She didn't want him in her life. But in spite of this, Bayley falls in love with Ash. Being in a relationship with a werewolf is complicated enough, but things take a turn for the worse when he wants to take things too far.
Thunder rumbled outside. I smiled and snuggled closer to Ash. My eyes slid shut as I was gently lulled to sleep by our rocking motion. His strong arms effortlessly supported me as we danced. The slow song that he’d chosen filtered through the pouring rain.
One of his hands traced a line down my spine, making me shiver. It rested on the small of my back. Ash traced my jaw with his lips and I shivered again.
“It’s so easy to love you,” he chuckled.
“Funny, because you’re almost impossible to love,” I replied coyly.
“Bayley, don’t be like that,” Ash whispered, his lips brushing against my ear. His hand crept to the hem of my skirt and he tugged on it ever so slightly, a seductive growl filling the small space between us. I scoffed and rolled my eyes, ignoring my racing heart.
“I know you want it,” he murmured. “Your pulse is racing.”
“You’re lying to yourself. I can hear your heart beating, and Bayley, it is so fast.”
“Exactly.” His lips found mine as the storm raged outside. A few minutes later we were on the couch and Ash was on top of me. He moaned and put his hands under my skirt. After a little exploring, he pulled away and looked down at me.
“You’re wearing spandex?” he asked, disgusted.
I shrugged. “I have to go soon.”
“Can’t you change when you’re there?”
“I’d have to leave earlier and wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with you. Still complaining?”
I rolled my eyes and pushed him off, annoyed. I love Ash, but he took his badass reputation too seriously. Whenever we were alone, he kept trying to get some.
“Bayley, I’m sorry,” he said, sensing what was wrong. “You know how I am when it storms.”
“And on a full moon, too,” I noted.
He grinned sheepishly. “Yeah.”
Ash was a storm wolf, a rare breed of werewolf. He was the product of a storm spirit and a werewolf getting wasted at a bar, which led to a son that they didn’t want. Ash’s parents left him (and each other) and he’d been circulating from foster home to foster home. My mom saw him get kicked out of his last one and immediately saw him as a son, something my parents had wanted but instead they got me. She brought him home and I absolutely hated him when I first saw him. Dad felt bad for him, so now Ash lived above our garage. He wasn’t officially their foster child so it was okay for me to date him…behind their backs.
Ash was a pure accident. Everything about him screamed mistake. His tousled black hair, his criminal record, the I-could-care-less attitude, the bad boy lifestyle. He was the most beautiful disaster I’d ever seen.
“I have to go now,” I told him, grabbing my keys and bag.
He smirked. “Go work on that sexy little body of yours.” As I passed him he slapped me on the butt. I scoffed.
“When are your parents getting back?”
“A few hours, probably. Why?”
“I’ve been craving meat all day,” he said.
“Try not to kill the neighbor’s dog this time.”
“I’m really sorry about that, Bayley.”
“I know.” I opened the door and almost closed it behind me before he spoke again.
“Love you too.”
When I got into the garage I could hear him slam the back door. The faint sound of ripping clothing reached my ears as he phased and ran off into the woods in search of food. It was still pouring rain outside, so I ran to the car as fast as I could, stuck the key in the ignition and started the engine. A howl reached my ears as I drove away.
An hour and a half later, it was getting hard to hold onto the balance beam. Every muscle in my body ached and there was sweat everywhere. I’d warmed up with back handsprings across the floor, and then Rhett (my coach) kept making me do just one more. I was about to pass out from exhaustion when that was over, and that was just the first half hour.
Then we’d moved on to tucks and layouts. I’d fallen more times than I could count. Something in my neck ached and my thighs were on fire. And then Rhett insisted that I could do a full. He lied. After all this, I still had a half hour of conditioning to go.
“Suicides. Seven of them,” Rhett commanded, setting up three cones. I had to run to the first cone and back to the starting line. Second cone, starting line; third cone, starting line. That counted as one.
“Nine,” he said, one eyebrow raised. I sighed and started running. Sweat poured into my eyes and my legs felt like jelly.
“Lay down. I want your feet six inches off the ground. Hold it for five minutes.” He was hard on me. Rhett insisted it was because he knew I could handle it. I just thought he liked getting to torture me three days a week.
