ASHER

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Chapter 23

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

I let out a breath after I finished telling Asher everything that I needed to tell him, and by the look on his face, I knew he wasn’t taking this well. My heart pounded in my chest and I stared into his eyes hoping he’d say something, anything.

“He... he was at your apartment? He knows where you live?” He sounded completely horrified, and it mirrored how I felt.

I nodded, biting my lower lip. “Yeah, and I don’t know what else he knows...”

Now Asher looked more furious than before as he stepped away from me and started pacing back and forth, his hand going through his hair as he sighed out.

“Why didn’t you call me?” He finally asked as he turned to stare at me, scolding me with his glare.

“We weren’t exactly talking, Asher, and I didn’t think you’d give two shits after I walked out on you.” I swallowed, a lump forming in my throat, knowing that I should have called him but I just didn’t have the guts to do it. Not to mention I didn’t have his number either.

“Upset at you or not, Layla, if you’re in danger, I want to know!” He cursed under his breath. “What the hell?! Have you contacted the police?”

I shook my head, not saying a word.

“I think we should...” He was quieter now, searching my face, and not pacing back and forth anymore.

I nodded, knowing he was right, but then the door opened and someone stuck their head in. It was a guy I hadn’t seen before and he was clearly looking between us with a curious look.

Asher spun to look at him with a scowl on his face. “We’re in the middle of something here, Alex, what do you need?” Asher sounded and looked irritated.

“Sorry, Ash, I was just wondering if you could move your car to the back lot? We’ve got some people coming in and...”

Asher cut him off by throwing his keys to this Alex kid. “Move it for me, ’kay?”

The kid looked scared and a bit intimidated around Asher and I didn’t know why. Was Asher that big of an asshole to people? Sure he was famous, but that was no excuse for treating people poorly. Then Asher completely surprised me and changed gears.

“Hey, Alex.” Alex stopped and looked back up at Asher. “You’re doing a good job, kid. I’m not upset with you, just having a rough morning.” He winked and gave him a thumbs up. “We’ll get you some board time today, how does that sound?”

Alex’s face lit up like a Christmas tree as he vigorously nodded. “That sounds amazing, thanks, Ash.”

Then Alex was out of there like a flash of lightning, the door closing behind him.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“That’s Alex. He’s an intern, but the kid can seriously skate. I’ve been thinking about working with him to get him sponsored and on the team. Tristan doesn’t like the idea of a new-comer coming in and taking over the spotlight, but I don’t care about that anymore. I’m getting older and the spotlight doesn’t hold it’s appeal to me anymore,” Asher sat down on the couch and sighed out, “We going to call the police, Layla?”

I slowly nodded and began walking toward him but I didn’t make it to the couch before an enormously loud explosion sound echoed through the room, the walls rattling, and I fell to the ground.

“Oh my God! What was that?!” I shrieked, covering my ears as panic set in.

Asher had jumped to his feet and came toward me in protective mode. “Tristan!” Asher called loudly for his manager. “I’m going to go find out what that was, stay here okay?”

But I didn’t like the idea of being left alone so I crawled up to my knees and finally stood. “No, I’m coming with you.”

He clearly didn’t want to argue with me and waste time so he nodded, grabbed my hand, and we left the room and started down the hallway.

There was nobody around, but from the windows in the conference rooms, you could see black smoke. So it was an explosion? But what blew up?

“Get back!” Tristan screamed from down the hallway, running in our direction. “Get back in the fucking room!”

Asher froze in his spot, squeezing my hand, and I felt my heart slamming against my chest cavity. Then before I knew what was happening Asher had turned around, his arms wrapped around my waist, and pushed me back toward the room we had just come from.

When we were in the room, Tristan slammed the door shut and locked it before he grabbed the end of the couch and pulled it toward the door, blocking it. My heart really pounded now. What the hell was going on? And why was he blocking our exit?

“Tristan, talk to me,” Asher demanded, letting go of my hand to walk up to Tristan to grab his attention.

Tristan was frantically running around the room looking for something and kept shoving Asher’s hand off of his shoulder.

“Tristan!!” Asher shouted, finally grabbing Tristan’s attention as he spun toward Asher with horrified eyes.

“We need to call the cops,” he whispered, tears filling his eyes. “There was an explosion.”

“Well, obviously, but what the fuck was it? What’s going on Tristan?!” Asher was demanding more answers, questions I had in my own head but too afraid to speak, and Tristan wasn’t providing us the answers.

Tristan pulled his phone from his pocket and began dialing but cursed and threw his phone against the wall. “No fucking service! Check yours!”

But Asher crossed his arms across his chest and glared at Tristan. “Not until you tell me what’s going on! I need to know what’s going on.”

Tristan sighed, looked at me for a moment, then back at Asher as he replied, “Your car exploded, Asher.”

I felt all the blood drain from my face as my knees went weak and I dropped to the chair just behind me.

