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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.

Chapter Text

Ashlyn was in the state of the art gym located in her $8 million mansion nestled in Hollywood Hills. Her trainer had her dripping sweat when Whitney came down into the gym with two Starbucks cups in her hands. Ashlyn glanced at her before returning to her set of bench presses. “Anything?” Ash asked as she laid down onto the mat to start stretching.

“Nothing.” Whitney replied, taking a sip of her coffee.

“Fuck…” Ash muttered, switching her stretch to the other leg. 

Whitney could see the wheels turning in her best friend’s head. 

When the stretching was done, she stood and shook hands with her trainer. “Thanks Mark. I’ll see you Thursday.” Ash took a deep breath and accepted the latte from Whitney as they headed out onto the massive patio. “I really thought she would call…” Ashlyn mused.

It had been almost three months since Ashlyn had slipped her phone number into Ali’s palm and since then, there had been radio silence. At first, Ashlyn had figured it was the dramatic loss to Japan in the World Cup final and Ali just needed some time to get over the loss. When weeks turned into months, she was starting to lose hope that she’d hear from the soccer star. “Should I go full court press?” 

Whitney sighed and took a sip of her coffee. She knew this question was coming but she still wasn’t ready to answer it. “I don’t know, Ash…you’re in the middle of this huge tour. You’ve got a ton of interviews this week from Ellen to Leno and a list of actresses waiting for you to call. The show at Madison Square Garden is going to be filmed and released on HBO…there’s just a lot happening right now.” Whitney ran her hand through her long blond hair. “Now, as your best friend, of course I say full court press.” She smirked. “Hell, if it doesn’t work out you’ll probably write a couple great songs..so..win/win.” 

Ashlyn rolled her eyes and laughed as she started to formulate her plan. 

 

 

4 hours later, Ashlyn and Whitney were sitting in a dressing room backstage at the Ellen Show. 

“There she is!” Ellen Degeneres beamed and walked right up to engulf Ashlyn in a hug. The two had become friends almost instantly when Ashlyn came on the show for her first album. They found common ground in supporting LGBT rights and how they handled their fame. They both had that southern humbleness that popularity couldn’t take away. 

“Hey lady” Ash grinned and picked Ellen up off the ground in a bear hug. “I’ve got a favor to ask….”

 

 

 

Two days later when the episode aired Ali was in Frankfurt with her team. Checking her phone after practice shocked her. 47 text messages and 4 voicemails. She sat down and checked her text messages first. 34 of them were the group text message with the National Team. The other 13 were from her brother. She scrolled through them but had a hard time making out exactly what the hell it was all about so she switched to her voicemail. Three from Kyle and one from her mother.  She pressed play on the first message and had to pull it back from her ear. The entire message was just one long high pitched scream from her brother that lasted nearly 20 seconds. Ali rolled her eyes with a chuckle and played the next one. That one turned out to be similar but instead of screaming, he just kept repeating ‘Oh My God!’ over and over again. Next, her mother’s voice came through her ears.

“Alex, honey, it’s mom.” Ali shook her head at how her mom announced herself even with caller ID. “I was just watching the Ellen Degeneres show and that adorable Ashlyn Harris was on. You have to watch the clip! Anyways…she was talking about how she had the best kiss of her life while she was in Germany on tour and I thought maybe you saw it or something while you were backstage! Call me! I love you!” 

Ali’s jaw hit the floor. Ashlyn Harris did not talk about her on The Ellen Show….No, no no…She opened the Youtube app on her phone and searched quickly, finding the video and hitting play.

 

Sitting in her normal host chair, Ellen looked straight into the camera. “Now, my next guest won two Grammys for her debut album. Her new album is already creating all sorts of buzz for album of the year. Ladies and Gentleman, one of my good friends, Ashlyn Harris.” 

Ashlyn danced through the entranceway to the stage as the crowd went crazy. She walked up to Ellen and pulled her into a hug before turning to the crowd and waving with both hands. “Hey y’all.” 

The two settled in and Ellen turned to her. “So, do you sleep ever or?” 

Ashlyn laughed, smiling wide for the camera with practiced ease. “Uh, yeah. Once in awhile.”

“Well, it doesn’t seem like it. Your face is on every magazine. Your album is on every end cap and now you’re in every city. How’s the world tour going?”

Ashlyn leaned back into her chair, crossing her leg so her left ankle rested on top of her right knee. “It’s going great. The fans have been amazing. The last 6 months have been going through Europe and Asia. Everyone there was so welcoming and great. Now, we’re back home, doing a tour stateside which, obviously, super excited for. We’re actually going to film the New York show, so that’ll be great.”

“Uh huh, uh huh. Let’s get to the good stuff.” Ellen stated as she sat forward on her chair, rubbing her palms together as the crowd erupted into cheers.

“Uh oh…Okay…” Ashlyn bit her bottom lip, giving the crowd a playful wink. 

“Who is currently naked in your bed?” Ellen asked casually.

Ashlyn dropped her jaw and put a hand on her chest, as if this was the most scandalous thing she’d ever heard, playing it up for the camera. “Ellen….my grandmother watches this show.” 

“Sorry, Grandma.” Ellen said into a camera before turning back to Ashlyn “For real, though…” She raised an eyebrow. 

Ashlyn shook her head and took a sip of water from the coffee mug. “I can say with certainty there is no one naked in my bed right now.” 

Ellen rolled her eyes. “Oh please…”

“Well, yeah..I mean how could there be when you’re right here?” Ashlyn teased, sending the crowd into pandemonium. “Just kidding. Portia, I love you.” She winked at the blonde sitting in the front row. 

“So, you’re single?” 

“I am.” Ashlyn ran a hand through her hair as they came up to the segue she had asked Ellen to help her with. “Not by choice…” 

“Wait a second, wait a second…What do you mean not by choice?” Ellen leaned back into her chair as if settling in for a long story. 

“Well…I think…” Ashlyn rubbed her chin in contemplation. “I think I had the best kiss of my life about three months ago while I was in Frankfurt but…” She shrugged charmingly. “I guess it wasn’t as great for her because I gave her my number and she never called.” 

The crowd let out a predictable gasp.

Ellen turned and hushed the crowd down with her hands. “Hang on, lets get to the bottom of this. Did you give her your agents number? Maybe somewhere a voicemail box is full of her phone calls?” 

Ashlyn laughed and shook her head. “Nope. Gave her the personal cell.” She leaned in as if she was telling a secret. “That’s how good the kiss was…”

“Well that must have been one hell of a kiss. Portia still just has my agent’s number.” Ellen teased, earning a laugh from the crowd and an eye roll from Portia. 

“It was. So, if she’s out there watching…” Ashlyn turned to the camera with her most charming smile. “I’ve had that kiss on my mind for three straight months and I need a date to the Grammys.” 

The crowd erupted for an entire minute before Ellen could talk again. “Well, it looks like if she doesn’t take you up on the offer, you’ve got some options in the crowd.” She played. “We’ll be back in just a minute with a performance from Ashlyn!” 

The video ended and Ali was left slackjawed. “Oh my god…” She blinked and went back to the text messages. Now, she understood. The entire team knew Ali was the subject of Ash’s affection and were busy ribbing her about it. Finally, she played Kyle’s last voicemail.

“Hey, lil sis. Remember that time you made out with Ashlyn Harris in her dressing room? And remember how she gave you her number and then you didn’t call because you got caught up in your own head. And then remember how she just called you HER BEST KISS EVER? GIRL. You better call me. I don’t have the frequent flyer miles to haul my ass to Germany. Call me.” 

Ali rolled her eyes and hit dial under Kyle’s name. A half a second later, Kyle answered. 

“Oh my god, it’s about time. Tell me you already saw the video.” He rushed out.

“I just watched it.” Ali breathed out, feeling a little shaky with disbelief.

“Alexandra Blaire…if you lost that phone number…” Kyle warned.

“I didn’t lose it.”

“Then what in the ever loving fuck are you doing talking to me??” He screeched. “Call her!” 

Ali sighed. “She could’ve been talking about someone else.” She rolled her eyes at herself, knowing how dumb it sounded. Ashlyn had been too specific for it to be a different person. 

Kyle just let the silence speak for itself, letting her know he wasn’t buying it. 

“Ugh. Fine. What do I even say?” 

“Start with hi. Do it now, and call me back!” Kyle hung up without waiting for a response. 

Ali dug through her purse and pulled out the crinkled card from her wallet. She looked at it and flipped over to the hand written phone number on the back. 

She took a deep steadying breath and hit dial.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

Ashlyn was at the Staples Center in LA, doing a dry run of the show. Now that they were back home, the choreography was getting ticked up a notch. The stage was massive and 10 back up dancers were scattered all over around the band. They were in the middle of the ‘Like I Love You’ routine when Whitney let out a loud wolf whistle from backstage.

“Keep going!” Ashlyn yelled over the music before sprinting off-stage. She reached the blonde who was holding up the phone. It had been two days since the filming with Ellen, but the show just aired an hour and a half ago.

“Go get her, tiger” Whitney winked before handing the phone over and walking to the stage to keep everyone organized. 

Ashlyn grabbed the phone and trotted into her dressing room, shutting the door behind her. “Hello?” 

“Hey, this is Ali Krieger.” The brunette shyly mumbled through the phone. 

Ashlyn grinned. “Ali…Ali…I think I met an Ali a couple months ago.” 

Ali laughed and looked down at her shoes. “I deserved that. Sorry it took so long for me to call.” 

Ashlyn grinned. “I’m sure you’re very busy. It’s ok.”

Ali rolled her eyes. “Yeah. I’m in the middle of this world tour right now…so between that and the Ellen show, I’m just slammed.” Ali played at how between the pair of them, she was definitely not the busy one. 

“Oh, so you saw the show huh?” Ash asked.

“I had to catch it on Youtube. I’m still in Germany.”

“Still? Didn’t…Didn’t the World Cup end months ago?” Ash titled her head to the side.

Ali laughed “It did. I play professional soccer here.”

“Oh. Shit. Okay. Fancy.” Ash ran her hand through her hair, trying to figure out how to see the captivating brunette again. 

“I’m coming home in two weeks though…” Ali added. 

Halfway across the world, Ashlyn let out the most enthusiastic silent fist pump possible. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I’m visiting my brother in LA.” 

“And there’s some free time in there somewhere?” Ashlyn asked hopefully. 

“I bet there could be, yeah.” Ali bit her lip to fight the grin on her face. 

“I’d like that. I’d like to steal some of your free time.” Ash husked out.

“Ugh. You’re smooth…” Ali groaned as her stomach did somersaults. 

“Well, do me a favor. Don’t believe the stuff you read in the tabloids. I’m not actually the playboy they make me out to be.” 

“So, you’re not actually dating Scarlett Johansson?” Ali asked. She was trying to be playful but there was enough truth there for Ashlyn to pick up on it. 

Ashlyn was shocked as things started to make sense. “Oh wow, Al, is that why you didn’t call?” 

Just a week after the World Cup final, the tabloids published photos of Ashlyn with Scarlett pinned underneath her in a heated make out session, both half naked.

“Listen, Ash. It’s okay. It’s not like we were dating or anything.” Ali rushed out. 

A grin spread across Ashlyn’s face. This, she could fix. “You’re adorable.” She stated simply. “Scarlett’s a good friend of mine. She’s in my next music video. An assistant leaked the footage to make some cash and the papers ran with it. So, technically we made out but it was in front of like 40 people and a bunch of cameras…all in the name of art.”

Ali laughed with a sigh. “Of course. I’m sorry, Ash. I was in kind of a weird place after the final and then seeing the gossip papers…I should’ve called you.” 

“Well, if you want to make it up to me…you can let me fly you and your brother to New York when you come home.” 

“That’s how I can make it up to you?” Ali chuckled skeptically.

“Yeah.” Ash replied easily. “I’ll be on the east coast in two weeks so it’s the only way I’d be able to see you….Or I could cancel a couple shows…” Ash lamented playfully.

“Don’t you dare.” Ali laughed. “I’m sure Kyle would be more than happy to move our reunion to New York.” 

“Perfect.”  Ash turned as the door to her dressing room opened and Timbaland popped his head in. 

“Ash, Gaga just got here to run through her songs for tonight.” 

“Okay. Give me like five minutes, Tim.” She turned her attention back to Ali. “Sorry, that was Tim.” 

Ali gaped on her side of the phone. “Timbaland?”

“Uh. Yeah. I mean..Timothy. Mosley. But he goes by Timbaland.”

“Right, because you guys are best friends.” Ali tried to act casual about the whole thing.

“I mean…best friend in the business. Whitney’s my best friend” Ash confirmed.

“Uh huh. And he just let you know that Gaga was there..as in Lady Gaga?” 

“Yeah, she’s doing a couple songs at the show tonight.” Ash said, forgetting how this looks from the outside. 

“Um…okay…well…” Ali laughed. “That’s amazing.” 

“Well, shit. If I knew that would impress you I would have just had her tweet you or something.” Ash teased. “I have to run but…don’t wait 3 months to call me again, ok?” 

Ali giggled. “I won’t but I called this time, ball’s in your court now…” She flirted.

“Challenge accepted." Ash was quiet for a moment.  "Ali?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad you called.”

“Me too.” 

“Have a good night.” 

“Bye Ash.” 

 

Ash hung up the phone and took a deep breath. “Fuck yes.” She fist pumped again. When she turned around Whitney was leaning against her door frame with a mischievous grin on her face. 

“I’m assuming it went well?” 

“Ugh. I’m in so deep. She’s like a drug..and her voice and the mumble that she talks with…” Ashlyn grinned as she bounced up and down. 

“Ok, Romeo. We gotta go.” Whitney chuckled and shoved her out the door. 

 

 

 

15 minutes later, Ali was getting settled into her apartment in Frankfurt when her phone buzzed. The screen let her know it was a message from Ashlyn and a smile immediately broke across her face. She opened up the message to find a video and her free hand clasped over her mouth in a gasp. 

“Ali! This is Lady Gaga.” 

“And your boy, Tim” Timbaland chimed in.

They were both huddled in next to Ashlyn as she held the phone out to record with a shit-eating grin on her face. 

“Listen, we just wanted to send you a quick message to let you know that you should absolutely take her up on the offer to head out to New York. It would mean a lot to us.” Lady Gaga petitioned for her friend. “She’s great and I can personally promise that she’ll treat you right. If she doesn’t, I’ll have one of my guards take care of it” She winked. 

“Plus, I’ll be in NYC. If she’s not your type, you hit me up.” Tim winked before getting shoved by Ashlyn. 

With that, the video ended. “Oh my god…” Ali whispered in wonderment, trying to grasp what exactly she was getting herself into. 

 

 

 

A couple hours later, Ashlyn and Whitney were in the back of 71Above at one of the quieter tables, eating dinner. 

“So….how’d it go?” Whitney asked as she took a sip of wine the sommelier had brought to the table. 

“Really good. I don’t think Gaga and Tim sending the video hurt anything…” Ash chuckled as she sipped on her Macallan 25. “Think you can get me an appointment at her brother’s salon?” 

Whitney glanced up. “Um…sure?” She tilted her head in question.

“They’re going to come out to New York for the MSG show. She was already planning on coming home to visit her brother here in LA. I wanted to fly them both out there for the shows and to see her but I thought it might be nice if I met him first. Y’know? So I’m not a complete stranger?” 

Whitney grinned. “You’re Ashlyn Harris…you’re not a stranger to anyone under 40…” 

Ashlyn rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean.”

“Yes, I’ll get you an appointment.” Whitney made a note in her phone.

“She thought I was dating Scar…That’s why she didn’t call.” Ash clarified, knowing that Whitney was a little skeptical of Ash being so into someone that hadn’t even bothered to call her. 

Whitney visibly relaxed into her seat at this information. “Fucking tabloids…” She sipped her wine. “She’s off the hook.” 

“Good.” Ashlyn grinned and dug into the filet mignon that was set in front of her by their waiter. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Ashlyn and Ali texted back and forth at a regular pace considering the time difference. Ali made it a point to keep up on Ash’s appearances on talk shows. Jimmy Fallon, another one of Ash’s friends, took her search for the brunette a step further when #Ashlynneedsadate started trending on Twitter after her appearing on his show. 

To Ashlyn’s credit she’d kept them 100% private, deflecting the prying questions with ease as more aggressive interviewers dug for clues to who this mystery woman might be. Ali was amused at all the theories out there about who Ash might be trying to woo. So far, her favorites were Katy Perry and Rihanna. 

6 days before Ali was set to arrive in LA, Ashlyn pulled in front of Spoke & Weal in downtown LA. She climbed out of her Audi R8 with her Ray-Bans on and waved to the couple paparazzi before handing her keys to the valet and heading inside. She walked up to the front desk.

“Hi, I have an appointment with Kyle under Engen.” Ashlyn took her sunglasses off and met the eyes of the receptionist. 

“Yes, Ms. Harris. Of course. Right this way.”

Ashlyn blinked, impressed by the professionalism and followed her to the back part of the salon,  ignoring the stares that she’d come accustomed to. 

“Kyle, Ashlyn Harris is here.” The woman announced before leaving.

Kyle turned from his work station, thinking he had heard incorrectly. 

Ash chuckled at the shocked expression and held her hand out. “Hey Kyle, I’m Ashlyn.” 

“Uh, yeah you are…” Kyle shook her hand, trying to push down his inner fan-girl. “I thought my 3:00 was with a Whitney?” 

“My manager scheduled the appointment. We try to keep my name off of books whenever possible.” Ashlyn shrugged. “I needed a haircut and I thought it might be nice to meet before New York?” 

“Definitely! I’m a hugger! Can we hug?” Kyle beamed with his arms outstreteched. 

Ashlyn laughed and pulled him in for a hug.

He glowed from ear to ear and guided her over to the shampoo station. The walk to the sink was enough for Kyle to get his emotions back under control. “So…you’re in love with my sister….” He grinned.

Ashlyn smirked and bit her lower lip. “Maybe a little early for words like that, but I do think she’s great. I hope you’re not too upset about sharing her a little while she’s home.”

“I mean, I guess I can share…” He smiled and towel dried her hair, leading her back to his station. “So, what are we doing with this?” He asked as he ran his fingers through her hair.

She shrugged. “I dunno. Whatever you think.” 

“Seriously?” He asked, shocked. 

She laughed. “Was that the wrong thing to say?” 

“Most celebrities are super specific and picky. I’m just surprised.” He said as he grabbed his clippers. 

“Well, just don’t do anything that’ll get me in trouble with my publicist…” She teased. 

“You got it.” He smirked and started the cut. “Ali sent me the video with Lady Gaga and Timbaland.” 

She was careful not to move from laughing while he was cutting. “Yeah, she seemed more impressed with them than me so I figured I use them to my advantage.” 

Kyle rolled his eyes. “Oh girl, please. She’s plenty impressed.” 

“Yeah?”

“Yes. Don’t get me wrong…it didn’t hurt anything…but I doubt you actually needed it.” He added as he started to cut the back. 

The two chatted all through the haircut, stopping multiple times when they were both bent over laughing. Before long, the cut and style was done. 

“What do you think?” Kyle asked, tilting his head to the side.

“Dude, I love it.” She turned, checking out the back and the sides. 

“I went a little more aggressive with the fade.” He noted.

“It’s awesome. I love it.” She checked her watch. “I’ve gotta go hop on a plane. I’ll see you in New York?” 

“Absolutely.” He smiled and pulled her in to a hug. 

“Think we can take a picture to mess with your sister?” She grinned.

“Um. Yes.” He laughed before huddling in close for the selfie. 

A minute later, she posted the picture to Twitter and Instagram.

@ashlynharris24: If you’re in LA looking for a cut, this is your guy: @kylekriegerhair. #spokeandweal.  

“Oh my god, I should pay you a publicist fee…” Kyle praised.

“Don’t mention it.” She patted him on the shoulder with a smile. “I’ll see you in a couple days.” She went up to the receptionist and paid for the cut before pulling $500 out of her wallet. “Can you give him that as a tip?”

“Of course and the valet just pulled up with your car.”

She slipped on her aviators and headed outside, keeping her head down and getting into her Audi as flashes went off everywhere. She had just pulled onto the road as the phone rang through the car. “Hello.”

“Are you stealing my brother?” Ali teased.

“Not stealing…just borrowing.” Ash grinned as she drove through downtown LA. “I was getting a little shaggy.” 

