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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
I tried hiding my disappointment that I was going to have to share Brayden. “Sure. I’d love to.”
“Great. Listen, I’ll have a driver waiting for you at the airport.”
I laughed. “Seriously? Why don’t you come and get me?”
“Because I have shit to do, Lils. I can’t just drop everything to pick you up.”
His words and his tone stung me. When I could finally speak, I said, “Yeah, sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
“So I’ll see you in two weeks?”
“Bye, Brayden. I love you.”
But he didn’t hear me. He had already hung up.
I sat in the first class seat Brayden had purchased for me, twirling my engagement ring around my finger. I hadn’t heard from him since our last phone call two weeks ago. Well, he had sent a text this morning asking if I was still coming. I didn’t know if that was more for him or more about the fact he needed to let the driver know.
The entire flight to LA I did nothing but think. I broke apart our relationship into pieces and tried to examine each one to find the flaw. As hard as I tried, I still kept coming up empty. I didn’t know how everything had gone wrong so fast. Part of me worried I was being irrational and overreacting. Relationships weren’t always passion, heat, and devotion twenty-four seven. They went through ups and downs. While Brayden and I hadn’t experienced many ups and downs yet, we were both under a lot of strain in our professional lives. Throw in a separation and that had to cause a little strain in even the strongest of relationships.
When the plane landed at LAX, I grabbed my carryon and headed to the pickup area. Glancing around the drivers with signs, I tried to find the one with my name on it.
I blinked in shock. Running towards me was Brayden with a dozen roses in his hand. When he got to me, he jerked me into his embrace. “Hey baby!”
The surprise of seeing him rendered me speechless. After what seemed like an eternity, I said, “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Yeah, I pulled some strings to get away.”
His words caused me to smile so hard I thought my cheeks would break. It was like having the old Brayden back. I threw my arms around his neck and brought my lips to his. But the moment we kissed, all my hopes faded. It felt stilted, awkward, and forced. I kept kissing him desperately, searching to find that spark we once had. But no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t there. While I wanted to blame it on the separation, deep down I knew something fundamentally was wrong, and it scared me to death.
When he pulled away, I had to fight the tears that threatened to overflow my cheeks. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“They’re happy tears because I’m just so glad to see you,” I lied.
He laughed. “You always were so cheesy and dorky.”
Before I could stop myself, I countered, “If I remember correctly, we both used to be cheesy and dorky.”
“Glad I got rid of it,” he replied. He took my bag from me. “Come on. Let’s get you to the house.”
With a heart that was slowly breaking in two, I followed in step behind him. “Wait until you see this place, Lils. It’s fucking off the charts,” Brayden said, as the driver held open the chauffeured driven Lincoln Town Car.
“I didn’t know you had bought a house,” I said, cautiously.
“It’s the labels. They have different artists there while they’re recording their albums. You wouldn’t believe some of the other bands who have stayed there from time to time.”
Brayden snorted. “Just nice? It’s on the water in Venice Beach for fuck’s sake. I’d say that was a hell of lot better than nice.”
Once again, I felt a piece of my heart fall away. The old Brayden wouldn’t have been impressed with a house on the beach. He loved the mountains and the backwoods where he had grown up. It’s the one thing that had originally endeared him to Jake because he and Jake shared the same passion.
Brayden didn’t say much else to me during the drive. He fielded some calls on his phone while I stared out the window. I’d never been to Los Angeles, least of all California before, so I should have been more excited about seeing everything. But I just couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.
When we arrived at the house, I couldn’t help feeling even more overwhelmed. It was a mansion more than it was a house. It had a sleek, modern design, and almost wall to wall windows to take in the views. “It’s something, isn’t it?” Brayden asked.
“It sure is.”
He took my hand and led me up the walk and into the house. I had assumed even with the other guys at the house that Brayden and I would have some private time to talk and reconnect. The moment we entered the house, we were surrounded by people. Scanning the room, I searched for a familiar face, but I didn’t see one. “My room is at the end of the hall. I know you’ve had a long flight, so why don’t you go take a shower and rest?” Brayden suggested.
“Um, okay.” I thought he might show me to his room himself, but he started talking to a tall, dark-haired guy with tortoise shell glasses. Taking a deep breath, I rolled my suitcase behind me as I went down the hall. The door on the right swung open, revealing Jake in some swim trunks. His eyes narrowed slightly at the sight of me. “Hey, Jake!” I said, a little over-enthusiastically. Since Brayden’s and my engagement, things had become tense between Jake and me, but in spite of all that, I couldn’t help but feel glad to see him.