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  • Writer's pictureGina A. Jones

Saving Ash (book #2) Chapter Twenty-two



Cinder


The elevator opens, and I walk out and down the hall to the penthouse doors. Reaching for the handle, I then notice the door is already cracked open? Did I not close it when I left?

            Slowly, I look inside and see nothing. Strange. I walk in and close the door. Perhaps Ash stopped in when I was out. Nothing seems to be out of place.

            Feeling the oil on my skin from the massage Sasha and I had, I decide to soak in the garden tub and go to start the water. Something on the dresser catches my eye when I walk into the master bedroom. It’s a caramel apple.

            “What?” I whisper.

            I look around the room. I know Ash put this here, because he’s the only one I ever told about the stolen caramel apple incident.

            My phone pings with a text.

            Please enjoy. I hope you had a great time with Sasha. Are you up for a date tonight?

            A smile forms on my lips, and I text back my answer.

            Who is this and what did you do with Ash?

            Is that a yes?

            Yes

            Seriously, who is he now? He’s being all soft colors and happy melodies. My heart is full of happiness. Can this really be happening?

            “I went to six different stores to find that apple.”

            I turn around and find Ash standing with a bouquet of pink carnations in his hand.

            “Ash? What is all of this?”

            He walks over and hands me the carnations. I look up into his eyes and see a different version of him. He seems younger and charismatic. Happy.

            “For me?”

            “Of course. You like them?”

            “Yes. They’re beautiful. Thank you,” I say in disbelief.

            He’s looking down at me. The moment is quiet, a bit awkward. It shouldn’t be. This is the Ash I’ve been waiting for. Dreaming of.

            I know this is all new to him, but it’s also new to me. It’s like we are discovering each other for the first time.

            “I should put these in some water,” I say, and make a move to leave. He stops me and lifts my chin with his finger. My heart soars into space and my body trembles. How long will I have him like this?

            He bends down and kisses me on the lips so tenderly I barely feel him. But just the same, I melt into a million pieces. His soft kiss says so much. Just the fact he has kissed me these last few days has moved mountains. Ash Sinclair doesn’t kiss, date, or bring flowers.

            Please, Cinder. Don’t be falling in love. You are just his experiment.

            I open my eyes as his lips leave mine and I feel the air leave my lungs. He looks me deep in the eyes with concern.

            “You look frightened, Cinder.”

            “No, it’s just…”

            “Yes?”

            “Maybe I am…a little.”

            “Why?”

            “Because I may be reading too much into all of this. The apple, the flowers… The kiss.”

            “Do these things scare people?” he asks like a student who is in romance 101 class.

            “No. I just feel maybe it’s not…your true intent?” I say like a question.

            “Cinder, I don’t know what’s going on with me. But ever since I met you, I have this desire to explore the unknown. See what it could be like. I’ve never had that desire with anyone else. So yes, it scares me too. But all I know is, it felt good to search for the perfect apple and flowers for you.”

            “Really?”

            “Yes. You are making me happy. I don’t remember the last time I felt happy.”

            “I’m happy, too, Ash.”

            This is one of the greatest moments we have had. I want to stay here. But there are more answers I need from him. And I know it could destroy everything we have worked for to get us to this moment. I need to know more about Pippa and Christopher. Why and how they died. I need more answers to this tormented puzzle.

            “Ash, I am happy. But I don’t know everything. I know it was hard telling me about…Pippa.” Just saying her name puts a bad taste in my mouth. “I need to know more.”

            “I know,” he says quietly, his eyes looking to the side.

            “I don’t want to ruin your happiness, but sometimes you have to swim through the pain to find the land. An anchor. I will be your anchor. Even after the memorial, I knew you were hurting and were in a bad place. But after you let go, you were able to move on. And I know if you share more with me, things will get better. I’m not saying it won’t hurt, but I promise to be here to get you through it.”

            “I understand, Cinder. There is more. More to the darkness that has molded me into what I am…”

            “Was. Don’t hang on to it. Let’s bring light into the darkness and find healing for you.”

            He slowly moves his eyes back to me and nods.

            “Let’s put these in water, and then I’ll draw us a bath. Okay?”

            “I would like that. I can’t answer for the rest, but I am willing for you, Cinder.”

            Just the way he says my name breaks my heart into a million little pieces.

            I leave to find a vase in the kitchen and fill it with water. After I set the carnations down inside, I walk back into the master bath and find Ash already filling the tub. I’m falling so hard for him and afraid I will become his undoing. Once the puzzle is solved, what will be left of Ash Sinclair?

            I walk over and unbutton his shirt. He watches me like a child, trusting yet vulnerable. I then pull off his shirt and then unfasten his pants. He steps out of them and I notice he’s already hard. Nothing has been said or even suggested about sex. But just seeing him naked, I feel myself becoming aroused. I have no idea where this talk is going to take us. But I must make the plunge, so to speak.

