When I face him again, Ashton is smiling. He leans back slowly in his seat, resting his folded hands on his stomach. "This is gonna be fun."

I narrow my eyes at him. "What's gonna be fun?"

"Winning you over."

I have to bite back the vomit that fights to exit through my mouth. "Excuse me?"

"It's a challenge now."

"Nobody challenged you to anything."

"I have challenged myself."

"Well, that sounds like a personal problem." I grit my teeth. "I am not your challenge."

Ashton just smiles at me. "We'll see about that."

- This story is a work of fiction. Some people are real, but situations are entirely mine and made up.

-I took a little bit of liberty as far as situations that might have happened unfold. I did tons of research, but the plot calls for some changes. Hope you don't mind!

-Red: frequent swearing and sexual themes

-**Trigger warning** there is a later chapter that deals with mature themes (sexual assault). If you feel the need, please skip this chapter.


3. Unpredictable


July 2017

To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
You'll never believe who I just ran into
To the group: 5SOS
From: Michael US
To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
That chick who showed up at my house the other day
To the group: 5SOS
From: Calum US
She followed you again?
To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
You know Luna Hale? The party planner?
To the group: 5SOS
From: Luke US
The one planning our album release party?
To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
She lives next door. That girl WORKS for her
To the group: 5SOS
From: Calum US
So she WAS telling you the truth
To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
Yeah I guess so

A few seconds later, the front door opens. I look up form my place on the couch just as Calum plops down next to me. "I literally just walked in the door," I say to my friend. "How did you get here so quickly?"

"I was already on my way here," he answers.

"Do you remember when we lived together?" I ask him. He nods, obviously recalling. "I feel like I didn't see you as much as I do now."

"We have a writing session today, remember?" Calum points his thumb at the door. "We're meeting at Conway Studios in like 20 minutes, we gotta go."

Actually, I did not remember. I shoot up off the couch and follow Calum out the front door.


Luke and I are in a room with Justin Tranter, a music producer, and Rami Yacoub, a fellow songwriter from Sweden, working out a musical line while Calum, Michael and Carl Falk, another songwriter from Sweden, work in a different room down the hall.

"How about this:" Luke reads off of his notebook, singing the words he's written. "'Living our lives, dancing on empty wallets, spend it all on you, spend it all on you, until we die, dancing on empty wallets.'"

I join him on, "'Spend it all on you, spend it all on you',"

"Combine with the 'sugar-coated brain' part," Rami says in a thick Swedish accent.

We add the parts together, Luke picking up a guitar to accompany us. After we've sung through it, we all look around the room at each other. Justin's the first one to speak. "I really like this. Let's go show this to the rest of them, see what they've got."

The four of us traverse down the hall, opening the door to the other soundproof room where Calum, Michael, and Carl are all working. They all look up at us as we enter. "Hey, we have this idea, can we run it by you?"

After we finish singing the chorus that we've written, Michael looks at Calum and Carl. "Hey, would that fit with what we just came up with?"

They contemplate it for a quick second, Carl bringing up a mix on the computer. They play it for us and, although it's in a different key than the one we had been working in, it fits. We make a few minor adjustments to rhythm and melody, but it fits surprisingly well.

"Yes, yes, yes." Justin says eagerly. "Okay, let's keep going. Verses."


​​​"Hey, how'd that meeting with Luna Hale go?" Michael asks me, his mouth full of food.

Our writing session went late, but the Michael, Calum, Luke, and I were not ready to go home after it was over. So we went out for a late night snack.

I say snack, but I mean full meals. Burgers and fries, to be exact.

"Oh yeah," Calum says, chuckling as he recalls. "We were so focused on the nanny that we totally forgot to ask you about the actual meeting."

"It went well," I say, sipping on my milkshake. "She has a lot of good ideas. We need to set up a time so you can all meet her as well."

"Did you tell her that we don't know where we'll be for the premiere yet?" Michael asks.

I nod, shoving a few fries into my mouth. "Yeah, she said that she has connections in most major cities in the country, so no matter where we go, she'll be able to find us a place."

"That's sick, bro," Luke says. "Hey, speaking of the nanny. What was her reaction when she saw you?"

I can't help but smirk, recalling Hannah's expression when she saw me for the second time. I was, admittedly, very surprised to learn that she had been telling the truth when she told me that she was working next door, and I'm sure that my face showed it. But the only thing her face showed was how livid she was to see me. "Let's just say, she was displeased."

"Wow, really?"

"Oh yeah," I nod for emphasis. "She was not quite happy with how I treated her when she showed up on my front porch."

