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'Hey - all you sweaty boys, check it out. We're here!'
Ciara and I grinned at eachother, nodding out the window at the club rising up in front of the car. Once Ashton, Calum and I had finally found Michael (talking to Feldy outside) and Luke and Ciara (kissing in the disabled toilet), the guys had told me to choose a good place for them to go and party for the night. Ciara had agreed with me - the Star Night Club was definitely our destination for tonight.
I turned back and glanced at Ashton. He was staring in awe up at the building, the neon lights from the club reflected off his face, making it glow softly in the dark. Slowly his eyes turned to me, alight with excitement, and a grin lit up his face. Beside him, Calum was almost shaking with the idea of getting to dance and drink for the rest of the night, and Michael looked the same. Luke was biting his lip nervously, but I could tell he couldn’t wait to get inside. Ciara grinned at me again.
'Why are we still sitting in here then? Come on - let’s go!'
We bundled out of the car and stood together on the pavement, looking up at the tall building. From inside we could hear laughing and music - it vibrated through the night air and sent shivers down my spine. Ashton put his arm around my shoulder, pulling me closer, and I looked up at him cheekily.
‘You ready for this?’
He grinned back and tilted his head higher.
'As I'll ever be, Emma. Let’s do this thing.'
I sat in a dark corner booth just off the edge of the dancefloor with a lemon, lime and bitters in front of me, perched on a damp coaster. The night was speeding by and it was coming close to midnight. Luke and Ciara were huddled up at a nearby table, and I could see Luke trying to stop Ciara drinking too much. I giggled. He was definitely the most responsible of the guys, because I’d already watched Calum down about 6 shots in a row, and now he’d disappeared completely. Michael was missing too, but I’d seen him talking to a few guys earlier, and I assumed he’d met some friends. And Ashton? Ashton was dancing, I could see him from where I was, breaking out the moves to some DJ's tunes. He was a little drunk, but not too badly, and it looked like he was having fun. No one had recognised him yet, but he was certainly attracting the attention of most of the girls in the club. From where I was sitting, it was easy to see why. Every time I looked at him, I couldn’t stop smiling, and I didn’t like it. I wasn’t meant to be attracted to Ashton. We had an agreement, and I definitely wasn’t going to be the first one to give in.
A blonde chick dressed in a skimpy little singlet and short skirt sidled up to him and draped her arm around his shoulder casually. Oh, yuck. Put some clothes on? I thought Ashton would push her away, but my jaw dropped when I saw him smile widely at her and put his hands on her waist, and then lean into her slightly. Her blonde hair was falling all over his shoulders. I turned away. It was none of my business. It was his night and he could do whatever he wanted to. Why did I even feel bothered?
You-u-u like Ash-t-t-t-on, a little voice sung in my mind, and I shook my head angrily. I didn’t. That was stupid, and pointless and completely against the rules. But when I glanced back over and saw the girl leaning in to Ashton’s face, I had to look away quickly to stop the sinking feeling I felt in my stomach.
'Hey - can I get you a drink?'
I looked up, another voice pulling me from my thoughts. A young guy about my age was standing in front of me, looking concerned. He was cute, I decided, with short black hair, blue eyes and a light band of freckles across his nose. When I didn’t answer for a second, he tried again.
'Are you alright?'
'Oh. Yeah, sorry, I'm fine. Just uh - I was just thinking about something else.'
I smiled and slid over, so he could take the seat next to me. My back faced the dancefloor - good. I didn’t want to see Ashton now.
'Hey. I'm Emma.'
'Nice to meet you Emma.’ He smiled politely at me and played with a button on his shirt. ‘You come here often?'
'Nah. This isn’t normally my scene. I was just...’ I looked for the right words, biting my lip, ‘in search of a little fun tonight.'
He laughed and moved a little closer.
'Hey, me too. My friend dragged me along tonight but he disappeared ages ago, and I’ve been kind of walking around aimlessly for the past hour.'
I grinned sheepishly at him.
‘I know exactly how you feel.’
