Well... here we are. The LAST chapter! I promised you guys an ending, didn't I? And in true ManicFanFic fashion, for the last time, SORRY for the delay! LOL you know if it took me this long, it has to be good, right? At least I hope you'll agree. It needed to be perfect (though you'll probably come across typos because i'm tiiiired... I'll edit later). So... thank you for bearing with me... and for coming this far!
Thank you to Maira for helping me name this chapter! To all my friends out there who read/edited/and gave ideas! And definitely a HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL YOU READERS/REVIEWERS for sticking it through to the end. You are the sole reason I kept writing into the wee hours and early mornings! I LOVE YOU ALL! YOU ROCK! :D
After this, I will be setting up a Beta account in case any of you like my style and are interested in having me Beta read your stuff. This won't be the last fic I write... so stay tuned! As for a sequel to Delta One? Hmm, it's not certain, but it can definitely be a possibility.
And without further ado... Chapter 31, dedicated to Bratfairy and Livinginthemoment ;) Enjoy! 11.17.08
Disclaimer: I don't own South of Nowhere or the characters.
Ashley leaned back, sandwiching her hands between her backside and the door. She stared at the floor, with no intention of leaving. Yet, she was afraid to even move. The brunette was well aware that she was treading on thin ice, not knowing what thoughts were running through the blonde's fickle mind. Ashley was afraid to look into those pristine blue eyes as she kicked herself for not thinking ahead about what she was going to say or do. She felt exposed, having no idea what her own intentions were. All she knew was she didn't want to be anywhere else.
"Can you… stay here with me?" Spencer encouraged the brunette, whose eyes have finally lifted off the floor with considerable effort. Ashley realized quite some time had passed while she was wrapped up in her own thoughts, as she now noticed the blonde had made it all the way across the room to sit at the edge of the bed. "What are you thinking about?" Spencer asked inquisitively, subtly patting the space beside her in an attempt to signal the brunette over.
"I'm not thinking about anything." Ashley strutted forward fearlessly. She finally exhaled after seemingly holding her breath for so long, as she sat next to the blonde. The brunette knew putting anything into words at this point would be completely futile. Her brown eyes slowly panned to those exhausted blue orbs, and again, she cursed herself for being the one to have worn them so dry.
"Honestly?" Spencer's whisper broke the lingering silence. The brunette could sense the desperation in her tone.
"Honestly… all I can think about is how much I've missed you." Ashley continued to stare into those compassionate eyes, returning the desperation as she silently begged for a response in what seemed like another moment of forever. Spencer sighed in relief as she combed her golden locks over her head. She leaned over and kissed the brunette's shoulder before lying down behind her. Ashley could feel the heat from her lips, even after they were no longer in contact with her delicate skin. Her head still remained cocked to the side, staring out towards the patio as she watched the blonde from her peripheral.
"Tired?" Spencer's fingers brushed over the sheets before draping over Ashley's hand and wrapping around her wrist. The brunette felt subtle tingles surge from her hand and up her arms, giving her heart another burst of adrenaline. She was content, knowing Spencer's touch would be her only sense of life support after years of feeling half alive.
"Yeah." Ashley turned and lifted the sheets as they both wiggled their way underneath. The brunette frowned slightly, realizing Spencer had let go of her hand. She laid her head back into the crevice of the pillow and stared at the ceiling. From the corner of her eye, she could see the blonde's calmed eyes were fixated on her. "Are you tired?" Ashley turned to face her.
"I don't want to sleep."
"Because I am a little hung over and I might be delusional in thinking you're really here." Spencer joked as she nudged the side of her face against her hand. "So I'm hoping to prove myself wrong once the buzz wears off." They both snickered.
"You're so silly, Spence." Ashley grinned, reaching for the touch she had longed for as she intertwined her fingers with Spencer's. The heat between their hands quickly reached equilibrium as both felt the tension pulling at their heartstrings. "Come here." The brunette whispered, gently tugging her closer. She placed her forehead against Spencer's, gazing at those taunting lips before running her hand against the blonde's cheek and over the nape of her neck. "I'm right here, Spencer." Ashley slowly whispered, her breath falling on those rested lips. Spencer's eyes slightly rolled back as she fell into a trance, just hearing the brunette exhale her name. She rolled forward and nuzzled her head into Ashley's neck, throwing her arm over and embracing her tightly.
"I know." Spencer mumbled, running her fingers up and down the brunette's spine. "I'm so glad you're here." She pressed the side of her head in, listening to Ashley's quickening heartbeat amongst the constant flow of air rushing in and out of her chest. The brunette kissed the top of Spencer's head and shut her eyes, submerged in comfort and gradually falling asleep like an infant with a bottle of warm milk. In turn, the sound of Ashley's heartbeat lulled the blonde into submission. Her tensed muscles gave way to relaxation and her breathing slowed to soft sighs. It was a much needed, genuine moment between them. Together, they had found the peace and comfort they had desired after such a long hard fight with everything, everyone, and each other.
