Justin and Ashley walked out of the Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica and headed down to the beach for a relaxing walk. It was only 10 a.m. and people crowded the shore line, soaking in the hot, early morning sun.
"Thanks for the breakfast. It was really good." she smiled as her feet dug into the sand.
"Haven't you ever eaten there before?"
She looked over at him and smiled again. "No. The place is a bit pricey for me. But, I did enjoy it. Thank you very much."
Justin tipped his hat a little lower on his head, hoping no one would notice him. "No problem. So..." he changed the subject. "When are you heading back out on the town again?"
"I'm not sure really. I mean, I really don't go out much. I just went last night because everyone drug me and Christina with."
"So your not the partier huh?"
"Obviously you could tell last night. I didn't really even dance."
Justin flashed his blue eyes at her and quickly grinned. "Girl, you looked good enough just standing there, you didn't have to dance."
Ashley looked at him with a smirk as her cheeks turned a rosy pink color.
"Man, I didn't say that out loud did I?" he joked with her.
"You're a sly one, Timberlake." she shook her head.
"Yeah, I try." he replied just as two young girls spotted him and ran over.
"Are you his girlfriend?" the one young girl asked Ashley as Justin signed a piece of paper that the other girl gave to him.
"Oh, uh. No. We're just friends." she replied uncomfortably as Justin smiled at her.
"If I were you, I'd be his girlfriend." the girl said, giving Justin her paper.
"Yeah, in a heartbeat." the other added.
"I'll have to remember that." Ashley whispered back.
"Ok, there ya go, girls." Justin finished.
"Thanks Justin!" they said in unison and ran away.
"Do you ever get sick of doing that?" Ashley asked as they started to walk again.
"Signing autographs? Not really. It's pretty fun actually."
"The looks on their faces say everything. It must be a great feeling." she said as she looked at him and then back down to the sand.
"So does hanging out with you." he replied quickly.
"What?" she asked, confused.
"Hanging out with you is also a great feeling."
Ashley looked at him with a grin. "You are full of good ones today."
Justin coughed. "Hint hint."
Ashley stopped walking and looked into Justin's eyes. "I get the hint Timberlake. Believe me, we're on the same page."
* 2 Months Later *
"Chris, are ya comin or what?" Ashley asked as she walked into the living room of the Gamma House.
Christina looked up from the couch she was sitting on. "Nah, you two have fun. I'm gonna do something with Jeff today."
"It's always you and Jeff. You never do anything with me anymore."
Christina rolled her eyes. "Just like you don't do anything with me anymore because it's always you and Justin."
"No it's not." she tried to deny.
"Tell me something, Ash. What are you gonna do when he leaves? He isn't staying around here too much longer and when he does leave, don't think that you are gonna run back to me."
"Oh, excuse me!" she snapped back. "What the hell is your problem?"
"What is my problem?" she stood up. "Ever since you met Justin you have been in la la land. You are dating a celebrity and now your head is up your ass just like all the preps around here. I never thought you'd be like them."
"I have never been any different to you!" she walked closer to her.
"Oh yeah? Well the last two months that you have been with Justin, who have you hung out with? Sure as hell wasn't me. It's always Haley, Cassie and Miranda. Everywhere you go its always with them."
"That's because you always want to be with Jeff!"
"That's a lie and you know it." she pointed at her. "You used to be on the right track with those three. You knew they were bad news. Now they are your best friends."
"And you knew better than to get on the wrong track with Jeff. And besides, they haven't done anything bad like we thought they would."
"Not yet." she huffed as she put her hands on her hips.
"Just like you'll find out with Jeff."
"You haven't gotten to know him like I did."
"I don't want to know him. I know a player when I see one."
Christina shook her head. "I can say the same about Justin."
"Sorry, but Justin isn't a player."
"Neither is Jeff." Christina replied sternly.
"You know what, I'm done with this conversation. I just asked you to come with me and you blow up in my face so, I'm out."
Christina smirked. "Is that your new Justin lingo?"
"You are so green that it's not even funny." she laughed.
"Are you kidding me?" Christina shook her head at her. "I wouldn't be jealous of you if you married Justin, got on the cover of every magazine and then became president."
"You are so transparent. Is that what its all about?"
"You're a trader and backstabber. I don't even know you anymore."
Ashley just looked at her and turned back towards the door. "Have fun with Jeff today." she finished abruptly as she slammed the living room doors closed behind her and stormed through the foyer and out the front door.
"Well, that was quite interesting." Haley smirked as she stood by the wall to the living room doors.
"Yes, I'm sure you loved every minute of it." Miranda rolled her eyes.
"Miranda, I know you think that were not on the same level here, but in all reality we are. The end result of my big elaborate plan will leave you very happy, trust me."
"I'd trust my dog to lead me blind folded before I trust you." she crossed her arms.
"C'mon guys, we don't need another fight." Cassie jumped in.
Haley sighed. "She's right. We need to stay on track."
"On track to what?" Miranda snapped.
"Well, Justin is leaving at the end of the month so, I'm gonna throw a going away party for him. One way or the other I am gonna end up with Justin at least for one night and you are gonna end up with Jeff forever. So, ya see, you get the better end of the deal anyway."
"Where did you dream up that stupid idea?" Miranda shook her head.
"Like I said, trust me. Everything will work out perfectly." she finished as she walked around them.
"Your nuts." Miranda replied as she and Cassie followed Haley into the kitchen.
"I need to tell you something." Justin said to Ashley as they sat down on a park bench.
"Ok. You sound serious." she frowned.
"I am." he paused. "Don't worry, it's nothing about us. It's just I know you were hoping to spend the rest of the month with me."
"Well, I was. What's wrong?"
Justin sighed as he took her hand in his. "I have to leave earlier than expected, like at the end of the week."
"What?" she exclaimed as if she didn't hear him.
Justin looked down at her hand and rubbed the silkiness of her skin. "There was a last minute change in getting back in the studio. They want things moved up a bit so, they have arranged a group vacation to Hawaii before we begin recording again."
"That's so not fair!" Ashley disagreed.
"I know. But, I don't make the rules."
Ashley turned her head away from him. "When you leave, I'm gonna be alone without you or anyone."
Justin looked back up at her as the sullen silouhette of her face gleamed a bright orange hue from the setting sun. "What do you mean? Christina is there and so are the others."
Ashley looked back at him. "Actually me and Christina got into a huge fight today. I don't think we are going to be talking to each other for awhile."
"Sorry to hear that. But, what about Haley and the others?"
She paused before she replied and then sighed. "Do you really think they are my friends?"
"Well, they seem to be."
"Seem to be is right. Before I met you they weren't too friendly with anyone but themselves. Now they act like they are my best friends."
"So, it's because of me that they like you now?"
"I think they are using me just to be with you."
"Where did you get that idea?" he snickered.
"C'mon Justin, you know those kind."
"Yeah well. What are they gonna do when I leave?"
"I hate to find out." she looked down to the ground.
"You'll be fine. Don't worry, I'll be back for that summer party that Haley has planned."
"But thats so far from now."
"You know I'll keep in touch."
"Yeah, I know." she smiled lightly.
"Just don't tell anyone that I am leaving or that I'm going to Hawaii. The less everyone knows about that, the easier it will be to have a peaceful vacation with the guys. They get a little irritated with the whole media on vacation thing."
"I understand. I won't say a word."
"Ash," he paused to get her attention. "I love you."
Ashley smiled with tears in her eyes. It was the first time that he had told her that. It was something she has hoped to hear before he left. Now she knew everything was for real. Everything was perfect.
"I love you too, Timberlake. More than anything in the world."