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|Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley|
“Good for them.”
“Yeah, they kinda flipped their lid more when Cristina got knocked up at eighteen and then eloped.” He glanced over at grinned at me. “And before you ask, they were almost as pissed about her not marrying in the church as they were that she was pregnant. We’re hardcore Catholics.”
“So are we.”
My thoughts left my own family to focus on AJ’s. I couldn’t help wondering what they would think of me—if they would think I was good enough for their oldest son.
“They’ll love you, Mia.”
I jerked my head to gaze incredulously at him. “But I—”
He smiled. “I could tell what you were thinking, and I know what the answer is. They’ll love you.”
“Thanks,” I murmured, as I let my mind wander to whether he could love me.
Taking a right turn, we started down a gravel road. A swirling cloud of dust was kicked up in the Hummer’s wake. We finally arrived at a sprawling, two-story farmhouse that looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The outside was white-frame with blue shutters, and it had an expansive front porch, with rocking chairs, that ran the length of the house. Flowers, of all colors and sizes, dotted the front walkway. “Oh wow…this is beautiful,” I said.
“Yeah, it is, isn’t it?” AJ peered through the windshield. “Sometimes after being on the road, I forget just how amazing it is—I mean, the house is over two hundred years old. When Susan, Jake’s mom, bought it, she did a little renovating.”
Craning my neck, I spotted a barn and some stables down the hill. From behind the barn, I could see a cloud of smoke, and I knew that must be where the bonfire was that Jake had mentioned before. “Come on, let’s go meet up with the guys,” AJ urged.
I’d barely gotten my door open when a giant Golden Retriever stuck its head in to lick my feet. “Well hello to you, too,” I said with a smile.
AJ laughed as he turned off the car. “That would be Angel—Abby’s dog—and the worst excuse for an attack dog you’ll ever find.”
After I hopped down, I scratched behind Angel’s furry ears. “Aw, she’s too sweet to be mean. Aren’t you, girl?”
Angel yipped a response before running around the side of the Hummer to greet AJ. He bent down to kiss her forehead before giving her an epic rubdown. “Okay, girl. Take us down to the others.” Holding out his hand, I slipped mine into AJ’s.
Rolling waves of green grass swayed in the breeze as we made our way down the hill. The air was crisper and cooler up here in the mountains. As our feet crunched along the gravel, I tried not to let my anxiety of hanging out with AJ’s band-mates overwhelm me. Last night when I was with Abby and Lily, I had felt so comfortable and included. It was like I fit in immediately. And as far as the guys of Runaway Train, I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome. So, even though I shouldn’t have felt so worried, I still felt apprehensive. When we turned the corner around the barn, Angel barked and then ran ahead of us to alert the others we were there.
With his back to us, Jake stood at a massive stainless steel grill, which was emitting some delicious meaty aromas of steak and burgers. “Yo douchenozzle, we’re here,” AJ called.
With a grunt, Jake laid his spatula down. “Nice to see you finally made it, twatcake.” When he turned around, I snorted at his attire. Over his shorts and faded T-shirt, Jake was outfitted in a bedazzled, black ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron with glittering silver lettering. He glanced down at it before meeting my amused gaze. “Abby got this for me.”
“Very manly,” I replied.
He grinned. “Hey, sporting this bad boy ensures I get ass.”
“I heard that!” Abby shouted across the clearing.
AJ and I chuckled as Jake grinned and blew her a kiss. He then leaned over and gave me a hug. “Glad to have you with us this weekend.” It was hard to believe that a guy like Jake, who appeared so cocky and full of himself most of the time, could be so sincere. He really made me feel welcome.
“Me too. Can I do something to help?”
He motioned to the picnic tables where Abby and Lily were setting up some food and drinks. “Check with the girls.”
“Okay,” I replied. I gave AJ a peck on the cheek before heading across the clearing. “Hi guys,” I said.
Abby dropped the pack of hamburger buns she was holding and hurried around the table to hug me. “I’m so glad you came.”
As I squeezed her back, I replied, “Thanks. Me too.”
“I don’t know if AJ told you or not, but we’re setting you two up in the barn.” With a wink, she added, “You know, so you can have more privacy.”
My brows rose in surprise as I thought of AJ and me snuggling on hay bales as a mattress. “Um, the barn?”
Abby giggled. “I guess AJ forgot to tell you the barn is completely remodeled. It’s like an apartment.”
“Oh,” I replied, my cheeks warming with embarrassment.
“It’s really nice,” Lily replied.
With a contented sigh, Abby nodded her head. “It has a lot of happy memories for me and Jake. That’s for sure.”
“Then thank you for letting us have it.” I glanced over at Lily. “But what about you and Brayden?”
“We usually stay in the basement.”
A grin played on my lips. “Let me guess. It’s finished rather than being like a hole in the ground, right?”