Nobody But You

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Chapter Three: Powerless

“HELP! Aidan! Help!” I wake up in darkness, covered in sweat, as the accident plays over and over in my mind. The flames licked at my skin and the weight of the bike crushing my legs felt too real.

Wiggling my toes, I make sure it really was a dream.

A year ago, I couldn’t wiggle my toes.

The bathroom door swings open, and a shirtless Ace barges into the room. He’s wearing my brother’s sweats, and they’re too small for his long legs. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Go back to bed.”

He looks confused. “You were screaming. I heard you scream for help.”

“The thunder scared me.” He shakes his head, and I hope he doesn’t question me anymore. He doesn’t need to know anything about me. We’re just two strangers trapped in a house, waiting out a hurricane. There’s no need to share any past stories.

There’s no need to get to know each other.

Most importantly, there’s no need to be upset about the fact that I’m not his type. I don’t want to fall in love again. I don’t want to be with someone who reminds me of Aidan. I don’t need to be with another person who loves a bike more than a person.

“Whatever you say, princess.” He backs out the room and closes the door. I hear him stumble back to bed, stubbing his toe on the wall. He curses, and then everything goes silent.

I’m left to my thoughts and memories. Some memories, I wish I could erase, but more than that, I wish they would stop haunting me.

Aidan was perfect.

He had the curliest brown locks that my fingers used to get lost in. His skin was tan from spending hours in the sun working on his bike. His eyes were like pools of honey that shone every time he looked at me and his bike.

He wasn’t a stereotypical biker. He didn’t wear those god-awful boots and black jeans. No, he wore protective gear. He did everything he was supposed to. He wore the best helmet money could buy, and the fireproof jacket, pants, and shoes. He looked ridiculous, but he was safe. He bought me a matching suit, so we looked ridiculous together.

But it didn’t save him. It didn’t save us.

I closed my eyes, seeing the accident happen in slow motion. Why did he have to race that guy? Why did he have to die? Why did I survive?

These questions have burned in my mind for so long. For two years, I’d questioned myself every day. For two years, I’ve wished I would’ve died along with him.

His smiling face fills my mind, and it’s all I can see.

***

When I wake up, the sun is streaming into my room and it’s hot. I’m sweating again. Something is wrong.

Getting out of bed quickly, I race out of my room to check the thermostat. It’s eighty degrees. We’ve lost power.

Going into Ryan’s room, I find that Ace has the covers over his head, and the pants he was wearing last night have been discarded near the bed. He’s breathing deeply.

“Wake up!” I throw a pillow at what I imagine to be his head.

“Go away.”

“We’ve lost power.”

“Shit.” He sticks his head out of the covers. This morning, his eyes are darker than I’ve ever seen them. “You sure?” His voice is thick with sleep, in the sexy kind of way, melting my heart with the two words.

“It’s eighty degrees in the house, and the lights won’t turn on. Yes, I’m sure!”

“Is it still raining?” We hear a huge rumble of thunder, and his question is answered.

“Let’s do the sandbags before it’s too late, then we can figure out what to do about breakfast.” He nods, stretching and reaching for the sky before getting out of bed. In the morning light, I can see his chest is covered in light hair and tattoos cover his bare skin. He isn’t fat but doesn’t have a six pack either.

Black lines dance along his skin in alluring patterns, over his shoulders, down his back, and down his biceps. I want to see what the words say on his rib cage, but I’m interrupted.

“I don’t think Ryan would approve.” He bends down to pick up the discarded sweatpants, and I realize he’s in his boxers. I leave the room, my cheeks growing warm in embarrassment.

Ace wasn’t anything like Aidan. He was the complete opposite. Where Aidan had the perfect washboard abs, Ace did not. Where Aidan had a bare chest, Ace certainly did not. Ace is pure man, where Aidan was still a boy.

Slipping into our shared bathroom, I quickly brush my teeth and slide my brush through my knotted hair. He knocks on the door right as I was considering swiping some gloss on my lips.

“Don’t make me wait too long.” I look at him, seeing he only put on the sweatpants.

“Sure thing, Princess. I’ll meet you downstairs.” I don’t know if I should like the nickname that he’s given me, or if it’s an insult.

I don’t get a chance to wait for him downstairs because he’s already racing down the stairs as I reach the last step. We both pause in front of the huge living room window and wince. It’s pouring, and the waves have reached the wall around my house. Things are not looking good.

