‘Shit,’ Ashton cursed quietly and pulled up his hood, flicking on his sunglasses. He pulled me into a doorway and put a finger to his lips, frowning.
We’d been ambling along home, just taking our time. I let Ashton guide us back to the hotel, secretly loving the way he kept his arm around my waist the whole time, but now the Hilton was just up ahead, and I could see the reason why he swore.
A large crowd of girls were huddled around the doors of the hotel, all holding brightly decorated cards and signs, most of them clutching their phones and cameras. From the step I was standing, I could see the peak of Beck’s doorman cap poking through the crowd, trying to clear the path. Suddenly one of girl’s signs spun around in the wind and Ashton and I got a full view of what was written on it in gigantic letters;
#ASHMMA IS REAL
and then in smaller letters beneath;
♥ ASHTON & EMMA ♥
No guesses who they were waiting for.
I felt my face heat up and I tried to tug myself out of Ashton’s arm, but he started to shake, and I looked into his face, confused - he was silently laughing.
I reached up and poked his dimple.
‘Ashton. Why are you laughing?’
‘Look at their signs!’
I looked back and blushed again when I saw my name up there next to his.
‘I don’t get the joke.’
He shook his head slowly and rolled his eyes.
‘It’s been 2 hours since you got Twitter and look at what’s already happening.’ A little giggle escaped his lips. ‘How did I not expect this?’
I smiled, starting to understand.
‘But how are we going to get upstairs?’
Ashton wiggled his eyebrows.
‘The fire escape.’
‘Ashton! I am so going to kill you for this!’
I groaned and pulled myself up onto the dumper, trying to balance in my boots. Above me, Ashton was already on the first flight of stairs, brushing bits of rust out of his curly hair. Through the bars, he stuck his tongue out at me.
‘Would you prefer to go in through the front doors or what?’
I stuck my rude finger up at him and he grinned infuriatingly back at me.
He looked down at me, concerned, and I sighed.
‘I’m afraid of heights.’ Glancing up, I pointed to the 5th storey. ‘Your room is so far up, and I- I don’t know if I can make it all the way.’
Ashton’s face softened and he crouched down, holding out a muscled arm.
‘Hey, come on Princess. It’s okay, I’ll be right here, I’ll lend you a hand.’
He reached out and tugged me up with him, pulling me in close again against his chest. I took a deep breath and tried to slow my breathing so he wouldn’t feel my heart beating. I think he did, because the next thing I knew, he was next to my face again, twisting a bit of hair out of my face and behind my ear, killing me softly inside. Ashton squeezed my hand reassuringly.
‘4 more flights to get up, Emma. I won’t let you get scared.’
We took steps together, him ahead of me on the stairs, and I tried to focus on his face instead, not looking down. Below us, the sidestreet was empty, and the girls passing by along the main road didn’t even glance up at the tall boy and shaking girl who were scaling the fire escape. Ashton walked backwards, slowly, as if coaxing me along, and I let myself hold his gaze as we backed up the stairs. For the second time that day, I found myself drowning in his eyes, wishing that I could take everything back and give myself another chance...
I saw his foot getting caught on the underside of the step before it actually happened, and before I could say anything else, he was falling over backwards and I was being pulled along, landing on top of him. My face went even redder, and I looked sideways to avoid his cheeky smirk.
‘Is it too clichéd to say that I really like the position we’re in right now?’
Ashton chuckled underneath me and despite myself, I rolled my eyes.
I rolled off him painfully, my hands pressing hard into the cold metal stairs, and stood up slowly before I was looking straight down about 4 floors, to the ground below. Suddenly, my head felt dizzy and I could feel vomit rising in my throat.
‘Ashton,’ I mumbled, and shut my eyes tight, groping around for him while holding onto the railing, not wanting to let go. We were so far up.
‘Princess, I’m right here. You’re okay.’
His arms wrapped around me quickly, and looped underneath my own, making me feel a bit better. I stood still, trying to swallow and take deep breaths at the same time. Curly hair brushed against my ear.
‘Are you alright?’ Ashton whispered, and I clenched my jaw shut, nodding. His finger was tracing reassuring patterns on the inside of my hip and I started to calm down. Slowly, I opened one eye, then the other. Ashton’s brown ones were staring into my face, concern written all through them.
‘Do you want to sit down for a bit?’
I shook my head.
‘No, no, it’s okay. We have to go help Michael get ready for his date tonight. We should go, I’m alright.’ So long as I stay here, in between your arms.
Casting me one last worried glance, Ashton loosened his hold and tilted my chin upwards.
‘ Princess, we have a few more steps to go, and then you’re done, okay?’
I let him tug me up the last of the stairs, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the back of Ashton’s head. When we finally reached level 5, the fire escape stopped going up and ran along the side of the building past lots of windows, leading to a red door at the end. I let out a relieved sigh and leant back against the railing to catch my breath.