Ali was laying on her couch, trying to keep the dreamy sigh from leaving her lips. “Something tells me you have a stylist…”

“I mean…there’s a couple people that I go to but I might’ve been missing a Krieger so I just went for the closest I could get to until next week.” Ash flirted.

Ali closed her eyes and took a deep breath “You’re a giant cheese ball…” 

“So what do you think of the cut?” 

“He did a good job.” Ali smiled, looking at the picture on her iPad. “It was really sweet of you to tweet about him like that.” 

“I was happy to. He was great.” She was quiet for a minute as she turned around a corner. “I’m excited to see you.” She added quietly. 

“I’m excited to see you too.” Ali whispered back, closing her eyes. 

Ashlyn let out a big sigh. “Okay. I’m pulling into the airport to head to New York. I’ll see you in a couple days?” 

“Can’t wait.” Ali smiled. “Are you sure you want us to stay at your place? We can get a hotel in New York.” 

Ash smiled at the thoughtfulness. “Al, it’s a 3 bedroom penthouse. There’s plenty of room.” 

“Okay.” Ali relented, hoping Ash wouldn’t take her up on the offer to stay in a hotel. “I’ll see you soon.” 

“Bye Alex.” Ash whispered before hanging up the phone. 

 

 

Ash parked the R8 and climbed out next to the private jet. “Keys are in it.” She said to the valet as she handed him a $20. She grabbed her duffle bag and climbed the stairs into the jet, flopping down on the couch next to Whitney.

“Nice hair cut.” Whitney teased with a smirk on her face.

“Thank you.” She beamed which earned an eye roll from Whit. 

“We’ll be taking off in five minutes.” The pilot announced from the overhead speaker. 

A moment later, Tim climbed the stairs and joined them. “I’ve had this song in my head all day! We got work to do!” He announced as he sat down.

They spent the entire flight working out lyrics to ‘Carry-out’ for Timbaland’s next album.

Ash tilted her head to the side as she mumbled out a couple lyrics under her breath. “Play the beat again..” She waited for Tim to rap through his part before she started.

 

Number one, I’ll take two number threes

That’s a whole lotta you and a side of me

Now is it full of myself to want you full of me

And if there’s room for dessert then I want a piece

 

She looked up and saw both Whitney and Tim gaping back at her. “Too much?” She asked sheepishly.

“Wwwoooo…that’s hot. Girl's got game.” Tim high-fived. He wrote it down on his pad of paper as they started working through the next verse. 

Whitney laughed. “I don’t suppose you had specific inspiration for those lyrics?” Ashlyn just grinned and shrugged.

 

Chapter Text

Ashlyn was out on the terrace of her penthouse drinking a cup of coffee when the buzzer went off. She immediately filled with a mix of nerves and excitement. She blinked a couple times, taking inventory of her emotions. “Jesus, Ash…relax. You’ve seen her one time…” She looked out across the New York skyline one more time before heading to the intercom. “Yeah?”

“Ms Harris. I have a Ms and Mr Krieger here.” 

“Thanks, George. Can you send them up?”

“Right away.” 

“And George?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I told you to call me Ashlyn.” She reminded with a smile.

“Yes ma’am.” 

Ashlyn chuckled before turning around and taking in the penthouse one more time. Everything was right where it belonged, having been decorated by one of the premier NYC interior designers. “Oh my god…get it together.” Just then, there was a knock on the door. She jumped up and down a couple times to gather herself like she did just before she took the stage. She looked down at her outfit. Jeans slung low on her hips and a gray linen button up with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. 

As she walked to the front door, she smoothed out the front of her shirt. One more deep breath and she opened the door. Her breath was taken away when she saw the woman she had been dreaming about for the last three months. Pictures and FaceTime had nothing on the real deal. She took in the beautiful brunette in front of her. “Hey.” Ashlyn said softly, a wide smile breaking out across her face.

“Hey.” Ali offered her a million watt smile and stepped forward, pulling her into a hug. 

Ash closed her eyes as she wrapped her arms low around the small waist, breathing her in. They held onto each other for another moment before breaking apart. 

Kyle, never one to be shy, spoke up. “Hey lady!” He pulled her into a tight hug.

“Hey!” Ash snapped out of her fog and returned the hug. “Come inside!” She turned and walked through the gallery. “So, this is it. Down this hall to the right is a bedroom and then here’s the kitchen.” She explained as they walked into the state of the art kitchen. “Living room and dining room.” She pointed around. “This is my room.” She walked them through the massive bedroom with the California King bed, fireplace that could also be seen from the living room, and walk-in closet. “Bathroom.” She showed them the attached master bath with a bathtub overlooking the NYC skyline, shower with 6 different shower heads, and double sinks.

She took a glance at Ali and Kyle who were both in awe of the penthouse. She blushed a little but kept going. “And this is the other bedroom.” She showed them the third bedroom with the attached bathroom. “And then the patio wraps all the way around.” She was suddenly insecure and her blush got a little deeper. “I know it’s kind of a lot…my financial guy told me it was a good investment and…”

“Ash.” Ali reached out and put her arm on the musician’s forearm. “It’s…amazing.” Ali beamed. 

“Yeah?” 

“Yes.” Ali looked around with a big smile on her face.

Kyle held his arms out wide and spun in a circle. “This, this is how I was meant to live.” He giggled.

“Well, make yourselves at home. The fridge is stocked and there’s towels in all the bathrooms.” 

Kyle grabbed his bag and headed back to the very first bedroom after announcing that he was going to go unpack. 

Suddenly both women were very aware that they were alone. Ashlyn felt like she was a 13 year old, trying to talk to a girl for the very first time. “How was your flight?” 

“It was great.” Ali smiled sweetly. “You didn’t have to upgrade us to first class…” 

“Oh, it was no problem. I was happy to.” She soaked in the smile she got from Ali. “Can I show you the patio? It’s my favorite part of the whole place.” She held her hand out for Ali to take.

“I’d love that.” Ali smiled and slipped her hand into Ashlyn’s. 

Ash held the door open for Ali to go through before following her, never letting go of the hand. She brought Ali over to the railing so they could see the massive city below them. She could feel Ali looking at her but she stared out at the city. “I’m from a really small town in Florida. I know logistically for work it makes sense to have a place in New York but I can feel a little closed in here. Everything is on top of each other.” She explained. “There’s no open spaces…when I saw this place I knew it was the only option. The ceilings are 10 feet high, which helps, but out here….I can see everything and I don’t feel so trapped, y’know?” 

Ali nodded and squeezed Ash’s hand reassuringly. “I can understand that. It’s beautiful up here.” 

“Wait until you see it at night.” Ash beamed. “And the terrace goes all the way around to the other side.” She turned back towards the penthouse to show Ali. “So, if you have nightmares, you can just pop out that door and my bedroom is right there.” She pointed to the door 20 feet down flirtatiously. 

Ali smiled shyly and leaned into Ash’s side. “If I have nightmares?” 

Ashlyn nodded, looking down into the soft brown eyes.

“Would that be the only reason?” She asked quietly, tilting her head up to look at Ash.

Ash searched the brown eyes and tilted her head down, closing her eyes. Ali started to lean up on her tiptoes, closing her eyes too.

Just then, Kyle rounded the corner from the other side of the terrace. “So, Nico just called and asked if I wanted to do lunch. I think I’m going to go meet up with him if you’re okay with that.”

He had started talking before rounding the corner which gave them enough time to break apart and gather themselves. “Yeah, Kyle, of course.” Ali smiled. “Tell him hi for me.” 

“There’s a keypad to unlock the door if we’re gone. The code is 2020.” Ash offered. 

“Great, thanks!” Kyle smiled and left.

Ashlyn and Ali were awkwardly quiet for a minute. Ashlyn cleared her throat and laughed softly. “Your brother has impeccable timing…”

“Tell me about it.” Ali sighed. 

“How about I make us some lunch?” Ashlyn offered.

“She cooks?” Ali raised an eyebrow.

“She cooks. Come on.” Ash headed back inside, this time through her master bedroom, holding the door open for Ali. 

 

Ali took in the bedroom, smiling at the guitar tucked in the corner. Her body felt like it was super charged. Ash wasn’t the only one that had been thinking about that kiss for the last three months. Now, being this close to Ash was an adrenaline rush. She couldn’t believe that she was privy to this in-depth view into the superstar, that Ash told her things that few other people knew like how the city made her feel closed in. 

During the flight to NYC Ali had steeled her nerves, doing her best to push down her growing feelings in an effort to protect herself from the potential heartbreak. She couldn’t believe that the international superstar was interested in her but now, looking into her eyes, she knew it was true. “Ash.” She whispered out from her spot in the middle of the master bedroom.

Ashlyn was almost through the door into the living room when Ali spoke, causing her to turn around. She took in the sight. Ali Krieger, stunningly beautiful, standing in the middle of her bedroom. Her normally warm brown eyes were darker with want and Ash felt her shoulders sag as the resolve to be patient melted away. 

She closed the distance between them and reached up to cradle the defender’s cheek with her left hand. She traced the lines of her cheek with her thumb, soaking in the sight before her. 

When Ali saw Ash take a deep breath and gulp, she closed her eyes for what was to come next. She tilted her chin up, parting her lips. The next feeling she experienced were Ash’s lips on her own, claiming them with a firmness that consumed her. 

Ash pulled her closer, deepening the kiss with a moan as she felt Ali’s hands press flat against her stomach. 

A moment later, they broke apart mutually breathless.  “I was wrong…” Ash whispered out.

Ali leaned back a little so she could see into Ash’s eyes, silently asking for clarification.

“That was the best kiss I’ve ever had…” Ash murmured. She moved her hands down to take Ali’s hands into her own.

“Me too.” Ali admitted, lacing their fingers together. 

Ash leaned down again and kissed her again, more innocently than the last. “Let me make you lunch.” 

Ali nodded, squeezing Ash’s hands before following her into the kitchen. She hopped up on one of the barstools and watched Ash move around the kitchen with ease. 

“Can I make you a drink?” Ash asked as she opened the fridge.

“Sure” Ali smiled, crossing one leg over the other.

“What’s your poison?” 

“Oh whatever, is fine.” 

Ashlyn smiled and peeked out from the fridge. “Ali, I have a full stocked bar, wine fridge and beer selection. I’m asking because I want to know what your favorite drink is.” 

Ali grinned and bit her lip. “Um. Wine would be great. I’m not super picky but something red?” 

Ash nodded and went over to a rack, pulling down a Malbec and uncorking it. She left it to breathe while she grabbed a stemless glass. “This is a…” She tilted the bottle so she could see the label. “96 Bodega Catena Zapata…Is that good? I’m not a wine drinker.” 

Ali smiled at how adorable she was being. “I’ve never heard of it.” She grabbed her phone and searched the name before gasping. “Ashlyn! That’s a $200 bottle of wine!” 

Ash glanced at the bottle and then Ali. “Huh.” She said, unfazed, as she poured it into the glass and handed it to Ali. “Guess I better make something fancier than grilled cheese for lunch then..” 

“Ash, I can’t drink this. It’s too much.” Ali protested. 

“Oh please. If you don’t, it’s just going to sit on the rack for eternity. Enjoy it.” Ash assured her as she grabbed a beer from the fridge and twisted the cap off. 

Ali relented and took a sip of the wine. “Oh wow…A girl could get used to this…” She closed her eyes and savored the taste. 

At the look of bliss on Ali’s face, Ashlyn felt her mouth go dry. She took a gulp of the beer and leaned against the counter, thinking of things she could do to make Ali have that face because of her instead of the wine. 

Ali caught the stare and had a good hunch of where the singer’s mind was. “Penny for your thoughts?” 

Ash smiled, knowing she was busted. “I’ll need to see some ID first…” 

Ali tilted her head to the side. “Why?” 

“Oh everything going through my head is R-rated…I need to make sure you’re old enough to hear them.” Ash teased.

Ali ran a hand through her hair, tossing it over her shoulder as she blushed and took another sip of the wine. “I’m old enough…” Ali husked and Ash wasn’t sure if she was talking about the thoughts or the actual actions. 

Ash took a deep breath and walked around the kitchen to the other side of the countertop where Ali was, hopping up on the stool next to her. They spun to face each other, their knees touching. “I…” Ash cleared her throat, struggling to put her thoughts into words.

Ali reached out and placed her hand on Ash’s thigh. “What is it?” 

“I’m not looking for a fling…and…I know that’s the reputation I have…” Ash shrugged. “It’s not who I really am and if you wanted to just hook up or whatever…I don’t know..I feel like I’m rambling. I just wanted you to know that I’m not that person.” 

Ali leaned forward and caressed the cheek of the singer. “Ash. You have been nothing but sweet to me. I don’t think you’re just trying to get in my pants…” 

Ash let out a big breath and nodded. “Good.” 

“How about we make lunch and go talk out at the table I saw outside? You can tell me about whatever’s on your mind?” Ali offered comfortingly. 

"That sounds great." Ash leaned in for one more kiss before returning to work on lunch.

 

Chapter Text

 

Ashlyn put together a salad with grilled chicken before heading out onto the terrace with Ali. The two sat down at the outdoor table next to each other and enjoyed the sounds of the city below them. Ali waited patiently, eating her lunch and letting Ash dictate where the conversation went. 

“I’m really glad you’re here.” Ash stated between bites before sipping her beer. 

Ali reached out and placed her hand on top of Ash’s. “Me too.” 

“You guys are the first guests I’ve had here.”

“Really? This place is amazing.” Ali was shocked she hadn’t shared it.

“Yeah, Whitney has a place just two blocks over so she doesn’t stay here and my family stays in Florida…so…” Ash trailed off. 

“Well, I’m honored I got to be your first time…” Ali teased. 

“I guess that’s a perfect transition to pick up our conversation from earlier.” Ashlyn admitted, taking a sip of her beer. 

“Only if you want to.” Ali softly added.

“I do. I know we won’t always have the longest amount of time together, so…might as well make the most of it right?” 

Ali nodded with a smile. “I absolutely want to make the most of it.” 

“I think if I’m honest, I’m struggling a little bit with my public image right now…We weren’t really sure how me being ‘out’ would effect my career…but to everyone’s surprise, people ate it up and then the record label wanted me to put out this bad boy image and that caught on like wild fire. So, all of a sudden it was more, more, more…” Ash took another sip of her beer. 

Ali sipped her wine and watched the sad hazel eyes.

“There’s pressure for me to live up this image but really, I think it’s caused my music to suffer…I mean Tim and I are really proud of the album but there’s so much more. I have all these songs that I want to release but they’re not all club hits so the label is pushing for more of the same.” 

“Are you tied to it contractually?” Ali asked gently.

“I mean, kinda…Now, I think I’ve got enough publicity or persuasion or whatever that I could throw a fit but I don’t want to. I just want them to hear it and know how good it is…And I think I’m scared that I’m wrong. I think it’s good but if I really dig my heels in and then no one buys it or listens to it, my career would be over. People have lost their careers over less.” 

Ali watched her, feeling sadness tug at her heart. 

“And then there’s my personal life. Y’know…It was perfectly justified for you to look at those pictures and wonder what was happening with Scarlett…but now it’s just such a forgone conclusion that I’m this ‘player’…I don’t like that…If people are going to get an inside look at my life I want them to know the actual me, not this marketing ploy for sales..” 

“I think that’s completely fair…” Ali agreed, offering a comforting smile. 

“And I want you to know the actual me. The me that Whitney and my grandma knows…The me that hasn’t stopped thinking about you for three months.” Ash finished quietly. 

Ali felt the butterflies explode in her stomach at the tender confession. “I want to know that version of you too. Will you play something for me? One of those songs that you want to be known for?” 

Ash smiled at the question, the sadness disappearing from her eyes. “I’d love to.” She stood up and went to get the guitar from her bedroom. 

Before she could take a step, Ali grabbed her arm and gazed up at her, whispering confidently. “Kiss me.” Ash bit her lip and bent at the waist, giving Ali the most tender kiss she’d ever experienced. When they broke apart, Ali grinned. “If your songs are like your kisses, I think people are going to be big fans…”

Ash blushed slightly but headed back into the penthouse. A minute later, she came back with the bottle of wine, a fresh beer and her guitar. She topped off Ali’s glass before sitting down and tuning the guitar. She spoke as she tuned. “So…addiction is kind of a thing in my family…and in the town I’m from. I wrote this song after the last time I visited…Definitely not the kind of thing you would play in a club..It’s called Losing My Way.” 

Ali sat back in her chair and sipped her wine as she waited patiently.

Ash gave the strings one more strum to make sure it was all in tune before starting to play. 

 

Hi, my name is Bob, and I work at my job

I make forty-something dollars a day

I used to be the man in my hometown

Till I started to lose my way

 

It all goes back to when I dropped out of school

Having fun, I was living the life

But now I got a problem with that little white rock

See, I can't put down the pipe

 

And it's breaking me down

Watching the world spin 'round

While my dreams fall down

Is anybody out there?

 

It is breaking me down

No more friends around

And my dreams fall down

Is anybody out there?

 

Can anybody out there hear me?

'Cause I can't seem to hear myself

Can anybody out there see me?

'Cause I can't seem to see myself

There's gotta be a heaven somewhere

Can you save me from this hell?

Can anybody out there feel me?

'Cause I can't seem to feel myself

 

Losing my way

Keep losing my way

Keep losing my way

Can you help me find my way?

Losing my way

Keep losing my way

Keep losing my way

Can you help me find my way?

 

Now you gotta understand I was a family man

I would have done anything for my own

But I couldn't get a grip on my new found itch

So I ended up all alone

I remember where I was when I got my first buzz

See, I thought I was living the life

And the craziest thing is

I'll probably never know the color of my daughter's eyes

 

And it is breaking me down

Watching the world spin 'round

While my dreams fall down

Is anybody out there?

 

It is breaking me down

No more friends around

And my dreams fall down

Is anybody out there?

 

Can anybody out there hear me?

'Cause I can't seem to hear myself

Can anybody out there see me?

'Cause I can't seem to see myself

There's gotta be a heaven somewhere

Can you save me from this hell?

Can anybody out there feel me?

'Cause I can't seem to feel myself

 

Losing my way

Keep losing my way

Keep losing my way

Can you help me find my way?

Losing my way

Keep losing my way

Keep losing my way

Can you help me find my way?

 

Oh my god, please forgive me

(Father, hear my prayer)

'Cause I know I've done some wrong in this life

If I could do it all again

Have just one more chance

To take all those wrongs and make them right

 

Losing my way

Keep losing my way

Keep losing my way

Can you help me find my way?

Losing my way

Keep losing my way

Keep losing my way

Can you help me find my way?

 

When the song ended, Ali had her hand over her heart and was fighting the tears from escaping her eyes. “Ash…” Ali whispered. 

“You liked it?” Ash asked quietly, setting the guitar down in the empty chair next to her. 

“Ashlyn, it was beautiful…” Ali said in wonderment. She wiped the tear that escaped down her cheek. “My brother was an addict…he’s clean now but…god, that was amazing…” 

Ashlyn was worried she had upset her. “Oh jeez…Ali, I didn’t mean to upset you…I’m sorry.” 

Ali reached out and took both of Ash’s hands into hers. “You didn’t upset me. People need to hear that song. You could change lives with music like that.” 

Ash sighed happily, staring at Ali. “That’s….Alex, that’s exactly what I was hoping for…that if I could just change one life through my music…it would all be worth it, you know? And the other stuff is fun and I still want to do it but no one ever had their life changed by Rock Your Body…” 

Ali smiled, internally noting how Ashlyn had called her Alex for the first time. “What if you just did like a deluxe edition of your album? People do that right? So they would get the hits but then add on your more personal stuff?” 

Ashlyn blinked a couple times, just staring at Ali.

“What?” Ali asked, unsure if she just recommended a dumb idea.

“That’s…brilliant! How have I never thought of that??” Ash beamed and hauled Ali out of her chair into a bear hug. “You’re a genius!” 

Ali giggled, returning the hug and burying her face into her neck. 

“I’ll mention it to Whitney tonight! Ugh. Soccer and smarts. You’re trouble.” Ash kissed her jaw, before moving to her neck, leaving an open mouth kiss there. “I should warn you that the show tonight is a little more provocative than what you saw in Frankfurt…” 

Ali grinned and raised an eyebrow. “Oh really?” She fought back the moan that threatened to escape as Ashlyn worked on her neck. 

