Destructively Oblivious

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Chapter 39: The End

The End

/T͟Hē,T͟Hə/ /end/

noun

1. the final part of something, often a storyline.

______________________________________

*Chloe’s Point of View*

Hours after the annihilation of my common sense in the car, I had slumped myself into a chair in the kitchen of the cabin, admiring the colorfully dirty yellow tiles beneath my feet. Andy’s parents owned the small shack in the middle of damn-near nowhere, letting him set up camp for a few days with their permission. The service was crap and the wind was freezing, but it was a nice getaway from the real world and a fun way to spend the weekend with friends.

Jamie, my roomie for the next night, had snuck off with Andy into his room, the one he was sharing with Asher, to do some pretty unspeakable things. Mindy had scurried away with Danny into the evening air to watch the stars, a romantic but numbingly cold experience that I did not want to partake in. And Blake who, in my opinion, had lost his mind, decided the nice January night weather was perfect for jumping into the lake behind the cabin.

That left Asher who, as far as I could tell, was sulking over something on the couch. I had considered strolling over to him to ask what was the matter, but the last time I did that it ended with me losing all accounts of sanity in the back seat of Andy’s minivan.

I had a clear view of him, the kitchen directly across from the living room, watching him gnaw on his bottom lip like it was going to give him the answer to the question he was contemplating.

Unpleasant feelings trickled down my spine from watching him without him knowing and I pulled out my phone, hoping to turn on some music and drown out the awful silence of the house. My phone sent out light sputtering that barely sounded like a song but stopped a second later due to the lack of service. Sighing, I glanced upwards at the kitchen counter, my eyes landing on an ancient-looking radio.

Hopeful and bored, I made my way over to it, flipping on the switch. When no sounds came from it, I picked up the small, dusty machine, turning it around to check for any sort of battery it might need. My movement in the kitchen had appealed to Asher, who was next to me a few seconds later, staring at the device.

Silently holding out his hand, I set it into his grasp to see if he could work some sort of magic spell and turn it on. He set it back on the counter and, pushing a few random buttons, slammed his fist on top of it. The sounds that came from the machine were dry sputters at first, but eventually, it picked up on a signal and the ugly chrome rectangle was singing a jazz song into the empty-sounding house. There was a slight crackle the radio let out with each tune, but I was grateful that it wasn’t so silent anymore.

With a faint curve on my lips, I rocked slowly to the music. Asher, who seemed as happy with the music as I did, held out his hand to me.

“May I have this dance?” he asked. Halting, I gawked down at the appendage offered. His smile broadened. “Come on, don’t be awkward.”

Don’t be awkward, I repeated to myself.

Setting my hand in his, I allowed him to pull me into him. One of his hands was in mine, the other clasping on my waist as he swayed us gently back and forth. Reaching my hand up to set onto his shoulder, we stared at each other for a silent moment.

Almost forcefully, Asher tossed me a half-smile. “Are you having fun on the trip so far?”

I shrugged slowly. “It’s better now.”

His half-smile spread into a full one as he looked away from me, finding entertainment in the tapestry of dogs playing poker that hung above the table. Not knowing what else to do, I leaned in and rested the top of my cheek against his shoulder, almost wanting to dip low enough to hear each thump from his heart against my ear.

I stayed put, instead focusing on the breaths he slowly inhaled, each lifting my head. He smelled like peppermint and woodsy cologne, both scents comforting to inhale as I laid against his chest. Minutes passed with only the sound of jazz cushioning around us.

“What is it about me?” I whispered before I had thought the question through. My inquiry wasn’t exactly the clearest and his answer didn’t surprise me.

“What?” he questioned my question.

Almost unable to, I pulled my head from his disturbingly comfortable shoulder to look up into his eyes again. “Out of everyone else, why do you like me?”

He seemed thrown by the inquiry at first but smiled weakly. “There was something about the way you looked at me for the first time.”

I narrowed my eyes, bewildered by his response.

Noting my confusion, he shrugged. “I feel like myself around you. You see me in a way nobody else does.” He chuckled lightly, letting his eyes roll at his own explanation. “It sounds stupid, but I’ve always felt so unnoticed.”

A perplexed smile grew on my lips as I released the words, “Unnoticed? Asher, everybody knows who you are.”

