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Chapter 29: Inhale…
PG


“Aiden, why are we here?” The blonde asked while he dragged her from one store to another.

“Shopping. That’s usually what happens in malls.”

“Don’t be a smart ass, I’m in no mood. You supposedly had a plan. So what is it?”

“This is it.”

Spencer stopped, staring at him incredulously. “What do you mean, this is it? Please tell me this isn’t some lame, and might I add cliché, plan to get me all sexy  so I turn Ashley’s head and make her jealous. I’m not into it.”

“No, actually its not. And I’m fairly certain that wouldn’t work anyway.”

“Oh really? Now you’re doubting my sex appeal, great!” She threw her hands up in the air.

He strode over, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Whoa, easy there, Spence. You’re putting words in my mouth. I know you got the goods,” he said with finger snap that earned him a smile. “But Ash is smarter than that. She’ll know a desperate cry for attention when she sees it. We have to be smarter than that.”

“So I reiterate, what are we doing here?”

“Staying busy. After the mall I booked a sightseeing tour of the harbor followed by dinner and drinks.”

“Well that all sounds like fun, but I still don’t get it, and we have to be back in time for the show tonight.”

“I know. That’s why all my plans will make you late.”

“Come again?”

“You’re going to show up late,” he repeated. “Well later than Ash usually is. You’re going to come rushing in with bags, and looking worn out with the smell of alcohol and hopefully other women on you. This will spark Ash’s curiosity. Show her you don’t need her to have a good time. Prove to her that she and Angel are not the only ones who know how to take full advantage of a new city. If nothing else it’ll make her miss you.”

“This is my job, Aiden. I don’t see how being late and risking it is going to make her miss me.”

“It’s not like she’s going to fire you over one indiscretion. And trust me it will make her miss you. She knows you’re always there, always around for her when she’s ready. This will just be a testament that if she doesn’t kick her ass into gear she may lose that luxury.”

Spencer sat staring at the Auntie Anne’s Pretzel place as she thought. He did have a point. Yet again, the jerk.

“So what do you think?”

“I think I’m hungry,” she smiled

“Well that’s a start. If it makes it any better, I have Ash’s credit card so our little excursion won’t even put a dent in your pocket.”

“Well when you put it like that….”

“That’s what I thought. Let’s go!”

Meanwhile….

Angel and Ashley sat at the restaurant people watching on the lovely outdoor patio. It was the perfect summer day to do so. Ashley wore her large, dark sunglasses as she nursed a rapidly warming drink.

“What the hell is your problem?” Angel hissed.

“What are you talking about?”

“You haven’t said a word all day. What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing, just don’t have much to say.”

Ashley didn’t have enough time to put adequate thought into Angel’s revelation about wanting her back. This should have been a dream come true. Ashley could easily remember countless hours pining away for just this moment, but now that it had arrived the reality wasn’t nearly as sweet as she would have imagined.

“Whatever,” the redhead huffed. “Let’s do something, I’m bored.”

“So am I.”

Back at the ranch…

Most of the day had gone as planned. Aiden had successfully lifted Spencer’s spirits and taken her mind off her love sickness for a few hours. After shopping they enjoyed the endless bad jokes of a city tour guide. They were now partaking in a wide array of appetizers and drinks at a quaint watering hole. They opted to take a step up from their usual dive bars.

Aiden wrangled some beautiful women to party with them. He was surprised at just how charming Spencer could be when her spirits were lifted. She even went so far as to have a dance or two. Aiden sat back and surveyed his work. Everything was going as he planned. This, however, was the easy part. Getting Ashley to notice, that would be the hard part. He knew how truly self-involved his best friend could be.

Aiden also knew he had to keep Spencer occupied so that they pushed well past the concert call time. He needed her to run in out of breath and under prepared. This more than anything would get Ashley’s attention, and then he could rely on Ashley’s pride to handle the rest.

So as he noticed Spencer glancing at the time he ordered another round of shots and asked a cute brunette to occupy her lap to help her take it.

7:37…

Aiden and Spencer came speeding into the arena with Aiden pretending to apologize for their tardiness. Spencer noticed Simon and Libby’s amused glances and wondered how she ever mistook them for friends. In contrast Madison was downright pissed and Ashley utterly annoyed.

“I’m sorry, everyone, lost track of time.” She threw her things to the side and began to prepare her supplies.

“The concert starts at 8, Spencer. She has press to do,” Madison bitched.

“Lay off. It’s my fault she’s late,” Aiden defended.

“Oh, so maybe you should go out there and hold off the press.” Madison stormed from the room.

Aiden just rolled his eyes and headed for the craft services table.

Once she was satisfied that she was ready, Spencer tuned to Ashley to begin work.

There were several moments of uncomfortable silence before Ashley asked, “Fun day, huh?” Sarcasm dripped from her tone.

“I said I was sorry.”

“I just asked if you had fun, Spence, that’s it.”

“Yes, I had a…great time actually.”

“I can tell. Since when do you wear Burberry perfume?”

Spencer paused. “I don’t.”

“Where’d you go?” Ashley persisted.

“Out and stuff.”

“That’s not an answer, Spencer.”

“I’m sorry, but who were you with today? For the last 4 days?”

Ashley pulled away. “Everyone out!” she commanded. Her tone suggested this was not a drill.

Ashley waited, make-up half done, until they were alone.

“Ashley, I have to finish. We’re already behind.”

“No, we’re not behind, Spencer, you’re behind.”

“Fine, I’m behind. Now would you please sit down so I can finish?”

“No, I will not sit down. Where were you?”

“I told you I was out. Where have you been?”

Ashley crossed her arms, clearly not ready to divulge.

“Oh, I get it. You get to gallivant around with your ex, doing God knows what for a week, and I can’t question you, but I go out one day and you can? Is that it?“

“I never said that.”

“You haven’t said anything to me in a week!”

“You’re right,” Ashley conceded.

“What?”

“Stop yelling. I said that you’re right.”

“Oh.” Spencer felt utterly ridiculous. She wasn’t prepared for Ashley to agree so easily.

“I’ve been neglecting you. I honestly didn’t know what else to do.” She sat back down in the make-up chair. “Angel showed up out of nowhere. I had no clue what to do-I still don’t. Every time I’m ready to kick her out she says something that makes me rethink everything.”

Spencer softened “What does she want, Ash?”

“Me.”

Even as her better judgement begged her not to, she had to ask, “Do you want her?” She waited on bated breath for Ashley’s response.

“I…”

“Ashley, there is no more time. We have to go now! We risk getting sued if we don’t do these promotional spots before the show.” Madison inspected Ashley’s face. “This is good enough. Come on.”

Madison dragged Ashely from the room and Spencer was left holding her breath.


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