Just a few hours passed thereafter, and the calming light of dawn signaled that of a new day. The sun, slightly encroaching into the once dark-hued sky, quietly peeked behind a row of clouds. An array of vibrant colors took on the sky's canvas, leaking out from the bright source of the sun. The Mediterranean waters shimmered in a bluish lavender shade just below the hovering clouds, as a soft orange layer sat at sun level and bled out into a clear blue stratum just above. Fishermen at the docks below prepared for a promising day as they gathered fish nets and baskets into their swaying boats. The marketplace remained quiet while storeowners swept their floors and prepared for early shipments of produce and goods. It was a very quaint and subtle atmosphere.
Spencer gradually broke out of sleep and squinted at the sunrise sitting east of the horizon outside the patio windows. She unfolded her limbs and stretched towards the polar ends of the bed, taking a relieving breath of fresh air and smiling at the comfort of a good night's rest that she had wanted for so long. The blonde slowly turned around to caress her lover, but only found the other side of the bed empty.
"Ash?" Spencer looked around the room for clues as to the whereabouts of a certain brunette. She sat up and pushed herself out of the comfort of the plush sheets before lightly stepping across the cold concrete towards the bedroom door, which was left a smidge opened. The blonde then tiptoed a few steps to the bathroom, finding a preoccupied brunette wide-awake. Ashley was bent over the porcelain, scrubbing away at the tiles with her neon yellow dishwashing gloves on. She had her iPod on full blast, oblivious to the observant blonde leaning against the doorframe.
"Spencer." Lucas called halfway up the staircase, signaling her over. The blonde's eyes inquisitively panned over to meet his glance before she inched her way over quietly, careful not to disturb the brunette. "Is Ashley awake?" He whispered, stretching his neck over in a failed attempt to peek into the bathroom.
"Yeah," Spencer casually crossed her arms, "but I doubt she knows we're up. She's got her headphones on." She stepped down to almost meet Lucas at eye level. "Why? What's up?"
"That realtor you hired is here." He blurted.
"Oh, gosh!" The blonde briefly covered her shocked expression. "I totally forgot about that." Spencer squeezed her way around Lucas and quickly ran down the steps, flailing her arms about in slight panic. "Ashley would kill me!" She opened the front door and walked into the atrium, attempting to compose herself as she noticed the realtor inspecting the patio and the location of the house. He was a tall, dark middle-aged man with short black hair, soft briefcase in hand. He suddenly turned and noticed the approaching blonde, as he brushed his red-striped tie down from the steady wind.
"You are Miss Carlin?" He had a tinge of the local accent.
"Yes," Spencer greeted him with a firm handshake. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Andreou."
"Please," he laid the briefcase on one of the patio tables and took out a clipboard of forms, "call me Isaak."
"I-I want to thank you for taking the time to meet with me on such short notice, and for the trouble of coming all the way out here from your office in Athens."
"It was no trouble at all." Isaak smirked. "In fact, we've had our eye on this place for quite some time. This location is prime. We are just so lucky that you've chosen to work with us." He began to fill in a few lines on the form.
"Well," she rubbed the back of her neck, uncertain how she was going to break the news, "your company was the first one listed when I googled a realtor in the area." Spencer dodged the subject.
"Thank goodness for technology then." He smiled, briefly glancing over the property as his pen flew across the page. "May I come in?" Isaak stepped towards the door.
"Uh," the blonde immediately backed against it and held the knob tightly, "actually, I gave a lot of thought about it and I… don't think I want to proceed with selling this property."
"Really?" His eyebrows furrowed. "Why the sudden change of heart?"
"I just realized… you are absolutely right!" Spencer shrugged. "This place is an ideal location with a breath-taking view."
"Of course!" Isaak took a step back and crossed his arms over the clipboard. "I have a ton of listing agents who've guaranteed me rates to die for. I can assure you, Miss Carlin, that you'd walked away with at least 150 percent the property value that it is today."
"I understand." She smiled politely. "But I've come to my senses. I don't want to sell."
"Come to your senses?" He smirked. "I believe your decision is a bit rash. You seemed very certain about selling this place when I spoke with you on the phone."
"I know I was very adamant about my disinterest in this property, Mr. Andreou. But come to think of it, my decision to sell was much more rash. I had made the decision before I even had the opportunity to see this house." Spencer crossed her arms as Isaak looked down at his clipboard and flipped through the pages.
