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|Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley|
Bending over, I smiled and shook his hand. “Hi to you, too.”
“Are you Uncle AJ’s girlfriend?”
Shit! How the hell was I going to get out of this one? “Um…”
Brayden must have sensed my embarrassment because he reached out for Melody. “We were just going to go swing.”
“Wing! Wing!” Melody screeched excitedly, as she dove into her father’s arms.
Jude abandoned his father’s side to tug on AJ’s shirt. Pointing a small finger at me, he asked, “Is she your girlfriend?”
Undaunted, AJ replied, “Yep, she’s a girl, and she’s my friend.” For reasons I couldn’t understand, I felt a little let down by his summation of what we were. I mean, it had only been two weeks, so it wasn’t like I could really claim a relationship status with him. But at the same time, I hated his answer.
Wrinkling his nose, Jude said, “Ew, girls are gross.”
AJ laughed. “Give it a few years, and you’ll change your mind, buddy.”
Jude didn’t appear too convinced as he followed Brayden across the clearing to an enormous wooden play-set. “AJ, give me a hand,” Jake called from the grill.
“Be back in a minute,” AJ assured.
As we put the finishing touches on lunch, the conversation flowed freely between Abby, Lily, and me. I was starting to enjoy their company more and more.
“So do you sing, Mia?” Abby questioned, before popping a few potato chips into her mouth.
“Oh God no. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.”
Lily laughed. “That makes two of us then.” She then motioned over to where Brayden was helping Jude down the slide while intermittingly pushing Melody in a harnessed swing. “Only my children appreciate my singing voice at bedtime, and that’s usually only when Bray’s on tour and they have to settle for me.”
As I eyed the play-set, I was wondering what an engaged but childless guy like Jake was doing with one. Lily must’ve read my mind because she said, “He did that just for Jude and Melody so they would have a place to play when they come to visit.”
Lily nodded and then gave Abby a playful nudge. “And I think for future children, too.”
Abby’s blue eyes widened as she swallowed hard. “Oh, no, we’ve got to get through a wedding first. And watch your tongue. If Jake hears you say that, he’ll freak out. We’re not planning on kids for several years down the road.” At Lily’s knowing look, Abby sighed. “Okay, Jake isn’t down for having kids for several years.” Twirling the enormous diamond on her ring finger, she grinned impishly. “I’d have one tomorrow if I could.”
Before I could stop myself, I blurted, “But you’re so young.”
Abby wrinkled her nose. “Exactly. I mean, who needs a baby when I’m a mere baby myself at twenty-two?”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—”
Patting my back, Abby shook her head. “Trust me, you’re not the first person to say that. My darling fiancé included.” Deepening her voice to mimic Jake, she said, “We’ve got all the time in the world to have kids. We need to get at least three US tours and one world tour under our belts before I knock you up.”
I laughed. “Hmm, Jake sounds a lot like AJ—bossy, take charge, my way or the highway.”
Abby winked. “Yeah, but isn’t it fun turning the tables on them?”
With an enthusiastic jerk of my head, I replied, “Oh yes, it is.” I couldn’t help thinking about when I had tied him up in the limo on our first date.
AJ and Jake appeared with pans loaded with steaks, hamburgers, and ribs. As I gazed down the length of the two tables, my eyes widened at all the food. “Just wait, there won’t be much left when we’re done,” AJ said.
“You guys can put it away, huh?”
Jake grinned. “It’s not just us guys. Don’t let Abby’s size fool you. She’s a big eater.”
Abby laughed as she handed me a paper plate. “He loves giving me shit about that.”
“Well, I should hate you for being able to eat so much and still stay so tiny,” I teased.
“I tell her the same thing all the time,” Lily replied.
Poking her bottom lip out, Abby said, “Sorry.”
With a smile, I said, “You’re forgiven.”
“Good. Now let’s eat.” She waved to the others to join us at the table. I noticed that once again Allison was at Rhys’s side and managed to snag a seat beside him. After I filled my plate to the brim, AJ patted a spot on the bench, so I eased down next to him. When he scooted closer to me, I cocked a brow at him. “Would you prefer I sit in your lap?”
He grinned. “I just wanna be close to you.”
Leaning over, I whispered into his ear, “Don’t think you’re going to be starting something with me anytime soon, Mr. Resendiz.”
AJ held up his hands in surrender. “I was just trying to be affectionate.”
“With you, there’s always something lurking behind that affection.” Lowering my voice, I added, “And it’s usually a hard-on.”
Choking on his hamburger, AJ snatched up his beer and downed half of it. When he recovered, he cut his eyes over at me. “Damn, girl.”
“The truth hurts, doesn’t it?” I questioned with a smile.