Abigail would be lying if she said she had recovered from her panic attack yesterday. The wedding was tomorrow and she had to be mentally prepared to greet guests, command staff, chase people, give orders, make speeches, and engage in small talk with pretentious rich people.

Abigail had graduated from high school in the five months that seemed like it flew by in a second. It was right after Johns wedding announcement. Everything fell into place conveniently because she could focus on the wedding over the summer other than her studies. She could focus on her plants and flowers, her books, and her garden. She could also focus on choosing what university she wanted to enter.

Last night, Mr. Barrington had a maid bring a note that all of her school expenses had been paid off for as long as she liked. A piece of her didn know how to feel the way the Master treated her. Paying full rides to university for three students could barely make a dent in the Barringtons generational wealth, but it was the act that mattered.

And it was because of that that she had to finish her final duty to Mr. Barrington before the wedding, and that was to inform Lucas of what was going to happen tomorrow. Once again, she found herself alone with him. Except for this time, it was right inside in her comfort.

The Young Master had taken her to a walk on the trail that looped the perimeter of the entire premise. She held her blue notebook in hand as she read him a nice bullet point list she had composed of last night. His strides were large versus her shorter legs, in which she had to remind him occasionally to wait up. She would look up and only see his broad shoulders getting further and further away. She stopped and read and jogged until his tall stature was beside her to start reading again.

He was kind enough to save questions for last, but his questions came out as quick, snappy statements.

”Why didn you this? ” ”This wouldve been better. ” ”You never thought of that? ” ”How could you have overlooked this? ”

After his snarky comments, Lucas showed no signs of returning and the trail could last an hour and a half. They were merely twenty minutes in. What followed suit wouldve been an awkward moment of silence, but then again, they were in Abigails serenity. Sounds of birds and trees rustling gave life to whatever draining energy Lucas was creating for her.

Abigail didn mind the lack of conversations. She liked the sound of nature. She adored it and could lose herself in it all day. Sometimes she would close her eyes and listen to the wind whistling musically. She liked to think she could hear it with her heart. One day, she would love to live in a small cottage in the middle of the woods, surrounded by trees, birds, squirrels, and rushing water in the background. She would grow her own vegetables and harvest them.

In the meantime, her shed was already very much satisfying. It was her escape, her safe space, her sacred space.

Agibails forehead slammed into something firm and she gasped, coming back to reality. Lucas had stopped walking and turned around to face her. He looked at her with a sort of impatience. A muscle in his jaw jumped. She took a step back, craning her head up to meet his gaze. Her book was held protectively in her chest.

”Tell me. Why did you look so pale last night? ”

She was skeptical of his sudden concerns.

”Im sorry? ”

”Answer the question. ”

”I… ” What could she tell him? That he freaked her out, and that she was afraid of being alone with him. She couldn . The more weakness she showed the more dominant he remained.

”Stop apologizing. I hate it when you do that. ”

Her lips pursed as if she was going to say something, then when she realized that she was going to apologize again she stopped herself. He saw that and cursed under his breath. For the first time in her life, she brought herself to try and catch his eyes. Why did he not like that part of her, and was he truly concerned for her health?

He caught her staring. Suddenly, he closed the distance between them. She panicked and immediately backed up.

”I think I know very well what happened to you, and I think… you thought I had forgotten. ”

He finally got a reaction from her. The exact reaction he had been waiting for ever since he got back.

The colors drained from her face again, but this time she tried to remain stronger. Her eyes betrayed her though. They widened as the memories came rushing back. The awful scenes she had locked away deep in her head with a key she had burned to ash. Irresistibly, his mere appearance and reference had simply knocked the layers of walls she took three years to build down.

”You still remember, ” a wistful smirk appeared on his face.

Her face was now horrified. She had been doing so well until this moment when she finally cracked. She controlled her panics. Pretending everything was fine. Pretending nothing had happened but he had seen right through her.

Abigails chest heaved as her breathing accelerated.

”I think you
e mistaken, ” she forced, already knowing she had lost. ”I don know what you
e talking about. ”

”Is that so? If youve truly forgotten, then let me make you remember. ”

He advanced. She turned to leave but he put a firm grip on her arm. His frame towered over her as he leaned in. She could feel his body heat and it terrified her.