“Yeah. HBO is filming…so…” Ash chuckled and placed another kiss on her neck. “There’s…some girls in lingerie and…some hip movements…” 

Ali smirked. “Scandalous.” 

“Mmm..Very.” She nipped at the skin where Ali’s neck met her collarbone. “I promise to be thinking about you the entire time…” 

Ali laughed “How romantic.” 

“Does it bother you?” Ash asked, pulling back to look into Ali’s eyes. 

“What?” Ali asked, reaching up and cradling Ash’s face in her hands. 

“The touching…or in the music video, the kissing..I guess just the intimacy in general.” Ash held her breath, waiting for the answer. 

“Yes and no. I know it’s part of your job…it must be just like with an actor or actress. I’d be lying if I said seeing a woman pressed up against you didn’t make me a little jealous…but I know it’s part of your job and you’ve been doing it a lot longer than you’ve known me.” Ali answered honestly. 

“It really is pretty clinical. Not once have I ever fooled around with a dancer after a show or filming a video. It’s just not sexy.” Ash explained. “Plus, I’ve been on the receiving end so I know how awful it is.”

Ali winced. “So, the rumors are true?”

Ash laughed loudly. “Which ones?” 

“About What Comes Around and Cry Me a River?” Ali asked.

“Well, yeah…What Comes Around is about Cameron…that really happened. Cry Me a River is actually about a girl from my hometown. She cheated on me with a guy and then tried to get me back when she heard that I was signed by a record label…So that was my public way of telling her to go to hell…” She laughed.

“Uh oh…guess I want to stay off your song catalog…” Ali teased. 

“Oh, I don’t know…You’ve already caused a couple ideas to spring up.” Ash hinted.

“What?!” Ali cried. “Seriously? Like what?” 

Ash laughed and shrugged. “Some are sweet….some are…not…” 

Ali’s jaw dropped. “What do you mean??” 

“Remember when you were visiting the beach and you sent me that picture of you in the bikini?” Ash asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well…it might have raised some less than pure thoughts….and I can’t help where my muse takes me…this time we went on a journey to dirty town…” Ash laughed. 

Ali’s jaw dropped. “You wrote dirty lyrics about me?” 

“Maybe…in my defense, it’s on Tim’s new record so the expectation for a little sexiness is already there…” Ash grinned.

“Can I hear it?” Ali was shocked. 

“Yeah, of course.” Ash watched Ali’s face before adding “Tonight…along with 20,000 other people….and all those people watching on HBO…” She smirked.

Ali swatted at her. “You’re the worst! How dirty?” 

“There’s no swearing…” 

Ali blinked. “I don’t know if that should make me feel better.” 

“I can be very creative.” Ash husked out.

Ali felt the blush rush up her neck under the gaze of Ashlyn. “I can’t believe you wrote about me.” 

“Well, when you’re all I think about…it’s hard to write about much else.” Ash leaned down and nipped Ali’s lower lip. 

Ali sighed dreamily. “I can see why all the girls fall for you…” She said playfully.

“All the girls don’t fall for me…” 

“Ashlyn.” Ali rolled her eyes. “You were the first woman to make People’s Hottest Bachelor list…” 

“Regardless. I can say with positivity that there’s only one woman I’m interested in…”

Ali beamed and bit her lower lip. “Yeah?” 

“Yeah.” Ash’s answer was rewarded with a steaming kiss from the shorter brunette. Ali pressed her body tight against Ashlyn’s and ran her nails through the short brown hair. Ash had just slipped her hands under the hem of Ali’s shirt when they heard someone clear their throat. 

They broke apart to see Whitney leaning against door frame with a grin on her face. “You two look like a couple of teenagers…” 

Ashlyn rolled her eyes but Ali broke away and walked to give Whitney a hug. “It’s good to see you again, Whitney.”

“You too, Ali.” She smiled and looked to Ashlyn. “I tried calling your cell…now I know why you didn’t answer….” She laughed. “We have to get going for the dry run.”

Ash checked her watch. “Shit. Okay.” She turned to Ali. “You’re more than welcome to come. Or if you want to stay and hang out with your brother…It’s up to you.” 

Ali thought about it for a moment. “I think I’d like to tag along if it’s okay.” She glanced between Whitney and Ashlyn.

Whitney piped up first. “Definitely. You can hang out with me when she’s busy.” 

Ash smiled to herself, pleased to see Whitney welcome Ali in. She knew the blonde was fiercely protective of her and it meant a lot that she was being so friendly to Ali. “I just need like…5-10 minutes to grab some stuff for the show…then we can leave.” Ash stated before walking into her bedroom.

Once she disappeared, Whitney turned to Ali. “She didn’t tell you what time she had to leave, did she?” Whit guessed.

“Um, no…we got caught up talking.” 

Whitney smiled. “It’s one of the most pure things about her…she just lives in the moment.” 

“It’s sweet.” Ali replied, matching Whitney’s smile. 

“If you want, you can pack a bag too. Ash has a massive dressing room with a full bathroom. I don’t mean that you look like you need a shower…I just…” Whitney grinned. “I plan on touching up my makeup before seeing Ryan…us girls gotta look out for each other.” 

Ali looked relieved. “You’re a lifesaver….I was internally figuring out how to change and do my hair and makeup in the next 5 minutes…” She laughed. “I’ll grab my stuff.” 

15 minutes later, Ashlyn and Ali were in the back seat of a tinted Range Rover, Whitney in the passenger seat, as the driver started their trip to Madison Square Garden.

Chapter Text

 

The Range Rover pulled into Madison Square Garden and drove through the large bay, right into the stadium. When they parked, Ali went to get out of the car but stopped when she felt Ash’s hand on her arm.

“Guys, will you give us a second?” Ash asked Whitney and the driver. 

“Of course. I’ll just meet you in the dressing room.” Whitney said before getting out of the car, the driver doing the same.

“Everything okay?” Ali asked, turning her body to face Ash.

“Everything’s great. I just…As soon as we get out of the car, we won’t control much anymore…there’s going to be people with camera phones literally everywhere and most of them aren’t part of my team…” Ash reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind Ali’s ear. “So we can just be friends, or you can push me up against a wall and make out with me, or somewhere in between, but I just wanted to make sure you knew that there’s a decent chance of pictures ending up on Instagram or Twitter. Whatever you decide, I’m totally fine with.” 

“You are so sweet…” Ali leaned across and captured Ash’s lips in a slow kiss. She pulled apart just enough to speak. “Play it by ear?” 

“Yeah, sure.” Ashlyn smiled. “I won’t make the first move…I want you comfortable with how much you are or aren’t in the spotlight.”

“You’re protective aren’t you?” Ali smiled, endeared by the woman before her.

“Maybe a little.” Ash grinned.

“I like that.” Ali whispered, giving her one more lingering kiss before getting out of the SUV.

Ashlyn climbed out the other door and went to the tailgate, grabbing her duffle bag and Ali’s, slinging them both over her shoulder. She led Ali through the corridor towards her dressing room. They walked in to a massive space with couches, a fridge, table full of food and a flatscreen tv with ESPN playing. “Help yourself to whatever you want.” Ash set the duffle bags down and fistbumped Tim when he walked up. “Timothy Mosley.” Ash bowed playfully.

Tim rolled his eyes, shoving her lightly. “Is this her?” He pointed to Ali with a wide smile. Ash just nodded with a grin and watched as Timbaland scooped Ali up into a hug. “I owe you a big thank you…her new stuff has been out of control…” 

Ali laughed. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Ali.”

“Tim” He smiled back and turned back to Ash, giving her a thumbs up.

Ali chuckled at their antics “She wouldn’t give me any details about these songs she's been writing…” 

“Sorry, I gotta stick with the kid on this one.” Tim smirked.

Whitney came through the door to see them playing around and rolled her eyes. “For fucks sake…” She laughed. “I swear to god, I’m more of a mother than a manager! Tim, I sent you in here to go get her for sound check!” 

Ash and Tim both looked like they had been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. “I gotta go, mom’s mad…” She grinned to Ali. “I’ll be back in a little bit.” 

“Go!” Ali teased, shoving her towards the door.

 

 

While Ash was doing the sound check, Ali took the opportunity to get ready. She changed into a classic little black dress that hugged every curve and showed off her calves along with a pair of Louboutin heels. She had just finished when Ash walked back through the door. 

“Um…” Ash blinked a couple times before turning around to cut off the few production assistants that were about to come into the room. “Give me a couple minutes.” She shut and locked the door. When she turned around, she took in the beautiful brunette. “You….Alex, you look stunning.” 

“You said that you’d be thinking about me up there…so I thought I could give you some inspiration..” Ali husked out, walking towards her. 

Ash finished closing the distance and crashed their lips together, eager to taste the brunette. She hoisted her off the ground and walked to the nearby table, setting Ali down on top of it while never breaking apart from her. She stepped in between the strong, perfect legs and ran her hands up the outside of Ali’s legs, underneath the dress. As her fingertips climbed higher, she reached Ali’s waist but didn’t feel any fabric. She pulled back, her eyes dark with lust as she looked down in Ali’s whiskey colored eyes. 

“I’m not wearing any…” Ali whispered, biting her lower lip seductively. Ali was rewarded with a loud groan as Ash smashed their lips back together. The strong arms pushed Ali back further onto the table before climbing on top of her, pressing their bodies together. Ali’s hands moved to the back of Ash’s head, pulling her down as Ali’s hips pushed up into the singer’s in search of relief. Ash moved her thigh between the soccer star’s legs, feeling her heart skip at the moan Ali let out. 

The loud knock on the door broke them apart, just barely. “I’m going to kill someone…” Ash whispered.  

Ali laughed, trying to ease down her own sexual frustration. She ran her hands down Ash’s chest, her fingertips taking in every curve. 

The loud knock rang out again. “Yo, Ash! It’s Shawn, open up!” 

“God damn it…” Ash sighed and stole one more kiss before rolling off the table. She helped Ali up and smoothed out her dress. “If it was anyone else, I’d tell them to go to hell.” 

Ali ran a hand through her hair, smoothing it out. “Who is it?” 

“Shawn Carter…” Ash stated before realizing that probably didn’t mean anything to Ali. “Oh…Jay-Z.” Ash laughed. “His real name is Shawn.” 

“Wait a second…” Ali was suddenly serious. “Is Beyonce going to be on the other side of that door?”

Ash looked at the door as if it would give her the answer and then back to Ali. “Um..maybe. I don’t know if she’s here yet.”

“But she’s coming?!” Ali asked, wide-eyed.

“Yeah…” Ash drew out. “She’s going to be in the suite that you’re in…we’re friends. I’ve written a couple songs for her.” 

“Oh my god…I’m not ready to meet Queen B!” Ali stated dramatically. 

Ashlyn busted out in laughter. “Do you want me to tell her she can’t come?” 

Ali took a deep breath. “You think I’m bad? Wait until Kyle gets ahold of her…” She teased. “I’m kidding…I promise not to embarrass you…probably…” 

Ash gave her one more smoldering kiss. “We’re picking this back up later…” She promised before moving to the door and unlocking it. “Hey Shawn.” She clasped hands with him and pulled him into a hug, then moved over to Beyonce. “Hey lady.” She beamed, pulling her into a tight hug. “Shawn, B, this Ali. Ali this is Shawn and Beyonce.” 

“Hey Ali” Shawn said warmly, shaking her hand.

“Girl, I love your shoes…” Beyonce praised as she checked out Ali’s outfit before pulling her into a hug. “It’s nice to meet you.” 

“Oh my god, you’re so sweet. Thank you!” Ali praised, returning the hug. “I’m a huge fan. I listen to your music before games.” 

“Ali’s on the Women’s National Soccer team.” Ash clarified.

“Oh, we watched that game!” Beyonce smiled. “That game against Brazil was amazing!” 

Ali felt a blush creep up her cheeks. “Oh, thank you.” 

“Remember those penalty kicks?” Ash asked.

“Yeah, that was crazy!” Shawn recalled.

Ash pointed at Ali. “Last goal of the game, right there.” 

“What?!” Beyonce asked in disbelief. “Wow! 

Whitney walked through the door just then. “Ash. Less than an hour.” 

Shawn spoke up “Sorry, we’ll get going.” He started towards the door. 

“Ali, we’ll see you up in the suite?” Beyonce asked.

“Yeah, absolutely.” Ali smiled and waved as the couple left. When the door shut, Ali exhaled. “Okay…I just met Beyonce…” She let out a laugh. 

Whitney smirked. “It gets less shocking…I promise.” She turned to Ashlyn. “You. Shower.” 

Ash gave a quick thumbs up and disappeared into the bathroom. 

“You.” Whitney turned on Ali. “Are you having fun? Do you need anything?” 

Ali laughed. “I’m having a great time.” 

“Good.” 

Ali felt her phone buzz and checked it. “It’s just Kyle. He was having lunch with this guy he has a crush on.” She smiled.

“Oh, we have plenty of space if he wants to bring him.” Whitney smiled.

“Really?”

“Definitely. One of the perks. Tell him to bring him!” Whitney encouraged as she opened up her bag. “Here. Two all access passes for them.” She handed over.

“Aw, thank you so much.” 

 

30 minutes later, Ash walked out in a tailored black suit. When she walked into the room Ali, Whitney, Ryan, Kyle and Nico were all sitting around and chatting. “Crowd got bigger…” Ash chuckled. Ali took in the custom suit and felt her heart speed up.

Nico stood up, smiling wide. “Ashlyn. I’m a huge, huge fan.” He extended his hand. 

“Oh, gosh. Thank you.” Ash shook his hand, smiling warmly. “Thank you.”

“This is Nico.” Kyle offered with a grin. 

“Right.” Ash smiled. “Kyle, think you could help me out with the hair?” 

“You want me to do your hair for the show?” Kyle asked incredulously. 

“Um. Is that ok? Or?” Ash laughed, glancing around at the others. 

“Girl, yes. Take a seat.” Kyle exclaimed as he took in his styling product options. 

 

10 minutes later, Ash pulled on her suit jacket and did up the top button. She took a deep breath.

“Ash. Five minutes.” Whitney warned as she headed out of the dressing room with Ryan, Nico and Kyle.

“Okay.” Ash turned to Ali. “Have fun.” She beamed. 

“You too. Remember, think of me when you’re dancing with those women…” Ali teased. 

“You got it.” Ash promised. “Kiss for good luck?” 

Ali took a step forward and pressed her body tightly against Ash’s. Her head tilted up and claimed the singer’s lips with all the passion she could summon. 

When the broke apart, Ash felt breathless. “Yep. I feel lucky.” She grinned. “Enjoy the show.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 8

 

 

Ali found herself surrounded by celebrities. More impressively, this wasn’t just a celebrity suite, this was a friends and family suite which meant Ashlyn hung out with these people. Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal were all enjoying drinks together on one of the couches. Beyonce and Jay Z had been joined by Pharrel and John Legend. Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher had just arrived with Scarlett Johansson. 

Kyle leaned down to whisper in Ali’s ear. “Oh my god, how bad do you want to freak out right now?”

“So bad.” Ali laughed as she moved through the room and out onto the part that's in the main stadium. Her eyes took in the thousands of people, the stadium absolutely packed full. “I mean…this is insane, right?” 

Kyle laughed as he looked out across the sea of people. “Yes. This is definitely insane.” 

Over the next twenty minutes, Ali met everyone in the suite. She was shocked at how down to earth they all were. Then again, knowing what she does about Ashlyn, it doesn’t surprise her that these are the kinds of people that she’d associate herself with. Just as she came back to the porch part of the suite, the lights dimmed in Madison Square Garden and the space filled with screams.

 

 

 

Underneath the stage, Ashlyn was pacing back and forth as adrenaline rushed through her veins. Singing in front of 20,000+ people was a high you just couldn’t replicate. As soon as the lights dimmed, the screams were so loud she could feel them in her chest. When Whitney walked up, she leaned in close so she could hear.

“I’m about to head upstairs. The friends and family suite is Stage Left. Are you good?” Whitney shouted over the screams.

Ash gave her a thumbs up and a wink, grinning when Whitney reached out and straightened her tie. 

With a step onto the platform that would raise up onto the stage, she took a deep breath and prepared for the chaos that was about to ensue.

Ali couldn’t believe the frenzy. As the lights on the stage started a red glow, the fan screams just got louder and louder. It ranged from teenagers to cougars in their late 50s, all losing their minds over the superstar. She couldn’t help the ego boost that happened when she thought about how just over an hour ago she had been pinned underneath the woman they were all pining after. 

“It’s crazy, right?” Whitney asked with a smirk, sipping on her vodka cranberry. 

“It really is.” Ali admitted, watching the center of the stage.

“Give it 30 seconds….she’s about to come out.”

True to form, 30 seconds later all of the build up music stopped and the only light was the red glow in the center of the stage. Agonizingly slow, Ashlyn came into view from beneath the stage. She was in a shoulder width stance, her three piece suit fitting perfectly, with one hand on the microphone stand in front of her. Impossibly, the screams kicked up another decibel. Ali could’ve sworn that the singer shot her a wink right before the first line of FutureSex/LoveSounds was sung to start the show. 

As the show went on, Ali had a harder and harder time keeping her lust under control. The concert was practically a burlesque show. Ashlyn and the men were in perfectly tailored suits. The women were, as promised, clad in lingerie complete with garters and heels. What had turned her on the most was the way Ashlyn commanded the stage. Everything about her emanated power. She moved with a cockiness that drew you in and every time it bordered on arrogant, a dimpled grin would make her relatable again. Ali marveled at how flawless it was. She was seeing first-hand why Ashlyn was one of the biggest superstars on the planet. 

Halfway through the show, Timbaland joined her onstage for a couple songs. After the second song, Ash took a break to talk to the crowd. “Everybody having a good time?”  Once again, the roar was deafening and Ash let a grin take over her face. “Alright…” She chuckled. “So, on the flight to New York Tim and I came up with some new stuff….Would it be okay if we tested it out on you guys? I mean, y’all would be the first to hear it…ever…” Cue pandemonium. 

The starting notes for Carry Out resonated through the arena as Ashlyn danced across the stage. Ali grinned to herself, leaning on her brother’s shoulder as she listened to the new music Ash had told her she inspired. When Ash looked straight up to the suite and sang out “Is it full of myself to want you full of me?” Ali nearly choked on her drink. 

“Ooooooh” Kyle crooned. “Girl, you better get on birth control. Jesus.” He laughed. “Lyrics like that, you don’t even need sperm….”

Ali smacked her brother but couldn’t help the heat rushing up her cheeks, especially as she recalled the way Ash’s hands had roamed her body a couple hours prior. Everyone in the suite went crazy at the lyrics. The women swooned and the men appreciated the swagger. The musicians in the room all commenting how the song would be a mega-hit. 

Further into the show Ashlyn sat down behind the piano, giving the rest of the band a break. She cleared her throat and started to play Losing My Way, the same song she had played earlier on the patio for Ali. The right back brought her hand up to her heart and sighed, watching Ash’s face on the big screen. It was vulnerable and raw, drawing in all the fans. She knew from their talk on the patio earlier today, that this was the first time she was playing it for an audience.  As the last note rang out, the arena went crazy but Ali’s eyes caught the way Ash shut her eyes for a split second and took a deep breath. Just as quickly, Ash was back to her entertainer persona and starting Cry Me A River. 

The concert ended a few songs later as Ash sang SexyBack. Ali and Kyle danced next to each other, singing along to every word just like every other person in the arena and the screaming lasted long after Ash had disappeared under the stage. Ali, Kyle and Nico followed Whitney and Ryan as they headed back to Ashlyn’s dressing room. When they walked in, Ash and Tim were already busy doing shots of tequila.

“Get in here!” Ash boasted, smiling wide as she rode the natural high of performing. Ash draped an arm around Ali’s shoulders, tucking her into her side. “Did you have a fun?” She beamed down at the shorter brunette, a layer of sweat on her forehead from the exhaustive performance. 

“It was amazing!” Ali agreed as Tim poured more shots and they were passed out, Kyle politely declining. The shots were downed and when Ali looked around for a lime to cut the taste, Ash pulled her close. The taller woman’s smile was replaced with a lime and mischievous glint in her eye. Emboldened by the tequila, Ali snaked her hand to the back of Ash’s neck and dragged her down to steal the lime from her lips. She winked as she bit down on the lime, brushing their lips together as the catcalls came from the rest of the group. When they broke apart Ash kept her close, rubbing her hand up and down Ali’s side.

