6 MONTHS LATER
“Babe, you ready?!” Asher’s voice echoed up the stairs and I smiled at my reflection in the mirror.
“On my way down!” I yelled back as I applied a layer of lip gloss and shut the light off.
The last six months have been brutal for both of us as we were still healing from our battle wounds, or so Asher liked to call them. I still had a small limp when I walked and was still going to physical therapy twice a week, but I wasn’t hopeful anymore that all the feeling would come back to my toes and the doctor’s didn’t think it would either. At least I can still walk though.
Asher on the other hand, had suffered far worse than me with his three broken ribs, cracked jaw bone, and several lacerations all over his body. Jake really did a number on him but it was good to see that he was almost back to 100% with a few waves of pain coming from his ribs.
After the scariest day of our lives and living through it, I gave up Seattle and he gave up San Clemente and we were back in Portland where it all started. We bought a cute little two story house not too far from Harper and Tate and were adjusting to our new lives, and I couldn’t be more happy.
I descended the stairs slowly, since my leg didn’t give me much movement for stair climbing, and saw Asher standing at the front door with a huge grin on his face.
“It’s about time. We’re just going to Tommy’s.” He grinned and reached out to help me.
We were meeting old friends and family at Tommy’s, our old hangout, tonight for dinner and catching up. It was kind of like our welcome home party and I was feeling nervous.
“I just want to look presentable.”
“Babe, you could look presentable in pajamas. Now get your cute little ass over here and kiss me.”
I couldn’t help the stupid grin that spread across my face as Asher wrapped an arm around my waist and held me tightly to his chest. The smell of sandalwood enveloped me and pulled on my heart strings as I placed a hand on his cheek and leaned forward to lightly press my lips to his. When we kissed it was like nothing in the world mattered and we were the only two people breathing. But then again, he made me feel like that just by smiling at me.
He groaned into my mouth as he pulled me impossibly closer and deepened the kiss by exploring my mouth with his tongue while my own tongue danced a sweet melody with his. He always tasted so good and I never wanted our lips to part, but I knew Harper would have our asses if we were late, so I broke the kiss and pressed my forehead against his.
“We should go before your sister sends out a search party for us.”
He laughed and kissed my lips lightly once more before opening the door and led me out to his car awaiting us in the driveway. The cool crisp air was fresh and the sun was starting to set behind the horizon as we pulled out of the driveway and made our way over to Tommy’s.
When we parked and got out, I couldn’t help but choke up at all the familiar faces standing near the tables we used to always sit at, laughing among each other.
Asher laced his fingers with mine and brought my hand to his mouth as he lightly kissed me and then pulled me along next to him.
When they all noticed us coming towards them, they all lit up and greeted us with big smiles and hugs as we made our way through all of them.
“There’s my favorite crippled couple.” Harper pushed her way through to wrap her arms around each of our necks as we laughed along with our friends and family.
“Gee, thanks Harp.” Asher laughed, kissing his sisters cheek. “Thanks for putting this together.”
“Of course. You’re my two favorite people. Now don’t get all sappy on me and let’s eat. Everyone’s been starving waiting on you two.” She winked at me. “I’ve got a surprise for you.”
She grabbed my hand and pulled me away from Asher who grinned and shook his head before turning his attention to Tate and the other guys.
As Harper pulled me through the crowd, I couldn’t help but see and feel how much we were both loved. We were home.
“Someone really wanted to see you.” Harper pushed through a set of people and I nearly fell over when my knees buckled from the sight in front of me.
“D-Dillon...” I breathed as I got tunnel vision and launched myself into my brother’s arms.
I hadn’t seen Dillon since shortly after my high school graduation. We had had some ugly words and parted on bad terms. Last I heard from mom was that he joined the military and was stationed overseas some where.
He wrapped his arms tightly around me and held me tightly to his chest. “Hey, baby-sister,” he rasped out, emotion clearly clogging his voice.
I let out a small sob as happy tears slid down my face. “I’m so glad to see you! When did you get home?!”
We pulled apart and sat down at the table he was just sitting at as he smiled at me. “I literally just got home last night. I tried calling mom but she wasn’t around, so I called the last number I had for Harper and was thankful she hadn’t changed her number after all these years. She invited me tonight so... so I could apologize.”
I shook my head and held up my hand. “Don’t. You don’t need to Dillon. What was said and done years ago no longer matters to me anymore. I’m just so happy to see you.” I threw my arms around his neck again and he laughed.
“I was glad to hear you’re alright. Harper gave me a quick run down and of course with her dramatics it seemed like you’ve had a rough couple of years.” He was searching my face.
I shrugged. “I did, but I came out of it stronger than ever.” I smiled at him. “You know about me and Asher then?”
He nodded, studying my face. “If you can leave things in the past, then so can I. I just want you to be happy and if Creed makes you happy and he’s good to you, then I’m cool with him.”
