KISS ME ALWAYS - CHAPTER 1

Aster

 

My heart was ripped out of my chest. Blood seeped out of the gaping hole left behind. All of the feelings I had grown accustomed to flowed along with it. Fear that I would be alone forever. Anxiety that this was what my life had come to. Pain that I could have been left this way. Anger that I didn’t know ahead of time before it was almost too late.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, I was getting ready to walk down the aisle to marry my best friend. To spend the rest of my life with the man I loved. To have a family, grow old together, watch our kids grow up and have children of their own. But that dream bubble popped less than a couple hours ago. None of that would happen. Not now. Maybe not ever.

I looked down at my chest, expecting to see the hole where my heart had been but of course, there was nothing. The muscle still beat, walled in by my rib cage. All of it was in my head. But this ache…this agony…it hurt. God, it hurt so damn much.

So many questions bounced around in my mind.

Why? How? When? What did I do for him to make this decision and on our wedding day? Was I not good enough? I did leave the cap off the toothpaste every now and again, but he also left remnants from shaving in the sink. Could that be it? Could my little quirks have made him break up with me? No, that wasn’t a real reason to end things. Especially not on one’s wedding day.

He did this to me. He ruined what little happiness I had left. He destroyed the strength I had thought he had given me. I thought I made him happy. I thought we were happy.

I stared at the tiny purple velvet box sitting on my lap. Three gold rings shone up at me. We were meant to wear them for the rest of our lives. They should have been an indication of our love for each other. But instead, they mocked me. They laughed in my face, cackling about how stupid I was. How dare I think he would stay with me for the rest of my life? How could I even imagine that we would be happy? We would have kids and grow old together. It would all work out in the end. We would be one. We would be perfect for each other. Ha fucking ha.

“Stupid girl. You think I want you? I got what I came for.” He threw his head back, laughing. At me. Each sound reverberated through my soul, squeezing and killing my spirit slowly. “Look at you. You’re a mess. I deserve better. I deserve a woman who can stand at my side and lift me up. Not someone I have to take care of. You’re pathetic.”

“Why did you wait until the day of our wedding then, Aaron? Why didn’t you just call this off? Why now?”

Aaron narrowed his brows at me. “Because I’ll admit, you had me convinced that you could make me happy. Well it took someone else pointing out that you couldn’t and here we are.”

“Who was that someone else?” I whispered, even though I knew. I had a feeling anyway. Something told me that Aaron had been cheating on me for a while, but I chose not to believe it. Hell, who would want to believe something like that about the person they’re supposed to be spending the rest of their life with? I just assumed he was a flirt. I had a male best friend and he never gave me any problems over it. A part of me wondered why. It all started to make sense now. He just didn’t care because he probably knew before this day that he would end things.

That was this morning and I was still hurting from it. I should have known. A man like Aaron didn’t settle down. Especially not with someone like me. He came from a rich family and while my parents were well-off, it clearly wasn’t enough. Not for him. Maybe not for anyone.

His words ripped me apart, tearing me from the inside out. Every strand of love I had felt for Aaron Rush died along with the happiness I had so desperately craved from him. Even though a part of me knew that it was coming, I wished he would have ended things before we decided to get married. Why wait so long? So many questions and none of them were answered.

“Aster?”

Fresh tears welled in my eyes, threatening to escape and show just how weak I truly was. Maybe he was right.

“Aster,” the voice repeated, firmer that time.

I didn’t respond and waited for the pity to come.

Roux Anson, my best friend, a boy I had known my whole life, peaked his head into the small hotel room. “Hey, baby girl.”

My shoulders heaved, my body shaking with uncontrollable sobs. How could this be my life? How could Aaron do this to me? Ever since I was a little girl, I had wanted to get married. I made fake weddings with fake husbands. Planned out every single little detail. I had even kept a scrapbook. It was lame but it was always a dream I had. I had spent my days as a kid, dreaming, wishing, expecting that white knight in shining armor to come take me away and we would ride off into the sunset. Aaron was supposed to be that knight. He had been that knight. But after that morning, he was no longer the hero of my story.