I barely survived the conditioning session, which seemed to go on forever. Once Rhett let me go, I managed to drive home without falling asleep. When I finally stumbled through the front door, sweaty and exhausted, there was no sign of Ash. I wearily climbed up the stairs and ran a hot shower.
The mirror was coated in a thick layer of steam when I got out. I wrapped myself in a towel, walked into my room, and screamed. Ash was back from hunting.
“Hi, Bayley!” he said loudly. I could immediately tell that something was off.
“How was hunting?” I asked warily.
“Good. I missed you a lot,” he replied.
“You knew where I was.”
He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I still missed you.”
“Can you leave?”
His face fell. “Why?”
“I need to get dressed.”
“Okay.” Ash walked out of my room without another word. What was wrong with him? Normally, he’d make some remark about how we’d be naked in front of each other eventually and then give me my privacy.
“You can come back in now,” I said once I was dressed in sleep shorts and a tank top.
Ash ran through the door and nearly tackled me with a hug. “Big hug for my Bayley.”
I had a sudden hunch on why he was acting like this. “Ash, are you high?”
He let out a snort of laughter. “Very.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, there was this rotting deer in the woods, and it smelled really good…”
“Ugh, you didn’t.”
“And I ate it,” he said goofily. “So what do you want to do now?”
“With me?” His face lit up. Ash ripped his shirt off and started kissing me.
“No!” I pushed him away. “I’m tired. Rhett was killing me tonight. So I just want to sleep by myself. And try to get over yourself when my parents are home. You don’t want them thinking you’re doing drugs.”
“But I’m not.”
“I know.” He was really starting to get on my nerves now. Definitely not one of our better days. “Just…go. Please.”
“Bye, Bayley,” he said sadly. Ash picked up his shirt and left. I turned off the light, collapsed into bed, and began to cry. Partially from exhaustion, partially from Ash. We were in love, but he was killing me. Did he love me for me or for my body? If it was just for my body, then I had to end it. But if he loved all of me, then why didn’t he show it instead of trying to get me knocked up all the time? And he had no self control. He couldn’t keep himself contained when we were alone or when he was a wolf, like when he ate that rotting meat in the woods. He didn’t even have the courage to accept the blame for the way he acted, just blamed it on the weather or moon phase. But that’s what I get for loving a badass shapeshifter.
Late that night, I was in the space in between being asleep and being awake when I felt Ash getting into my bed beside me.
“Bayley?” he whispered. “Are you awake?”
“Ash, I’m not in the mood,” I muttered.
“That’s not why I’m here. I heard you crying earlier. What’s wrong?”
To lie or not to lie…
“Nothing,” I lied.
“You wouldn’t be crying if nothing was wrong. Tell me.”
“It’s you, Ash.” I watched his face for a reaction. There was the faintest hint of surprise playing across his features. “I love you, but I don’t know what to do with you. You can’t control yourself at all and it’s starting to affect us. When you got high off the deer, it really bothered me. When we’re alone, all you ever want to do with me is have sex. That makes me wonder if you love me or if you love my body, because there’s a big difference.” I was crying again, which I hated to do in front of him.
He didn’t move to wipe away my tears; he didn’t take me in his arms and reassure me that he loved me, not my body. Ash didn’t do anything. He just watched the tears roll down my face. It made me angry that he didn’t want to help me. It didn’t help that he couldn’t pick between my personality and my physical appearance.
“Just forget it, Ash. Leave.” I wanted the words to sting and by the way he flinched, they did. I got up and opened the door for him. Looking stunned, he got up and walked out.
At school, I was pretty much out of it the whole day. Ash was on my mind the whole time, which I couldn’t stand. I was grateful that Mom and Dad had gotten him a tutor. His cutting class had finally caught up with him. Seeing him in person would only make my hurt worse. I knew I’d started it and kicked him out of my room but it still hurt. I’d realized that I hadn’t wanted to hurt him.
When I walked through our front door at the end of the day, our house was empty. No Mom, no Dad, no Ash. That last one scared me. He was always home in the afternoons. When I got home from school, we had about two hours to ourselves before my parents got home. Ash wouldn’t let anything keep him from that, even if all he ever did was try to get in my pants and all I ever did was say no.
