One Tiny Lie
I'm returning to our table when the band is kicking off their next set with a slow song. The open floor space in front of them is packed with people, some swaying to the music, others there to get close to the edgy-looking lead singer. Ty is busy shooting lascivious smiles at Sun, whom I ran into here tonight and made the mistake of introducing to our table. Ashton seems content just sitting and listening to the music, his hands interlocked behind his head, a strange, peaceful smile on his face.
I see her approach from the other side of the room.
The sultry Latin exhibitionist is closing in on our table again. If her ego was bruised by Ashton's polite brush-off earlier, it has quickly recuperated and is now gearing up for the second attack. I can't help but think that Ashton must really be that good if a knockout like her, who could probably seduce the Pope, is willing to take another run at him.
I hope he shoots her down.
What if he doesn't?
She's only a few steps away from our table, approaching it from the opposite side. I don't know why but I rush forward to reach it before she does, tripping over my own feet as I do. I recuperate quickly, but Ashton is facing me and sees the entire thing. It elicits a wide, genuine grin. "Irish, what's the rush?" he asks just as her long fingernails glide intimately across his bicep. "Come dance with me, Ash." The sultry is dialed back up again. Man, she's sure of herself! I wish I could be that sure of myself.
I hold my breath as recognition flitters across Ashton's eyes. I know he heard her and I know that I don't want him going anywhere with her. I watch as one arm slides out from behind his head to clamp onto my wrist. "Maybe next time," he calls over his shoulder as he stands. Before I know what's happening, his towering body presses up against me and he's ushering me toward the dance floor.
Adrenaline blasts through my veins.
Once safely in the sea of bodies, I expect that he'll let go of me, the dodge successful. Just like he manhandled me that day in the bathroom, he again smoothly whips me around, pulling my body close against him. He takes my hands and settles them around his neck and then those fingers of his slide down my arms, down my sides, all the way to my hips.
The music is loud enough that conversation is difficult. Maybe that's why Ashton leans so close that his mouth grazes my ear to say, "Thanks for saving me." It sends a shiver through me. "And you don't need to be nervous around me, Irish."
"I'm not," I lie, and I hate that I sound breathless but if he doesn't stop whispering in my ear, I'm going to . . . I don't know what I'm going to do.
His hands squeeze me, tugging on my hips, bringing me flush against him-against what I should not be feeling right now. Ohmigod. Ashton's actually turned on. This is all wrong. My hands slip down to press flat against his chest and yet I can't will my body to push away as it responds the exact same way I remember from my dream.
"Do you know why I call you Irish?"
I shake my head. I assumed it was because, in my drunken stupor, I divulged my background. Something now tells me there's more to the nickname than that.
"Well," he says, with a lascivious grin, "admit that you want me and I'll tell you why."
With a stubborn shake of my head, I mutter, "Not a chance." I may have left my pride on the dance floor that night, but I certainly won't do it again tonight.
Ashton's perfect full lips pucker slightly as he stares down at me with intense, thoughtful eyes. I have no clue what he's thinking, aside from the obvious. Part of me wants to ask outright. The other part is telling myself that I'm an idiot for tripping into this situation. Literally. Then, when Ashton's thumbs start to stroke over my hip bones and my heart begins to pound against my rib cage, I'm convinced that I should have let the sultry exhibitionist have her way with him because now I've really gotten myself into trouble.
That's why his next words surprise me. "Connor asked that I make you like me," Ashton casually says, easing his tight grip on my hips so that I'm not pressed directly against his erection, allowing me to breathe again. His mouth twists as if from something sour. "Since he really likes you." Then he sighs, looking over my head, as he adds, "And I'm his best friend." As if he's reminding himself of that.
Right, Connor. I swallow. The mention of Connor and his feelings for me while my hands are still flattened against his best friend's chest, the one that I pawed repeatedly not even two weeks ago, fills me with guilt.
"So?" Serious dark eyes lock on my face. "How do I do that, Irish? How do I make you like me?" His question is already dripping with innuendo but when he uses that tone-one that is crackling with desire-my mouth instantly dries. And I remember exactly why I probably did throw myself at him the first time. And I'm about to do it again.
I try to summon the willpower to turn and walk away. With a deep exhale, I slide my hands back to his neck and match his intent gaze. I'm speechless. Utterly speechless. I bite my bottom lip. His eyes drop to my mouth, his own lips parting a touch. I quickly manage to croak out without thought, "Stop embarrassing me?"
He nods slowly as if considering it. There's a pause. "What if I'm not trying to and I still embarrass you? You embarrass easily."
Case in point, my cheeks flush and I roll my eyes. "Just tone it down."
Ashton's hands shift up and back slightly, his fingers spreading out along my sides and back, his pinkies just above the border of inappropriate ass touching. "Okay. What else? Come on, Irish. Lay it on me."
I chew the inside of my mouth, thinking. What else do I say? Stop looking at me like that? Stop touching me like that? Stop being so sexy? No . . . if I'm being honest, those things aren't bothering me right now. Probably because I'm drunk.
"Of course, we could go back to your room and-"
"Ashton!" I smack his chest hard. "Stop crossing the line!"
"We've already crossed that line." His arms suddenly surround and crush me against him, until I can feel every part of him. For just a second, my body responds of its own accord, drawn by the electricity surging through to the very ends of my nerves.
Finally my brain manages to break the magnetic pull. I pinch a muscle in his shoulder hard enough that he flinches as he releases his grip.
He's not ready to let me go just yet, though, his hands settling on my hips again. "Feisty. Just how I like you, Irish. And I'm kidding."
"No, you're not. I felt it." I tilt my head and c**k one eyebrow to give him a knowing stare.
That only makes him laugh. "I can't help that, Irish. You bring out the best in me."
"That defines you?"
"Some would say . . ."
"Is that why you . . . with so many women?"
An amused smirk touches his lips. "What is it you can't say, sweet little Irish? Is that why I f**k so many women?"
I wait for the answer, curious as to what he's going to give.
The strangest look passes over his face. "It's an escape for me. Helps me forget when I want to forget . . . things." With a smile that doesn't touch his eyes, he adds, "You think you have me all figured out."