“Look at me.” Roux knelt in front of me, holding my hands in his. The boy I had known, now the man I saw, smiled softly. His bright blue eyes pierced into mine, holding me in place.

My heart stuttered. If only it was another time and place. Roux was one of the good guys. Even though he had been a bad boy all throughout high school, he had always treated me with the utmost respect.

His baby blues stared into mine. “Talk to me,” he said, his voice taking on a deeper tone. A tone I had never heard before in him. Not when it came to me anyway.

“He left me,” I finally said, my voice cracking. The tears had finally dried up and my throat was raw. It felt like I had swallowed sandpaper.

“Aster,” Roux said gently.

“Why, Roux? What’s so wrong with me that Aaron couldn’t marry me? He left me this morning.” As much as it hurt, I was thankful that it was before I walked down the aisle. That would have been embarrassing. Even though this was almost as bad, it definitely could have been a whole lot worse.

I pulled from Roux’s grip, dropping my head in my hands. “He left me.” The words left my lips over and over, but they wouldn’t register. I sat there in my wedding dress. On my wedding day. With my best friend and not the man I was supposed to marry. Aaron had left the room, laughing. “It’s like he got enjoyment out of this. It doesn’t make sense at all.”

“Aster.” Roux’s large hand cupped my nape, squeezing gently.

That touch sent a shiver through my body, but it lifted some of the dread and self-doubt I had felt for…years. I had loved Aaron and I thought he loved me back but there had always been something else that I wanted. I just didn’t know what. I even tried speaking to Aaron about it, but he brushed it off, implying that I had no idea what I was going on about.

“I don’t know what to do now.” I gazed up at Roux through unshed tears. “We were supposed to get married. Have kids and spend the rest of our lives together.” My voice rose as each sentence left my mouth. “He called me a stupid girl. Stupid! How dare he! How dare he think he can belittle me!”

“That’s my girl,” Roux said. “Get angry. That bastard doesn’t deserve your tears.”

My eyes moved back and forth over Roux’s face. I looked at him. Really looked. I reached out, brushing my fingers along the light beard covering his jaw. That familiar muscle just in front of his right ear ticked. He was pissed for me or maybe he was elated. Rumors had gone around that Roux had a crush on me when we were kids. Well, little did he know that I had felt the same way. But then I met Aaron and he won my heart when Roux went off to school. Roux came back home, and it was too late. Or that was what we thought at the time. But Roux was a good guy and never made a move. He had several notches on his bed post, but he never went after another man’s girl. Although, a part of me wished he had, then I wouldn’t be sitting on my wedding day in my dress and unmarried.

Our friendship was strong. He had been there with me through the good and bad times. And now the worst possible thing that could ever happen to a bride on her supposed wedding day. He was there. He was always there.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Roux asked, his eyes falling to my mouth.

“Do you think things would have been different if you wouldn’t have gone off to school?” I wasn’t sure where that question came from, but I needed to know. I needed to know that something good could come out of this shitshow with Aaron. I needed to know that this pain was worth it.

“Uh…” Roux leaned back, putting some distance between us. “I don’t think that’s a conversation either of us are ready for, baby girl.”

“Why not?” I pressed.

Roux’s jaw clenched, his eyes darkening to a smoldering sapphire color. Clearing his throat, he sat back on his haunches. “Listen.” He shoved his hand through his shaggy sandy blond hair. “Let’s forget this and go get shitfaced. Or I can take you shopping. Whatever you want.”

“Yeah because that will solve the problem,” I mumbled. “I need to know why he did this. I tried asking him but all I got was he deserved better and that I’m weak.” Bile rose to my throat. I wasn’t the strongest person. I knew that. But thanks, asshole, for throwing it in my face. I really appreciate it.

“He said that?” Roux’s brows narrowed. “I’m going to kill that fucker.”

