Destructively Oblivious

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Chapter 2: Oblivious

ob·liv·i·ous

/əˈblivēəs/

adjective

1. unaware and/or unconcerned with any blame.

______________________________________

*Chloe’s Point of View*

With Asher as close as he was, I realized his warm brown eyes were even more charming, the caramel-brown color the same shade as the coffee I drank every morning. Mr. Coffee-Colored-Eyes lifted his smirk, visibly amused by my bored reaction to him standing there.

The top of my head barely cleared his chin and, though I’d never considered myself short, I felt like a child in comparison to his height.

Realizing how close we were, and confident the cologne he was wearing was going to bring me to new worlds, I took a step backward. I felt the lockers behind me graze my back but was happy to put a half foot between Asher and me.

Like Jamie, a few lingering students in the hallway had found interest in watching Asher and my unspoken staring contest, which made the experience even more unsettling. The organ in my chest didn’t appear to be doing the necessary pumping I required it to do. My face felt like I had let it cook in the sun for the last few hours.

“I’m Asher Freed.” A dimple tacking onto his cheek, Asher Freed watched me closely. He spoke deliberately slow, operating a hand within his dark hair.

The tiniest of smiles hugged my lips from his introduction as if the whole school wasn’t already quite aware of his existence, but instead of admitting that I knew exactly who he was, I, pathetically enough, offered him my hand. “Chloe. Chloe Carlin.”

His eyes fell upon that hand and the crooked grin he had been wearing spread into a full smile at my efforts for formality. He clasped his hand around mine, giving it a good shake before holding it in place between us.

“Chloe,” he repeated, tasting my name in his mouth. “I believe we met this morning.”

I chuckled, hoping he was using the term met loosely. I wouldn’t exactly describe our morning encounter that way.

“When you almost ran me over,” I blurted with a laugh.

At that moment, I almost wished the car had run me over. Suddenly uncomfortable with how long my hand had been in his, I stole it away, replacing it on the binders crossed over my chest.

Asher chuckled at my sudden reaction, which made me feel even more stupid. He took a step forward and I attempted a step back, bumping right into the locker. The bump was jarring; thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice how I had flinched on impact.

“Yeah, then. Sorry. I hope I didn’t... injure you, in any way.” He allowed his gaze to sweep from my feet to my lips as I shook my head at his inquiry.

Physically? No, he hadn’t harmed me. Mentally? Maybe a little.

“Missing something?” He held up a keychain, a modest dolphin dangling on the end. I recognized it immediately.

I would have been embarrassed by him holding up such a childish keychain in front of me but I was still too busy attempting to get a hold of myself. Breaking eye contact to look at the dolphin again, I softly, but somewhat quickly, took it from his grasp.

“Thank you. I must have dropped it.” Before I could be sucked into his appealing eyes again, I stepped out from between him and the locker and stood next to Jamie. I hooked the keychain back onto my bag at an almost impossible speed and gripped her bicep, yanking her away. But not before throwing a “Thanks again” over my shoulder.

I ignored the looks I got stalking down the hall and walked into the bathroom, prepared to be overwhelmed by comments from my best friend. For the second time that day, I almost wished I did get run over. When I let go of her arm and turned to face her, she was still wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

I shrugged at her expression. “What?” I already knew what.

“Are you fucking kidding me? Are you FUCKING kidding me? What do you mean what? Did you have an out-of-body experience or are you ignoring what just happened?”

She turned to the mirror over the sink and glanced inward, fanning herself off like being around Asher was equivalent to standing next to a house fire.

I smiled, shaking my head. “Your imagination is over-active. He was only returning my keychain.”

A very childish keychain. How embarrassing that that is what Asher Freed will remember me for. Tragic.

She nearly ripped out her own hair over my words. “No, no, no. Hop on him and never let go, C. He was totally giving you bedroom eyes.”

Surprised she didn’t use a much cruder term than ‘bedroom eyes’, my gaze followed her and she spun back my way.

“Jame,” I muttered patiently, a smile pushing from my lips. “I know you’re a glass-half-full type of person, but I think you’re looking into this a little too much.”

