It had been nine years since the last time I'd seen Jessica Ashman, but I could have picked her out of a cast of thousands. She was sitting alone in a coffee shop on Braxton Avenue, reading a newspaper and wearing a khaki-colored, buckled jacket over a red sweater and gray slacks. Gentle curls of raven-colored hair fell past her shoulders, and her dark brown eyes were downcast, brow furrowed. Only a curled index finger extended from the fist at her chin, and I had seen this look a thousand times as her student; she was examining that paper the same way she used to sit at her desk and scrutinize our work.
The weird thing? She looked exactly the same. Like she hadn't aged at all. In the near-decade since we had last met, I had transformed from a gawky, braces-wearing, badly-dressed teenager into a young woman who had finally filled out, learned how to style her hair, and had stopped shopping exclusively at Hot Topic. (Of course today I had chosen to wear my latest guilty purchase, namely a retro Harley Quinn T-shirt I had picked up at Hot Topic, but I'd balanced it out nicely with a leather jacket and pair of True Religion boyfriend jeans.) Ms. Ashman, or Ash, as we had called her, still looked the way she had when I first walked into her classroom in sixth grade. It had been my first day of junior high.
Last period of the day, finally. I looked around the room nervously, the first person there. It had been a traumatizing day already—lost locker combination, my best friend was invited to sit at the "cool girls" table at lunch, our Spanish teacher refused to speak English—and I did not want to be the first person in the classroom, forced to make awkward chitchat with the teacher. My classmates had already learned their lesson, and gossiped in the halls or loitered in the bathroom until just before the bell rang, but I had just blindly wandered inside.
In a moment, though, I would stop regretting it.
The teacher was sitting at her desk, seriously studying something in front of her. Then she looked up at me, and my breath caught. She was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen, it was that simple. Once she'd caught my eye, her face split into the most beautiful smile, and it instantly reassured me. She was by far my youngest teacher, that much was clear, and when she stood up and walked around her desk, it was to reveal that she was wearing a skirt that stopped at her knees, giving my young eyes a glimpse at two finely toned legs. When she approached me, I forced myself to make eye contact, nervous as the prospect made me.
"Hello!" she said cheerfully.
"Hi," I said back, and the word came out as a breath, an exhale.
She gave me a sympathetic look, assuming that my tone and tensed body were a result of a long day, not the effects of being blindsided by her beauty. "Tough first day?" she guessed. I shrugged and nodded. "My name's Ms. Ashman."
After a long pause, I realized I was supposed to speak. "Oh—I'm Isabel. Isabel Tanner."
"Oh, Isabel! That's such a lovely name!" she said, casually folding her arms and continuing to smile at me. The way she said it, she sounded truly sincere. Not like she was just trying to cheer me up, or fill the awkward silence. She liked my name. This classy, beautiful woman liked my name. By extension, me? Possibly? Sometimes I got teased by other kids because they thought Isabel was an old lady's name, or just ugly. But it seemed as though Mrs. Ashman really liked it…
As a timid kid, if I'd seen an old teacher in a café, I would have done a 180 and run out of there. But these days I was confident, self-assured. I was aching to talk with this woman again, who was stirring up old feelings that I hadn't allowed myself to think about in years. Because whether or not I cared to admit it, Ash had been my first real crush. When I got more comfortable around her, I'd go to her room for help with my work, just as an excuse to talk to her one-on-one. I'd walk by the teacher's lounge when I knew she'd be on her way in or out, in hopes of "happening" to run into her and talk more. She always looked happy to see me, and my heart always swelled when I was in her presence. Just like it was now. Old butterflies.
"Excuse me." She looked up and I couldn't help but smile. Ash looked a little confused, not frowning or smiling, but being polite. She was sitting at the table right by the door. I spoke up again: "How's the coffee in this place?"
Glancing down at her mostly-drained cup, she said, "Oh, it's fine. A bit strong, but I like it that way."
"So do I. You come here often?"
