“Let me see the lyrics.”

He handed me the paper and my eyes darted back and forth. Randy was a brilliant musician and storyteller, so I had no doubt the lyrics would be good. Yet these were better than good. These were mind-blowing.

Silent whispers of darkened souls.

My human side is now uncontrolled.

I see colors that make no sense,

But in your eyes, I know the truth exists.

Kidnapped, deranged, untamed.

Come back to me. Take my hand.

Dance. Dance to forbidden lands.

“I wanted something a bit darker. A bit grittier. Shakespeare had all kinds of sides, ya know?”

“Pass me the guitar,” I said. My fingers started strumming the guitar, feeling the strings move between my fingertips. I closed my eyes as I played, and like always, there Ashlyn was. The music only brought her closer to me, the sounds bringing my imagination to life.

I couldn’t let Jace ruin her life. And I couldn’t let her think that I didn’t care either. But what could I do?

Chapter 23

Air is thick.

My mind is fogged.

Tell me we’re not about to lose it all.

~ Romeo’s Quest

The next few days of school were tough. I was stuck in a clouded, jaded mood. I’d hardly had any sleep because when I wasn’t thinking about Ashlyn, I was worrying about Jace. He could hurt someone. He could hurt himself. He could hurt my students. He could hurt Ashlyn.

After class with Ashlyn never looking up from her desk, I knew I should talk to her. Try to explain the situation. Right before lunch, I saw her walking with that Jake kid. He had been by her side each and every day, trying to ease his way into her heart. Trying to steal my placement. He didn’t have to try too hard though. I was merely handing it to him. I wasn’t even fighting for her…

She looked my way for a split second before she turned back to him and laughed loudly. Her hand landed on his chest, and he smirked wide. The way she flipped her hair over her shoulder and giggled for him made me sick. The way he moved in close and amused her made me pissed.

He was flirting with her, and she was flirting back.

But I knew her.

She was only flirting to make me jealous.

It was working.

Even though it was only to piss me off, I knew she liked the idea of it. Touching in public. Something I couldn’t give her. What kind of man couldn’t give his woman the love she longed for, she needed?

My fists balled up and I stepped forward, rage filling my body. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to do something. I couldn’t just give her up, let him have her. She might not have been mine. She might have rejected the idea of us ever being us after I’d f**ked up and ignored her in some weird attempt to protect her, but…

I was hers.

Every part of me.

Every inch of my being belonged to Ashlyn Jennings.

And every time she laughed at something Jake said, every time she touched his arm and not mine, a part of me faded away. A part of me vanished.

“Ashlyn!” I called after her. She looked at me as if I were crazy, narrowing her eyes. “Can I speak to you about your paper?”

She told Jake that she would see him in class and came over to me. “What is it?”

I led her into my classroom and closed the door behind me. My fists remained and I leaned in a bit, whispering, “Why are you all over him like that?”

She crossed her arms. “None of your business,” she remarked, attitude in her tone.

I growled, running my hands through my hair. “You’re doing it to make me jealous.”

“I’m not doing anything,” she said with a sly smirk, loving the fact that she was getting under my skin.

“Yes you—” I took a breath. I lowered my voice. “Ashlyn… Now is not the time to start acting your age.”

“Are you calling me childish? Me?! The only one who seems to know that communication makes things work?” Her eyes widened at my comment and she parted her lips. “Fuck you, Mr. Daniels.”

My hands landed on her shoulders, my eyes pleading for just a moment for us to be us. “Ashlyn, it’s me. Daniel. I’m still me.”

I saw her eyes soften. She looked to the ground, and when she looked up, she was on the edge of tears. “I miss you.”

Without thinking, I crashed my mouth against hers, wrapping my hand around her neck. She kissed me back, slamming her hands against my chest. I lifted her up and pinned her against my storage closet. My hands cupped her br**sts through her shirt and I heard a moan escape from her and into my mouth as I circled my thumbs over her hardened ni**les. My hand wrapped against the edge of her shirt and I slid it up as she dug her fingers into my back, pushing her hips against mine.

I stopped myself when there was a pounding on my classroom door. Without thinking, I opened my storage closet and shoved Ashlyn into it.

My door opened and I saw Henry peeking his head inside. He was smiling my way. My heart landed in my throat. Had he seen me shove his daughter?

Holy shit, I shoved Ashlyn into a closet.

“Hey, Dan.”

I gave him a strained smile. “Henry, how are you?”

“Good, good. I was just wondering… Can I see you in my office real fast? About Ashlyn?”

About Ashlyn. Those words echoed in my head. The accelerated beat of my thoughts was terrifying. Everything in my body tightened. He knows. I wondered if Jace had told him, if he had really stooped to that level. Clearing my throat, I spoke. “I’m on lunch duty.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “It will be fast.” A loud noise was heard from the closet and Henry raised an eyebrow. “Did you hear that?”