Chapter 12: We Hooked Up? Since When?

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"Daddy?"

Her voice was far more high pitched than usual as she stumbled forward, frantically craning her head for any sound other than the crackle of flames.

"Daddy where are you? I can't see a thing!"

The voice coming out of the girl was panicked and desperate as I watched her stumble around the devastation blindly.

"Open your eyes!" I tried to yell at her but she continued to yell for her father.

She circled the car wreckage thrice before coming to halt and crumbling to her knees sobbing hysterically. Clinging to a snow white teddy bear, she cried and cried and cried. She cried as thick black smoke wrapped itself around her like a heavy blanket, pushing her down until she was lying on the floor. She cried as the temperature increased rapidly making sweat drip from her brow. She cried as red, orange and yellow flames danced around her, occasionally prodding at her skin before leaping away when she jerked back.

"Wake up!" I screamed at her but her own sickening screams drowned my voice out as our voices merged as one.

There was no distinction. She was me and I was her. I felt every single inch of the heat that licked her skin, searing through every layer until all that remained was white bone and charred flesh.

"Wake up!" A different voice interjected.

It was distant, but I could hear every echo until crackling and screams filled my ears again.

"Ashley!"

Abruptly, I bolted upright, panting heavily as cold sweat trickled down my temple.

"Ashley!"

Mom's persistent yells reinforced my state of mind, chasing away the last of the flames like a fire extinguisher.

"Ashley!"

Dishevelled and irritated, I used the back of my sleeve to wipe my brow before I stormed downstairs to screech at Mom to stop yelling so early in the morning when I met an amused pair of sea green eyes.

"What are you doing here?" I exclaimed as I tightened my dressing gown around my waist to hide the fact that I was wearing just a tank top and pyjama shorts underneath.

"Good morning to you too Ashley. I slept well, thanks you for asking so kindly," Tyler's voiced fakely.

He leaned against the door that opened up to the kitchen, standing comfortably as if he had been in my house a thousand times before.

"Tyler kindly explained that he's your ride today and that you're both going to the store to pick up some ingredients for this Choc Ripple cake you're both making today," Mom beamed at me.

"Really now," I drawled sarcastically, sliding my narrowed eyes to meet Tyler's smug smirk. "I don't remember that being a joint decision!"

His voice was sickly sweet as he said, "I'm making an effort. Isn't that what you wanted all this time?"

Tyler raised his eyebrows to hold his innocent expression in place but I was well aware of the thunderous, scheming glint in his eyes.

"What I want is a for you to get out of my house, you irritating little--" I hissed before trailing off at Mom's stern expression.

"Ashley you have five seconds to leave the kitchen and shower before I ground you for your bad manners towards your hard-working partner. You should be appreciating his dedication young lady!"

Ignoring Mom, I burned a hole into Tyler's face with my scorching glare. He returned the intensity of my glare making my irritation flare up. Our staring match continued for a minute before I faltered when I noticed Mom shooting daggers at me.

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