I felt tears well up in my eyes as I hugged him again. “That makes me so happy. I’m so glad you’re home. But... what happens now? Are you going back to the military? How long are you going to be here?”
He laughed. “Slow down, killer. I’m home for good. I was medically discharged. Driving over and IED and messing up my shoulder was enough to let me come home. Now I just have to figure out what to do next,” he smiled at me, really smiled at me, “it’s good to see you, little sister, you look great.”
My heart sunk when he told me about the IED and the thought of him being hurt, but I ignored it all for right now, knowing that he was just fine and sitting right here in front of me was enough for me to forget about it for now.
“You’re looking pretty good yourself, soldier.”
I watched Dillon look over my head and for a moment a look of resentment filled his expression and I knew who was standing behind me. I looked over my shoulder and smiled at Asher before standing up and standing at his side.
“Look who came home.”
I watched Asher study Dillon while Dillon stood to his feet and also studied Asher. The silence between them was killing me and right when I was about to scold them, they shook hands and the tension that was palpable before had completely dissipated and I let out a relieved sigh.
“Good to see you back safe, man,” Asher spoke first.
Dillon nodded. “Glad to be back. Glad to see you’ve been taking good care of my sister here,” he winked at me.
Asher laughed. “Shit, this little spit-fire was the one who’s been taking care of me. If it weren’t for her I don’t if I’d still be breathing or not.” Asher looked down at me with the most adoring eyes and kissed my forehead as I felt my cheeks blush.
“I did what I had to do.” I smiled back at Dillon. “I need to use the little ladies room, do you think you two can keep each other company while I’m gone?”
“We’ll be fine, L,” Dillon replied with a light laugh but when I began to walk away with a limp he quickly called out, “Do you need any help?”
I flipped him off over my shoulder and heard Asher telling him not to say the “H” word, and that it only pisses me off when people treat me like a child. And I laughed as I made my way to the bathrooms.
They were exactly how I remembered them and it made me smile to think how far I’d gone just to be right back where it all started. I washed my hands and headed back out when I heard something behind me and my heart started pounding.
Asher reached out and grabbed my arm and pulled me into the bush outside the bathrooms where we used to have our secret meetings all those years ago. I giggled into his chest as he grabbed each side of my face, grinning down at me.
“What are you doing?” I asked with a small laugh.
“Doing what I should have done all those years ago.” He pulled my face to his and kissed me hard. He kissed me like it was the last kiss we’d ever share, he kissed me as if his life depended on it, and he kissed me like these were the last lips he’d ever kiss and it made me go weak in the knees, but he was holding me up tight to his chest and not letting me go.
When he broke the kiss I whispered, “Wow.” Before he grinned down at me.
He trailed his thumb across my swollen bottom lip before staring me in the eyes. “You’re so damn beautiful,” he whispered while stepping back from me and getting down on one knee. My heart began pounding against my chest and my mouth went dry. Is he...?
“Layla Stanford, I have loved you since we were little kids and knew you were always the one for me. I was one stubborn son-of-a-bitch and never let my heart take what was always mine, but I’m here now and I’m not going anywhere.” He pulled a ring box from his back pocket and opened it to me to reveal the most beautiful diamond I had ever laid my eyes on. “Will you marry me, Layla?”
I literally had no words. I never thought he would propose and definitely not in our bush. Yes, it was our bush. But as I stood here staring down at Asher Creed on his knees, I knew that whatever I expected to happen or not happen would always surprise me because life with Asher was one big unexpected ride. A ride that I was always riding and will ride for the rest of my life.
“Answer him, honey.”
I jumped and looked towards the voice to my left and saw all of our family and friends packed in between the bush and the bathrooms watching us with huge smiles on their faces while Harper had her phone up, recording the whole thing.
I laughed, tears pooling in my eyes, as I vigorously nodded my head. “Yes! Yes, of course I will!”
They all cheered as Asher slid the ring onto my finger and stood up, wrapping his arms around me, and kissing me feverishly. This is exactly where I was supposed to be.
After the incident with Jake and Mark and healing from our injuries, we had a long talk about everything Jake had said and Asher admitted to being a less than stellar human being during the last several years, but that he had truly changed, and knew that I was the reason behind that change. He knew that if he stayed bitter and angry and selfish, that I would never be with him, so he changed. And of course we talked about the big elephant in the room and he admitted to actually having a son. He had a son with a woman he had a one night stand with a few years ago when he saw in the newspaper that I was dating a famous model and I couldn’t be angry with him for it. We had contacted the woman and she was very sweet and kind about allowing Asher and I in her son’s life and we were meeting with them in a month. Asher was going to meet his son for the first time and I would be right there by his side.Our world had almost stopped six months ago, but now I knew that nothing would ever bring us down again and I had an entire lifetime to share adventures with Asher Creed. I knew life was going to continue to throw curve balls at us but as long as we were together, we could handle all of it.
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