“Alex went to move it, I guess, and as soon as he started it it went off like a box of fucking TNT.” Tristan’s voice was frantic now. “I was about to run out and investigate with the others and call the cops but thought it would be better if I came inside. But I don’t have any fucking service. Please. Check your phones!”

Asher finally pulled his phone out and I did the same, but when I looked at the screen, I saw that my service bars at the top were all gone and had an X over the top.

“Nothing,” I whispered out, turning my phone toward Asher as he scowled when he saw my screen.

“I’ve got nothing either,” Asher sighed out before shoving his phone back into his pocket.

“Fuck!” Tristan shouted as he began to pace the room again.

His pacing was making me more nervous and anxious than I already was and I wanted to yell at him to stop but my fear was holding my voice back. As I sat there in this chair, I felt my knee jumping up and down and my hands were shaking. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on out there. Had anyone been able to successfully call the cops? Was anyone else hurt? Was Alex dead? That last thought made me cringe. That poor kid. And finally the question that I had tried to ignore came roaring its ugly head. Was this linked to my stalker? Had he found me?

But, how was that possible? I took a private jet here and I doubt the airport crew would tell a random stranger where the plane was headed, right? If it was my stalker, we were in trouble.

“I have a landline in my office, we can get over there and try to call out. If all else fails, at least my office is safer than this room. There are no windows and the door is reinforced steel, only a bulldozer is tearing that thing down once it’s been locked,” Tristan said from his side of the room as he ran towards the other door in the room. The door I had no idea what was on the other side.

“That sounds like a good idea.” Asher came to me and held out his hand. “Come on, I won’t let anything happen to you.”

I vigorously nodded and placed my hand in his but just as I stood up I heard gunshots and once again I was a shaking mess. I let out a squeal and pressed myself into Asher’s side as he wrapped his arm tightly around me.

“Were those gunshots?!” Asher cried out, obviously he was as affected as I felt.

Tristan nodded. “Yeah, they came from the front of the building. We need to move now or we might not be able to.”

Move?! Was he crazy?! There was a shooter in the building and he wanted to leave this room?

“Asher,” I breathed out, my nerves clearly on edge.

“Ssh, I got you babe. Nothing is going to happen to us, I promise.” Then he looked at Tristan and added, “What’s the plan?”

Tristan went to the mysterious door and slowly opened it as I watched him poke his head out slowly and look around.

“It looks clear. We need to move fast and stay low just in case they see us from the viewing glass.” Tristan looked back at us. “We can make it if we hurry.”

Asher pulled me towards the door and right behind Tristan and I thought I was going to pass out. I had never been in a situation like this in my life and I was terrified. What happens if we don’t make it to the office? What happens if the shooter spots us? My mind was going a million miles per second and it was making me dizzy.

Asher squeezed me harder and kissed my temple. “I promise nothing will happen to you.” And I trusted his words.

I nodded. “Okay, let’s do this,” I whispered out as I tried to gather what strength I had left in me to make the venture out into the unknown.

Tristan had opened the door wider for us and that’s when I saw what was on the other side. It was a huge indoor skate park where they must have practiced. But I hated that it was wide open. If the shooter could see into the park, we were screwed, there wasn’t anything to hide behind.

“Remember, stay low and quick. My office is just there.” He pointed across the park and I groaned. Of course it had to be on the complete opposite side away from us.

Tristan took off first, crouching and moving quickly as I watched him jump over the edge of the ramp and disappear. Now it made sense how we were going to make it over there unseen. If we stayed down and behind the ramps, the shooter couldn’t see us from the viewing glass.

“You ready?” Asher asked as he looked down at me. “I’ll be right behind you, just follow Tristan and everything he does, okay?”

I nodded and slowly walked to the door and then took off running into the park and slid down the ramp where I came face to face with Tristan. Then a second later, Asher was right there with us.

“Alright, we stay along the bottom of the ramps, out of sight from the windows and we’ll make it. One at a time,” Tristan whispered.

Then we heard more gunshots and someone screaming off in the distance and I jumped, closing my eyes, and feeling my entire body shake with fear.

“Fuck,” Tristan cursed, “we need to move guys.”

I peeled my eyes open to find Tristan crouched low and ran to the next ramp. Then he spun to look at us as he motioned for me to follow and I did. I don’t know where the strength came from but I stayed low and ran as fast as my bent legs would let me. Asher was right behind me again.

We did this a few more times until we reached the other side of the park and crouched behind the last ramp.

“Alright, now we need to climb up and my office will be right there. I’ll go first and make sure the coast is clear before you guys come up.” Tristan took a deep breath and then we watched him climb up and nearly army crawl to a closed door. He opened it and hid behind the wall before he poked his head back out and looked in the direction of the windows.

“It’s clear. Come on.”

Asher helped lift me up as I grabbed the top of the ramp and hoisted myself up and full out ran into the office, my heart nearly pounding out of my chest. I made it. I was safe.

