#2 Awkward cocktails with Aston
“Franny!” Aston picks me up in a massive bearhug, burying his face in my hair for a moment.
I hold onto him for dear life, wishing he’d never let me go. I remember not that long ago in my apartment, snuggling in my bed after yet another round of amazing sex, talking about our jobs, movies we both like, our favorite foods… That was before, though. Before he realized that I have feelings for him, and he decided to cut things off so he wouldn’t hurt me anymore than he already did.
Little does he know that I already feel like he cut out my heart and stabbed me in the back. Yet I still love him. I’ve never met anyone like him and I doubt I ever will again. With my exes and all the guys I’ve dated and slept with, I always felt like if they’d just given me a fair shot or stuck around longer, I might have fallen for them. I never actually did. Aston though… I was gone for without even wanting to be. You don’t have to know Aston longer than a week to realize he’s the most amazing person you’ll ever meet. Too bad he doesn’t do monogamy. Or love. Or anything but carefree sex.
“How’s your dad?” I ask when he lets me go and I grudgingly step away from him, trying to stop myself from lunging forward and kissing him. Because damn, those pouty red lips sure look kissable.
Aston shrugs and looks unsure for a moment. “He’s not doing great, to be honest. I think he’ll need a transplant soon, but the doctor said that if no one close to him will donate, he might be waiting for at least another year.”
“He still won’t let you get tested?” I ask, holding out my hand for him to take, squeezing it gently. His father has kidney failure and is in and out of the hospital for dialysis and to get check-ups. That’s actually how I know Aston. He’s a close friend to Shaughna, who is one of my best friends, but we only saw each other at parties the past few years, and we never really interacted. His dad is getting worse, though, and he got rushed into the ER a few times the past months, which lead to me spending time with Aston and his family, trying to assure them things will be fine even though I’m not sure they will be.
We hooked up at a party a few weeks after getting to know each other, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him since that first night. We slept together time and time again, but the past weeks, he’s been making sure that we’re just friends. No more benefits. I miss those benefits. I miss him. I just want him to fall for me and ask me to be his girlfriend, but that is never going to happen and I knew that going in. I just didn’t know that I’d fall in love with him. Fuck me.
“Dad’s stubborn,” Aston says, sounding sad. “He doesn’t want me and Jax to give up one of our kidneys for him. I think he’d rather die. I just… I don’t want my dad to die, Fran.”
“I know.” I wrap my arms around him again, inhaling his heady scent for a moment while I comfort him. This is a bad idea on many levels, but I can’t help it. “He’ll be okay, Aston. I have a good feeling about him.”
Aston pulls back just enough to look at me, his gorgeous face lighting up with a sweet smile. “That means a lot, Fran.”
I reach up and take his face in my hands, pulling it down so I can kiss him. I know I shouldn’t and I’ll only hurt myself in the process, but I can’t help it. I love him. I need him. Our lips brush, but he pulls back before it can turn into a kiss and he disentangles himself from me.
“I met someone,” he says, sounding almost shy.
“You… you met someone?” I repeat, feeling sick to my stomach. He’s kidding, right? He told me that he couldn’t commit to me because he doesn’t do monogamy. That he didn’t want to lead me on, because he doesn’t believe in love and commitment and all that shit. He told me all of that crap not that long ago. How long has it been? A few months? A few weeks? Not that long. Not that long at all.
“I don’t know,” he says, scratching the back of his neck. “She’s… different. I don’t know. I just… This doesn’t mean to me what it does to you, Franny. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have hugged you.”
“We’re friends,” I bite out. “Friends hug.”
“Yes,” he agrees, his eyes finding mine. “Yes, they do. But maybe… maybe we shouldn’t.”
“Say hi to your dad for me,” I say, not knowing how to talk to Aston anymore. He met someone. I can’t believe he really just said that to me. What does that even mean? “I need to get back to work.”
When I start walking, I hear him following me, his footsteps sounding like gunshots in the empty hallway. “What are you doing?” I ask him, looking at him over my shoulder, trying to keep a poker face and failing. I’m hurting and he knows it.
“I – erm – I’m headed that way too.” He shrugs and gives me a wry smile, knowing fully well that he’s killing me. “I can wait if that’s what you want.”
“No, that’s silly. We can walk together.”
We do, and it’s the most uncomfortable moment I’ve had all day, and that’s saying something after working with Leonard all day. Finally, at the end of the hallway, he turns right and I turn left.
“Fran?” he asks right when I think I’m safe.
“Yeah?” I reply, turning around to look at him.
“I’ll see you tonight, right?”
Fuck. Tonight. Dshawn’s text about having drinks together. Of course Aston will be there. He’s one of Shaughna’s best friends and Dshawn is doing this all for her, his girlfriend. I should have realized that I can’t escape Aston.
“Yeah, I’ll be there.” Without another word, I storm off, heading back into the ICU to make my rounds. I’d love to go back down into the ER, getting lost in the rush of emergencies around me. The ICU is a very important department, but it’s not mine anymore. It’s quiet aside from the beeping machines and it feels sad in a way the ER never does to me. The fact that this is Leonard’s domain doesn’t help. And Aston’s father Theodore is just a few doors away, with his sexy son visiting him. I wish I could just get over Aston already. I’ve been trying, I really have, but no one comes close to him.
Fuck Dshawn. He may be one of my best friend’s boyfriends, and he’s a nice guy most of the time, but I hate him tonight. After a shift that went long, I barely have time to shower and pull a little black dress over my head before I need to head out so I won’t be late for drinks. If I didn’t love Shaughna so much, I would be in bed right now. Not a single atom of my body wants to be out tonight. I’d much rather call over my neighbor Thomas, fuck him into oblivion and then crash, letting the dark comfort of sleep wrap around me.
