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Page 16

Author: Kirsty Moseley

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not a player! I told you, I’ve just never met anyone who I wanted to spend the night with,” he explained.

I smiled. “Until now.”

He nodded. “Yeah, until now. But I’ve never once said ‘thanks ma’am’!” he said, grinning.

Before I could protest, his arm shot across my shoulders and he pushed me so that I fell back on to the bed. He lay down next to me, pressing his body to my side. My heart started to race, but I wasn’t scared because I could see he was joking. He was watching me intently, probably to make sure he was alright doing this.

“Well, thanks for letting me spend the night, ma’am” he whispered sexily. My breath caught in my throat at the husky sound of his voice.

“You’re welcome, Agent,” I answered. “And thanks for staying the night, I slept really well.” I could feel the blush heating my cheeks because I’d spent the night in a bed with him and I’d had his body wrapped around mine when I woke.

“Me too.” He rolled off me and walked to the door as if nothing had happened. “Want to meet me for breakfast?” he asked, stopping at the door.

“Um, it’s a bit late for breakfast, but I’ll eat lunch with you.” I nodded at my alarm clock, showing him the time.

He looked at the clock and shook his head, looking a little bemused. “Right, okay, lunch then,” he corrected, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “Come get me when you’re ready.” He closed the door firmly behind him and I walked over to my closet, picking out clothes for the day. After running a brush through my wild hair a couple of times, it became apparent that there was no salvaging it. Instead, I pulled it up into a ponytail and clipped my bangs to the side. I looked in the mirror and frowned. I looked the same as I did every other day: baggy and loose. I longed to wear normal clothes, but it was easier this way to go unnoticed; it actually scared me when guys started to look at me with lust in their eyes.

I knew every man wasn’t like Carter, but just in case, I couldn’t bring myself to show any skin or curves. It was funny how that was different with Ashton. I hadn’t thought twice about wearing my swimsuit in front of him yesterday. There was something about him that just made me trust him, giving me more confidence around him.

When I was done, I made my way out to Ashton’s room. “Hey,” he greeted cheerfully as he opened his door.

“Hey.”

“So, what do you want to do today? Is there anything good to do around here?” he asked as we walked down to the kitchen for lunch.

“Not really. There’s a small shopping mall about half an hour away. Want to go there? I could buy some new art supplies, ready for school,” I offered, shrugging.

“Sure okay, sounds good,” he agreed, smiling happily.

“Wow, you’re easy to please,” I teased, elbowing him in the ribs playfully.

He smiled. “I guess. I just don’t get much time off from training, so I don’t get to do normal things like that often.”

“Well, that sucks,” I said frowning.

“It doesn’t suck! I love my job; it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. The training’s finished now so things should calm down,” he explained, shrugging.

“Well not really, I mean, you got stuck on some crappy assignment to babysit me. My dad said that you won’t even get time off apart from scheduled school breaks. You must suck at being SWAT if they stuck you here,” I joked, smirking at him. Bless him; I bet he barely passed his training!

“Actually, I graduated top of my class with honours. I hold five new records at the academy, which I was the only one to break in twenty years,” he replied dismissively like it was no big deal.

I recoiled, shocked at the revelations. “Seriously? Then why did you get shipped off here with me? I mean, if you’re some awesome badass, why waste you here body guarding me? It’s not even a SWAT job, it’s the secret service’s responsibility to guard a Senator and his family.” I looked at him, confused. It just seemed like a waste of talent to me.

He looked a little uncomfortable. “I don’t know. I just go wherever they assign me. Anyway, I’m glad I got ‘shipped off here’ as you put it, otherwise we wouldn’t have met,” he flirted, smiling at me cockily.

“Yeah, because otherwise you’d still be holding that claim of never spending the night with a girl, like the badass player that you are.” I pushed him sideways playfully so I could step through the door into the inner hallway first. He didn’t reply. He just grabbed my waist, lifting me off my feet and threw me easily over his shoulder as he carried on walking in the direction of the kitchen. I gasped as everything turned upside down. “Whoa, holy crap! Put me down, right now!” I shouted, but the order lost some of its authority when I started laughing.

“Nope, not until you apologise for calling me a player,” he refused playfully.

“Ashton, put me down!” I instructed, struggling to get off him.

“I didn’t hear you apologise.”

“Agent Taylor, you put me down right now. I know people, I could have you assassinated!” I joked.

