Bonus Epilogue- Asher & Madison
Thank you so much reading Collide. Brother's best friend is such a hot trope but mixed with the angst and sadness of their story and wow- an emotional ride huh? Don't hate me too much! Hehe. Enjoy your exclusive bonus epilogue of Asher & Madison only available to my newsletter subscribers.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Madison whispers as she wraps her leg around mine and burrows into my side. It’s a warm evening, the humidity making the air thick, but it doesn’t matter. I still wrap my arms around her and hold her close. She’s tucked her head between my jaw and collar, and I breathe in her scent over and over.
I’ve set up the back of my truck like a bed with plenty of blankets and pillows for us to lie on. I also brought snacks and drinks, supplies to make a fire, a hot plate, and instant coffee for the morning. Gotta come prepared when spending the night sleeping outside.
“More than I could’ve imagined,” I say as my eyes scan the night sky, lit up with hundreds of stars.
It’s a crystal-clear night, and you can see so much more out here in the middle of nowhere. Mason was right. This should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s worth doing at least once in a lifetime.
“What stars do you see?” Madison asks.
“The North Star.” I point, then move my finger along the constellations I see. “There’s the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper too.” I describe the shape, and her eyes light up when she spots them.
“Wow. I didn’t realize how easy they are to see once you know what you’re looking for.”
I kiss the top of her head, her sweet-smelling hair one of my favorite smells. “Before my mom and I moved next door to you and Mason, we lived in an apartment building with access to the roof. My mom would take me up there, and we would sit and look at the night sky for hours. Even when it was cold or a school night, she would still take me up there. She called it her escape time. I wasn’t allowed to talk.”
“That must’ve been super hard for you,” Madison teases, her soft giggles filling the space between us.
“After we moved, she didn’t do it anymore. Granted, we no longer had a roof deck, but we had a backyard. Working took over her life. Sometimes I wonder if buying a house was the right thing. I know she wanted us out of the city to give me a better life, but we became house poor, and all she did was work.”
“I’m sorry, Ash. I hope you know we always loved having you at our house.”
“It felt like home to me. I don’t know what I would’ve done or where I would even be right now if we hadn’t been neighbors.”
“I used to secretly watch for you in my window, hoping you’d come over.” Madison lifts her head and rests her chin on my chest. Her eyes shine as she looks at me. “My crazy stupid crush. Mason would’ve killed me if he knew.” She smiles, and I watch as she recalls a memory.
I chuckle and brush a piece of her hair back. “It wasn’t stupid. Because you know I was crushin’ just as hard.” I wink as I slide my hands down to her waist and grab onto it. I move her higher up so her face is above mine, her perfect mouth inches away from mine. “I love you, Mads. Always and forever.”
“I love you, too.” Her lips land on mine, and there’s no holding back. Our love flows between us, strong and fast, all of it poured into our kiss.
When she breaks the kiss, a grin spreads across her face. “Oh, I forgot to tell you that I signed us up for a pie-eating contest tomorrow. Bucket list number ten, check.”
I laugh. “A pie-eating contest? That wasn’t on the list!”
“Yes, it was! Number ten said food competition.”
“Mads! You chose the pie contest because you wanted to eat pie, didn’t you?” I eye her with a playful suspicious look. “You know Mason always said he wanted to do one of those food competition shows, where they battle to make the best dish.”
“We aren’t going to be able to get on a TV show! This works out better.”
I laugh again, this time so hard that I snort. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s get back to those sweet lips, my cutie pie.”
Madison rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling big, and I know she’s loving every cheesy second.
I bring her lips back to mine, and then I make love to her under the stars.
It’s magical. Just like her.
“When I found out he passed, my world came crashing down around me. I felt hopeless, lost, and numb. Nothing felt real. It was so surreal as if I was watching everything happen from across the room, but I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t fathom him actually being gone. But he was. My twin brother. My best friend. Gone.” I snap my fingers. “And I never got to say goodbye.” Tears fill my eyes, and the familiar thick lump of emotion I fight so often appears in my throat. I try to swallow past it, but it’s no use. So I take a deep breath and try to ignore it.
