I had no idea what his plan was, but I was 100% down. Ashton led me to a pretty much abandoned area of the room and said, "If you don't want people to see us together out there, we're going to have to take separate cars or something, so hold on. Let me talk to Dave." He started to turn, but then stepped so close to me I could feel his breath. He licked his lips and ran a hand through his hair. "Fuck, I want to kiss you." But before I could reply, he was gone.
I was freaking out so badly. My hands were trembling and I know I had to be a nice deep shade of red. I felt really weird standing there alone, but Ashton didn't take long. He said the cars were pulling around, and he would take the first one, then I should head out in a minute or two. He told me his hotel room number, and said, "I'll see you in just a bit." He was strictly business in his hurry to get out of there.
All that time I hadn't said a word. I probably couldn't have even if I tried. As I waited, it occurred to me that I probably shouldn't abandon my best friend like that. "Oh, shit," I said out loud. I found her right where I'd left her, with Calum and the ever growing gaggle of unknown females. Luke had also rejoined them. Traci appeared to be enjoying herself, so that made me feel a little better about leaving.
"There you are!" she exclaimed when she saw me. Her words were very slurred and slow, though her motions were animated.
"Hey. Yeah, so, uh... shit. Come here for a second, please?"
She stood up and told Calum, "Don't you go anywhere, mister," and booped him on the nose. It was adorable, actually.
At least she wasn't so far gone that she needed assistance to walk. I quickly told her that Ashton was on his way to his hotel, and he'd asked me to join him. Her mouth dropped and she said, "Oh my God! It's about fucking time!"
I shushed her and told her that I didn't want to leave her. But just as I knew she would, she demanded that I go. I made her swear she really meant it. I knew she'd definitely tell me the truth, especially as drunk as she was. But it also worried me that she was so wasted. So when she sat back down, I started to pull Calum aside and ask if he'd make sure she made it back to our hotel safely. However, he already seemed to know what I was going to ask.
He held up a hand and waved me away. "It's cool. I got this." I wasn't really expecting him to take responsibility for my friend, but the fact that he volunteered to do so, right in front of everybody, won him a special place in my heart. He really did care about her, at least a little bit.
I looked at Traci again. She said, "You heard him. Go!"
I gave her a quick hug and thanked Calum. And I couldn't resist ruffling Luke's hair when I walked by him. Damn, I love the confidence and bravery that comes along with consuming alcohol. I needed it that night more than ever.
It had been more than a couple of minutes, so I was worried that the driver had gotten pissed off and left. I was also afraid that there would be more than one car, and I wouldn't know which one was mine. And of course, I prayed that no one would put two and two together and figure me out.
There was a nice little crowd outside that got excited when the door opened. But once they saw it was me and not another band member, they quickly lost interest. I walked straight ahead to the lone, dark SUV waiting for me. The driver was waiting outside of the vehicle. He asked, "Ms Johnson?" I nodded and he opened the door for me.
As soon as I stepped in, I was startled by a dark figure in the very back. I nearly screamed. I hesitated, not sure what to do, when Ashton leaned forward enough that I could barely make out that it was him. He reached for my hand, and guided me to the back to sit beside him.
"Fucking Hell, Ashton! You scared me!" I said after the driver closed the door. "What happened to leaving in separate cars? Shit. They saw you get in here first, right?"
He laughed and let go of my hand to put his arm around my shoulder. "It's all good, I swear. I had the driver go down to the car park, out of sight, and I switched cars. That was my plan all along, but I knew if I told you, you wouldn't agree to it." He was laughing at himself, and I couldn't resist joining in.
"Sneaky little bitch, aren't you?" He shrugged and I playfully pushed him away, which only made him pull me closer with the arm across my shoulders. I took advantage of the situation and snuggled into him and rested my head on his shoulder. He put his head on top of mine, planting kisses on it now and then. I was content, to say the least.
We didn't say another word for the longest time, but it was a very comfortable silence. He kept lightly rubbing my hand, which he had taken and placed in his lap. He was the first to speak when he pointed out very quietly, "You're shaking. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I couldn't be better. I'm just... I don't know. Anxious. Nervous? To be honest, I'm afraid you might regret this."
"What?" he asked incredulously. "Never. Why would you worry about such a thing?"
"I don't know. I'm just being my usual stupid, insecure self. Like, why me? You easily could have left with any of those girls at the party tonight. I was literally the oldest and most unattractive of them all."
"I'm not even answering that. If you don't know how I feel about you by now, there's no sense in trying to explain it. I mean, how many times have I basically said, 'Hey, Aubree, I think you're amazing and smart and beautiful and hot as Hell?' And for the last time, your age doesn't mean shit to me. It's not that much of a difference anyway. So just accept it, okay?" He placed his hands on either side of my face and repeated, "Okay?"
I whispered, "Okay." And he leaned moved his lips very slowly towards mine, but the driver interrupted what would have been our first kiss. Dammit.
"We're just a couple of blocks away. How would you like to proceed?"
Basically, Ashton had already thought of a strategy for that part, too. It consisted of letting me out of the car a block or so past the hotel. Then they'd loop back around and let Ashton out at the hotel entrance. A great plan, right? Except Ashton hadn't taken into consideration that there would be 50 or so fans waiting on him.
When he saw them, he said, "Shit, I knew I should have let security come back with me." But it all worked out.
I took my time walking, and arrived at the hotel to find that the fans had lined up and were being calm, in hopes that Ashton would stop for them. And he did. He was going down the line, taking quick selfies, just as he had that night I'd met him in Chicago. We made eye contact as I walked by, and I tried to shoot him a look to encourage him to finish with the fans. I guess he understood, because I had to wait outside the room for a few minutes before he got there.
"I'm soooo sorry," he apologized. "I don't know why I didn't let Dave come back with me. He would have told them no for me, and -"
I stopped his words by placing a finger on his lips. "Are you kidding me? Don't apologize. I kind of love the fact that you rewarded them for being respectful and not acting like idiots. Besides, it added to the taboo factor, walking past you and all those fans, knowing good and well what we were about to do, and they didn't have a clue." I let my finger slide down and away from his lips, trailing it along his perfect scruffy jawline. Apparently I was still a wee bit intoxicated, because otherwise I'd have never made a move like that first, even as small as it may have been. He pushed my hips against the wall and leaned down to kiss me. But I stopped him.
"We should go inside," I reminded him.
Without a word, he opened the door and allowed me enter first. The door hadn't even closed when he scooped me up into a fireman's carry, and playfully tossed me onto the bed.
"Wow, how romantic," I laughed at him. Before I knew it, he was on the bed hovering over me, straddling my legs, and laughing as well.
"Sorry, I couldn't resist."
"Don't be sorry. Romance is overrated anyway." Really, I never did like that mushy shit. At least, I didn't think I did. I'd never experienced it firsthand.
"You know what else is overrated?" he asked.