Asher Black is the definition of gorgeous.
He doesn’t know I’m watching him and that I have been for the entirety of lunch time. I love watching him in his natural environment when he is laughing with his friends. There’s a strand of dark hair that falls across his forehead which he’s constantly pushing back. Completely unaware that I never fail to see the simple action. He’s perfection. I’m sure if you look that word up in the dictionary there’d be a picture of him. He casts his dark chocolate eyes down onto the table in front of him. They’re surrounded by double layered eyelashes and sit atop a slim, pointed nose. Asher knows very well that he’s attractive and uses it to his own advantage.
The question is how the hell did I end up with him?
“Holland, I think you’ve officially succeeded in etching his face onto your brain by now.” My best friend, Raegan pulls at my sleeve trying to get my attention. I barely notice her. “Holland, stop gawking at him. He’s your brother’s best friend. Even if he by some miracle decided to give you attention, you know Owen wouldn’t allow it.”
“What? I don’t know what you’re going on about. I wasn’t even looking at what’s-his-face.” I’m Holland Dunning and I’m a liar.
She rolls her unimpressed eyes. “Why do you feel the need to lie? It’s written all over you. You were undressing him with your eyes.” She pokes at my cheek with her finger and smirks. Little does she know I’ve already seen him minus his clothes.
“I’m not interested in Asher Black. In fact, I couldn’t care less about him.”
“Oh, how I love the way you lie.” She pops a fry into her mouth and chews on it whilst looking me right in the eyes as though she’s trying to read my mind. I feel my cheeks start burning and decide to avoid her intense stare.
It’s a Thursday afternoon and I’m sat with Rae, her boyfriend Jesse and a couple of others. Like any common high school, we have the jocks, cheerleaders, band geeks and so on. I’m not sure where my friends and I fit into the equation but somehow we do. Asher meanwhile is a basketball player. He’s on the team with my brother and they have a gaggle of girls following them everywhere they go.
Speaking of whom, Owen is now walking through the cafeteria towards me. I meet his eyes and find a serious expression smeared all over him. “Holland, can I talk to you?” I stand and he leads me to the edge of the chaotic cafeteria.
“Know what? That Santa isn’t real? Sorry Ow, but it’s true.”
He shakes his head in confusion. “No. What are you on about?"
“Get to the point, Owen.”
“You ate the last slice of pizza.” He grins at me revealing those perfect teeth, which by the way, our parents paid over $800 for. “God, what is wrong with your face?” Noticing my glare, he takes a step backward.
I sigh, already tired of my brother’s antics. “You came all the way over here to tell me that you know I ate the last slice of pizza from yesterday’s supper?”
“Yeah, don’t act like you don’t enjoy my company.” He sneers childishly. “I also came to say I’m going over to Asher’s after school so I won’t be coming home with you.” He hugs my shoulders. I shoot him a death stare which sends him on his way. When I turn away from Owen’s retreating body I end up bumping straight into another one.
Talk of the devil.
“Holland Dunning, how are you today?” My name runs off his tongue. I cross my arms over my chest due to the way he’s staring at me. I feel as though I’m stood naked in front of him. My hands ache to touch him but I can’t. Not here.
“I’m fine. Yourself?” I’m aware that Rae is only a few feet away probably watching this entire interaction.
Asher continues to completely bypass my question. “Come over to mine tonight?”
“Isn’t my brother going to be there? I’m into a lot of things, Ash but incest is not one of them.”
“After he leaves, you can come in from around the back.” I pretend to think about his offer knowing too well that I won’t turn him down. “Say yes.” Asher steps towards me, leaving just an inch between our bodies. Whenever I am in his presence I have an urge to jump on him and never let go. I might need therapy or something to get over it. A sneaky kiss to my temple is all I get before he saunters away. I inhale deeply and make my way back to the table where Raegan looks at me expectantly. Her dark blue hair is up in a ponytail and she twirls a loose strand of it around her finger. It’s obvious that she wants me to explain but I keep my mouth shut.
“What was that about?” She points a slender finger in Asher’s direction.
I act clueless. ” My brother wanted to tell me that he isn’t coming home from school with me tonight.”
“Not that. Him.” Her gaze moves from mine and she sets her eyes on Asher who is back at his table. He is laughing, obviously lost in some joke and clueless of our attention. My stomach does a flip as he runs his hand through his hair, shaking slightly with his laughter.
I shake my head and pull my eyes away from Asher. “Right, nothing really.”
I’m saved from lying to her seconds later by the sound of the bell.
When I walk through the door of my five-bedroom home later that day, I’m ambushed by the family dogs. We have two boxer puppies called Trix and Winter, Trix is jet black and Winter is white. The third is a Dalmatian, she’s called Zeeba and was my tenth birthday present.
“I’m home!” I clamber through the dogs and make my way to the kitchen. Mom’s sat on one of the bar stools leaning over the kitchen island.
“How was school? Did you lose Owen again?” My mom is the typical American housewife. She stays home, cooking, cleaning and taking care of us teens whilst dad goes out and earns the money which keeps us clothed and fed. Mom is a kept woman and she takes advantage of it. Every Tuesday she goes to the spa and she can’t go a day without spending some money. Dad couldn’t care less. He comes home, eats and sleeps. He hardly says two words to Owen and I but that is fine with us. He cheated on her three years ago, with his double D, blonde assistant, and only Owen and I know about it. We made sure he dumped his bit on the side but didn’t tell mom. It would have broken her.
