Ashton was already standing next to me before I could even comprehend what was going on.
"Ashton. What are you doing here?" I asked. I wanted to add, "Shouldn't you be with your girlfriend?" But I didn't.
"Me? What am I doing here?" He asked, pointing at his own chest. His face was a little flushed, and by the tone of his voice, it was obvious he was mad about something. "I'm looking for you. What are you doing here? I've only left you about ten voicemails. But I guess you're a little busy." I didn't miss the side glance he gave Michael.
I struggled to stand up after sitting on the floor for so long, (Don't laugh - You'll understand how difficult that is when you get older.) so that I could reach my phone, which I'd thrown onto the couch when I arrived. I discovered that I had inadvertently silenced it instead of putting it on vibrate mode. And sure enough, there were eight missed calls, as well as texts.
"Shit, Ashton. I'm sorry. It was silenced, and I haven't checked it since I've been here. I didn't think I'd have any reason to since both you and Traci were occupied. But I'm not the only one not answering my phone today, am I?" I matched his sarcastic/angry tone to let him know that he wasn't the only one who was pissed off.
When he saw that I was going to give him whatever attitude he gave me, he closed his eyes momentarily and visibly relaxed. Then he asked in an almost pleading voice, "Can we talk? Privately?"
This whole time Michael had been standing by the door, watching the exchange like a tennis match. He was now looking at me intensely, with his arms crossed, waiting for the next move. It would have been humorous, except there was something about Ashton's demeanor that kept me from laughing. I wasn't sure whether to be scared, anxious, or concerned. I suppose I was a little of each.
I didn't want to ditch Michael. Not only because it would be rude, but we were having such a good time. Not to mention, I was stubborn and upset with Ashton. But how could I turn down his request to talk? I couldn't do that to a friend, even if I was mad at them.
"Yeah, of course." I looked at Michael apologetically. "Um, Mikey, I don't want to be rude, but-"
"Pfftt, it's fine. It was fun while it lasted. Maybe we can do it again soon." He walked to me and gave me a bear hug, even lifting me off the floor. As absurd as the thought was, I had the feeling he was trying to make Ashton jealous. And it must have worked, because when he kissed my cheek and didn't release me right away, Ashton cleared his throat. Michael took the hint and stepped away from me and said, "Okay, you two run along now. I'll just play with myself. Er, well, you know what I mean."
I had to laugh that time. But Ashton didn't crack a smile. He placed his hand on the middle of my back and guided me to the door. Michael waved and said, "Bye, Ashton. Bye, Bree."
As soon as we were out the door, Ashton turned to me and huffed, "Mikey? Bree? You two got so well acquainted that you already call each other by your nicknames? Nice."
I was speechless for a second. "What the hell? Are you serious right now? Everyone calls me Bree. So what?"
Ashton looked taken aback. "You never told me you prefer to be called Bree. What the fuck?"
He was talking so loudly I was afraid he was going to attract some unwanted attention. It did attract Corey's attention. It must have been his turn for hall patrol. He came around the corner where the elevators were, and when Ashton saw him, he told him everything was okay.
When Corey was gone, I spoke quietly, and placed my hands on Ashton's chest, hoping he'd calm down. I could feel his heart pounding. He was seriously worked up. And for what reason, I had no clue. "Ashton, honey, it's no big deal. I guess it's just never come up in conversation. But I actually kind of like it that you call me by my full name."
He ran his fingers through his messy hair, and looked damn gorgeous doing it. He said, "Come on, let's go to my room," then he took my hand and led the way.
When we got to the door and he slid the key card into the slot, I remembered he wasn't alone earlier. "Wait. What about Brandi?"
He let out a sarcastic laugh. "Brandi? Yeah, fuck her. She's gone, thank God." He held the door open to let me in first.
I was so confused. I stepped to the side and stood by the wall as he entered behind me, waiting on his lead on where to go in the huge suite. But he approached me and stopped just inches away, invading my personal space. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not, considering his current mood. But in a way it was tantalizing, so I didn't budge.
He quietly asked in a calmer voice, "So you had a good time with Michael, did you?" I nodded. He put his hands on his hips and leaned down just a tiny bit. "What did you do?"
I know I must have looked as bewildered as I felt. I'm not good at hiding my emotions at all. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on in his mind. "We talked and had a couple of beers while we played video games."
"Do you like talking to him more than me?"
I shook my head and tried to answer, "No," but it was barely a whisper.
He put one hand on my shoulder, and used the other to move a strand of hair aside that had fallen from my ponytail, then he placed it on my other shoulder. I'm certain I stopped breathing. As much as I didn't want to get involved with Ashton, at the same time, I wanted him to make a move more than anything. But Brandi was in the picture...
"No?" he asked for reassurance, and I shook my head again. No way could I speak at that point. He grinned for the first time. "You like talking to me, right?"
I somehow managed to speak, though my words were shaky. "Of course I do."
He leaned down even closer, and I stepped back, right into the wall. I didn't realize I was that close to the wall and it surprised me. My hands instinctively grabbed onto his hips. And though I knew they shouldn't be there, I didn't remove them. He looked amused and a full smile spread across his face for a moment and he slowly ran his hands down my arms once and back up to my shoulders. But then the smile disappeared and he questioned, "Aubree, would you rather be with me or Michael right now?"
That question and his touch had me going from not knowing how to feel, to knowing exactly how I felt in the span of a few seconds. Chances were, it was just a general question; he didn't actually mean "be with" in the sexual sense. But I had the urge to pull him to me and show him my answer anyway. I actually envisioned it in my head and couldn't help the smile that slowly crept onto my face. I bit my lip to stop it. But I must have hesitated too long for Ashton's liking. He shook my shoulders once, and he repeated the question more firmly, demanding an answer. "Would you rather be with me or Michael?"
That wiped the smile right off of my face. I almost felt threatened. It was so out of character for him to be that way. At least, from what I knew of him, it was out of character. I was no longer comfortable being in that position with him acting so strange. So I gently pushed him back and eased away from the wall, and let go of him.
"Ashton." I tried to sound more in charge than I was feeling. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
His eyes bore into mine momentarily, then he released his hold on me as well and took a step back. "Fuck," he said quietly, and walked away from me. He sat down roughly on the couch and put his head in his hands. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Each "fuck" was louder than the last.
I wasn't sure what the best thing to do was, so I stayed where I was and gave him some space. Eventually, I asked, "Are you okay?"
His didn't move except to shake his head. In my heart, I knew whatever he was upset about had to do with Brandi. And it infuriated me. Since he was calmer, I walked over to the couch to sit beside him. I hesitantly put my arms around him, and he leaned into me. He rested his head against mine, and laid his hands on my leg. We sat there for a few minutes, not saying a word. And the only movement was me rubbing his back, and his thumb making tiny circles on my thigh.
I could have stayed that way all night. But remembering I was there because he wanted to talk, I finally asked, "Are you ready to talk about whatever it was you wanted to talk about?"
He slowly pulled away and sat back against the couch. He wiped his tear stained face and my heart ached for him. He didn't make eye contact with me, but instead looked down at his lap. "So, it looks like I'm a free man."