Smirking, I let go of her. This woman is not the person I remember hating. This woman is the mom I chose to forget. She’s back to the way she always should’ve been and I’m happy for her. My face turns somber, “Nice seeing you, Mom.”

Letting go of me, her face turns bleak. “You can come here anytime. Anytime you like. I’d be happy to see you more often. I don’t suppose I’ll be invited to the wedding?”

Answering her honestly, I say, “No. You wouldn’t be.”

I watch her heart shatter. Her eyes fill with tears as she responds, her voice trembling, “That’s fair enough.”

I don’t say goodbye, just turn and walk down the hall toward the front door. I hear my aunt and uncle talk on the porch. As soon as I step outside, I ask Aunt Faith, “Where can I buy some kickass flowers?”

***

Holy shit.

I am nervous as fuck right now. Standing in front of Nat’s door holding a bunch of flowers that she’s probably going to throw away, five minutes have passed and I still haven’t got the balls to knock.

Be a man. Be the type of man she needs. Be fearless.

Before I can stop myself, I knock. Hard.

A little too hard.

The door swings open and there’s my girl. My pretty girl. She looks tired but when she sees me, her eyes brighten. She lifts her shaking hands to her mouth and whispers, “You’re here. You’re okay.”

Relief settles my churning gut.

Nodding, I hold out the flowers to her. She spies the extravagant bunch and her face turns angry.

Oh fuck.

She snatches the flowers out of my hand and hits me with them. Using all the force she can muster, she brings them down on my head over and over again, she says through gritted teeth, “You dipshit. I fucking hate you. Fuck you and your flowers!”

And I let her. I fucking deserve it.

You are a dipshit.

When she’s done she throws the naked stalks to the ground by my feet. I open my eyes to see her whole body shake with rage. Her lip quivers, her eyes cold, she sneers, “Glad you’re okay, fuckwad. Now get away from me,” then she slams the door in my face.

Picking bits of flower out of my hair, my shoulders slump and I shake my head.

That did not go as well as I’d hoped.

Time for Plan B.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Shenanigans

I lay in bed fuming. And it’s all because of the ass next door.

I’m so angry that I feel like my head could explode at any second and anger demons will fill my room making little angry demon babies that will sort of be like Gremlins, and I’ll have to follow the same rules.

Do not expose the angry demon babies to light.

Do not get the angry demon babies wet.

And most importantly, do not feed the angry demon babies after midnight, no matter how much they beg.

If my angry demon babies look anything like Gizmo, I’m fucked. There’s no way I’d ever be able to say no to that sweet little face.

What the hell are you talking about?

Ugh. I have no idea.

I’m so tired, but I’m having trouble sleeping knowing that asshat is next door, so I’ve become delirious.

I have so many words of abuse I want to yell at him. Is that something I can do? Just go over there and abuse him at random intervals during the night then come back to bed?

It’s better than crying, that’s for sure.

Can you believe him? Coming over here with flowers after the whole sorry I dumped you and tried to choke you to prove a point then went missing for four days but I’m back now thing.

What an ass!

I regret ruining the flowers. They actually looked really nice. It was an unusual bunch though. I should’ve taken them and given them to someone who could’ve used a boost of happiness in their day.

My heart races in anxiety and tears blur my eyes.

He’s okay. You’ve seen him. He’s fine.

Yeah, but there was a huge chance that he wasn’t okay. That he could’ve become a statistic.

I’m so fucking pissed at him! The truth is I was so scared, and once I saw him and relief settled through me, I realized just how fucking idiotic he’d been. No calls, no messages, nothing. I know I told him I hate him, but I don’t. I’m angry at myself for still loving him. I was always told you can’t help who you love, and now is one of those times I really wish you could. Maybe if I tell myself I hate him enough, it’ll actually happen.

Good plan.

Rolling my eyes at myself, I concede, muttering, “Yeah, yeah. I know. I suck.”

My eyes become heavy and I rest my head on the pillow.

My final thought before I doze off is, I hope he’s okay.

***

My eyes flutter open and I smile.

This is a good dream.

