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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
I eased the convertible up to the valet stand. After Jude and I hopped out of the front, we worked to quickly extract the girls and our plethora of beach gear. I then handed off the car keys to the attendant and corralled the kids inside the hotel. After the elevator let us out at our floor, I drew in a deep breath as I neared our suite. I dug in my pockets for the key card but came up empty. “Dammit, what did I do with the key?”
“Daddy!” Melody admonished again as Jude waved the key card in front of my face.
“Sorry,” I mumbled before taking the key from Jude. “Thanks.” I didn’t even want to begin to wonder how he had the card.
The girls pushed past me to run into the suite. As I drew in a breath, I couldn't help feeling like a pussy. I mean, I was a grown man for fuck's sake, but I was practically cowering from the impending wrath of my wife. Maybe it was because Lily was usually so easy going and laid back. She very rarely lost her temper, and she was the level-headed one who evened out my manic side.
I hustled down the short hallway. Peeking around the corner, I watched as Lily embraced our girls, planting a kiss on the tops of their dark-haired heads. They had both inherited my dark hair and eyes, but they each had the same dimple in their left cheek that their mother did. While the reporter might've thought Lily’s affection was all for show, I knew better. The sight caused warmth to flood my chest.
Glancing over Lucy's head, Lily met my gaze. The beaming smile she had for our girls tightened considerably. "So glad to see you finally made it home safely." While the reporter might not have caught her veiled hostility, I heard it loud and clear. I had to do something fast to get my ass out of the doghouse.
Plastering on my most apologetic smile, I power-walked around the corner. I then threw my hand out to the reporter. "Brayden Vanderburg."
As he pumped my hand, he replied, "Giovanni Coppola."
"I'm so sorry I'm late. I'd love to blame the kids, but sadly it's all my fault."
He laughed good-naturedly. "It's okay. You guys have a lot on your plate with the wedding. I just appreciate you making time for me."
"We're just honored that an esteemed magazine like yours would want to interview us,” I drawled, laying it on extra thick.
When Lily raised her brows at me, I winked. She ignored me and turned to the kids. “Okay guys, Mia is waiting on you next door. She’s had an early dinner delivered from her dad’s restaurant.”
“Mama Sofia’s!” Melody squealed while Lucy gave an enthusiastic smile.
“Good. I’m starving,” Jude replied before he headed to the door with Melody and Lucy trailing behind him.
Before Lily could ask me if I had also managed to forget to feed our kids, I held up my hands. “He ate everything you packed as well as raiding the concession stand twice. I swear that kid will be eating us out of house and home when he turns thirteen.”
Lily cocked her head at me. “I seem to remember you having the same appetite when you were a little older than him.”
Sensing an opportune moment for interrogation, Giovanni asked, “Just how hold were you when you met?”
“Sixteen,” Lily and I replied in unison.
Our shared reply brought a beaming smile to Giovanni’s face. “Do you finish each other’s sentences, too?”
“Sometimes,” Lily replied.
“I’m usually forgetting what I want to say so I need her to finish,” I joked.
Giovanni scribbled something down in his notebook. When he glanced up, he motioned to the patterned sofa. “Why don’t you two sit there, and I’ll have a seat here?” His hand fell on the back of one of the antique chairs.
I nodded. Easing down on the sofa beside Lily, I leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. “You smell good,” I complimented.
The tight expression that had been on her face since I came in receded, and a genuine smile appeared. “You smell even better because you smell like the ocean.”
I then turned my attention to Giovanni. “Once again, my deepest apologies for being late.”
“It’s all right.”
Cocking my head at him, I asked, “Did my lovely wife give you the sad sap story as to why I’m not always with it?”
Giovanni grinned. “Yes, she did. And I have to say it was quite fascinating hearing about your head injury and how without it, you might not be where you are today.”
With a chuckle, I replied, “I would have to say that’s the truth because if it weren’t for the short-term memory issue shit, I would have been here a lot earlier.”
Waving his hand dismissively at my joke, Giovanni said, “I don’t think most of our readers or your fans know you didn’t grow up playing guitar or having the desire to be a rock star. That without the football related injury, you would have never taken up the guitar or written your first song.”
I shifted in my seat. Talking about my injury always made the hairs stand up on the back of my arms and neck. It was one of those life-altering moments that set me on an entirely different path I could never have imagined. At sixteen, my entire universe revolved around the emerald green grass of the field and the smell of pigskin in my hands. I had my eye on a college scholarship and maybe some time in the NFL. I was that good.
But life changes in an instant—a play you had executed flawlessly a hundred times before can go so very wrong. Instead of being carted off victoriously on the shoulders of your teammates, you leave in a neck brace laid out on a stretcher. A brain injury coupled with a cracked vertebrae that narrowly missed severing your spine brings the curtains down on your dream. But then you realize the life you thought was ending was truly just beginning.