Chapter Thirty-Eight



“Why is Cassia here?” Alessandra asks a few hours after the doctor confirms that Mum is okay. They’re giving her stents after which she’ll most likely be in hospital for a few days.

“I have no fucking clue,” I mutter, eyeing Cassia with my father. I’m more than surprised at their closeness. He left for a couple of hours and has just returned, and they’re huddled discussing something in hushed tones.

Alessandra exhales a long breath while crossing her leg and scrolling emails on her phone. “I had no idea she was friendly with Mum and Dad. I’ve not seen her at their house, and Mum hasn’t mentioned anything except she has said a couple of times that she wishes you two were still together. I didn’t take that to mean she’d welcomed Cassia with open arms.”

My thoughts drift off while she talks about this. I couldn’t care less about whatever they’ve got going on. What I do care about, besides Mum’s health, is Lorelei and the issues with her building. She’s just stepped out of the waiting room to take another call from one of her tenants. It’s the third call today, and with each one I’ve watched her become more stressed.

“Ashton, are you listening to me?” Alessandra smacks my arm while staring at me, demanding an answer to her question.

I shift in my chair, irritated. “Fuck, Aly. And no, I’m not listening to you because what’s the point in dwelling on Cassia and whatever she’s doing with Mum and Dad. It doesn’t affect us.”

Her eyebrows arch. “You’re kidding me, right? Cassia is known for manipulating people. Whatever she’s doing with them is because of you, so you should be paying attention.”

“Why? She can’t manipulate me into anything.”

She stares at me like I’ve grown another head. “For a smart man, you can be dumb when it comes to women. But luckily you’ve got me. I’ll pay attention for you.”

“I have no doubt,” I mutter.

She smacks me again, but doesn’t say anything else on the matter.

My attention is drawn to Lorelei walking our way. I stand to meet her, noticing the worry in her eyes. “What’s happened, now?” I ask as I curl my hand around her waist. I’ve never been the kind of man to engage in public displays of affection, but with Lorelei I can’t help myself. The need to touch her is too strong to resist.

She sighs. “My tenant is consulting with a lawyer about getting out of the lease. She’s had enough of all this graffiti and the break-ins. I don’t blame her, but the last thing I need right now is that shop empty. It’ll be a hard sell leasing it with all the stuff that’s been happening.”

She’s right. I make a mental note to have my guy look into it.

“Do the police have any new leads?”

She shakes her head. “No.” Her gaze shifts to my father for a moment before coming back to me. “I’m really sorry to do this to you, but I’m going to have to leave so I can go and try to sort this out.”

I pull her close and brush my lips over hers. “You go. I’ll call you later.”

Lorelei glances in Dad’s direction again, a strange look on her face, and then she nods. “Okay,” she says softly.

I frown. “What’s wrong?”

With a quick shake of her head, she says, “No, nothing. I’m just worried about you guys, that’s all.”

“We’re good. Don’t worry about us.”

She says goodbye to Alessandra and then leaves. I watch her go until I can’t see her anymore. It’s been a shit of a day, but having her by my side has made it bearable in a way I’ve never known before.

A hand on my arm draws my attention back to the moment, and I find Cassia looking up at me with concern. “Are you okay, Ashton? Your dad and I are worried that you’re not taking this very well.”

“Cassia, the last time my father worried about me was a long time ago, so I find that very hard to believe. And yes, I’m okay. You don’t need to worry about me.”

She moves closer to me. “I’ll always wor—”

Alessandra rolls her eyes and says, “You can cut the bullshit, Cassia. The only thing that ever concerns you is your social standing. Don’t come here today and use our mother’s health as a way to worm your way back into Ashton’s life.”

“Alessandra.” Dad’s sharp voice issues a warning when he joins us. “That’s enough. Don’t talk about things you have no idea about.”

My sister’s eyes widen as she is chastised. She’s only ever chased approval from two men in her life—Malcolm and our father. Malcolm gave it easily. Dad, not so much. I’m guessing that him taking Cassia’s side here is a like a slap in the face.

I rake my fingers through my hair as I glare at him. “Jesus Dad, you can be an asshole when you want to be.”

His eyes turn cold as his gaze settles on me. “I would prefer it if both my children could use their manners while waiting to hear how their mother’s health is. Particularly when we have company.”

Anger churns in my gut at his words. “You—”

Mum’s doctor interrupts our conversation. “Mr Scott, you can see your wife now.”

Dad nods at the doctor. “Thank you.” His gaze slices back to me, and with one last icy glare he leaves us to follow the doctor.

Alessandra shoots up out of her chair and grabs her bag. “I’ll be back.” She stalks out of the room, leaving me alone with Cassia.

“Your sister always did hate me,” Cassia says.

“Hate is an extreme term.” This is the last conversation I want to be having today. Actually, I don’t want to be having any conversation with her, but it seems I’m stuck.

