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Like I Love You

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Prelude

 

Frankfurt, Germany 2011


Ashlyn Harris pressed her forehead against the window of her suite on the top floor of the Hotel Hessischer Hof and took in the chaos of the World Cup. She was in the middle of the European leg of her FutureSex/LoveSounds world tour. They had performed a show in Munich last night and were scheduled to play tomorrow in Frankfurt.

“Whit?” Ash asked, hands in her pockets as she watched all the enthusiastic soccer fans.

“Yeah, Ash.” Whitney Engen responded from her spot at the hotel desk, typing away furiously at her MacBook. 

“Is the US playing? This looks crazy…I kinda wanna go.” She mused as she saw people decked out in face paint.

Whitney picked her head up from her laptop and followed Ash’s gaze out the window. “Oh, um…let me check.” She turned back to her computer and searched for a couple minutes. “Actually, yeah. They play Brazil today.”

“Can you get us tickets?” 

Whitney groaned. “Ugh…Are you sure you don’t just want to crack open a bottle of wine?”

Ashlyn laughed. “Just call Ari…he’s not that bad.” 

“He’s a pig.” Whitney reminded.

“He is. He’s also the best agent in LA.” Ashlyn smirked. “And a big part of why we’re both loaded.” 

“True.” Whit conceded, dialing the phone. “Hi Lloyd. It’s Whitney Engen, is Ari available?” Pause. “Hey Ari. Listen, Ash and I are in Frankfurt and she wants to go to the World Cup game that USA is playing in today against Brazil.” She made the ‘blah blah blah’ hand motion to Ash, who chuckled. “Ash, Ari said if he gets us the tickets you have to sing at Sarah’s birthday party.” 

In response, Ashlyn held up her middle finger.

“She says she’ll check her schedule.” Whit stared up at the ceiling as she listened. “Thanks Ari, you’re the best.” She hung up the phone and turned to Ash. “His friend Dan represents a bunch of the players. He said he’ll get us in. You might have to sign a couple autographs or take a couple photos.” 

“Sweet.” Ash pumped her fist and high-fived Whitney. “I’m going to hop in the shower.” She disappeared into the massive bathroom.

Whitney has been Ashlyn’s best friend ever since Ash made the move out to LA to pursue music at 18 years old. Whitney had been living the Laguna Beach lifestyle when she saw the Florida girl paying for a cup of coffee with spare change. The struggling musician had been in LA for 6 months and was living out of her beat up Grand-Am when Whitney took her home and convinced her parents to let Ashlyn sleep in the pool house. Ashlyn had sworn to repay her one day so when her career took off, making Whitney her manager was a no-brainer. It didn’t hurt that Whitney was a natural at it.

Ashlyn’s first album was a huge success, selling over 10 million copies and two worldwide tours. One as a headliner and another as a co-headliner. Now, they were touring to support her second album which was even more popular than her first and Forbes had released her net worth at $44 million as of two months ago. What Whitney appreciated the most about Ash was that despite all that money, she was still the same kid that bought coffee with loose change all those years ago. In Whitney’s opinion, that’s exactly why she’s been so successful. Fans relate to her so easily and Ash makes it a point to be as accessible as possible to them. 

Ash stepped out of the bathroom 30 minutes later, running product through her short hair and styling it just right. She hummed something under her breath, tilting her head and humming it one more time.

Whitney watched her, having seen this creative process countless times. 

Ash hummed the tune a few more times, tapping her hands on the desk to add in percussion. “Hm. Nope…don’t like it.” She concluded. “Want to go grab some lunch or just head to the stadium?”

Whitney checked her watch. “Let me just run to my room and then we can go to the stadium and eat there.

“Perfect. I want to immerse myself in the ‘futbol’” Ash cheesed. “Maybe we should get some face paint.” 

“Easy, Pelè.” Whitney teased. “PS…we’re bringing Adam and Ben with us.”