A hint of a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, and she furrowed her brow again. I knew she was trying to place me now, and I was a little embarrassed by the flirtatious question I had let escape me. I knew she hadn't been to this town in years, but now that I thought about it, I remember I had seen her in this very shop more than once. That's why I had taken to haunting it for two years as a kid—again, the hope of seeing her, that chance encounter. I couldn't believe it was happening now.
I chuckled, trying to relieve some of the tension I had set up. "You don't recognize me, do you?"
She finally let her smile take over, and she looked inquisitively up at me. "Oh gosh, you've got me. I feel like I'm at a major disadvantage here…"
"That's okay. Been a long time, Ash."
It was pointless to throw in the nickname, because she must have known I was an old student of hers. Why else would someone in this town recognize her? I was about to just tell her who I was when she gasped softly, and her eyes widened just the slightest bit. "Isabel?"
To say I was thrilled would be putting it lightly. "You got it, teach."
"Isabel! Oh!" She looked awkwardly around for a moment and said, "Please, sit down! Or are you meeting someone?"
"No, I actually just came in here for some coffee. If you're not—I mean, if you've got a minute, I'd love to catch up."
"Oh, yes! Please—go get your order, and then come right on back!"
I grinned and hurried over to the counter to place my order. I'd been on my way to meet my mother for some shopping, but while I was in line, I quickly texted her to let her know I'd run into an old friend from school and wanted to hang out. She'd be cool about it, she'd understand. I'd see her at dinner, anyway. How many chances would I have to spend time with my first crush? I looked over my shoulder to steal a glance at Ash, and she was carefully folding up her newspaper, smiling to herself.
When I got back to the table, I sat down across from her and she put her elbows on the table, shaking her head and grinning in disbelief. She was still so stunning. "Isabel Tanner, I can't believe it. I just can't believe it."
"You can't believe it? This is my town; you're the one who's—I mean I can't believe it's you! What brings you back?"
I'd had Ash for English as a sixth grader, and every year I went back to her room to chat with her. We high-fived each other in hallways, cracked up over inside jokes, and talked about the latest books we'd read. When I was fourteen, my world just about ended because she got engaged and moved somewhere South with her husband. I hadn't seen her since then, but for a while we'd been really good at communicating through email.
She half-smiled at my mock indignation. "Yes, I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing here. But I'm boring—let's talk about you?"
Typical Ash: deflecting attention away from herself and acting as though you were the singularly most important and most interesting person in the world. I sipped tentatively at the boiling coffee. "Sure thing, Ash. What do you want to know?"
"Well, gosh. It's been years, hasn't it? You look wonderful, Isabel."
Oh hi, blush. I hate that you're here again. "Geez, no I don't, but thanks. You look amazing. Seriously, you look as though you haven't aged a day!"
And she laughed that gorgeous laugh of hers, the one that still sent goosebumps up and down my limbs. It was low but full of life, and always encouraged the people around her to smile or join in just because of the sheer joy in the sound. With a dismissive wave of her hand, she said, "That's sweet of you, dear, but I'm getting old. See these wrinkles?" she chuckled, pointing at the small crows feet peeking out near her eyes. I was pretty sure she was just under forty, but of course wasn't tactless enough to ask. She continued: "What's been going on in your life, Isabel? How old are you?"
"Oh, no! Are you serious?"
"As a heart attack."
"Good Lord, I can't believe it! You were just this tiny thing when I knew you, and now look at you!" Her eyes roved over me in such a way that I suddenly felt very much like an adult, not an old student. I bit my lip, forcing myself not to recall the dozens of fantasies I had created as a teenager that involved a late night in Ash's office, when things took a very romantic turn out of nowhere. Her voice jarred me out of my thoughts: "Really, though. Isabel. What're you up to these days? Or do you hate that question?"
I just laughed. "No, no, it's good. I've got an internship with the Morning Post, so… we'll see how that goes."
"The Morning Post? Are you kidding?" she asked. I was merely grateful to have landed a spot at such a prestigious paper.
"Yeah, isn't it great? I majored in print journalism. You'll be welcome to come by and visit me in my cardboard box someday."