Her lips flatten in the way they used to whenever we had an argument. “Not where Alessandra is concerned, Ashton, but you were always blind to her when we were together, so I’m sure that hasn’t changed. It’d be nice if, for once, you could open them and see things for what they really are.”

“Don’t push me, Cassia, because you might not like what I see.”

Her brows furrow. “What does that mean?” she demands.

“It means that sometimes I intentionally close my eyes when I don’t want to see what is plainly there to be seen. You have benefitted from that in the past. Let’s not start something we can’t turn back from.”

She stiffens and lifts her chin, a complete look of distaste covering her face. Securing her clutch under her arm, she throws back, “You think your father can be an asshole, but you don’t seem to acknowledge what an asshole you can be. You are far worse than Gregory.”

The sound of her heels tapping on the hospital floor fills my ears a moment later. It might just be the best fucking sound I’ve heard all day. What Cassia is doing with my family is a mystery to me, but I have a feeling I’m going to be seeing a lot more of her while my mother recovers from her heart attack. Thank fuck I have Lorelei to stand by my side while I deal with it all. Her presence alone eases tension from my life in ways I never knew someone could.




Chapter Thirty-Nine



“Here, I brought supplies with me,” Sienna says as she enters my kitchen just after seven that night and hands me a bag with the logo of my favourite bakery on it. “Figured you might need them after the day you’ve had.”

It’s been the longest day full of stress, so I could kiss her when I rip the bag open to discover two vanilla cupcakes. My favourite. “You are a goddess sent from heaven.”

She grins. “I try.”

I hold up a mug. “You want a coffee?”

Sliding onto a stool at my kitchen counter, she nods. “Of course. With a side of tell-me-all-about-what-happened-with-Cassia-today.”

“Ugh, you had to mention her name, didn’t you?”

She clicks her fingers, indicating I need to hurry up. “Spill. And then we can make a plan.”

I stop what I’m doing and look at her. “A plan?”

“Yeah, a plan for dealing with bitchy exes. I know you’ve never had to deal with one before, but I have, so I am the perfect person to advise you on this.”

“God, this all sounds awful. I don’t think I need a plan. Ashton and I are good.”

“It’s not Ashton I’m worried about. Cassia Brampton has a reputation. She is not a woman you want to be ill-prepared for.”

I take a bite of one of the cupcakes. A huge freaking bite because I need it. I’m starting to feel even more anxious about Cassia than I was this morning. I’ve spent the day talking myself around on this issue, but now that’s all flying out the window.

Sienna takes note of my actions and says, “Okay, you sit and eat cake while I make coffee.”

I do as she says. “Make mine strong. I think I’m gonna need it.”

We then spend a good hour making a plan for how I’m going to deal with Cassia after I tell Sienna how rude the woman was to me this morning. Mostly the plan involves me remaining confident and not allowing her to make me doubt my relationship with Ashton.

“I’m gonna be there every step of the way cheering you on until she’s out of the picture,” Sienna says.

I smile at her. “You’re always there cheering me on.”

“Yeah, but this is going to be so much more. If Cassia Brampton thinks she can waltz back in and mess with my bestie, she’s dreaming.” The alarm on her phone sounds, and she slides off her stool while reaching for her bag. “Babe, I’ve gotta go. That hot neighbour dude of mine is taking me out for a drink tonight, and that was my cue to leave so I’m ready on time.” She slows for a moment. “Are you okay with all this? Or should I cancel my plans so I can stay with you?”

I shoo her with my hands. “I love you, but you can be a drama queen when it comes to this stuff. Consider me prepped for Cassia. You go and make that man fall for you.”

She grins mischievously. “Oh, he has already fallen for me. That happened when I rescued his dog from imminent death. I saved her from escaping our building and then we spent the next couple of hours swapping life stories. Tonight is our first real date, though, so I need to get myself ready for him.”

“Hot neighbour dude has a dog?” Sienna loves dogs. Her last guy hated them, so it was a match made in hell.

A dreamy smile spreads across her face. “Hot neighbour dude’s name is Nathan, and yes he does. And can I just say that watching a man love a dog is pure bliss.”

“Okay, go get ready. I’m going to spend the night catching up on paperwork and tax.”

She pulls a face. “Oh God that sounds like the worst night ever. Is Ashton still at the hospital?”

I walk her to the door. “I think so. He called a couple of hours ago and said he’d be there for a while and that he may not see me tonight. I was going to head back to the hospital after I finished work, but the doctors wanted only family today.”

“I hope his mum is okay,” she says as she exits my apartment. Her eyes light up as she adds, “I’ll text later to let you know how my date goes.”

I laugh. “Something tells me you won’t have time to text.”

“I can always fit in a quick, sneaky text to you.”

With one last grin, she leaves me to head towards the elevator.  I smile as I watch her go, thinking about how good it is to see her this happy. I’m about to shut my apartment door and go find the paperwork waiting for me when the elevator doors open and Ashton steps out of it.