I’m instantly struck with fear. I didn’t survive the accident to die in a hurricane. There’s no way. How could this happen to me?

“Let’s get those sandbags. We don’t have much time before the water comes over the wall.” He heads for the garage, but I can’t move.

“Hey, princess, I know I’m strong and all, but some help would be nice.” I nod, following him into the humid garage.

“Have you done this before?” I ask, staring at the huge pile of bags.

“No, but I’m sure the main idea is to cover all the holes, so water can’t come in. Do you think you can pick this up?” He hands me a bag, looking unsure. It’s heavy, but I’m strong and can manage.

“No problem. I’m stronger than I look, Asshole.” I love the laugh that bursts through his lips.

“Let’s do this!” He’s way too excited to go outside, but we brace the crazy weather together, covering all the holes and getting soaked. Two hours later, I’m cold and hungry.

My hair keeps going into my face, and my clothes are stuck to me. Ace is carrying the last bag to put in front of the front door. He hadn’t complained once. Aidan would have bitched and moaned the whole time. He couldn’t do anything for someone other than himself.

“Go hop in the shower quick, princess. I’ll get breakfast started.” He’s so selfless.

“I’ll be five minutes.” True to my word, I quickly showered and changed into a t-shirt and pants, wishing that my legs weren’t scarred but that they were long, tan, and beautiful. Grabbing my phone, I rush down the stairs to help Ace.

“I’ve never met a girl who can actually shower in five minutes.” He’s made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two each, and I’m surprised how excited I am to sink my teeth into them.

“Go shower quick. I’ll be waiting.” He laughs and shakes his head, water drops falling down his cheeks from his wet hair.

“As you wish, your majesty.” He laughs even harder at the scowl on my face, then darts up the stairs. I hear the shower turn on a few seconds later.

While I was in the shower, he found some battery-operated candles and turned them on. I just hope Mom has more batteries lying around, or we’ll be in darkness soon. My phone rings then, and my mom’s face appears on the screen.

“Celine, are you okay?” she asks as I answer the call.

“Oh, Mom, we lost power.” I hear her pass the news on to my father and Ryan.

“Oh, my God! I was so worried when you didn’t call this morning, and I thought the worst. Dad wants to know if you did the sandbags?”

“Yes, we did them first thing this morning. The water has reached the wall, and Ace thinks it won’t be long before it rises above it. I’m so scared. I don’t want to die here. I didn’t survive the accident to die in a hurricane.” My voice shakes, my throat grows tight, and I fight the tears threatening to escape.

“You won’t die, Honey. You’re going to survive this. The worst of the storm should be going over you soon, and then this will all be over, and we can laugh about it later. I’m sure you’ll have so many stories to tell us. What are you doing about food?”

“Ace made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I don’t know how long the bread will last, but for once in my life, I’m not worried about food.” I hear Ryan and Dad laugh.

“Check the freezer in the garage for more bread, and the chest in the lounge has board games. Why don’t you and Ace play some games to pass time? We need to get off the phone so I can call you later. Don’t go using yours for games or anything.”

“I won’t, but worst case, we have Ace’s phone, too.”

“I’m glad to hear you’ve stopped calling him ‘Asshole.’ I was starting to think you lost your manners.”

“Please, Mom, he’s still an arrogant asshole. I’m just being polite.” She laughs, and I wish I could hug her.

“I love you. I love you so much. I don’t tell you enough, and I’m sorry. Tell Dad and Ryan I love them, too, just in case.”

“You aren’t going to die, Celine.” She pauses, clearing her throat, then continues, “I love you with all my heart, Darling. Never forget that. Dad and Ryan love you, too. Be strong, my angel. You’re a fighter. Never forget that.” I end the call, swallowing the giant lump in my throat, and a lone tear rolls down my cheek.

Be strong, Celine. You are strong.

“Princesses aren’t supposed to cry.” I’m shocked when Ace appears in front of me. I wonder how much he’s heard, but from the sorrowful look in his blue eyes, I know he’s heard enough. I quickly wipe the tear away and smile.

“Please, as if I would let you see me cry.” A small smile graces his lips before he turns away to reach for a sandwich, taking a huge bite and moaning in delight.