‘Can we please never do this again?’
Ashton placed a hand on the back of his neck and rubbed it awkwardly.
‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have made you go up that in the first place.’
‘It’s fine, really,’ I crossed the gap and smiled up at him, ‘because you were there to save me.’
He let a gorgeous grin slip onto his face.
‘Let’s go and see if one of these windows leads into our room.’
I stretched up onto my toes, trying to see into the first one.
‘Ashton, I can’t see shit, I’m too short!’
He chuckled and grabbed my hand again, making me blush.
‘I guess I’ll just have to be your eyes.’ He craned his neck and peeked over the first sill.
‘Nope. It’s empty.’
We checked each window, Ashton relaying what he saw to me, all the way to the second last pane. None of them had belonged to the boys so far, so when Ashton peered into the next one, I jumped when he burst back away from the window.
‘ What?? What was it?’
He clutched his chest, eyes wide open, before starting to laugh heavily, tears coming out of his eyes.
‘Ashton! What was in the room?’
He didn’t answer, laughing too hard, so I rolled my eyes and stuck my toes between the bricks, trying to peek in to see for myself. If Ashton’s laughing, it can’t be that bad, can it? I was just about to pull myself up over the ledge when two large hands wrapped themselves over my eyes like a blindfold, and I let out a little scream before recognising them as Ashton’s.
‘What’re you doing? I just wanted to see what you were laughing about!’
His hands shook as he chuckled again.
‘Trust me Emma. It’s not something you want to see. Really.’
I dropped back down to the metal platform and glared up at him.
‘Well, tell me what was inside!’
‘No,’ he giggled, and rubbed a hand over his eyes. ‘I don’t want your poor innocent eyes to have to witness what I saw!’
‘Fine, fine,’ he groaned and let the smile return to his face. ‘It is our room, but it’s the window that’s directly above Michael’s bed.’
I nodded, unsure of where this was going.
‘He was, you know, uh,’ Ashton giggled, his face a bit red, ‘relieving some stress before his date tonight.’
I spluttered out loud, before bursting into laughter and covering my mouth, trying to muffle the sound.
‘Is he really??’
‘Princess, I know what I saw.’ A devious look came over Ashton’s face and he laughed. ‘You want to play a trick on him?’
I nodded quickly and Ashton helped me up so I was just below the window.
‘When you hear me knock, you can peek over the ledge, okay?’ A shadow crossed his face. ‘Not any sooner, because well,’ he looked away, smiling, ‘you’re not allowed to see his dick before you see mine, are you Princess?’
‘Ashton! Oh my god...’ I punched him on the arm before burying my face in my palms.
‘I’m kidding, kidding!’
‘Ewww though! Both ways,’ I laughed and jostled next to him up on my tippy toes.
‘Sure, sure. You ready?’
I nodded, and Ashton leant forward, rapping hard on the glass frame.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
‘Look now!’ Ashton hissed and I ducked my head over the frame, eyes wide. Michael was fastening the zipper on his pants, his face bright red like a tomato and his hair falling randomly onto his sweaty forehead. His eyes were darting everywhere, trying to figure out where the noise came from.
Oh. My. God.
‘Shhhh,’ Ashton giggled, and threw his hand around my lips to stop me from bursting out with laughter, I bit my tongue, snorting into his hand, trying not to shriek. Michael was such a fucking typical boy and it was hilarious.
‘Oh my god, he’s coming! He’s about to open the window!’
Ashton dropped his hand and grabbed my own, tugging me down and pulling me along towards the door. It was too late though, because a second later, the window swung open with a clank against the brick wall and a sweaty head pushed itself out. I froze and so did Ashton. A moment later, Michael’s red face turned to face us and he focused in on Ashton, eyes narrowed.
‘Ashton...’ he growled.
‘Oh fuck, he’s going to blow,’ Ashton whispered in my ear and I bit back the inappropriate smile that was definitely not welcome in this situation.
‘I’m just going to go now,’ I smirked and pulled my hand out of his, backing towards the red door.
‘Ashton fucking Irwin...’
‘Emma! Get back here!’
‘I’ll wait for you on the other side of this door, I swear!’
I opened the door and ducked behind it.
‘Ashton fucking Irwin - what the fuck do you think you’re doing??! Did you think that was FUCKING FUNNY? YOU SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME!’
I bit my lip and tried to hide my smile as Ashton looked pleadingly at me.
‘Think of this as payback. For making me take the fire escape. Sorry babe!’
I gave him a little wave and gently shut the door behind me as Ashton groaned. A second later -
‘DID YOU WILLINGLY LET HER SEE MY PENIS? YOU COCKHEAD!’
Ah. The sweet sounds of Michael Clifford’s silky voice. Music to my ears.