“C,” Jamie mocked in the same patient voice, puckering her bottom lip out towards me. “I know you’re a glass-half-empty type of person, but I don’t think you’re caring enough about this. That was Asher, fucking, Freed out there! Did you see the way he was looking at you?”

I did see the way he was looking at me, but unlike Jamie, I chose to ignore the seeping underlays of enthusiasm I was feeling from his eager body language and flirtatious smirk, much less his gaze.

Hoping I appeared more secure than I felt, I plastered a smile on my face and said, “I didn’t see a thing.”

Jamie groaned and I giggled at her fallen expression. I was sure that Asher’s seemingly healthy interest in me in the hallway had amped her up and my repudiation of it all was probably disappointing.

“For God’s sake, you’re so oblivious. Throw me a bone, please!” she cried dramatically.

Laughing again, I hooked an arm around her neck and dragged her to her next class.

______________________________________

For once, I was glad that Jamie wasn’t in my class. That meant that I got a break from talking about Asher because, truly, I needed a second away. I sat at my desk, yanked out my textbook, and began to look through it before the final bell rang for class.

My eyes skating over Shakespeare’s poems in my English book, I felt a figure sit next to me. For a moment, I thought it might have been Jamie coming to lecture me again on how my mortifying almost-death would change my life.

In fact, I was so sure it was her that I was already forming my complaint as I was turning. Unfortunately, when I looked over, I realized it wasn’t her. Instead, I was suddenly seated beside a boy with whom I’d had enough experiences within one day than I needed in an entire lifetime.

I nearly jumped out of my skin as Asher Freed took the chair next to me. When I said I needed a break from talking about him, I hadn’t meant I wanted to talk to him instead.

“I didn’t know you were in this class.” He smirked at my expression. I rolled my eyes at his obliviousness. Apparently, I wasn’t great at first impressions if it took nearly running me over with a car for him to notice me.

“Huh. Well, here I am.” I looked back down to my book, hoping he would get up and sit where he usually sat, wherever that was.

“Do you mind if I sit here?" He asked. Before I could comment on the fact he'd already taken a seat, he added, "I usually sit over there.” He pointed over towards the corner at an empty seat surrounded by bare legs of the girls who circled the chair like crows. “I could use a change in scenery.”

I cringed in disgust and twisted back to him with a frown.

“I don’t mind.” I left it at that. Receiving a head nod from me, he turned to face the front of the class, half-listening to the teacher, half doodling on his paper.

Halfway through the period, Asher peeked over at me and caught me in the shameful act of staring at him, the second most humiliating thing that had happened to me that day in his occupancy.

He grinned, following my eyes to the small, unidentifiable writing on the bottom corner of his page. I wondered what he had written, seeing it didn’t look anything like the notes we were supposed to be listening to. I smiled, concurrently trying to copy down the notes the teacher had plastered across the projector.

“You seem very interested in Hamlet.” I feigned stupidity, noting his distractions.

His lip twitched with a smirk as he reminded me, “You’re the one who can’t keep your eyes off of me and on the board.”

Smiling only to hide my embarrassment, I looked to the front of the room and made a continuous effort to not look at him for the rest of class.

*Asher’s Point Of View*

As the period came to an end, Chloe took advantage of our 15-minute break and began to leisurely tug her books into her bag. I glanced down towards her chest again, seeing nothing. Damn cat sweater.

The blue tint of a keychain catching my eye, I glimpsed at it momentarily, pulling my eyes towards the girl I was damn near desperate to talk to at this point. “That’s a cool keychain. Where’d you get it?”

She seemed thrown off by the fact I was still trying to talk to her. I was too. I’d spent the entire class period going over every conversation starter that existed in my head, none of which sounding significant enough to say aloud.

Flirting wasn’t usually something I struggled with, but my stomach was tight with unfamiliar nerves when I had finally relayed the most rudimentary question to her.

She pitched a quick side glance towards the dolphin, her incisive eyes locking with mine. I swallowed hard when our gazes met, and I swore I could see my reflection in her pupils.