His head shook rapidly. “Nobody knows who I am. They only see the idiot who causes a scene and argues too much and drinks more often than he should. They only see a guy who tries so hard to ensure he isn’t completely forgotten.”

My amusement tilted into a frown. “Forgotten?”

“It’s easy to forget someone when they are...” He paused, and I wasn’t sure if he was searching for the right word or willing himself to actually say it, but he finally sighed, muttering, “...invisible.”

I stared at him blankly, halting our movement on the makeshift dance floor. How strange that he could feel so invisible that he would need to act out to be seen, while I felt so seen that I worked tirelessly to become invisible.

Slowly, I allowed us to sway back and forth, swallowing the emotional contradiction that both of us were cursed with.

“You’re not invisible. You don’t have to exert yourself trying to get people to notice you,” I said softly, slightly distressed with his inner affliction.

He smiled, which broadcasted a similar expression on my own face, and shared, “You’ve always seen me for exactly who I am.”

I felt warm from his confession, but an icy feeling ran through me when he explained, “I’ve just pretended to be someone else for so long that I don’t really know who that is anymore.” He sighed. “All I know is that when I’m around you, there’s no acting involved.”

His answer led me to my next question. “So, how do you teach yourself to unlearn your own make-believe?”

He broke our long-lasting eye contact, looking around the kitchen like he was searching for his answer. I didn’t know if I should tell him that the dogs from the poker table were not going to explain for him.

His eyes were soft when they returned to me, and he let his shoulders relax. “I don’t know yet. But I’ll let you know when I find out.”

Hand once again on my waist, he dragged me to his chest. The crackle of jazz was the only sound that filled the air as he moved his foot backward in one smooth motion, gliding across the floor. I chased his retreating foot with mine, his fingers tightening on my ribs.

He managed another smile as I stared down at our feet, watching our bodies move together in an innocent way such as dancing; different from the less innocent ways our bodies had been moving together up until now. Waving and moving gradually in the kitchen, the only sounds left were the jazz and our soft footsteps, both reminding me that I didn’t want to be anywhere but there.

The moment was cut short when a soaking wet guy ran into the house, followed by Danny and Mindy. Blake seemed regretful as he huddled into a ball, shaking and shivering as small drops fell from his body. Danny seemed happy, his hand in Mindy’s as he followed his freezing friend into the house.

“That was fucking awesome!” Danny laughed, as did Mindy.

Blake disagreed immediately, uncaringly ringing out his shirt onto the floor. “That was fucking cold, jackass.”

“Don’t call me a jackass, you’re the one who jumped in,” Danny hollered at his frigid best friend.

“You’re the one who told me too!” Blake shivered.

Danny frowned. “It was Asher’s idea.”

Looking dumbstruck for a moment, Blake turned to glare over at Asher as if he had dragged him out to the lake and pushed him in himself. “What the fuck, dude?” he exclaimed.

Asher, who had let go of me only seconds after they’d walked in, looked a bit dumbstruck as well as he asked, “How the hell am I getting blamed for this?”

Danny burst out laughing, but the glower didn’t leave Blake’s face. “You know what you did, asshole.”

Asher merely rolled his eyes, excusing himself from the kitchen.

______________________________________

An hour later, I was sitting between Jamie and Mindy on the front deck, staring out into the dark night lit only by the moon and the porch lights. The sky was gray, giving the impression a storm was on the horizon, while the air was freezing and each breath I took felt like frostbite as the wind made its way down to my lungs.

The guys, all warm and cozy in the house, were considered some of the luckiest people in the world to me, due to the fact I felt like my fingers would fall off if I cracked them.

“Why are we out here again?” I breathed, rubbing my hands together in search of warmth. My button-up shirt and sweater were not enough to keep me warm in weather like this.

Jamie, looking much more secure than both Mindy and I combined, leaned back on her hands and tilted her head, seeping up at much cold air as possible. She was wearing shorts in the near-forty degree weather and I decided she was either legitimately insane, cold-blooded, or both. “Because it feels great. It’s so hot in the house. I felt like I was a cookie sitting in an oven.”

Mindy looked longingly back at the door of the cabin, rubbing her biceps with opposite hands. “I know right. I miss it.”