Ashlyn opened her mouth to protest but stopped when Whitney held up her hand.

“Ah. I don’t want to hear it. You’re here to perform in front of thousands of people. If you want to go whoop it up, I’m in, but we’re bringing security.”

“Fine, mom…” Ash pouts and watches Whitney leave the room. 

 

 

30 minutes later, Dan Levy was leading them up to a suite to take in the game.

“Hey Dan, I really appreciate you getting us in. I know this was last minute.” Ash thanked the sports agent.

“Oh, no problem. Ari gave me a call and told me you were in town. If you’re up for it, maybe I could take you down to the locker room after the game? You tweeting out a picture with the team would do wonders for the game. We’re trying to get women’s soccer on the map back in the States.” Dan said as he handed them their all access passes.

“Oh, definitely. I’d be happy to.” Ash agreed before Adam or Ben had a chance to gripe about security. 

“Great. Enjoy the game and help yourself to whatever you want in the suite. Plenty of food and a stocked bar.” Dan patted her on the shoulder before heading to speak to someone else.

“I don’t suppose you two would like a beer?” Ash glanced at Adam and Ben who both just stared back at her. “Didn’t think so…” She turned and ordered two beers from the bar, tipping $50 since the drinks were free. 

“Thanks.” Whitney sipped the beer and then headed to the outdoor seating section of the suite. 

Ash pulled her phone out and turned so the pitch was behind her before taking a picture of herself and the stadium. 

 

@ashlynharris24: In Germany, supporting the stars and stripes in between shows. Game starts in 30 minutes on ESPN. Check it out! Go USA!

 

“That oughta get them off to a decent start.” Ash grinned and hit ‘tweet’ on her iPhone.

Whitney and Ashlyn got really into the game, feeding off the environment and the energy. Whit was responsible for getting Ash up to speed on the rules since she played in high school. 

“Cameron’s agent is still blowing up my phone…they want you to release a statement that ‘What goes around’ isn’t about her…” Whit stated during a lull in the game as she sipped her beer.

“But it is…” Ash stated simply, not taking her eyes of the game. “Oh, come on!” She shouted as the ref pulled out a red card on Buehler.

Whitney grinned. “I know..I’m just relaying the message.” 

“Fair enough. Maybe I’ll dedicate it to her tomorrow.” Ashlyn smirked. 

“Great, I’ll warn Shauna…” Whitney teased, imagining Ashlyn’s publicist handling the Youtube shit-storm that would follow.

Ash made it through the game with minimal pictures and autographs considering they were in a suite hosted by a global talent agency. When the game went to extra time, the two best friends were on their feet. Ash found herself bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. With seconds left Abby scored the goal that would define her career, sending the stadium into chaos. 

“Holy shit!” Ash and Whit jumped up and down, watching the USA team dog pile on their star. 

Minutes later, the celebration started all over again when Ali Krieger kicked the final PK to win the game.

 

 

An hour later, Ashlyn and Whitney finally made their way down to the locker room, following Dan. When they approached the locker room, it was obvious the party was just getting started. Music was blaring down the hallway.

Whitney rolled her eyes as she heard the song. “Oh lord…” 

Ashlyn laughed and started dancing down the hallway to her own song. “They’ve got great taste in music.” 

‘Rock your Body’ got louder with each step they took, finally entering the room full of celebrating players and coaches. 

Ashlyn grinned and sang along to her own song under her breath, dancing to the beat. 

In a glee-induced haze, the blonde more commonly known as Pinoe saddled right up next to Ashlyn, singing and dancing with her. With all of the commotion, she didn’t recognize the superstar at first as she bumped their hips together side by side.

Amused too much for her own good, Ashlyn decided to sing along a little louder. This grabbed the attention of the mid-fielder. Pinoe looked at Ashlyn, then back to her team. Back to Ashlyn. Back to the team. Back to Ashlyn. “What?!?!?!” She screamed and jumped on Ashlyn like she had scored the extra time goal instead of Abby.

