In Pieces – Chapter 14

Two hours later, Ashleigh was walking through the mall on her way to her store. The coffee shop she owned was in the corporate mall, so it was only open on weekdays from 6-5. This was nice, as Ashleigh usually had her weekends off. Though, she usually did go in some Saturdays to get things ready for the upcoming week.

As she approached her store, her heart sank in her chest. The girl who opened the store was also a Backstreet Boys fan, and as such liked to play their cds to death.

Last night I saw the fireworks
The kind of pain that never hurts
The one you hate to love that’s made for you
Another unsuspecting Sunday afternoon

Or rather, Monday morning. Ashleigh thought wistfully. How could she have been so stupid as to sleep with Nick again? He showed up in her life again, only to break her heart once more. Still, it had been nice while she was with him…

“Good morning, Ashleigh!” Caitlin greeted her as she walked in. “The Cantebury order came in, finally.” She said, motioning to the piles of boxes behind the counter.

Ashleigh just nodded. She didn’t want to think about Nick at all, instead she just wanted to immerse herself in her work. Distractions, definitely a good thing. After quickly stepping into the back room to get her mail, she walked back out to the front again to check the invoice for the coffee order. The store was strangely empty for nine in the morning on a Monday. Ashleigh figured the initial morning rush had already come and gone, while the next coffee break wasn’t until about tenish…

“I saw you and your friend at the concert on Saturday!” Catlin beamed, interrupting Ashleigh’s thoughts. “Front row! I’m so jealous. I was in the fifth.” She said.

Ashleigh forced a small smile. This was precisely what she didn’t want to talk about. “Did you have fun?” She asked, trying to be polite. The concert was all Catlin had talked about from the moment the tickets had gone on sale. She knew the young girl was probably dying to gush about it.

“Oh yeah! It was awesome. I swear at one point Brian looked right at me. He’s totally my favourite. Who’s your favourite?”

Ashleigh bit her lip. This conversation was starting to head into dangerous territory. “Nick.” She said simply.

Catlin just laughed. “Of course. Everyone likes Nick.”

Speaking of Nick, he finally had managed to get dressed and meet AJ for breakfast. Slinking down into the chair across from AJ, he sensed impending doom. He knew exactly what AJ was going to ask him.

“So, Ashleigh, Nick?” AJ said, a smirk on his face. “I thought you and her were done a long time ago.”

Nick shrugged. “It’s not like that, J.” He replied. Truthfully, he didn’t know what it was. She’d still seemed pretty enamoured with him, and yet, she’d run off pretty quickly after it was over. Maybe it had just been her way of saying goodbye? Nick really had no idea when it came to her, or any woman really.

“Not like what? I didn’t say anything!” AJ exclaimed defensively. He wasn’t really offended, he just wanted Nick to elaborate a little more.

And elaborate he did. “Not just…meaningless sex.” Nick said, referring to the basis of his and Ashleigh’s past relationship.

AJ gave Nick a confused look. “Okay?” He said, not really sure what Nick meant by that. “What I’d really like to know is how she ended up in your hotel room.”

Nick sighed. “We went out to dinner, to talk. You know, catch up and whatever.”

“From the looks of it, you did more catching up in your room than at dinner.” AJ snickered, and Nick rolled his eyes.

“I guess.” He said, sighing. “I felt kinda guilty about that.” He admitted.

“Why? She obviously wanted to be there.” AJ commented, remembering Ashleigh looking pretty damn pleased with herself when she had sauntered past him earlier that morning.

Nick sighed. AJ wasn’t going to let him get away without giving him the entire story, was he? “She was kind of upset with me for…black and blue…” He said, shifting his weight in his chair. The entire thought of what he’d done back then made him quite uncomfortable now that he thought about it.

“What? Used her for sex?” AJ deadpanned.

“It wasn’t just for sex!” Nick exclaimed, a little louder than he intended. “I mean…I was just really immature. I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted. I guess she thought…it was more…” He trailed off, not really wanting to get into the specifics.