I chuckled between the two girls, watching Mindy bring her knees to her chest and bundle herself around them. Looking back through the window, her eyes landed on the guys. “What do you think they’re talking about?”

Jamie looked over at me knowingly. “Twenty bucks they’re talking about Asher’s gigantic crush on you.”

I threw my elbows down onto my knees, resting my chin on my palms. “You’re so funny my sides hurt,” I deadpanned.

With unmistakable delight, Mindy’s eyes lit up. “I saw you two dancing in the kitchen earlier. It was so romantic.”

Jamie tossed a stick she picked up nearby and sneered in my direction. “He wants you, it’s obvious, but he’s not the type of guy who climbs terraces with roses or stands out on your front lawn with a boombox. That’s not how he expresses the way he feels. If you’re looking for some kind of Romeo and Juliet declaration of love, then you’re going to be disappointed.”

“Romeo and Juliet are just the exceptions, not the rule,” the red-headed girl to my right chimed in.

“And I hope you and Asher don’t pull some Shakespeare shit and end up killing each other,” Jamie joked.

Sitting up straighter, I tore at my fingers nervously. “Actually, Romeo and Juliet didn’t kill each other, they killed themselv-” Receiving the usual, I-couldn’t-care-less look from my best friend, I shook my head, sighing. “I know exactly how Asher feels about me, but it’s not enough for him to fully commit himself. If we were meant to be, we would have been by now. Too much has happened between us.”

Jamie was opposingly silent. She set both her hands onto the hardwood as she slowly scooted away from the two of us and towards the front door, setting her back against the house. Motioning us closer, we followed suit, sitting next to her as she brought her finger to her lips to quiet us. She reached up, pulling the cabin door open a crack in order to hear the conversation from inside the living room without being noticed.

I thought invading the guys’ privacy was a bit much, but curiosity fumed through me, which made it impossible to stop myself from listening to the voices inside when I heard one of them say my name. I think I owed Jamie twenty bucks.

*Asher’s Point of View*

I was relaxing stiffly on the chair in the living room, watching Danny, Blake, and Andy on the couch. Still shaken up from what happened in the car, I was silently listening to my friends converse.

I pondered the words, ‘shaken up’. Those were the words you’d use after you exit a haunted house or back your car into a mailbox. Not the words you use after you made out with the girl you just realized you loved.

The girl I just realized I loved.

My shin pulsated in pain when Danny’s foot came into contact with it. The light ache was enough to pull me from my thoughts and I looked up at him.

He looked genuinely concerned. “You okay, man? You’ve been down since we got here.”

His question brought the attention of my two other curious friends. His question concurrently went unanswered for a few seconds as I pondered the multiple directions I could take the conversation. I guess I wasn’t very good with words, so I shrugged.

Andy ran a hand through his hair as his brows dipped in thought. “Is it Chloe?”

Leaning back against the not-so-comfortable plaid chair, I rested my elbow on the arm. “It’s always Chloe.”

He frowned, appearing guilty as he sighed. “I’m sorry for inviting both of you. I should have known it would be awkward for you guys.”

I disagreed with him, shaking my head. “No, I’m glad that she’s here. I made a mistake in avoiding her. I thought it was the right choice, but it was stupid. I’m just happy she doesn’t hate me for it.”

Blake chuckled, the sound irate to my ears. “How the hell are you this hung up over a chick?”

His eyes rolled back as if he was unable to fathom having feelings for another human being. I, too, was that oblivious once, so I couldn’t necessarily blame him for his ignorance.

I shrugged. “Don’t ask me. I’ve been trying to figure it out for months.”

Danny’s face peeled over with worry as he began to think back on our previous conversations about Dol. “Is this about the question awhile back? Look, maybe it was a bad idea to ask if you loved her a day after you slept with her.”

“Yeah, that was some heavy shit,” Andy agreed. Suddenly amused, he let out a short sputter of laughter. “It was a stupid question. Just forget about it.”

My pulse, suddenly pounding like a drumstick on a metal pan, felt like it was trying to claw its way from my wrist as my spine straightened, my words skinning from my mouth at an uncontrollable speed.

“I can’t just forget about it. And I can’t forget about the way I feel. I love her. I’d be a complete idiot if I didn’t.” I swallowed hard at the words I’d spoken, realizing I’d never admitted it out loud before. The way it sounded aloud made me nervous, and I could barely mumble it again. “I’m in love with her.”