I swiped my thumbs across my suddenly slick palms then glanced down at them with narrowed eyes. My hands were sweating. She was making me so nervous that my fucking hands were sweating.

“My dad gave it to me when I was a kid.” She tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear awkwardly, tossing the remainder of her binders into her backpack. Beautiful, shy, and cute; she was a knockout, and I couldn’t draw my eyes from her. She diverted her gaze, and I thought fast to re-grip her attention.

“And you like dolphins?” Dumbass question on my part, but it did pull her focus back and she cast me a sharp nod.

“Yeah, they’re my favorite sea animal. My mom's always talking about taking me to swim with them but I seriously doubt it's going to ever happen. Not right now, anyway-” Chloe appeared as terrible at speaking as I did, and I watched as she mentally kicked herself for what she'd shared.

I almost laughed at how awkwardly cute she was but she seemed embarrassed enough, and I was able to keep my expression neutral. Instead, I bounced between the two ways I could take the conversation.

One — Continue talking about her favorite sea animal, a conversation that would have bored me to death had it been anyone speaking but her.

Two — Be the gentleman my mother raised and politely change the subject to revolve more around how interested I was in getting to know her.

On nothing but a whim, I decided to go with unplanned option number Three — Be a jackass and demolish my chances of getting to know the girl, if I hadn’t already.

I didn’t comment on anything she’d shared and instead blurted, “Let me take you out tonight,” suppressing a cringe when her eyes split into the size of baseballs, her Honors English book sliding into her backpack with a jolt.

“Sorry?” she sputtered anxiously like she'd misheard the obvious request.

Not apologizing as I should have, and regretting it immediately, I continued on my path towards destruction. I tried to play off the fact that I'd practically word-vomited an invitation and slid back in my chair, tossing my legs on top of the desks, a smirk hitting my face. “For dinner, Dolphin. Unless there’s something else you’d rather do on our date. We could always just skip to the end.”

Chloe was struggling to pick her jaw up off the ground. Letting out a scornful tsk, the beautiful girl rolled her eyes, a thing she seemed to do a lot in my presence. I didn’t mind. Her eyes were what drew me in. It wasn’t her shy behavior or tight jeans. It was the oceanic eyes that nearly killed me when they narrowed towards my car hours before.

“Dolphin?” She laughed disdainfully at her new nickname, then stood, lugging her binder-filled bag up over her shoulder. “It’s Chloe. And please, refrain from picking me up for our... date.” Heading to the door, she flipped around on her heel swiftly. “Thank you for returning my keychain. I appreciate it.”

She gave me one last awkward smile and I focused solely on how she was looking at me, how strange it felt to be under her gaze. There hadn’t been alcohol in my system for days and, unless it was second-hand smoke from Blake lighting up outside my car, I certainly wasn’t high, but I felt like I was, completely intoxicated on her presence. I was obsessed with the way she looked at me, the way she observed me.

She stepped from the room, out of view, and a sensation I didn’t realize was longing clenched in my lungs.

______________________________________

*Chloe’s Point of View*

As the school day came to an end, I didn’t hesitate to make my way outside and try to locate my mom’s beat-up station wagon. Not exactly hard to find in the groups of Mercedes and Ford Focuses, I noticed her.

I crossed the street (after looking both ways, of course) and was only a few feet from the car when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Confusion driving my actions, I flipped around, my eyes landing on the person I was sure I couldn’t possibly be running into again that day. I blinked, hoping he was a figment of my imagination and would disappear. When he didn't, I sighed.

“What, Asher?” I pressed my lips together, unable to stop my eye roll.

He raised an eyebrow at me, his eyes cautionary and his smirk impish. “Relax, Dolphin. I’m here to apologize.”

Though my back was to the car, I was more than aware my mother was staring out the windshield at the two of us, increasing my desire to leave school.

“Apologize? For the uncreative nickname?” My forehead marred with faux confusion. “Apology not accepted,” I deadpanned.