"What did you say?" Calum asks. I have their full attention now. "Did you tell her about how many fans we used get showing up everywhere?"

"Or the male strippers that were sent to our house when we all lived together?" Michael adds, taking a bite out of his burger.

"Yeah, but it's not like she can really understand that without actually experiencing it herself." I shrug. "Also, she has no idea who we are. She said she had to look me up on Google to see if it was actually me."

The boys and I try to not let the whirlwind fame we've been thrust into over the past few years go to our heads, but considering our fan-base and what we go through on a daily basis, it can be kind of jarring that a young lady doesn't know who we are. The rest of the band reflects my earlier shock.

Calum busts out laughing. "That's hilarious. Did she listen to any of our music?"

"She didn't say, but I doubt it." I shake my head, sighing. "She's definitely gonna be tough to get to know."

"What, are you trying to get to know her?" Michael eyes me suspiciously.

"Are you kidding me? It's Ashton." Luke rolls his eyes. "A hot girl doesn't know who he is, won't give him the time of day, so he's got to change her mind."

"I never said she was hot," is all I can say to defend myself. The rest is absolutely true.

"If she weren't, you wouldn't be trying."

Again, absolutely true. "Okay, but don't harass her," Michael sits forward and speaks slowly, warning me. "You don't want to creep her out or get a restraining order put out on you."

"I'm not stalking her," I insist, probably too fervently. "Listen, we're going out of town in a couple of days anyway and I probably won't see her before then. She'll cool off and we can start over." I shrug, taking another sip of my milkshake. "Simple."

"Okay…" Michael leans back in his chair. "I mean, no, it's not gonna work out like that, but okay."


I hear a car approach outside and look out the window, curious. Mellie and Adam are waving goodbye to a van as it drives away. As they walk up their driveway to their house, I jump up and run out the front door of mine. "Mellie! Adam!" I try to look as nonchalant as possible but honestly, I'm not sure what made me leave my house to talk to them, so I have to improvise. "Hey, guys…"

"Hey, Ashton," Adam responds coolly, waving at me. Mellie smiles, obviously surprised to see me there.

"Hey, you guys getting out of school?" I try to strike up a conversation.

The kids look between each other, then back to me. "It's July," Mellie says slowly. "It's summer. No school."

Oh my God, you idiot."Right, haha," I laugh awkwardly. I'm not used to the American schooling calendar, I forgot they have the middle of the year off. And also, they call it summer, which is our Australian winter. Six years out of the country and I still mix that up.

"We were just hanging out with friends," Adam explains. "But we had to come home for dinner."

"Oh? Is Hannah making dinner for you?" I try to slip her into the conversation in a casual way.

"Uh-huh, it's taco night." Adam smiles wide, pointing a thumb toward his house. "But we gotta go, or Hannah will get worried. Bye, Ashton!" Adam makes his way into the house.

Mellie, however, stays behind. She takes a step toward me, lowering her voice as if w
e're being watched. "Listen, you don't have to be nice to us just to talk to Hannah," she says frankly. My eyes widen in response to her words, but she's not finished. She puts out a hand, palm up. "However, a little monetary donation will go a long way."

My eyebrows fly up so high, I fear that they might actually travel off of my face. "Are you trying to get me to pay you for information about your nanny?"

"I believe 'extortion' is the term," she smiles. "You want it or not?"

Mildly impressed by the sudden bravado she exudes, I reach into my pocket and grab my wallet, pulling out a $20 bill. "What'll this get me?"

Mellie takes the money from my hand and shoves it into her pocket. Taking a breath, she answers, words rolling out of her mouth. "Hannah's from Michigan, she was born on June 14, 1994, making her 23 years old. Her favorite color is purple, she is very unknowledgeable when it comes to sports and art, but is a genius in the kitchen." Mellie raises an eyebrow at me. "Are you going to write this down?"

I just stare at her, my jaw dropped in disbelief. Where did the shy girl who couldn't even look me in the eye the other day? "How old are you, again?"

"12. 13 in October," she answers proudly. "Hannah's really protective of me and my brother, which is why she's still mad at you about the whole ball thing."

"She told you about that?"

"No," She nods her head in the direction of my house. "But it's not rocket science. You live next door, she clearly doesn't like you, and when she came back from your house, she said the guy next door was a jerk who wouldn't give the ball back, but it mysteriously reappeared in our yard the next day."

"Seriously, how old are you?"

"You asked me what $20 is worth," is her answer. She takes out the money again and waves it around like a tiny flag. "We thank you for your patronage."

Mellie disappears into her house, leaving me struck absolutely dumb in the driveway.



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