"Oh, stop," she laughed, giving my arm a gentle shove. I fought a shiver at the contact, hiding it by chuckling into my coffee. "I knew you'd do something with writing. You were easily the best student in your class. One of the best I ever had."
"Just one of?" I teased her.
"Excuse me. Heads and shoulders above the rest! Legions! Miles!"
We were laughing together now, she leaning over the table trying to catch her breath, and I nearly choking on the coffee I had just swallowed down. I couldn't believe she still remembered one of our old inside jokes—an exceedingly pompous boy in my class, Ben Rodman, had been in a peer review for poetry with me. Ash had walked by our table in time to hear Ben solemnly read his poem, which I think had been trying to mimic a beatnik style and wound up coming off as utterly ridiculous. It had ended with a string of verbs, something like, "Run. Drink. Sleep. Die," and I hadn't been able to contain desperately shouting, "Duck! Swim!" Ben had looked scandalized, but Ash had nearly died laughing. Everyone else in the class looked over to try and see what was so funny as she and I wheezed with laughter over the dent I had chipped into Ben's arrogance.
"Really though, what brings you back to town?" I asked. "Have you even been back since you got married?"
"You know, I haven't," she said quietly, her smile remaining in place even as she appeared to be sobering up. It was only then that I realized she wasn't wearing a wedding ring. My eyes lingered a little too long on her ring finger, and when I looked back up, I saw that she saw I had noticed. Pursing her lips together slightly, she said, "I'm so sorry our correspondence sort of stopped."
I shrugged. "It's okay. We got busy."
"I got distracted," she murmured, running a hand through her thick hair. "Things ended. Between me and him."
"I'm sorry," I said, wishing I could think of something less cliché or more meaningful.
"Don't be," she whispered, sounding very much like she meant it. "It's good that it's over."
"Are you okay?"
She nodded. "Yes. Oh, yes. It's been a few years, so I'm all right. We needed to split up. It had to happen." With a deep sigh, she straightened up and looked down at the table, away from me. "You know, Isabel, it just… I'm sorry it had to end the way that it did, but sometimes life throws you a curve ball. It doesn't turn out the way you expect. But I've learned from my mistake and I've moved on." A smile graced her features again, and she caught my eye. "Besides, now I can go back to having students call me Ash. I didn't like my married name." A small silence followed, and I marveled at how we had suddenly reached this sad point. But then, it reminded me of the conversations we'd had years ago, how we could jump from a happy topic to a heavy one, seamlessly, strangely, and then bounce right back. We always felt comfortable and safe doing that, or I had, anyway. Ash sighed again, signaling a new topic: "Anyway, irony of ironies, I'm actually in town for a wedding."
"Yes. My…oh, this is complicated—my old roommate's sister's son is getting married. I was very good friends with her family; we've kept in touch for ages. I mean, this girl was my best friend for years. So her nephew is practically my godchild."
"That's so funny, I'm in town for a wedding, too…"
"Are you? I just assumed you were visiting home."
My internship was in the city, a good hour away from the coffee shop we were currently sitting in. "Well, that's just a fringe benefit. One of my best friends from high school is getting married tomorrow, and I'm going."
"Wait, really? Did I know her?"
"I dunno, she was a year ahead of me—Caroline Tyler?"
"You knew her?"
"No, she's—I mean, I wondered if her name sounded familiar. She's marrying Andrew!"
"Yeah! Wait, you know Andrew? Wait! He's your…roommate's aunt's cousin's son, or whatever?"
That got her to laugh again. "Yes, I know Andrew! I've known him for years! He met Caroline in school, apparently?"
"Yeah, they lived in the same building. And dated for a while. A few years, I mean."
"Well. This…this is a little crazy, Isabel. What were the odds?"
"It was meant to be."
"Andrew and Caroline?"
"Yes. So we could meet up again."