“He’s gone to Asher’s. He said he’d be back around six.”
“Great. One less mouth to feed.” She winks tossing her dark, silky hair over her shoulder with one perfectly manicured hand. Along with her long hair, she has cheekbones to die for and chocolate coloured eyes. I inherited her hair and eye colour but have my dad’s face. Meanwhile, Owen looks more like mom but shares dad’s light brown hair.
I pick a banana out of the fruit bowl and begin to peel it. “I’ll be here for supper but I’m going out around half six to Reagan’s.” I hate lying to her but it has to be done. Well no, it doesn’t have to be done but if I tell her I’m going out to see my brother’s best friend I think she’d have something to say.
“That’s fine, honey. I’m going to pop out to the store, I’ll be back soon. Is there anything you need?” I shake my head and she picks up her purse and car keys. Kissing me on the cheek she leaves the kitchen. I make my way into the living room and collapse onto the sofa. That’s where I stay until mom comes home and asks for my help with supper.
It is six o’clock on the dot when Owen arrives home. He plods into the living room, grunts a hello and settles on the sofa. His dark, unruly hair, which is in serious need of a cut, falls across his right eye as he lands. “Afternoon, how was Asher’s?” I ask as if I’m interested in what he did. I’m interested in what Asher did. Did I mention what a great sister I was?
“Good, we played Basketball in his yard with Jackson.” Jackson is Asher’s eleven-year-old step brother.
“How is Jackson?” I only met him once but he made an impression on me, as he does with all the people he meets. He’s a hyperactive yet obedient boy who happens to adore Asher.
Owen picks Trix up off the floor and begins to stroke her belly. “He’s at that stage of copying everything you do. I took a drink, he took a drink. I removed my shirt and yep, you’ve got it, he did the same.” I grin and turn my attention back to the TV. “He’s a nice kid.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say that. You hate children.”
“Yeah but not this one, I’m his best friend you know?” Owen jokes. “The real question is, has Jamie come home yet?” Owen’s face turns serious, he already knows the answer and it isn’t a surprise. Dad leaves the house at seven and comes home around eleven. We hardly ever see him. Owen no longer calls him dad anymore, it’s that bad.
“Hey, we have each other and mom!” He grins.
Around ten minutes later I say goodbye to Owen and start the short journey to Asher’s. He lives on the next street to ours and on a sunny night, it’s an enjoyable walk.
“Hi.” I press past him into the kitchen.
“Thanks for coming.” Asher kisses the base of my neck, pausing there before pulling away. “Let’s go upstairs.”
When we reach his bedroom he lifts me off my feet. Strong arms wrap around me and he begins to nuzzle my neck. He kisses the spot just beneath my collarbone, sending me into a wave of happiness. We fall onto his bed.
“Your jaw bone must have been chiselled by Michelangelo himself.” I rest head on his chest and look up at his sculpted face.
He looks back at me, drawing lazy circles over my clothes with his finger. “He did and I personally thanked him for it.” His chest rises and falls as he laughs underneath my weight. I stretch my legs and entwine them with his.
“Oh, what your brother would say if he saw us now!” The amusement he feels is clear in his tone of voice. I turn to face him, lying on my belly, propping myself up on my elbows.
I slap his chest. “Asher, I’m lying in bed with you. I don’t really want to think about my brother, at all. Anyway, he wouldn’t believe you.” I joke.
“Oh yeah, why’s that?” He presses the tip of his nose against my own.
I take his chin in my fingers and place a soft kiss on his lips. “I’m too good for you.”
“That’s true. You’re way too good for me.”
The next morning, I wake up at half seven and take a shower with thoughts of Asher filling my mind. Outside the sun is blaring down on our swimming pool. I decide to wear a mint green short sleeved top with a gold zip across the chest area, frayed denim shorts and a pair of brown sandals. My hair runs down my back in soft curls and I pop my sunglasses on my head. When I reach the bottom of the stairs I run into the last person I’d expect to see. My dad. He turns around and stares at me, holding a black flask in one hand and a briefcase in the other.
“Aren’t those a little short for school?” Typical. Instead of asking me how I am or even smiling at his daughter he looks disgusted.
I narrow my eyes and cross my arms over my chest. “They aren’t called shorts for nothing.”
“Less of the cheek from you-” A frown appears on his face.
"Holland." I scoff. “My name is Holland.” And the best dad of the year award goes too!
Not allowing him to ruin my happy mood I skip away from him and walk into the kitchen, avoiding the dogs who have a habit of tripping me up.
“Morning, beautiful.” Mom greets me by handing me a glass of orange juice.
“Drink up, your brother is waiting outside for you.”
When I make my way to the front door I expect to find Owen waiting for me. Instead, I find a black Prius has pulled up on my drive. Owen sticks his head out of the window. I can’t believe my luck. The owner of that car is the very same guy I was with last night.
“Get in, Holl.” I do as he says.
The owner turns in his seat and looks directly at me. “Hi, Holland.” His dark eyes lock onto mine.