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Page 46

Author: Kirsty Moseley

I chuckled, shaking my head. “How did you even do that so fast?”

“Practice, lots of practice,” he winced as he spoke, probably at the memory of being made to shoot continuously or something, like when he’d told me about having to swim all night as punishment for pulling a prank.

The training academy that he went to sounded like torture; I had no idea why he’d liked it there so much. “And you can honestly say that you enjoyed your training?” I asked incredulously.

He nodded, putting all of the guns and equipment back into the box. “Yep, best time of my life,” he confirmed. “Well, up until that point anyway.”

I raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Up until that point?”

“Yeah. You’re the best time of my life now,” he replied, closing his hand over mine and walking off to the reception without waiting for me to answer.

A blush crept over my face as I bit my lip, fighting a smile. My heart was crashing against my ribs because of how sweet that comment was. I knew he was only joking around, as usual, but for some reason his comment made my skin prickle with excitement.

The days passed quickly. Ashton and I were growing closer and closer the more time we spent together. I was just so comfortable with him now that I didn’t even pay attention to how close he was to me. The pretending to be a couple charade seemed to be getting easier and easier, and I actually couldn’t seem to get through the day without a few of his hugs. His arms were comforting to me in a way that I never expected.

Since that night when I thought he’d left, Ashton and I had shared a bed a couple of times. Of course, we had the swanky new sofa bed in my room, but that night after going shooting, I hadn’t wanted to be alone so I’d snuck over into the sofa bed with him, just needing to be comforted. The next night I just asked him to sleep in with me because I was actually becoming addicted to that safe, contented feeling that I got whenever his arms were around me. I slept so much better when he was snoring in my ear. Luckily, I’d managed to contain my slutty side that liked being in his arms way too much.

Before I knew it, Friday arrived, which also meant our ‘date’.

Unfortunately, I was still tired because the night before it had taken me hours to fall asleep because I’d never been on a proper date before. Jack and I had been out to places, but because we were just kids, we only went to fast food restaurants or the movies or something.

I stood in front of the mirror, staring at the skin just under my eye, squinting, trying to see if I needed to add a little make-up to hide my sleepless night. A knock at the bedroom door made me jump. “Anna, I’m just gonna go next door and speak to Dean about tonight. I’ll be back just after seven, alright?” He actually sounded a little nervous, probably because he was leaving me in the apartment on my own. He took his job extremely seriously.

“Yeah, sure,” I called, grinning at his overprotectiveness. Turning back to the mirror, I decided that I could forgo the extra make-up. I’d already applied a little and done my hair into a cute little up-do. As I skipped over to my wedge heeled, cherry red sandals, I smiled, excited to go to this restaurant that Ashton had adamantly refused to tell me about. Much to my disgust, it turned out that the boy liked surprises.

Just before seven, I adjusted the red belt that accompanied my little, black dress and headed out to see if he was ready, but the apartment was still empty. Sighing, I sat down at the kitchen counter, waiting for him to come back. Less than a minute later, there was a knock at the front door. I glanced at it hesitantly. Ashton had strictly forbidden me to answer the door, ever. When the knock sounded again, I decided that I could take the risk. It was probably him, but if it wasn’t, then no doubt I’d get scolded for it and a stern warning about my ‘safety being of utmost importance to him’.

I pulled the door open quickly, and my heart jumped up into my throat. Ashton stood there looking incredibly handsome. The clothes that he’d chosen for our date fitted him perfectly, clinging to him in a way that would have any designer begging for him to model their clothes. His jeans were faded and just the right amount of scruffy, a white T-shirt clung to his body, and he accentuated it with a chequered blue and white shirt over the top, which he wore unbuttoned. My mouth started to the water at the sight of him. I was very aware that I was practically ravaging him with my eyes, so I reluctantly dragged my gaze up to his face.

As excited as I was about the date, I actually didn’t want to go anymore. In fact, I wanted nothing more than to drag him inside and take his clothes off him because I knew they would look even better in a heap on my bedroom floor.

When I looked back at his face, I realised that he was still staring at me; doing exactly the same thing I had been doing moments before. I hid my grin and cleared my throat dramatically. “My eyes are up here, Ashton,” I stated, trying to sound annoyed, even though I was actually flattered he was paying so much attention to my body.