The room fell towards silence abruptly at my admission, the faces of each of my friends a similar state packed with one reaction: shock.

Blake was the first to break the quiet air and his forehead marred with confusion and disgust. “Love?”

My words snagged in my throat, the air seemingly thicker than before as I tried to explain how I felt. After a few moments of fumbling with words in my brain, I simply nodded at the inquiry.

The indication wasn’t enough for Andy, who stood. “You love her? Like, really?”

Grinding my jaw back and forth, slightly annoyed that my nod wasn’t enough to believe, I sucked in an inadequate breath. My nerves were wired beyond any restoration. “Yes. Like, really. Asshole,” I mumbled the last word to myself.

Andy punched the air in triumph while they all revealed broad smiles at my verbal confirmation. “It’s about time you realized you love her, you jackass. Congrats, you’re the last to know,” he joked.

I scowled. “Actually, no. Dol’s the last to know.”

When the three boys were done celebrating something that I wasn’t sure how to handle, none of them seemed to like my reaction to my own news.

Danny frowned. “Why aren’t you more excited about this?”

I sat straight up in my chair, wondering the exact same thing. “Because I thought when I answered your mind-fuck of a question things would be easier but they’re not. What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

“You ask her out, genius,” Blake stated, matter-of-factually. ”Then bang one out. Again.”

I frowned. “Nothing has changed.”

“Everything has changed.” Andy smiled. “How does love feel? The mystical thing you swore didn’t exist.”

As if someone had cast a spell, my eyes found interest in the nappy rug beneath my feet and I couldn’t remove my gaze from it. Regardless of how stressed the topic made me, I couldn’t ignore the presence of pure bliss in my chest.

“It’s the most amazing and fucked up thing I’ve ever felt in my life.” I chuckled, suddenly lost in thought. “She annoys the hell out of me, but I love her.”

The silence in the room was not comforting and when I brought my gaze from my feet back to my friends, not one of them was looking at me, but every single one was looking past me.

On the tip of my tongue sat the question, asking what they were looking at, but I suddenly realized there was only a single thing that could have distracted each one. My breath catching, I dreaded turning around and I hoped with everything inside me that I was mistaken.

I cringed, turning in my chair, my eyes landing on Dol, exactly what I had expected. She looked at me in stunned silence, standing agape from my confession. Jamie and Mindy stood right beside her, both watching her like she was going to implode.

I opened my mouth to explain, to tell her to her face how I really felt about her, but I wasn’t presented the chance. She turned from the room suddenly and bolted out the front entrance, the sound of the door slamming filling the silence for only a second.

A slight sigh of defeat was my only answer before I stood and rushed after her, closing the door much more peacefully than before.

*Chloe’s Point of View*

I stormed from the house, down the porch steps, and onto the pavement. The cold breeze hit me a second later, but I couldn’t feel a thing. The air was rent and suffocating and all I could think about was getting away from the house.

I could hear footsteps behind me, but I continued racing away, not wishing to face the person I knew was following me closely.

“Dol! Come back inside, it’s freezing.” Asher’s voice confirmed that it was him behind me.

Flipping around for a split second and realizing I didn’t make it as far from the house as I initially thought, I threw my arms out to the sides. “Then go back inside and leave me alone!”

Unfortunately, he moved much faster than me, gripping tightly onto my bicep and turning me to face him, halting me in my attempts to escape him and his confusing feelings.

“What the hell are you angry about now?” he scolded.

I jerked away from him, ripping my arms from his solid grasp, tense. “You love me? You love me?! You can’t!”

Asher’s eyes narrowed, the caramel color igniting with sudden frustration. “And why’s that?”

Instantly pissed, I gathered my self-will and turned to leave, stopped only by Asher’s less-than-patient tone.

“Chloe!” That word alone froze me in my tracks. “If you march off into the middle of nowhere, your clumsy ass is going to get lost. So either go back into the house or tell me what you’re afraid of.”

A visible, chilled breath escaped me as I swiftly turned around, arms crossed. Curse me and my horrible notion of direction. Swallowing hard, I scowled.