“This is amazing.” I reach for a sandwich and take an equally huge bite, surprised at how hungry I am. I nod in agreement and take another bite. We finish the two sandwiches in a few minutes, then head to the lounge to watch the turmoil outside. Remembering the games my mom mentioned, I dig through the chest and find my favorite board game.

“You any good at Monopoly?” I hold up the box that’s been battered from years of use.

“You bet, princess. I’m about to whoop your ass!” he exclaims, getting up from the couch to help me set up the game on the dining room table.

“Please, I’m a champ at this game. I always win.”

“You’ve never played me before.”

We play for an hour, and so far, I’m in the lead with the most properties. I’m just about to roll the dice when he gets up to get us some waters. I wait for him to sit back down before I make my move. He’s quiet as he watches me.

“What accident were you in?” I instantly drop the dice onto the floor and look at him in shock.

“What accident?” I struggle to get the words out as they get stuck in my mouth.

“I heard you earlier – when you were talking to your mom.”

He must see my panicked look because he interrupts me as I’m about to make up some lame story.

“I’m sorry for eavesdropping; I just remember Ryan saying something, too. It’s okay if you don’t want to share. Trust me, if anyone will understand, it’s me.” Pain flashes in his eyes, and I’m curious yet again why he didn’t rush off to be with his family during the hurricane.

“I was in a motorcycle accident two years ago with my boyfriend.”

“I’m so sorry, Celine, I didn’t even know you had a boyfriend. Why didn’t he come help you instead of me?” For once, he isn’t being an asshole. Pain lingers in the depths of his eyes but so does another emotion.

“He’s dead.” Two years later, and it still feels like the first time telling someone.

He reaches for my fisted right hand and gently uncurls my fingers. He wraps his fingers around mine and sits closer to me. He doesn’t say anything when he looks at me, but I can see a million questions swirling within his eyes. He’s the first person I’ve wanted to tell, and the last person I should be sharing such intimate details with.

“If you want to talk about it, then I promise I’ll listen. But if you don’t, and you just want to sit here in silence, I can do that too, princess.”

I was starting to love my nickname.

“At first, I thought you reminded me of him. But in reality, you’re nothing like him. I think I associate all bikers with him and the accident.” He hasn’t let go of my hand, his silent encouragement for me to continue.

“We had been best friends before we started dating. He was the new kid at our high school sophomore year, and I was on the welcoming committee, so we met.”

Ace laughs. “Welcoming committee? Never heard of one of those.”

“My brother started it. There had been a kid in his grade who committed suicide because he never made a friend. That was a year before I started at his school. Anyway, Aidan and I became best friends. He was everything I was not. He was mysterious, he didn’t follow the rules, and he didn’t take anybody’s shit. I wanted to be just like him.”

My throat is so dry, so I get up to make myself a drink and Ace follows me into the kitchen. The sodas are only slightly chilled, but it’s better than water. He pours some rum into two glasses, and I pour the soda, then he picks up the glasses and heads for the couch instead of the table.

He hands me my glass and takes a sip of his before setting it down on the coffee table. I take a large gulp, swallowing half the drink at once. I look into his eyes, waiting, but there is no judgement.

“You don’t have to continue. I don’t want you to suffer through this again.” I shake my head, needing to talk about this.

“He asked me out one Friday night when we were watching Harry Potter movies. One day we were best friends, and the next, he was kissing me and telling everyone I was his girlfriend. When he turned seventeen, his father bought him a bike at an auction. They worked on it every weekend until it was perfect. He was so proud of his bike. It was one of the qualities I admired most about him. He spent every minute on that bike, and we went on the best rides.” I pause to take another long sip of the rum.

“For Christmas, his parents and I got him special protective gear for riding. I spent my Christmas bonus from work on this special flame-resistant helmet that was on sale. He did everything right, Ace. He went that extra step to be safe.”

Flashes of the accident swirl in my mind, and I close my eyes, fighting tears.

“He was perfect in my eyes, I loved him more than I had loved anyone. I loved him more than he ever loved me. His bike came first. On Saturday nights, we used to ride down to the beach and stay the night here, then the next day, he would spend the entire day washing and fixing up his bike. I never understood his love for that bike. I didn’t understand how he could love an object more than a living person. But I was willing to do anything for him.”

Ace shifts uncomfortably, and I’m scared I’ve said the wrong thing because he’s not looking at me anymore. “Should I stop?” He looks at me quickly, reaching for my hand again, interlocking our fingers and squeezing.