"I did my research on this property and reviewed the paperwork from escrow. The property belongs to a… Rita Swackhammer." He looked up as the blonde wrinkled her eyebrows in confusion.
"There must be some mis—"
"And if your name is not on the title, you have no legal jurisdiction of this property." Isaak crossed his arms once more. "I'd like to speak with Miss Swackhammer. Is she here?"
"I really don't know what—"
"Miss Swackhammer is not here." Lucas squeezed his way out from behind the front door where he was eavesdropping. "But I think I might be able to help you."
"And you are?"
"Lucas LeFevre." He greeted Isaak with a firm handshake while Spencer stepped aside as a confused spectator. "Mr. Andreou, if you look at your paperwork again, you will see my name listed as the co-owner of this property." The bewildered expression on the blonde's face gradually faded as Isaak flipped the pages again and intently read the escrow paperwork.
"Oh," he chuckled sheepishly, "I must've overlooked that information."
"Mmhmm." Lucas remained unconvinced. "Funny how that happens."
"Yes," Isaak flipped to the first page, "so Mr. LeFevre—"
"No, I am not interested in selling this property." He turned his nose up and crossed his arms. "Take this property off your listing, please. Your service is no longer required."
"I see." Isaak scratched his head in defeat. "Is that your final decision?"
"It is." Lucas remained unmoved.
"Then I will need you to sign some papers to that effect."
"Gladly." He followed Isaak to the briefcase on the patio table before Isaak handed him a piece of paper and pen. Spencer slowly approached the two and peeked at the content of the letter. Lucas carefully read it and after a few minutes, signed the bottom portion of the page. "There you go."
"Thank you Mr. Lefevre, Miss Carlin." Isaak quickly grabbed his materials and quietly stormed out the front gate.
"Bye now." Lucas smirked as Spencer grinned.
"Thank goodness!" She sighed in relief as she hugged him tightly. "I had no idea your name was on the title."
"Ash and I co-signed, in case something happened to her." He noticed the puzzled look on her face as she let go.
"Who's Rita Swackhammer?" They turned towards the house as Lucas laughed.
"Oh." They burst into laughter together.
"Remi picked it out."
"Hmm," the blonde continued to giggle, "even though I don't know Remi as much as I'd like to, I can tell she has a great sense of humor." Lucas shut the door behind them and proceeded to the kitchen as Spencer leaned over the countertop. "Luke?"
"Yeah?" He peeked his head up from the refrigerator.
"Thanks so much for everything. You have no idea how grateful Ashley and I are."
"Pshh," Lucas shrugged, "anytime! I know you'd do the same for me if I were stuck in a heinous rut."
"Yeah." She smiled.
"Say," he shut the refrigerator door and opened a bottle of water, "do you think Ashley's still up there, rocking out on her air guitar?"
"Totally forgot!" Spencer lowered her voice. "Let's… just forget about that whole realtor ordeal. Keep that between us." She got up and tiptoed her way up the spiral staircase. Spencer inched her way to the bathroom door and noticed the brunette was still where she left her. Ashley hummed to the music blasting in her earphones as she continued scrubbing away. When she turned to wash the cleaning brush in the sink, she jumped slightly as she finally noticed Spencer staring at her.
"Holy sh—" she yelped before removing one of the earphones, "why do you always manage to sneak up on me like that?" The brunette caught her breath as she removed her gloves and paused her music. She shortly realized the blonde wasn't going to remark, as she stood there so coyly. "Did you sleep well?" Ashley brushed her bangs off to the side. There was still no response as she continued to stare into those penetrating blue eyes. "What is it?" She sounded slightly concerned.
"Nothing. It's just… nice to wake up for once, knowing you're still alive." She mumbled. "But why aren't you ever there when I wake up?" Spencer somewhat pouted, crossing her arms.
"I didn't want to wake you," she proceeded to wrap the earphone wires around the iPod, "but I had to clean up in here before any one of us decides to use the shower." Ashley walked towards the small space available between Spencer and the doorframe. "I don't think Lucas would've fancied stepping in vomit." She smirked.
"Sorry about that." The blonde replied, still feeling slightly guarded.
"It's no problem." Ashley attempted to squeeze her way out, only to find that small space now barricaded by Spencer's arm. She looked up to those blue eyes once more, finding herself within inches from those tantalizing lips. The brunette was taken back the second she felt those lips subtly pressed against her own. She could feel the heat resonate from her lips down throughout her body, weakening her stance at the knees. Spencer pulled away and dropped her arm, bashfully stepping aside and glancing at the floor. Ashley paused with a sly smirk on her face, realizing that actions do speak louder than words. She waited for the blonde to look into her eyes, and finally got her attention when she placed her hands over the hips of her plaid boxers. Spencer briefly made eye contact before Ashley stepped forward, pressing her up against the doorframe. The brunette leaned in and slowly fused their lips together, savoring the sensation that seemed to tingle and reverberate throughout her body. Spencer gratefully reciprocated, wrapping her arms around the brunette's shoulders and pulling her in closer to the point where they were nearly stepping on each other's feet.