“Everything has to go back to normal! We were so close. You can’t love me because we can’t be friends if I know you do.” My head began shaking, my emotions bouncing off the trees surrounding us. “You said you can’t be with me until you’re convinced you won’t somehow ruin my life, but we can’t pretend to be friends if we’re in love with each other!”

Asher froze, his eyes wide with apparent shock and I cringed upon realizing what I had admitted. “You love me?” he breathed out.

Staring expectantly, I lifted my shoulders. “Of course, I love you, you jackass!”

Taking a moment to compose himself, like he truly hadn’t expected me to love him back, like he hadn’t watched my cold and heartbroken behavior the last few weeks, he gestured back in the direction of the warm house. “What I said in there is true. There’s nothing I can do to take it back now.”

“You can’t take anything you’ve done back,” I swallowed, distressed. My voice began to fragment from the lump forming in my throat and the tears gathering in my eyes. "These last few weeks... I... You shouldn’t hurt people that you love, Asher.”

He ran a hand through his hair, looking away from me. "I'm sorry. All I've ever tried to do is avoid hurting you."

My vision was blurry as I looked down at my feet, my shoes slick with the mud from the misty night. Asher’s voice pulled my attention from the ground to him as he stepped towards me, tugging my hand and holding it between the two of his. We locked eyes as I ignored the way his skin felt against mine.

He exhaled roughly as he stated, “You said it yourself, you don’t hurt those you love but that’s all I am capable of.”

“You make me happy!” I blurted suddenly, observing the way his face faded from defeated to an unrecognizable expression. “You make me feel… happy. And brave and funny. And you make me feel proud and excited and smart and kind and beautiful. You help me experience so many emotions and feelings that it’s cruel of you to belittle yourself into someone who only causes pain.”

Watching him, he looked surer than he had in weeks. I stepped up to him, closing the gap between us, resting my hand on his chest when he released my hand from his own. “I don’t want you to feel pressured into this if you’re not ready. I want you to be completely sure you want to be with me, the way I’m completely sure I want to be with you.”

My nose twitched as I watched him watch me in complete silence. On top of that, lightning stroked the dark sky, thunder rumbling behind it. As everything else went wrong, a drop hit my cheek, forcing my face up to the clouds that would soon be downpouring.

Great. Just great.

It only took one more bolt of lightning to start the storm. Rain hammered down, creating the loud, fast pitter-pattered noises onto the ground. The cracking sound reminded me of the small radio from the kitchen. The water beat down on my skin like it was trying to travel right through, soaking my clothes in a matter of seconds. This really was the paragon of days.

I could feel my heart in my throat as I waited for him to speak. He opened his mouth, his arms bundling around him a second time, wanting comfort. He didn’t say anything, which I was used to lately.

“I... I-” Asher seemed personally surprised that his vocal cords betrayed him in a time like this, staring at the ground like it would explain to me what he wanted. “I...”

Hoping the pouring rain would cover up any potential tears in my eyes, I shouldered past him. I needed a shower. Unfortunately, mortification didn’t wash off with soap. Or rain, apparently.

I felt his hand on my arm for the second time that night and, for the second time that night, I was going to rip myself away from him. The opportunity didn’t present itself to me because all I did was get flipped around, tumbling forward a few steps, and crashing into Asher. The next thing I knew, he had slammed his lips to mine and nearly knocked all the wind from my lungs.

Without me having to tug it away, he let go of my arm to instead bury his hands into my sopping hair and pushed his mouth harder against mine. I was completely unprepared. One would think from all the times I’d kissed Asher, I would have lacked the tingly, sweet feeling that came with his lips on mine, but that feeling was there, heavy and present, making my head swim.

Cutting us off far too soon, Asher pulled himself from me to instead look into my eyes, holding my face steady. The ounce of my brain that was still linked to my insecurities thought I probably looked stupid with my face squished roughly between Asher’s hands, my lips pouting outwards. He stared down at me like my soggy-clothed, drenched-haired, dampened face was the most attractive thing he’d ever seen, and the ounce melted away.

He spoke, his words so soft, meant only for me to dissolve, placing his lips over mine after every phrase. “I love you, Dol... I’m in love with you... And I want this with you... I’m sorry for everything I’ve done... I’m sorry for all the ways I’ve hurt you... I’m so sorry... I love you...”