            Ash steps into the tub and lies back against the walls. He watches me as I remove my clothes. Before I step inside, I light the many candles that surround the tub and turn off the light. Ash reaches up for me as I step down inside and straddle his lap. It’s intimate. Peaceful. For now.

            For some reason, I want to tell him… I love him. Just by the way he is looking up at me. What would he do if I did?

            “What are you thinking, Cinder,” he says softly.

            I want to tell him. But I’m afraid. Maybe he needs to hear it.

            “Just something I want to tell you… Someday. Maybe now is not the time.”

            He breathes deep in his chest and then traces my bare arms. I listen as the droplets trickle down into the water. He’s so beautiful. I could watch him for hours.

            “Are you comfortable, Ash?”

            “Surprisingly, yes.”

            My fingers trace his chest, and I watch the droplets of water bead down him. He’s looking at me in the most vulnerable way, and I can’t let that look stop me for what needs to be said.

            “Ash, I need to know how Pippa and your brother died. Hunter told me something… But I need to hear it from you.”

            He moves his head to the side, and I know it’s killing him inside to relive it. For his little brother only. Not Pippa.

            “What did Hunter tell you?”

            “That they were murdered. Is that true? “

            “Yes,” he whispers with his eyes now closed.

            “Who? Why?”

            “We don’t know. I told you my father was going to divorce her.”

            “Yes, and not because of what she was doing to you.”

            “No. She was embezzling from his clients. My father owned one of the biggest investment firms in the state. She talked him into letting her be on the board. It put her in control of all the accounts. This was after Christopher was born, and she had become bored with motherhood. Not that she ever was one.”

            “And he confronted her?”

            “Yes. He fired her from the firm, and in order to save his company from becoming another Bernie Madoff scam, he filed for divorce. Orders per his lawyer.”

            “So, do they think it was one of the investors?”

            “Some think it was my father?”

            “Do you think that?”

            “No.”

            “But why Christopher, too?”

            “My father was going to take Christopher away from her. She couldn’t fight him because she was looking at prison time. She took off with Christopher one night, and that’s when the ransom letters began. They wanted twenty million dollars for the return of her and Christopher. No cops were to be involved.”

            “And did he? Involve the police?”

            “No, and that’s only because of Christopher. If it was only her, he would have and not paid the ransom.”

            Again, Ash turns his head to the side and closes his eyes. I want to protect him and rub his chest, lean down and kiss his face. “It’s okay, Ash. I’m here.”

            He wraps his arms around me and holds me close. I feel his body tremble. Please let it be for Christopher.

            “Ash, I need to ask you something else. Hunter. He said he and Pippa weren’t close, and you were screaming his name that first night. Do you think he did it?”

            “Of course not,” he says like I offended him. “If he did, he would never be working for me.”

            “I’m sorry. I just got the impression he…hated her.”

            “He did, but he wouldn’t kill her or Christopher. Pippa was a monster, she made Hunter and I… Do things.”

            Do things? Oh, my God.

            “She tricked me, and belittled Hunter to get his next fix. Back then, Hunter would do anything for his fix, no matter how degrading.”

            “You mean…”

            “Exactly what I mean. You have no idea how it feels to look down and see another man’s mouth around your cock.”

            “Oh, Ash. I’m so sorry.”

            He lets go of me, turning his head away, afraid to look at me.

            “Instead of hating Hunter, I pitied him more than myself. My only addiction was her. And she did her best to destroy me. Only I was blind to it. And after what she did to him, he’d be crazy to stay in his right mind. Drugs numbed his pain. And pain became my pleasure.”

            “Ash, I’m so sorry for the loss of Christopher. But I’m not sorry for her.” I grab his face and turn it to look at me. “You did nothing wrong…”

            “Don’t say that,” he says, slapping my hand away. “That’s what she said when Hunter sucked me off. I did nothing wrong. She needed to teach him a lesson.”

            “I’m sorry,” I say, not knowing what else I can do.

            He takes another deep breath and continues to tell me more.

            “My father was to deposit the money into a foreign account, and once the drop was made, they would be returned. They weren’t, and the foreign account was canceled and could never be tracked. Six months later, a forest ranger found a burnt car deep in the woods of Yellowstone National Park. It was registered to Pippa. Her and Christopher’s remains were found inside the trunk.

            I have no words to express and hold him. I’m waiting for him to resist me. To tear away and regress back into his ruthless self where he hides his pain.

            “They could have all the money and her dead body. But Christopher…”

            “Ash, I don’t know what to say.” My tears are falling hard down my cheeks. This poor little baby. So innocent. His life taken away in the worst way.

            Ash’s emotions let loose and he’s wailing in my arms. I hold him tightly. Giving him all the support he needs.

            “Christopher,” he cries out. “I’m so sorry I didn’t protect you.”

            “Ash, you can’t blame yourself. You were a child too.”

            “No, I wasn’t. Christopher was…”

            “He was a baby, your baby brother.”

            “Christopher was… My son.”


***

Saving Ash© 2024 Gina A. Jones rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.


This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


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shannon Cheripka
May 29
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Woah🥺

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