“Don’t stop, Celine. I’m here, and I’m listening.” He’s given me the reassurance I need.

“One night, we were on our way to the movies. We had a huge fight during the day because he hated the movies. He said he would rather spend his money on upgrades for the bike. I was so mad because he never took me out anymore. Everything was about that bike. Weekends revolved around cleaning and restoring, sometimes even car shows. I wanted one night to be a normal couple.” The fight flashes in my mind for the second time today.

“He told me he loved the bike more than he could love me, so I tried to break up with him. That made him even angrier. I had never feared a man before in my life. He raised his hand as if he were going to slap me, but Ryan walked into the room. To this day, I have never seen my brother so mad. Threats were thrown back and forth, and then Aidan left. Ryan wanted to tell my parents, but I didn’t want anyone to know. I stupidly forgave Aidan when he came back an hour later with flowers. He had never gotten me flowers before.”

I look out the giant window, watching the heavy rain fall. It reminds me of that night. The roads were wet, and he was a dumbass for racing that guy. And I was stupid to get on the bike along with him. I knew better.

Ace finishes his drink and reaches for the empty glass that I’m holding. I hand it to him, and he goes into the kitchen to make another drink. I’m thankful that he’s so understanding. He’s making this easier than I ever thought it could be.

He sits back down beside me, handing me the full glass. I take a small sip and put it back on the coffee table. Ace does the same, then leans back, putting his arm on the back of the sofa. Thunder shakes the house, and lightning crackles in the air.

“He picked me up that night, and I left without saying goodbye to anyone. Ryan was still pissed and wouldn’t speak to me, and my parents were out of town. We never made it to the movie.” Ace’s hand squeezes my leg, reminding me that he’s here, sitting beside me.

“He always took the backroads everywhere because he never wanted to risk getting into an accident, but that night, another guy on a faster, newer bike was on the same road, and he wanted to race. Aidan was never one to back down from a race. I didn’t object and, God, I wish I had. The roads were wet. I was so stupid, Ace, so fucking stupid.”

I look out the window again. This is the part of the story that haunts my dreams.

“I still don’t know what happened. One minute, we were riding fast, and the next, we were flying in the air. It happened so quickly; he must have braked suddenly and caused us to be thrown from the bike. I hit my head when I landed, and when I woke up, I was trapped under the bike, and it was on fire.”

I’m suddenly thrown into the nightmare of that night.

“Help! Aidan! Help!” The flames are licking at my black jeans. It’s so hot. What happened? “Aidan!”

Turning my head from side to side frantically, I search for any sign of him. The streetlights never worked on this road, and I can’t see him in the darkness.

“Aidan, the bike, please!” Sweat drips down the side of my cheek as I only see the bright orange flames engulfing his beautiful black bike pinning me to the cold asphalt.

“Celine, princess, come back to me.” Ace is shaking me, both his hands on my arms. I burst into tears, and I’m suddenly pulled into his chest. He’s holding onto me tightly.

“I’d never felt so alone. I was trapped and couldn’t feel my legs. Aidan wasn’t answering me. I didn’t know he had died. The other guy never came back. I was trapped there for hours . . .” my voice trailed off into a whisper.

“You’ll never be alone again, Celine. I know I don’t know your family well, but I can see how much they love you, and I know Ryan blames himself every day.”

“How could you possibly know that?”

“Because if you were my little sister, I would never forgive myself.” I’m surprised at the conviction in his voice. As far as I knew, he had no siblings.

“Eventually, someone found us. When they removed the bike, I saw him.”

The image that haunts me fills my mind and won’t leave. It never leaves. I choke on the sob that escapes my sore throat.

“He was dead. The helmet I bought him didn’t save him. The protective gear he wore didn’t save him. He died as soon as he hit the ground. His neck snapped.”

“Fuck.” Ace holds me tighter. I’m sobbing into his chest now, and he doesn’t lessen his grip.

“I don’t even remember our last conversation.” My perfect Aidan had been tainted. Every time I think about him, I’m reminded of the last time I saw him.

I see his broken helmet, the blood splattered on the road, and his burned bike.

Aidan’s lifeless body, crumpled on the side of the road, flashes before my eyes, his void eyes looking back at me. “I was airlifted to the hospital, and Aidan was taken away in a black bag. I couldn’t speak for a long time. I couldn’t tell anyone about that night for weeks. I couldn’t face his parents.”