Ashley was unsure whether she should follow her natural urges of moving this into the bedroom. But she was completely complacent standing where she was, fully embracing the feeling of love, especially since she was still the recipient of mixed signals. The brunette decided it'd be best to follow Spencer's actions, knowing all too well that consciously attempting to put thoughts and emotions into words would never suffice to their true meanings. However, the blonde never ceased to surprise her. Ashley raised her eyebrows, following Spencer as she pulled back into the hallway. The brunette wrapped her arms around her, determined not to part from her lips. She grinned into Spencer's lips when they nearly stumbled over each other, continuing to shuffle towards the bedroom. The kiss passionately intensified as the blonde found herself backed up against the wall in the hallway. She pivoted around for leverage, now stepping into Ashley and backing her up forcefully. The bedroom door violently swung open, banging against the wall as Spencer jostled forward onto the bed. The brunette found herself on her backside subtly moaning as her grip on Spencer did not seem to loosen one bit. She rolled the blonde over and ached in the moment their lips parted.
"Hold on." Ashley exhaled in a husky voice. She immediately pushed herself up off the bed and momentarily caught her breath before quietly shutting the door. The second she turned around, Ashley unexpectedly found herself within Spencer's grasp once again. The brunette nearly jumped a second time, but was immediately stunned into submission by yet another heart-melting kiss. "You are just…" Ashley whispered in those quick moments between kisses, "so full of surprises." She was completely heated by Spencer's ability to take charge, always managing to get Ashley up against the wall.
"You took too long," the blonde exhaled before stepping back and pulling Ashley with her. Ashley tamed her ravishing urges, slowing down her kisses to raw sensuality as she guided Spencer to sit at the edge of the bed. The brunette squeezed herself between Spencer's knees, bending over slightly to lift the hem of her lavender top. The blonde stretched her arms upward as Ashley smiled and slowly lifted the camisole from underneath those relaxed locks of hair, exposing her nude-colored bra and golden tan. She caught herself staring at Spencer's subtle beauty as she felt her heart beat with fervor. The blonde looked up into those brown eyes and admired the genuine emotion gleaming from them. She hugged Ashley closer as the brunette ran her hands up the nape of her neck and lost her fingers in that forest of blonde hair. Ashley closed her eyes before hovering over the blonde's mouth, slightly exhaling before their lips grazed against one another in very light touches. Spencer ran her hands up to the brunette's shoulder blades as Ashley lifted one knee onto the mattress and began to descend on top. Time seemed to slow down even more, before their lips crashed together, pushing Spencer's backside further into the mattress. Temperatures rose and their breathing hastened sporadically while the blonde reached for the hem of Ashley's white tank top. She quickly lifted it above her head before Ashley detained her arms, holding Spencer's wrists against the bed sheets. The brunette straddled her hips and hungrily ran her moist tongue over the blonde's collarbone and around the base of her neck. Spencer struggled to let her hands free, unable to bear the teasing much longer. She pulled Ashley down on top of her and gently nibbled on her bottom lip, running her hand over the brunette's laced bra and down her toned abdomen. Then, a sudden knock at the door caused the both of them to cringe in frustration.
"Ash?" Lucas knocked again.
"Unbelievable." Ashley grumbled, her head buried in Spencer's neck. She sat up, straddling the blonde as she looked over her shoulder. "Go away!"
"It's important." His voice resonated from behind the door. The brunette sighed, pushing herself up off the bed and angrily marching towards the door.
"What part of 'go away' do you not understand?" Ashley yanked the door open.
"Whoa!" Lucas threw his glances towards the wall, catching a glimpse of the brunette's black-laced bra. "Ash, I'm… sorry." He continued to look away as Spencer sat up and crossed her arms over her exposed body.
"Damn right you are!" Ashley barked back.
"There's something I need to show you."
"Are we in any immediate danger?"
"Is the world ending?"
"No." He scoffed.
"Then it can wait!" Ashley annunciated before slamming the door. She turned to find Spencer sitting up from underneath the bed sheets. The brunette walked across and sat at the edge of the bed, her body turned slightly to face Spencer. They sat so close together to where they could feel each other's warmth even before their fingers slowly intertwined. Ashley cradled Spencer's hand in her lap, staring intently as her hands wrapped around the blonde's. She smiled to herself as if she was keeping in a secret. Spencer, carefully observing the brunette, wondered what she was thinking about at that moment.
