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Page 97

Author: Kirsty Moseley

“Hey, happy new year,” I greeted, forcing a smile.

“Happy new year,” they both replied.

Then it was down to business. They both looked to Ashton for guidance. Although they took a couple of steps away from me, I could still hear them planning. My name was mentioned a couple of times, but I tuned them out and looked out over the runway, watching the planes line up and taxi along the tarmac as I tried not to panic.

After a minute or two, Ashton’s hand closed over mine, squeezing gently. “Okay, we’re ready to go. The reporters are just outside the lounge so we have to walk past them to get to the car out front. You stay with me. I’ve called in Airport security; they’re going to walk us to the car too. If there are any problems, then you go with Dean,” he ordered in his stern SWAT voice.

I smiled and nodded as six burly security guys stepped through the side door, they walked over and Ashton relayed the plan again before nodding for one of them to open the double exit doors.

As soon as the door opened, all I could see was flashing lights. People were shouting our names from all directions. It was almost deafening. Ashton’s arm snaked around my waist tightly. “Everything’s fine,” he whispered. As one, the airport security, my two far guards, and Ashton and I took a few steps out of the door. I tried to smile, but the thirty or so cameras and reporters were overwhelming. Some of them were even on stepladders and chairs so that they could get a better shot.

My mouth went dry as Ashton smiled down at me reassuringly. It all went quiet for about two seconds and then the questions started all at once, people shouting louder and louder, trying to be heard over the din. The questions were all jumbled into one, but were all essentially the same. “Were we married? What was the ceremony like? What designer did I wear? Were we going to sell the photos? What did my father think?” It was endless.

Ashton held up one hand and they all stopped talking immediately. “Anna and I aren’t married. We went on vacation, that’s all. We changed her name to get a little privacy. It was a private joke between the two of us, this is all a misunderstanding,” he said calmly. People immediately started shouting questions at the same time so all we could hear was a buzz of noise. He held up his hand again. “Look, we’ll answer some questions, I guess, but you need to go one at a time,” he suggested, laughing.

“You’re not married?” one reporter shouted quickly.

I shook my head. “Nah, he’s too pretty for me,” I joked, trying to sound blasé when all I wanted to do was run. I didn’t like this confrontation. I didn’t like people assuming I was married, even if it was to Ashton. Marriage was a serious sore spot for me. The freedom that I’d felt over the last two weeks as Annabelle Taylor was now long gone.

“Why did you book the vacation under the name of Mr and Mrs Taylor?” another reporter asked.

Ashton shrugged. “We were just fooling around; it was a private joke which we don’t really want to explain. Nothing was meant by it, so please don’t read anything into it,” he answered. He was so calm; this didn’t scare him at all.

“Are you two expecting a baby?”

I gasped at the question. “What? No!” I cried, shocked. Ashton laughed wickedly and kissed the side of my head affectionately.

“You’re not pregnant and you’re not married?” someone clarified.

Ashton shook his head. “No baby, no wedding. Sorry guys, this is all just a misunderstanding,” he stated easily.

“How was your vacation?”

I looked at Ashton, signalling for him to answer. I wasn’t nearly as cool and collected as he was, in fact, I could feel the sweat breaking out on my forehead because of the pressure. “Fantastic. Shame to be back,” he answered, tracing his hand up my back softly.

“Do you think you two will get married? Ashton, do you want to marry Anna?” one guy shouted.

Ashton laughed and looked at the reporters. “Who asked that?” A guy that looked to be in his mid-thirties raised his hand. Ashton grinned at him wickedly. “Well look at her, wouldn’t you want to marry her if she was your girl?” he replied, grinning. All of the reporters laughed as I gasped and elbowed him in the ribs in reprimand. Thankfully, at that moment Dean walked up, standing in front of us as he motioned for us to start walking again, signalling that question time was over. Ashton’s arm snaked around my waist again immediately as we were marched to the exit. Reporters ran alongside us, cameras snapped and they shouted last questions, but airport security and Peter held them back as Dean led us along quickly.

As we slid into the back of the waiting car, I blew out a big breath. “Damn, that was a lot of people!”

Both Dean and Peter slipped into the front seconds later, and as we pulled out of the space, Dean twisted in his seat. “Want to see these?” he asked, holding out three tabloid newspapers.

I nodded and took them off him. We were on the front page of each one: ‘Annaton Secret Marriage And Baby Shocker’ and ‘First Daughter Elopes’ and ‘Shotgun Wedding Shock’ were plastered across the papers.

