He tilts his head. “You can have my bed. I’ll sleep on the couch,” he says, grabbing my hand. “It’s pouring rain outside, and I’d feel more comfortable if you were here with me tonight.”
I nod, using my free hand to lift a spoonful of soup to my lips. I’m too tired from the emotional ride earlier to argue. Besides, I now feel as if nothing bad can touch me when I’m with Asher.
“Are you doing okay?” he asks, rubbing his thumb across the top of my hand.
“Yeah. Are you?”
“I don’t know if it will ever be okay, but I feel better when I’m with you.”
“I feel the same way,” I admit. I help him clean up dinner and look at the clock; it’s already past eight. “I’m going to go let my mom know where I am.”
“When you’re done, do you want to watch a movie?”
“I’m really tired, and just kind of want to go to bed.”
He lowers his head. “Okay, I’ll get the couch ready.”
I find my purse on the chair next to the door and grab my phone to send my mom a text. She’s still at work, and she probably wouldn’t even realize I’m gone until morning, but I don’t need her sending out a search party to find me.
Kate: I’m staying at Asher’s tonight.
I press send and notice I have two missed phone calls from Beau and several texts. I tuck my phone back in my purse, not bothering to listen to his voicemails or read his texts. It can wait until tomorrow. I’m too exhausted to deal with anything else today.
Asher comes around the corner, pointing his thumb toward the bedroom. “It’s all set. I left you two pillows. I hope that’s enough.”
“Thank you,” I say, walking toward him. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me today.” I brush my lips against his cheek before starting toward the bedroom.
I don’t get far before he grabs my hand, halting me in place. “I’d do anything for you,” he says, running his thumb across the top of my hand.
He smiles and I smile back at him before heading to the empty bedroom and laying my tired body across the bed. I bury my head in the pillow; it smells like the soap in his shower. I love that Asher doesn’t drench himself in cologne. He always smells fresh and earthy.
As I settle in, I hear the rain hitting the metal siding outside. Being in the dark room, lying in a bed that isn’t mine brings some of the old, heavy feelings back. I realize it will take some time to let go of my fears, but now I know that I don’t have to do it alone.
I tiptoe out of the bed just in case Asher is already sleeping. When I turn the corner, I see that he’s not. He’s staring up at the ceiling with his hands crossed over his chest.
“Asher?” I say softly.
His head snaps in my direction. “Yeah?”
“Will you come lay next to me? It’s raining and . . .” My voice trails off. I hate that I sound like a scared little girl.
He quickly stands, stepping in my direction. “Didn’t I just tell you that I’d do anything for you?”
He’s close enough that our chests are practically touching, and my whole body goes on alert. His mouth is so close that I can feel his breath on my lips. My breathing picks up when his lips descend on mine. I wonder if there will ever be a time when he doesn’t have this effect on me.
“Let’s go to bed,” he whispers, pulling his head back and grabbing my hand.
He doesn’t skip a beat as he guides me into the room and closes the door behind him. He turns, gently placing his hands on my h*ps and drawing me close to him. I close my eyes when he finally touches his lips to mine. They feel like warm cotton candy against my skin. He takes his time licking, nibbling and biting until I can’t feel them anymore.
“How was that for a goodnight kiss?” he asks, pulling his bottom lip between his teeth.
“I think you already know,” I smile, crawling back into his bed. He doesn’t make me wait long before he joins me.
I tuck myself under the nice warm comforter, but I keep my back turned to him. I’m scared of what might happen if I continue to look. I feel movement on his side of the bed followed by a large hand gripping my hip. “Kate, can I hold you? I want to know what it’s like to fall asleep with you in my arms.”
My gaze is fixed on the window, watching the rain roll down the panes. “I think I’d like that,” I whisper. He places one arm beneath my head and the other around my waist. He hugs me close, fitting us together like one. I listen to the rain hitting hard against the window and concentrate on how it feels to be here in Asher’s arms. He’s my life size security blanket keeping me safe and content. This is exactly what I need to think about when I hear the rain.
“Why did you decide to tell me your secret?” I ask, entwining my fingers with his.
“Because I knew it was the only way I’d get you to tell me yours.”