I hung around the house for a half hour, searching every room for a sign of where he had gone. There was nothing. I thought about him, using his personality to give me an idea of where he was. I’d hear about it if he robbed a place or mugged someone. Hopefully, he wouldn’t. He’d promised me he wouldn’t do that anymore. But if we were no more, could the same be said for our promises?
Maybe he was in the woods. He’d told me that he loved it there, that he loved being a wolf. Probably more than he loves you, a wicked little voice in my head whispered. I mentally hissed for the voice to shut up. I grabbed my phone and went out the back door into the woods that lay behind our property. It was kind of cold out so I ran back inside and snatched a jacket off my floor. I set out into the forest, avoiding poison ivy and low branches.
I walked for God knows how long and eventually everything started to look the same. My footsteps were the only things that permeated the silence of the woods. I began to understand why Ash loved it here. There were no distractions. You could be alone with yourself, uninterrupted, and figure out the answers to all your problems. Was I ever one of his problems? Other than now, obviously.
It started to get dark. I figured that I should probably head back home, so I turned around and started walking the other way. But wait…I’d seen that tree before, I was sure of it. Oh God, I was going in circles. I pulled out my phone but there was no signal. Just my luck. Brokenhearted and cut off from civilization.
Suddenly, thunder ripped through the silence of the woods, followed by a flash of lightning which made it look like daytime again. Wind started blowing hard, sending sheets of rain crashing into my face. Then hail began falling, stinging my face when it hit. It was weird that all of this had come around in less than a minute. I pulled my hood around my face and looked for something that could serve as shelter.
And then the wind seemed to be forming words. Maybe I was just hearing things, but it sounded like a human voice. Female, to be exact.
You broke my son.
A threatening, angry female voice actually.
You broke him. He is shattered now. And it is all your fault. I knew he made a mistake when he trusted a human with his secrets.
“Who are you?” I yelled, getting kind of scared now.
Humans are so dim-witted. Mortal, look at me.
There was a swirling mass of rain, hail, and what seemed to be visible thunder forming in front of me. Lightning struck in the center of it and it took a human shape. A woman stood before me. Her skin was pale and she was wearing a filmy gray dress. Her eyes were nothing but sparks and lightning but they were obviously full of hatred. Her pitch black hair was flying around her face, whipped around by the wind of the storm. I saw Ash in her. His mother had the same kind of dangerous beauty that he did. It made me want to look at her but also made me want to run away screaming.
Recognize me now, human?
“You’re Ash’s mother,” I whispered, stating the obvious.
Yes, I am. And I want my son back. He does not belong with someone who will absolutely destroy him.
“You’re accusing me of hurting him? I didn’t abandon him at birth,” I snapped. As soon as the words left me I knew I’d made a mistake saying that to her. Her beautiful features twisted into a mask of anger.
That night was a mistake. I should have stayed home. But that dog got me drunk and then pregnant. It was the dog I did not want. I could not bear knowing that my son had some of that gene in him. I confused my hatred for the werewolf with the hatred for part of my son. I could not think clearly and left them both. But I love my son. I have realized my mistake and want him back. He belongs with me and you know it.
“Have you seen what you’ve done to him? He’s served time in jail. Your son has robbed people, he’s hurt them, and he’s enjoyed every second of it. He hurts others because being hurt is all he’s ever known.”
“You don’t know what he’s like now? If you love him so much then you would have tried to see him.”
Foolish human, I know what he has done. But being hurt is not all he has ever known. I loved him, but he was too young to understand that.
“He was young enough to understand pain, abandonment, betrayal. I think he was also young enough to understand love.”
Love is deeper than all of those things. You should know that. You looked past all the hurt he had caused people and loved him anyway. And then you used love against him, cutting him deeper than abandonment or betrayal ever could. You questioned his love for you, which broke him. He is dying on the inside because you told him to leave you. His heart is bleeding. He is forgetting how to love. He will never be himself again. Everything is your fault. My son has been twisted, deformed, altered. And you will pay dearly for this.
