#1 The deep end
Ash Storm has issues. Big ones. Or more accurately: his cock has big issues. The kind that make girls break up with you. So when he moves to a new city, it seems like the perfect time to start therapy. Back home, in that ridiculously small town, everyone knows each other. Girls gossip. The therapists know his parents. He couldn’t ask for help there, but now, he finally can. Big move, big town, and hopefully a fix for his big issues.
Enter Peyton Snow, his therapist. She’s had a crush on Ash since she was a kid, although he barely remembers her. She doesn’t date, and her main focus is being a kickass therapist, helping as many people as possible. She’s determined to help Ash, even if it means talking to him about a body part she fantasizes about at night, in bed, alone. She’s a professional. She can do this, no matter how… hard. Pun intended.
Sparks fly, but both of them are determined not to go there. They both have good reasons not to date, and a therapist dating her client? Hell no. Never. Not in a million years… Right?
Head’s up: you can totally read this book as a standalone. However, it is part of a series. Check out the books “Guide to books by Goddess Hedone” on my profile to find out more! It tells you the best order to read the books, but I write all of them as standalones, so feel free to pick & choose! Just know that the cameos and easter eggs won’t make sense if you read this book separately. Doesn’t really matter, you don’t need that info, but if you’re like “why do other readers find this funny in the comments?” or “why is she bringing this random person into the story?” then it’s most likely a character from one of my other books.
The first book in the series is "Sweet Caroline", in case you want to start at the very beginning, with the couple that started this whole universe.
For those of you who’ve read “Blaming Benjamin”: this short story is set at the end of the book. So there’ll be some overlap between the final chapters, but otherwise it’s completely separate & it’ll go beyond that timeline a little bit.
Hope you’ll all enjoy this short story!
#1 The deep end
First day on the job, and also my first day of therapy. Way to jump in the deep end, Ash.
Then again, it’s what I’ve always done. When I had my first internship while studying for my teaching degree, the teacher mentoring me got sick and I had to take over his class due to the teacher shortage. I’d only been pretending to know what I was doing for about a week, and suddenly I was responsible for 25 fourth graders. I managed, got offered a job before I’d even finished college, and continued diving into the deep end every single day.
The school didn’t have enough money for extra curricular activities? Guess who was the one organizing the fundraiser…
The mother who was supposed to make the costumes for the school play totally flaked? Guess who was watching YouTube videos on how to work a sewing machine in the middle of the night…
The seventh grade teacher got sick and there was no other teacher up for the job? Guess who suddenly went from teaching fourth grade to dealing with twelve-year-olds…
My younger siblings wanted to go to a party, and needed someone to pick them up afterwards? Guess who jumped in his car…
Mom and Dad were having a relationship crisis and thought no one would notice? Guess who not only noticed, but tried to pick up the pieces as best as he could…
To be fair, I don’t think my parents are bad people. Not at all. Their relationship crisis eventually ended, and they were back to being a loving, strong couple. Still, the damage to young, sensitive me was already done by then. I’ve always been one of those kids who absorbs everyone else’s stress and tries to fix everything. I thought that was an oldest kid thing, but I’m not the oldest. I’ve got two older sisters.
In many ways, I did feel like the oldest, growing up. My sister Rose is so much older than me that she went to college when I was only 6 years old. My sister Daisy is a wild one, and she spent most of her teenage years completely focused on herself. Which I get, because she’s gay, and she struggled with that for a long time, always feeling different but not knowing quite why. She turned into a way happier version of herself once she came out, but did she ever seem like the oldest, responsible sibling? Hell no.
That’s me. To a T. The eldest by default, I guess.
Also, it’s not like I did those things for the school I used to work at all by myself. My mother is a second grade teacher, and she was up with me in the middle of the night, sewing costumes. She did the decorations for the fundraisers I organized. She helped me out when I was feeling overwhelmed, responsible for an entire class without proper training. She’s always been my role model. That’s why I continued to live at home while going to college. I wanted to be close to her, and to my three younger siblings.
First comes Ivy, who is three years younger than I am. She’s a sweetheart, sensitive like me. She’s also a bit of a tomboy, although she also enjoys wearing sparkly dresses. She’s one of those girls who combines both sides flawlessly, never quite fitting into a box. Since she’s so much like me, also emotionally sensitive, that I always felt like I needed to protect her. And I did. I don’t think she has any of the issues I do. She doesn’t need therapy. She’s happily settled down with her boyfriend Cliff. I think out of all the little rabid wolves my parents raised, she is the most well-adjusted one of the bunch.
