. The head of his dick pressed against my clit with each glide and I moaned into the kiss as my nails dug into his back. This honestly couldn’t feel any better than it did.

He pulled back as I whimpered into his mouth at the absence between my legs. But he adjusted and pressed against my opening before he pushed into me. I whimpered into his mouth again as he gripped my ass and dug his fingers into my flesh.

When he began to thrust in and out of me at a feverish pace, I broke the kiss and threw my head back. I hit the wall and moaned with each thrust. My body climbed to its climax and I wasn’t going to be able to hold on much longer.

Asher slid one hand up my body as he gripped my throat and my body reacted instantly. My pussy squeezed him tightly as my mouth fell open.

“Fuck,” he groaned out as he slammed harder into me.

His hand gripped my throat a bit harder as he leaned forward and scraped his teeth on my jaw. He lightly nibbled me there and it was enough to push me over the edge. My walls gripped him like a vice as my orgasm ripped through my entire body.

Asher let out a guttural moan as he fucked me harder and faster until he found his own release. I could feel how much he worshiped my body with his motions and gaze. I became wetter between my legs and knew I soaked his thighs as we both came; harder than I ever had before.

We were both panting as he slowed his thrusts to a stop. He lightly kissed my lips and set me back down on my feet before he pumped some soap into his hands and winked at me.

“Turn around. Let me wash you.”

I turned and felt his hands gently guide over my hot skin as I closed my eyes and savored his hands on my body. He could be gentle and rough all in a five-minute span and it made my heart swoon. Asher Creed was so different and I couldn’t wait to see what the future held for us.

After we both washed each other, Asher got out and dried off while I stayed under the hot spray a bit longer. I couldn’t help but wonder what this weekend meant to Asher. Tomorrow morning approached faster than I wanted it to, but its arrival was inevitable. We had to figure out what comes next and it terrified me.

I slipped out of the shower and dried off as I overheard Asher speaking to someone on the phone in the other room. I tried not to eavesdrop, I really did, but I couldn’t help it.

“Sounds good, brother. I’ll be leaving here in the morning. I should be home mid-afternoon, but I can meet you at the compound before I head home.”

Who was he talking to? And I couldn’t help but notice how he spoke about leaving in the morning with no trepidation in his voice. Did that mean he had no quarrels about leaving and returning to his life? Would he return to Abby too? No, he wouldn’t do that. The old Asher might, but this was a new Asher.

When I didn’t hear his voice anymore, I busied myself in the bathroom and acted as if I hadn’t heard a thing. I slipped back into my clothes, quickly ran a comb through my hair, and went back into the bedroom.

Asher was shirtless on the bed as he stared into his phone. My body reacted to his nakedness again and I internally cursed for allowing myself to be so affected by him.

“There must be some important stuff on that thing if you’re staring at it all the time,” I joked, trying to lighten the mood.

He grinned and tossed his phone onto the bed next to him as he sat up and lunged forward to grab me. I nearly tripped as he pulled me between his legs when he sat back down. I giggled as I steadied myself against his shoulders.

“Well, I’d love to stare at you all the time, but let’s be realistic here,” he mumbled as his face pressed between my breasts. “You smell amazing.”

I giggled like an idiot again. If he even knew what his scent did to me, he would be ravaging me all over again right here and right now.

“Who were you talking to?” I blurted out as I closed my eyes. Why did I have to ask that? It was his own business and I shouldn’t’ be sticking my nose where it didn’t belong.

“My manager,” he replied right away with no hesitation.

His manager. That meant he would be going right back to work when he got home tomorrow. What was I expecting to happen? That he would come back to Seattle with me? That we’d play house and forget about our own lives? We were two completely different people now and I had to remember that.

“You okay?” He leaned back and looked up at me when I didn’t say anything.

I looked down into his eyes and felt the tears forming in the back of my eyes. No, I couldn’t let him see my weakness right now. I didn’t want to be that pathetic girl that cried over a guy and made him feel guilty for going back to his own life. I didn’t have the right to make him choose me over his career; a career that took him years to build.

I pushed away from him and stepped back as I tried to look anywhere but at him.