“Okay, you need to go shower. Limo is here in 20.” Whitney ordered Ashlyn.

“Limo?” Ali asked, glancing at Whitney.

“Ugh..” Whitney rolled her eyes, shooting Ash a playfully annoyed glance. “She didn’t tell you…obviously…we have The Top of the Standard booked for an afterparty tonight. Somebody was supposed to give you a heads up. You’re all already on the guest list”

The adorably sheepish grin on Ash’s face was enough to get her out of the doghouse with both Ali and Whitney.

“Oh my god, The Top of the Standard? I’ve been living here for 5 years and I’ve never been able to get in.” Nico gushed.

Ash was about to launch into a story when she got a look from Whit. “Right. Shower.” She gave Ali a quick peck before disappearing back into her private bathroom. 20 minutes later, she came back out dressed in dark jeans and an untucked button down. The room was empty with the exception of Ali. “Where’d everybody go?”

“The limo just got here. I told them I’d wait for you…” Ali said as she got up from the couch and stalked towards Ashlyn. “So….that song?” 

“The one I played on the patio?”

“Nope…” Ali ran her hands up Ash’s chest before linking them around her neck. “The one where you asked…how’d you put it….’is it full of myself to want you full of me?’”

Ash cleared her throat, moving her hands to the small of Ali’s back and drawing her flush against her chest. “Too much?” 

“I was really the inspiration for that?” Ali asked in disbelief.

“That’s hard for you to believe? Look at you.” Ash husked out as she pressed her forehead against Ali’s. 

Ali fought off the blush that was threatening to creep up her neck. Instead, she arched up onto her tiptoes to bring them together for a blistering kiss. Her nails scraped at the back of Ash’s neck as she moaned against the soft lips.

They continued like that for several minutes, a mash up of lips, tongues and teeth. When they finally broke apart, they were both gasping for air. Seeing that Ash still hadn’t open her eyes, Ali traced the taller woman’s cheekbones gently. “You’re a really good kisser…” Ali admitted out loud.

The sweet voice was enough to bring the hazel eyes out of hiding. “I’m just trying to keep up…” Ash teased. “Do you dance?”

“What?” 

“Dancing…you know?” Ash swayed them side to side a little. “Dancing. I want to dance with you tonight.” 

Ali felt a rush at the thought of being the one pressed up against Ashlyn instead of the dancers she had seen all night long during the show but Ash was also one of the best dancers she’d ever seen. “I’m not on your level when it comes to dancing.” Ali laughed. 

Ash smirked and nipped at Ali’s earlobe. “Don’t worry. I’ll lead.” 

“Mmm…I’m counting on it.” Ali hummed appreciatively. “Let’s go, stud.” 

Chapter Text

The limo ride was short and sweet. When they pulled up to the club, flashes started to fill the tinted windows as the paparazzi tried to get a glimpse of who might be inside. Ash had Ali tucked securely into her side, an arm around her shoulders. “Welcome to the jungle…” Ash teased. “Are you sure you’re up for this?”

“And what would you do if I said no?” Ali teased, her hand resting on Ash’s thigh.

“Tell the driver to keep going and take you wherever you wanted to go…” Ash replied seriously.

Ali felt her heart swell at the honest admission. “I think I can manage. Do I look camera ready?” She flirted shamelessly.

“Well, you’re the most beautiful one in this limo so if you’re not, the rest of us are really screwed…” 

The unapologetic flirting was interrupted by Whitney as she moved to the door. “Okay, kids. Here we go.” 

When the door opened, all the attention was on them. The paparazzi were screaming for attention as they were blinded by flashes.

“I’ll be the decoy. You guys get inside, I’ll be right behind you.” Ash instructed with a grin. Before Whitney got a chance to argue, Ash stepped out of the limo with a practiced smile. As the focus was all on Ash, everyone else headed to the door. Ali stopped just outside the door to the club, watching in awe as Ash handled the chaos while simultaneously walking backwards towards the door. “Thanks guys. Have a good night.” When she turned to the door, Ali was there with a nose crinkling smile. “Let’s go, beautiful.” 

Once the doors were shut, Ash’s hands were immediately reaching for Ali. She pulled her in close and moved her lips to Ali’s ear. “The staff here prides themselves on discretion. You don’t have to worry about social media or paparazzi.” 

“Good to know.” Ali winked up at Ash as they stepped inside the elevator with the rest of their group. When they reached the top floor, they stepped into the club and the shorter brunette was amazed. She’d never seen this type of luxury in person. The floor was a stunning marble and the walls emanated an amber glow “Oh wow…” 

Ash slipped her hand into Ali’s before turning to look at her. “This ok?” She glanced down at their joined hands. 

The sweetness caused warmth to spread through Ali’s body. She gave the hand a reaffirming squeeze. “It’s great.” 

The singer shot her a wink before pulling her further into the club. Every few steps they stopped and Ali was introduced to an actor or model or singer. “So, this is what Tuesday looks like…” Ash laughed, calling out how ridiculous pockets of her life could be. 

Ali grinned and sipped her wine. “Our Tuesdays look a lot different…” She reflected as she looked around her environment. 

“Too different to co-exist?” Ash asked as a glass of Macallan 25 dangled from her fingers. She had been nervous about the chaos that her life brings and if it would drive Ali away. It was one thing when you were dating someone in the industry, they were already used to the cameras and microscope. Ali, however, was pure. She had rationalized that it would be best to immerse her in the life and see how she handled it. Better to find out now than in a couple months when her heart had a greater risk of being shattered.

Ali looked around the space again, really taking the time to soak in her surroundings. Yeah, it was a little crazy, but when she looked in Ashlyn’s eyes she saw nothing but authenticity. “No…I don’t think so. Not if we communicate well.” 

“Good. Now, unless you stop me, I’m going to kiss you in the middle of this club…” Ash warned as she slipped her arm around Ali’s waist and brought her in close. 

Ali snaked the arm not holding her wine glass around Ash’s neck, dragging her down for the kiss. They were surrounded by some of the most attractive people in Hollywood and Ash only had eyes for her, that wasn’t an opportunity she was going to pass up. When they broke apart, the taste of whiskey was left on Ali’s lips. “Is there anything you’re bad at?” Ali questioned as her head spun from the kiss.

“There’s plenty.” Ash confirmed. She took a big gulp of the whiskey before setting the glass down. “I’m just not letting you see them because I’m trying to be all charming and shit…” She cheesed. 

“Uh huh…” Ali responded skeptically. “Why don’t you show me how bad you are at dancing?” 

Ash smirked and stole another kiss. “Gladly.” She navigated them through the crowds right to the middle of the dance floor, near Blake and Ryan. The current song ended. When the next started, it was Glad You Came by The Wanted. Ash couldn’t help but grin at the irony. She was definitely glad Ali came. Ash didn’t think twice about taking over. Her hands moved straight to the soccer player’s hips, pressing them together firmly. 

Ali felt her heart rate spike at the proximity. Ash was everywhere. She let her body be handled by the singer, moving along as Ash spun her around and pulled her back into Ash’s front. The strong arms wrapped around her waist and splayed out across her abdomen as they rocked back and forth. She didn’t miss the way the hands pulled her closer, pressing her ass into Ash’s hips. Ali bit her lower lip and placed her hands on top of Ash’s, grinding against the singer. She was struggling to keep her eyes open as her senses went into overload. “You’re killing me…” Ali groaned out. 

“Want me to stop?” Ash teased as her body rolled against Ali’s in perfect rhythm to the song. 

“Don’t you dare.” Ali warned, tilting her head back to give Ashlyn access. 

Ash hummed as she brought her lips down to Ali’s neck, sending vibrations through the shorter woman’s body. “You’re so fucking sexy…” Her hands ran across the taut stomach as she nipped at Ali’s collarbone. Just as she was trying to figure out how to get out of here, someone took over the small stage inside of the club and the music ended. It only took a second for Ash to realize what was happening and she created a little space between them, knowing there was about to be a lot of attention in her direction. “No!” Ash yelled playfully as she pointed threateningly at Pharrell. 

With a mischievous look, Pharrell brought the mic up to his mouth, singing the opening to Señorita as he tossed Ashlyn a microphone. “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you, she’s a friend of mine…” 

She shot Ali a quick glance, seeing that she was incredibly amused Ash took the opportunity. She draped her arm across Ali’s shoulders before crooning into the mic “Yes. Yes, I am.”

“And she goes by the name: Ashlyn. All the way from Satellite Beach. And she got something special for y’all tonight. She’s gonna sing a song for y’all about this girl.”

“Come in right here?” Ash asked her friend, in practiced timing.

“Yeah.” 

As soon as Ashlyn slipped into Señorita, everyone joined the dance floor. Kyle bumped up next to Ali, shooting her an amazed look. Ever the entertainer, Ashlyn switched between working the crowd and dancing with Ali. Anytime the song had a more romantic part, her body was pressed up against the brunette’s as Ali threw her head back in joyous laughter. A couple minutes into the song Ash moved back into the crowd, surrounded by everyone from the suite at the concert. “Now, listen. I wanna try something right now. See, they don’t do this anymore. I’m gonna sing something and I want the guys to sing with me. They go ‘It feels like something’s heating up. Can I leave with you?’ And then the ladies go ‘I don’t know what I’m thinking ‘bout really leaving with you.’ Guys sing!” 

It went back and forth: Ryan, other Ryan, Jake, Shawn, Ashton, Pharrell, John and Nico singing before Ali, Blake, Anne, Mila, Scarlett, Beyonce, Whitney and Kyle responded.

The exchanged went back and forth a couple rounds under Ash’s moderation before she spoke up again. “And that’s it. Fella’s: Goodnight. Ladies: Good morning.” She laughed before the club broke out into cheers and the music switched to Rihanna. Ash walked up to Ali, wrapping her arms low around her waist. “Girl’s got some pipes…” Ash teased.

“Oh please.” Ali rolled her eyes and slipped her hand into Ash’s back pocket with a squeeze. She had just been singing along with Ashlyn Harris, John Legend and Beyonce and now her hand was on the singer’s ass. This couldn’t be real life. 

“My, my…” Ash grinned and stole a kiss. “Ready to go?”

“Yeah.” Ali husked out, her eyes darkening at the prospect of what leaving could bring. “Let me just check in with Kyle. She disappeared in search of her brother while Ash ordered the car to be pulled around and said bye to some of her friends. Ali found her brother wrapped up in Nico. “Ky!”

Her brother broke apart, managing to look sheepish as he turned around. “Hey Al.”

“We’re gonna get going.”

“Oh.” Kyle glanced between Ali and Nico. “I think I’m going to stay at Nico’s…” 

“Uh huh….” Ali teased, shooting him a look.

“Hey, I’m just staying there because I don’t want to hear whatever is going to happen in that penthouse tonight….” Kyle shot back, causing a deep blush to erupt on Ali’s cheeks.

“You’re the worst…” Ali mumbled out before turning back in search of Ash. When she found her, she was talking with Ryan and Blake. She tucked herself into Ash’s side confidently. 

“Ali, we were just telling Ash we should do brunch tomorrow!” Blake informed Ali.

“Oh, yeah. That’d be great.” Ali smiled, looking up at Ash for her thoughts.

“Done. I’ll text you guys in the morning.” Ash said before leading Ali towards the door. “Whit, I’l call you tomorrow.”

Ali marveled as Ash expertly guided her towards the car. When they got to the door and closer to the waiting paparazzi, Ash started to remove her arm from Ali’s waist but the defender put her hand on top of Ashlyn’s to stop her. “You don’t have to.” Then she felt some self-consciousness creep in. Maybe she wasn’t just removing the hand to protect Ali. Maybe it was because she didn’t want to be seen with her. When she saw the look in Ash’s eyes, she realized there was no reason to be concerned. The hazel eyes were practically glowing with happiness.

“You’re sure?” Ash asked as she secured her arm back around Ali. “It’ll be on the internet within 10 minutes.”

“I’m sure if you’re sure.” Ali smiled with nervous excitement.

“I’m sure.” 

When the bouncer opened the door, Ali and Ash shared one last look before stepping out into the night. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ash and Ali quickly navigated the sidewalk and into their car as the screams bombarded them, asking who Ali was. Once they were secure inside, Ash laughed and turned to Ali. “You okay?”

“Yeah” Ali chuckled as she saw spots from all the flashes. “I think I’m good.” The car took off towards the penthouse as Ali settled into Ash’s side. “I had the most incredible night. Thank you.” 

“Yeah? You had fun?” Ash asked, leaning her head against Ali’s.

“Are you kidding me? You serenaded me in the middle of the most exclusive club in New York and then I got to sing along with Beyonce…I feel like I’m dreaming.” 

They pulled up in front of the penthouse and Ash helped Ali out of the Mercedes, tipping the driver quickly before heading into the lobby with her hand laced through Ali’s.

“Good Evening, Ms. Harris.” George said with a smile.

“George.” Ash shot a playful glare at the man.

“Yes ma’am?” 

“We talked about this…It’s Ashlyn.”

“Yes ma’am” The man grinned as Ash rolled her eyes and followed Ali into the elevator. 

They rode up the elevator in silence, suddenly both feeling a mess of butterflies. When they got off the elevator Ashlyn punched in the code to the door before opening it for Ali to walk through. Once the door was closed and locked behind them, the space felt so quiet. Ashlyn ran a hand through her hair and pressed an LCD screen in the corridor. Instantaneously, her playlist started to float through the speakers placed all over the house. She stepped up behind Ali, pressing her body flush against the athlete’s. Her hands moved to rest on Ali’s hips. “I want to explore every inch of your skin.” She whispered, sucking on the defender’s neck. “I want to hear how my name sounds on your lips when you’re coming for me.”

Ali moaned as she felt wetness flood her core. “Ash…” She pushed her hips back into the singer’s while one hand moved up to her own breast. The other reached back to grab Ash’s ass.

“What do you want, baby?” Ash groaned as her hand moved to the breast Ali wasn’t already holding, pinching her nipple through the fabric. “Tell me what you want.” 

“I want you.” Ali moaned out. “Fuck, I want you so bad.” 

Ash heard all the encouragement she needed. Her hands moved to the back of Ali’s dress, drawing the zipper down agonizingly slow as she started to walk them both back towards her bedroom. When the zipper was all the way down, she helped move the dress off Ali’s shoulders so it could pool at her feet. She took a step back and soaked in the sight before her as she stalked around to Ali’s front. She noticed how Ali looked suddenly shy and needed to put an end to that immediately. “You. Are. Stunning.” Her fingertips reached out and traced over the German tattoo. “This is even more impressive in person” 

Ali reached up and started to undo buttons one by one. “You’re overdressed.” She slipped the shirt off, tossing it into the corner of the room before her hands snuck to the belt. Her fingers unbuttoned the jeans before her hands slipped inside the waistband. She bent down slowly, following the jeans to the floor. As she straightened back up, she placed kisses along the way: over her boxer briefs, against her defined abs, on her sports bra clad chest before crashing their lips together. 

Ash stepped out of her jeans as she reciprocated the kiss and hoisted Ali off her feet with one arm, removing the defender’s bra with the other. If Ali hadn't been so consumed by the moment, she would have wondered how Ash had become so proficient in removing a bra with one hand. Three steps later Ash bent at the waist and gently set Ali atop the bed, fully exposed to her. “Sexiest woman I’ve ever seen…” The singer had been thinking about how Ali was commando ever since their make out session in the dressing room before the show. 

Ali blushed and ran her lower lip through her teeth as she felt the singer examine every inch of her.  She felt like she was in a movie. The music, the penthouse, the superstar. This kind of stuff didn’t happen to normal people.

“Is this the Penn State tattoo I’ve heard so much about?” Ash tilted her head, moving her lips down and placing a hot open mouth kiss there. 

“Mmm…yes.” Ali closed her eyes and pressed her head back into the mattress as Ash moved the kisses towards her core. Just when she thought Ash was going to give her the relief she was craving, the musician started to crawl in the wrong direction. “You’re killing me.” She moaned out.

Ash slipped her thigh between the defender’s strong legs and pinned both hands above her head. “I promise to make it worth it.” Ash husked out as she rolled her hips against Ali. “I’m going to take my time with you…”

 

 

 

 

Two hours later, Ash came back into the bedroom with a bowl of fruit and two bottles of water. Ali ran a hand through her hair, smoothing out where the singer had tugged in fits of passion and sat up against the headboard. Ash climbed back onto the bed, sitting down next to Ali and putting the bowl between them before handing over the bottle of water. 

“I’m dehydrated…” Ash laughed, leaning over to place a gentle kiss on the brunette’s shoulder. 

Ali shut her eyes, feeling electrified even from the little kiss. “Mmm.” 

“You okay?” Ash asked as she popped a strawberry into her mouth. 

“I’m great.” Ali confirmed, grabbing a strawberry of her own. “Not that your ego needs the boost…” Ali warned with a playful glare. “…But that was the best sex I’ve ever had…” 

“Well, good…cause, me too.” 

Ali rolled her eyes skeptically as she sipped her water but Ash caught it.

“Don’t do that. Don’t doubt yourself.” Ash reached across and laced their fingers together, bringing her knuckles up for a gentle kiss. “I can’t keep up with all the things I’m feeling for you.” She set the bowl of fruit over on the nightstand before laying down and pulling Ali into her, causing the smaller woman to rest her head on Ash’s shoulder. Ali draped her arm and leg over Ash’s body, cuddling close and marveling at how perfectly their bodies fit together. As Ash held her tightly, she decided to voice her thoughts. “You make me feel calm. I spend so much time being ‘on’…being Ashlyn Harris instead of just Ash from Florida…You make me feel like me.” 

“That’s funny, because you make me feel alive and electric…Everything in my life is structured. I eat the same foods, I workout on the same days. I always put my right cleat on before my left and I’m in bed by 10:00 every night…but when I’m with you, I’m dancing and making out with you in the middle of the dance floor. I’m smiling for the paparazzi. I’m staying up until…” She glanced at the clock. “…4:00 in the morning. And it doesn’t faze me because I’m just so happy to be around you.” 

“Yin and Yang.” Ash craned her neck down for a kiss before tugging Ali in closer and drifting off to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t until noon that Ashlyn started to stir. When she tried to stretch, the warm body on top of her slowed her down. “Mmmm…” Her arms tightened around the naked frame of Ali Krieger and soaked in the feeling of skin on skin as the sun poured in through the windows. When she felt the woman’s fingertips running back and forth over her ribs, she knew she wasn’t the only one awake. “Good morning…”

“Good afternoon.” Ali corrected with a giggle. “I don’t think I’ve slept in this late since college.” She stretched out, staying draped over the singer and nuzzled into the crook of Ash’s neck. 

“Did you sleep okay?” 

“Like a log.” Ali smiled.

“Good.” Ash pressed a kiss to Ali’s forehead before starting to gently extricate herself from underneath the defender. “I’m going to make us some coffee.” She glanced at her phone and saw the screen explode with notifications. “Ugh…that’s going to have to wait until after caffeine.” She disappeared into her walk-in closet before coming back a minute later in Nike shorts and a loose tank top. 

When Ash stopped in the doorframe and gazed back at Ali with a goofy smile on her face, the defender spoke up with a raised eyebrow. “What?” 

“I like how this looks…” Ash waved her hand in a ‘wax on’ type motion. “You look good in my bed…” Ash winked charmingly before disappearing towards the kitchen.

Ali tossed her head back against the pillow and stared at the ceiling. “Walked right into that…” 

 

 

A couple minutes later Ali walked into the kitchen in search of Ashlyn. She had the gray Egyptian cotton sheet from the bed wrapped around her like a toga. In an awkward little hop, she perched on the barstool against the kitchen island and watched Ashlyn move through the space with ease. 

“How do you take your coffee?” Ash asked as she got down two oversized mugs and set them next to the french press. 

“Cream and sugar would be great.” 

“You got it.” Ash plunged the filter down and poured two mugs, passing Ali hers before dipping her head back into the fridge. “So, my publicist has called me 14 times….” Ash grabbed eggs, onion, mushroom, peppers and bacon from the fridge before starting to chop the vegetables. “TMZ and E! got ahold of the pictures from last night. If I don’t call her back soon, she’s probably going to show up here…”

Ali sipped her coffee. “That explains why Dan called me…”

Ash glanced up from her dicing at the mention of a guy’s name. “Dan?” They hadn’t talked about exclusivity but she had kinda figured that if Ali was seeing someone else, she would’ve heard about it by now.

