Strung

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Chapter 48. - Over

*Lukas*

Ginger’s apartment was close to the university, in one of those complexed only college kids lived - with the exception of an odd adult who probably just didn’t know better. Unlike what I’ve pictured college life to be, there were no raging parties. In fact, the entire complex was quiet and seemed to already be asleep - with most of the lights out.

Ash walked up the stairs to her apartment and knocked on the door with the confidence of someone who knew she would be here.

And she was. A minute later, the door swung open and a tired-looking Ginger appeared in the doorway. “I thought I was going to have to be disappointed,” She smiled, pushing her red hair out of her face as she stepped back.

Ash took it as an invitation and barged right into her tiny apartment, and I followed, squeezing by her apologetically. “You knew we were coming?”

“I was hoping she meant enough for you that you’d at least look around.” She closed the door behind us but remained standing close to it.

“Quit playing games, Gianna!” Ash snapped, surprising both of us when he called her by her real name. No one called Ginger by her real name - in fact, I didn’t realize Ash even knew that she had one. “Tell us where she is. We’ve been driving around all night and I’m ready to hit the bar and forget this shit has ever happened.”

As if she hasn’t even heard him, Ginger’s brown eyes remained on me. “I really am glad to see that you came looking for her.”

“But?” I guessed, watching as her face twisted into a wry smile.

“I’m obviously not going to tell you where she is.”

I barely had time to blink, before Ash moved closer. Towering above her, their insane height difference was definitely used to his advantage as he glared down at her. “Talk woman.” He demanded, his voice dangerously low.

I told myself that I was going to step in. I would stop my best friend before things got too out of hand…

But not yet. I desperately needed to know where London was, and if scaring Ginger was what it took to find that out, I was going to have to hope she would forgive me with time.

But it turned out, her forgiveness was not needed, because the short, chubby college girl stood her ground as if she was one of the professional fighters we trained with. “Or?”

I watched as a flicker of confusion crossed Ash’s face.

“Normally, when you threaten someone-” She started, her voice calm and even, as she explained the proper way to threaten another person to someone who is not currently in jail for assault and fighting because we had the best lawyers in the world backing him up. “-you finish it with a dreadful consequence. For example, back the fuck away from me, before I knee you so hard, you’ll need an oral surgeon to locate your balls.”

Ash’s face twisted into a look of fury. “You-”

“I won’t tell you where she is. Don’t waste your breaths.” Ginger cut him off, calmly taking a step back and around a fuming Ash. “She is my best friend and this is for her own good. You need to move on and let her live her life how she wants it - and that is without you.”

“That decision should’ve been discussed by two people, not just her.”

She squinted at me as she hummed. “Uh… Actually, London can make her own fucking decisions. And now it’s up to you to respect it.”

There was a knock on the door and after a brisk ‘Come in!’ from the lady of the house, Fitz Grey walked in.

The shock on London’s brother’s face at seeing us would’ve been amusing, had I not been nearly out of my mind with frustration, anger, desperation, and the hopeless need to find my girlfriend and make this nightmare of a situation right.

After a moment, Fitz cleared his throat and looked me in the eyes. “She’s gone.”

“But she was here, wasn’t she?” I asked, raking a hand through my hair. Fuck! We should’ve checked here before going to her parents’ house.

“She was,” Ginger confirmed, nodding. “But she’s not anymore. Fitz just dropped her off at the airport.

My eyes widened at the realization, my heart dropping so low I thought it would fall right out of my chest.

London was gone. She really, truly was gone this time.

“I’m sorry, Lukas.” Ginger said, her brown eyes flashing with sympathy as she regarded me. “You’re a great guy and in another lifetime, this could’ve even worked.”

“Let me guess, you don’t want your little friend to experience online bullying?” Ash snorted. “Hate to break it to you, red, but that is a huge part of dating a rockstar. She should’ve fucking thought about that before she opened her legs-”

“Stop!” I yelled, raising my hand to massage the spot between my brows that throbbed harder with every second that has passed. “You’re taking it too far.”

“I’m sorry, man. But it’s the truth.” Ash sighed. “Now she’s hurting you with this shit.”

“It’s fine.” I took a deep breath. And it would have to be.

At the end of the day, Ash was looking out for me, in his own, messed up, scarred ways. Just as London was looking out for herself - something I should’ve done.

A real man would have.

Fuck, even Ash would have. If it was someone he cared about, he would’ve moved heaven and Earth for them. But I’ve failed. I’ve hurt London, I let her be hurt and now she was gone. Because despite everything, despite the feeling of betrayal coursing through my veins, at the end of the day, she was looking out for me.

Suddenly feeling exhausted, I nodded toward the door. “Let’s go, Ash. There’s nothing left for us here.”

“Not here.” Ash agreed, pulling out his phone from his back pocket. “I know a great PI. He works fast - we’ll find out what flight she took, and you can go after her. Or if you want, he will, and bring her ass right back.”

“No, Ash…” I started, but he waved me off.

“Nonsense. There’s nothing to think about here. I’ll pay for it.”

I rolled my eyes, but it was Ginger who voiced what we were all thinking. “Relationships don’t work like that, you giant Neanderthal! If she wants to leave, that’s her own free choice. Just because you can afford some fancy schmuck that could bring her back, doesn’t mean that you should!”

“Well, maybe they should!” Ash shot back, taking a step closer to the fiery redhead.

Feeling drained, I walked up to them, grabbed my best friend by his arm and began pulling him toward the door. “I’m sorry for keeping you,” I told Ginger over my shoulder, but when we reached London’s brother, I paused. “I love her.” I said in a low whisper, hoping like hell he could see the sincerity in my eyes. “If she comes back, we can make this work. Running away and giving everything up…” I shook my head, feeling my heart shatter to a million pieces all over again as the reality of the situation became more real with every second that passed. “What we have is real, and it’s once in a lifetime.”

Fitz looked uncomfortable, but he didn’t interrupt.

“Tell her that I will respect her space. But we-” I smiled, the gesture feeling bitter. “-we are not finished.”

And with that hanging in the air and my best friend in tow, I walked out of the apartment of the only two people who could’ve brought London back to me and into the dark night.

“Where to now?” Ash asked, clicking the car keys in his left hand while balancing his phone in the right.

“To that bar you mentioned.”

For a beat, he just looked at me. Then, a wide grin spread across his face. “That’s what I’m talking about!” He laughed, and just like that, for a split second, I thought maybe everything could be alright again.

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