My bravado was gone. She was right. There was no way I could turn this on her. I understood now why he loved the way he did. No one had ever shown him what real love was like so he just had to guess. Ash had just been misguided and misinformed. He’d honestly thought he was doing the right thing and didn’t understand why I didn’t like it. When I’d confronted him, he’d been shocked that he hadn’t loved the right way. He thought that I hated him now.
Any final words, human?
The storm spirit looked shocked but quickly regained her composure.
It is about time you realized that. But it is too late. The damage to my son has already been done. There is no reversing it. He is long gone. You will never see him again.
“At least tell me where he is,” I begged.
He is…no, that is none of your concern. You do not love him anymore.
“That’s a lie. I never stopped loving Ash. Like you, I made a mistake last night. I got my emotions confused and couldn’t think clearly. I was trying to get to him when you interrupted.”
I do not interrupt. I intervene. You are foolish to think you can fix him.
“I know how to break him, I know how to fix him.”
You believe you know him better than me, his own mother?
“I’ve been with him longer than you have.”
Again, you lie. I see my son every day.
“Please, just tell me where he is. I can help him.”
You should have thought of helping him earlier instead of crushing him. It is too late, human. You will pay the price.
I was scared. “I can help him!”
You waited too long.
She hovered a few feet off the ground, her feet covered in fog and clouds. Her eyes began sparking murderously and an evil smirk worked its way onto her face. Her hair had settled around her beautiful face during our…talk, but now it began snapping in the wind around her. I had to get away from her. I began to back up but tripped over a root and fell sprawling onto the ground. That was it. I was going to die.
She raised her hand. Lightning crawled in between her fingers and through the strands of her hair as she prepared to kill me.
And then I was struck.
The pure, undiluted electricity coursed through my veins. Every nerve was on overdrive. All of my reflexes were going crazy. I didn’t have any control of my body. My mind was telling me to get away from the pain but everywhere I moved, she followed and so did her lightning. I was writhing in pain on the ground, letting out anguished screams that didn’t even sound like me. My screams began to sound more and more like his name until that was all I was saying.
I wanted him. I needed him here. He was the only one who could stop his mother from taking my life. I missed him more than I’d ever missed anything. Letting Ash go was the biggest mistake of my life. With every tortured cry, I wished more and more that he’d find me. But deep down, I knew that it was all over. If he was as far away as his mother said he was, he could never know where I was or what was happening to me. He’d never know how much I regretted last night or how much I really loved him.
Strands of electricity began playing in my hair and scratching my face. I could feel blood seeping out and pictured scarlet ribbons running down my face. The forks of lightning slowly dragged across my torso, cutting through my clothes and skin. Sparks burrowed under my skin and began shocking me. I began to cry and then immediately wanted to stop. My tears only conducted more electricity.
Shut up, mortal, and accept your punishment.
With those words, I was silenced. I lost the ability to scream and all my hope. Screaming bloody murder was the only way that Ash could possibly find me. This was what nightmares were made of, all alone with someone who wanted you dead. But this time I wouldn’t wake up.
Her eyes continued to flash, but now with satisfaction. A strong wind lifted me off the ground and blew me into the closest tree. I felt something snap and automatically screamed, but no high pitched shriek came out. The only sound I could make was a wet choking that sounded like I was being strangled.
Oh, humans. So delicate…
I wanted this to end. Just kill me already. Stop this torture and end my life. I coughed up blood, tasting its metallic sting. The lightning kept moving across my body, looking for unburned skin. By this time, there wasn’t any, so I kept getting electrocuted in the same areas. So much for lightning never striking twice.
Through the storm and my fog of pain, I thought I heard something. A howl. But there was no way. Ash was miles away. No doubt the lightning was making me go insane.
Then I sensed a dark shadow leaping over me. The lightning disappeared but rain and wind took its place. The wind blew the sheets of rain onto my raw skin, burning like hell. It was acid rain.
And then it stopped. Oh dear God, she must be saving her energy for something huge to finish me. I whimpered and closed my eyes, shaking and waiting for the end. I could feel myself slipping away from this world as darkness took over…
He stepped into her line of sight on all fours, an intimidating steel blue wolf with streaks of pure white. He had heard the girl’s cries and begs for mercy. At first, he wouldn’t come. She deserved her pain for telling him to leave her. But then he’d remembered what he loved about her. Her wit, her love for old shows on TV, how smart she was, how she protected their relationship by lying to every one around her. He didn’t love just her body; her appearance was simply a bonus. If she was ugly, he still would have loved her. Of course, falling in love would have taken longer, but he still would have loved her nonetheless.