“I’m fine. Why do you ask?” I lied as a nervous laugh left my mouth, but I wasn’t fooling anyone.

He stood up and came toward me. My heart started to pound in my chest and I knew the conversation I was trying to avoid was going to happen, but maybe I can avoid it again.

“Babe.” He reached out as I stepped back.

“I’m thirsty. Are you thirsty? I’m going to go grab a beer.” I shoved my hands into my back pockets and tried to calm my shaking hands.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” he demanded as he stepped even closer. But I stepped back and pressed flat against the door. I reached behind me and grabbed the handle but his eyes followed my actions before he stepped right up and placed his hand on the door. “Why are you trying to get away from me?”

I nervously giggled. “I’m not trying to get away from you. I just want a b-beer.” Great. Now I was stuttering.

“This is about tomorrow, isn’t it?” He studied my face as I tried to keep my eyes down, but he grabbed my chin and forced me to look up at him. “You’re not grabbing that beer until after we’ve talked. We might both need one afterward.”

I stared into his eyes as my heart thundered in my chest. We might both need one afterward? I didn’t like the sound of that as I took a deep breath and slowly nodded. It was now or never.

“What happens now?” I finally blurted out as my courage rejoined the party.

He stared into my eyes for a long moment before he lightly shrugged. “I honestly have no idea.” He pushed away from me and the door as he slid a hand through his hair. “I want you to come with me.” But the way he said it sounded panicked as if he were just saying the first thing that came to his mind before thinking it through.

I laughed. “I can’t come with you, Asher. What am I going to do in California? My job is in Seattle.” I studied his changing face as it went from panic to pure confusion to knowing. “You can come with me,” I added.

Now he was the one laughing. “My whole world, my whole life, my whole career is in California, Layla.” He almost sounded annoyed over what I had suggested. “Your career can be done wherever you are, why not in Cali? Hell, you’ll probably be more successful in Cali.”

Did he just insult me? Did he not think I was successful in Seattle? Why? Because it wasn’t as big and glamorous as California? Well, fuck him!

“That was really mean to say,” I blurted.

He cocked an eyebrow at me. “What did I say that was mean? You know that I’m right.”

I took a deep breath. “Has it ever occurred to you that I love my job because of where it’s at? I could care less about money and success.”

“That’s easy for you to say being a trust-fund baby and all.” He grabbed his phone from the bed when it began to ring, but his words sent me into a rage I hadn’t felt since we were kids.

He stared at his phone, clearly wanting to answer it, but I smacked it out of his hands. It went flying across the room and hit the wall with a thud.

“What the hell?!” He began before I shoved him. He stumbled back a few steps before he steadied himself and glared at me. “What is wrong with you?” He snapped.

“With me?!” I shrieked. “What is wrong with you?! How dare you call me a trust-fund baby! You haven’t been in my life at all for the last seven years, yet you act like you know me! You don’t know anything about me anymore, Asher, so don’t you dare stand there and pretend like you do. You… you...asshole!”

I visibly shook as rage filled me and all he did was stand there and stare at me.

“You’re so selfish! You always have been! I was finally coming to terms that you weren’t in my life anymore and then you show up this weekend out of the blue and totally cast me under your spell again with no regard for me whatsoever!” He started to say something but I held up my hand to stop him as I continued, “This weekend was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but it was just that: a weekend. We both live completely different lives and it would never work out between us.”

Hearing those words finally come out made them hit home. They were completely true no matter how much they hurt or how much I wanted them to be false.

“I’m only selfish when it comes to you, Layla, can’t you see that?!” He stepped toward me as I took a step back. “This weekend was amazing; the best I’ve had in years and I don’t want that to end. What do I have to do to keep you in my life, Layla?” His tone went soft as his eyes swam with unshed tears.

“If you truly loved me and wanted me in your life, you wouldn’t have to ask me that question, Asher.”

He didn’t say a word as we stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment. I couldn’t stand here any longer when I knew that our departure was inevitable. Just when I thought Asher Creed was mine again, it was all coming to an end like a douse of ice cold water on a hot summer day. I turned and left the room before I broke down in tears in front of him. I lost Asher Creed all over again, and it hurt like hell.

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