We sat there and talked for another ten minutes or so, and I found myself relaxing. Christian seemed genuinely nice, and I felt comfortable chatting to him - plus it was a good distraction from what was probably going on behind me.
'So do you have a girlfriend?' I ventured.
He took a long drink of his coke.
'Nah. Used to, but not any more. I’m not going to go into it - long story short, she was sneaking around behind my back with my friend.’ He sighed. ‘I guess I’m just still looking for the right person.'
He set his cup down and moved a little closer again.
'What about you? Is there some lucky guy out there?'
He was looking at me closely, and I knew I should've just said no immediately, but for some reason I glanced over my shoulder and looked for Ashton. The crowd had grown larger and I couldn’t see him among the bopping heads everywhere. Christian waved his hand lightly in front of my eyes.
‘Emma? Do you have a boyfriend?'
'Oh! I don’t, well, not really, I just--'
Christian leant forward and kissed me. I sat there shocked for a second as he covered my lips with his own, holding my cheeks gently in his hands. His lips were so soft and smooth and slowly, without really thinking, I began to kiss him back, gently, then harder. I put my arms around his neck and his hands wrapped around my waist, pulling me closer until I was pretty much sitting on his lap.
Suddenly, I heard a voice shout 'Hey!' - a very familiar voice. And then I was being pushed off Christian as someone dragged him away from me. I groaned, picking myself up off the booth chair.
'What the hell is wrong with you, man?'
Christian yelled up at Ashton, who was gripping him by the neck of his shirt, glaring down into his face. I stood shocked for a second - Ashton was much taller than Christian, and the way he was holding his fists together made him look like he was about to start punching him. Hard.
'Hey! Ashton - let him go! We were fine!' I scrambled out of the booth and poked a finger into his firm chest. He didn’t flinch, but merely kept his eyes firmly locked on Christian.
‘Ashton! Let him go!’
I pushed my way in front of Ashton and started beating on his chest with my palms, but he still wouldn’t look at me. Christian looked scared.
‘Ashton, mate - let him go.’
Luke and Michael stepped out from the middle of the crowd that had gathered. Ciara stood behind them, a hand over her mouth.
'Whats the deal man? I wasn’t hurting her,' Christian mumbled.
'She's my girlfriend!'
What???? My mouth dropped open and so did Christian's.
'But -- you, she -'
He looked desperately back and forth between Ashton and I but I was still too stunned to say a word.
Boyfriend?? What was he thinking? Was he jealous? Oh boy. I grabbed his arm as the security guy started to push his way towards us.
‘Ash - just let go. Christian is a friend.'
Poor Christian nodded fervently.
'Come on Ashton. We need to go.'
After what seemed like ages, he turned and looked down at me searchingly, before reluctantly dropping Christian back to the floor with a glare.
I pulled a pen out of my bag and scribbled my phone number on Christian's arm.
'Call me sometime.'
Aware that Ashton was watching us very closely, I didn’t dare kiss him again. Instead I just kissed his cheek lightly, whispering in his ear.
'I'm so sorry.'
As I turned to go, Michael grabbed my arm.
‘Emma, will you be okay? To go back with,’ he nodded at Ashton, who was still glowering at Christian, ‘him? Calum hasn’t turned up, and Luke and Ciara aren’t ready to go yet, but we can come home now if you want.’
I squeezed his hand.
‘I’m sure I can handle him. Thanks Mikey.’
He gave me a weak smile before the security guard interrupted.
‘Everything alright here?’
He looked at me and I gave him a shaky smile, even though I felt like vomiting.
Looking at Christian one more time and mouthing ‘sorry’, I turned and began to walk to the door. Over my shoulder I saw Ashton give Christian one last glare before following after me. He slammed the door shut as we left the club and together, we climbed into the car in silence.
I backed out and began to drive slowly down the empty street. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Ashton. He was glaring out the window, face bright red. His hands were clenched in his lap. I sighed and when I finally pulled into the Hilton parking area, I unclipped my seatbelt and folded my legs underneath me so I could face Ashton properly.