He jumped, as his eyes flicked up to meet mine. “Right, yeah, sorry. I… er… I was just, er…” he gulped, shaking his head, clearly flustered at being caught.

“Checking me out?” I offered, shrugging.

He grinned sheepishly. “Right. I was just checking you out,” he confirmed guiltily. I chewed on my bottom lip, tasting the sugary sweetness of my strawberry lip gloss that I’d applied. “You look stunning, Anna. You take my breath away,” he breathed, letting his eyes wander my body again.

I internally swooned at his sweetness. Does he just pull those comments straight out of a how to make a girl fall for you book or something? “You look extremely hot too,” I replied. He didn’t take my breath away exactly; it was more like he made it speed up with excitement. I grabbed his hand and gave him a little tug into the apartment. “Come on in, my boyfriend’s just popped out so he won’t even know,” I joked, breaking the tension.

He laughed and brought his hand out from behind his back, producing a beautiful bouquet of white roses. I gasped, shocked. “Second favourite after dandelions, right?” he teased, grinning. I smiled weakly. I remembered telling him that in our little ‘getting to know you’ session on the dock when he’d first started. “I didn’t want to give you dandelions because I thought that was Jack’s thing, so I went for these instead,” he added, looking a little uncomfortable as if he thought he was going to upset me or something.

Overwhelmed by emotions, but for once, not in a bad way, I did the only thing I could think of in that moment. I stepped forward and kissed him, slipping one arm around his neck as I pressed my body against his. Silently, I wondered how on earth one person could be so sweet. He was killing me with kindness. I was so confused that, at this point, I almost didn’t even know which way was up.

After a small intimate kiss, I pulled away and smiled gratefully. “Thank you, they’re beautiful.” I headed over to the sink and picked up a jug to put them in.

“I got Peter to buy us a vase for you to use. I put it under the sink yesterday,” he said easily. I smiled over my shoulder because of how thoughtful that was. This was already the most perfect date I’d ever been on, yet we hadn’t even left the apartment. Leaning down, I found the glass vase and filled it with water before putting the flowers in so they wouldn’t die. I’d arrange them properly later. “I got you something else too, but this wasn’t specifically for our date, I just waited to give it to you until today,” Ashton said behind me, sounding a little uncomfortable.

I turned to see him holding out a small, rectangular red velvet box. I gulped; already knowing that the box contained jewellery because of the name on the top of the box was the one from the jewellers in the shopping mall near the lake house. I hadn’t seen him buy anything, but then again, he had left me with Dean for a few minutes while I was trying on clothes, so maybe he’d snuck off to buy it then.

“You shouldn’t have bought me anything.”

“Open it,” he instructed, holding his hand out to me again.

I stepped forward and took the box from his hand, prying open the lid, holding my breath the whole time. Inside was a breathtaking, thin and delicate gold chain. Attached to it was a little, round pendant set with a green stone. It was so beautiful that my vision blurred as my eyes filled up.

“You said green was your favourite colour.” He took the box from my hand, fiddling with it and removing the chain. “Did you know that the colour green is supposed to make you feel calm and safe? I thought it was appropriate for me to give you an emerald considering it’s my job to keep you safe.” He stepped behind me, setting the chain around my neck before fiddling with the clasp.

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. He’d brought me an emerald necklace? He seemed too good to be true, this boy. Once he’d secured it, I turned and shook my head in awe, reaching up to grasp the little pendant in my fist carefully. I couldn’t help but notice how he seemed a little unsure of himself, his smile a little weak.

“It’s so perfect. Thank you,” I whispered, knowing that my voice would crack if I tried to speak properly.

His shoulders relaxed and his smile turned more genuine, and in that second it dawned on me that he was worried I wouldn’t actually like it.

“You’re very welcome, Baby Girl.” He held out a hand for me to take. “We’d better go so we don’t lose our table.”

I sighed happily and placed my free hand in his, letting him lead me out of the apartment and to the car. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as he drove to the surprise restaurant; not once did I let go of the little pendant. I was already in love with this necklace and didn’t ever want to take it off.

When we pulled up outside where we were eating, I burst out laughing and turned to him to see if this was a joke. “Seriously? You’re taking me to eat at… Harvest Grill?” I asked, grinning from ear to ear as I read the sign above the awful-looking restaurant. It actually looked more like a truck stop café than a restaurant you would go to on a date.

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