He chuckled, but upon seeing the unwavering frown cemented to my lips, he swallowed, appearing almost as nervous as I was. Almost. “I wanted to apologize for what I said earlier. I hadn’t meant to offend you.”

My frown didn’t falter but the confusion on my face morphed from fraudulent to authentic.

“I wasn’t offended,” I insisted. “I was- I was... I don’t know what I was. But I wasn’t offended.”

Another smirk hiked up the corner of his mouth. “Flattered, maybe?”

Another frown tugged on the bottom of mine. “I wasn’t that either.”

“Hi!” I heard the voice from beside me and my eyes went wide, surely the size of planets. A sound that was usually comforting was now causing me to believe this could be the worst moment of my life. That voice belonged to my mom, who had felt the need to get out of her station wagon and say hello.

Throwing on an easy smile, Asher directed it towards my mother with ease. “Janette, it’s great to see you again. How are you?”

My brow tilted as she answered and I was suddenly very curious as to why my mother knew this teenager.

“You know each other?” I asked, nearing afraid over what the answer would be as I glanced between the two of them.

My mom’s smile was just as effortless as Asher’s as she answered, “Sweetie, this is Amy’s son,” and my heart disintegrated into my lungs.

I looked at... Amy’s son, whose eyes were bouncing between my mom and me like he’d just put an intricate puzzle together in his own head.

His shifting eyes landed on me as he asserted, “You’re the one who’s staying with me?”

I scowled, silently cursing my mom for ever getting out of her car. “Potentially,” I breathed out quickly.

Asher’s tone was suddenly overflowing with amusement and, though I shut my eyes to avoid it, I could still sense his infamous smirk from a kilometer away. “That’s so interesting. I was just telling Chloe we should hang out more.”

I cracked an eye open and gave him a stink eye, shifting into a smile when my mom peered over at me. Asher laughed lightly at my quick shift in emotion.

My mother instantly exclaimed, “That’s a lovely idea!”

“Okay! Mom, let’s get in the car now,” I stammered, my chest tightening. Asher laughed out loud this time, an enjoyable sound, but all I could think about was my flaming red face.

My mom chuckled. “Okay, sweetie. It was great to see you again, Asher.” Midway through saying her goodbyes, she looked over at another proud member of the PTA waving her over before she muttered, “Excuse me, Chlo. That’s Mrs. Anderson. I need to speak to her quickly about my trip. BRB.”

Before I could cringe over her attempt at teenage lingo, nor drag her to our car myself, she was gone. I looked back towards Asher, who was sporting the most amused smile I’d ever laid eyes on.

“So, friends?” he asked, letting a smug look grow on his face. I frowned at him.

“You weren’t interested in being my friend in class when you implied you wanted to...” I searched for a word that wasn’t dirty but also wasn’t incredibly stupid, failing when I said, “Fornicate,” aloud. I wanted to bang my head against a brick wall.

Asher stared at me blankly for a few seconds, a few dangerously long seconds. Those silent seconds ended, replaced with the loud sound of Asher’s laugh. Trying to tame the mortification from making its resurgence on my face for the trillionth time today, I could feel both the heat and anger rising by the second.

“Fornicate? Dolphin, if that’s what you want to do.” He let out another dedicated chuckle, inclining in. “Although, kids these days just call it sex.”

“You’re a jerk.” And I wanted to scream.

Realizing I was upset with the topic at hand, he tamed himself, still appearing marginally entertained at my expense. He cleared his throat, conceding to the smile tugging on his lips. “I’m only trying to be your friend... if you’ll let me.”

I finally yielded to him. “I- I... Okay. Fine. We can be... acquaintances.”

“Alright, you win. We’ll be acquaintances.” He pitched me a grin. “For now.”

Before I could answer, an angry blonde across the street looked less than happy at Asher and my exchange. Her arm was in the air, waving him over to her loudly. He looked her way and frowned, then redirected to me suddenly with a wink. “Until we meet again, Dolphin.”

He swung around and headed towards the champagne-blond who was in need of his attention. As she wrapped her arms up and over his shoulders, he looked towards me, still watching him from across the street, and a smile split across his lips.