“What happened to you, Celine?” The way he says my name sends a shiver of fear down my spine. He hands me my drink, and I finish it in one sip. I’ve never told anyone before.

“At first, they told my parents I was lucky to have survived. I wasn’t supposed to be here. I should’ve been burned alive, but I wasn’t. After a day of testing, I was told I would never walk again. To put it lightly, my nerves had been fried.” Ace’s brow furrows.

“I didn’t want to live anymore. I was haunted by my last memory of Aidan, and the news of never walking again felt like a death sentence. I was about to graduate high school, and I would never walk again.”

“You didn’t try anything, did you?” I wish I could tell him I didn’t, but I’d be lying.

“I tried many times but failed every time. I could never go through with it. After months of research and calling doctors all over the world, my parents finally found an optimistic man in Germany who claimed he would heal me. At that point, I’d finished high school online and had no plans for a future. I had nothing to lose but everything to gain.” We jump from a loud clap of thunder outside and I’m reminded of our situation.

“We flew to Germany the next day, and after a year of multiple surgeries, he fixed me. I had to teach myself to walk again, which was rather difficult, but I did. It’s the reason I’m starting college late. The struggle to get up every day and act like nothing happened has been a hard pill to swallow.”

Ace leans forward, moves a strand of hair that was in my eyes, and looks at me. “You are the bravest, strongest person I’ve ever met. I won’t let anything happen to you, okay? I promised Ryan, and now I’m promising you. Don’t be afraid with me.” I release a heavy breath I didn’t know I was holding.

There was a moment when I thought he was going to kiss me, but I remind myself what he said about me last night. I shouldn’t get attached.

“Wanna finish that game?” He shakes his head, laughing.

“Yes, I was going to beat you, remember? Let’s get back to that.”

We play with what’s left of the afternoon. It’s hard to tell what the time is, as the house is only lit by candlelight. We finish the game, and Ace wins, the triumphant look he gives me making us both laugh. I make us more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. Our options are limited, and this is better than starving.

Ace makes us another drink while I clean up the kitchen. “I’m afraid this is going to be our last drink unless you like them hot,” he chuckles, setting the drinks on the kitchen table next to our plates.

“I’m not sure I want another. I drank the others way too fast.”

“Have you ever been drunk before, princess?” I wonder if I should lie to him, if he’ll judge me for never having too many drinks. But he didn’t judge me before, so why would he judge me now?

“No.” He smiles, and there is no judgment in his eyes. He takes a bite of his sandwich and doesn’t say anything.

“These are delicious, princess. Way better than mine from earlier.” I blush.

“How many times have you been drunk?” I ask. Ace laughs, taking a sip of his drink.

“A lot. I’ve had a lot to forget.” I take a bite from my sandwich – he’s right, these are delicious. Must be the extra jelly I added.

“How old are you, Ace?”

“I just turned twenty-two a month ago. How old are you?”

“I’m twenty. Shouldn’t you be graduating next May?” He looks uncomfortable with the question, and I’m not sure why.

“I started late, too – two years ago.”

We both finish our sandwiches, and he gets up quickly, taking both our plates and signaling the end of that conversation. I wonder why he started late, too. It probably has to do with his family.

“Hey, where are you from? You can’t be local with that southern accent you have.” I must’ve asked the wrong questions because he drops the plate he’s holding in the sink.

“I grew up in Texas, but we moved to Atlanta when I was eighteen, to be closer to the rest of my mother’s family. I needed a break from everything.”

I decide to change the subject because he looks uncomfortable when he talks about his family. I have a feeling something happened that he doesn’t want to tell me. After everything I’ve been through, I can understand wanting to keep secrets. Besides my family and best friend, Ace is the first person I’ve talked to about the accident.

“Do you have any more games in that chest? Uno, maybe?” He comes to sit beside me, putting the candle from the kitchen on the coffee table in front of us.

“We should have Uno, Checkers, Mancala. Oh, can we please play Mancala after Uno?” I get up to go through the game chest and find the three games I mentioned.

“Okay, a couple rounds of Uno, and then we finish with Mancala.”

“Deal. Prepare to lose, Asshole, because I’m the queen of these games!” He laughs loudly as I take another sip of my drink.

