EPISODE NINE

Chapter Twenty-Four

Ashton

 

“Jessica!”

She appears in the doorway, irritated. “What?”

“Have you got those numbers for the Steele proposal yet?”

“No.”

My head snaps up. “Why?”

Crossing her arms, she says, “What crawled up your ass this morning?”

I narrow my eyes at her. “More to the point, who pissed you off? You’ve been traipsing around here all day in a foul mood.”

She settles a glare on me before huffing out a breath of irritation. Dropping her arms, she enters my office. “It might have something to do with the fact Jack is hell-bent on ripping open old wounds suddenly.”

“Fuck.” I lean back in my chair. Jack revisiting the past is not something any of us need. Too many ghosts reside there with the potential to wreak havoc on everyone involved.

“Exactly.” She drops down into the seat across from me. “He called me late last night and wanted to talk about what happened between us.” Hurt flashes in her eyes. It’s an emotion she does her best to avoid, so it surprises me. It shouldn’t, though, because what went down between them wasn’t pretty. When I look closer, I realise there’s exhaustion to go with it. “I can’t do this with him again, Ashton.”

“Jesus, Jessica, you need to shut him down now. That shit was five years ago and it’s not helpful to either of you to rehash it.”

“You know him better than anyone, I don’t think he’s going to let it go.”

She’s right; when Jack wants to drown himself in misery he always finds a way. “I thought he was doing okay yesterday, clearly I was wrong. Have you spoken to him today?”

“No. You?”

I shake my head. “No, I left early for work.” Pushing my chair back, I stand. “I’m going to check on him. How much time do you need to pull those numbers for me?”

“Half an hour should do it, unless something urgent crops up.”

“Send them to me when you have them. I won’t be back in today.”

She stands. “You’re on soccer duty again this afternoon?”

I flick my wrist to check my watch. “Yes, and I won’t hear the end of it from Alessandra if I’m not there by four, so I need to leave now if I’m going to have time to stop in on Jack first.”

As we’re heading out of my office, she says, “By the way, I’m not sure what you said to Lorelei, but I sent her the schedule for the next couple of weekends and she sent me back an email saying thanks, no arguments. Totally not what I expected after she sent your butt plug back. Smooth work.”

It might feel like smooth work to Jessica, but getting Lorelei to do what I want her to do is proving a challenge. “She’ll be ready to leave at lunch time tomorrow?”

“That’s the time I mentioned in the email. She didn’t say anything to the contrary.”

We’ll see. The thing I’m learning about Lorelei is to expect the unexpected. She has a way of surprising me that, as much as I hate to admit, because generally I prefer not to be surprised, I’m growing to love.

 

***

 

I enter the bar on Willow Street and scan the building looking for Jack. I texted him after I left my office to find out where he was. It didn’t surprise me to learn he was here as this is the bar he and I frequented when we were younger. He’s seated at a table with six empty glasses in front of him.

Jesus.

“Ashton.” His lazy smile lights up his face when I reach the table. Sweeping his arm through the air, he indicates for me to join him. “You want a drink?”

I take the empty chair across from him. “Really? This is the answer to your problems, Jack? Please tell me my friend is smarter than this.”

Glancing at the empty glasses, he says, “It’s a good answer, don’t you think?”

“I wasn’t referring to the alcohol.”

He frowns. “What then?”

“Jessica.”

“Ah,” he murmurs, leaning back. “She told you I called her last night?”

“Yes. And I’m telling you now that you need to leave the past in the past. It’s been five years since you two broke up. Why all of a sudden do you want to bring it back up with her?”

“We never did get closure. I thought it was time to try.”

“Closure? Fuck, do you think she needs that now? If she ever needed it, five years ago would have been good. But you didn’t stop and think back then. You just moved on to the next woman, never looking back to see how broken Jessica was. She worked through all of that and got the closure she needed. So if you need it now, you find it on your own without her.”

Annoyance flashes across his face and he reaches for his glass of whisky. After he drains it, he says, “It’s this new shrink you’ve got me going to. She’s forcing me to face the shit in my past that still haunts me.”

“Jesus, Jack, leave Jessica out of it. You’ve got a lot of other shit in your past, focus on that instead.”

He takes that in, like he always does. Jack’s a good listener but he doesn’t always process things the way I imagine he will. This time, however, he nods and says, “Okay, Ashton, we’ll play this your way. I’ll leave Jessica out of it.”

I scrub my hand over my face.

Thank fuck.

“When are you seeing the psych again?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Have you told her you’re drinking heavily?”

“I told her I was working on cutting back.”

“You need to work harder at that.” My patience with him is wearing thin.

He scowls at me. “Perhaps I should cancel my appointments with her and book in with you?”