Instantly, I turned away from the pair, opening the passenger door to the car, fully aware that a fork in my road had reared its ugly head, and that fork beared the name of Asher Freed.

______________________________________

When my locker popped open the next morning, I bit down on my apple to secure it in my mouth and used two hands to start to pull my items for the day into my bag as Jamie walked up to me, beaming.

“Hey C.” She smiled brightly. I mumbled an incoherent string of sounds with the apple still clasped between my teeth. Looking over at her, I shut my locker door, surprised by her loud gasp at whatever was behind it. Turning, I had a similar, startled reaction, my breakfast falling out of my mouth when I flipped around.

Asher, who was leaning on the locker directly behind mine, laughed at my response, glancing down at the half-eaten apple on the floor.

“Jesus! You almost gave me a heart attack.” I shook my head, bending down to pick up the dust-covered piece of fruit. Tossing it into the bin behind him, I twisted away and toward Jamie. Asher only took that as an invitation, stepping up next to me and swinging an arm over my shoulder.

“You look fine from where I’m standing. Pretty damn good actually.” He grinned. I rolled my eyes.

A delectable fog fell over me as his arm came into contact with my shoulders and, hating the way I was reacting to his simple touch, my body tensed with an unknown ardor, though I was able to keep my expression free of emotion.

Jamie studied us for a long moment, a smile spreading across her features. “This looks like a newfound friendship to me.”

Despite the fact that I was beginning to speak, Asher interrupted me, hijacking the answer to my best friend’s question. “We’re friends.”

Sighing at him, I began to react poorly to his arm on me, my shoulders lifting and forcing it to slip off hesitantly.

“Acquaintances,” I corrected, glancing over at him to try and gauge his reaction to my touch avoidance. He only smirked, his eyes remaining on Jamie.

“Friends,” he said again.

In typical Jamie fashion, she let out a squeal in response to what he'd shared. The noise caused many of the students who filled the hall to look our way, curious as to if an air horn was being pressed.

Unlike my animated and very cordial best friend, the idea of being the center of attention didn't appeal to me in the least and I turned to face the lockers, pretending to put in my combination as students peered at us.

Asher watched me with lowered brows as I faced the wall of lockers but before he could question it, the bell rang and everyone scrambled into classrooms.

Jamie shifted to me, tossing an unsubtle glimpse over at Asher. “I want details.” Pointing a demanding finger my way, she began to turn to get to class. “Every freakin' one of them.”

When she was out of sight, I flipped to Asher, nodding my head down the hall. “What do you have first? Want to walk me to class, friend?” I mocked.

He shrugged. “I was actually thinking I’d go get breakfast. You want to come?”

My eyes widened as the thought of skipping a class period targeted my attendance record. “What? No! I can’t skip. And you shouldn’t either.”

He chuckled, staring at me as if I had spoken a foreign language. “And why’s that?”

“How am I supposed to get an attendance award if I skip?” People had time and time again commented on my studious ways, but I’d never felt embarrassment from it, sans the moment right then. I was nearly mortified to explain to Asher my so-called perfect record.

“Trick question: nobody wants an attendance award.” He laughed once, amused. “Come get breakfast with me. From what I can see, you’ve only had half an apple.”

I let out a puff of air, realizing he was right. Though my stomach was turning from the thought of indulging in something other than class, I shook my head.

“I can survive on much less than half an apple, I assure you,” I told him, and he chuckled. “Now I’m going to class, as should you.”

His arms crossed over his chest and he rubbed his jaw with puckered lips. “And what’s in it for me?”

“A fruitful education?” I offered, to which he shook his head. Surprisingly, I proposed an alternative. “How about if you go to class, instead of breakfast, we can have dinner tonight. As friends.”

His face lightened at my regretful idea as he quickly muttered, “Deal,” and took off towards his first class.

______________________________________

With a colorful pen in hand and notes stacked neatly atop my desk, I felt my phone in my back pocket begin to buzz as I tried to pay attention to what the teacher was scribbling on the board. With a tiny scowl, I pulled the device out, quickly casting my eyes upon it.