Was that a blush on her cheeks? She had diverted her gaze once more, still smiling as if she was holding on to some kind of secret. When she looked at me again, I recognized the look in her eyes. I had dated enough women in school to understand what she wanted, even if she didn't get it herself. This ward hard: I was fighting discomfort at the situation and my own arousal. It was almost surprising how quickly she had piqued my interest again, but I knew I hadn't smiled like this in ages. She crossed her legs and I leaned forward just the smallest bit. We were both adults now. This could work…
(The Next Day)
"So…guess who's coming to the wedding?"
"Jessica Ashman. Ms. Ashman. Ash."
Caroline's jaw dropped and her hair stylist had to smack her lightly on the cheek to keep her from whirling around to look at me. She settled on catching my eye in the mirror. "What! That teacher you were obsessed with?"
"Oh, apparently she's like really good friends with Andrew's mother."
"Oh, my gosh," Caroline laughed. "His mother. Isabel, this is hilarious. You're into somebody who's probably old enough to be our mother! Or, I mean—that ship has sailed, right? Like you're not still into her, are you?" When I didn't respond right away, Caroline's eyes widened even more, and I worried she was liable to put a crack in her lovely makeup. "YOU ARE! You still like her!"
"I ran into her yesterday, and we talked for like three hours."
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah. I got there at like, 1:30, and it was past four by the time I got home."
"Shut up. What did you even talk about?"
"Just, I don't know, life. Everything. We had a lot to catch up on." I started playing with the hem of my purple bridesmaid's dress, now avoiding Caroline's eager eyes. "At first it was a little weird, 'cause just seeing her made me revert back to junior high, you know, but… that feeling went away pretty fast. It felt like we were just friends, talking. Caroline, she's still so gorgeous," I added in a reverent whisper. "And I thought …I don't know, I really wanted to like, I dunno. Hug her. She's been through a lot recently."
"Are you into the whole cougar thing?" Caroline asked me seriously.
I smirked. "Yes, but this is different. Like, she was my teacher! I couldn't go there, it'd be too weird!"
"C'mon, Ash was never your teacher. I mean technically, yeah, you were in her class, but she never treated you like a student, judging by what you told me. You guys were always friends, and Isabel, you've always been an old soul. Talking to you wasn't like talking to your average junior high student. And besides, look at you now! You're in your twenties, you're a legit adult with legit adult, uh, needs. And if Ash is divorced and at a wedding, I'm just saying …teachers have needs, too."
"Not from students."
"Current students, no. Students she had more than ten years ago who have blossomed into attractive, intelligent, Casanova-like adults? Maybe."
"Dude, she's not even…"
"Hey, maybe if you're lucky, she'll be drunk."
"Caroline," I sighed. I hated when she said stuff like that.
"Oh, what? Come on. You guys were talking for hours. Did you pick up any vibes…?"
I bit my lip and averted my gaze again. Because if I was honest, yes, I had thought Ash was being a little flirty with me. But it was hard to know for sure whether she really was, or if I was just reading something into it because I so desperately wanted to. She still wowed me, not only with her peerless good looks but with her sense of humor, her brain. For most of our conversation, I had forced myself not to get distracted by those luscious legs, her beautiful smile, the hair that looked as though it belonged in a shampoo commercial …if that's just what she looked like for a trip to the coffee shop, heaven help me when I see her at the wedding…
Caroline's voice broke into my reverie: "So during your day-long conversation, did it ever come up that you are a huge honkin' lesbo?"
"Yes," I said, having to laugh at her word choice. "She was cool about it. She didn't freak out or anything." Which, I admit, I had allowed to read as encouraging. I looked back into the mirror and saw that Caroline was grinning wickedly at me.
"On a scale from one to ten, how much would you kill me if I played 'Hot For Teacher' at the reception tonight?"
"You would be dead before Andrew ever found your garter."
"Oh, you're no fun."
But it got me to thinking. Maybe I should see if Ash got tipsy later tonight…
To make a long story short, she did.