Abigail yanked as hard as she could while pushing on his rock-hard chest. She was glad that her panic made her more aware of his rash behavior. She was able to release herself before he could take another hold of her. However, she crashed into the arms of another person.

”John! ”

A handsome gentleman returned creased brows at her. When she realized it was a stranger, she pushed herself away and collected herself.

”I– My apologies, sir. ” After giving him a careful look, she understood that he must be a guest at the Manor. He was tall, wearing almost an identical suit to Lucas, but while Lucass was formal and ironed, his was rolled up at the sleeves revealing thick tats on both arms. His jacket was pushed back in a more comfortable manner.

”What the hell are you doing here? ” Lucas snapped.

The stranger threw a playful smirk at him.

”Is that how you greet your best friend? You left me in New York. ”

The man put his hands on his hips as if he was in the middle of a discipline. He quickly turned his attention to the flustered girl who had just fallen into his arms. She smelled of flowers and honey. Her cheeks were bright red like a tomato. She wore a long maxi dress with a body-length cardigan over it. Her wavy hair was in a loose braid. She looked frail as if a bite from his friend over there could break her already.

”Im Asher. ” He extended a hand.

”Abigail. ”

Instead of shaking her hand, he lifted it up and planted a kiss over her knuckles.

She gasped, unexpectedly.

”I believe this is your customs? ”

For some reason, she found his cultural knowledge funny and let out a light-hearted smile.

”Only on formal occasions, but I appreciate it. ”

Asher returned her smile but his eyes met with Lucas.

Touch her one more time and I cut your hands off, his face said.

”Do you mind if I walk with you two back? ” Of course, he was asking Abigail and not his heated friend who would skin him alive as soon as they were alone.

”My pleasure. ” Abigail took the lead. Believe it or not, Asher was her lifes savior right now.

”Well, Abigail, I find myself rude if not to comment on how beautiful Penrose Manor really is. Can you believe Lucas here never talks about it in our three years living together? ”

They didn see his eye roll.

”It only lives to its name when new guests like you talk about it. You
e welcome to come by anytime you want. ” Abigail turned her head to see that Lucas was still nearby. He had his hands in his dress pants and a gloomy face on.

”You don have to worry about him. ” Asher pulled her closer. ”Hes nothing but a bully. ”

Abigail gave him a surprised look, followed by another shared smile. No one had dared to say such a thing about a Barrington before, let alone the most arrogant of them all and he was standing less than a yard away.

She was starting to like Asher.

Screw Asher! Lucas wanted to rip the bastards head off. Asher knows how to push all of his buttons since hes the only one brave enough to spar with him.

Asher just flew in from New York and he worked as a PI there. Does a damn good job at it too. He had done beat up many people in his lifetime, including Lucas when they first met at the bar. He got a mean kick, Lucas wished he could learn how to dodge fast enough but he has too much meat to move. At least his right hooks hurt like a son-of-a-bitch when they land.

”Whats a PI? ” He could hear Abigail asking.

”Private investigator. I can track anyone in the world if I want to and thats the coolest job in the world. ”

”And you work for me. ” Lucas couldn help but add.

”No. No no. ” Asher held up a finger. ”I work for your dad. ”

”Same shit. ”

”Language. We have a kid here. ”

If only Lucas could reach over and snap his neck, his Asher problems would be over.

The self-invited friend continued to converse with Abigail all the way back to the Manor. Hed managed he make her laugh two more times and surprised her once with one of his marine stories.

He had to give it to Asher. As a PI, it is part of his job description to come off friendly. Its just that hes doing it with the wrong girl and Lucas is now a ticking bomb.

Finally, they arrived at the back patio. The patio led to two large sliding glass doors.

”Oh, please come inside and join us for lunch. Mr. Barrington couldn possibly turn you down. ” Abigail squinted from the sun, creating shadows under her eyes.

”And how could I deny such a lovely lady? Lucas, do you mind? ”

The Young Master was staring off into space. He still had his hands in his pockets. Lucas returned dagger stares and went inside without so much as an answer.

Asher saw the trouble in the young girls eyes as she fidgeted with that blue notebook in hand. She was thinking she might have angered Lucas in some way.

”Don worry, ” he reassured her. ”Hes not as bad as you think he is anymore. Take it from someone whod lived every day with him for three years. ”

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