An hour later, everything is starting to get a little fuzzy, and I’m struggling to focus on the cards in my hands, the numbers blurring together. Everything Ace says sounds funny, and I can’t stop laughing, which makes him laugh.

“I can’t see my cards.” A giggle escapes my lips.

“I think we should call it quits for tonight, princess. You’ve had a long day.”

“No! I’m having fun, and we haven’t played Mancala yet.” I stand up and sway. Everything is spinning around me, and I trip over my own feet, almost falling on my face.

He catches me before my head hits the corner of the coffee table. “We can play all day tomorrow, but for now, you need to go to bed.”

“You aren’t any fun,” I say, pouting and wishing he would humor me. He’s holding me up now, staring into my blurry eyes. The candlelight makes him look even more mysterious and handsome. His eyes are so beautiful.

My phone starts to ring on the coffee table, ending our moment. He picks it up, answering it before he hands it to me.

“Hi, Mom!” I shout and then giggle. Ace rolls his eyes and face palms.

“Hi, my love. Sounds like you broke into the Captain Morgan. How’s everything going?”

“We only had a few drinks, Mom. We were getting bored with water.” I hear her laugh, and it warms my heart.

“Hey, Mrs. Wilson, everything is great. There’s been no change in the weather as far as I can see, and we still have no power.”

“Ace, honey, that’s good to hear. We’ve been watching and listening to the news all day. You’re going to start to really feel the storm tonight. The winds are expected to pick up, and you’re experiencing the outer bands now. Are you taking care of my daughter?” I can’t focus on their conversation at all because Ace’s lips have caught my attention.

I love watching him speak and hearing his sexy voice. His tongue runs over his full lips, sending heat through my body. I want him to say my name over and over and kiss me with those lips. He answers my mom and then bites his lip. I wish he were biting mine instead.

Oh, my God! I shake my head at the thought. He doesn’t like me, I remind myself. There will be no kissing.

He looks at me expectantly, and I furrow my brow.

“Celine, honey? Did you hear me?”

He nudges me now, prompting an answer. “Sorry, Mom, what?”

“No more drinks tonight. You need to go to sleep, and don’t do anything stupid. You stay inside that house. Do you hear me? The storm will be hitting you during the night and will stick around for a day or two. Then, we’re going to come home and be together, okay?”

“Okay. I miss you.”

“I miss you, too, baby. Can Ace still hear me?”

“Yes, Mrs. Wilson, I’m here.”

“Help her get to bed, Honey, and I’ll call again in the morning. I’m praying for your safety. Please, if anything happens, don’t leave her side. She can’t be left alone again.”

“I promise, I won’t leave her. I’ll protect her if it comes to that. Goodnight, Mrs. Wilson.”

“Goodnight, Honey. Celine, I love you. Dad loves you, and Ryan, too. Sleep well, my child.”

“I love you, too.” The phone goes silent, and Ace looks at me expectantly again.

“Can you walk up the stairs?” I nod, taking a step away from him but fall onto the couch. I burst into giggles, and he sighs. “I guess not.”

He leaves me there to blow out all the candles we had lit, then comes back and looks at me. I smile at him, but he doesn’t smile back. “I’m going to pick you up, okay?” I nod, waiting.

He’s so gentle. One arm goes under my legs, the other around my back, and our faces are close. His lips are taunting. Licking my lips, I again get the urge to kiss him.

Ace climbs the stairs carefully in the dark. He almost loses his balance, and our laughter fills the humid air. I’m happy right now. I haven’t been this happy since Aidan. I never thought I could be this happy again.

Ace drops me on the bed and stretches. I must’ve been heavy for him. I want to apologize, but then he looks at me, and I can’t remember what I wanted to say.

“Good night, princess.” He turns to head for the joint bathroom.

“Ace, wait.” He pauses and turns around, looking at me again. I can hardly make out his face, which is going to make this easier. “I really want to kiss you.” He sucks in a deep breath and takes a step closer to me, then I stop breathing.

“I really want to kiss you, too, princess. But I promised Ryan I wouldn’t hurt you.” He leaves the room, not even sparing me a glance.

I never knew rejection felt like this.

It hurts because he wants it too, but his judgment isn’t clouded like mine. I hope in the morning nothing has changed between us. I hope we can pretend this moment never happened.

Closing my eyes, I succumb to sleep, and a shirtless Ace kisses me in my dreams.


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