Author: Kirsty Moseley My whole body was shaking as I wiped my forehead, sitting back on my feet as I gasped for breath. “Calm down, Baby Girl. Take deep breaths and calm down. Everything’s fine, I promise you,” Ashton whispered, adjusting the cool cloth on my neck. My chin wobbled as I looked over at him sitting on the floor next to me. I could see the pain on his face; he looked helpless, like he didn’t know how to help me. At that moment, my body reacted instinctively. I whimpered and threw my arms around his neck, holding him tightly as I sobbed against him. He groaned, wrapping his arms around me and rocking me gently until I finally managed to calm down. When he moved to pull back, I shook my head in protest, clamping myself against his chest. “Don’t leave,” I begged. I couldn’t let him go anywhere. I couldn’t go back to dreaming like that again every night, I didn’t want to be without him. “Anna, let go,” he whispered, reaching up and unclasping my hands from his neck. Rejection made my eyes sting as I clenched my teeth together and dropped my eyes to the floor. As he stood up, I realised that this was entirely my fault. He was leaving because I’d pushed him away by not trusting him. I’d pushed him out of my life, and I was now going to have to deal with the consequences of that. Instead of leaving though, he bent down and slipped his arms around me, lifting me easily off the floor and holding me tightly against his body. I looked up at his face, shocked as he pushed the bathroom door open and carried me over to the bed. Wordlessly, he laid me down and curled around me protectively. Not daring to hope that this meant what I thought it meant, I burst into another round of sobs and scooted closer to him, burying my face into his chest. “I’m so sorry, Ashton. Please don’t leave, please?” I begged, clutching him tightly. He stroked my hair. “I’m not leaving,” he murmured, kissing the top of my head. My heart skipped a beat at his words, and I pulled back to look at his face to check if he was just saying that to calm me down. “I’m not leaving,” he insisted, kissing my forehead and cheeks. “Really?” I whimpered. He nodded in confirmation as he bent and kissed my forehead. I closed my eyes, and a small smile twitched at the corners of my mouth as his words sank in. “I’m sorry,” I croaked. “I know. It’s alright. Just go back to sleep. I’m staying right here, I promise.” His arms tightened around me as he rested his chin on top of my head. Closing my eyes, I pressed my face into his chest and let his smell waft over me. My heart seemed to slow down as the dread and loneliness slowly receded. As his hand stroked my back softly, I realised that I actually loved Ashton’s smell. Chapter Eighteen I woke in the morning trapped underneath him. I was on my back, and he was lying on me, his head on my chest, his arms either side of my body and his bottom half between my legs. He was heavy, but, in a weird way, it was actually a pleasant weight. A quick glance at the clock told me it was only six thirty; I could let him sleep for another thirty minutes. I wrapped my arms around him and ran my fingers through his messy, black hair. Shame washed over me because I’d doubted him at the gym by thinking that he’d hit me. I should have known better and had more faith in him. My eyes raked over his handsome face and I felt the frown slip onto my face. I was so attached to him already; I really shouldn’t have let this guy past my defences. It scared the life out of me that I needed him. I deliberately pushed everyone away so that I would never have to feel loss again, but I’d felt it last night. I had known him just a week, yet I’d felt it when he’d walked off, and this dependency would only get worse. After half an hour, the alarm buzzed so I quickly silenced it, but it was too late, he’d woken. His eyes fluttered open as he lifted his head, looking down at me. “Hi,” I greeted sheepishly. He smiled sadly “Hi, you okay?” he asked. I winced, knowing that I’d probably never be able to take it back or make it better. He’d always know that I didn’t have faith in him when it mattered. “I’m really sorry, honestly, I’m so sorry, Ashton.” He sighed and shifted on top of me, pulling himself higher so he was hovering above me. “I would never hurt you.” Sincerity dripped from every syllable as he looked directly into my eyes. My heart throbbed painfully at the intensity of his look and the way he said the words. “I know. I don’t know what I was thinking. You were just so angry and then you grabbed me, and I just… I don’t know,” I swallowed, trying to keep the tears at bay again. “Anna, no matter how angry I was, I would never do that. I promise you.” I nodded, unable to speak. “You thought I was gonna leave?” he asked, stroking my hair away from my face. “I thought you’d already left,” I admitted. He shook his head, frowning. “I won’t leave you. Even if we had a huge fight, I still wouldn’t leave you,” he promised. With his eyes