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|Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley|
Lily nodded. “Yes, it is.”
Abby nudged Lily playfully. “I’m trying to get her to let Jake and me take the kids tonight, so she and Bray can have some alone time.”
Now it was Lily’s turn to blush. “Between you guys sharing your bus and then taking the kids tonight, Jake is going to start hating on me.”
Abby snorted. “If he wants to stay in my good graces, he’ll let us help out our friends.” She waggled her blonde brows. “And that means in all ways possible.”
At that moment, a tall, willowy teenage girl came striding up to the table with an apple pie in each hand. “They just finished baking,” she said, as she sat them down.
As I surmised the girl, I noticed she was so naturally beautiful. Her long dark hair was swept back in a ponytail, and she wore a short blue sundress. If she hadn’t been so young, the insecure side of me might have been intimidated. “Mia, this is Allison, Jake’s sister,” Abby introduced.
“Well, half-sister in case you’re wondering why we look nothing alike,” Allison said with a smile. She held out her hand. “You must be AJ’s girl.”
My eyes widened as I pumped her hand up and down. “Um, I guess so.”
“He’s such a sweetheart…and a goofball.”
I laughed. “Yes, he is.”
“Shit, I forgot the crockpots with the baked beans,” Abby grumbled. Glancing up at Allison, she said, “Will you get one of the guys to go back to the house with you to get them?”
“Sure,” Allison replied. Without hesitation, she hurried across the clearing straight for Rhys, who was leaned against a tree trunk, drinking a beer. I watched as she tilted her head flirtingly while pointing to the house. He bobbed his head and sat his beer down on the grass.
“Looks like someone has a crush,” I mused.
Abby’s head snapped up from the table before her gaze honed in on Allison, who was walking as close as she could to Rhys up the hillside. “Maybe for her, but for him, she’s just Jake’s kid sister.”
“Not to mention jailbait considering she’s almost seventeen,” Lily replied.
Shielding my eyes from the sun with my hand, I watched as Allison gave Rhys a beaming smile. “Bless her heart. That has heartbreak written all over it.”
“Even if she was older, that would have broken bones written all over it,” Abby remarked. She shook her head. “Jake would never, ever condone Rhys dating his baby sister.”
My thoughts were suddenly interrupted when something brushed against my leg. Squealing, I jumped about a mile in the air. When I glanced down, I saw a dark-haired, dark-eyed toddler had wrapped herself around me. “Oh, um, hi,” I said, hoping I hadn’t just scared the shit out of her with my reaction.
She lifted her arms. “Up!” she commanded.
I stared wide-eyed over at Lily who only smiled. “Melody is so friendly. She never meets a stranger.”
Stomping her tiny, pink converse covered foot, Melody repeated, “Up!”
“Okay.” Anxiety rippled through me as I bent over to oblige her wishes. I had never been very maternal, and I usually was the last person on earth any of my cousins asked to babysit.
Melody’s dark eyes locked on mine before she reached over to bestow a slobbery kiss on my cheek. “Thank you,” I replied, shifting her awkwardly on my hip.
Her fingers came to wind through the strands of my hair. “Pwetty,” she said.
“Thank you again. My Miss Melody, you sure are a talker.”
Lily laughed. “We could barely get Jude talking, but we can’t shut her up.”
A hand came to rest on the small of my back. When I glanced over my shoulder, AJ grinned at me. “I see you’re making new friends.”
Melody’s face lit up like a Fourth of July sparkler. “J!” she squealed, reaching her arms out. “Get me, J!”
“Hey, my little princesa,” he replied, as he took Melody from me. He kissed both of her cheeks, which were dimpled from giving him such a big smile.
I lifted my brows in surprise and turned to Lily. “Does he always act this way around the kids, or is this all just show to impress me?”
As AJ scowled at me Lily laughed. “He’s actually very good with the kids. Of course, none of them were until Jude came along. They pretty much became second fathers to him.”
AJ bobbed his head. “Yep, Jude was my guinea pig, and he taught me well.” He snuggled Melody to his chest. “But this little chica here, she’s my muñeca linda.”
“En ingles, por favor?” I said with a grin.
“My pretty baby doll.”
“Listen to you. Charming ladies of all ages,” I replied to which AJ winked.
“Out of all the guys, she’s always been enraptured by AJ. She lights up whenever he comes in the room,” Lily said.
“That’s cause she knows I’m the sweetest, most-handsome, best guy in the whole wide world. Right, Melly Moo?”
AJ tickled Melody’s sides, causing her to giggle. Brayden strolled up hand in hand with a little boy who was the spitting image of Lily. “Hey, Mia, good to see you,” he said, giving me a hug.
“Thanks. Same to you.”
“This is our son, Jude.” He peered down at Jude. “Say hello to Mia.”
Jude thrust out his tiny hand. “Hiya Mia.”