His mother smiled when she saw him. He cocked his head in curiosity and cautiously stepped closer. When she kept looking lovingly at him he phased into human form, clothed in destroyed jeans, a black shirt, and a hoodie under his leather jacket.
My son, you have grown so much. You are still so beautiful.
“Mom?” he asked incredulously.
Yes, it is me. At last, I have found you.
“Why are you here? I thought you didn’t want me,” he said bitterly.
My son, I made a mistake. I do want you. I loved you back then and I still love you today. I do not care what you have done and I want you to come with me.
“If you wanted me you wouldn’t have left,” he spat. “What makes you think I’d come with you now? I have a new family now, one that actually wants me.”
I am your mother. You belong with me. And your so-called “family” cannot protect you from people who want to hurt you. They are weak. I am not and you are not either.
“If I’m so strong then I can protect myself and my family. I don’t need you.” The boy watched his mother flinch. “I learned to live without parents when I was little. I was five years old and living on the streets. I adapted to it and learned to defend myself. People tried to hurt me but I fought back. It was hard. I considered killing myself when I was seven. A social worker found me in an alley. I was half-dead but she got me to a hospital. And then I was sent from foster home to foster home. Even there no one wanted me. But when I got kicked out of my latest one, a woman found me and took me into her house. Her husband agreed to let me stay but her daughter…”
Her daughter destroyed you.
“What? How do you know about that?” he asked, surprised and caught off-guard.
My son, I was always with you. I was that social worker who saved your life.
“But you weren’t the woman who took me in.”
No, but I would give anything to go back to that moment and be the woman to take you in, to give you a second chance at life.
“But you didn’t. If you’re supposedly so powerful, it would’ve been nothing for you to switch places with her and save me. You don’t care.”
He turned to go but immediately stopped. The girl was collapsed in a broken heap at the bottom of a tree. Her clothing was in shreds. Her usually soft and shiny blond hair was dull and matted down with blood. One of her legs was bent at a strange angle. Cautiously, he brushed her hair back from her face. Her skin was a raw pink and peeling.
He whispered her name. She didn’t answer or even move. The boy carefully rolled her over. Her brown eyes were vacantly staring up at nothing. He listened for her heartbeat and just barely heard it, weak and slow. She showed all the symptoms of a storm spirit attack.
My son, I do care. She broke you into pieces. But she will not hurt you again, I promise you.
“You did this to her?” he asked, the rage making his voice nothing more than a whisper. “You killed her?”
He stood and faced his mother. “Do not call me that,” he snarled. “You murdered the only girl I’ve ever loved. And for what? To protect a son you didn’t even want?”
My son, I made a mistake that night. Leaving you was the worst thing I’d ever done. And I came back for you. I want you to stay with me.
“No, you don’t. I’ve seen this before, okay? You didn’t come back because you want me to come live with you. You came back because it would ease your guilt.”
My son, you cannot possibly think that is true.
“Don’t call me that either. I am not your son.”
You cannot deny that.
“And you are not my mother.”
How can you say that, Ashton? I gave you life. You have no right to deny our bond. It is not your place.
“It was not your place to kill Bayley.”
Are you defending her? She destroyed you. She wanted you to leave her.
“But I’m not going to. I’m not you,” he growled. “And I never will be.”
How dare you say that?!
He was shaking with anger and losing control. His mother—no, that woman had killed her and felt nothing. No regret, no guilt. Without thinking, he phased and launched himself at her. She retaliated, throwing bolts of lightning at him. They didn’t affect him. The woods were silent as mother and son battled.
Everything hurt and I couldn’t move without a searing pain. I whimpered, scared that no one would ever find me here and I’d just waste away. I was already weak and blood had dried over my eyes. I had to fight to open them. By the time I could see I was exhausted from prying them open.
I could hear snarls and something big hitting the ground. There was a splitting pain that shot through my head when I heard it. It took everything I had to raise my head enough to see what was happening.
