Never Ago (Book 1)

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I Can't

A shrill ringtone pierced Lily's haze of sleep. When she peeled her eyes open, it was barely dawn. The sun was peeking over the horizons, basking the earth in a warm morning glow. Lily slowly sat up with messy hair and blurry eyes and rolled over Marie to pick her phone. It stopped ringing right after her hand touched it.

A text chirped up on the lock screen.

Shawn: Yo, Marie. Call me back asap!

Lily glanced at her sleeping friend's opened mouth and soundlessly laughed. Her face was covered with her hair and her legs occupied the entire bed. Putting the phone down, she slid out from under the blanket and trotted to the attached bathroom.

The paint in the bathroom was wearing off, the sink was chipped and the toothpaste holder was rusted but thank the goddess, she could shower with hot water. The stress pulling at the strings wound around her gut loosened under the assault of warm jets of water shooting from the shower head.

When she came out dressed in a hoodie and leggings, her wet hair toweled dry, Sam and Marie were in deep slumber. Since the hotel didn't offer breakfast she jogged around the area and found a small cafe at the end of a street.

The large window showcasing the bakery was cracked in the corner, the red color on the door had faded and when she stepped inside the place was empty even though the sign said it's open.

"Hey, there." A middle aged woman with spectacles came out with a tray of croissants in her hands, an apron barely holding her weight together. "Sorry you had to wait, deary."

Lily concealed the frown on her face and walked up to the treats showcase. "No problem. I just came inside. The workers here come late, huh?"

The chunky woman with her bun pulled up painfully tight looked exhausted when she said, "No, dear. This is a family cafe. My elder daughter recently moved out with her mate and I couldn't find anyone to work with me."

"Why?"

She sighed and wiped her forehead with a handkerchief then shoved it into her apron's pocket. "I'm getting old, honey. I can't keep up with baking and managing the cafe. Money is tight, no one would work in a place with a low wage."

"I can help if you need me."

"You're a gem. You know that?" The woman gave her a smile which made Lily miss her mom. "But it's no use, honey. I'm going to sell this place soon. Business is not working. I'll have to find another way of living."

Lily stood helplessly waiting for the woman to pack croissants, cream rolls and steamy buns. She had thought all the money she saved would help her mate build her dream house with her but since that was nothing but a foolish illusion, she could invest that money in her unclear future.

"Here. Have a nice day, dear."

Lily took the bags from her and hesitated leaving. "Can I have your number, please?"

The woman gave her the number of the cafe, confused but Lily's innocent eyes made her warm up to her. "Do you need any help?"

Lily shook her head. "I'd like to come back and discuss buying the cafe from you."

The woman stammered. "You're going to buy it?"

"I don't know if I can buy it but if I offer 50 percent partnership, would you consider it?"

"I told you, dear. This cafe is close to collapsing–"

"Don't worry," Lily cut in. "I'll be working here full time. Maybe something good will turn out of it."

The woman was uncertain about her idea. She had worked there for ten years with her daughters and they barely got noticed. That's why she was settling to sell the place cheaper than it's actual worth.

"Okay." She said after a long sigh. "Think about it then let me know."

Lily jogged back to her hotel room after getting coffee on her way back and discussed her plan with Marie and Sam. They gave her thumbs up and exchanged ideas for her new career. For once, Lily had something new to think about even if Ezra was on her mind already. She had thought moving on was easy but she got to know the hard way that moving on hurts more than the reason why.

"I have some errands to run, babe. I'll be back when I get some time. Call me if you need anything." Marie air kissed her cheeks dramatically and left.

Sam went home to change. Lily met him at college to receive her papers' schedule. Graduation was near and so was the finale of her training session. The moment she stepped foot into the gym, she could feel his eyes on her like the devil's palm. Red, hot, demanding and very much obvious.

Ezra lifted extra weights, trained the junior warriors extra hard and sparred extra violently that day. The slow burn in his chest soared when his awaiting eyes finally caught her entering the arena in tight leggings that emphasized her thighs and a white shirt that hugged her waist.

After being in the packhouse knowing a room in it was now empty and the scent in it was fading ate at his insides. Seeing her nearly bucked his knees. She walked in, ran her laps, practiced dogde and then trained with the other boys like she couldn't give any less fucks and she probably didn't.

It bothered him. She waltzed around with a polite smile like nothing happened. He was the one who fucked up and was thoroughly getting fucked for it. But she said she loved him. How could she look so happy.

"Dude." Gabe hopped in front of him in the boxing ring, bent at the waist. "Ready or not?"

Ezra couldn't take his eyes off no matter how hard he tried. Giving up, he swung out of the ring and sat down on the bench by the lockers. Gabe threw him a questioning before turning around to his new opponent.

His body was bursting with energy but deep down he felt tired. He eyed Lily with a passion, lost in the way her low ponytail moved, her thighs jiggled and her shirt rode up on a few occasions sparing him a moment to ogle her glistening tummy.

"Take a picture." Kyne snorted and plopped down beside her.

Ezra shamelessly kept his eyes on her. "Why, it'll last long?"

"No. It will save you from coming off as a pervert."

"That's even more pervy."

Kyne curled the side of his lip into a smirk. "You already are on. I'm just suggesting how to conceal it."

Ezra shrugged and finally took his eyes off to glance at Zeke. "I thought you're mad at us."

Kyne tsked his concern away. "I'm not mad at everyone. Zeke was plain stupid when he created that scene. Doesn't mean the rest of our gang has the same opinion."

"You're right. We don't. And let me clear any doubts you might have. We have each other's back whenever one of us needs us. We have lives to live. You don't have to be present 24/7 to stay friends with someone. Friendship is beyond that."

Kyne's smug smile grew. "Cool. At least you have half of your brain works."

One thick eyebrow cocked at his statement. Kyne raised his shoulders nonchalantly. "The things they claim you said about love and mates... I hope you don't have the same opinion now."

"I don't."

"I can tell."

"How so?"

Kyne swung his feet to the other side of the bench and jumped off. "Because... there's a difference between looking at an eye candy you want to bang and a woman you want to sleep next to."

He was gone before Ezra could utter another word. It did make him realize though, he was hard as rock in his shorts but he didn't want to drag her into the nearest room and fuck her. He wanted to take his time exploring her body and discovering what makes her moan for more.

Did she have a dirty mouth? If he bit the top of her breast and left a mark, would she scream for more? What if he twisted her nipples? He bet she'd gasp.

Fuck. Blue balls can make a man nuts.

Lily sipped from her water bottle and scanned the junior warriors for Sam. She found him laughing and sparing with the seniors. He had always wanted to be one of them. Seemed like he had the chance after all. Trying not to interrupt his happy moment, Lily left a note on his locker.

Heading out to my place. Don't worry about me. I'll see you tomorrow. Have fun with the big guys!

She swung her duffle bag over her shoulder and strode out of the gym in her sweaty shirt. The community shower in there made her feel uncomfortable so she avoided it. A shower at her place was the only option.

When she saw the familiar route leading up to the temple, her heart ached. Oblivious to the figure following her quietly, she rummaged in his bag until she took a hold of the candles at the bottom and fished them out.

Ezra finally saw her crumbling smile, wavering facade and the tremble in her heaving shoulders. Her glossy eyes shone under the moonlight. A part of him hoped she'd turn and visit the temple but as she stood there her eyes flickering to the candles and the direction of the temple, he had a bad feeling gnawing at him.

Crestfallen, he witnessed Lily dump the candles in the near dumpster. His gut wrenched at the sight.

I come here often.

Not anymore.
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