Tempt Me Like This
Page 89

 Bella Andre

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She had been pacing in front of her mother’s picture window, but she suddenly stopped short as her words ricocheted back through her ears. “Oh my God, I just told you that Drew and I have been having sex.”
Though her mother did look worried, she smiled and said, “I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to talk to me, Ashley. About anything at all. You know I’ll never judge you.”
And it was true—even when her mother had offered to take her shopping or to the makeup counter as a teenager, as soon as Ashley had made it clear that she wasn’t interested, her mother had let her be herself.
Ashley suddenly realized that was why she’d been drawn to her mother’s house—because she must have known her mom would listen the way she used to when she was a little girl and she needed to talk to someone about the playground drama at school. But it had been a long time since Ashley had given her mother a chance to listen, or to help. Ever since things had gotten really bad in her parents’ marriage, it had seemed easier to just shut down and try to block it all out with work. And studying. And, most of all, Drew’s songs.
“Now,” her mother said, “if we could back up for just a second—his name is Drew?”
Her mother’s eyes widened. “I just saw an interview with him on the news this morning. He’s a very handsome young man.”
“I know. Which is one of the reasons it’s crazy that he thinks he’s in love with me.”
“Oh honey.” Her mother pulled her into her arms again. “That’s so wonderful. The two of you are in love.”
“He told me he loved me last night, but I didn’t say it back. I couldn’t, not when I should know better.”
“Know better?” Her mother pulled back and frowned at her. “Is this something your father said to you?”
“No. Like I said, he doesn’t know about me and Drew. Before he was a big rock star, Drew was one of his students at Stanford, and when Dad connected us so that I could go on tour to learn more about the music business, Dad basically told Drew to make sure I came home as pure as I was when I left. But I’m not. Not anymore.”
“Of course you are, Ashley. Just because you’re having sex doesn’t mean your heart isn’t as pure as it has always been. I know your father wants you to stay his little girl forever, but he’s just going to have to accept that you’re a woman now. A beautiful, incredible woman who has her own life to live. Even if that life may not be right there beside him at Stanford the way he’s always wanted it to be. You’re allowed to spread your wings, honey. And I’m not just saying these things because your father and I rarely saw eye to eye. I’m saying them because they’re true.”
“But even if they are,” Ashley said, “things with Drew are still impossible. We’re oil and water. Free and constrained. I’m a good girl and he’s a wild boy. Maybe being with me is fun and different for now, but I’m sure he’ll get tired of our differences soon.”
“How can you even think any of that, Ashley?”
“Because it was just the way you and Dad got tired of each other. Don’t you remember? Those were all the things you used to yell at each other.”
“Oh God.” Her mother sank into the nearest chair, her olive skin pale now. “All of this is my fault. I never meant for you to internalize all the horrible things I said to your father over the years. I know you can probably never forgive me—”
“You loved Dad. And he loved you. I know you did. But you still couldn’t make it work. And that’s why I should never have let myself fall for Drew. Because there’s no way that our ending is going to be any different from yours.”
“Ending? Why are you so sure there has to be one?”
“Because this is just a crazy break from reality. Of course it will end.”
“I know I haven’t always been able to say the right things,” her mother said, “and I’ve also made so many mistakes that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for them. But I’ve always loved you beyond everything else. And all I want is for you to be happy with yourself and your place in the world. And to trust in yourself and your strength.”
“I’m not strong, Mom.”
“Yes, you are. You are so much stronger than I am, worlds stronger than your father. You have always been the rock, the one who kept us from breaking apart for so long. That’s why I finally had to make myself leave. Because it wasn’t fair for you to always have to mediate between parents who couldn’t figure out how to make their love work in practical terms.”