Do you like Italian? the text read.

With perplexion taking over every inch of my expression, I turned in my desk, scanning the room. As my eyes passed over oblivious, note-writing students, they locked with the gaze of my culprit.

Asher’s lips snapped into a sinful smirk when my eyes caught him, and he indicated down towards the phone in my lap. Feeling an emotion akin to frustration for his silly distraction, I stole another glance at the teacher, whose back was still to the class as he plastered writing across the board.

Noting that he was distracted, I typed a message onto my screen. How did you get my number?

Another text vibrated my phone no more than a minute later. Blondie gave it to me this morning after first. Now answer the question: Italian or no?

Try as I might to stop them, my eyes rolled at their own accord as I peaked back towards him, wondering what part of his brain thought this conversation absolutely couldn’t wait. I thought about his suggestion, not craving anything pizza, pasta, or primavera related.

Craning my neck to face him in my desk, I made a face, lifting my shoulders in reluctance. He dropped a brow at my response, staring back into his lap.

His next message included the sobbing emoji, which amused me, followed by the question, Where do you want to go?

Taking little time to decide on what I was craving, I peaked back at our still distracted teacher before pinning my eyes down. Sushi.

I shifted quickly to catch Asher’s reaction to my request. This time, he was the one making a face.

Sushi? he mouthed towards me from across the room, his features scrunched up cutely. At least, his reaction would have been considered cute if he wasn’t bashing my favorite food.

With my mouth open in authentic disbelief, my fingers slid across the touch screen. What’s wrong with sushi?

Too fishy.

A grin stilled on my face and I glanced his way. He shot me a smile that had me close to telling my prior frustration to exit the premises. His eyes disappeared into his lap once more before my phone sounded in my palm.

Sushi it is.

My grin twisted into a genuine expression as I mouthed, thank you, in his direction. He bowed his head gently, allowing another smile to take over his expression.

Ring!

My eyes never disengaging from his, I almost misinterpreted the school bell as my heart flatlining on the monitor inside my head, and I packed up as quickly as I could, desperate to clear my mind of the newfound distraction.

When my day came to an end, I stood in front of the school, looking around unenthusiastically, wondering why I had agreed to dinner with the supposed enemy. A horn piercing through the air, one that strangely reminded me of Jamie’s squeal in the hallway, scared me out of my meager stance and I looked over to see Asher sitting in his car.

“Are you going to get in? Or stand there looking like a lost kid?” He chuckled, admiring me as I hopped into the shiny, black chrome car beside him. The interior was charming, as was the driver, black leather bench seats taking up the front and back.

“Are you excited or what?” he joked, drumming his fingers along the wheel of his car.

“Or what,” I grumbled. I’d only agreed to this dinner to help Asher avoid missing his morning classes. I made a mental note to let him do what he wanted next time around.

Asher hadn’t given me the response I’d expected; he was impervious to my rudeness. Instead, he chuckled loudly, tossing his hands up in defense. “Jesus. You’re ruthless, aren’t you?”

“I’m completely merciless. Some go as far as to say heartless.” I shrugged casually.

He shook his head at my answer. “I highly doubt that.”

“You don’t-” My response was interrupted by a redhead resting her arms on the windowsill as she suddenly leaned to peer into the car. My irritation flared at her abrupt presence and I worked quickly to remind myself there was nothing to be irritated about.

“Hi Asher,” she purred.

Asher’s eyes drifted slowly down her body before coming back to her face and the interaction caused my teeth to gnaw ungently on my lip and my eyes to cast downward to my lap. Pondering the question, Why am I so awkward? I scratched at the surface level of my finger, hoping to distract myself from the conversation with a nervous tick.

“Hey... you.” Asher’s eyes were narrowed in confusion as he spoke the words.

“It’s Carly.” He had forgotten her name, but she didn’t seem to mind as she corrected him.

“Right, Carly. Good to see you again." Asher lied instantly, clearly pretending he knew exactly who this woman was. Or perhaps he really did recognize her from wherever she’d come from, though I wouldn’t bet on that.

