32. TWO STEPS BACK
“Is the shower broken again?” Liv asks me as I walk downstairs with my towel and clothes. She knows well and truly that the shower is not broken since her hair is wet from the shower she had ten minutes ago. She’s sitting on the kitchen bench with her feet dangling off the counter watching Zach make her waffles.
“Uh, not exactly,” I tell her, not meeting her eyes because I know she’s giving me that look that says we still haven’t talked about what’s going on between you and Ace. I haven’t told her as much as I told Mia, only because she’s either always with Zach or Ace is in hearing distance.
“Oh, got it,” she says smirking and Zach looks up at me giving me a smile. He’s the least talkative one out of the whole group, the most closed off one and I feel as if I don’t know him at all even though I live with him.
I make my way to Ace’s room and his eyes are instantly on me when I open the door. He’s typing away on his laptop which is something that he seems to do regularly – I’m not sure what he’s working on but I assume it’s one of his assignments.
He is right, his shower is much bigger, and I still have no idea how he managed to score himself a bedroom that’s double the size of Liv and Zach’s and has a personal bathroom. But he can be very persuasive, or demanding – whichever one you want to believe, they’re the same thing with him.
After I brush my teeth and put a white sweater on that sits a little above my mid-thighs, I walk out and focus my attention on his room. I study his books, running my fingers over the edges, not really reading the titles but instead being aware of the fact that Ace is watching me.
He’s sprawled out on his bed and even though he has a king-sized bed, he takes up most of it. His hands are behind his head and I keep my eyes away from him because I know too well how he makes me feel.
“What are you majoring in?” I ask, tilting my head to the side but still not daring to look his way.
“I’m actually thinking of changing degrees,” he tells me.
I notice him nod from my peripheral vision and continue, “I didn’t know what I wanted to study but since all my life I have read biographies I assumed literature would be somewhat okay.”
Somewhat okay? That doesn’t sound convincing.
“It doesn’t sound like you’re very interested in it at all,” I tell him, gently tapping my fingers on his bookshelf.
He shrugs, “My dad wanted me to be a lawyer, just like him,” he almost scoffs at the last part. This is the first time he has mentioned his dad without me bringing it up.
“And I’m guessing that’s not something you want to do either?”
“If you knew my father, you wouldn’t want to do anything that would make you relatively similar to him.”
It’s not hard to guess that his relationship with his father is strained and obviously he’s not in the picture anymore but I can’t seem to wonder how someone could just disappear and leave their five-year-old daughter.
“Lawyers want to become lawyers so they can uphold the law. But my dad is a lawyer so he can abuse it. He would fuck over his own family if someone made him the right offer,” Ace says and I can tell that this conversation is beginning to rile him up the wrong way.
“So, what is something that you’re interested in studying?” I ask, trying to change the conversation to something a little lighter. I walk closer towards him and he sits up so my legs end up being in the middle of his.
“Maybe something to do with sports science,” he tells me and brings his arms around the back of my thighs pulling me a little closer. “I got offered a contract with a club. Dean surprisingly has some connections and this one isn’t illegal.”
“I thought you said you don’t like fighting?” I ask, tangling my hands in his hair something that I find myself doing unconsciously.
He shrugs, “It’s not just that, part of the offer is that it would guarantee me an all-paid scholarship at Palm Valley College.”
My mouth drops open. Palm Valley College is in the biggest city, it’s one of the most prestigious colleges in the country and grades alone don’t guarantee you a spot there, you need a hell of a lot of money too. It’s mostly filled with students from wealthy families such as politicians’ offspring and even movie stars’ kids. Everyone who attends is guaranteed to have a job in their chosen career before they even finish the degree.
“That’s one hell of an offer, you must have impressed someone,” I say raising my eyebrows.
He tilts his head and looks up at me, a smirk forming on his mouth, “Have you not seen me fight?” he asks, gripping my thighs a little tighter and I wrap one hand around his neck. “Oh but you did, because I remember you mentioning that you found it... hmm, what was the word that you used?” He cocks an eyebrow at me, wanting me to answer and I roll my eyes.
There he is, the pretentious Ace that I’m infatuated by.
“Hot, Ace... It’s surprisingly hot watching you beat someone up,” I say sarcastically with some truth behind my words.
I don’t know what it is about watching him fight that presses my buttons in all the right spots. But then again, Ace could just look at me a certain way (the way he’s looking at me right now) with his gorgeous eyes and a smile which make my insides catch on fire.
“So you just perve on me during my most critical moments, I’ll keep that in mind,” he pulls me closer and rests his chin on my chest, still looking up at me. I hope he doesn’t hear the way my heartbeat increases and I play with his hair to try to calm it down.
“When do you start there?” I ask, curious.
“Why do you assume that I accepted the offer?”
Ace’s phone lights up next to him, on the bed and my eyes unconsciously travel to it. Lexi’s name is on the screen. However, Ace doesn’t pay any attention to it, he is focused on me.
“You would be stupid not to, it’s an amazing opportunity,” I tell him even though my mind begins to race with questions. It’s about a four-hour drive to Palm Valley College from here and about a two-hour drive from my dad’s house.
“I told them I’ll think about it, it would be sometime next year.”
“What’s there to think about?”
He shrugs but I can see by his expression that there’s a lot to think about for him.
“You know, Ellie called me today and told me that you have to wear something pink for Bella’s party on Friday that I didn’t even know you were coming to,” he says grinning again.
“Uhh yeah, she asked me too and I said I would come if it was okay with you,” I tell him, feeling a little guilty that I kind of forgot about it.
“You better not get jealous, all the five-year-old’s love me,” he winks and I smack him playfully on the shoulder.
“I guess I have some competition,” I joke and he shakes his head.
Ace’s phone goes off again with a few text messages but he still doesn’t bother looking at them, however, I can’t help but take a glance and once again they are from Lexi.
He lifts me up by my legs, catching me off guard, “Ace!” I yelp and he laughs. Before I know it, I’m lying on the bed with him hovering above me.
“No competition, baby,” he says, placing his lips on mine and I can’t help but smile throughout the kiss. However, it’s rudely interrupted by the sound of Ace’s phone ringing and there’s only one person it could be. Lexi.
I feel him sigh and pull away, he reaches for his phone instantly rejecting the call but his eyes scan the text messages. I see the way his eyebrows furrow in confusion as he reads them, there are at least five messages.
He suddenly gets up and puts a hoodie in that was on his desk chair, “I have to go,” he says, grabbing his keys off the desk.
I try to keep my expression intact even though I have no idea what the hell just happened for him to act like this and I find myself feeling almost jealous because I know he’s going to see her. He’s going to see her, I let that sink in because I’m finding it hard to wrap my head around that, especially after our moment together just then.
“Hmm? Are you coming back?” I ask, instantly hating the way my voice sounds, almost needy and I wish I didn’t ask. I try to rack my brain for some sort of explanation, hoping Ace would at least offer me one but he doesn’t.
“I don’t know. You can sleep here if you want but don’t wait up.” He says running a hand through his hair that I messed up and with that, he leaves the room. And again... what?!
I hear his bike start up and drive off into the distance. There is no way I’m sleeping in his room when he’s going to see another girl in the middle of the night. I just don’t understand what just happened? And how once again we have taken one step forward and two steps back in the blink of an eye.