I stretch my body in bed and my hand comes into contact with something above the covers. Eyes widening in shock, I feel around on my bed and come into contact with more cool things. Sitting up, I gasp in stunned disbelief and cover my mouth with both hands.

No way.

No fucking way.

My bed is covered in flowers. When I say covered, I mean covered. Not a single inch of my quilt shows. White tulips and a shitload of lilac-colored irises blanket my bed. The same flowers in the bunch I used to mess up Ash with.

Not moving at all, my eyes do a sweep of my bed and a single bark of laughter breaks out of me.

Okay. So this is actually a nice way to wake up.

Shaking my head in doubt, I flip my covers over, step onto the floor only to come into contact with more flowers. I look down and the entire floor is covered with flowers.

Is this for real?

Chuckling to myself, I’ll admit it. My interest is piqued. And I’d bet good money that Ash knew my curiosity would get the better of me.

Just how many flowers did the ass buy?

I step onto my carpet of flowers and follow it down that hall, laughing all the way. When I get to my lounge room and kitchen, I gasp and step back in shock. I lift a shaking hand to my heaving chest and try not to cry.

Flowers are everywhere! My house has been turned into a flora wonderland.

White, red, orange, pink and yellow tulips cloak the kitchen. Pink, purple and white irises make a home in my lounge room. The floor is covered with every type of flower imaginable. Roses of peach, pink and red. Gerberas of white, orange and yellow. Carnations of blushing pink, yellow and white. Daisies, sunflowers, orchids, hyacinth, baby’s breath, princess lilies, violets and frangipanis.

And that’s only the ones I can name.

They’re everywhere, and I’m overwhelmed by the sight and smell.

Tears blur my vision as I step into the kitchen. A single white tulip sits in a long stemmed vase. There’s a note attached. I pluck it off and read.

White tulips symbolize forgiveness. Forgive me, pretty girl.

My emotions are chaotic right now. I don’t know what to do. I place the note down and open the pantry to get my box of rice puffs. I take a bowl, a spoon and the milk and set it all down on the counter.

I open the box of cereal and begin to pour…and I burst into laughter.

White tulips fill my bowl.

Clever, ass. Very clever.

Who knew Ash was good at shenanigans?

I’m not blind. I see the effort he went to. He must’ve been here all night, quiet as a mouse to do this. I smile at the thought of him running around in socks, arranging flowers. He must be exhausted.

Fuck him.

The memory of the heartbreak he caused me comes flooding back.

Yeah. Fuck him.

I tip out my bowl of tulips onto the counter to join their flower friends and move to the sofa. A single stem of lilac iris sits in an identical vase to the one the white tulip was in. There’s a note attached to this one too. I pull it off and read.

Lilac Irises symbolize first love. Still love me, baby?

I do. I really do. But I’m fucking pissed as hell too.

The shithead. He deserves the silent treatment for at least a month. Maybe two. Depending on how generous I feel. I drop the note on the table and rest my head back on the sofa when I hear a knock at the front door.

My stomach twists.

What if it’s him?

Creeping over to the door, I stand to the side of it hiding out like the coward I am and ask, “Who is it?”

A deep male voice says, “Delivery, ma’am.”

Skeptical, my eyes narrow and I enquire, “From where?”

The man immediately returns, “I don’t know, ma’am. I’m just a courier. You want it, or you want me to have it returned to sender?”

My parents should’ve called me Cat because I’m seriously itching to know who this parcel is from. Curiosity is a shitty thing sometimes.

I crack the door open an inch and peek at the older gentleman. I look down to the brown paper wrapped package in his hand and nod towards the electronic signing device. He hands it through the small crack and I sign. We exchange items and I shut the door.

The item is the size of a notebook and no fatter than one. I’m so nervous about what it could be, I leave it and decide to get ready for work.

After showering, I apply some light make up. I dress in white high-waisted linen pants, a long sleeved white shirt which I unbutton to reveal a good amount of my decent bosom, and a thick black belt which comes just under my boobs. Not knowing what to do with my hair, I tie it in a high ponytail.