“You too. We have to meet up again soon.” She looked down at him, slowly, then over at me. “Who’s she?”

I peered over at her wide-eyed but Asher only glanced my way before turning his attention back to her.

“Just a friend.” I nodded to confirm his words, though I still considered us acquaintances. “We’ve got plans, but I’ll see you around, yeah?”

Carly nodded at him before leaning in, grabbing onto his collar, and planting a giant kiss on his lips. I stared for a second with large eyes but turned when I felt I was intruding on a moment.

Letting go, she blew him another, more innocent kiss and left the car side. With a smirk sheltering his mouth, Asher began to drive away from the school. A harsh noise exited my mouth from his actions.

“Is that what you do all day? Make out with different girls?” I sneered, my face scrunching in disgust.

“Just about as many times as you roll your eyes,” he deadpanned. I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes. Moving past the unnerving topic involving whatever had happened with the unnaturally colored-haired girl, he craned his neck to glimpse at me. “How was your day, Dol?”

“Dol?” My brow dipped in question at the even newer nickname.

“Dolphin is too long, so I’ve shortened it.” He threw a half-smile my way.

Amused by his clarification, I huffed in laughter. “Is this nickname all a ploy to avoid admitting you don’t actually know my name is Chloe?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, shaking his head. “I can’t hear you over the sound of my way cooler nickname, Dol.”

I sighed for the thousandth time that day and belatedly answered his question. “My day was okay, kind of boring.”

Nodding, he took a moment to agree. “Mine too. Being forced to go to first period really kills my mood. Thanks for that, by the way.” He jokingly glared over at me, pulling onto the main road.

A grin kicking up the corner of my mouth, I shrugged. “Any time.”

*Asher’s Point of View*

We pulled into a sushi place a few minutes after Dolphin had been forced to watch a previous one-night-stand ambush my lips next to my car. The redhead pressed her lips against me before I could offer a reason why she shouldn’t, which was sort of how I remembered our night together going as well.

Dol looked indescribably annoyed once I’d turned back to her, proving that I could irritate her even when I didn’t try.

She gave me a cute grin when I’d held the restaurant door open for her, tucking a loose strand of her hair behind her ear and tramping in, locating a table in the back, out of the public’s view for the most part. I frowned. She really didn’t want to be seen with me, did she?

We sat across from each other, and she rested her forearms against the table side with a minuscule smile, though solely calling her expression a smile as if it wasn’t the most impressive thing my eyes had ever seen felt wrong.

The fact that she had not only agreed but offered to have dinner with me brought a smile to my face. I’d never been so anxious to get a girl alone, especially to not even have the night end with sex.

“So,” she began, her eyebrows raising in question. “Any siblings?”

My face instantly brightened and I could do nothing to stop it as I confessed, “Sister. She’s seven and she’s my favorite person on earth.”

Chloe’s smile grew wider from my authentic reaction. “You two are close?”

My voice dropped to a whisper and I looked around the establishment with false worry as I muttered, “Don’t tell the guys, but she’s my best friend.”

The dimples in Dolphin’s cheeks tacked on as her expression grew lighter and I enjoyed the fact that she wasn’t as disgusted with my presence as she had been earlier that day.

Since she’d offered me the first inquiry of the night, I followed close behind, questioning her on something I’d noticed throughout the last few days. “So, are you like the only senior in the Bay Area who doesn’t have a license or something?”

I thought the question was as innocent as ever, but her smile fell before my very eyes.

“What?” she asked, her shoulders appearing tenser than moments before, and I mentally facepalmed for somehow being able to make her uncomfortable once again.

I endeavored to stumble my way through an excuse as to why I’d asked. “I-uh, I noticed your mom picked you up yesterday and dropped you off this morning. Maybe I’m spitballing here, but those are the signs of someone with no driver’s license.”

“I have a license.” She sighed, visibly releasing the tension in her shoulders as they dropped. “I don’t have a, um, a car...”