He burst out laughing. “Right, and who do you know that could assassinate me?” he asked, still chuckling.

“Dean.”

“Dean Michaels? That guy likes me more than he does you, and I’ve only met him twice, it would be easier to get him to assassinate you!” he countered, laughing wickedly.

“Put me down! All the blood’s rushing to my head,” I whined, giving up on my struggling because I could barely move an inch from the hold he had on me.

“Wow, you whine like a baby, Anna. Where’s the fighting spirit? You could have wrapped your arms around my waist to give yourself more stability and kneed me in the face, you know. I thought you were big on the self-defence,” he teased. He tugged on my legs, making me slide down into his arms before he sat me on the kitchen counter. He was grinning from ear to ear.

“No way! I could barely move, I tried to get down,” I protested, righting my clothes and trying to catch my breath from the experience of it.

“You have much to learn, young grasshopper,” he said, patting me on the head like a child.

“Whatever. Just keep your hands off me in the future, player,” I stated, grinning.

He sighed and rolled his eyes, grinning sexily. “Yes, ma’am.”

Movement from my right suddenly made me aware that we weren’t in the room alone. I flicked my eyes around quickly, taking in the shocked faces of my parents and half of the kitchen staff that were up the other end of the kitchen. I gasped and dropped my eyes to the floor, scooting forwards and jumping off the counter.

Ashton groaned and a subtle blush crept over his cheekbones. I couldn’t help but notice how cute he looked with the pink on his cheeks; it was certainly a good look for him.

“Good afternoon, Annabelle. Agent Taylor,” my father said after a second or two of uncomfortable silence.

“Hi,” I mumbled, fighting to regain my composure and cool my own burning cheeks.

“Good afternoon, sir, ma’am,” Ashton said, nodding politely, clearly uncomfortable because he hadn’t known they were there either.

“Er, maybe we could get some lunch out instead, what do you think?” I asked Ashton, still blushing, just wanting to be out of here already.

“Whatever you want, Miss Spencer.” He shrugged casually, a smirk on his lips, probably at my red face. He pulled out his cell phone, tapping away before shoving it back into his pocket.

I looked back up at my parents who were still watching me like a hawk. “I’ll, er, see you guys later,” I muttered. “And I’m sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have said a lot of those things. I’m not saying they weren’t true, but I shouldn’t have said them anyway,” I shrugged awkwardly, looking at them apologetically.

My mom smiled sadly. “That’s okay, Annabelle. We shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions like that, it wasn’t fair, and I shouldn’t have brought up Jack. I’m sorry.”

“You can talk about him, that doesn’t upset me. I just don’t like you assuming that someone could ever replace him because they can’t,” I said confidently. I knew that for a fact – I would never love anyone like I loved Jack, and I hated people saying that I would get over him in time.

“Honey, I wasn’t saying that at all, but I think you’re under some misunderstanding that you can’t be with anyone because Jack died. He wouldn’t want you to be like this,” my mom countered.

I laughed at her statement; I’d heard that so many times from so many different therapists – repetition still didn’t make it true. “You’re right, he wouldn’t. I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted me to get stuck with Carter either, but what we want and what happens are two different things entirely,” I said casually, making my parents flinch.

“And if the situation were reversed, you’d want Jack to be like this, would you? Unhappy and alone?” my mother asked quietly.

“Of course not!” I shot back angrily. I’d never want him to have to go through this, thankfully he didn’t have to.

“Well then, maybe you should think about what Jack would want,” she suggested.

“I think about what Jack would want every minute of every day, Mom,” I said quietly.

“Oh, baby, I didn’t mean it that way!” she gasped, looking upset. She jumped up from her chair and came forward to hug me; I shrank back unconsciously, not wanting to build bridges with her. I bumped into Ashton who was standing just behind me. He placed his hands on my waist, steadying me.

My mom’s face dropped when I moved away, and the guilt washed through me because all I ever did was hurt them. In trying to make myself less vulnerable by shutting people out, I knew I was hurting them but I just couldn’t help it.

I groaned and shook my head. “Look, let’s just leave it at that,” I said quietly. One of Ashton’s hands was still placed on my waist, so I focussed on the heat of his skin that was emanating through the fabric of my shirt rather than my mom’s sad expression. “I’ll see you at dinner.” I forced a fake smile before I turned and motioned for Ashton to leave.

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