Words didn’t do justice to how I was feeling, my lips lifting uncontrollably at the sound of those words. I breathed out in honesty, “I love you,” before pushing my face back to his, the droplets of rain falling down our faces and stopping where our lips met.

Asher kissed my lips a few times before letting go of my face completely to instead grab my hand into his. Not having enough time to process his actions, he dropped down onto his knee and my expression fell, my eyes immediately doubling in size.

I didn’t mean to look so shocked, but fear rushed through me at the sight of him on one knee and I debated what I was going to say if he was doing what I thought he was doing.

“What are you doing?” I laughed nervously.

He had a broad smile on his face as he looked up at me, seeming much more self-assured than me. “I love you and I want to be with you. I’m not an easy person to handle and we’re probably going to be a huge mess but...” The dramatic pause only made my heart drop into my stomach further. Asher’s smile dropped into his very well-known smirk as he watched me on the edge of panic. “Will you do me the honors of being my girlfriend?”

Snatching my hand from him, I used both to cover my sizzling face and wipe away some of the rain that had lightened to a sprinkle in the passing minutes. “Jesus, Ash, you scared the shit out of me!”

Asher stood, his eyebrows pulling together as he feigned confusion. “Oh, I’m sorry, were you waiting on a proposal? I hate to be a tease.”

“I hate you.”

“No, you love me.” Standing, he grabbed my face again, yanking me as close as my mouth could get without touching his. “And I love you... so much.”

In some kind of massive exertion of both kissing, walking, and struggling, we both tumbled through the front door of the cabin to a room filled with our friends, their conversation coming to an abrupt stop as they watched us fall through.

They looked expectantly at us like we were going to reenact what had happened outside in the rain. Instead, Asher grabbed my hand and dragged us farther into the house, letting the door slam behind us.

We found our way into the middle of the room, between the front door and the hallway, as Andy discovered his voice and revealed a big smile. “So? What happened?”

I opened my mouth to hopefully stumble my way through an explanation, but Asher’s hands on my hips put me in an unable-to-speak trance. Against my will, I melted into him, pressing my back into his chest and laying my head on his shoulder. A pleasurable chuckle escaped him as his hands snaked all the way around me and he rested his cheek against the side of my head.

Presenting me proudly to our group of friends, his wide smile from earlier resurfaced. “We’re engaged.”

A symphony of questions bombarded us from each person in the room, and I felt Asher’s chest bounce with laughter against my back.

A smile followed after my eye roll, and I interlaced Asher’s fingers with mine as I interjected all the confusion with, “Not engaged. Just dating.”

Asher chuckled, laying a kiss on my soggy hair as the applauds and hollers commenced from our friends. Nothing more was said between us because I was jerked from the living room and down the hall abruptly.

The hallway was short, my room with Jamie at the very end of it. Stopping us in front of my closed door, Asher leaned into me, pushing me against the thin slate of wood that blocked us from where I wanted to be as he asked, “Does Jamie sleep?"

"Usually," I answered sarcastically, confused by the question.

He chuckled. "Well, she can't in here."

I contemplated that comment for a moment, then realized he was referring to what was going to soon be a compromised room. I didn't exactly want to put a timer on how long Asher and I could use the bed before Jamie wanted to sleep it in.

He leaned back slightly and his voice echoed throughout the hall towards our friends in the next room. “Jamie, I hope you didn't unpack because your suitcase is about to be in the hall!" he joked.

Her laugh only a few yards away was loud, but I barely noticed. What did happen to latch onto my attention was Asher gripping onto the doorknob, swinging it open, and pushing us both through the jamb.

He went to close the door but I pointed at Jamie's luggage, which she'd genuinely be needing if she wasn't allowed in the room. He groaned melodramtically before placing her bags in the hallway and kicking the door closed with his foot.

The bedroom was dark; the only light was the moon shining through the window and landing directly onto the bed, highlighting a spot I wanted to lay in. Standing so close I could breathe him, Asher wrapped his arms around me, setting one hand into my hair as he drew us closer. Craving the way his hair felt in my hands, I tugged lightly on the sodden mop. His hand moved down my cheek gently, landing on my chin as he lured my mouth to his.