“Oh.” Though curious about her reaction, and the fact everyone I knew owned a car, I decided to leave it at that and changed topics faster than Chloe could keep up.

“What’s your deal, Dol?” I asked as I unrolled my silverware, setting the napkin into my lap.

Chloe eyed me carefully as I did, appearing surprised, probably wondering how Asher Freed — king of arrogance — had managed even the most basic table manners. I hoped that had knocked me up a few pegs.

She narrowed her perfect eyes at the question I’d submitted and answered honestly. “I’m not quite sure what you mean.”

“I mean that twenty-four hours ago you were chewing my head off for asking you out and now you’re having dinner with me.” There was a curve to my lips, turning my expression into a mix of both curiosity and entertainment. Following in my lead, she unrolled her own silverware.

“Twenty-four hours ago you bypassed our cordial conversation about keychains to ask- no, demand, that I let you pick me up for dinner. That’s a little prick-ish.” She pinched her fingers together before laying her napkin onto her lap, noticing my fallen smile and adding, “And this is not a date, if that’s what you think. We’re friends.”

“So we are friends?” My diminished features turned up into a wide grin at her mistake.

Tilting her head, she sighed, well aware she’d officially tempted me with friendship. “We’re friends, I guess.”

Ecstatic, I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms, knowing she was fighting the urge to roll those blue eyes.

“And, as your friend, I’m curious as to if you’ve decided where you’re staying while your mom is away. Because, you know, my house is an option.” I paused, picking up a menu, and peeking up at her from over it with a playful grin. “As is my bed.”

Friends, she mouthed at me. “And I don’t know. If Jamie can house me, I’m going to take her up on the offer.”

Her fingers were in her hair after that, reaching up and shaking through the fallen waves, looking so incredible without even trying. Jesus fucking Christ, she was the most beautiful person I’d ever met. The previous shame I’d felt from calling her something other than hot had disappeared and I couldn’t deny she was more than just hot; she was gorgeous.

Taking her hair into her hands, she pulled the mass into a ponytail, allowing for an unobstructed view of her face. I wondered briefly if that was how she looked waking up in the morning, and before I knew it, it was all I could think about.

I wanted to know if she slept in until noon whenever she could or woke when the sun arose. I wanted to know how she drank her coffee and how she liked her eggs. I wanted to know her first thought when she opened her bright eyes each morning. My own series of questions led me to my arbitrary demand.

“Move in with me. My family. You should stay with us,” were the words that exited my mouth before I’d had time to mull them over.

She squinted, looking rightfully disoriented. Setting down my menu, I attempted to revive myself and spread my arms along the back of the seat, appearing deep in thought to buy myself more time to think.

I pursed my lips, pulling my eyes to hers. “I’d like to make you an offer of my own.”

She gradually nodded, waiting for the continuance of this so-called offer.

I proceeded carefully. “Let's bet on something. You win, you can choose where you stay. I win, you stay with me.”

She snorted cutely. “And why would I do that when I could choose where I stay now and cut out all the work of a bet?”

“Okay, smartass.” Pulling my bottom lip between my teeth, my smirk only widened as my eyes flitted across her face. “What do you want if you win?”

Agreeing to the proposition a little fast, she pondered her own side of the bet, searching for an idea. Landing on one, her lips tilted into an evil leer, and I was sure she was about to sink me.

“If you win, I stay with you while my mom's away. If I win, you cannot have... hook-ups... with anyone until my mom gets back... in March.” She sent a sinister smile my way. My jaw hit the table, I’m sure of it.

Closing my eyes, I worked my way through an inhalation of air. I understood her offer was only to get me to back out, to admit the bet might not be the best idea. I would do no such thing. “Deal.”

She chuckled. “That’s what I thou- wait, what?” A frown replaced her smile. “Really?”

I nodded only once, clearly distraught about my choice. Equally distraught, she picked up her menu. “Okay... so what’s the competition aspect?”

“Good question Dol, I’m not sure yet.” I looked down into my menu again, shaking my head at the stubborn-ass girl. “But I’m going to win.”

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