“My agent.” 

Ash rolled her eyes at herself. “Oh, right…” 

Ali grinned over the brim of her coffee cup. “Oh my god. Ashlyn Harris gets jealous…”

“No…I…” Ash busied herself with chopping the peppers up. “…Maybe.”

Ali jumped off the stool and walked around the island to lean into the back of the taller brunette. “That’s cute.” She placed a kiss on the back of Ash’s shoulder. “I’m not seeing anyone else.” She clarified simply.

Again, Ashlyn stopped chopping and turned around to face her, looking down into the soft whiskey tinted eyes. “No?”

“Nope.”

“Good to know.” Ash rubbed the back of her neck and sighed. “This is where dating me becomes kind of a pain in the ass…” Ash admitted hesitantly. “Shauna’s going to want to release some kind of statement so people don’t come to their own conclusions…and I don’t want that either. With my public persona or, whatever, they’ll think you’re just some kind of fling….and you’re not.”

Ali decided to just be direct. “And what am I?”

The bluntness caught Ash a little off guard but she didn’t back down. Her eyes stayed locked with Ali’s. “My….future girlfriend? Girlfriend? The girl I can’t get out of my mind. What do you want to be?” Ash wrapped her arms around Ali’s waist, feeling the need to hold her close while they talked through this. 

Ali reached up and laced her hands together behind Ash’s neck. “I want to be your girlfriend…I mean, technically, we’ve been on one date which was just last night but we’ve spoken every single day since the Ellen show so I feel like those kinda count as dates too. And now I know you’re good in bed…” She teased with a wink before admitting “I’m running out of reasons to not be with you.” 

Ash let out a loud laugh before dropping down to one knee, taking Ali’s left hand in both of hers. “Alexandra Krieger, international soccer star and winner of the most fashionable use of a bed sheet…” She teased as she tugged on the sheet still wrapped around her. “….will you be my girlfriend?”

Ali swatted away the hand that tugged at the sheet before putting her hand on her heart, swooning goofily. “I’d be honored.” Almost immediately after her answer, she was squealing as Ash had her off the ground in a passionate kiss. When they broke apart, Ash kept her close.

“That settles that, then. I’ll let Shauna know.”

“Hold on there, tiger. If Deb finds out that I’m dating superstar Ashlyn Harris from E! News instead of me, I’ll be dead meat…Let me make a call or two.” She gave Ash a lingering kiss before disappearing into the spare bedroom where her luggage was, feeling the hazel eyes on her the entire way. She came back into the kitchen a few minutes later in leggings and a loose t-shirt. “I had a thought.” She pulled out her phone. “Let’s send my mom a picture and just see what happens.”

Ashlyn stepped behind Ali and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman’s waist. She rested her chin on Ali’s shoulder and smiled right into the camera while Ali turned and placed a kiss on the singer’s cheek. They froze that way while Ali snapped a couple pictures. Once she found the best of the options, she fired off the picture to her mom in a text. 

She jumped up on the counter as she watched Ash start to sauté the veggies that would eventually become an omelette. She couldn’t help but smile as the taller brunette danced in the kitchen and sang along to Lovely Day by Bill Withers. She was learning quickly that the woman cooking didn’t believe in silence. There was always some sort of music playing. It was only a minute before her phone started to vibrate across the counter. Ash noticed and stopped singing. “Keep going. It’s cute.” Ali winked when Ash started singing again before answering the phone. “Hey mom!”

“Alexandra Blaire! You explain yourself right this minute.” 

“I kinda thought the picture would do the explaining…” She cheesed and sipped her coffee.

“Is that who I think it is?”

Ali couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Ever since her mom had retired down in Miami, she had become an avid follower of the happenings of Hollywood. She was surely freaking out. “I don’t know who you think it is…but I’m in a relationship now and I thought you would want to know so I sent you a picture of my girlfriend and I.” When her eyes met Ash’s, she could tell the singer was beaming at hearing Ali call her her girlfriend.

Through the phone Ali could hear her mom slap her hand down on a table. “Alex!! Are you dating Ashlyn Harris? Oh my god! Are you the one she made out with in Germany?! My little Alex is the best kiss she’s ever had?!” 

Ali laughed at her mom’s antics as the music switched to Let’s Stay Together by Al Green. Ash couldn’t help it, this was her jam. As she poured eggs into the frying pan, she sang along enthusiastically enough for it to come through the phone. 

“Is that her?” Deb asked, incredulously. 

“Yeah, she’s cooking…”

“Good lord…the girls are not going to believe this.” Deb shook her head as she heard her daughter be serenaded by the biggest pop star on the planet. “How long has this been going on young lady?”

“Well, yes, I was the kiss in Germany…” Ali shot a wink at Ashlyn before continuing. “And then I called her after the Ellen show and we’ve been talking ever since. Kyle and I are in New York. We went to her show last night. And before you go all super-sonic on me, I just didn’t tell you until there was something to tell. You’re the first to know that we’re dating.” 

Deb was tempted to give her daughter a hard time, but this was too good to pass up. “I guess I’ll let you off the hook.” 

“Thank you.” Ali smirked as her attention was torn between her mom and Ash’s singing. “I have to call Dan and give him a heads up but if you see me on one of those gossip shows you love so much, I didn’t want you to freak out.” 

“Oh my god, this is unbelievable. Okay honey, call me when you have more time to talk. I love you.” 

“I love you too, mom.” 

“Sounds like that went well.” Ash observed as she plated the omelettes. “How about I call Shauna, you call Dan, and then we can spend the rest of the day together?” 

“Deal.” 

The calls to the agents were easy enough. Shauna scolded Ash gently for not telling her about the potential with Ali before the photographers got a chance at them. Proactive was always easier than reactive, she reminded the superstar. Ashlyn took the chiding in stride, giving her Dan’s information so they could coordinate and then told Ali not to worry. Shauna was the best publicist in the entertainment industry. Ash fired off a text to Whitney before tucking her phone away. The rest could wait.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter 11

 

In a matter of 24 hours, Ali had gained 14 million Twitter followers. As she laid on the penthouse balcony, tucked into Ash’s side, she stared at her account in disbelief. “This is crazy! 14 million in one day?! How many do you have?” 

Ash was sprawled out underneath the brunette, soaking in the last of the decent fall weather and gentle breeze as the sun hit their faces. “Hmm? Oh…um, 42 million I think? I don’t remember exactly.” 

Ali rolled her eyes at how unfazed Ash was by the number. “You really don’t care, do you?” 

Ash let that roll around in her mind for a minute. “Um…that’s a loaded question. I do and I don’t…I do in the sense that I love my fans. They’re why I’m able to do all these amazing things and continue to make music and travel the world…If they don’t listen, I’m probably working at a grocery store back home and playing shows on the weekends in bars. If Twitter and Instagram gives them a chance to be closer to me, then I’m happy to do it. But, from a followers perspective, I don’t pay it much mind…it just is what it is….Prince didn’t have a single Twitter follower when he was in his element and he was maybe the most influential musician ever.” Ash shrugged after her thoughts were all out. 

“That’s a pretty impressive outlook.” Ali admitted. She took a sip of wine to buy herself a minute with her thoughts before saying them out loud. “I googled you…” 

Ash let out a big laugh, shaking Ali in the process. “Oh yeah? What’d ya get?” 

“Oh gosh, so much…” Ali crinkled her nose with a mischievous smile. “Well, there’s a rumor that you and Beyonce hooked up when you were both up and coming…”

Ashlyn smirked. “False. Think Shawn would hang out with me if I had slept with his wife?”

“Good point.” Ali admitted as she recalled some of the other things she had seen. “Um, you own a private island?”

“Ooooh…0 for 2…” Ash smirked and leaned down to steal a quick kiss, her need for the woman insatiable. “I have my own golf course and I’m a minority owner in the Orlando Magic but no island…yet.” She smirked. 

“You like golf?”

“Love it. It’s the only place where silence doesn’t make my head spin. Do you play?” 

Ali couldn’t help but smile at the way Ash always had at least one hand on her, if not two. “I don’t. I’ve always wanted to. Nike does a charity tournament that I’ve been invited to before but I’ve never tried it. Maybe if I ask really nicely, you’ll teach me?” 

“I would love to teach you how to swing a club.” Ash beamed and grabbed a fresh beer from the bucket of ice next to them after filling Ali’s glass back up.

“You were on the Mickey Mouse Club?” 

“Oooh. True.” Ash admitted as she took a sip of her beer.

“And Ryan Gosling?” 

“Is a friend of mine and we lived together when we were little, yeah. All true.” 

“Oh god, I can’t imagine the two of you as little 10 year olds. And Emma Stone?”

“They’re just friends. Honestly.” Ash laughed as Ali gave her a skeptical look. 

“Strangest thing a fan has ever said to you?” 

“This was on Google?” Ash raised an eyebrow.

“No, this is me.” Ali giggled. 

“Um…One couple asked me to sign their baby because he was conceived to my music…that was really fucking weird…” Ash laughed.

“What?!” Ali shrieked. “Did you???”

“I compromised and signed the kid’s onesie.” 

“Yikes.”  Ali laughed as she pictured Ash signing a baby. 

“Yeah, it was pretty weird. Luckily Whitney saw it and faked some emergency to get me out of there…” She chuckled. “What about you? You were all over TV after that semi-final game. Anything weird?”

“Um, just your run of the mill marriage proposal.” Ali shrugged. “But I’ll give him credit, he had a ring and everything.” 

“Oh man. He bought a ring and you turned him down?” Ash winced. 

“No, we’re getting married over Christmas.” Ali quipped before breaking out into a grin. 

Ash laughed and ran a hand through Ali’s long hair. “Oh yeah? Want me to perform at the wedding? Maybe we could sneak in a quickie before you tie the knot”

Ali giggled and pressed an eager kiss to Ash’s lips. “No, silly. I’m going to keep you as my piece on the side.” 

“Perfect.” Ash pulled Ali so she was laying flush on top of her. “Can I take you on a date tonight?” 

Ali smiled down, moving so she was straddling the singer’s hips. “I’d love that.” She patted Ash on her shoulders before hoisting herself off the lounger. 

“I’m going to call in a reservation. Meet you in the shower?” Ash winked and felt her heart skip when Ali bit her lower lip in response. 

The soccer player put a little more sway in her hips as she headed back into the penthouse, feeling the eyes on her. She went over to the her luggage, which she moved into the master suite last night. In an effort to make the most of her time with Ashlyn, she had tucked her phone away. Before hopping in the shower, she checked her phone: USWNT Messages. With a quick swipe, she opened up the phone to see what chaos the girls were up to. It started with a screenshot of the front page of E! News from A-Rod “Ashlyn Harris caught on the town with US Soccer Siren.”

Pinoe: Do you think Ali helped her bring SexyBack?

Alex: Maybe Ash Rocked Ali’s Body…

Abby: I bet our little Kriegy is ‘Lovestoned’

HAO: Do you think Ash said she would ‘Take it from here?’

Lori: No, I bet Ali said “Take me now”

Kriegs: Are you idiots just searching her song titles now?

It only took a second for the replies to start flying in.

Pinoe: Look who came out of the sex bubble long enough to remember she has friends

Alex: IS IT TRUE?!

Ali laughed at her friends antics as Ash walked up behind her. Ali felt strong arms close in around her waist, relishing in the security she felt in the embrace. She held up the screen for Ash to read, feeling the singer shake with laughter. 

“Okay, okay…let’s have some fun with them.” Ash grabbed a snapback off her dresser and put it on backwards as she dragged Ali into the living room. She led them over to the baby grand piano and sat down, scooting over with plenty of room for Ali to join her. “Let me see the screen again?” When Ali held it up, Ash looked through the screen. “Okay, ready to record?”

Ali beamed and stole a quick kiss before opening the app to record. She moved it to Selfie mode and held it out at an angle that had them both in the frame. 

Ash played a couple notes before dipping into ‘Take it from here.’  Ali made a goofy ‘oh’ face for the camera as Ash crooned for her. After a minute, she stopped the video and turned all her attention to the singer. She was amazed at how flawless Ash sounded stripped down to just a piano and her voice. When the song ended, Ali hiked her leg up and over the singer so she was straddling her waist. “That was beautiful.” 

“Felt a little different singing it this time…” Ash admitted breathlessly, staring up into the brown eyes she was coming to adore. Her hands moved off the keys and onto the soccer star’s lower back. The vulnerable admission pushed Ali into motion. Her neck craned down and she poured her feelings into their kiss. Ali had made a promise with herself on the flight from Germany. She wouldn’t let her super planner personality ruin this. She wouldn’t let her mind flood with all the worries about what next. She would live in the moment and just let herself feel whatever she felt for a change. She reminded herself of that as her tongue slipped past Ash’s lips. At the absolute last second, they split apart for air. “Fuck, you’re amazing.” Ash blinked a couple times. “We have to shower…I made dinner reservations for an hour and a half from now and you’ve warned me multiple times about how becoming a princess is a process.” 

“You listen.” Ali crinkled her nose in an appreciative smile.

“I listen.” 

Ali sent the video of Ash singing with a simple caption “It’s true” before putting her phone on silent. ‘Back to living in the moment’ she thought as she led Ashlyn into the nicest bathroom she’d ever set foot in.

After the shower, Ash was banished from the bathroom as Ali insisted she not see her again until the product was finished. Instead, she busied herself by pouring a drink and grabbing her notepad. Being around the intoxicating brunette, she had lyrics running through her head all day and she wanted to get them on paper before she lost them. It worked. Before she knew it, Ash heard Ali clear her throat. Her eyes snapped up to the bedroom doorway and she felt all the air leave her lungs. “Oh wow.” She mumbled under her breath as she got up from her seat and strode across the living room. 

Ali felt the blush rush up her cheeks under the gaze of the singer. Her hands moved over the cream dress, smoothing it out. Her hair was cascading over her left shoulder is soft waves and her makeup had been expertly applied. Ashlyn was wearing gray chinos and a navy long sleeve henley, dancing between dressed up and rockstar. When Ash got within a couple feet, she noticed they were closer to eye level than normal. Her hazel eyes traveled down the sculpted legs, appreciating the black heels Ali had slipped in to. 

“You…I’m under dressed.” Ash looked down at her outfit before turning back to Ali. “You get more beautiful by the minute.” 

“No, no. You look great.” Ali reached out and cupped Ash’s cheek, drawing her in for a gentle kiss. Just as Ash moved to deepen it, the buzzer went off to signal their car was here. 

“Ugh.” Ash sighed, stealing one last kiss before slipping her hand into Ali’s. “Ready for date night?” 

“So ready.” 

 

 

 

 

 

Ali smiled adoringly at Ashlyn as she slid her chair up for her at Bowery Meat Company. Their table was tucked away towards the back of the restaurant, allowing for as much privacy as possible. Ash’s hand brushed across the defender’s back as she moved into the seat next to her. 

Nearly immediately the sommelier walked up. “Ladies, can I offer any recommendations this evening?”

Ash smiled at Ali before turning to the sommelier. “She’s going to try and be coy…can you get her the nicest red you have?” 

“Of course, Ms. Harris.” He nodded before turning to Ali. “Any thoughts on what you might be having for dinner so I can pair appropriately?”

Ali shot Ash a playful glare, wondering how she had predicted her so well. “Um, probably the lobster tail.”

“Excellent choice.” He nodded before turning to Ashlyn. “And you’ll be having the Macallan, Ms. Harris?” 

“Please.” She smiled before turning back to Ali and reaching for her hand. 

Ali watched in astonishment as the sommelier predicted Ash’s drink “Come here often?”

“Not often, but enough. I think they keep track so they can do stuff like that…” She shrugged. 

Ali turned a little more serious. “Ash…you don’t have to spend your money to impress me, you know…Some of these wines are $60 a glass.” 

Ash brought Ali’s hand up to her lips for a quick kiss. “Think of it this way….between my job and yours, we might not always have the highest quantity of dates so the least we can do is make the most out of the ones we do have.” Ash reasoned. “I’m actually probably coming out ahead in the long run. Fewer expensive dates vs lots of average priced ones.” 

A moment later the sommelier returned, pouring the glass for Ali and waiting while she sniffed and sipped it. Ash’s extravagance was rewarded when she watched Ali’s eyes roll back in her head and a soft moan escape her lips. Taking her reaction as a positive one, the man filled her glass before setting the whiskey down in front of Ash and disappearing. 

The singer raised her glass, waiting for Ali to do the same. “To our second date.” They clinked glasses together and both took a sip, staring into one another’s eyes the entire time. After a minute went by, Ash broke the silence. “Are you freaking out yet?” 

“About what?” 

“Well, anything really, but us. Labels, publicity, the future.” 

Ali smiled and ran her thumb back and forth over the back of Ash’s hand. “I almost freaked out about the girlfriend label but then you explained why and it was so sweet and…” She shrugged. “That made it go away.” 

“I think that’s one of the hardest parts about the fame. People think they know you and your intentions but they don’t.” She took a sip of whiskey and collected her thoughts. “To be perfectly clear, I didn’t recommend making a statement so that people could know that you’re mine.” Her eyes bore directly into Ali’s “I want everyone to know I’m yours.” 

Ali bit her lower lip, feeling her eyes mist up at the admission. “Really?” 

“Alex….I went on national television and told millions of people about the best kiss of my life just to get you to call me back. Yes, really.” 

The athlete’s tongue peeked between her teeth as she smiled. “If all these people weren’t here, I’d be showing you just what I think of you too…” 

Ash grinned devilishly as the x-rated thoughts tumbled through her mind. “Well, get it together Krieger. This is a proper date. Dinner isn’t the only thing on the agenda.” 

A proper date is exactly what they had. The executive chef came to the table and offered his suggestions from the menu. Ali went with the lobster tail while Ashlyn had the Bowery Steak. They split the Dark Chocolate Dome, New York Cheesecake and S’mores Sundae before leaving with Ali’s sweet tooth properly satisfied.  The couple walked hand in hand down the sidewalk, taking advantage of the night sky to provide them some anonymity. Ash kept her head ducked down a little as she bought the two movie tickets and tucked them in the back row of the theater. As they sat through the comedy Ash held Ali close, making out like a couple of teenagers. The ride home in the back of the blacked out Mercedes wasn’t much different and when they got back to the penthouse, Ash spent hours making Ali feel properly worshipped. 

All in all, it was hands down the best date Ali had ever had. 

 

Chapter Text

Ali and Ashlyn were forced apart two days after their second date. Ash hopped on a tour bus to start her trek down the east coast while Ali was jumping on a plane to spend a week in LA with her brother. While they walked through JFK airport, Ali shot a look at Kyle and noticed his sunglasses were still perched on his nose. “Uh…Kyle?” She pointed at her own eyes.

“Oh, these?” He pointed at his frames. “You’re glowing…it’s like staring into the sun and I don’t want the damage to be irreversible by looking directly at you.” He teased, a devilish smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Ali rolled her eyes and gave him a shove. “Shut up.” Despite her best efforts, the glow just got brighter as she thought back on the last four days. 

“Ah! My eyes!” Kyle covered his eyes dramatically. The noise brought a little attention their way as they walked through the baggage drop off and check in. There were a group of girls in their late teens/early twenties all decked out in matching sweatpants and t-shirts that had looked over at the commotion. 5 of them huddled together, talking in hushed whispers as they looked at Ali.

The defender caught the stares and offered them a smile before looking over her other shoulder, wondering what they were looking at. There was nothing there. When she looked back, the girls were still staring. ‘What the hell?’ Ali thought to herself, breaking her eyes away from them and heading towards the check in kiosk. When she looked back again, the five women broke from the group and walked over to her. As they got closer, Ali could see the NYU soccer team logo on their shirts. 

The girl with short cropped hair spoke up first. “Hey…um, are you Ali Krieger?” 

“Uh, yeah.” Ali offered a warm smile that broke the nerves of the group.

Another one of the players spoke up, this one with long blonde hair. “Oh my god, we’re huge fans! We all watched the World Cup together.” 

“And we love Ashlyn Harris. Are you guys really together?” A third soccer player asked excitedly.

“Oh wow, thanks for watching.” Ali beamed before the blush took over her face and she caught the amused look on her brother’s face as he documented the interaction with his phone. “Um, yeah. We…yeah.” Ali mumbled shyly with a smile. 

