Chapter 53. - Remodeling
I got out of my car on shaky legs. The last thing I could possibly want to do was be here and live through this of all things.
But at the moment, I didn’t have another choice.
Oh, but I did have a choice - the voice in my head whispered. If Jordan was right - and why the hell wouldn’t he be - I didn’t have to do this job. In fact, I didn’t have to do any job, ever. For the rest of my life, I could just take one vacation after another. Perhaps buy that adorable little house on the Greek island I fell so in love with…
I shook my head. That wasn’t my money. It didn’t matter where it came from, I didn’t earn it - and therefore I couldn’t keep a penny of it. I was going to find out where it came from and give it right back.
Or donate it. I wasn’t sure yet.
But I’ve had just as much right to the outrageous sum on my account, as I’ve had the right to stand here today.
I didn’t dare glance at the house at the end of the cul de sac. Could he be home? My head spun. I didn’t want to know. It was better that way, for everyone.
But before I could dwell on that any longer, the giant double black doors swung open, and a familiar, tall, muscular shape dominated my vision. Muscular wasn’t the right word to describe Ash Wolfhart - he was beyond that. He looked like the kind of person who spent every free moment lifting weights and throwing heavy things around - which wasn’t very far off from the truth.
He took a couple steps toward me, his black eyes not giving anything away as he pointed toward the doors. “Go on.”
His deep raspy voice featured many memories I’ve had as a teenager and young adult, and I used to think it was one of the most soothing things in the world.
But as much as I adored Ash as a singer, as a human being, he had been less than what I’ve dreamed of. “Let’s make this clear - I’m here on a job and nothing else. If this is one of your tricks to-”
“To what, London?” Ash lifted a brow at me. “To fuck you?”
My breath caught and I could only nod.
“I don’t need tricks to get chicks in my bed. And I like a girl who can fill out her jeans.” His dark gaze ran down my body, and I had to hold back my flinch.
“Ow!” I scowled. “Fine, then. Let’s see your house.”
He stepped out of the way and led me in first, keeping a safe, respectable distance between us. “It came furnished when I bought it.”
I nodded. I could see that. The home looked like it was decorated for showing off its best assets, showcasing the high ceilings, airy living areas and floor to ceiling windows that looked out the private beach that functioned as his backyard. It was impressive.
But it wasn’t Ash.
“What do you picture when you think of your dream house?” I asked, glancing around the wide space. The layout was open and…
I just couldn’t picture Ash laying on the creme colored couch, wrapped under a pastel blue blanked while glancing out at the waters.
“Something dark…” He started, trailing off. He obviously hasn’t given it much thought - which was just as well.
This was what I was good at. As I glanced around the space, my mind started spinning, thinking of a new layout, dark velvet furniture that was borderline gothic, yet fashionable. I pictured heavy curtains hanging on the side of the windows, ready to be drawn closed when its owner wanted privacy.
“I have a couple of ideas already. But first, let’s see the rest.” He walked me around the light-colored kitchen, a downstairs cinema, a mancave with a billiard table standing proudly in the middle. Then upstairs, we viewed the array of bedrooms, including his own - which was surprisingly neat for such a man whose life was such a mess.
Then again, who was I to judge?
“I want you to make something for me. For up here.” He didn’t wait for a response as he crossed the room in steady strides, grabbing the iPad from his bedside table. He clicked around for a second, before handing it to me.
I frowned down at the image, unsure of what I was looking at. It was a giant, wooden X with what appeared to be ropes-
I pushed the tablet into his arms. “Are you out of your mind?! If you think I’m going to make you some torture device for your freaky fantasies, you’ve got another thing coming!” I snapped, eyeing him as I craned my head back.
To my surprise, Ash tilted his head to the side, regarding me with that black gaze of his, before he burst out laughing. “Torture device?!” He repeated, hollering louder now. “That’s adorable… Let me tell you, the girls on this wouldn’t be screaming from pain. But if you make it pretty enough, maybe I’ll let you have a go at it.”
I made sure he could see my disgusted expression as I turned away from him.
“Build me this and a couple of other toys, and I’ll add a zero to the end of your paycheck.”