I shook my head. “No, you will not do anything, Roux. I just…I need you here with me. I can’t deal with this on my own.” Maybe I was weak like Aaron said. Did I even deserve happiness? God, I was so damn confused. “Maybe I did something to make him feel this way. Maybe I pushed him away. Maybe I just wasn’t good enough for him.” Was I bad in bed? I tried hinting for us to try other things. To experiment and make it more exciting between us but all I got in return was a scowl and how Aaron liked being on top. One position. That was it. It was boring as hell, but he made it out to be the best sex ever. He was probably lying about that as well.

“Aster, you listen to me and you listen to me good.” Roux grabbed my wrists, pulling me to my feet. “You didn’t do anything. You got me?”

“But—”

“I said, you didn’t do anything,” he repeatedly slowly.

“If he wasn’t happy, he should have told me. He should have ended this before we planned a fucking wedding.” Fresh tears threatened to burst forth, burning my eyes. Roux blurred in front of me.

“You’re right but he clearly didn’t respect you enough to tell you until now.” Roux pinched my chin, brushing his thumb over my bottom lip. “If I had you, I would never leave you.”

My heart jumped, the tiny hairs on my body tingling at his soft confession. He had said those words so quietly, I wasn’t sure if I heard him right. I always had a tiny crush on him, but it never sparked into anything more than that. I often wondered if there was something there between us. Even though I had been with Aaron, I would catch Roux staring at me longer than what was deemed appropriate. I never minded it though. I found I liked it when he looked at me. But we were friends. That was it. Anything else I thought I was feeling was only because my emotions were a mess and all over the place. Or that was what I tried convincing myself of anyway.

Everything inside of me screamed for me to run. It was something I had always done. Every time a situation got out of hand, I would grab my running shoes and run until my soul hurt. It was the fight or flight emotion. Aaron did this to me. He won me over, swept me off my feet in the beginning when Roux had left and promised that he would always be there for me. No matter what. He even won my parents over. And my sister liked him. But she never liked any guy I was interested in and she especially didn’t like Roux. I always wondered why that was the case but never asked.

A soft knock sounded on the door, interrupting whatever moment Roux and I were sharing.

“If it’s my parents, I don’t want to deal with them right now,” I told him, making my way to the bathroom. “I’m getting changed.” Picking up the train of my dress, I swallowed back the tears and trudged into the bathroom. Muffled voices sounded from the doorway and I prayed it wasn’t my father. I loved my parents, but I couldn’t deal with their pity right now. Or rather, from anyone. People would say how sorry they were and ask me questions. But I wouldn’t have any answers for them. Because I didn’t know anything. And that pissed me off even more.

The only thing I knew was that Aaron was a bastard.

“Aster?” Roux’s deep voice sounded from behind the door. “It’s your sister.”

I let out a sigh of relief.

Opening the door, my gaze landed on Laurel.

She held out her arms, her eyes rimming over.

A sob escaped me, and I ran full tilt into her.

She wrapped me in a hard hug, holding me tight. “Oh Aster,” she whispered into my hair.

At some point, we ended up on the edge of the bed with our arms still around each other.

“I can’t believe this happened,” she said, shaking her head. Her bleach blond curls caressed her shoulders with the movements. “Did he give you any hints that this would happen?”

“No.” I roughly wiped the tears from my cheeks. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Roux making his way to the door. “Don’t leave,” I blurted. “Please.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, slowly turning toward me.

“Yes.” Ringing my hands in my lap, I let out a heavy breath. “I don’t want you to leave.”

He nodded once, sitting in a chair in the corner of the room.

“Aster.” Laurel gently nudged my shoulder.

“What?”

She frowned, looking between us both.

My heart jumped, the blood in my veins rushing through my body at the judgement in her eyes. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“No reason.” She hesitated. “I just…you know. You and your fiancé did just break up.”

“What are you getting at?” My heart started racing.

“Are you sure there wasn’t a reason for Aaron leaving you?” she asked gently.

I jumped back like I had been burned, my mouth falling open. “What the hell are you implying?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all.” She shook her head again. “Forget it.” She wrapped her arms around my shoulders, pulling me into another hug. “Whatever you need, I’m here. No matter what, Aster. No matter what.”

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