“Could we get a picture?” The blonde asked eagerly, moving in closer for the selfie before Ali had a chance to say yes.

“Oh, yeah. Of course.” 

The five girls crowded around the National Team defender as Ali smiled brightly for the camera, taking a bunch of pictures. Emboldened by their teammates, the rest of the team came over and Kyle graciously took the phones and snapped picture after picture. Ali spent another 10 minutes signing t-shirts and chatting with the team before Kyle dragged her away to catch their plane.

 

 

 

Ashlyn was lounging in the back of the tour bus watching a movie with Whitney as they drove south when her phone buzzed. She nearly jumped, hoping to hear from the brunette that she was already missing. 

“Easy, tiger.” Whitney laughed, throwing a piece of popcorn at Ashlyn’s head. 

Ashlyn flipped off her best friend before opening her phone. No such luck, just Twitter. She swiped it open to see what she had been tagged in. The sight made her laugh.

XxSoccerGrl18xX: Hey @ashlynharris24, look who we found! 

There was a picture of Ali sandwiched between a group of women, all smiling at the camera. Ashlyn felt her heart flutter at the pearly white smile of the girl that had claimed her attention since July.  With a gooey smile, she started replying.

@Ashlynharris24: @xxSoccerGrl18xx What a sighting. That @Alikrieger has one hell of a smile, huh?

A quick scan of the tweeter’s profile let Ashlyn know that she was the girl with the short cropped hair who had an arm slung around Ali’s shoulder in the picture. She smirked and fired off a text.

Ashlyn: Hey you. Already trading me in for a younger model? ;)

Ali: Huh?

Ali was confused. She had just gotten through security when her phone buzzed with the text from Ashlyn. A second later, a screenshot of the picture she took with the soccer players came through, noticing the arm slung around her shoulders belonged to the one that loosely resembled Ashlyn.

Ali: Oh please. There’s no younger model…after you, they broke the mold. Miss you, stud.

Ali hit send and bit down on her thumb, flopping her head on her brother's shoulder. “Ugh…I’m so fucked.” 

Kyle tugged the earbud out of his ear, looking down at his younger sister. “Huh?”

“I’m. So. Fucked.” Ali repeated with pouty emphasis.

“I’ll say again….huh?” 

“I already miss her. How gross is that? Kyle…it’s been like 12 hours.” Ali rolled her eyes at herself. 

“Is little Alex in love?” Kyle asked scandalously, dropping his jaw for affect. 

“No, no. It’s way too early for words like that.” Ali ran a hand through her hair, buying herself a minute to collect her thoughts. “But I’m feeling things I’ve never felt before….I think maybe it could get there if the million different obstacles in our way clear up.” 

“And?” Kyle raised an eyebrow, using the sibling telepathy to ask his other question. 

Ali sighed dreamily. “Best I’ve ever had….mind blowing, toes curling-“

“Okay, okay, okay.” Kyle covered his ears. “La la la! A simple good would have been fine…You’re still my baby sister.” 

“You asked…” Ali grinned.

 

 

 

 

The next week for Ali flew by. Her and Kyle basked in their sibling bonding time by shopping and soaking up some sun on the beach. Ashlyn had offered up her house in the Hollywood Hills but Ali declined, insisting that she wanted her first time there to include a tour by the musician. 

Before she knew it, it was time for her to head back to Frankfurt. She wrapped up her brother in a hug, squeezing him tightly at the drop off section of LAX as she felt her eyes mist up. “I’m going to miss you, boo boo.” 

Kyle squeezed right back, picking his sister off the ground. “I’ll miss you too.” He placed a kiss lovingly on her forehead. “Now, go. Don’t want you to miss you flight.”

Ali grabbed her luggage and shot one more smile at Kyle before heading inside. She started walking through the airport towards the Lufthansa check in when she noticed a man in a suit. She had almost walked right by when something caught her eye and caused her to look twice. The man was holding a piece of paper with “Krieger” printed neatly on it. Ali blinked and looked around, thinking maybe someone was playing a prank on her. Not seeing anything out of the ordinary, she approached the man. “Um, I’m Ali Krieger.” 

“Ah, yes ma’am. Let me take those for you.” The man reached forward and took Ali’s luggage. “Compliments of Ms. Harris.” 

Ali felt butterflies erupt in her stomach. ‘Of course.’ She reached for her phone and fired off a quick text before following the man in the suit.

Ali: What exactly are you up to?

Ash: Guess you’ll just have to wait and see.

Ali followed the man away from the check in and towards a separate door. She provided her passport to a TSA agent before heading down a much quieter corridor. It was a ten minute walk but suddenly she was outside and she couldn’t believe her eyes. “No…” Ali mumbled out breathlessly.

“Right this way, Miss Krieger.” The man stopped and gestured her to climb the stairs of the Gulfstream G6.

Ali reached out a shaky hand and used the railing to help her climb the steps into the beautiful private plane. Her eyes took in the luxurious ivory colored couches and reclining oversized chairs. On the mahogany table, Ali noticed an iPad. Before she could do anything else, the screen lit up with an incoming FaceTime. The brunette looked over her shoulder but found that she was alone in the plane so she took two steps forward and answered the FaceTime call. 

“Hey Princess!” Ash’s face filled the screen, smiling wide at Ali.

“Ash, what is all this?” Ali asked, looking around in disbelief before turning her attention back to her girlfriend. 

“That, Alex, is your ride home.” 

“No….Ashlyn Michelle, this is too much!! You’re crazy!” Ali laughed in shock.

“I…yes, I might be crazy…but I’m also crazy about you and I’m going to court you properly, even if I have to do it from half way across the world.” Ash gave a smile into the camera that made Ali’s knees weak. “And before you try to protest further, the pilots have already been given instructions to fly to Frankfurt whether you’re on the plane or not…so you might as well make sure they fly all that distance for a reason. Besides, a world class athlete needs to be able to stretch out during a long flight like that.” 

“You’re too much.” Ali flopped down into the plush recliner, groaning at the feeling of comfort she was cradled in. 

“Well, I’m just getting started. There’s two bottles of that Malbec from my apartment that you liked on board and the flat screen has a full Blu-Ray selection. I have to run to do a phone interview with Sirius radio but I’ll FaceTime you back when I’m done, the plane is equipped with wifi.” Ash winked. “Have a good flight, beautiful.” 

Ali melted at the lengths Ashlyn had gone to make her feel cared for even at such a distance. “You’re amazing…I’ll talk to you soon, stud.” She blew a kiss at the camera, giving Ash one more look before the screen went blank. No sooner had she set the iPad down that a flight attendant had shown up with a glass of the Malbec Ashlyn had alluded to. 

“Here you go, honey. I’m Diane. If you need anything, you just let me know. Otherwise, I’ll stay out of your way.” 

Ali thanked Diane and leaned back into her recliner. She hit play on Imagine Me & You, letting the romantic comedy fill the 50-inch flat screen. The brunette couldn’t help but feel a connection to the main character as their heart was stolen by someone they never saw coming. As the whisper-quiet G6 soared through the sky, Ali allowed herself to drown in her feelings for Ashlyn Harris. 

 

Chapter Text

Ashlyn had spent the next two months touring the United States, performing five to six shows a week all over the country. Oddly enough, her unique schedule worked out perfectly for keeping in touch with her favorite Frankfurt resident. Typically Ashlyn would be done with the concert by 11:00 at night. Then she’d hang out with the band and crew for an hour or two before crawling into bed and starting up a FaceTime with Ali at 10:30 am in Frankfurt. It would give Ali just enough time to get up early, workout with the team, stretch and get home for her virtual date. 

Once her tour was over, Ashlyn took everyone involved from backup singers and dancers to behind the scenes crew members on an all inclusive vacation at the most exclusive resort in Bali for two weeks as a token of her appreciation. She had rented out the entire resort for her support team. That’s where she found herself now: in a pair of board shorts, a sports bra and aviators, stretched out in a cabana next to Whitney as she sipped on a beer. 

“Ugh….I’m so fucking relaxed…” Ashlyn groaned out with her eyes shut.

Whitney laughed and sipped her Mai Tai, spinning around the little umbrella as she eyed her best friend. “You look relaxed.” She let the silence sit between them for a couple minutes. “Ari’s already called me four times since we got here….He wants to know what your next move is. I think I’ve held him off for as long as I can.”

Ashlyn rolled her eyes, taking another sip of her beer as she thought about her overachieving agent. “That guy needs to take up yoga or something.” 

“Tell me about it. Although, I’m really glad he didn’t accept your invite to join us here…can you imagine?” Whitney griped. “Anyway…I’ll need to let him know what you want to do.”

“Actually, I’ve been thinking about it…I want to get back in the studio. I want to release a deluxe version of the album with some of the stuff the label said wasn’t main stream enough.”

“Like Losing My Way?” 

“Yeah, exactly. Ari might not like it but I don’t want to just do whatever they want me to do…I’m a big kid now…I want to do big kid music. I’ve got this 5-ish year plan in my head: record the deluxe album but then the next one…I want this old 50s style, big band, brass section style album. Less lingerie and more suits…I don’t know…I don’t have it all hashed out yet but I want to change the game…”

Whitney took off her oversized Prada sunglasses and stared at Ashlyn.

“What?” 

“Who the hell are you and what have you done with my best friend?” Whit teased.

Ashlyn laughed and finished off her beer, thanking the staff member that immediately brought a refill. “Maybe I’m growing up…”

“Finally…and I was worried that Ali was going to make you want to just live in Germany for awhile and eat bratwurst…”

Ash grinned from ear to ear as images of the brunette flooded her mind. “They have recording studios in Germany…”

Whitney laughed. “Right. What was I thinking? So it’s still going well with Ali?”

“Yeah…it really is.” Ash was quietly contemplative as she watched the water ripple across the pool. “I think I’m falling in love with her through a phone….”

Whitney’s jaw dropped “Wow…I mean I knew you were having fun but….I’ve never heard you toss around the “L” word before.” 

Ash shrugged. “She’s like no one I’ve ever met…definitely like no one I’ve met since the stardom…she just…sees me. How can you not fall in love with that?”

Whitney grinned. “Good. I’m really happy for you, Ash.” She sipped her cocktail again as the two slipped into silence. When a vision caught her eye, she spoke up again. “You know…she might see you but I’m still your best friend.” 

Ash laughed. “I know, Whit. Don’t worry”

“No, I’m just saying it because as your best friend, I know you better than anyone else on the planet.” 

“Okay…” Ash drawled out slowly, unsure of where she was going with this conversation.

“And I know that while you’re very relaxed, there’s something that could make it better.” Whitney bragged confidently. 

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” Ash asked with a raised eyebrow.

Instead of answering, Whitney pointed towards the path back to the lobby of the resort. When Ash turned her head to follow Whitney’s finger, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Standing in the middle of the pathway, was the very woman they had just been talking about. Ali had a shy smile on her lips, a little nervous about just surprising Ashlyn even though Whitney had insisted it would be a hit. The navy tank top kept her cool while the white floor length skirt flowed in the breeze.

“What?!?!” Ash squawked. “Come on!” She busted out into a smile comparable to a kid’s first time at Disney World. Her head snapped back and forth between Ali and Whitney comically as she tried to make sense of the surprise.

Whitney laughed and rolled her eyes. “Oh for Christ’s sake….go kiss her, Ashlyn…” 

The musician didn’t need to be told twice. The tall brunette scrambled out of the chair and sprinted across the pool deck before scooping up the squealing soccer player. Ash spun them around before gently setting her back on her feet. “You’re here…” She whispered out as she pressed her forehead against Ali’s, closing her eyes and soaking in the feeling of Ali in her arms.

“I’m here.” Ali whispered back as her hands moved to the back of the singer’s head and pulled her down for a desperate kiss. When they finally broke apart it was just barely, breathing in the same air as their noses touched. “Surprise!”

“Ahhh! I have so many questions.” Ash laughed, pulling her in for another tight hug. “It’s so good to see you in person, Alex.” 

Whitney decided to make herself known once again, walking over and clearing her throat. “Okay, okay. Let me in for a hug.” She gave Ali a squeeze before slipping easily into manager mode. “Ash, take this poor girl up to the resort so she can change. She’s been on a plane for hours. I had the concierge bring another room key up to your room so Ali, you should have your own key once you get up there.”

“Whitney, you’re the best. Thank you so much.” Ali gushed, giving the blonde’s arm a squeeze. 

“Don’t mention it. The goofy smile on this one’s face-” She hitched her thumb at Ashlyn “-is thanks enough.”

Ashlyn gave Whitney a quick hug too, speaking quietly in her ear. “The best friend a kid could ask for.” Before she got a chance to get too sentimental, Ashlyn slipped her hand into Ali’s and picked up her suitcase. It was a short walk back to the resort and she took the elevator up to the penthouse suite. “God, I can’t believe I’m looking at you in person. This is incredible!” 

“Whitney gets all the credit. She called me a month ago when she was finalizing all of this and asked if I could make it. I would’ve been here sooner but we had that game against Rosengard.” Ali wrapped both arms around Ash’s bicep and leaned into her as they walked down the hall of the top floor towards Ashlyn’s room. When they got to the room, Ashlyn slipped her keycard in before stepping aside for Ali to enter. “Oh my god…”  She took in the massive suite, her eyes soaking in the massive bed, rain shower, jacuzzi tub, balcony and grand piano. “This is literally twice the size of my apartment.”

Ash walked up behind her, wrapping her arms around the defined torso and setting her chin on Ali’s shoulder. “I’m glad you like it.”

“What’s not to like? This is incredible!” Ali spun around in the arms, leaning up on her tiptoes to pull the singer down for a kiss. Ash’s hands moved quickly to the back of the defender’s thighs, hoisting her off the ground as she walked them to the bed, her teeth nipping at Ali’s lower lip.

Ash gently laid her down before climbing onto the bed to hover over her, the mood instantly shifting as their eyes darkened. “I have missed you so much….”

“Prove it.”

Chapter Text

 

 

Chapter 14

 

She had only been in the penthouse suite for 15 minutes and Ali was convinced she was hyperventilating. Her back arched off the bed as the skilled fingers of the singer brought her to a second orgasm just seconds after the first one. “Fuck. Ash…” She gasped for air as her nails dug into Ash’s back. “Jesus, baby... Oh God... Fuck.” Her hands moved up to the back of Ashlyn’s head, where it was buried in the defender’s neck as she sucked hard. The thrusts slowed as Ash gently brought Ali down from her high. A soft whimper left Ali’s lips as she felt Ash slip out of her and the defender’s chest heaved wildly as she tried to catch her breath. “Baby.” Her hands moved to the sides of the singer’s head, pulling her back enough so she could claim the swollen lips with her own. When they broke apart, her brown eyes gazed up into hazel ones brimming with tears. “Ash?” Her face stroked the strong cheek. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.” Ash husked out, her voice thick with emotion as she stared down at the beautiful brunette. “I love you.” She admitted quietly, astonished at how easily the words fell from her lips. “I’ve fallen in love with you. And I planned on flying out to Frankfurt to tell you in person some romantic way but you’re here, and you’re stunning, and I don’t want another minute to go by without you knowing that I am in love with Alexandra Krieger.” She blinked a couple times to clear the tears as the sincere words poured out of her, a soft smile tugging at her lips.

Ali felt her heart get wrapped in the safety of Ashlyn Harris as soon as the words were out of her mouth. She was loved. Never had anyone said those words to her with such conviction. She reached up and gently swiped away the tear streaking down her girlfriend’s cheek with the pad of her thumb. “You love me?” Ali asked in a whisper, eager to hear it again. 

Ashlyn leaned down, capturing the soft pink lips with her own. When they broke apart she stayed close enough that their lips brushed together when she talked. “I love you.”

When she heard it again, Ali’s face broke into a huge smile. Her fingers laced through the short hair and pulled her down once more. Instead of going in for a kiss, she moved at the last second and brought her lips to Ashlyn’s ear to speak in a quiet whisper. “I love you too.”

Ash shook her head. “Ali, you don’t have to say it back.” She pulled back a little so she could see the warm whiskey colored eyes. “I didn’t say it so-“

Ali stopped the protest with a finger to the musician’s puffy lips. “Stop right there. I played a full 90 minutes and then immediately jumped on a 16 hour flight just to spend a couple days with you. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.” Ali teased before gazing back up into Ashlyn’s eyes, her tone now raw with emotion. “I love you.” 

“Oh thank god…” Ash exhaled with a laugh, burying her face in the crook of Ali’s neck. As soon as she confessed her feelings, worry that the smaller brunette didn’t feel the same way crept in. When she spoke again, her words came out muffled by the right back’s glistening skin. “Alex, I’m so glad you’re here. I missed you like crazy.” 

Ali’s arms wrapped Ash up tightly in a hug as the singer was draped over her. “I missed you too. Two months is way too long.” Her fingertips ran up and down the strong back lightly as she breathed in the artist’s unique scent. 

“Couldn’t agree more.” With that, Ash resumed her mission to reacquaint herself with every inch of Ali’s body. 

 

 

 

 

 

Two hours later the couple resurfaced and joined the real world once more, showered and satisfied. Ali leaned into Ash’s frame, their hands locked together as they walked through the resort. This time through the lobby Ali soaked in the luxury of the building. “Babe, this place is amazing.” She looked around before her eyes fell back on her love. “You really rented out the whole resort?” 

Ash chuckled softly. “Yeah…after the last tour we just booked rooms at a resort and it was absolute chaos. The other guests wouldn’t leave us alone…the paparazzi caught wind of it and showed up. The whole purpose was to relax and it was definitely not relaxing. This…” Ash waved her hand around at the mostly empty resort. “…This is relaxing. Oh! You’ll get to meet Niki. She’s flying in today! And she’s bringing a lady…” Ash beamed, moving to wrap her arm around Ali and draw her in close. 

“Really?” Ali’s face lit up for the hundredth time in the last couple hours at the prospect of meeting her girlfriend’s other best friend aside from Whitney. “It’ll be good to meet her. You talk about her so much I feel like I already know her. Do you know the woman she’s bringing?”

“No. She’s told me about her but I haven’t met her yet. She seems pretty smitten though….” 

“Aw.” Ali gave Ash a playful nudge. “The Harris/Cross combo are in looooove. Women all over America will be crying themselves to sleep tonight.” 

Ashlyn laughed and rolled her eyes. “Please.” She scoffed jokingly, thinking back of the tabloids and their portrayal of her friend and her as the lesbian casanovas of LA. “Niki’s like me…we’re both big teddy bears. TMZ just likes their stories.”

Ali felt her heart swell as she leaned up and stole a kiss. “You're my big teddy bear…” Ali confirmed, poking the singer in the side playfully. “Now, come on. You need to help me apply suntan lotion” She winked and dragged her girlfriend to the pool.

 

 

 

 

They had been lounging by the pool with Whitney and Ryan, who the manager had also flown in, for a few hours when the tranquility was broken. 

“Harris!!”

Ashlyn grinned as the voice she’d known since 8th grade shouted out across the resort. She gave Ali a quick peck before climbing off of their cabana bed and jogging to greet her other best friend. “Holy shit…you’ve gotten uglier since the last time I saw you and that was like…a week ago…” Ash teased.

The lanky brunette rolled her eyes and flipped off the singer. She turned to the shorter blonde next to her. “See? I told you she wasn’t that impressive in person…” Before she got a chance to say anything else, Ashlyn had bent over and thrown Niki over her shoulder. Two short steps later and Ashlyn was sending them both into the pool, leaving a cannonball sized splash in their wake. 

While the two friends reacquainted themselves via a pool wrestling match, Ali and Whitney headed towards the nervous looking blonde. Whitney outstretched her hand, giving it a gentle shake. “You must be Molly. I’m Whitney. This is Ali.”

Molly shook both their hands and offered up a warm smile. “Hi! Thanks so much for inviting me. This place is incredible.” 

Whitney dismissed the praise with a warm wave. “Oh don’t worry about it. See if you still feel that way after dealing with those two oafs for a week.” She laughed. “That’s my boyfriend, Ryan” She pointed over to the man waving at them from the cabana. 

Before Whitney could say anything else, she was squealing in disgust. The two trouble makers had climbed out of the pool and wrapped her up in a soaking bear hug as Ashlyn crooned out “Reunited and it feels so good.” 