“What you should do is start taking this seriously. Mixing alcohol with your medication is a fucked-up move and you know it.”

“I do, but I’m getting a little sick of hearing what I should be doing from everyone. I’m quite capable of living my own life and making my own decisions.”

I stand to leave. Being with him while he’s in this mood is only making me angry. “Are you? Because it doesn’t seem like it to me.”

As I stalk out of the bar, I dig deep not to lose my cool. I don’t understand Jack’s behaviour. This isn’t something new in our friendship, but it’s something I’m growing tired of. Watching my best friend unravel like this is hard. I thought that getting him to Australia and finding him the psychological help he needed would be enough. It seems this time it isn’t. And not knowing how to fix a situation isn’t something I’m good at. I always know how to fix problems.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Lorelei

 

“I’ve decided I like Ashton Scott,” Sienna says to me over drinks at the bar down the road from the Willow Street building late Thursday afternoon.

“What’s he done to earn your approval?” Images of him from last night flash through my mind as I wait for her answer. Him sitting in my kitchen in his pinstripe suit; him passing me a cupcake; him telling me how it was going to go down between the two of us. I hardly slept after he left. Instead, I tossed and turned, replaying our conversation over and over in my head, wondering how to proceed. In the end, I decided to play along with him. He can have my body, because I want that as much as he does. My heart, though, will just wait and see.

She sips her Daiquiri. “I just dropped my nephew off at soccer and Ashton was there coaching again. In my opinion, any man who gives up his time to help kids is a man worth knowing.”

My heart, that is waiting and seeing just who Ashton really is, beats a little faster at the mention of him coaching kids.

When I don’t say anything, she nudges me. “Well? Don’t you agree?”

I sigh. “He came to see me last night.”

Her eyes widen. “You’ve gone all day without telling me this news? You better start talking and spill everything. Do not leave any detail out.”

“For a start, he’s a stubborn, bossy man—”

Her eyes twinkle as a grin forms on her lips. “Which is exactly what you need.”

I take a long sip of my wine. I decided that alcohol was definitely needed tonight while we discuss Ashton. Although I haven’t talked to Sienna about him today, I invited her to the bar after work with the intention of going over every little detail with her.

“I’m not so sure that’s exactly what I need, but I have decided I need sex with him again. The man sure knows how to do that.”

“So you think that’s all he wants, too?”

“I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure that he’s looking for more from me. Before I started to get to know him, I would have told you he was a player and just wanted sex going by what I’d read about him, but he’s going to a lot of effort if all he wants is my body.”

Her grin softens. “Yes, if a man like Ashton just wants sex that would be easy to come by.” She drinks more of her cocktail. “You’re going to ease up on him and play nice, then?”

I scrunch my face at her. “Whose friend are you anyway? I always play nice. Sometimes I just want to play my way rather than someone else’s. And Ashton wants to call all the shots, too, so we do seem to clash a little. I’ll try to compromise a little, but easing up on him would be bad. I think he’s used to always getting his way, and he needs to learn that if he wants to be with me, that won’t always happen.”

She laughs at that. “Oh, boy, you two… I’m looking forward to this.”

“Anyway, we’re doing this resort development together and he’s booked us into a few resorts over the next couple of weekends to check them out. So you and I need to go over my wardrobe.”

“Jesus, does he have a brother? I need a man like Ashton who just takes charge. I’d have no problems with being bossed around and taken to resorts.”

“Lorelei!” A deep voice jolts me out of the conversation with Sienna and I glance up to find Jack coming our way.

I stand and hug him when he puts his arms out, signalling he wants to embrace me. “How are you, Jack?” He’s been drinking, which sparks my concern. I hardly know him, and yet I’m invested in his health and happiness. I’m not sure how he did it, but he’s managed to draw me in.

Ignoring me, he turns to Sienna and pastes a million-dollar smile on his face. I bet that kind of smile is what helped make him famous. That, his talent and his ability to charm. “You must be Lorelei’s friend who I’ve heard so much about.”

Sienna lifts a brow. “Really? Who from?”

He grins. “You got me there, gorgeous. I haven’t heard about you, but that’s an error we need to fix. How about the three of us leave so we can spend some time alone getting to know each other?”

Sienna cocks her head. “You’re propositioning us for a threesome?”

Jack throws his head back and laughs. It’s a genuine, belly laugh and it looks good on him. When he finishes laughing, he says, “Fuck no. You don’t seriously think I’d try to screw my best mate’s woman, do you? And I’d never sleep with her best friend either. I might fuck a lot of shit up in my life, but I’m smart enough to know not to do either of those things. I simply meant let’s have a conversation and get to know each other that way.” He leans closer to her and lowers his voice to add, “I need to get out of here, though, because it’s starting to get busier and I’ve had some fans harassing me.”

