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|Beat of the Heart(Runaway Train #2) by Katie Ashley|
There was a part of me that felt like I needed some kind of penance for what I’d done. I mean, if it hadn’t been for my past with Kylie and the other chicks, maybe Mia wouldn’t have felt she couldn’t be with me. Not to mention the ugly truth that I’d used a lot of women over the years. That fact was one of the reasons why I’d told Abby yes. Plus, I wanted back on her good side, so I’d agreed to come along with her and her brothers as they made a charity stop at Scottish Rite, which wasn’t too far from my house.
I had a feeling there was more she wasn’t telling me about why she was recruiting me, rather than Jake, but when the limo came by to pick me up, I didn’t press her for any details. I figured if she wanted to talk about it, she would. I just hoped she didn’t mention Mia. That was a subject I refused to talk about with anyone other than Jose Cuervo.
“Hey man, is your head in your ass or something?” Manny demanded.
“You totally just screwed up. Like epically.”
“Sorry.” Fuck, I felt like a major asshole letting my mind wander to Mia when I should have been focusing on Manny.
“Yeah, well my problem might be that my head is in my ass, but I think yours lies in your sticks,” I said.
“Ain’t nothing wrong with these bad boys besides being a little banged up,” he countered.
I held out mine to him. “These are for you.”
His eyes widened. “Seriously?”
“Yep. But you gotta promise me you’ll practice.”
His head bobbed furiously. “I swear I will.”
I pointed a finger at him. “You better.” I took a card out of my pocket and gave it to him. “You’ve got my number now, so you better call me and let me know how it’s going.”
“Dude, I will. Thank you. That’s awesome.”
“Let’s say the next time we jam, we do it at your house and not this shitty place?”
He laughed. “I’m down for that.”
A nurse appeared before me, signaling it was time to go. “All right, Ese. I gotta hit the road. You take care of yourself, okay?”
We gave each other the traditional guy hug, or pat on the back, before I went to meet the nurse in the doorway. I waved good-bye one last time to Manny.
“Ms. Renard and her brothers are in 305,” the nurse informed me.
“Thank you,” I replied.
Peering at the wall, I started counting down the numbers to 305. But then I heard Abby’s sweet voice floating back to me, and I knew exactly where to find her. She had just finished singing when I reached the doorway. I wasn’t too surprised to find her in the bed, snuggling with two bald, little girls who were absolutely enraptured by her and her singing. She kissed both their cheeks good-bye before rising out of the bed. As she powerwalked by me, I could see the tears pooling in her eyes. While her brothers started making their goodbyes to the girls, I left to go to Abby.
She hadn’t gotten far down the hall. “Mi amor,” I said softly, as I caught up to her.
“I’m okay,” came her weak reply.
Side-stepping in front of her, I drew her into my arms. “Hey, it’s okay to cry. This shit is hard.”
Fisting the front of my shirt in her hands, she sobbed into my chest. Although I knew the little girls had gotten to her, I could tell that this was about more than just them. It most likely had to do with Susan, Jake’s mom, and the grief that both she, and Jake, were still experiencing.
The sound of her brothers behind us caused her to tense in my arms. At their questioning expressions, I said, “Go on down to the limo. We’ll be down in a few.”
Micah nodded. “See you there.”
When they were safely on the elevator, she pulled away. “Sorry about that,” she sniffled.
I cupped her chin, bringing her gaze to mine. “Hey, you have nothing to apologize for. Okay? You know I’m always here for you.”
After wiping her eyes, she gave a quick jerk of her head. “I know.” She leaned up on her tip-toes to kiss my cheek. “I’ve missed you,” she whispered.
Her words caused my chest to clench. “I’ve missed you, too.”
That was all that had to be said for me to know that everything was fine between us. As we started down the hallway to the elevators, Abby slid her arm around my waist. She peered up at me and smiled. “Thanks again for coming with me today since Jake had to bail.”
“Hey, I was glad to do it.” When I punched the down arrow button, I kissed the top of her head. “Jake’s still having a hard time with hospitals, huh?”
She nodded as we stepped onto the elevator. “I don’t know how to help him, AJ.”
“Just be there for him. That’s all you can do.”
“You mean everything in the world to him, and he’s lucky to have you and your love.”
I smiled at her. “No problem.”
We stepped out of the hospital into the bright sunshine. Gabe, Eli, and Micah were standing outside the limo waiting on us. “Ready to head back?”
“Yep,” I replied.
As I waited my turn to get inside the limo, I gazed ahead. When the realization of where we were washed over me, I felt like someone had sent a roundhouse kick straight to my gut. St. Joseph’s loomed tauntingly at me from across the street. Like a sappy-ass chick, a rush of memories flooded my mind of meeting Mia for the first time.