Then there’s Violet, our little drama queen. She came along when I was 7, and when she was born… I think that is when things changed for me. I remember Mom being moody and tired during that pregnancy. She went back to normal after Violet was born – sort of – but I always feel responsible to make sure that Daisy and Ivy weren’t misbehaving too much, so Mom could focus on Violet.
A lot of pressure on a 7-year-old, trust me on that.
It’s not that my parents ever expected me to take that on. Hell no. They both even talked to me about it back then, telling me I didn’t always need to look after Ivy, that I shouldn’t keep telling my own siblings to quiet down and behave, that I should enjoy and just be a kid. It’s easier said than done, though.
Things really got rough when Mom got pregnant with my baby brother Quill. I was 8 back then, when my mother barely could get out of bed. All she did was cry, and she would barely even look at Quill the first months of his life. I wasn’t old enough to fully comprehend what was happening. Hell, my Dad didn’t even understand it at first.
The name of the game? Postpartum depression.
It can change someone’s entire personality. Mom went from sweet, loving, and strong to a trembling, moody and sobbing shadow of her former self.
She got better, thanks to our live-in-nanny taking on us younger kids, Dad supporting Mom in every single way he possibly could, and Mom going to therapy. It took a while, but we got our mother back.
Again, I don’t blame anyone for what happened. Rose, Daisy, Ivy, Violet and Quill don’t seem to have any lingering trauma from that horrible year in our lives. Fact is that I do, and I’m pretty sure that tough year back when I was 8 is part of the reason I’m driving to therapy today, right after my first workday.
As I park in front of the building that holds several small businesses and a bunch of apartments above it, I take a deep breath to center myself. I check my appearance in the rearview mirror, realizing I look worn. No surprise there, since I moved to town only a week ago, and this morning I started my new job as a sixth grade teacher at the same school where my brother-in-law Jagger teaches kindergarten. I’m pretty average-looking on my best days, but today is not one of those. I look haggard – dark circles underneath my eyes, hair in desperate need of a haircut, and my eyebrows looking like they’re trying to escape from my face. I run my fingers over them, trying to force them into a normal shape, but the hairs just jump back up. Jesus, I need some serious grooming. Not to mention the fact that I haven’t shaved in a week, and I am sporting a full-on beard by now.
No wonder the kids didn’t give me a hard time today. I look way more intimidating than I am.
I grab my laptop bag and get out of the car, making my way to where my therapist has her office. There’s a small waiting area, surrounded by several doors, each one with the name of the therapist on it. There is no receptionist or a place to check in, so I just sit down. Peyton Snow has her own practice, as do the others, so I guess they just share this small space so they don’t all have to create a separate waiting room for their clients. I nod at two women who are sitting here as well, and they smile politely before glancing away again.
Okay, no small talk. Fine with me.
I reply to some texts from my siblings while I wait, most of them from my oldest sister Rose. She lives in town too, and she’s beyond excited that I moved here. Our parents, Violet and Quill still live in our hometown three hours away, Daisy doesn’t really have a homebase since she travels all over for work, and Ivy lives across the state with her boyfriend. I think Violet might stay in our hometown, but Quill definitely won’t. He’s not a small-town boy despite growing up in one. Rose is already working on trying to get him to move here. At the moment, he’s working fulltime in a store selling sporting gear, since he opted out of going to college. He always jokes that Mom didn’t have any brains left to give him since it was already her fifth pregnancy, and that he’s glad she saved the looks for him.
And did she ever. He’s my brother, and I’m straight anyway, so I don’t really look at men that way, especially not when they’re related to me, but Quill is just empirically and objectively good-looking. Anyone with eyes can see that. We look a little bit alike, having the same hair and eye color, but I definitely didn’t get the beauty genes in this family. All of that went to my sisters and brother. I’ve got the brains, though. I’m nerdy as hell, and I don’t even mind admitting that.
