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|Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley|
“Well obviously you didn’t shoot her down hard enough last night if she thought it was okay to come waltzing in here.”
“What exactly did you say to her last night?” Brayden questioned.
I grimaced. “I just told her I had to go, and that I’d talk to her later.”
“Dumbass,” Rhys muttered.
I threw up my hands. “I didn’t have a whole lot of time to stop and have a meaningful fucking conversation when I could see Mia freaking out and bailing.”
“Regardless of how it happened, you really screwed up, dude. You should go after Mia,” Brayden said.
I snapped the towel away from my face. “Are you shitting me? She handcuffed me to the shower!”
“You love her,” Bray countered.
“I do not,” I lied.
When I glanced over at Jake to see if he was buying my line, he gave me a sad smile. “Don’t look to me for advice. I fucked up way too many times to count. Abby’s a freakin’ saint to love me, least of all forgive me.”
While I was crumbling on the inside, I tried with everything I had to keep up my tough guy exterior. “Jesus guys, I still have my pride, and it’s screaming at me not to chase after a woman who won’t be reasoned with.”
Jake crossed his arms over his chest. “This from the same guy who told me I had to do something epic to win Abby back.”
“That was different,” I mumbled.
“Because it was me? Because it wasn’t your heart on the line?”
“I don’t know.” Pinching my eyes shut, I rubbed my forehead. “The bottom line is Mia isn’t Abby—she has some real dark shit in her past.”
“So what, you don’t feel you’re man enough to deal with all that?” Jake countered.
I snapped my eyes open to glare at him. “No, asshole. That’s not it at all.”
“Abby still has to deal with my shit—the women and my grief—, but she does it because she loves me.” He smacked me hard on the back. “Maybe you should try to deal with Mia’s shit because you love her.”
When I glanced at Rhys and Brayden, they both nodded their heads. “Come on so we can eat some chili before it gets cold,” Brayden suggested. With a wink, he added, “You’re going to need your strength when it comes to getting Mia back.”
“Fine. Lead the way,” I replied. As I followed them to the ladder, I thought it was going to take a lot more than a little food fortification to give my body what it needed to prepare to battle Mia. Although after what she did, part of me was saying good riddance to her. But somehow I knew she was worth fighting for—that she was different than any other woman I’d ever been with. More than anything, I wanted to prove to her, that in spite of her past, some men would fight for what they wanted, and I was just that kind of man.
Perched on the side of a hospital bed at Scottish Rite’s Children’s Healthcare, I drummed out a hard-core rhythm on the Guitar Hero drum-set. With his IV shackled hands, the teenage leukemia patient I was visiting kept right up with me during the more difficult parts. His name was Manuel, aka Manny, and when he’d heard a member of Runaway Train was visiting the oncology floor, he’d asked to meet me. So after I’d made some quick rounds, I went to his room so I could spend the most time with him. I was stoked as hell to see him sitting there in a Runaway Train T-shirt. He had been the drummer in a band until cancer had sidelined him. Even on the shitty Guitar Hero set, I could tell he had talent. But of course, I had to ride his ass a little.
“Manny, you’re slacking, dude.”
A grin stretched across his chalky face. “It ain’t me, man. You’re the one dragging on the triplets.”
“Ha! So you caught that?”
With a smirk that outrivaled mine, he replied, “You ain’t got nothing on me, Ese.”
I laughed. Visiting sick kids and teenagers in hospitals was one of the hardest and most rewarding parts of my job. I mean, it’s a hell of a mind-tripping, ego-bend when you’re the one to put a smile on the face of a kid who was bald from just going through a round of chemo. Or out of all the famous people in the world, they’d wanna hang out with you.
Today, however, was an unexpected visit to Scottish Rite. I’d been lounging on the couch with a beer in my hand, waiting to drink myself into a mindless stupor, when Abby had called me. I knew the moment I picked up the phone that she wanted a favor from me by the sugary-sweet tone of her voice. After what had happened at the farm with Mia, I’d been on her shit-list for a long time. Especially when I continued to be in her words, ‘a stubborn asshole’, for not reaching out to Mia.
What I had failed to tell her, or any of the guys for that matter, was that I had tried for days to call and text Mia, but she had never returned any of them. Finally the prideful side of me had said screw Mia and her stupid stubbornness. Unfortunately, my sappy-ass heart hadn’t quite gotten the message.
Even though I sounded like a total pussy admitting it, the past four months had been the most miserable ones in my life. I played it off around the guys, acted like things were fine, and that I was the happiest motherfucker in the world. Whether they were truly buying it, I don’t know. I mean, they had to notice I wasn’t hooking up with any chicks. A few weeks after Mia left me, I took a blonde bombshell back to the bus with me. Even with all her assets and hard work, I couldn’t get it up. All I could see was Mia in my mind. I ended up getting the chick off as fast as I could to get her the hell away from me. After that nightmare, I hadn’t attempted to try again.