"What?" The blonde smirked, wanting in on Ashley's thoughts. She brushed those loose locks behind Ashley's ear as those poignant brown eyes finally met her own.
"I… can't believe you picked me." The brunette barely whispered in all sincerity. "With everything you've done for yourself, on your own… your career, your life… and you picked me."
"How could I not?" Spencer gently squeezed Ashley's hand. "All of that doesn't mean anything if I don't have you in my life." The brunette smiled. "Plus, you died for me. It's the least I could do." Spencer joked.
"Nothing can stop me from wanting you, Spence." She boldly gazed into those calming eyes. "Even if you thought I was dead, I hope you knew I'd always come for you."
"I think I did," the blonde pondered. "Deep down inside, I believed you'd always be there."
"Sorry if I've ruined our little moment with words—" Ashley mumbled as Spencer immediately shook her head in disagreement.
"I love you." The blonde blurted. Ashley grinned, leaning in closer. She rested her other hand on the blonde's shoulder, softly pressing further into a tender kiss. Her lips grazed Spencer's cheek and collapsed onto her shoulder as she pulled the blonde in for a tight embrace.
"I love you, too." She closed her eyes, taking in the scent of those golden locks as her chest slowly rose and fell against Spencer's. The blonde folded her hands behind Ashley's lower back before running her fingers up her spine. Spencer drowned in this moment of feeling fully alive, with all her senses heightened and attuned to the one other person in the room besides herself. It was a surreal moment, one which she refused to let go of as she tightened her grip. The blonde pursed her lips against Ashley's shoulder, spreading the warmth of her lips with each gentle kiss. Her fingers slipped underneath the strap of the bra, pulling the material off the brunette's shoulder as she replaced it with several moist kisses. Ashley turned her head and leaned in, grazing her lips over the crossroads of Spencer's jawline and neck. She ran her lips up further, teasing the blonde's earlobe with a flick of her tongue before gently nibbling it. The brunette then quietly exhaled into her ear with a hint of fervor.
It took several seconds for Ashley to realize she was on her back again, with the blonde straddling her this time. How it happened was beyond her. But she wasn't about to waste thoughts on such trivial pursuits. She wanted to live in the now, even if she could not comprehend these overwhelming feelings. She just let her senses get the best of her, succumbing to tasteful kiss after tasteful kiss, heated touch and the absolute loss of inhibition. Ashley knew there was no point in telling her hands what they could and couldn't do. It was as if they had a mind of their own, running over flesh and feeling out with sheer passion.
Spencer pulled back as she propped herself up with her palms pressed into the mattress at Ashley's sides. They locked eyes as the brunette proceeded to unhook her bra. Ashley did so very slowly and sensually, blushing as her eyes remained glued to Spencer's. The blonde's breath fell gently while she slipped her arms from under the straps. Ashley bit down on her own bottom lip, trying to contain herself as she continued to stare into those intense blue eyes. She quickly sat up and rolled Spencer onto her back, gripping the waistband of her boxers and slowly pulling them off. The brunette tossed the clothing aside and dove on top, refusing to expose her delicacy to an invisible audience. She fit their lips together, the way two pieces of a puzzle perfectly connect.
Spencer's arms extended around and unclasped the black-laced bra before she cupped the brunette's perked breasts. Ashley sighed and groaned passionately, her lips caving around the blonde's tongue as she pushed her hand down Spencer's side. Her fingers brushed against Spencer's hips and ran down further, pulling the blonde's knee over her own. Ashley's fingers found their way across such hot folds, eliciting moans from the depths of the blonde's throat. It was like sweet harmony to Ashley's ears, which she refused to muffle with her own mouth. She beckoned for more, nibbling on Spencer's ear as she slipped her fingers in further.
The blonde curled her fingers against Ashley's back, uncontrollably exhaling against those brown locks. She ran the opposite hand down over Ashley's fast-beating heart, her abdomen, and to her white shorts, palm faced upward as she pushed her hand underneath the material. Spencer's fingers quickly slipped into Ashley's warmth as her hand progressed further. At that point, the brunette knew it was completely over; Ashley's body shot into overdrive as she cascaded into euphoria, losing any sense of rational thought. She buried her face into Spencer's neck, loudly sighing across the blonde's chest. Spencer cringed in delight, her walls squeezing down on Ashley's fingers as she continued to thrust the brunette with her own.
