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|Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley|
AJ chuckled before taking another bite of his hamburger. When he did, he left a glob of mustard behind. “Ugh, you’re such a pig.” I reached over and swiped it away with my thumb. Before I could move my hand, AJ’s tongue darted out and licked the mustard off my thumb. It caused an ache to burn through my lower half. I shivered under his stare.
“Having the tables turned sucks, huh?” he questioned in a low voice.
“Oh shut up and eat your burger,” I snapped.
With a wink, he brought his free hand under the table to rest on my knee. When I glanced across the table, Jake and Abby were smiling at us. I quickly focused my attention back on my plate and the conversations floating around me. It was a rowdy and raucous meal, but it felt just like being with my family at one of our weekly dinners. I felt happier than I had in a long, long time.
With our bellies full from the enormous meal and dessert, we left the picnic tables and headed over to the lounge chairs by the crackling bonfire. Before he sat down, Jake flipped the switch on the outdoor stereo system, sending music echoing around us. As I nursed a foamy beer, my head pinged back and forth between the guys’ conversation—most of it was good-natured ragging on each other.
When the music switched over and Luke Bryan’s Drunk on You belted out of the speakers, I sat up straighter in my chair. “Augh, I love this song!” I exclaimed.
“Seriously?” AJ questioned, his nose wrinkling in disgust.
I nodded. “You know I love country music, and I adore anything by Luke Bryan.”
With a squeal beside me, Abby gushed, “Really? Me too. You know we met him at the CMAs.” She fanned herself and giggled. “He’s even hotter in person.”
“Oh my God, I would die. Did you actually get to talk to him?”
Jake and AJ glanced at each other and rolled their eyes at Abby and me acting like lovesick teenage girls.
“Yeah, we did. He was so nice, too.”
“I would kill to meet him.”
Abby reached over and smacked my leg. “Next CMAs you’re coming with me then.”
“That would be awesome.”
AJ grunted. “Seriously, this dude has nothing on me.”
“You actually know the lyrics to this song?”
“Unfortunately yes.” At my continued skepticism, he added, “You want me to put my money where my mouth is?”
Rhys groaned. “Please Mia, don’t get him started.”
Ignoring him, I grinned at AJ. “Come on, big boy. Give me your best shot.”
“My pleasure.” He sat down his beer and then rose out of his chair. He took center stage in the circle of chairs. Cocking his head to the side, he waited to start in on a line of the song. While he sang the lyrics, he mimed rolling down the windows, turning up the radio, and pouring some Crown in a cup. Abby and Allison giggled at his antics while I couldn’t help smiling at him for being such a goober.
When he got to the chorus, he pointed straight at me and bellowed over the song, “Girl, you make my speakers go boom, boom—” Precisely in the moment, he whirled around to smack both of his ass cheeks on ‘boom, boom’. “Dancing on the tail gate in the full moon.”
“Nice,” I replied as I clapped wildly.
Jake snorted contemptuously. “Don’t encourage him. AJ will use any excuse to shake his ass at us.”
“Don’t be hatin’ on my ass shaking skills. Mia’s a lady who appreciates rhythm—in and out of the bedroom.”
Reaching out, I grabbed him by the belt loops and jerked him closer. I leaned forward to nip with my teeth at one of AJ’s butt cheeks through his shorts. “I sure as hell do.”
“Easy now, you two,” Jake grumbled, motioning over at Allison.
She rolled her eyes. “Oh please. I’m almost seventeen, not seven.”
AJ turned around to face me. With a grin, he held out his hand. “Come on, I want to take you to see the waterfalls.”
I cocked my head at him. “Is that some code word for you to get me away from the group, so you can ravish me out in the woods?”
Abby giggled. “No, there are actually some small waterfalls on the far edge of Jake’s grandfather’s property. They’re only about twelve feet, but it’s really beautiful there.”
Eyeing AJ’s outstretched hand, I said, “Just the waterfalls. No funny business that might land me with poison ivy on my ass, right?”
He pursed his lips in his signature smirk. “I’m not making any promises.” When I started to protest, he held up a hand. “I can’t be held accountable if you accidentally take a tumble out there and happen to roll through poison ivy.”
“As long as you don’t help me along in that tumble, I think we’ll be fine.” I then slipped my hand into his, and he pulled me out of the lawn chair.
“Have fun taking in the scenery,” Abby teased.
I grinned at her before I let AJ tug me along behind him. He led me over to the barn where a Jeep and several four-wheelers were parked. Instead of going for the Jeep, he slid onto a gleaming black four-wheeler. Turning around, he then patted the sparse space behind him. “Hop on, babe.”
I swept my hands to my hips. “You can’t be serious.”
“And why the hell not?”
“For one, you’re saying that a city-boy like you actually knows how to ride one of those things, least of all drive it?”
“Yes, Mia, as hard as it is to believe, this Mexican city dweller actually knows how to drive a four-wheeler.” I bit my lip to keep from laughing at his tone. Instead, I continued to look skeptically at him. AJ rolled his eyes “Listen, I’ve been riding them up here at Jake’s since I was fourteen. But even before that, I was driving my uncle’s motorcycle along the streets of Guadalajara, which trust me is a hell of a lot more dangerous than anything the backwoods can throw at you.”