A giant gray-blue wolf was attacking the storm spirit. It kept snapping at her throat but she was throwing lightning bolts at it. I could only watch, afraid of this wolf. It had to be powerful if it could cause the storm spirit to put up a fight. The wolf got hold of her neck and threw her out of my line of sight. It looked back and me and trotted over. The wolf began to shimmer and I felt a faint heat radiating from it. Right before my eyes it changed form into a boy.
I recognized him. It was Ash! He’d found me. I tried to smile but my lips wouldn’t move. He grinned and wiped tears from his eyes.
“I thought she killed you,” he whispered. He produced a small ball of water and smoothed it over my lips, washing away the dried blood. I smiled.
“Can you talk?”
I began to form words and jumped when sound came out. “I love you, Ash.”
“I love you too, Bayley. We need to get you home.” He tried to pick me up in his arms. The heat from his hands burned on my raw skin and I screamed. God, it felt good to be able to scream again. I wailed long and hard, letting out the pain. Ash let me scream even though it must have been hard for him.
“You’re too weak to be moved,” he said gently. “Can I help you?” Without thinking, I nodded. Anything to end this. “It might hurt.”
“Nothing can possibly hurt more than this,” I whimpered. He sighed.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
There was more pain. I’d squeezed my eyes closed so I couldn’t see what he was doing. But it hurt. It was a pins-and-needles pain, not the electrocution I’d experienced at the hands of his mother. Once the pain was over I could feel the new skin covering me.
Ash was torn away from me. He could barely phase before lightning struck him.
“Ash!” I screamed.
You will come with me now, Ashton. It is your destiny.
“No!” Ash howled.
Do not defy me.
There was a flash of light and they both disappeared.
I wandered in the woods for days before I made it home. I could only imagine how bad I looked. Dirty, bloody, scarred. My parents probably thought I’d been beaten or raped when I stumbled into the back yard.
I made it through the front door and collapsed. I hadn’t eaten anything in a week.
“Bayley!” Mom shouted. “Oh, honey, what happened to you? Were you kidnapped? Who did this to you?”
“Melissa? What’s going on?” Dad called from his office. He ran into the foyer and saw Mom leaning over me. “Bayley, sweetheart, is that you?”
“Daddy,” I whispered, feeling tears coming to my eyes. “Mom.”
“Honey, we were so worried about you,” Mom said, crying. They helped me up and led me to the couch. “We were looking for you everywhere.”
“No, don’t apologize,” Dad said soothingly. “Just tell us what happened to you.”
“I got home and Ash wasn’t here. I thought I’d get in trouble when you found just me here, so I went to look for him. There wasn’t any signal in the woods and I got lost.” I left out the part of Ash’s mother trying to kill me. “Is he here?”
Mom and Dad exchanged a look. “No, he’s been gone as long as you have,” Mom answered softly. “We thought he had something to do with your disappearance.”
They thought he had something to do with my disappearance. He wasn’t like that and it angered me that they’d judge him by his appearance. I’d made that mistake once and I’d almost been killed because of it.
“Mom, Daddy…I have to tell you something.”
They took the news about my relationship with Ash pretty well. I assured them that the most physical thing we’d done was make out (in different words) and that I loved him. Dad got a little worked up when I told him about our hours alone but Mom calmed him down.
After we talked, Mom fixed me dinner. It was the best tasting thing I’d ever had. Once I’d finished eating (and I ate a lot), I retreated to my bathroom. I started a bubble bath and set up my iPod on speakers to play in the background. I just wanted to relax for a few hours and scrub off all the dirt and blood. I sank in and just sat there, being comforted by my music.
But then a rock song came on, one that Ash had downloaded for me. I could hear his voice singing along with the lyrics and broke down. I hadn’t seen him since he’d saved me. I was scared that I’d never get to see him again. I wanted him to see that I understood him now. And he’d always wanted me to let my parents know about us. He respected them because they’d given him a second chance and didn’t like how we were living a lie. Now, when I finally came clean, he wasn’t around to see it.
I missed him.
“Ash, please come back. I love you,” I whispered. “I want you here with me. I understand now. We have my parents’ blessing. So, please come back, baby. Please.”