I look up when my name is called, seeing the young blonde woman who is apparently my therapist. My friend Alana gave me her info, claiming she’s amazing. She’s also Alana’s former foster sister, and I met her a few times when I was younger, but I don’t really remember her. That sounds really shitty, I know, but my parents have a million friends, and most of them have kids. I got dragged from house to house for years, to so many birthday parties. I always got a little overwhelmed in situations like that, so I often ended up playing with my siblings since I already knew them, or reading on my own in a corner of the room. Funny to think I became a teacher, even though I’m socially awkward. Well, used to be. Still am a little bit, sometimes.
“Hey,” I say as I approach her, shaking her hand. “Nice to see you again, Miss Snow.”
She giggles, pushing her long hair out of her face. Her hand is trembling a little, making me think she might be nervous. “Call me Peyton. Nice to see you too, Ash. Come on in.”
Her office is cozy, and she motions to one of the large sofa chairs while she takes the other. There’s a notebook on her armrest, and a pitcher of water, two glasses and a box of tissues on the small table in between us.
“So…” I say, dragging out the word. “How do we… do this?”
She gives me a sweet, yet professional smile. “You’ve never been in therapy before, right?”
I shake my head. “I probably should have found a therapist years ago, but… I don’t know. When I was younger, I’d have had to ask my parents, and I didn’t want them to feel like they did something wrong that affected me so much that it made me feel like I needed professional help. And then when I got older, I realized that my hometown was so small that the therapists were all… you know… people I knew. Their kids were in my class, or they used to be the leader of my mom’s support group, or their kid was friends with one of my siblings… I didn’t want to tell my issues to someone who could blab about them to my family.”
Peyton nods. “Understandable. I have to say though… While I would never break the confidentiality of our talks, I’m not exactly a complete stranger to you either. I used to be Alana’s foster sister, and I know you guys are friends. Plus, my foster parents are close to your parents. We met a few times when we were kids.”
I nod. I know all of that. Considered it before sending her an email. “Alana swears you’re the best, so I feel more comfortable talking to you than a complete stranger, I guess? She trusts you, and I trust her, so… Here I am. Plus, I am always more comfortable talking to women than men.”
She picks up her notebook and scribbles something down. “Don’t worry when I write in this,” she says, holding it up. “Doesn’t mean you said something weird. I jot down things I want to circle back to.”
“The comment about being more comfortable around women?” I guess with a small smile. “People always assume it means I’m gay. Which I’m not.”
For some reason, her cheeks turn bright red. “That’s not what I… I wouldn’t just… But yes, I did write that down, but just because… I mean… It’s interesting.”
She’s about as awkward as I am, which sets me strangely at ease. I do hope Alana is right and Peyton is truly a great therapist. She’s a bit of a nervous one, though.
“Let’s start by me telling you about myself, and then you can go ahead and tell me what you’re hoping to achieve in your sessions with me,” Peyton says, her voice stable and strong again. “I’m Peyton Snow, 26 years old, as you already know. I’ve been running my own practice for two years now.” She waves a hand at the wall with all her diplomas. “I could tell you where I went to school, and all the courses I took, but I’m sure you already read about all of that on my website.”
She’s got me pegged for a nerd who preps himself well. She’s not wrong. “I did.”
“We already talked through email for a bit,” she goes on, looking down at her notebook. “You didn’t go into much detail, but you did tell me about what you’d like to work on. I’ve had a few other patients with similar issues, just so you know. Every person is different, but I think it’s always good to know that you’re not alone. Men don’t often talk about these things, but you’re definitely not the only guy in the world afraid to get a girl pregnant to the extent where it affects his dating life.”
Okay, we’re diving in, I guess.
“Is there anything I should know about you?” she asks. “Tell me the basics. Who is Ash Storm? And what do you hope to gain from going to therapy?”
“Before we get into that, I should tell you…” Fuck, I’ve been dreading this all day. “I didn’t tell you the full extent of my issues in my email.”
She doesn’t say anything, just looks at me with an open, inviting expression.
“I told you that… that I’m not dating right now. That I’m afraid to get someone pregnant. That my ex and I broke up because of a pregnancy scare, and that she wanted kids while I don’t even want to have sex without a condom. That’s not the full story, though.”
This is going to be embarrassing.
“What’s the full story?” she asks, cocking her head to the side.
“The full story is…”
Come on, Ash. You can do this. You need to tell someone, or you’ll never fix this problem.
“It’s kind of a miracle that my ex had a pregnancy scare at all, since we didn’t sleep together very often. And that’s because… Well, I think…”
Just spit it out.
“I think I might have erectile dysfunction.”