AJ nodded. “So, she was pissed that you dumped her. Yet, she still shows up in your hotel room? Man, that girl is weak.” He laughed.

Nick frowned. “She’s not the same as she was back then.”

AJ just gave Nick a look. “I hope not.” He said seriously. It wasn’t that Ashleigh was unpleasant or anything, she had just been a typical fan and her excitement had been exhausting. “You need a girl who loves you for who you are. Not just some girl who likes the idea of being with Nick Carter.”

Nick thought about that for a moment. “You’re right, J.”

Later that afternoon, Joey stepped inside Urban Bean in hopes of having a quick chat with her best friend. She smiled at the boy behind the counter, another one of Ashleigh’s staff members. “Hi Sheldon, is Ash here?”

Sheldon pointed to the half open door to his right. “She’s in the back.” He said as he continued to wipe down the counter.

Joey peeked into the back room, sure enough Ashleigh was sitting as her desk, leaning over a tower of papers. “Got a minute?” Joey asked, and Ashleigh nearly jumped through the ciling.

“You scared the hell out of me!” She exclaimed, and then composed herself. “Sure, what’s up?”

Joey gave Ashleigh a look, as if she didn’t know. “Someone didn’t call me after their dinner last night.” She said, giving Ashleigh an accusatory stare.

Ashleigh rolled her eyes. She should have guessed that Joey would want to hear all the juicy details. “It was nice.” She said simply, not wanting to admit that she had been taken by Nick yet again.

Joey rolled her eyes. “Just nice? Come on, there has to be more than that.”

Knowing Joey wouldn’t give up until she heard everything, Ashleigh stood up from her seat. “Fine, but let’s not do this here.” She said.

Joey nodded quickly. “Yeah, okay.”

As the two girls left the store and began to walk through the mall, Ashleigh sighed. “I guess Nick thought it was just a stupid fling.” She said to Joey.

“Oh? You told him about the months of despair?”

Ashleigh nodded, stopping momentarily in front of a display outside of another store. “Yeah. He said he was sorry.”

Joey laughed a little. “Of course he did. What else would he say?”

Ashleigh shrugged. She didn’t really know what she had expected from Nick. “He wasn’t really the same guy though. He was a lot nicer than I remember him, and a lot more verbose. He genuinely looked like he felt pretty guilty when I told him that stuff.”

Joey raised an eyebrow. Ashleigh certainly didn’t sound as though she hated Nick anymore. “And?”

“And that was it. We had a nice dinner. It was fun to talk to him again.” Ashleigh said simply.

Joey gave Ashleigh a confused glance. Ashleigh was acting much too calm for comfort. She was usually overly excited, or overly upset. Joey wasn’t buying this act of hers at all. “Bullshit. What else happened?”

Ashleigh sighed. There was no way Joey was going to let her get away without telling the entire story. “It was really fun.” She admitted. “We stayed until they closed, just laughing and talking with each other. And my God, he is so fucking gorgeous.”

Joey laughed. She knew that there was more to the story than Ashleigh had originally let on. The two girls walked into SamGoody and causally browsed through the cds. “Well that’s good. I’m glad you finally got your closure, now you can move on with planning your wedding.”

Ashleigh looked at the ground uncomfortably. “Yeah…I guess so.”

Joey watched as Ashleigh’s expression fell. “What? What’s wrong?”

Ashleigh looked at her friend, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. She knew that Joey wasn’t going to be happy about the next part. “I kind of went to his hotel room.” She admitted.

“You went to his hotel room?” Joey repeated, unsure if she had heard correctly. That wasn’t like Ashleigh at all, to cheat on someone. Suddenly, she felt really annoyed with her. “How could you do something like that to Matt?”