No such luck.
When I arrive at the cocktail bar, Shaughna and Dshawn haven’t even arrived yet. Aston is sitting in the booth with his arms thrown over the back of it, looking perfectly at easy. His dark skin is gleaming in the dim lighting and I can’t help but remember that time I licked whipped cream from his muscular chest, across to his abdomen and all the way down to his massive cock.
Next to him are Caroline and an older man I’ve never seen before. Shaughna told me that her friend Caroline got married to some guy named Nathan, so I guess the 40-something man must be him. He looks okay, I guess, but if you’re going to go for someone his age, I wouldn’t pick him. He looks a little douchy. Then again, who am I to judge? I slept with Leonard Schwartz of all people and I’m in love with Aston Johnson, the biggest player in town. I don’t have a leg to stand on.
“Hi,” I say, giving a lame wave that makes me cringe.
Caroline jumps up and introduces me to her husband Nathan, looking flustered and excited all at once. We don’t know each other all that well, but I know she moved out of town for her new job as a second-grade teacher about a year ago, I think? She and Shaughna are tight, always have been, and Shaughna misses Caroline like hell. In fact, I think it’s partially thanks to Caroline moving out of town that Shaughna and I are spending more and more time together these past months.
“You look hot,” Aston tells me, his dark brown eyes moving over my body appreciatively.
How can he say stuff like that after telling me that me met someone? What does meeting someone even mean to a guy that is convinced that love is a hoax, monogamy a sham and commitment a nightmare?
“Thanks,” I say after a moment of uncomfortable silence. “Where are Shaughna and Dshawn?”
“Probably having sex,” Aston says with a shrug. “It might be a while. I dropped her off at their place a while ago and we all know how Shaughna gets when she’s been on a motorcycle. And Dshawn had this whole thing planned with champagne and strawberries, so…”
Aston is right, they’re definitely fucking right now. Shaughna used to sleep around way more than I do, but now she’s completely in love with Dshawn, not looking back once. Still, she’s a horny little thing and she gets turned on riding on the back of loud, obnoxious bikes like Aston’s, so if he dropped her off and Dshawn is pulling out all the stops… There is now way they are just talking. They’re naked right now.
I’d like to be naked right now.
I let my eyes go over Aston’s muscular body and I feel my panties dampen. It’s not fair that he’s this hot and this unavailable at the same time. He’s a great person to have in your life, but I don’t know if I can be friends with him. He wants me in his life, he’s made that clear, but he doesn’t want to sleep with me anymore. He wants to be friends. How do you go from sucking someone’s dick and feeding him hot fudge from your belly button to just friends? I’ve never done that before.
Then again, I’ve never been in love before either, so what the fuck do I know?
“You’re Aston’s ex, right?” Nathan asks, his green eyes focused on me while he sips his beer. He’s drinking a beer in a cocktail bar. Weirdo. Even Aston is sipping a mojito.
“In a way,” I say vaguely, giving Aston a side glance while I sit down next to him.
“Not really,” Aston adds, making my heart sink even more. “We used to fuck.”
Nice, Aston. Real nice. You know how I feel about you and you still act like we were nothing more than fuckbuddies? Did I truly never mean more to you than that?
“Francesca is one of Shaughna’s best friends,” Caroline says, trying to gloss over the awkwardness. “She’s a nurse in the local hospital. Emergency room, right?”
“Right,” I agree, surprised that she knows that about me. “How’s married life treating you, Caroline?” It’s a little weird to ask a 25-year-old girl that question. I’m 26 myself and I can’t imagine being married right now. We’re still so young.
“It’s great so far,” she says, smiling lovingly at her husband. “Being Nate’s wife… it’s nice.”
“That’s an understatement,” Nathan says, kissing his wife tenderly. “You’re the love of my life, baby.”
I roll my eyes at Aston while they kiss. I may not know either of them very well, but I do know for a fact that this is his second marriage. He’s already got a kid with another woman. Surely he told her this lovey-dovey crap as well. They look pretty smitten right now, but how long will that last? After getting my heart trampled on by Aston, I’m not even sure if I believe in true love anymore.
“Would you like to order anything?” a waitress asks me, stepping up to our table.
“A mojito,” I say, nodding to Aston’s drink. “In fact, make that two. And make them strong.”
“I don’t really need another one,” Aston says, surprising me. “So just one will be fine.”
“Since when are you a goody-two-shoes?” I ask, nudging him. We’ve gotten drunk so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve seen him high as well, blowing out smoke from a joint. Surely he’s not suddenly being a bore, right?
He shrugs. “I don’t drink all that much anymore. Not… recently.”
The words I met someone come back to me and I feel sick. If he’s not drinking, that must mean he doesn’t want to get drunk and do something stupid like hook up with me again. Fucking hell, who is this girl? I grab his cocktail and down it in a matter of seconds. He may not want to get drunk, but I sure need to. If I’m going to spend all night with him, I can’t be sober. Especially not after spending over 14 hours at the hospital. Maybe even 15. Too many, that’s for sure.
Right when the waitress places my drink in front of me, a loud shriek sounds through the bar.
“Caroline!” Shaughna yells, her blonde hair looking golden and Dshawn’s arm around her while she walks in. Judging by his grin and her messy hairdo, they definitely had sex not that long ago.
Caroline and Shaughna jump up, hugging each other tightly. I know that this has nothing to do with me, that they’re just happy to see ach other since they live three hours apart and they’re best friends, but I feel left out anyway. Shaughna has been my rock through this whole Aston debacle and I see her every single week, at least once, often more than that. And here she is, hugging Caroline, not even looking at me.
Shaughna has Dshawn, Caroline has Nathan, and I am sitting next to Aston who met someone, whatever that means. I’ve never felt so alone in my life.