Home > When Darkness Ends (Moments in Boston #3)

When Darkness Ends (Moments in Boston #3)
Author: Marni Mann

 

One

 

 

Before


Ashe

 

 

2000


There was beauty all over Boston, but not a single woman compared to her.

That was the only thought in my head as she came rushing out the door of her classroom, focused on the notebook in her hands, heading straight toward me. She never glanced up, never slowed her pace. She stayed fixated on whatever she was reading, rushing as though she was late.

Just leaving class myself, I should have moved to the other side of the hallway, giving her more space to walk.

But I couldn’t take my eyes off her, allowing her to crash right into me instead.

Our bodies collided, the books flying out of her hands.

Panic covered her gorgeous face as she wobbled, losing her balance, her body threatening to take her down.

I grabbed her waist, holding her steady. “I’ve got you,” I said. “I won’t let you fall.”

A long piece of her dark hair was now stuck to her lip, her sapphire eyes glimmering as though they were a cluster of carats set in a ring. The scent of fall came from her skin as I clutched the narrowness of her hips, the feel of her like the start of a thousand-piece puzzle.

“I’m sorry.” The fear dissolved from her expression, her cheeks now reddening. Once she began to breathe again, she immediately took a step back, causing my hands to drop. “I should have been looking at where I was going.” Her voice was as smooth and gentle as a song.

Rather than admitting it had been just as much my fault, I knelt to the ground and picked up the books she had dropped. Rehearsal and Performance was on the front of one, and I placed it on top of the stack and handed it to her. “That class sounds like hell.”

She glanced at the book’s cover and then back to me, holding the small pile against her chest. “It’s actually my favorite course this semester.” Her lips spread, showing teeth that were perfect enough. “I’m a theater major.”

I laughed, lifting the flap of my bag that hung on my hip. Organic Chemistry poked out of the top. “Premed—different worlds.”

“Now, that’s what I would call hell.” Her grin slapped against my chest like a crack of lightning. “I wouldn’t survive two seconds in your major.”

That smile was going to land her an Oscar—I was positive of that. It wasn’t fake or over the top, just genuine and charming, filled with the warmth of a summer campfire.

She looked toward the end of the hallway, reminding me that we weren’t alone even though it felt that way, and once again, I heard the students passing us on both sides.

“I’ve got to go,” she said, her stare finding mine. “I’m going to be very late.” She glanced at her watch. “Shit, I already am.” Her smile was gone, and in that moment, I would have done anything to make it return. “Thanks for not letting me fall.”

Before I could say another word, she was rushing down the corridor toward the stairwell, disappearing into the thick crowd.

I gripped the strap of my bag and walked in the same direction, taking the stairs to the bottom floor and opening the heavy door to the outside. I glanced around the open space, searching for that beautiful, brown-haired girl. But there were hundreds of students rushing across Boston University’s campus, making it impossible for me to find her.

Giving up, I walked across the leaf-covered lawn in the direction of my off-campus apartment and stopped at a coffee shop a few blocks away. Once I reached the front of the line, I requested their darkest roast in their largest to-go cup.

Only two weeks into the fall semester, and I was already coming here twice a day, placing the same order each time. I had a feeling that wasn’t going to change until the summer. Premed was getting more challenging every day, and I had no idea how I was going to make it through my junior year.

Or tonight.

There was no way around the fact that I would be studying until the early hours of the morning.

I grabbed a cardboard sleeve on my way out, slipping it over the cup, and continued the rest of the way to my building. Instead of waiting for the elevator, I hustled up the three flights, and as I unlocked the door, I heard voices coming from our apartment.

I vaguely remembered when I’d left for class this morning, my roommate, Dylan, saying something about hosting a study group. Once I stepped inside, I saw they were in the midst of one. Both couches were full, and several people were sitting on the floor.

“My man,” Dylan said from the recliner. “Welcome to Sexuality and Social Life.” He smirked. “This is”—he circled his hand around in the air—“everyone. Everyone, this is my roommate, Ashe.”

All eyes shifted in my direction.

But a gaze so fucking intense, like an earring piercing through a virgin lobe, was the only thing I felt in that moment. As I glanced toward the couch, I saw exactly who it had come from.

And this time, I was the one taken by surprise as those sapphire gems stared back at me.

“Hey, everyone.” My words were to all of them, but my focus was only on her.

I wanted to sit on the armrest she was squeezing and start up our conversation where we had left off, but I knew the timing wasn’t right. She was in the middle of studying, and I wasn’t going to interrupt.

“You guys have fun,” I said, taking her in for a final few seconds before I went to my room.

Once I shut the door behind me, I tossed my bag onto the bed and arranged my pillows in a comfortable position. Organic Chemistry sat on my lap, and I opened to the chapter that we had gone over in class. I was just bringing my coffee up for a sip when there was a knock at my door.

“Come in,” I said, glancing up to catch that blue stare on the other side.

That hadn’t taken long.

I liked that about her.

She clung to my doorframe, those slender fingers gripping it so tightly. “Dylan had to make a phone call, so we’re taking a quick break. I just wanted to come and say … small world.”

“Had I known you were in such a rush to come to my place, we could have walked here together.”

A heat moved across her skin, cheeks flushing. “I was running so behind; they had to start without me.” She stepped in farther, still staying by the door but putting her back against the frame. “I’m Pearl, by the way.”

“Ashe—you already know that.”

“Ashe,” she said as though she were trying it on for size. “I like that. Is it short for something?”

“It’s my mother’s maiden name. She has six siblings, all sisters. She didn’t want their last name to die out.”

“I love that.”

“And you?”

“You mean, is Pearl short for something? Or what I’m named after?”

I didn’t know what the hell I was asking. I just wanted to hear more of her voice and see the way those plump lips moved and to keep her eyes on me, so I answered, “Both.”

She glanced toward the window, her arms circling around her stomach. “One of my mother’s boyfriends once told me that if I had been a diamond, she would have sold me, but I had unfortunately come out as a pearl.”

“He sounds like a fucking dick.”

“That’s all she ever dated.” She was trying to hide how much that admission hurt, but her eyes wouldn’t let her. They were as loud as a scream. “You’re not going to school to be a shrink, are you?”

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