'So. A boyfriend?'
He didn’t move from where he was sitting.
'He was kissing you.'
I raised my eyebrow, not being able to stop the sarcastic remark float from my lips.
'Yeah, funny that! I noticed that too!'
Now he turned around, so violently that I jumped.
'And that was okay?'
Yes, actually! It was!'
Ashton blew a lot of air out of his mouth, and we sat for a moment in silence as he calmed down. Sighing, he diverted his gaze to his hands.
'Did you like him?'
I groaned in frustration, even though I wasn’t sure of the answer.
'Did it look like I liked him to you? Why'd you have to take him out? I didn’t barge in on you and your blonde model girl!'
Ashton looked confused for the first time.
'The skanky looking girl you were dancing with, you moron.'
He frowned. 'When--'
I laughed in pure disbelief, getting really pissed off now.
'Oh please. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice. She was all over you!'
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms, turning away to face the window.
'Well sorry for ruining your fantastic night anyway. I hope you enjoyed it.'
We sat in silence for a minute, until Ashton spoke. He spoke so quietly I almost couldn’t hear him.
'No, I didn’t really enjoy it.'
Curiosity biting into me, I slowly moved around in my seat to face him. His eyes were carefully watching mine.
Ashton smiled, almost tiredly.
'You want to know what I thought when I saw you sitting there in that booth with that guy? With his dirty lips all over you?’ He bit his lip, something he didn’t do often, and I tried to ignore how attractive it was. ‘I thought, please don’t let that be Emma, please don’t let that be her. I don’t know what came over me, but I somehow knew I just had to get you out of there. All I could think was, that’s my Emma.'
‘I’m not a prize. I’m not anyone’s.’
I sat still, watching his shining eyes search mine.
'I know, and I’m sorry. But... and I'm not sure Emma... but I-- I think I was jealous.'
I blushed, trying not to read too much into what that could mean. 'He was just a normal guy.'
Ashton nodded, eyes wide.
'That’s what made me so angry! Here was a guy you'd met, what,’ he made a face, ‘ten minutes ago? Already allowed to kiss you? I wanted to know why I was so different from him.'
He seemed so sincere, and I didn’t know what to do. So when he began to lean forward, I froze, unable to move away. His face was an inch away from mine, deep brown eyes staring into my own with such intensity I couldn’t look away. But when his soft lips brushed on my own, just for a second, I jumped backwards like I’d been shocked. Which I had - I felt a zap that spread through my body, making me shiver.
Ashton pulled away quickly, a red flush immediately spreading over his face.
'I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.'
I stared at him. He was about to kiss me. He, well, he kind of did. Kiss me. I had been about to get something girls everywhere could only dream about. But for some reason, that just made me angry. How could he try and end our conversation like this? Did he think it would make anything better? Ashton thought he was jealous of Christian - for kissing me! I started to fume silently, pushing any good thoughts about Ashton from my mind.
I shook my head slowly, trying not to blow.
'I've got to go. See you around I guess.'
I pushed open the door and stepped out into the cool night air, just as Ashton jumped out the other side.
'Oh wow, Emma, I’m sorry, okay, I just, you were there and I thought--'
'No, no, it’s fine. I have to go though, it’s really late.'
I bounded up the steps, trying to keep my temper in check. Ashton, the boy who could never take a hint, followed.
'Look - I honestly am sorry...'
'Yeah, okay, I got that part.'
H grabbed my arm, trying to stop me from moving away any further but I brushed him off. Ashton paused, having no idea what to do next.
'Well. Um,’ he attempted a grin, trying to stir me up instead, ‘thanks for tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow then, princess?'
Hearing him call me that stupid name only made me even more furious, and I jabbed my finger angrily into the lift button.
'Not if I can help it.'
When the doors opened, I stalked inside, pressing the button for my level. As the door closed, I saw Ashton standing in the lobby. He was watching me with sad eyes, not saying a word. It almost made me feel sorry for him.