The ceremony itself was lovely; Caroline and Andrew looked like a poster couple for breeding the families that come in picture frames, and I felt like the ugly duckling at a party of supermodels. After the vows were exchanged, one photographer went off with the bride and groom to snap some photos, while another hung back to get candid shots of the wedding party. Or he'd started out that way, at least. Soon enough he apparently got bored with us, and just walked around getting pictures of other people at the wedding. I soon got it into my head that he was mildly stalking Ash, and much as the notion upset me, I couldn't totally blame him.
Her black hair was swept up, revealing a slender, olive-skinned neck. She wore a sleeveless blue dress with a neckline that wasn't terrible risqué, exactly, but plunged a bit further down than anything she could have ever worn at our middle school. This I knew, because I had never gotten so much of a glimpse at her cleavage as I did today, and it was something else entirely. On her feet were a pair of black heeled shoes with silver studs near the toe, matching in color the pendant that hung loosely around her neck. Standing at the front of the church with the other bridesmaids, I had struggled to avoid looking too much at Ash, because all that happened when I did was I got to fantasizing about pounding her into a mattress, her hair down and a mess, with that blue dress of hers on the floor next to mine, wearing only that silver pendant and those high-heeled shoes.
This photographer kept sneakily moving around so it looked as though he was always shooting a bunch of different people, but I couldn't help noticing Ash was always in the path of his camera. I finally decided to walk over to her, wondering if she had noticed all the attention she was getting.
"Oh, hi, Isabel!" she said, wearing a disarmingly wide smile. "I was wondering when you were finally going to come over and talk to me. Beautiful ceremony, wasn't it?"
"Yes, yes it was."
"You looked great up there."
"Ah—well, yeah. It was hard, you know, just stand there and look supportive." She chuckled, and I saw her glance over at the photographer. "That guy bothering you?" I asked, nodding at him.
She gave me a wary look. "I hope it's not self-centered of me to say that he does seem rather attached to me…"
Once the photographer lowered his camera, I caught his eye and made it very clear that I was glaring at him. I slowly raised my middle finger in his direction and mouthed something pretty rude, but judging by his expression, he got the message and left Ash alone for the rest of the night.
The reception was as rollicking a good time as anything I'd have expected from Caroline, and it was very difficult to keep my intake of alcohol in check. It was always my plan to remain as sober as possible at weddings, the better scope out women who would be interested. Particularly at this wedding, I had made a bet with one of Andrew's brothers about which of us could score with more girls (and I had already spotted him making out with three different ones), but suddenly I didn't care about that anymore. All I cared about was Ash. I went to the dance floor only in groups, resisting invitations for anything else, because I just couldn't get Ash off my mind.
Finally I figured, what the hell. I'd probably never see her again after tonight—who cares if I told her how I felt, and she freaked out? Or she turned me down? If that happened, then I could let myself get slobbering drunk, and I'd forget about it in the morning. She'd be gone, and that would be that.
Ash was dancing with some other women to some old '90s rap song they all knew the words to, and I can't exaggerate how hilarious it was to see that. With the exertion of dancing, some of her hair had started to fall out of its delicate bun, framing her sweaty face beautifully. And of course, that only made it easier to picture her beneath me in bed, and oh geez, this was weird, back away slowly, Tanner…
But she had seen me with those big, bright brown eyes of hers, and before I could walk off, she grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in. She seemed just a little tipsy, but not like she had let herself go too much. The woman closest to her said, "Oh! Jess, is this the old student you were telling me about?"
"Yeah!" Ash had to shout over the music. "This is my friend Isabel! Isabel, this is my old roommate, Sally! Andrew's aunt!"
"Nice to meet you," Sally and I both said. I have to admit, it made my heart race to think that Ash had bothered telling her best friend I was here, even if it had just been a throwaway comment. And that she had introduced me as her friend.
"Hey, do any of you know where the bathroom is in this place?" Ash asked.
"Yeah, it's down that hallway," Sally responded, pointing. "First or second door on the right, I can't remember. You'll see a sign." With a shouted "thanks!", Ash danced her way in the direction of the hallway. "So kid," Sally said, turning back to me. "Jess says you're real sharp. Got an internship with the Post, or something?"