“You don’t travel with security?” Sienna asks.

“Usually, but I haven’t bothered with it this trip. I should sort something out.”

I move off my stool. “I’m sure Ashton’s assistant could hook you up.”

His bright expression morphs into a darker one. “Yeah, I’m not thinking it’s a good idea to ask her for help.”

I frown. “Why not?”

He slides his arm over my shoulders. “Jessica and I aren’t in a great place at the moment. I need to reserve my conversations with her for more important matters.” Glancing at Sienna, he asks, “Now, are you ladies in?”

She nods. “Yes.”

The smile returns to his face as he looks between the two of us. “What’s your name, gorgeous? I’m going to need it if you and I are going to spend time together.”

She gives him her name and he says, “Sienna. Fucking beautiful.”

As the three of us leave the bar, chatting and laughing, I can’t help but notice that Sienna is hanging off every word he says. I hope he makes good on his promise not to sleep with her. She doesn’t need Jack complicating her life.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Six

Ashton

 

My eyes meet Lorelei’s as I enter my living room after soccer practice. She’s sitting with Jack and her friend on the sofa, laughing at something he’s just said. Her laughter dies on her lips when she sees me, but the smile remains.

“Ashton,” Jack says, seriousness replacing his fun demeanour. “How was soccer?”

I drag my gaze from Lorelei to answer him. My earlier anger with him is still there, but it’s dulled a little. We have the kind of friendship where we don’t tend to hold onto arguments. “The kids did great. The parents on the other hand leave a lot to be desired. It’s a good thing Aly wasn’t there today. She would have found an argument to involve herself in.”

“Malcolm was there instead?” Jack asks.

“Yeah.” My eyes lock onto Lorelei again. “Have you three had dinner?”

She shakes her head. “You got cupcakes?”

Sienna frowns. “Cupcakes?”

“Yes, they seem to be one of Ashton’s ways of bribing people,” Lorelei says.

I raise a brow. “And they seem to be one of Lorelei’s ways of coping when she’s trying to avoid something.”

Jack stands and holds his hand out to Sienna. “That’s our cue to leave, gorgeous. Come, I’ll give you a tour of Ashton’s home.”

Sienna does as he suggests, leaving Lorelei and me alone. She stands as I make my way to her, and I take in the black pants and white sleeveless blouse she’s wearing. Her cleavage is on full display thanks to the fitted blouse that dips low in the front.

When I reach her, I run a finger lightly across her collarbone. “You look beautiful today, but for the record, I prefer you in a dress.”

Her eyes hold mine. “For the record, I don’t care.”

My lips twitch, but I hold back my smile. I trace a line down from her collarbone to her cleavage before slipping my hand inside her blouse and her bra to cover one of her breasts. Her nipple hardens as I massage it with my thumb. “I know you don’t care, but I’m making it clear that when I pick you up tomorrow at lunch time, I want you in a dress.”

She steps closer and slides her hand into my shorts so she can take hold of my cock. My breathing slows as she wraps her hand around it. “I’ve decided how you’re going to fuck me first tomorrow.” My dick is hard as hell listening to her dirty talk. Not to mention the fact she’s making plans for sex. I was clear last night with what I wanted to happen between us, but I still wasn’t sure how long it would take for her to come around.

 

“How?” I demand, letting go of her breast so I can undo her blouse.

Stroking my cock, she says. “I want you to fuck me on the balcony. I’m going to face the beach while you take me from behind. You’re going to make me scream out your name while you give me an orgasm that will exhaust me. Then we’re going to have a spa bath together where you’ll kiss me forever, because kisses are my downfall, and get me so ready for you that I’ll be begging you to fuck me again. Which you’ll do in that spa bath before carrying me to the bed so I can recover in time for dinner.” She squeezes my cock harder, increasing her pace before continuing to detail her fantasy. “You’ll take me to an amazing Italian restaurant where I’ll tease your cock all night so that you can’t wait to get me back to the room and fuck me until I pass out.” Pressing her lips to mine, she murmurs, “And then the next day, I’ll wake you up reverse cowgirl style and we’ll start all over again.”

Fuck.

Without any warning, I lift her up over my shoulder and carry her to my bedroom. She squeals her surprise, but doesn’t fight me. When I deposit her on the floor in my room, I slide her blouse off and undo her pants. “I see you’ve spent some time today fantasizing. Just so you know, though, I’ve already put some thought into how I’ll fuck you tomorrow.”

As we remove each other’s clothes, she says, “I bet you have, but for once in your life do you think you could relinquish control?”