When someone knocks at the front door a second time, I’m so immersed in getting ready for work that I don’t even check who it is before I fling it open.

And there he is.

Looking hotter than hell in a pair of black slacks, a white fitted shirt which he’s rolled up the elbows, making his arms look sinfully delicious, his regular belt complete with gleaming silver belt buckle and polished black dress shoes. I’m stunned into silence.

I’ve never seen Asher dressed like this before, and my panties are suddenly damp. He looks classy as fuck.

Shifting from foot to foot, he looks nervous as hell. Not wanting him to know I feel very much the same way, I do what I do best.

Be a bitch.

I say, “Something I can help you with, Ghost?”

Not answering my question, he asks, “Did you like the flowers, girl?”

Rolling my eyes to stop myself from crying, I turn my back on him and answer with a sweep of my hand across my flower themed apartment, “Who wouldn’t?”

He walks into my place and states, “You got the notes.”

I reply with a simple nod of my head. He nods solemnly and says, “I have to tell you a story.”

Not this again.

Shaking my head, I state loudly, “No. I don’t want another story. I just want to move on.”

He walks closer to me and utters, “You don’t like this story, babe, I’ll leave you alone and never bother you again.”

Even though my heart breaks with that statement, I really want to hear what he has to say. And I desperately hope I like it. I dip my head in a single nod for him to continue.

He moves over to the kitchen counter and starts, “One day I met this girl.” Playing with the flowers on the counter, he looks up at me and says, “You know the first part of this story so I’m going to skip ahead, past the bullshit and get to what you need to hear, okay?”

Suddenly feeling vulnerable, I hold myself, rubbing my hands up and down my arms. I nod once again and he goes on, “So this girl was my obsession. I don’t know how she did it but she was on my mind all the time. So after we agreed that we’d be bed buddies, I thought I had it all. The freedom and the girl all at once. Sometime after we started fucking, I realized that even though I felt I had it all, I was missing something. Some deep feelings started to come through and I panicked. I panicked so hard that I did something stupid and I put my hands on this girl, hoping to scare her away from me. But it didn’t work.”

Reaching for the white tulip in the vase, he takes hold of it, brings it to me and places it in my hand. He uses his other hand to wrap my fingers around it and goes on, “So I go away for a while to find myself. And it was a fucking shitty thing to do, but for the first time in my life I was confused about what I was feeling for a woman. I tried to sabotage our relationship, but fuck me, she’s stronger than I thought. She wouldn’t run from me even when I was being a monster.”

Ash walks into the lounge room to pick up the single lilac Iris stem. He walks back over to me, hands me the lilac iris and chuckles, “You know, I think I’ve known for some time now that I love that girl.” I gasp but he ignores me. “I just never felt something like that before, and it scared the shit out of me. See, pretty girl, I’d do anything for that woman. Anything at all. If she asked me to buy her diamonds, I would. If she asked me to be a better man, I’d try with everything I am. If she asked me to stop seeing all that’s negative in my life, I’d remember that she’s my positive.”

He speaks as he walks over to me. “I always thought it was me. That I was the problem when it came to me meeting women but it wasn’t. It was them.”

Taking both flowers out of my hand, he says quietly, “See, babe, they weren’t you.”

My lip quivers and I close my eyes to stop the tears from falling.

He whispers, “Wait here. Got something else for you.”

I hear him walk away from me, down the hall and into my room. He walks back to me and places something in my hands. I open my wet eyes and stare down at the large, beautiful Casablanca lily that sits in my palms. He says, “This one means celebration.”

I whisper hoarsely, “What are we celebrating?”

My heart skips a beat and I almost faint in shock when he falls to one knee before me. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a blue velvet ring box. I cover my mouth and burst into tears. He opens the box and the most beautiful antique white gold, diamond and emerald ring sits there. With a grin, he announces, “We’re getting married, baby.”

***

Eight hours later…

“Do you take this sassy lady,” Elvis reads the piece of paper in his hand before continuing, “Natalie Kovac, to be your lawful wedded wife, my man?”

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***