Then there were more gunshots but this time they were closer.

“Fuck,” Tristan cursed as I watched him hold his hand up to tell Asher to wait as he looked towards the windows.

“What’s going on?!” I whisper yelled, my heart pounding even harder if that were possible. The shooter was obviously too close for Asher to join us and that made my anxiety spike.

“The shooter. He’s looking in here,” Tristan whispered, still holding a hand up to tell Asher to wait as he held up his other hand to tell me to be quiet.

I didn’t like this one bit.

Then the unthinkable happened and I heard a door creak open from outside the office and then I watched Tristan curse under his breath as he slowly backed away from the door and very slowly shut the door.

Alarm bells started ringing in my head and I began to panic. Asher! He was still out there!

“What are you doing?!” I exclaimed.

“Ssh, he’ll hear you!” His brow was creased and he was glaring at me.

“Open the door right now! He can still make it in!” I was about to lose my mind and started for the door but Tristan grabbed me and held me tightly to his chest as he covered my mouth.

“Shut the fuck up! Asher is smart, he’ll be fine! But if you don’t shut up we’ll all be dead!” Tristan whisper yelled in my ear as cold chills ran across my skin.

I didn’t like this one bit.

Then I froze when I heard footsteps just outside the door and then the door handle jiggled. I knew it wasn’t Asher and I knew that Asher had moved because if he hadn’t the shooter would have seen him by now.

We both seemed to hold our breaths as we watched the handle jiggle. Then it stopped and the footsteps carried on.

“I’m going to let you go now,” Tristan whispered, adding “Are you going to stay quiet?”

I nodded against his hand and he slowly released me. Then I spun to watch him walk to his desk and slowly and quietly he picked up the receiver and sighed.

“Fuck. The lines dead.”

I felt my heart drop into my stomach. What does he mean the lines dead?! How are we supposed to get out of here?! If we couldn’t call out, then how would the police know we needed them? I know I’m being spastic and freaking out and not thinking straight, but all I can think about right now is Asher being out there all alone with a psycho with a gun and we’re stuck in here with no communication to the outside world.

“What now?” I whispered, feeling myself become weak as I let myself drop onto the couch in his office and stared at him with a blank expression.

He returned my blank expression with his own as he just shrugged. “We pray that someone was able to get away and called the cops.”

I wasn’t holding my breath for that scenario but he was right, we needed to pray that someone got out. That someone had called the cops and they were on their way as we spoke.

It was at this moment that I cursed myself for not taking those conceal and carry classes that Harper wanted to take a few months back. I told her it was silly and that I didn’t think I’d ever need to worry about being in a situation to need a gun, but now here I am.

Then I froze when I heard footsteps again and looked to Tristan who was holding his finger over his mouth to tell me to be quiet as we silently listened. They walked by the office door again and kept going and then a second later we heard the creaking door open and then we were met with silence.

I let out a sigh and stood to my feet. “He’s out. Let’s find Asher.”

Tristan nodded and rounded the desk but we both froze again when we heard the creaking door once more and then frantic, pounding footsteps echoed on the other side of the door.

“Layla!”

I felt my blood freeze as I ran to the door and held my ear up to the door. Did I just hear that?

“Layla! Where are you?! Oh my god!”

It was Mark. What the hell was he doing here? He knew I was coming here but why was he here?

I grabbed the handle but Tristan ran to me and grabbed my hand, shaking his head.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He whisper yelled at me again.

“It’s just Mark, my roommate. He must have known I was in danger, why else would he be here?”

“Uhm, maybe because he’s the shooter?” Tristan barked out.

I rolled my eyes. “Mark would never hold a gun. I think it’s okay. We need to flag him down before the actual shooter finds him.”

“Well, with all the hollering out there, I’m surprised the shooter hasn’t taken his ass out already.”

“Back off, Tristan.” I leveled a glare at him and he stepped back, rolling his eyes. “Mark isn’t going to hurt us.”

I unlocked the door and quietly opened it, poking my head out. That’s when I saw Mark standing on the landing, looking around frantically as he ran his hands through his long hair.

“Layla...” he whisper yelled, “Where are you?!”

“Mark!” I whisper yelled back and his eyes immediately sought mine as our glares connected.

He looked relieved as he looked around and then came running in our direction. He pushed me back into the office and shut the door behind him, locking it.

Then he spun and encircled me with a huge hug.

“Oh, thank God!” He sounded relieved as he hugged me tightly.

“Mark... What are you doing here?” I pushed against his chest so I could look into his eyes.

“Don’t you know?” He searched my face for recognition but I just shook my head.

“Layla...” Tristan started, “back away from him...”

I watched Mark’s face change to something dark as he turned his face to Tristan with a sneering grin on his lips and I felt my skin crawl as I tried to step back from him, only to be held to my spot by Mark’s prying hands. This was a nightmare. It had to be.
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