"Yeah, yeah I do."
"That's awesome. Way to go. Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that any student of Jessica Ashman's would go that far! She says you guys talked for like, hours yesterday!"
"Yeah, it was…I mean, we had a lot to catch up on."
"I bet," Sally laughed. "We've been staying at the same hotel this weekend—she couldn't stop talking about you when she got back! I think it was really good for her, your conversation. She's been in such a rut for a while, and seeing you really cheered her up."
Sally raised her eyebrows at me, and I wondered how drunk she was. Personally, I was getting high just off the words she was saying, and before I could stop to let myself think about it too much, I excused myself and tried not to run for the restroom.
Considering the size of the venue, the restroom was surprisingly small. In fact, Ash was the only person in there when I walked inside, and she was washing her hands at the sink furthest from the door. She looked over when I came in, and with a small smile, said, "You certainly took your time getting here."
"Yeah…well…I figured I'd give you a second," I said, not knowing why. All I knew was that my heart was hammering painfully against my chest as I walked over to her, and then it felt ready to explode when she pulled me into a sweaty kiss.
She tasted delicious. Better than any fantasy I could have dreamed up.
My face was in her soft hands, my bottom lip between both of hers, and I had gone temporarily numb. This couldn't be happening, I thought. But it was. I had to force myself to react, for my limbs to do something other than just passively take it, because I wanted her to just have her way with me right then, right there. I cupped her ass through her dress, and she moaned into my mouth. She wrapped her fists into my brown hair, arching her back and pressing those spectacular breasts against mine. I could only answer with a roll of my hips, pushing her against the polished wall.
I stopped only at the unromantic sound of a toilet flushing in the room next door to us. We had pulled apart, panting slightly, and she was looking at me as if she had never seen me before.
"Maybe we should…" I started, just to say something, to get some idea out there.
"Relocate?" she breathed. This was slightly surprising to me, even still, I admit. I had been about to suggest stopping, but her idea was much better. And it was definitely impossible to resist when she added, "I want this," her voice thick with desire.
"Okay," I said with a shudder. "Where should we go?"
"Follow me," she said simply.
And so we walked out of the restroom, and apparently just in time, as I saw Caroline's sisters heading towards it. I waved at them as we passed, and we skirted the edge of the dance floor. I searched vainly for Caroline, wanting to at least give her a thumbs-up or let her know I was leaving, but I didn't want to take the time to stop and find her. My mind was still reeling with what had just happened between me and Ash, and I couldn't believe that I was the one she kept checking over her shoulder for. Anything that slowed down our journey of wherever we were going had to be eliminated, so I'd just have to settle for calling Caroline tomorrow.
Finally we made it out of the building, and the cool night air was a welcome change from the stuffiness of being surrounded by drunken partygoers.
"Did you drive here?" Ash queried, sounding more like her old self.
"Good. Follow my lead."
She got into a small Sedan which was parked only a few spots away from my beat-up Jeep. As I drove behind her, I tried and failed to give myself any kind of an internal pep talk. I couldn't even calm myself down. There was a hint of excitement flowing through me, but every emotion I could have been feeling was powerfully overwhelmed by my own desire. It was flooding through my veins, pumping behind every particle of my being, paired perhaps with disbelief. Was this all a dream? Would Ash change her mind once we got to her hotel (which is where I correctly assumed we were headed)?
I didn't have to worry, not quite yet, anyway. After only about ten minutes, we had reached the parking lot of our town's local hotel. As far as non-chain places go, it was actually pretty nice, and when I got out of the car, Ash just nodded towards the front door. We walked towards it together, then she led the way up a nearby staircase and down the second floor hallway. I was aching with desire, itching to hold her again, impatient. Ash stopped outside the last door, and after fumbling briefly with her keys, got it open.