“This is just stupid!” I huffed, scanning over the first one. They were basing everything on the fact that we had booked our hotel and plane tickets in the name of Taylor. I looked over the photos that they had of us. There were a few different ones: us lying on the beach drinking cocktails, us swimming in the sea and playing around, Ashton rubbing sun cream onto my stomach whilst kissing my shoulder. There was even one of me lying on top of him on the sand; he had his hands on my derrière as we laughed about something.

They all seemed to be taken on the same day because I was wearing my red bikini and had my hair tied up. “Was this yesterday?” I asked, looking at Ashton.

He nodded. “Yeah, I think so,” he agreed. A smile broke out on his face. “Nice photo,” he added, pointing to the one of his hands on my butt.

“Yeah, way to get us in trouble, Pretty Boy,” I teased.

He shrugged unashamedly. “You shouldn’t have such a nice ass, maybe then I’d be able to keep my hands off it.”

I rolled my eyes. “How did they get these photos anyway? I didn’t see any photographers.”

Ashton shook his head, frowning, and looking quite annoyed about it. “There weren’t any. They must have had a boat or something with a long lens camera. Reporters and photographers aren’t allowed on the resort.”

I silently sent up thanks that they hadn’t managed to get any photos of us in our villa, or even worse, doing naughty things in the sea. A blush spread across my face at the thought of those kind of pictures being in the papers. I turned to the next page to read what they had written about us.

Clearly, they still adored us as a couple. They speculated that I was pregnant, which was the reason for the young marriage. As evidence of me being ‘with child’, they reprinted the picture of Ashton rubbing sun cream on my stomach, pointing out how he was ‘caressing it lovingly’.

I ground my teeth in annoyance. “Jeez, I know I’ve put on a couple of pounds in the last couple of months, but pregnant?” I grumbled.

Ashton burst out laughing. “Don’t start with that! You don’t have an ounce of fat on you,” he chimed in, shaking his head, chuckling. I closed the paper, not wanting to read anymore.

When we finally arrived home, Ashton and the far guards were talking and planning in the kitchen, so I strutted into the bedroom and over to the full length mirror that hung on the wall. I lifted my top, turning to the side, squinting and trying to see why they had printed that I was pregnant. Since Ashton had stopped me running like a crazy person I’d put on a few pounds, but I hadn’t thought it was noticeable.

The door clicked open behind me, but I wasn’t fast enough in pulling my shirt down before Ashton groaned loudly. “Anna, be serious! You don’t look pregnant. You’re perfect and beautiful and girls would kill to have a body like yours,” he scolded, looking slightly annoyed.

I sighed, defeated. “Well, where the hell did it come from then?”

Before I knew what happened, my feet were knocked out from under me as he pulled me into his arms. I squealed and threw my arms around his neck as he carried me bridal style over to the bed, sitting on the edge and settling me in his lap.

“People make stuff up in the papers everyday. It’s probably our age; pregnancy is a reason some people get married young. They’re just clutching at straws. That photo probably just added fuel to the fire. If I’d been rubbing cream on your back or shoulders then they might not have even printed it. Trust me, you are just perfect, I promise,” he vowed, kissing my nose.

I sighed and tightened my arms around his neck breathing him in. “This will all die down, won’t it? All of this attention.”

He rubbed my back gently, soothing me. “I’m sure it will after a few weeks,” he replied, his voice soft and tender. I pressed myself closer to him and tried desperately to ignore the way my body was reacting to the contact with him. “You tired?” he asked, as I failed in stifling a large yawn. I nodded and glanced over to the clock, noting it was almost midnight. “Let’s go to bed then,” he suggested, helping me off his lap. “I’ll be right back.” He headed out of the room to check the doors, the same as he did every night. I grabbed a pair of pyjamas and headed to the bathroom to change and wash my face.

Once I’d changed, I stopped short with my hand on the door handle. Ashton was probably waiting in bed for me. Tonight was going to be hard because we had to get back some semblance of normal. But, however hard it would be, it needed to be done. I needed to at least try and limit the damage he would do to my heart when he left.

After taking a couple of deep breaths, I tugged the door open and forced a smile. I was right. He was sitting up in the bed, his chest bare. Oh God, please let him be wearing shorts or I’m done for!

He watched me as I walked over to the bed. “Hey,” he smiled.

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