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Hours later, Riley felt lost.

The last few hours had been amazing. She'd seen her favorite band perform and watched Ashe lip-sync the words of her favorite song to her in a way that only happened in music videos and TV specials. She even got to meet the band when a tour member asked them if they'd like to go backstage, and Riley had pictures to prove that it had happened, even though the encounter was brief.

Through Ben and Lance's anecdotes, she caught a glimpse of Ashe before fame had touched him. To them, he was the son of a sheep farmer and a schoolteacher, who enjoyed long walks among the Dales and who preferred life in the Big Apple to Los Angeles because he could buy authentic shepherd's pies and Yorkshire loose teas from Myers of Keswick in the West Village. Ashe, who had kissed her in the elevator on their way up to the penthouse suite, and told her she had just made him the happiest man ever because she was right there with him and not halfway around the world. Ashe, who made love to her and made her feel so beautiful.

Riley knew she should be happy, the running-naked-down-the-Boardwalk-screaming-I-just-got-serenaded-by-Ashe-Hunter happy. But if she was happy, then why was she crying?

Why did she feel as if all the good things happening to her were fast approaching their expiration date like everything else had? Why was she so afraid that this moment of lying next to Ashe as he lay sleeping was just another moment in her life that was going to be snatched away from her when she least expected it? Like the way the doctor had told them that her mother would be okay after she and Riley had been rescued from the apartment fire, only to die from a pulmonary embolism two days later. Or her father, after telling her that he didn't blame her for not being able to help her mother down the stairs during the fire because she was in a wheelchair, spent the rest of Riley's life blaming her anyway.

How long would she have to enjoy Ashe? How soon would it be before something or someone snatched him away from her? How could—

"What are you thinking, petal?"

Ashe's voice broke into the stream of questions running through her mind and Riley turned to look at him, startled. She wondered how long he'd been awake, hoping that the tears that had dried had not left their mark on her face.


"You're a terrible liar," he said, tracing circles on her shoulder. "You've been crying for the last fifteen minutes and staring at the ceiling for the last twenty. If we're going to work, Riley, it takes more than just sex and rock concerts. You can't bottle things up forever."

She took a deep breath and let it out again, figuring she might as well tell him. The sooner she knew it would end, the better, and then it wouldn't hurt so much when he did leave her.

"I guess I'm just wondering when this dream's going to end when you're going to stop being my Prince Charming or knight in shining armor and show me your real face."

"Well, that's the problem, isn't it?" he answered. "You're definitely going to be disappointed if you think I'm your Prince Charming or your knight in shining armor, because I'm not. I'm just a man. Imperfect and human, the same as everyone else."

"Then how come I don't see any flaws? You're too perfect, Ashe. Can you see where I'm coming from? You're too good to be true."

Ashe frowned. "Must I have flaws for you to believe I'm real? Must I fit into this hole that Gareth's left inside you for you to know that I am here?"

"That's not what I meant. This has nothing to do with Gareth at all, and he can burn in hell for all I care," she said, remembering he'd said the same thing weeks earlier. She could sense his annoyance and this time, it was much deeper, more intense.

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