I was on the couch the next morning watching an old episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I’d gotten a good sleep the night before and hadn’t gotten out of bed until ten this morning. It felt so good to be clean and fed again. Living in the woods for a week made you realize how much you really had.
I’d made Mom and Dad go to work. They didn’t need to get behind because of me. Once they’d left, I’d locked all the doors and windows like I’d promised them. Nothing would get in here without my permission. And if anything did, I knew where Daddy kept his gun.
There was a quiet noise upstairs and I jumped, instantly alert. I pulled the gun out from inside the coffee table and crept upstairs. I checked the guest room, guest bathroom, my room, my bathroom, the office. They were all clear of any intruders. That only left Ash’s room and I really did not want to go in there. But I had to, for Mom and Dad’s sake.
I poked my head in, swinging the gun around in front of me. No one was there. I guess as the house settled something had creaked. I set the gun on his dresser and took in his room. The walls were bare, except for a picture tacked above his unmade bed. I looked closer and saw that it was a picture of us. A single tear made its way down my face. God, I missed him with everything I had. He was probably dead by now. My mind knew that it was the most likely truth but my heart refused to accept it.
All of his things were still here. His guitar, his iPod, and his cologne. I opened his closet and found it full of his clothes. I pulled out one of his jackets and held it close. It smelled like him and was warm, like he was in it. Without comprehending what I was doing, I slid it on. It came halfway down my thighs, passing my sleep shorts (I hadn’t changed out of my pajamas that morning). His hoodie was huge on me, but I didn’t care. It was a solid reminder of him.
Downstairs, the front door creaked open and the alarm began wailing. I thought I’d locked the door. Whoever it was must have seen the closed garage, assumed no one was home and picked the lock. I peeked out of his room, holding the gun in front of me but saw I didn’t need it.
I ran down the stairs and turned off the shrieking alarm.
“It’s over,” Ash panted. He put a hand on the wall to support himself and leaned over. “It’s all over.”
I shrieked and threw my arms around him. My relief was huge, filling my whole body. It was so great it pushed some tears out.
“Ash, where were you?” I cried.
“My mo—the spirit who attacked you took me into her realm. We battled for…days. I barely survived, but she won’t be bothering us anymore,” he said, hugging me back. “You were on my mind the whole time, Bayley.”
“Did you kill her?” I asked carefully.
“She won’t be bothering us anymore,” he repeated. Ash stalked off into the living room.
He had killed his mother for me. His own mother.
“Ash, can we talk?”
“Yeah. I need to tell you something, too.” He sat down on the couch and saw what I was watching. “You always did love your old TV shows. And are you wearing my jacket?”
I blushed. “Yeah. Do you want it back?”
“No, keep it. You look beautiful.” He’d changed.
“Thank you. And, Ash…I told my parents.”
“How’d they take it?” he asked. I reached for his hand.
“They gave us their blessing. They’re okay with it,” I said, smiling and anticipating his reaction.
I nodded. Ash leaned over and pecked me on the cheek. He stopped and we both looked at each other. We both leaned in at the same time and kissed. Ash didn’t try to make a move. He did nothing but kiss me.
“Bayley, I’ve changed. You were right. I want you to know that I love you with everything I have but I didn’t know how to show it. All those times I went off into the woods, half the time I hunted and the other half I watched couples. I wanted to know how to show you how much I love you. But when I tried to do what I’d seen other guys do I messed it up. A lot. And I’m sorry. I promise that I will always love you, the right way.” Ash kissed my hand and I blushed.
“Ash, I understand now. This probably won’t be as good of a speech as yours--,”
“I don’t really care, Bayley.”
“But I love you with all of my heart. I set such high expectations for you and you couldn’t possibly live up to them. I had to realize that everyone has their flaws and that I can’t change yours. I am so sorry for…everything. You saved my life and I owe you for that. And I promise that I will always love you too,” I said. I didn’t have a way with words like he did and just stumbled through my apology. But Ash didn’t care and sat me on his lap. He kissed me again. It was deep, romantic, and intense, like he was. Somewhere in there, we both began weeping. Our kiss melted into Ash holding me and me holding him. And it was that moment that I knew. We had loved, fought, been hurt and then come full circle back to love.
And nothing could break that circle.