WAKING UP FROM THE BEST full night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time wrapped in two strong arms is nothing I’ll ever complain about. I’ve been missing out on some of the best things in life. The critical moment that lasted mere minutes of my life bled into years . . . and Asher is the only one who has been able to make the bleeding stop.
Asher’s presence is like the moment you open a present, and all that remains is the plain white box and you have no idea what surprises lie inside. I get that anxious, excited feeling in my chest every time I see him.
And if he thought his secret would change how I view him, he was wrong. As a matter of fact, I think I feel even more connected to him. We both have horrible pasts that we’re trying to get over, and now we each have someone to do it with.
It always seems like the things I worry about the most never turn out as bad as I think they will. It’s the things I don’t see coming that throw me right on my ass. I realize the key to living is getting past the things I can’t change and putting my energy into the things I can. It’s something I wish I could’ve realized a long time ago.
“Are you awake?”
I break out of my thoughts, turning my head to see Asher’s beautiful blues staring back at me. The sun shines brightly through the window making his eyes look even more brilliant than I remembered.
“I guess I am.” I smile.
“I’m glad because while you’re really cute when you sleep, you’re even more breathtaking when you’re awake,” he says, running the tips of his fingers along my jawline.
“I was just thinking the same thing about you.” His slightly too long blonde hair is going every which way, but it suits him, and I can’t stop my fingers from combing through it.
“Are you flirting with me, Kate?”
“I don’t know the first thing about flirting.” My cheeks instantly heat up as I pull my lower lip between my teeth.
“You’re cute when you blush,” he remarks, adjusting his pillow so that his head is closer to mine. “And everyone can flirt . . . they just have to find someone who inspires them to do it.”
“Are you complimenting yourself now?” I ask, trying to hold back a laugh.
He smiles, kissing the corner of my mouth. “Take it however you’d like.”
“You’re a smooth talker, Asher Hunt.” Asher says things that most guys I know wouldn’t even think about saying to me.
For several minutes, we lie there as Asher runs the pad of his fingertips across my cheeks, lips and down the sensitive skin under my ears, as if he’s memorizing each part. He slowly slides his hand to the back of my neck and pulls me in. When his lips press against mine, I close my eyes and enjoy the tingle he sends throughout my body. His fingers dance up my back and down my bare arm before settling on my hip. Surprisingly, I don’t think about what happened before. For the first time since my innocence was stolen away from me, I feel comfortable letting someone else touch me. The way his hand brushes against my skin isn’t forceful, or rough . . . it’s soothing. It just feels so right, like the way a man should touch a woman.
When he breaks contact, I want to protest. I never thought I’d be able to do this much without running for the nearest exit, but here I am.
And I want more.
My eyes lock on the tattoo on the inside of his arm and I can’t stop my fingers from running over it.
“That’s the date Megan died. I put it there as a reminder,” he says, looking down at my fingers.
“You’ll never forget. She’s right here,” I whisper, resting my hand on his chest.
“Thank you for trusting me with your secret. I’m sorry that happened to you. If I could go back and change it, I would,” he says, running his fingers along my collarbone.
“But the thing about the past is that it can’t be rewritten. Somehow, I have to learn to deal with it and you have to forgive yourself for what happened to Megan.”
“Sometimes it feels like I’m being punished for what happened that night,” Asher says softly, just a few inches from my lips.
“What do you mean?” I ask, pulling my head back to look into his eyes.
“I don’t know. I guess everything bad that happens afterward seems like God’s way of paying me back.” He pauses, moving his fingers up to caress my cheek. “But since I’ve met you, I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I was living with something other than regret, and I owe that to you.”
“And I owe my happiness to you,” I whisper, pressing my lips to his. “You’ve already opened my eyes to so many things that I wouldn’t let myself see before.”
“I don’t know what I did to deserve moments like these,” he says, brushing a few strands of hair from my forehead. I understand his pain because I would be a mess if something ever happened to Beau, but he has to let go of the guilt that he’s holding. He can’t change what happened . . . no one can. I also realize I’m being a hypocrite because I’ve spent the last two years holding on to a past I can’t change.