The leap caught the attention of the rest of the team, looking around from their various spots in the room to see their mid-fielder latched on to the international superstar Ashlyn Harris. All the while, said superstar’s song pumped through the room. 

Ashlyn laughed as Megan put her feet back down to the ground and the music got turned down a little bit. “Hey Y’all.” Ashlyn waved, making eye contact with all the players as she spoke. “Dan was nice enough to let me down and congratulate you guys on the win! That was crazy!!” 

The entire team broke out into cheers for a moment. Ashlyn took the noise as cover to lean over and ask Whitney a quick question. The ask earned her a glare from her best friend but got the answer she was looking for nonetheless. 

“I’m in town for a show tomorrow night. I don’t know if you guys are training or whatever but if you can break free for an evening, I’ll make sure you guys get suite tickets for the show.” Ash offered.

The team broke out into wide grins as all eyes turned to Pia. She produced a lopsided smile “You know I love music. We’ll be there Ms. Harris!” 

The entire room broke out into cheers and huddled around Ashlyn in a giant group hug.

“Think I can get a picture?” Ash asked, pulling out her cell phone. 

“Definitely!” Abby confirmed, bringing everyone around Ashlyn. 

Ash held the phone out, taking a group selfie before posting it to Twitter and tagging the team.

 

@ashlynharris24: These women are warriors! Go USA!

 

She hung around and took pictures with everyone individually, signing whatever they wanted and chatting with everyone. When the brunette with the game winning PK walked up, Ashlyn felt herself smiling a bit wider, in amazement at the natural beauty before her. “That shot was amazing!” Ash said, before Ali even got a chance to speak. “Ashlyn Harris.” She held out her hand with a warm smile.

Ali beamed and shook her hand. “Oh my god, I know who you are, you don’t have to introduce yourself.” Ali laughed, amazed at the manners of the superstar. “Can I get a picture? My brother is a huge fan of yours. He’ll absolutely die.” 

Ashlyn grinned and bit the corner of her bottom lip. “Just your brother’s a fan?” 

Ali blushed from her neck to the tips of her ears. Was Ashlyn Harris flirting with her? “No. Not just my brother. Who do you think runs the playlist around here?” She flirted back once she regained her composure. 

“So that means I’ll see you tomorrow at the show?” Ash raised an eyebrow, never breaking contact with the warm brown eyes she was itching to see more of. 

“I wouldn’t miss it.” Ali smiled widely

Just then, Whitney stepped in and whispered something into Ashlyn’s ear. 

Ashlyn nodded with a sigh. “Duty calls. I have to go do an interview for a local radio station. I’ll see you tomorrow!” Then she turned to the larger group. “See you guys at the show tomorrow! Give ‘em hell in the finals. I’ll be watching for sure!”

 

 

 

The next day, Ashlyn slipped the suit vest over her shoulders and knotted her tie with ease. “Whit, did you check on the soccer team?”

“Yep, they’re in the closest suite Stage Left.” Whitney confirmed.

“Perfect” Ash took a sip of her tea and started warming up her voice. 

“You like one of them.” Whitney stated with conviction. 

Ash rolled her eyes but didn’t respond.

“Oh no, I’ve seen that look before. Which one?” Whitney asked.

Ash raised an eyebrow but when Whitney gave her the head tilt, she knew there was no point denying it. “Ali.”

Whitney looked over her friend. She saw the gooey glint in her eye and relented. “I’ll make sure one of the PAs run up backstage passes.” 

Ashlyn gave her a thumbs up and headed to the stage. 

 

 

The crowd was intense, singing along to every song and swaying back and forth. After the show opener, Ash shot a wave up to the team which was met with a roar from the suite. Ash made eye contact with Ali and shot a wink up there before slipping into ‘Like I Love you’ along with the backup dancers, moving flawlessly across the stage.