His eyes meet mine after he speaks briefly with Sienna. They’re dark tonight. And they watch me with an intensity as he strides towards me that curls hunger through me.

God how I want this man.

In every way I can have him.

“Ashton,” I murmur when he reaches me. A shiver runs through my body when his fingers meet the skin on my arm. No man has ever affected me the way he does. “I thought you’d be at the hospital for most of the night.”

He lightly runs his fingers along my forearm before wrapping his hand around it and pulling me to him. Bending his face to mine, he kisses me. It’s not a quick kiss to greet me, but rather a deep one that reveals his hunger for me. He takes his time with it, slowly backing me up against the door. By the time he’s finished, his hands are cupping my ass and his erection is pressed firmly against me. And I am thoroughly turned on and out-of-my-mind-crazy for him.

“I missed you this afternoon,” he says, his voice husky with desire. His hands move from my ass, and he slides his fingers through my hair and angles my face up so our gazes meet. The raw need I find in his eyes intensifies my own desire. “I need to be inside you, Lorelei.”

I grip his arm. “How’s your mum?” I want what he wants, but I manage to sort through my lust-filled thoughts to find this question. It’s important. I want to know that she’s okay.

“She’s good.”

His answer is sharp and to the point, and his actions make it clear he doesn’t want to discuss this any further, because as soon as the words leave his mouth, he lifts me and carries me inside to my couch.

Depositing me there, he keeps his eyes firmly on mine as he loosens his tie. He wore his suit to the hospital this morning, and even though he’s been in it all day, he still looks immaculate. The only thing giving away the fact he’s dealing with some heavy family stuff is the tiredness in his eyes.

The room fills with the sound of his tie sliding over his shirt as he discards it. Still watching me intently, he unbuttons his shirt. His fingers move deftly from one button to the next, undoing them, slowly revealing the smooth skin of his chest and abs. I lean back against the couch and enjoy the show of Ashton undressing.

When his shirt hits the floor, he flicks his wrist and beckons with his fingers for me to stand. Those beautiful blue eyes of his drop to take in my body, and when I stand, his hand goes straight to the button on my jeans. He makes fast work of removing them and slipping his hand into my panties.

Cupping my pussy and rubbing his thumb over my clit, he orders, “Take off your clothes.”

Ashton is bossy by nature. I know this about him. But tonight it’s like a whole other Ashton is here. He’s hungry for me, and he’s taken control, but he almost seems detached. And if I didn’t know better, I would think that all he came for was sex.

I do as he says and a few moments later I stand before him naked except for my panties. I hardly know I’m still wearing them, though, because Ashton’s hand covers my pussy rather than their thin material.

His thumb works my clit while he slides two fingers inside me. I’m so wet and ready for him, and I moan as he fucks me with his fingers. When he sucks one of my nipples into his mouth, I close my eyes and place my hands on his shoulders to steady myself.

I lose myself to the pleasure. Time passes in a blur with Ashton in complete control of my body.

When he growls, “Fuck,” my eyes flutter open, and I take in the wild look of need filling his features. I’m so close to coming. What I see in his eyes almost tips me over the edge, but before it does, Ashton spins me around, yanks my panties down and says, “Bend over and place your hands on the top of the couch.”

When he has me where he wants me, he undoes his belt and pants. His body moves closer to mine, his cock teasing the hell out of me. “I want to fuck you without a condom tonight,” he says as his hands cup my breasts.

It’s a statement, but I hear the question in it. I also hear just how much he wants this. His voice is raw with that desire. “I’m clean.” I want this too.

His hands move from my breasts to my waist. He grips my hips and without waiting another second, he thrusts deep inside me. A primal groan comes from deep inside him, and his fingers dig harder into my flesh as he fucks me with a ferocity I’ve never experienced in my life.

It’s primitive almost.

Wild and untamed.

I love every second of it.

I brace myself against the couch as he slams into me over and over, and when I come, I scream out his name like I never have before. It seems to fuel him, and he thrusts into me harder until he comes too.

“Fuck!” he roars out. He keeps hold of my hips while resting his forehead against my back. “Fuck,” he mutters again, breathless.

We stay like that for a while. When he finally straightens, he turns me to face him. His hold on me is firm, like he doesn’t want to let me go. And that intensity is still in his gaze. It also refuses to let me go.

“Today was one of the worst days of my life, but having you by my side made it bearable. And coming home to you tonight… Fuck, that was everything I never knew I needed.” He stops talking abruptly, like he was going to say something else but thought better of it.

Dropping his lips to mine, he claims me in the same kind of kiss he started this with. I feel every bit of his possession in this kiss, and while I never thought I was the kind of woman who wanted to feel possessed, I can’t deny how much I love it. How much I love feeling Ashton’s need for me.

And I realise how far I have fallen for this man.

I realise that I may even be falling in love with him.




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