blazing with truth, I believed him. The only way he would leave before his assignment was over was if I had him transferred, because he wouldn’t quit. I looped my arms around his neck, smiling happily now. “Thank you,” I whispered, gratefully. “You don’t have to thank me, Baby Girl.” He bent his head and planted a soft kiss on my lips, pulling back after a fraction of a second. I didn’t even have time to react before he pushed himself up off me, straddling my h*ps as he grinned down at me. “I guess I’m squashing you, huh?” “I liked it,” I muttered, chuckling as heat flooded my face at my admission. He grinned too and dropped down onto the mattress next to me instead. “Guess I didn’t even get to try out the new sofa bed.” He nodded towards the new addition to my room. Apparently it had been delivered while we were at school. I smiled and shrugged. “It looks like it would be comfy too,” I teased. “Probably more comfortable than sleeping on top of me.” I frowned at the sofa bed, resenting it a little because I would actually rather him sleep in my bed with me, especially after last night – so long as I could manage to keep a hold on my slutty side that only ever seemed to come out when I was around him. He laughed. “Doubt it.” His arm wrapped around my waist, pulling me tightly against him as he looked at me intently. “Anna, will you tell me why you train like that? I can understand you pushing it with the self-defence stuff, but the running I just don’t understand.” I sighed, I’d never talked to anyone about this before, but I felt like I owed him an explanation for it. “It takes my mind off everything. It gives me something else to think about. The more it hurts, the easier it is to forget everything else and just focus on the pain. It’s just something I’ve done since… well, since Carter.” My voice cracked when I said his name. He nodded sadly. “I can’t stand to see it though. I know you like to run, but do you have to run for thirty minutes flat out like that? I mean, you ran so damn fast that I don’t think I would have been able to keep up with you. And that last minute,” he blew out a big breath, “damn, you looked like you were ready to die, and yet you went faster? It was awful to watch,” he winced, swallowing hard. I frowned. When you looked at it from his point of view, it did sound kind of over the top. “Okay. I’ll try and tone it down. Can we just leave it?” Not liking the turn in conversation, and wanting to think of more pleasant things, I leant in closer and pressed my face into the side of his neck. I sighed in contentment as I inhaled his delicious smell. There was nothing else like it in the world. “Do I smell bad or something?” I jumped back, realising what I was doing. “Sorry.” I chuckled nervously, looking anywhere but him. He laughed. “Are you telling me I should go for a shower?” “No!” I protested. “You smell good. It’s soothing. You smell like-” I stopped quickly when it dawned on me what I was about to say. I gulped, sitting up. “Never mind. Do you want breakfast?” As I scooted towards the edge of the bed, his hand closed over my arm, thwarting my escape. “Hey, not so fast! I smell like what?” he asked. I winced. “I don’t want to say,” I whined. One of his eyebrows rose playfully as he tugged on my arm so I fell back onto the bed. He grinned as he quickly manoeuvred himself so he was pinning my arms above my head and my body was trapped underneath his. “If you don’t tell me, we don’t go to school today.” I chuckled and shook my head. I didn’t want to go to school anyway, I would rather he pinned me to the bed all day. “Please tell me,” he breathed, pulling out the puppy dog face. I groaned, done for. “Oh, for goodness’ sake, fine! You smell like safety, like home,” I admitted, turning my head to the side so that I wouldn’t see his face as I said it. His grip loosened on my arms as he pushed himself off me, sitting up. From the corner of my eye, I could see him looking at me. “You want to know what you smell like to me?” he asked quietly. I nodded without looking at him. “Your smell scares the life out of me. You smell like commitment and marriage,” he said simply. The air rushed out of my lungs as I sat up and looked anywhere but him. I knew he was joking, but his casual joke about marriage made my stomach twist into a knot. “That’s not funny. I told you mine seriously,” I muttered, shaking my head and climbing out of bed. He didn’t answer as I headed out of the room, already deciding that I’d make bacon for breakfast. I needed the energy today and cooking it would be a welcome distraction from the thoughts that were trying to force their way into my head. In typical guy fashion, he was showered, dressed and looking like a Greek God by the time the food was ready. As he walked out of the bedroom, I set bacon and eggs in front of him. “Wow, that’s great service,” he joked, sitting himself at the kitchen island. “By the way, are you busy Friday night?” he smiled a little nervously.