5 songs later, Ash took a sip of water and grabbed the microphone from the stands. “So, y’all know how to do soccer around here huh?” The crowd erupted in cheers. “I went and checked out that little thing you call the World Cup. Maybe you guys saw it, but my home country crushed it last night!” More cheers screamed out as Ashlyn ran a hand through her hair, pushing the short locks back. “I got a chance to go meet the team after the game and they were nice enough to join us tonight. Frankfurt, you think you can give the US Women’s Soccer team a nice big welcome??”

The spotlight moved over to the suite and all the players waved down to the thousands of fans cheering below. Ashlyn clapped along with the fans as she looked up to the suite, meeting eyes with Ali again. “So, when I went down to their locker room after the game yesterday they were playing this next song. I figured it was only fair that I gave them the live version tonight. Sing along if you know the words.” 

The rest of the concert was an absolute blast. The soccer team’s voices were hoarse from singing along at the top of their lungs. When the last song of the encore finished, Ashlyn ran off the stage. “Whooo!” She jumped up and down, high fiving her bandmates and dancers. “Fucking awesome show” Ashlyn loosened the tie around her neck and headed to the large community room for the afterparty. She grabbed a water, gulping down the entire bottle before grabbing a beer. It was about 10 minutes later that the soccer team joined the party. 

Abby was the first to reach her, pulling her in for a hug. “Thanks so much for this! Tonight was incredible.”

The rest of the team came through one by one, thanking her for the tickets. Ashlyn told everyone to make themselves at home and help themselves to drinks and food before circling back to Ali. “So you had fun?” 

“Of course. It was amazing!” Ali beamed, sipping on her water. 

“Good. I’m glad you liked it. Can I get you a drink?” Ashlyn offered her most charming smile.

“Oh, I wish I could. We’re still recovering from yesterday and the final is in a couple days, so…” Ali trailed off.

“Right, right. Sorry.” Ashlyn grinned sheepishly.

“Hey, no. It’s sweet.” Ali squeezed Ash’s forearm, intrigued by how ‘normal’ she was. 

They spent the next hour hanging out. Ashlyn and Sydney having a dance off in the middle of the room. Whitney chatted up Alex Morgan, talking about their California ties. Finally, Pia signaled that it was time for them to head back. One by one, they started heading out. 

Ash quickly saw her chances with Ali disappearing and grabbed her arm to get her attention. She nodded for Ali to follow her before disappearing through a side door into her personal dressing room. Once the door was shut, Ashlyn turned to Ali and spoke at a rushed clip. “I have this thing about seizing opportunities when they’re presented to you. I’d like to think it’s one of the reasons I was actually able to make a career out of music. I have literally no clue when I’ll see you again but if I don’t do this I know I’ll regret it.” 

Before Ali had a chance to soak in Ash’s words, the musician reached around to the back of her head and pulled her in for the most intense kiss of her life. She savored how Ash tasted like beer with a faint trace of tequila. Ali appreciated how her lips were soft and demanding at the same time.

A moment later, Ash pulled back a little breathless. “Wow.” She blinked a few times. “I…wow.” She laughed. “I might have to write a song about that…” 

Ali giggled as the blush spread across her face.

“Okay, so you have to go…or your team is going to leave you here. Not that I would complain but…” Ashlyn reached into her back pocket and pulled out a card, pushing it into Ali’s palm. “This has my cell number on it. Ball’s in your court, soccer star. Good luck in the final.” 

“Thank you.” Ali beamed. “We’ll do our best.” She reached up and ran her hand down Ashlyn’s cheek, trying to memorize this moment before leaning in and stealing another kiss. When they broke apart, Ali bit her bottom lip. They gazed at each other for another second before Ali disappeared to rejoin her team. 

A minute later, Whitney entered the room to find a dazed Ashlyn.

“I think that might be what love at first sight feels like…” Ashlyn sighed.