His fingers left my face when both his hands drifted down my thighs, lifting one of my legs and adjusting it to his hip before grabbing the other. My feet left the ground as my legs tightened around him and he carried me towards the bed.

I bounced slightly when he let me fall onto the mattress and for a moment, I worried about my rain-covered self soaking the sheets. When Asher’s hands found my jeans, the fleeting thought left. It took a few seconds, but the damp jeans slid slowly down my legs as he tore them off me.

Helping him speed up the process of undressing me, I ripped off my sweater, my fingers working quickly on the buttons on my shirt, the one that was missing two at the bottom. My breath hitched as he crawled over me. Leaning close, his eyes scoured down the length of me. I felt his hot breath on my neck when his lips brushed against me, burning me with the contact.

My head rocked back against the pillow as he did, a whimper escaping my lips. My hands continued to run through his hair, only leaving the wet strands to run down the etched lines of his back and tug at the button of his shirt.

Sitting up, he tore the shirt over his head and tried to lean down to reach me again, but I kept him at arm’s length. I stared up at his confused and eager expression as he peered down at me.

Maybe it wasn’t the perfect time to ask, but it seemed perfect to me. “You’re my boyfriend?”

Clearly relieved I didn’t say anything contradictory to what I had said outside the house, Asher slumped slightly with a demure smile. “Yes.”

“And I’m your girlfriend?”

“That’s kind of how this works.” He laughed, grabbing my hand that was keeping him away and dragging it up over his shoulder as he leaned back down to me. I let him, reaching down to grab onto his belt.

With one more thing to clarify, I used a hand to caress the side of his face. “And we’ll still be together tomorrow morning when I wake up?”

A guilty expression on his face, he nodded. His guilty eyes turned playful again when he saw my cheeks dimpling and as the thunder rumbled, he lowered his mouth to mine. My blood pounded in my veins nearly as hard as the rain on the roof above us. His hands moved over my skin, my body a paralysis, my mind unable to process anything.

With numb fingers, I snapped open his belt buckle, captivated when I was able to slip the jeans down his hips and off. I trailed my anxious fingers down his bare chest, intending on sliding my hand into the front of his boxers, hoping to make him pant the same way I had been.

Wishing to hear him, I tracked my pointer finger along the edge of his shorts, but he pulled from my reach, relocating his lips down my neck. I forgot all about the act when his gentle hands slipped to my back, baring me of my bra. Clutching onto a pillow, I cried out the way I’d wanted him to as his mouth closed over my breast.

Along with his skilled mouth working what I was sure was a miracle over my chest, his equally talented fingers trailed downwards, sliding between my legs and brushing tenderly over the material of my underwear. Inclining away from me, he seized the edges of my panties and my breath caught as my eyes connected with his.

He lowered an eyebrow, wordlessly begging for permission before he stripped me completely bare underneath him. My throat was too tight to form a comprehensible response and, instead of responding with words, I replaced his hands on the edges with my own, stripping myself of my last piece of clothing.

Asher laced my leg over his forearm, parting my thighs and, after his eyes had followed a trail over every inch of my skin that was visible to him, he inclined back in, caressing my lips with his before resuming his path downwards.

He stroked his lips against any part of me he could reach. He left delicate kisses against my ribcage, sucked gently on the crescent of my waist, even stopping to nibble at the skin on my inner thighs. His lips continued their onslaught on me, leaving a blazing path of energy in their wake.

Eventually, he positioned himself on his elbows, gathering between my legs. I couldn’t hear anything over the blood coursing through my veins and I knew by the look on his face that he was going to provide me with an unimaginable amount of pleasure.

“Has anyone ever gone down on you before?” he asked, his eyes once again wavering over my flesh only inches from his face.

Acknowledging his question didn’t exactly appeal to me in a moment such as this, but I couldn’t lie to him as he laid iotas from my most sacred area. I swallowed, raising my shoulders in puzzlement.

“Kind of,” I muttered, feeling a lower level of embarrassment.

“Kind of?” Asher chuckled, the air from his amusement hitting me full force and causing my hips to squirm. “Did you like it?”

Again, I was honest. I shook my head no, answering both his question and shaking the memory of the past experience from my mind, ordering it away.

With a hungry gaze and a confident tone, Asher smiled effortlessly from between my legs, looking astonishingly sexy from my standpoint.