Pulling her to me, I take hold of her face with both hands. “I don’t relinquish control ever, Lorelei, you should know that.” I brush my lips across hers. “However, there are parts of your fantasy I like, so I could be convinced to swap some of my ideas for yours.”

She places her hands on my chest. “Just so you know, I never bother trying to convince people of anything, especially not men. Either you’re with me, or you’re not. This is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal.”

I let go of her face so I can reach a hand down to her pussy. Circling her clit, I say, “It’s not a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal and we both know it.” Pushing a finger inside her, I growl, “We also both know that once I get you inside that resort room, you’ll do anything for my cock.” She’s so damn wet that I easily slide another finger inside and reach deep. When she gasps and digs her fingers into my skin, I move my mouth to her ear. “I’m pleased to see that you’ve reconsidered our relationship.”

Her eyes glaze over as I bring her closer to orgasm. “I have. But you need to know something else, Ashton.”

I dip my mouth to her neck to taste her skin. “What?”

She reaches for my cock. “I’ve decided I’m all for compromise, and that you need to get on board with that if this relationship is going to go anywhere.”

I drop to my knees and run my tongue from one end of her pussy to the other. “I’m listening. What kind of compromise are you willing to make for me to continue this? Will you wear a dress tomorrow?”

She moans as I lick her again. When I stop, she threads her fingers through my hair and grips it hard. “Yes, I’ll wear a damn dress. Just keep doing that.”

I give her what she wants, working her closer to the edge.

Kissing.

Licking.

Sucking.

Stroking.

I deliver pure ecstasy and when I know I’ve worked her into a frenzy of desperate need, I stop and stand, kissing my way up her body. Taking her face in my hands again, I say, “I can make you come, Lorelei. Right now. My cock, your pussy, I’ll fuck you like you’ve never been fucked. But in return, you’re going to have to agree to me having full control on the weekend. And that’s a take-it-or-leave-it deal.” Pushing my cock against her, I growl, “Are you with me or not, baby?”

She’s in such a state of desire that I know she can hardly think straight, but she manages to process what I’ve said. Wrapping her hand around my dick, she says, “I don’t need this to come. I’m quite capable of getting myself off.”

“Take it or leave it, Lorelei. You may be able to orgasm without my cock, but I can guarantee you it’ll be nothing compared to what I can give you.”

“I want you to compromise.”

“No.”

She pumps my dick in her hand. “Give me something, Ashton.”

I kiss her, tangling my tongue with hers. “I will. My cock.”

Her mouth claims mine in another kiss. This one is demanding, bruising almost. It reveals her need for what she’s asking of me. “I want more than that. I’m not a woman who will be happy with just that.”

“What do you want, Lorelei? Tell me.”

We’re nearly there.

“I told you, I want you to comprom—”

“No,” I growl, “tell me what you really want. You said you want more than just my cock, more than just sex. What is it you need?”

Come on, baby, don’t let me down now.

She stills.

Blinks.

And finally realises where I’ve been leading her.

Leaning her body into mine, she loops her arms around my neck. “You’re a smart man, Ashton.”

“That is true.”

She shakes her head. “And arrogant, too.”

“Guilty as charged.” I run my hands over her ass, pressing her even harder against my body.

“You know what I want.”

“I want to hear you say it.”

Her hands move up into my hair at the back of my neck and she pushes my head so my face dips to hers. Kissing me, she moans into my mouth, “Fuck, I love how your mind works. Even when you’re one-upping me, I love your intelligence. But I’m going to need you to give me the occasional win. And some days I’ll need the control, not of you, but of the situation. You’re so powerful and driven and you just charge on in and take over. You can’t consume me, Ashton. Because you will if I let you. I want you so damn much that I’m worried I’ll get lost in that. I need some space every now and then. Can you give me that?”

“I can give you anything, Lorelei, so long as you give me what I want.”

She stills again. “What do you want?” she asks quietly.

“I want you to explore this relationship with me. I want you to not pull away every time you feel like I’m consuming you. I want you to talk to me when you feel like that.”

Her grip on me tightens.

When she doesn’t reply straight away, I wonder if she’s going to run again.

And then her body relaxes and a smile teases her lips right before she presses those lips to mine. “That’s how you compromise. I knew you had it in you.”

“You’d be surprised what I’m capable of for the right woman.” I move my hands to take hold of her hips. “Now, I want you on that bed, on your back with your legs spread wide.” When she opens her mouth to speak, I place my finger against her lips to silence her. “No negotiations, Lorelei. I’ll consider your suggestions for tomorrow, but tonight, you do what I say.”

I’ve done all the compromising I’ll be doing tonight. What Lorelei doesn’t need to know is that I’ve never once in my life ever given a woman this much.

 

EPISODE TEN WILL BE LIVE ON THE 18TH JULY

 

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