Ashley's shorts gradually slid down a few inches as she rode the blonde's fingers harder. Beads of sweat trailed from her brow down to her neck, some dripping onto Spencer's shoulder. She drowned herself in every piece of Spencer, her ears deaf to her own voice irrepressibly calling out the blonde's name. Ashley's body suddenly jolted to a crippling, yet pleasurable sensation resonating from deep within. She winced in ecstasy, thrusting her fingers faster to get Spencer caught up. The blonde threw her head back further into the pillow as she panted in submission. Her back muscles tightened, slightly raising her back off the bed while her body twitched. Spencer moaned and exhaled from her gaping mouth, her nails scraping across the brunette's back. Ashley braced the minor pain, finding complete satisfaction in pleasing her lover. She looked up and kissed the tip of Spencer's chin as they both breathed in exhaustion. Ashley raised herself up and hovered over the blonde, briefly resting their foreheads together as she closed her eyes. She breathed Spencer in and slowly pressed their lips together once more before rolling over onto her back. The blonde nestled up against Ashley's side, momentarily catching her breath while throwing bed sheets across their bodies.
"Mmmm." Spencer sighed, closing her eyes and letting a smile spread across her face.
"That good, huh?" Ashley wrapped her arms around and kissed the top of the blonde's head.
"It was… perfection." She smirked as her legs draped over the brunette's. Ashley ran her hand down the length of Spencer's arms, slowly entwining their fingers. She looked down at the blonde's fingers, full of warmth as they came to a rest between the grooves of her hands. Ashley repositioned her hand, softly stroking Spencer's knuckles with her thumb. She let go to brush some stray locks from a perfect view of that serene face. The brunette smiled, running her hair behind her ear and gazing at the eyes that remained shut. She waited in anticipation to see those blue orbs, much like a child would eagerly await opening presents on Christmas Day. Ashley then pouted, noticing Spencer's soft sighs and relaxed face. She gently nudged the blonde. "Hmm?"
"Spence, wake up." Ashley whispered. Those deep blue eyes briefly gazed at the brunette before shutting once more.
"Hmm, no." She exhaled.
"Wake up." Ashley kissed her forehead. "Make this day last forever."
"Why?" Spencer mumbled. "We have forever and a day to spend together."
"Because… I have a surprise for you."
"Oh yeah?" The blonde briefly rubbed her eyes and climbed over, propping herself over Ashley. "What kind of surprise?" She kissed her lips.
"It's a surprise." Ashley grinned, crinkling her nose. "Okay, I can't keep a secret. It's your new home."
"This isn't it?" Spencer asked inquisitively.
"Well… this is more like a vacation spot."
"Where is it?"
"You'll see." The brunette smiled, brushing her dangling strands behind her shoulders. "But it is going to require a bit of travel time… by boat."
"Let's see it!"
"Okay," Ashley raised herself onto her elbows, savoring another delicious kiss. "Go get ready." She whispered onto Spencer's lips.
"Okay." The blonde grinned as she sat up and wrapped herself in one of the bed sheets. She pranced across the room and into the bathroom in the hallway.
Ashley laid back into the comfort of the sheets, sighing in such relief and realizing that the burden of her battles was over. This was her reward, her trophy, her light at the end of the tunnel. It was everything she had lived and breathed for, and the fight was finally over. As she heard the shower echoing, the brunette thankfully accepted that her life had become exactly what she wanted it to be. She wouldn't have it any other way. Ashley then sat up and wiggled her clothes on, throwing her silky white robe over before making her way downstairs and out into the atrium.
Lucas sat at one of the patio tables with his feet up against the stone wall. He took a calming drag from his cigarette, squinting out into the horizon just below the quickly ascending sun. Ashley shut the door behind her as she entered the atrium, her footsteps echoing against the pavement. Her opened robe flapped in the wind as her bangs swayed against her forehead. She stopped at the table and placed her hands above her head, taking in a deep breath of that salty sea breeze. Lucas turned around, brushing his brown hair behind his ears to get a better look at the emotionless brunette. She simply gawked back at him.
"Here." He reached over for the carton of cigarettes on the table and held it up. "My peace offering." Ashley pulled out a cigarette and shielded it from the oceanic breeze as she lit it. "I'm sorry for disturbing you earlier. I should've known better." The brunette sat down and exhaled a stream of smoke.
"Forgiven." She crossed her legs nonchalantly and pulled the tail of her robe from underneath her legs. Lucas continued to stare at her.
"That must've hurt." He pointed at the very tiny scar just left of the center of her chest. Ashley looked down at it before pulling the collar of her robe together to cover it up.
"Yeah," she took another drag, gazing at the fishing boats dispersed across the deep blue waters below. "But it's a small price to pay to be with the one you love."
"Who would've known Ashley Davies could be such a romantic?" Lucas chuckled.