“Well, you'll like this.” He followed his promise with movement and suddenly, all I could feel was his tongue against my nerve-ending, driving a loud cry from my lips.

Oh, I thought as I let out a moan, so this is what all the fuss is about?

I felt a prickling, warm sensation surge across my body as my hands buried themselves into his hair, tugging it as my hips wiggled under his skillful tongue. He gripped under my thigh with one hand, stilling me in place. My chest was heaving and, noticing I was beginning to wrap my legs over his shoulders due to my distracting pleasure, I opened my legs more extensively for his exploration.

With his tongue rubbing lazy circles around my most sensitive spot, his adept fingers spilled into me, pumping in and out of my warmth, sending vibrations straight down my spine. My muscles began buckling as my back arched from the bed, but I continued to watch Asher take me so intimately, unable to tear my eyes from such a gratifying display.

It took no time at all for me to reach the wall, splitting into pieces like a house of cards amid a hurricane. My legs convulsed as I finally fell apart underneath his experienced tongue. I tried to silence the sounds on my lips, but it felt impossible as he brought me down from the climax. I swallowed, feeling sweat begin to gather on my skin.

I locked eyes with Asher. He looked as contented as I felt. I wanted him to stay between my legs forever. Instead of obliging to my unspoken and unrealistic request, he moved to his knees, and my eyes descended to his boxers, widening when I realized how much the act had affected him.

Now in reach of my ravenous hands, I stretched forward and yanked the shorts downward, freeing him from constriction. He inhaled a short breath as I took his hard flesh into my grasp.

Dipping downwards, he let his mouth attack mine as if he’d never get the comfort of kissing me again and I felt the urge to feel him against me. Too impatient to wait for him to grab a condom but too apprehensive about letting things get too far without one, I pressed him against me, stroking his rigid skin against my slick center, teasing both of us simultaneously. After feeling the bare skin of my entrance, he jolted, lifting his hips and drawing himself farther from the place I needed him.

“Christ, Dol. Don’t do that,” he stammered with a laugh, leaning towards the nightstand to grab his wallet. He removed a little foil square from the pocket, tearing it open with his fingers, his attention cutting between the plastic and the apex of my thighs. He held up the half-opened latex as his eyes refocused on my spread legs. “I only have so much willpower.”

I nearly swallowed my tongue when I watched him slide the condom on and lower himself to me, and my gasp transformed into a startled moan as he jerked his hips forward, driving inside me with a severe urgency.

He granted me with a satisfied groan when my nails dug into his shoulders, gliding perfectly against me like it was our hundredth time together, not our third. My fear of being heard by the other houseguests melted into nothing with each thrust of utter rapture, not that I had appeared worried about the fact, to begin with.

Pressing his forehead to mine, Asher continued managing my warmth and I let my eyes fall closed, relishing every inch of him inside me and thankful that, for the first time, the act was happening with a relationship label this time around.

“I... love you,” he shared, his voice strained. He planted kisses along my neck and shoulder and, from his words alone, I could feel myself rising to a powerful release.

He let out another erotic groan in my ear before sucking on the skin on my neck. Sensing that he was bringing me to the edge of a dangerous cliff, he reached between our perspiring bodies, grazing against my delicate core with his fingers and I crumbled against his body.

My hips stilled as heat flared over every millimeter of my body and my legs locked around his waist as I dissolved against the bedsheets, a loud sound of pleasure exiting my lips.

Asher clutched my jaw, stealing a long kiss from my lips as he experienced his own completion. His tongue was languid against mine and he took my breath away, sinking inside me a final time before his chest heaved in time with mine.

Leaving him just enough time to level his breathing, I hummed lightly against his lips. “I can’t believe Asher Freed is my boyfriend.” My tone was both teasing and starstruck simultaneously.

He lifted his face to stare into my eyes, swiping a damp piece of hair from my cheek and tucking it back behind my ear. “For as long as you want me.”

I tugged on his hair and led his mouth back to mine, wanting him immensely again right then, along with every day for the rest of my life. He snaked his arms around me without apology, so secure that I had difficulty inhaling a breath, but as his mouth moved in time with my own, for the first time in forever, strangely enough, I felt I could finally breathe.

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