I froze in my step, inhaling sharply. “Why?” My voice came out smaller than I was hoping for as I glanced up at him. “Why would you pay me so much for this?! I’m sure there’s a sex store online that sells this. Or perhaps-”
He cut me off with a raise of his hand. “I don’t want some mass-selling bullshit from the internet. I want a one of a kind masterpiece, designed and built just for me. Now, are you good enough to do that?” Ash lifted a brow in challenge.
I hesitated, hearing my blood roar in my ears. This would take time. Not just weeks, but months and months of building. If he approved all my designs, I planned on remodeling his entire house, including some additional walls and brand new everything. I was planning on making this house unrecognizable to what he knew now - which would mean spending a lot more time with Asher Wolfhart than I cared for.
And even worse than that, Ash’s house was right next door to a place I was very familiar with and was hoping to avoid for probably the rest of my life.
I took a deep breath. This was huge. This would not only cover the deficit of the months I’ve taken off in Europe, but also help with my own humble home situation. With the money I would make here, I wouldn’t have such a hard time letting go of the immense sum in my account that didn’t belong to me.
After a moment’s hesitation, I held out my hand. “I will do it.”
Ash glanced down at my offer, but before he could clasp my palm in his, I pulled it back.
“On one condition!” I breathed and he lifted a brow at me in question. “On the days you know I’m coming, no girls here. The last thing I want is to walk into some sick orgy… When I’m here, it’s a professional work environment.”
Ash’s dark expression turned into one of amusement as his lips quirked up slightly. “You’ll have to take that up with the HR department.”
“There is no-” I started, but bit my tongue. “You’re making a joke, aren’t you?”
Ash nodded, full-on smiling now. “Fuck yes, I am. But to answer your question, I’ll stay out of your way. But in return, I need you to keep this confidential. Anything you might hear or see stays between these walls.”
“That goes without saying,” I responded, letting my sarcasm be felt through my words. “But I’m not sure how long your little sex room will stay hidden if you keep parading all the bimbos of Los Angeles through it.”
Ash rolled his eyes as he grabbed my hand and shook it forcefully. “We have a deal now, coffee girl. Now get to work.”
“Hold the tape straight!” I groaned as Ash lifted it too high this time. “Do you know what straight even is?!”
One dark brow lifted as he looked over at me. “I’d answer that, but I agreed to be on my best behavior.”
I sighed, relieved that he was at least trying to contain himself. However long that was going to last was an entirely different question.
“Why am I the one doing this anyways? From the money I’m paying you, you can afford to hire an assistant to hold your tape straight.” Ash complained but lowered it to the correct height. I jotted down the measurements into my notebook.
“First of, you haven’t paid me anything yet - so technically, I can’t afford to hire anyone. And second, why would I bring in an unsuspecting girl to the lion’s den?”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“I didn’t mean it as one…” I muttered under my breath as I moved to another wall in the living room and laid my tape out, motioning for Ash to follow. “So what is going on with you?”
He looked at me in surprise, his dark eyes flashing with suspicion. “We’re making small talk now? I thought you can barely stand me.”
I frowned. He wasn’t far off. “Why not? I’m going to be spending a lot of time here, might as well bury the hatchet until your home is finished.”
“I’m good, London. I always am.” He said in a deep, raspy voice.
I nodded. “And Jessie? I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“Maybe you should ask him then.” Ash’s response was concise to say the least. Then, as if realizing he wasn’t playing nice, he added. “He’s going fine. Just trying to figure out the next step. Perhaps enjoying a little time off now that we’re free.”
“Free?” I echoed, frowning.
“Look, instead of just dancing around it, why don’t you ask me what you really want to know?” Ash straightened, staring me down with a stern expression as if he could see right through my bullshit. And I supposed, he could. “You want to know how Lukas is doing, don’t you?”
I swallowed, my throat suddenly feeling too dry. The air seemed to thicken between us, and I was itching to open one of those giant windows and take a deep, calming breath.
But instead, I tightened my core as I stood up straight. “I have no right to ask about him.”
“You’re damn right about that!” Ash laughed humorlessly, his expression serious. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t be curious. He’s fine - if you care. He was down for a while, but he’s coming around.”
I nodded. Ash didn’t have to tell me that, and I was thankful that despite not thinking too much of me on the personal department, he was willing to give me at least a little inch.
“Shall we get back to this?” I motioned toward the job at hand and to my surprise, Ash agreed.
He obediently picked up the tape he previously tossed on the ground and looked at my expectantly. “Where to next?”