"In all the years I've known you, you never openly talked about all those mushy gushy, lovey dovey emotions you repressed." He smirked. "You would always put on a front and put your walls up. But for once, Ashley Davies isn't too cool for love."
"Shut up." Ashley shook her head and grinned. The brunette took another drag and pulled her collar aside to look at the scar once more. "It's better than a gunshot wound, that's for sure."
"No matter how bulletproof that Kevlar was, taking a bullet never feels good." Lucas tapped the ashes from his cigarette. "You're lucky ol' Niko's not a suck shot. What if he missed… or shot you in the head?"
"He wasn't even supposed to." She flicked the cigarette between her fingers. "Kale was in on it. He was supposed to shoot me."
"You lucked out."
"Mmhmm." Ashley nodded. "Took a big leap of faith trusting people like the von Kratens."
"Luckily you had Remi's help."
"Yeah," she inhaled from the cigarette, letting smoke dissipate from her lips as she spoke. "That big dumb ape was so in love with Remi, he was willing to do anything for her, even if it meant going to jail." Ashley scoffed.
"And you're no different." He blurted so matter-of-factly.
"Oh, don't even compare me to the likes of Kale." She scrunched her face and leaned into the back of her chair, resting her elbow on the armrest. "I'm nothing like him."
"You're kidding me, right?" Lucas chuckled as Ashley furrowed her eyebrows and shook her head. "You barely made a single glance at Spencer that one night at the Frenzy, and you immediately dropped the company and the millions they were paying you, flew across the US to see her even after you knew she got engaged, got your ass kicked hard by both the Firm and the company, took a bullet to the Kevlar and a catheter to the heart." He took another drag, shaking his head. "When it comes to love, you are everything like Kale. I think he realized that too. Otherwise, he wouldn't have bothered to help you."
"Love makes you do crazy things." She shrugged. "That's the only explanation."
"I always say 'if you're not willing to look stupid, you don't deserve to be in love.'" Lucas placed his feet on the ground and leaned forward, crossing his arms over the table. "That right there was the dumbest shit you've ever pulled in all the years I've known you," he smirked, "but it was the greatest and most unselfish I've ever seen you." Ashley smiled back at him.
"Aww, shucks." She tapped her ashes into the tray. "Are you getting all emo on me, Lucas LeFevre?"
"Me? Emo? No." They briefly shared a moment of laughter before the glimmering sea caught Ashley's glance. She stared at the hovering clouds and took a deep breath, welcoming the appeasing wind and relishing in the tranquility of one simple thought.
"You know," Ashley cleared her throat, "there are only two moments where I feel so certain of myself – when I'm holding a rifle… and when I'm with Spencer." She took one last drag and put the cigarette out. "So when the time came to choose between money or love, it wasn't even a question." It was that simple. Ashley nodded and turned her head, catching Lucas grinning at her. "I hope you memorized that little speech because that's the last time you will ever hear me talk about my lovey dovey emotions."
"Look at you." He continued to grin as he pushed the cigarette butt into the ashtray. "You're all glowing." Lucas then grabbed another cigarette from the carton.
"Shut up." She blurted and watched quietly as he shielded the flame that lit his cigarette. "I'm surprised you came here with Spencer, but grateful nonetheless."
"I finally got two weeks off from work. Might as well." Lucas shrugged. "Besides, I saved Spencer the grief of dragging the ex along." His jaw dropped, realizing the words that have slipped would likely be misconstrued. "I mean—"
"She was going to bring Kennedy with her?" Ashley retorted. "What? For a romantic getaway?"
"No!" He sighed in frustration. "It was strictly business. Trust me."
"Explain?" The brunette crossed her arms.
"Don't hate me because it wasn't my idea." He squinted as he inhaled from the cigarette, "Spencer came here with the sole intent of selling your property. In fact, the realtor came this morning with some papers to sign. But she obviously refused and we quickly took your place off the listing." Lucas braced himself for a spiteful remark.
"Oh." Ashley mumbled. "Well that makes sense."
"You're not angry?" He squeezed the cigarette between his lips as he tied his hair.
"I can't blame her. She thought I was dead." The brunette shrugged. "And even if she did sell this place," Ashley stood up and sat on the stone ledge facing Lucas, "we'd still have the château in Marseille… and the villa in Barcelona."
"You bought more property?" He raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah." She responded so nonchalantly. "What else would I be doing for four months?" Lucas was at a loss for words. "Besides, we have a nice little château to stay at when we pay a visit to your cousins to close that joint account." She tilted her head and briefly looked upward. "Well, I shouldn't call the château 'little,' but you get the point. Wanna check it out?"
