Adam’s heart froze. Fuck, this was it. She was going to walk away. The remembered pain of abandonment from last time … the only other time he’d allowed himself to love …
“Oh, Adam, no.” Ashley’s soft hand rested against his cheek. “I didn’t mean…” She drew in a deep breath. “What I meant was, there’s nothing about this situation that’s easy.” She stroked his cheek. “You are my close friend and what we shared this weekend was amazing—”
She shook her head. “No buts. I don’t want to end what we have between us.”
His eyes lit with hope.
“But I also have to honor the fact that…” She pursed her lips. “Well, I have feelings for Dare.” As she gazed into Adam’s anxious brown eyes, she knew she had to tell him the whole truth. “I think I’m falling in love with him.”
He drew her hand away from his face. “Fuck, so how is this not ending it with me?”
She frowned. “Because, Adam, I think I’m in love with you, too.”
“You think you’re in love with both of us?” Adam’s heart ached as he stared at her. “Me and Dare?” He shook his head. “I don’t believe that. I think what you feel for him is just infatuation, and when that runs its course, you’ll wind up with nothing.”
She shook her head. “No, you’re wrong. What I feel for you both is deeper than infatuation.” She bit her lip. “This is so difficult.”
“It doesn’t have to be.” He took both her hands and gazed deep into her eyes. “Just choose me.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“It is. You and I have history. A solid friendship, which is a great foundation for a relationship. You know me. Know that together we can make things work. All you know about him is that he’s going to leave. Even if you continue your relationship after that, he lives in New York and you live here. Are you going to give up your job and move there?”
His gut clenched at the thought. There would be great opportunities for her in New York and Dare could make them happen for her. With his wealth and connections, he could open doors. He could probably call up a friend and have her working at a big magazine within a week, if he wanted. Even if she started as a copy editor or fact checker, she would quickly prove herself capable of being a leading journalist. She was a good worker and a talented writer.
“I’m not thinking about any of that right now.” She frowned. “But I don’t think I want to go to New York. I don’t want to leave Autumn’s Ridge and all my friends.” She gazed into his eyes, her own blue ones filled with sadness. “Or you.”
His heart soared. She did care about him. He just had to convince her.
He pulled her into his arms and captured her lips, all the love and need he felt for her flowing through him, infusing the kiss with persuasive passion.
Her soft body conformed to his as she returned the kiss, her mouth moving on his, her tongue stroking his.
Their lips parted and he gazed at her, everything he felt for her shining in his eyes.
“I love you, Ashley.” He hadn’t said the words yet. But she knew. He knew she did.
She rested her hand on his cheek. “And I love you, too. But that doesn’t change how I feel about him.” She drew back. “I’m sorry but I need time to think. To figure this whole thing out.”
“And in the meantime you’ll keep seeing him?” Adam demanded. “Keep fucking him?” Anger simmered through him.
“I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.” He shook his head. “I just don’t want to lose you.”
“I know.” She took his hand and squeezed. “Just give me time. I’ll figure this out.”
“Just one question, Ash. Does Dare know about us and my feelings for you?”
She bit her lip. “I told him I’m seeing someone, but he doesn’t know I’m in love with either one of you.”
Adam nodded. He felt a small sense of satisfaction that he was the first of the two of them she’d told.
“And does he know who I am?”
“No, he just knows you’re a friend of mine. There was no reason to elaborate. Why do you ask?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Wait. You had an internship at his company. I’d forgotten about that.”
When he was at college, studying communications, he’d needed an internship in the fall of his third year so Ashley’s brother had asked Ash to ask Helen to put in a word for him with Dare. Dare had a big company and got him a position writing copy for the marketing department.