So many faces look up at me—with hope, with sadness, with curiosity. I can’t let them down.
“I thought I would never get out of bed again. Every day felt like this long stretch of time, each second so painful. It was so painful just to exist. I thought to myself, this is my new normal. I would carry this painful grief everywhere now that half my heart was no longer earth side. It felt impossible. But I’m here to tell you it’s not. You can fight and make it through. It’ll be hard as hell, but with support and love, and knowing your loved one is always by your side, you can keep going.” A lonely tear slides down my cheek. I don’t wipe it away. There’s no shame in crying or showing emotions. It’s vital in order to heal.
No matter how many of these speeches I make, it never gets easier. But I want to help others in the way so many have helped me. Grief is a long and sometimes lonely journey, and any support is crucial in making it through.
When I first told my parents and Asher that I wanted to help others with their grief by speaking out, they weren’t so sure it was a good idea. Would recalling the painful memories often cause me further pain? But after discussing it with my therapist, we decided that talking about it is therapeutic. And if it started to upset me or hinder my progress, I could always stop.
But it hasn’t. In fact, it’s helped me in so many ways.
The biggest one? Meeting others who are suffering with great losses in their lives, too. It’s comforting to share pain with others who can relate, even if it’s sad we’re all in this same boat to begin with.
“I still remember our late nights staying up together when we weren’t supposed to, hiding from Mom and Dad. We’d eat junk and laugh. Or the endless games of tag in the backyard, our best friend and neighbor always joining in on the fun. I’ll never forget our first time driving together or the way he would make me laugh at every boring family function. While I might not be able to make any new memories, I’m still able to make them inside my head. Because everywhere I go and everything I do, I know he’s right there with me. And when he visits me in my dreams, he tells me so.” I smile through the tears flowing freely down my face.
The audience begins clapping, and Asher rushes over to me, pulling me into a hug, just like he always does when I finish one of these speeches. He hasn’t missed one yet.
Just like we always do, we head out for ice cream after. In honor of our favorite brother and friend.
As Asher and I are walking out the door, a young girl who looks to be maybe thirteen or fourteen stops us. “Um, excuse me?” Her voice trembles, and I see the water pooling in her eyes. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course. Are you okay?”
She shakes her head. “I just lost my sister, and I…I…” She chokes on a sob. “I can’t go on without her. How do I do this?” Her cries grow hysterical and I pull her into a hug as I pat her back. I widen my eyes toward Asher, and he nods before disappearing back inside. There’s a grief counselor in attendance at every one of these events for situations like this one. As much as I want to help, I can only do so much before professionals need to intervene.
“I just can’t do it anymore.” The young woman wails, and my own tears return. I feel her pain, I know her pain, and dammit, I still hurt.
In what feels like years but is only minutes, Asher is back with the counselor who steps in. But before they walk away, I take her hand and squeeze it. “Thank you for coming to me. The first step is reaching out for help.”
She hugs me again, and as I watch her walk away with the therapist, more tears flow. Asher wraps an arm around my shoulders and presses his lips to my forehead. “You’re fucking amazing, Madison. The way you help people is inspiring.”
I step back so I can look up into his eyes. His handsome face never ceases to take my breath away. “You’re the inspiring one, mister. With all the love and support you give, you’re the reason I’m still standing here, able to do these speeches.”
“No, Mads.” Asher shakes his head and takes my face between his hands. “It’s all you, baby girl. It’s all you.”
Then he kisses me like it’s the first time all over again.
Always and forever.
Did you love reading more of Asher & Madison? All the tears!
The next book in the series is all about Remi & Sienna, and it's an enemies to lovers forced proximity romance. I know what you're thinking- Sienna, ummm really Lyssa?? But trust me, she redeems herself and besides, Remi's great with her.