Niki shook her hair out like a dog, getting a couple more droplets of water on the manager. “Hey Whit. Miss me?” 

“How could I not?” Whitney muttered, dripping with sarcasm before her pout turned into laughter and she gave the tall woman a hug. “Don’t worry…We handled introductions ourselves.” Whitney scolded teasingly as she nodded towards Molly.

“Hey! Don’t blame me. This idiot-“ She pointed towards Ashlyn “-is the one that couldn’t wait another second to throw me into the pool.” She moved to wrap her arm around Molly’s waist. “Mol, this is Ash.” She pointed towards her superstar best friend who was dripping wet, hair haphazardly pointing in every direction.

Ashlyn let out a dimpled grin as she extended her hand after drying it on the back of Whitney’s shirt. “Hey Molly. Nice to meet you. Niki won’t stop talking about you. It’s nice to put a face to the name.”

“Oh like you have any room to talk…Ali, I’m Niki.” Niki smiled towards the bikini clad brunette she had seen on Ashlyn’s arm in all the magazines after they announced their relationship.

Ali smiled and leaned into her girlfriend after shaking Niki’s hand. Just as soon as she leaned in, she recoiled. “Ugh, you’re soaked!”  

Ash grinned wolfishly as she stalked back towards Ali. “Oh yeah?”

Ali pointed at her girlfriend sternly as she walked backwards. “Don’t you dare, Ashlyn Harris.” 

Ashlyn tilted her head to the side with a smirk, weighing the consequences of her potential actions. Deciding it was worth whatever Ali could dish out, she darted forward and hoisted the defender over her shoulder much like she had done with Niki. Once she had her girlfriend situated on her shoulder despite Ali’s attempts to free herself, she gave the strong ass a playful smack. “Nik? Little solidarity?”

“Sorry babe.” Niki said regretfully to Molly. 

Molly looked confused. “Huh?” Her confusion only lasted a second before her fashion designer girlfriend had hoisted her over her shoulder, putting them in the same position as Ali and Ashlyn. “Put me down! Niki!!!” 

Whitney, ever the manager, scrambled to get the cell phone out of Molly’s hand. She knew she could only do so much damage control when her idiot best friends got their minds set on something. 

“Ashlyn Michelle! I. Am. Serious. You put me down!” Ali scolded, smacking at the back of her girlfriend as she tried desperately not to laugh. If she was being honest, this was more fun than she’d had in…well…two months since she’d last been in the singer’s arms. 

“Sorry, babe. It’s gotta happen.” Ash smirked and gave Ali’s butt a squeeze before high-fiving Niki and taking a giant synchronized step into the pool, hearing Ali and Molly’s screams the whole way down. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

 

 

Ashlyn sat slouched on the Italian leather couch of her agent’s office as her mind drifted back to three short days ago. Just 72 hours earlier she had been laying in the penthouse suite in Bali with Ali’s naked body draped over her, begging the soccer player to let her follow her to Frankfurt.

“But think about it…You’ll be there. I’ll be there. It’s the perfect plan.” The singer argued.

“It’s not the perfect plan. Your responsible best friend already warned me you’d try this and you have an important meeting in LA that you can’t miss.” Ali countered as she tapped Ashlyn on the nose. “So as romantic as it would be, you have to go back to LA and I have to go back to Germany.”

“Ugh. Damn it, Whitney…” Ashlyn sighed and flopped her head back against the pillow. “Always the responsible one…” Her arms circled around Ali and drew her in tight as her voice turned into a pout. “This is dumb. I’ll just buy a soccer team in LA…then you can play there…problem solved.” 

“Oh, problem solved, huh?” Ali laughed, placing a few light kisses on Ashlyn’s jaw. “You’re ridiculous. Now let’s spend our last couple hours on the same continent making some memories.”

The subtle jab to her ribs from Whitney brought her attention back to the present as Ari pulled a packet of paper and handed a copy to Ashlyn. 

“RCA Records called. They’re getting an entire team of songwriters together for your next album and I got a call from Warner Brothers Studio. They have a $4 million holding contract all drawn up and ready for you to sign while they develop something for you. We just need you to get over there and sign it this week.” Ari boasted, proud of his accomplishments while Ash and Whitney were on vacation.

“No.” 

“What?” Ari glanced back and forth between the singer and manager. 

“I’ve been on a fuckin’ tour bus or a hotel room for the last two years. No. I’m not going to run my happy ass back into a studio and pump out some mediocre crap so we can collect a paycheck. I’ll start working on the next album but it’ll happen when it happens.” Ash explained to her flabbergasted agent. “I want…I want to spend some of this money we’ve earned…I want to spend more than two days in my own house. I want to…I don’t know…get a dog or something.” 

Ari blinked in shock. “This is the girl, right? The girl has you feeling all domestic and introspective? Wanting to hole up in some German hovel. Ash, listen…” 

Ash stood, leaving the packet behind on the couch as she patted him on the chest. “It’s not about her. It’s about me. And it’s not up for discussion…but Ari? You ever bring her up again to try to convince me to do something, I don’t give a shit if you are the best agent in the city. I’ll drop you and not think twice about it. William Morris calls me every other week.” 

With that, the brunette disappeared as Whitney soaked in Ari’s current state. 

“She’s kidding, right? Whitney…she’s leaving millions of dollars on the table.” Ari turned, trying to reason with the level headed manager.

“Not even a little bit, Ari.” The blond glanced at the back of her retreating best friend. “But I’ll tell you this, I’ve heard some of her ideas for her next album. She won’t be leaving anything on the table. She’s going to become the biggest artist in the world, bar none.” She shot him a wink and then followed after Ashlyn.  When she climbed into the back of their waiting car, a smile split her face in half. “You should have seen his face when you walked out! Can we do that again tomorrow?”

 

 


 

 

Ali trotted down the steps of her apartment complex as she danced along to Ash’s album playing through her earbuds. The extra pep in her step, compliments of her trip to Bali, was quickly put to an end when she stepped outside. Before she knew what was happening, there were two cameras and a camcorder all shoved in her face courtesy of a trio of men much larger than her. 

 “Ali! Is it true that you and Ashlyn are engaged?”

“Ali, what do you have to say about the rumors that Ashlyn and Cameron are back together?”

“Ali, tell us more about the trip!”

The brunette tilted her head down as the rapid flashes caused spots to pop up in her eyes. She put her hand up to block them and hurried her way over to the car, rushing in and locking the door as soon as it was shut. When she saw them start moving towards their own cars, she sped off as fast as possible in an effort to lose them before they got a chance to follow her. While she navigated the streets as fast as safely possible she called Ashlyn, swearing under her breath when it went to voicemail. Two more attempts, two more voicemails, all while her shaky hands gripped the steering wheel. “Shit.” Ali checked her rearview mirror to make sure she was still clear before dialing a different number, feeling relief when she heard it answer on the second ring.

“Whitney Engen.” 

“Whit! It’s Ali. I tried calling Ash but she didn’t answer. I don’t know what to do. I left for practice this morning and there were a bunch of guys outside. They started taking pictures and asking a bunch of questions like whether or not we were engaged. What the hell is this?”

Whitney let out a sigh, frustrated at the lengths the paparazzi would go to. “First thing’s first. Are you safe?”

“I think so. I don’t see them anymore.” 

Whitney tucked her phone between her ear and neck as she started shoving her wallet and car keys into her purse and slipping on her flip flops. “Okay. Ash has a session with her trainer right now. That’s why she didn’t answer but I’ll head over there and let her know what’s going on. 99% chance they’re completely harmless…they’re just looking for gossip but I’m impressed that they went all the way to Germany to get it. Where are you headed?”

“To training. I’m almost to the stadium and they have security so I think I’ll be fine.” Ali took a deep breath as she pulled into the drive for the stadium.

“When do you leave the stadium again?”

“In about six hours.”

“Okay. Just call Ash or me back when you’re done with training. I’ll make sure she knows what’s going on and we’ll have a plan.” Whitney took a deep breath. “Ali….I promise she’s worth all the headache she comes with…Please don’t let this scare you off.”

Once she parked her BMW, she closed her eyes and let her head thud against the headrest. “I know she is…I just…I wasn’t prepared for it, that’s all. Tell her I’m ok, ok?”  

“I will. Bye Ali.” Whitney waited until the line disconnected before getting behind the wheel of her Mercedes AMG G65. “Ash is going to be pissed…” 

Chapter Text

Whitney pulled into the gated drive, the sensor on her dashboard automatically opening the gates as she approached her best friend’s mansion. It was a short five minute drive from her own house but she still had enough time to come up with a plan for breaking the news to Ash about the paparazzi. She parked next to the trainer’s car and headed inside with a sigh. She was half way through the living room when she ran into the personal trainer. “Hey Mark. You guys all done?”

“Yeah. We just finished up. She’s out back playing with Tripp.”

“Tripp?”

Mark grinned mischievously. “You’ll see…Later Whit.” He shot her a wink and disappeared out the front door. 

Whitney crossed through the open kitchen before moving into the backyard. When her eyes landed on Tripp, she rolled her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” She muttered under her breath. In the middle of the backyard Ashlyn was lying on her back holding an Australian cattle dog puppy in the air, cooing at it. “Ash.” The singer turned and shot a beaming smile towards her. 

“Whit! Meet Tripp Harris!” She set the puppy down so he could immediately start a clumsy run straight towards Whitney.

“I thought you were kidding when you said you wanted a dog Ashlyn…” She kneeled down but as soon as the little puppy nudged his head against her leg, she felt her heart start to melt for the little guy. She gave him a scratch behind the ears before getting to the task at hand. “Listen, Ash…I know you were training with Mark…Ali tried calling and you didn’t answer so she called me.”

Ashlyn was upright in an instant. “Is she okay?” She was up and moving towards the house but before she could go any further, Whitney put a hand on her should and stopped her. 

“Ash. She’s fine. Take a breath.” 

Ashlyn took a deep breath and nodded. “What happened?” A couple little yips caught her attention so she leaned down and picked up the pup, cradling him in her arms. 

“When she left her house to head to practice this morning, there were some paparazzi waiting for her. She got away from them just fine and she’s at the stadium now but it rattled her a little bit.” 

“God damn it…” Ash pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. 

“It’s okay. On the way over, I called and talked to the agency that handles our tour security in Europe. They’re going to send someone over to the stadium. It’s a couple lower level paparazzo. They’ll get intimidated by the security detail and it’ll all be over before it even starts.” Whitney explained, scratching the puppy’s ears. 

“Okay…um…that’s great. Thanks Whit. Were they, like, aggressive with her?” 

“No, I don’t think so. Just asked some questions and took some pictures.” Whitney searched Ash’s eyes, trying to figure out what was going through the brunette’s mind. 

“Make sure the bodyguards make the message clear…I’m gonna head over there.” 

“To Frankfurt? Ash…it’s not down the street. It’s an eleven hour flight..plus, you’re a father now.” She teased, tugging on Tripp’s ear. 

Ashlyn rolled her eyes and laughed softly. “Ass.” She gave Tripp a squeeze. “He actually came with docs to travel. I got him from Ellen through her animal sanctuary so she had already filed the paperwork.” 

“Should’ve known she was the one behind this…” 

“Whit. I can’t leave her to deal with this on her own. It’s my fault they were even there.” 

“But that’s what I’m trying to tell you! There’s nothing to deal with. I’ve got it all handled.” Whitney argued back. “She’s fine.”

Ash sighed. “Don’t make me say it.” 

“I’m gonna make you say it.” 

“Whit.”

“Ash.”

“I miss her.” Ash admitted.

“And?” Whitney crossed her arms, not letting her off the hook just yet.

“And…this is the perfect excuse to go out there.” 

“And?”

“You handled it…like always.”

Whitney erupted into a smug grin. “Thank you.” 

“Now…do you think you can handle booking me a plane to Frankfurt?” Ash asked with a cheesy smile.

Whitney rolled her eyes and reached for Tripp. “Only if I get to babysit.” 

“You wish. The only thing more romantic than showing up on her doorstep after a scary day is showing up with a puppy!” 

 

 

 


 

 

When Ali got back to the locker room, she checked her phone to find a couple missed calls and a voicemail from Ashlyn. Her eyes crinkled with a smile as the smooth voice came through the phone.

“Hey Alex. I talked to Whit. Babe, I’m so sorry you had to deal with those guys this morning and I’m so sorry I missed your calls. I feel so bad that they bothered you because of me. Hopefully you get this message before you leave because we’ve got a security guard waiting for you just to make sure there’s not any more problems. Call me when you get this. I love you.” 

Ali let out a happy sigh before hitting the call button and listening to the line connect. When she heard the line pick up, she didn’t even wait for Ashlyn to talk. “Hey stud.”

“There she is. Hi babe.” Ashlyn leaned back in the seat of the G6 jet as Tripp gnawed on her index finger. “How was training?”

“It was good.” 

“And you’re really okay?” Ash asked softly. 

“I’m fine. They just caught me off guard. I think they were pretty harmless. I’m still getting used to the whole ‘dating a celebrity’ thing. They should make a bootcamp for this.” Ali teased as she kicked off her cleats. “Is there really a bodyguard waiting for me outside?”

“Maaaaaybe.” 

“Ash, that’s total overkill. I’m fine.” Ali said with as much confidence as she could muster. 

“Babe. Please. Don’t fight me about this. It’ll make me feel better. Let me help the only way I can.” Ash begged gently as she sipped her glass of whiskey. 

Ali wouldn’t admit it, but it was sweet the lengths Ash would go to feel helpful from so far away. “Fine. Anyway…we never got a chance to talk about your meeting with your agent. How’d it go?”

Ash grinned as she played tug of war with Tripp. “It was great. I told him to shove his offers and I’d let him know when I was ready to work again.”

“Ash…” Ali chastised playfully. 

“Oh please. You’ve never met him.” Ash laughed. “He responds to strength.” 

“If you say so.” Ali changed into a fresh pair of sweatpants. “Okay, I’ve got to go meet the muscle you hired. Call me later?”

“Of course. You’re beautiful. And I love you.” 

Ali swooned visibly enough for her teammate to laugh. “Love you too.” 

 

The rest of the day was uneventful. The paparazzi were long gone by the time she exited the stadium and the bodyguard followed her all the way to her apartment. She Facetimed with Kyle, then Deb. It wasn’t until it was time to chat with her dad that she felt any stress. The defender uncorked a bottle of wine and took a big gulp to garner some liquid courage. It was time to tell her dad that she was dating superstar and gossip magazine cover star Ashlyn Harris. 

“My little Alex!” Ken answered. “How are you, sweetheart?”

They fell into easy conversation as Ali sipped her wine. They chatted about her last couple games, how his soccer team was doing, how things with his girlfriend Vicki were getting more serious. When they switched to his relationship, Ali figured that was as good of an opportunity as ever to talk about her own.  “So dad, I actually have some news too. I’m actually seeing someone too.” 

“Oh.” 

Ali rolled her eyes. “Dad.” 

“Sorry, sorry. You know I have a hard time believing anyone is good enough for you, princess.”

“I know, dad, but she’s really sweet.” Ali nibbled on her lower lip nervously. “You might’ve actually heard of her. Ashlyn Harris?”

“Real funny, Alex. Who is it really?”

Ali took a sip of wine to buy herself a little time. “I’m not kidding, dad.” 

The silence on the phone was deafening. 

Another long minute went by before Ken realized she wasn’t kidding. “Ashlyn Harris? THE Ashlyn Harris? Alex…absolutely not. I don’t keep up with Hollywood and even I still know she’s notorious for sleeping around.”

“Father!” Ali scolded. “She’s not actually like that. She’s kind and gentle. She’s great and she makes me really happy. I need you to trust me over US Weekly…”

Ken rubbed his forehead and let out a heavy sigh. “You promise you’re happy?” 

“I promise.” Ali grinned, hearing her dad melt over the phone. 

“Fine…but if I find out she’s misbehaving…” Ken warned.

“I know. You’ll kill her yourself.” Ali teased. “Love you, Dad.”

“Love you too, honey. Don’t be a stranger.”

 

 


 

 

It was 1:00 in the morning when the knock on the door woke Ali up in a panic. It wasn’t until the second knock that she was sure it was more than a dream. “Shit.” Ali ran a hand through her wild hair and grabbed the baseball bat she kept under her bed. “It’s nothing…it’s probably Frau Hoffman, locked out of her apartment again.” She told herself out loud as she gripped the bat tighter and walked into the living room. “It’s definitely not a big fucking guy looking for more information on Ash.” With one more deep breath, she yanked the door open and reared back with the baseball bat. Before she could swing, a hand reached out and snatched the end of the bat. 

“I fly eleven hours to see you after your first paparazzi experience and you’re going to hit me with a bat?” Ash teased with a mischievous grin. 

“Ash?” Ali blinked rapidly as she tried to force the sleep away. Of the hundred different thoughts running her head, only one made itself known through words. “Is that a puppy?”

Ash grinned. “Can I come in?” 

Ali collected herself enough to shake lose the cobwebs of sleep. “Gosh. Of course. Babe!” Ali dropped the bat and wrapped Ashlyn up in a hug. “What are you- How are- You’re here?!”

Ash laughed and used the arm not holding Tripp to pick up Ali and walk her back into the apartment. “I’m here. When Whit told me what happened, I hopped on a plane.” 

“You’re crazy, you know that?” Ali cupped Ash’s face in her hands and drew her in for a long drawn out kiss. When they broke apart, she kept their foreheads pressed together. “But I love that about you. Now, who is this? He’s adorable!” Ali cooed as she stole the puppy from Ash.

“This is Tripp. My first born son.” Ash grinned. 

“You got a puppy?! Baby, he’s so stinking cute.” Ali grit out as she went nose to nose with the puppy. “If you weren’t already on America’s sexiest people list, this would seal the deal.” 

“Yeah? Well I’m staring at the sexiest person I know…and I’ve missed her like crazy.” Ash moved to press her front to Ali’s back and sucked on her neck while her fingers dug into Ali’s hips. “I’ll get the tour in the morning. Tell me how to get to the bedroom.” 

Ali felt her knees go weak as a moan escaped her lips. “This way…” 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ali woke up with a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. There was a tattooed arm draped over her bare torso and a singer snoring softly next to her. Ali traced the tattoo lines with her fingertip as she giggled. Ashlyn was just too cute. The musician’s mouth was open a little and it was obvious that she was deep in a REM cycle. “So cute.” She pressed a kiss to Ashlyn’s shoulder before crawling out of bed and pulling on a pair of cotton boy shorts and a tank top. When she walked into the living room, she came to a halt. Tripp sat in the middle of the floor amidst a disaster of destroyed pillows, wagging his nub of a tail. There was cotton everywhere. “Not so cute.” Ali scooped up the pup and tucked him under her arm before heading into the kitchen and starting a pot of coffee. “You and I need to come to an understanding, mister. No more pillow shredding. I don’t care how cute your big ears are.” Tripp tilted his head, trying to understand what she was saying and Ali felt herself swoon for a second Harris in less than 12 hours. “You two are going to be the death of me.” 

As the coffee brewed, Ali pulled on her FC Frankfurt sweatpants and brushed her teeth while Tripp followed her every move with clumsy steps. Five minutes later she was ready to head to training with a travel mug full of coffee. Heading back into the bedroom, she found Ashlyn exactly where she left her. Even the arm was draped where Ali had woken up. Ali sat down and ran her fingers through the short brown hair. “Ash.” 

Nothing.

“Ash.” Ali shook her gently but still didn’t get a response. “You’re like a teenager…” Ali laughed and shook harder. “Babe. I gotta go.” 

Ash groaned and buried her face further into the pillow. “What time is it? Why are you up?”

“I’m up because not everyone gets to make their own schedule.” Ali smirked and leaned down to press a kiss to Ash’s temple. “I’ve got practice.” She took a sip of her coffee as she watched the grogginess start to fade away from Ash’s eyes. “Besides, you’re going to be busy too. Your son had a different kind of fun last night…you owe me four new toss pillows.” Ali winked sassily as she stood up. “Make sure they match. I’ll be back in about six hours, stud.” 