"I've got a yacht docked at the end of the cove. It'll take a couple of days to get to Marseille, but at least the château is located right off the water."
"You sure you still have money in that account of yours?"
"I'm just so eager to get my life started." Ashley smiled. "Don't worry." She patted his shoulder. "There's plenty to go around for you and Remi."
"That's a fine idea, Ash." Lucas directed his glances at the ashtray as he flicked his cigarette.
"What's wrong?" She quickly read his look of concern.
"Remember that thing I had to tell you about that was kinda important?" He dug into his pocket and handed her his Blackberry. It showed the webpage of a poetry forum the company used to communicate to its field agents, using cryptic rhymes. Ashley read the lines intently:
The cardinal is but a delicate creature, yet steadfast in its ways.
It will never retreat from light or dark 'til it catches its prey.
A single feather lost in flight does not hinder it to grow again,
For where there were once seven, now there stand ten.
The cardinal rises and soars. Its eyes see all.
Listen very closely for the cardinal's call.
The cardinal calls its offspring to fly,
For the steadfast cardinal will never die.
"I thought I told you to stay off this message board." She handed the phone back to him. "I should've never told you how to read the messages."
"That's besides the point." Lucas glared at her from behind the smoke. "Are you not even the least bit concerned?"
"About what?" The brunette shrugged. He skimmed the lines again.
"'A single feather lost in flight does not hinder it to grow again, for where there were once seven, now there stand ten.' They're obviously talking about the fall of the New York division. But they've expanded to ten functioning divisions."
"I don't see why this is any concern of mine. I'm no longer a part of the company."
"Leave it up to the FBI. As long as we don't meddle in their shit again, we're good."
"No, Lucas! Delta One died with a bullet to the chest, and the old life went with her. This is me, living my life right where it left off… with Spencer. And there's no way I'm letting anyone take that away from me." She proceeded towards the front door. Ashley stopped to look over her shoulder. "We're leaving for Marseille this afternoon. Hopefully you leave that all behind and join us."
"Sure." Lucas shrugged. "Why not?"
As the day progressed, the clouds parted and faded from the panoramic sky like curtains drawn from a large theatre stage. The sun's bold shine grew tired, slowly descending upon the horizon from its peak position. Deep blue hues penetrated the seas and skies, allowing a crimson orange splash to emit across the mid-layer that only the sun touched.
The motor hummed and the bow dipped across the sea as Ashley carefully steered the yacht down the coast, the wind grazing her face and running through her hair. She blushed every time she stole glances of the blonde, who was staring down the distance from where she was sitting on the sofa. Ashley smiled to herself, feeling like the luckiest woman alive.
"I'm gonna grab a soda." Lucas stood from the opposite side of the sofa and made his way down the cabin entrance directly in front of the helm. Something suddenly clattered against the deck's hardwood. Ashley looked over the side of the helm and noticed the Blackberry on the floor. She hesitantly picked it up and carefully viewed it. The forum page was still loaded on the screen. The brunette furrowed her eyebrows, intently reading the poetic lines once more. Spencer noticed the concern on Ashley's face as she stood up and made her way over.
"What's wrong?" She asked as she stood behind the brunette and wrapped her arms around her waist.
"It's nothing." Ashley turned her head towards Spencer, her chin resting on the brunette's shoulder. She kissed her cheek as she powered the phone off. Shortly after, Lucas ascended from the cabin, sipping his soda. The brunette let out of the embrace and turned towards him. "You dropped this." She handed the phone back to him before guiding the blonde towards the bow of the ship.
Spencer grabbed hold of the ledge with her golden locks brushing past her cheeks. Ashley wrapped her arms around, sandwiching the blonde against the railing. She rested her cheek against Spencer's, as they gazed down the shimmering path beneath the sun.
"What's on your mind?" The blonde pressed on.
"Are you sure?" She turned her head to catch the brunette in her peripheral. Ashley's lips barely brushed her earlobe.
"I've never been so sure of anything else before." She whispered. Spencer turned around to face her, still within the brunette's grasp. She admired the perfect shadow cast against Ashley's profile as her nose crinkled with a grin.
"Me neither." The blonde smiled back. Ashley tightened her embrace and pressed her lips perfectly onto Spencer's. It never got old. Every time she felt Spencer's lips against her own, it was like kissing her for the first time. She felt weak and feverish, with that tingling sensation spreading throughout her body like the blood pumping from her quickly beating heart. Ashley hesitantly pulled back, letting that smile take over where it had left off.
"Perfect timing." She pointed towards the horizon. "Look."
"I kept my promise." Ashley replied as the blonde wrinkled her eyebrows in thought. "I promised you we'd ride into the sunset together." They laughed.