Ashleigh bit her lip. Joey wasn’t making her feel any better about the situation. “I don’t know, it just happened. But it wasn’t like…before. It was nicer, and gentler and I really felt like we were-”

“Don’t say it, Ash!” Joey cut her off. “Do not tell me that you’re in love with him. Because honestly, he really is kind of a jerk.”

“You’re the one who gave him my number!”

Joey sighed. “Yes, because I thought you needed closure. You needed him to know that he’d hurt you. You certainly did not need to have sex with him again.”

“I know…but…” Ashleigh stammered. She instantly felt guilty. She knew Joey was going to be upset at the prospect of her having cheated on Matt. “It was something that I needed to do. I just… needed to be with him one last time.”

Joey shook her head. Unbelievable, after all these years, Ashleigh still had feelings for Nick. “I’ve gotta go back to work now, Ash. Call me later?” She said dryly. She was disappointed in Ashleigh, but she also didn’t want her friend to go through the heartbreak of losing Nick again. One time had been enough. “I’m glad you had fun with Nick, really.” She said sincerely. At least it had been fun while it lasted. She was certain Nick was just using her, like he had the first time.

“Thanks.” Ashleigh said, as Joey walked away from her. She didn’t know how she was supposed to be feeling. Her best friend was upset with her, she’d cheated on her fiancée and Nick had walked out of her life once more. Glancing down at the cds, she spied something. Lightly tracing her fingers along the outline of the cover, she thought to herself she may as well buy it. After having had sex with Nick, his voice might be comforting to her. Because at that moment, the way she felt about him was the only thing that seemed to feel right.

That evening, as soon as Ashleigh stepped into the house, Matt had approached her at the door. “My mom wants us to go to her place tonight for dinner and look at possible places to have the wedding.” He’d said.

Now she was sitting quietly at the dining room table with Matt and his parents, dozens of brochures spread out in front of them. She was feeling incredibly uncomfortable, and wanted nothing more than to go home and sleep. As Matt’s mom went on about numerous venues, Ashleigh felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket.

Cringing, she slipped her hand in her pocket and pressed the button on the side of the phone to send it right to voicemail. She figured it was either Joey, calling to scold her further on her bad decisions or one of her staff calling to tell her they wouldn’t be into work the next day. Whoever it was, it didn’t really matter to Ashleigh. She didn’t want to look impolite in front of Matt’s family.

Seconds later, her cell phone began to vibrate again. She sighed, evidently whoever was calling her was not willing to give up. Quickly, she excused herself from the table and stepped into the next room. Looking at her phone, her heart caught in her throat.

Nick.

“Hello?” She answered warily. She hadn’t expected him to call her at all! Much less the same day.

“Ash, hey.” Nick said, sounding pleased with himself. “What’s up?”

“Nothing…” She said, still shocked that he’d actually called her back. “How are you? How was your flight?”

“It was fine.” Nick said. “I slept for most of it.”

“That’s good.” Ashleigh replied. She didn’t really have a clue what she was supposed to say. Nick calling her had caught her completely off guard.

“I had a really good time with you, Ash.” Nick said honestly. “Even if you couldn’t teach me how to use chopsticks.”

Ashleigh giggled a little. They’d had a fun evening, hadn’t they? “I had fun too.” Unfortunantly, she didn’t have the luxury of being able to talk as long as she wanted. “I can’t really talk though, I’m at Matt’s parents house. We’re looking at places to have the wedding.” She explained, making a face; which Nick of course couldn’t see.

Nick’s heart sank. She was still going to marry him? “Oh…okay.” He said quickly. “I’ll talk to you later, then.” He said before hanging up.

Ashleigh stared at her phone blankly for a moment. Was he angry with her? He had no reason to be, she hadn’t done anything. Yet, he’d seemed almost annoyed once she’d mentioned Matt. She figured she was probably just reading into things too much. Nick was just being polite, making up for not calling her last time they’d been together.

Still, she couldn’t deny that the minute long phone call had just put her on top of the world.

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