Without another word, Ali sauntered out the door and left a stunned Ashlyn begging for more. Ash flopped back against the pillow and let out a sigh. “Been to every corner of the world and I’ve never met a woman even close to her….” Ash took a deep breath, soaking in Ali’s smell on the pillow before rolling out of bed to an excited Tripp. “Alright, buddy. Let’s see how much trouble we’re in.” She followed the excited pup into the living room. When her eyes took in the sight, she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Shit.” Ash looked down at him. “Those pillows are bigger than you. How’d you even swing this?” When Tripp just stared back at her with big blue eyes, she headed into the kitchen and rummaged through the cabinets before she noticed the mug sitting next to the coffee pot with a post-it note stuck to it, complete with a heart drawn on it. She grinned and poured coffee before adding in a couple heaping scoops of sugar. Ash took a big gulp before dialing her phone through FaceTime. 

A few minutes later, Whitney’s face appeared. “Hey. What’s up?” Whit ran her hand through her hair, trying to tame the wild hair. 

Ash squinted at the screen, taking notice of the smudged lipstick and rosy cheeks. “Ew. Did you answer your phone mid-romp?” 

“Post romp, Ash…it’s almost midnight in LA and Ryan’s in town…” Whit corrected with a layer of sass. “You’re not the only one getting some, you know. What do you need?” 

Ash smirked and sipped her coffee. “How was he?” 

A third voice, much deeper than the other two, joined the convo. “HE is still in the room.” Ryan poked his head into the view of the camera. “Hey Ash.”

“Hey Ry. Sorry guys. I’ll make it quick. Tripp destroyed some pillows.” Ash switched the camera so it gave Whit a view of the living room. “I need to go get some replacements before she gets home from practice. What the hell do I get?” 

“Whit said you’re in Germany. Isn’t there an IKEA on every corner?” Ryan suggested but before the sentence was over Whitney was looking at him like he was crazy. 

“Don’t you dare get her pillows from IKEA. You showed up on her doorstep in the middle of the night with a rascal that destroyed her pillows.There’s an Hermès in Frankfurt. Go there. I’ll look online and text you a link of what to get.”

Ash let out a breath in relief. “You’re a lifesaver.”

“I know.” Whit deadpanned. “Now I’m hanging up so I can do this and go to bed.” 

“Night Whit. Night Ry.” 

A chorus of “goodnights” came from the couple before the call ended. 

 

 

 

 

Ash took her time time getting ready, just enjoying being in the space Ali called home. She especially appreciated the fact that a picture of Ali and her from their vacation in Bali had made the collage on the fridge. After a quick shower, she tossed on a plaid button down, well-worn pair of jeans and topped it with a slouchy beanie. The Ray-Ban Wayfarers she added all but concealed her identity, making her look like just another person on the busy streets. Her and Tripp took their time walking through the bustling downtown so the pup could get some energy burned up. After enjoying her coffee while strolling through the streets, she dropped the pup off back at the apartment and got about the task at hand. It was a short fifteen minute walk before she found herself in front of Hermès. 

It only took a minute before a woman in a skirt suit approached the hipster-disguised singer. The woman did her best to hide her disgust at the lazy outfit the customer wore and just hoped she’d have enough money saved up to buy something that would warrant a decent commission. “Guten Morgen.” 

“Oh…Sorry.” Ashlyn took off her sunglasses and felt a little embarrassed. “I don’t speak German…Um…English?” Ashlyn could pinpoint the minute the salesperson recognized her. It was a body language she’s become incredibly familiar with. The warmth of the woman’s smile cranked up. 

“Of course, of course.” The woman reached out a hand. “I’m Marie.”

Ashlyn gave her hand a shake. “Ashlyn. Nice to meet you too.”

“I’m a big fan.” The woman added with a flirty smile. “What can I help you find today?”

Ashlyn, ever the sensitive soul, wanted to make sure the woman didn’t get the wrong idea. She also didn’t need photos surfacing of a flirty woman and her on the front page of a gossip magazine. “I’m actually coming for something pretty specific. My puppy has successfully destroyed every single one of my girlfriend’s toss pillows and I need to replace them with pillows nice enough to say we’re sorry.” 

The woman let out a soft laugh. “Of course. Right this way.” 

As Ashlyn followed, she pulled her phone out of her back pocket and opened up the link from Whitney.  “My friend told me these would be a good choice.” She held up the picture for Marie to see.

“Ah, yes. Our Fermoir pillow. Right over here.” She led them to a section of the store where all the pillows are. 

Ashlyn looked them over and nodded. “Perfect.” Truth be told, she didn’t know a damn thing about pillows. She just knew to listen when Whitney gave her instructions. “So, I need three of those…” Then she swiped to a different photo on her phone. “And one of these.”

“Sure. The Circuit 24.” She took them directly to the pillow. 

“Easy enough.” Ashlyn smiled as an assistant grabbed the pillows. “I’d also like to get her something just…y’know, because.”

Marie nodded with a smile. “And how special is this one?”

Ashlyn chewed on the corner of her lip as her eyes lit up. “Very.”

“Well, then there’s only one option. Our Birkin bag. Follow me.” Marie led them through the store towards their signature bag collection and unlocked the glass case. “We have a handful of colors.”

“Classic black. Definitely.” Ashlyn chose without hesitation, imagining all the different outfits of Ali’s it would work with.

“Great choice. We actually only have one left.” Marie carefully set the bag into a soft cloth bag. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” 

“Um…no, I think that’ll cover it.” Ashlyn followed her to the counter and watched as they carefully wrapped each item in tissue and bagged them. The singer opened up her wallet, pulled out her American Express black card and set it down on the counter.

“Okay, Ms. Harris. Your total is $18,476”

Ashlyn slid the card across the table. “Funny world isn’t it? I used to sleep in my car…now I’m paying twenty grand on pillows and a purse.”

“Well, I’m sure she’s worth every penny.” 

“You’ve got no clue.” Ashlyn signed the slip before tucking the card away and grabbing the bags. “Have a good day.” 

“You too. I look forward to your new music.” 

Ashlyn had a couple more stops on the way back to Ali’s. She grabbed a bouquet of fresh cut flowers and groceries from the local market. Then she grabbed a case of local beer before heading back. Back at the apartment, she was met with excited puppy yips as the pair of them set about their tasks for the day.

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon, Ali trotted up the stairs to her apartment with an extra pep in her step. When she set foot on her floor, she could hear the music emanating from her apartment. Even though she knew she should be upset with Ashlyn for not considering her neighbors when she cranked the music so loud, instead she found it adorable. She could only imagine her dancing through the house as she sang along to what was playing. “You just live in your own universe…” Ali mumbled as she unlocked her door and stepped inside. “Hello?”

Before Ali even took her shoes off, Ashlyn swept her up in her arms and started dancing along with her through the apartment. “Hey you! You were gone forever!”

Ali laughed as she tried to keep up with Ash’s dance moves. “I was gone for exactly how long I said I’d be gone.”

Ash huffed and stopped dancing to bury her face in Ali’s neck. “Seemed like forever…” 

“Poor thing.” Ali lightly scratched the back of Ash’s neck. “How was your day?”

“Good! Look.” Ash perked up and turned to show the apartment. Even though Ali kept the place neat, she could tell that the place had been thoroughly cleaned. Nearly a dozen candles all over the living room, kitchen and dining room were lit and there was something simmering on the stove. “And…Tripp and I replaced your pillows.” Ash bragged proudly. 

Ali’s eyes widened as she took in the pillows. She’d know that ‘H’ anywhere. “Ash….Is that….” She blinked and walked closer to her couch, running her fingers over the logo. “Hermès pillows? Are you out of your mind?! These pillows cost more than my monthly rent!”

Ash shifted from one foot to the other, slipping her hands in her pockets. “Do you not like them? I can take them back and get a different color…or…” She shrugged. “I don’t know.” 

Ali sighed and turned around to look at the singer who looked like a kid that gave a bad Christmas present. “No..Ash, I love them…of course I love them..but when I told you to replace the pillows, I meant with your run of the mill $20 pillows…I don’t want you wasting all your money on me…I’m not with you for your money and I’d never want it to seem that way.” 

“So…you like them?”

Ali rolled her eyes. “I give that entire explanation and that’s your first question?” When she was met with a sly smile from Ashlyn, she had her answer. “Yes…I love them.”

“Then, problem solved!” Ashlyn beamed. “Gift giving is my love language so you’re just going to have to deal.”

“Excuse me?”

“My love language. Have you not heard of love languages? There’s five of them…gift giving is mine. I’ve got a hunch physical touch might be yours…” Ash winked. 

Ali laughed and rolled her eyes. “I’ll have to google it.” Her eyes took in the pillows again. “Thank you, babe. They’re great.”

“Well, those are from Tripp. My gift is in the bedroom.” 

Ali raised an eyebrow and bit her lower lip. “Oh really, Harris?” 

Ash smirked and placed a smoldering kiss on her lips. “Down girl. That’s not what I meant.” She slipped her hand through Ali’s and lead her into the bedroom. She watched as Ali’s face took in the shopping bag. 

Ali took a step towards the shopping bag and shot a glance at Ash whose eyes were shining bright. Her fingers carefully pulled out the tissue to reveal a cloth cinch bag. “Is this….” Ali breathed out and opened the cinch bag with a gasp. “A Birkin?!” Her fingertips ran across the handle of the bag. She had admired them from a distance on all her different fashion magazines and blogs. “This is…Ash, this is the most elusive handbag on the planet.” 

“So…you like?” 

“I love.” She gave the purse a careful hug, inhaling the new smell. She set the bag down and strode into Ashlyn’s waiting arms. “You’re setting the bar impossibly high for birthdays and Christmas…”

Ashlyn scooped her up and strode towards the bed, using an arm to swipe the shopping bag and tissue to the ground. “Well, you stole my heart with a drunken kiss in the back of a stadium…makes it worth every penny.” Ash mumbled as her hands went to the hem of Ali’s shirt.

Chapter Text

Ali and Ashlyn were able to spend two and a half weeks together before real life forced the singer back to Los Angeles. Her and Tripp soaked in one more Frankfurt game, cheering proudly at the top of her lungs despite the fans that snapped more photos of her in the stands than the players on the field.  That night, once they were settled into a back table at Heimat, a Michelin star restaurant, Ashlyn clinked her whiskey glass against the stemmed wine glass perched between Ali’s fingers. “Hell of a game, beautiful.”

“Thank you. But I think you signed more autographs than I did today.” Ali teased before taking a sip.

Ash let out a soft sigh. “I think Tripp is making it harder to stay incognito...” She admitted as she leaned back in her chair, undid the top button of her dress shirt and loosened her tie. “You sure we can’t ignore all of our responsibilities and just go run off somewhere? New Zealand maybe? Who would look there for us? No one...that’s who.”

Ali giggled as she stared adoringly across the table. “Tempting.” Her manicured fingertip traced the rim of her wine glass, soaking in the company she’d soon be losing.

“Worth a shot...But you’ll be back in November for camp right?” Ash confirmed eagerly so she could make sure Whitney kept her calendar free.

“Yep.” Ali replied with her signature nose-crinkling smile. “Arizona.” She reached across the table and laced their fingers together. “I should be able to get back a couple days early though.”

“I’ll be there with my stars and stripes on.” Ash promised, squeezing Ali’s hand. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you too.”

 


 

 

A few short days later, Ashlyn was back in downtown LA. Despite being the middle of October, Ashlyn strode down the sidewalk in shorts and flip flops. She kept her sunglasses securely in place as she stepped inside Urth Cafe and scanned for her brunch partner. Luckily Urth Cafe was a mainstay for people of her status so she could move through without causing too much of a ruckus. It just took another second before the tattoo sleeve waved in the air and she headed back towards the table for two.

“Hi Superstar!” Kyle teased as he stood and wrapped her up in a hug.

“Hi Queen.” Ash grinned and returned the hug before slipping into her seat and setting her sunglasses on the table. Before she got a chance to speak again, a waitress with short blonde hair appeared and set a cup of coffee down in front of her.

“Hey Ash.”

“Hey Amanda. Thanks.” She picked up the Americano and sipped it happily. “How’s Jo?”

“She’s good. I see her a little less ever since you sent that longboard over to the house.” The petite waitress chastised before smacking Ashlyn on the shoulder and heading off to one of her other tables.

Kyle watched the interaction with interest until Amanda disappeared. “Friend?”

“Oh.” Ash shrugged. “Yeah. She’s just always great whenever I come here and she told me her girlfriend is a skater. I just hooked them up with a board.”

Kyle just shook his head once again at the singer’s down to earth nature. “Y’know...before you got here, I watched Lindsay Lohan not even speak to the waiter...all her requests were given by her manager...It’s a far cry from giving out skateboards.” He noted and sipped his own coffee.

“It’s a weird town. I just try to not get caught up in it.”

Just then, Amanda reappeared. “Ash, I’ll get your Mexican omelet going.” She stated with a smile before turning to Kyle. “What can I get you, hon?”

“I’ll have the Italian omelet.” Kyle stated with a smile as he handed the menu back.

“And can you keep the Americanos coming? Tripp kept me up all night.” Ash pleaded as she took down another gulp.

“You got it.”

Kyle laughed as he really took in the singer, appreciating the faint bags under her eyes. “He’s a terror, isn’t he? Ali told me about the pillows he destroyed.”

“Oh, he’s an absolute bastard.” Ash admitted. “I love it.” They shared a laugh before Ashlyn spoke up again. “Hey, speaking of it being a weird town. Have you ever considered being a personal stylist? I need one and I was hoping you’d be up for it.”

Kyle’s jaw dropped as he checked her face for any sign of teasing but finding none. “Really?”

Ashlyn shrugged. “Yeah, of course. You’re the best cut I’ve had in this town. It can be a little bit of a grind when we’re on tour but it’s a good way to see the world. Plus, when we’re not on tour, you’d have plenty of time to pursue your art. Oh, and you could still have other clients or whatever as long as you don’t neglect me for so long that I start looking ragged...and the pay is pretty good.” Ash rambled, hoping she had covered everything Whitney had lectured her to remember.

Kyle leaned back and let out a big breath slowly. “Wow.”

“Just take some time...think on it. No worries either way, okay?”

Kyle blinked a few more times in shock before he was able to gather himself. “I mean, you know I’m in, right?!”

“Yeah?” Ash asked excitedly, leaning forward in her seat.

“Definitely! Are you kidding?? This is a dream of mine!”  Kyle shrieked.

Ashlyn pumped a fist victoriously. “Yes! Awesome. Whit can help you get all set up with paperwork or whatever and we can put a whole set up in the house with anything you need. Just let her know.” She let out a sigh in relief. “I’m so glad you said yes. The last couple stylists just didn’t vibe with the group. It was the worst.”

Kyle clapped his hands together excitedly. “Ah! I can’t believe Ali didn’t tell me!”

Ashlyn shook her head. “She doesn’t know.”

“What?”

“Well, yeah. I want you because of you...not because of your incredibly attractive sister. So, I didn’t mention it to her until I knew what you wanted to do.”

Kyle felt touched that Ashlyn thought so highly of him, placing a hand over his heart. “I’m so glad my sister was such a groupie! If she hadn’t made out with you, we never would have met!”

Ashlyn let out a bark of a laugh. “Call her a groupie to her face. I want to see what happens.” Ash’s eyes twinkled as she imagined the feisty brunette smacking around her brother. “Seriously though, you’re incredibly talented. We’re excited to have you come on.”

Kyle blushed and dipped his head shyly. “Thank you. That means a lot.”

 


 

 

After disconnecting from the hour long Facetime session with her brother, Ali’s fingers ran over Ashlyn’s picture on the fridge. “You are just too much.” She shook her head before pouring a glass of wine and padding over to the couch, sitting down with her legs folded under her. Once again, Ashlyn had managed to surprise her. She couldn’t believe that her girlfriend’s caring heart had extended the stylist offer to her brother. Her heart was wrapped in warmth at the opportunities this would open up for Kyle and she couldn’t believe how selflessly Ashlyn had helped Kyle achieve one of his dreams.

As she looked around her apartment she let out a long sigh. Her homesickness was quickly reaching an all time high. While Frankfurt had been incredible for her career, the distance from the most important people in her life just seemed to be getting greater. The thought of moving back to the states tumbled through her mind more and more with each day that passed. Just call Dan. It’s just a phone call. It doesn’t mean you’re signing a contract. You’re only seeing what your options are. With a glance at the clock, she did the quick math on the time back home. Pulling out the cell phone, she took a deep breath and stared down at the screen. At the last second, she moved her thumb to a different contact and dialed. “Coward” She muttered, annoyed with herself. Her mood wasn’t able to linger long when she heard the call connect.

“There’s my second favorite Krieger.”

“Excuse me?” Ali asked with an extra dose of sass.

Ashlyn chuckled and flopped down onto her massive sectional, muting the tv. “Is that what you heard? Must be something wrong with the international connection. You really need to get your phone upgraded.”

“Uh huh.”

Ashlyn felt all the air rush out of her lungs when Tripp rounded the corner at full speed and landed on her chest. “Ooof! Damn Tripp.” She dodged the puppy’s tongue the best she could before tossing his ball across the room. “Sorry. He’s got never-ending energy.” She wiped her face with the back of her sleeve. “How’s my girl?”

“Your girl just had an interesting conversation with her brother.”

“Oh, yeah? Tell me more.” Ashlyn grinned.

“Ash.”

“Al.”

“That was really sweet of you.”

Ashlyn sat up a little and gave a shrug even though Ali couldn’t see her. “Sweet had nothing to do with it. He’s really talented and we work really hard at making sure everyone on the team works well together. He’s personality is going to fit right in.” Ashlyn tried to stop rambling and got her thoughts together. “I’m just trying to say, I asked him because of his skill, not because of his relation to you.”

Ali felt her heart squeeze at the words. “I love you.”

Ashlyn bit her lower lip, a smile tugging her mouth sideways. “I love you too. Plus, now if you don’t like my hair, you’ve got no one to blame but your brother.”

“Perfect.” Ali grinned. The silence stretched over the line for a few long seconds, just listening to each other breath. “I miss you.” Ali broke the silence with a quiet mumble.

Thousands of miles away, the singer’s hazel eyes closed and she let out a sigh. “I miss you too, Alex.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “A lot. I miss you a lot.”

Ali took a sip of wine to loosen her tight throat before changing the topic. “Someone has a birthday coming up.”

Ashlyn smiled but decided to play dumb. “Whitney? I mean, not for over a month...”

Ali rolled her eyes. “No, you dork. Hate to break it to you but you’re getting another year older in just over a week.”

“Don’t remind me. By Hollywood standards, I’m probably overdue to start an aggressive botox habit.”

Ali giggled and brought one of the pillows Ashlyn had purchased into her lap. “What’s an international superstar like Ashlyn Harris do for her birthday? Something glamorous?”

Ashlyn rolled her eyes. “You know me...total diva.” She grinned. “I don’t know, Whit usually forces me into some sort of party whether I want one or not.” She watched with amusement as Tripp flipped onto his back and kicked his paws in the air. “I’d prefer to be on a plane headed to Frankfurt...”

Ali’s gaze moved to the fridge, eyeing the plane ticket to LAX that was tucked under a magnet for October 17th. She suppressed her smile enough to keep the birthday surprise out of her voice. “I know but we’ll get to see each other in November. Couple more weeks.”

“Right.” Ashlyn tried to keep the disappointment from her voice. A beep from the hallway forced her up off the couch. A glance at her watch had her cursing. “Shit...”

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah. I just lost track of time. I think that’s probably B.”

Ali remembered Ashlyn telling her a couple days ago that Beyonce had asked her to produce a couple songs on her next album. Already, she was begging for details of the songs that hadn’t even been written. “Oh, right!”

Ashlyn shuffled over to the wall mounted screen and saw both Beyonce and Shawn standing on her front porch. “It’s them. I’m sorry, babe. I’ve got to go.” She admitted, hesitant to hang up.

“It’s okay, Ash. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She glanced at the clock and saw how late it was getting in Frankfurt. “Sleep well, okay? Make sure if you have any x-rated dreams, I’m in them.” She teased.

“You’re too much.” Ali laughed heartily. “Good-night, Ash.”

“Bye, Alex.”

When the line disconnected, Ali finished her wine with a large swig. As soon as she had hung up the phone, the increasingly familiar homesick ache settled deep in her chest. She put her glass in the kitchen sink before heading into the bedroom. After brushing her teeth, she changed into one of Ashlyn’s shirts she had stolen during the singer’s surprise visit and crawled into bed. “Tomorrow. You’ll call Dan tomorrow.” She assured herself out loud before closing her eyes and letting sleep claim her.