The moment we were inside, I shut the door and then pinned her against it. Off came the delicate shrug I had been wearing, and Ash's manicured nails dug into my skin as she urgently pulled me as close as possible. There was no time for conversation, for quiet seduction, for teasing it all out—I had to communicate instantly and tacitly what this meant to me, how much I wanted her. Feeling the warm wetness of her mouth against mine sent chills all over my body, and I nearly collapsed when her tongue swept into my mouth. I groaned and my knees buckled slightly, evening our height. I wanted more of her, I need more of her, reassurance that this wasn't a mistake.
As if reading my mind, Ash walked me towards the bed, still kissing me, still fondling me. I moved to push her down, but she pulled back to say, "This was a very expensive dress. I don't want to ruin it."
She was breathless, and I loved that. My hands reached for the zipper of her dress, and again without stopping to think about it, I tugged down. Ash inhaled sharply, clutching at my shoulders until the zipper stopped at the small of her back. I snuck my hand underneath the dress, palming her ass again, only now it was being guarded by nothing but a lace undergarment. Lace? Had she been planning on something happening tonight? She stepped away from me, pulling the dress off, allowing it to pool around her feet. My jaw dropped: she was wearing only those black heels, the silver pendant, a bra, and some sort of lacy thing that looked as though it came out of Victoria's Secret. Upon walking into the room, we hadn't bothered to turn on the lights, but the moon was shining in through the slits in the curtains, giving me just the view I needed. Holy hell, how was she so hot?
Smirking at the look of utter shock that was probably covering my face, Ash approached me again, pulling at my own zipper. I eased out of it, taking my painfully uncomfortable shoes off as well. I was wearing a strapless bra and not-particularly-sexy underwear, but I was strangely not self-conscious about it. I guess it was hard to feel self-conscious when Ash shoved me down onto the bed, kissing me roughly. I let my hands traverse the gorgeous expanse of her smooth, bare skin, before letting my fingers weave up through her hair, pulling it fully out of its restrictive bun. Once it fell in a curtain around my face, my hands moved of their own accord, one going to her hip and the other blindly attempting to undo the clasp of her bra. She murmured encouragement against my lips as she tugged at my bra, and I thought my brain would short-circuit when she palmed my breasts, driving her tongue into my mouth again.
We had definitely reached the point of no return.
The next morning, I woke up much earlier than I would have liked, thanks to the bright sunlight that was relentlessly pouring into the room. I blinked a few times, trying to orient myself, then realized 1) I was naked, and 2) someone was on top of me, also naked. The events of the previous night hit me like a train. Ash had one leg wrapped around mine, and my hand was resting on her thigh. She was still asleep, breathing slowly and peacefully—nothing like the desperate gasping that had been her only way of getting air last night, panting and moaning heavily between the few times she had managed to cry out my name. Oh, geez …I could feel myself getting wet just remembering it. I was desperate to have her again.
And just a minute or two later, I felt her shifting on top of me. Her face scrunched up adorably before she opened her eyes and stared at me. She appeared totally unfazed, smiling slowly at me. "Hi," she muttered.
With a satisfied sigh, she slid her hand downwards from where it had been resting near my shoulder. She traced the side of my body, sweeping her fingers over to briefly tease my nipple before continuing down. "Did you wake up wet like this?" she whispered once her hand had reached its destination.
She groaned and laughed simultaneously. "Give me a second."
And she had her way with me again. Or, I should say, for the first time—last night I had been focused entirely on her, and in my possessiveness, things had gotten a bit out of control. This morning, Ash was the one in control, and I instinctively felt a connection between us that told me we hadn't just hooked up last night. I still felt entirely the same way about her, and it was clear by the things she was doing to me that she had no regrets, either. She finished me off with ease.
"Wow," I whispered. "Good thing you're a morning person."
"Smartass," she chuckled, laying down on her back next to me. After a pause, she asked, "Have you got any cigarettes?"
"No. How cliché do you want us to be, anyway?"
"Good point. Besides, I think this is a nonsmoking room."
"Do you smoke?"
"Not anymore." Another silence passed; we were both staring up at the ceiling when her hand reached for mine under the sheets. "So," she sighed. "Read any good books lately?"