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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
Brayden’s aggravation was apparent. “Dammit, Lily, it’s only for a few minutes. Give me a break.”
His tone and his words stung me, but I managed to plaster a smile on my face. “I’m sorry. You’re right. Go do your thing.
Without another word to me, he strode off with Marcus. I took a few deep breaths, trying not to panic in the overwhelming situation. Come on, Lily. You were Homecoming Queen for God’s sake. You know how to win people over. Go forth and win these assholes over.
Trying to be proactive, I started to walk around the room, lingering by groups of people and trying to join in on their conversations. While I gave them my best smile, most only offered me a frosty hello before they turned back to their own friends and acquaintances.
I took a flute of champagne from one of the waiters. Sipping it slow, I willed myself not to cry. This was Brayden’s world now, and because I was with him, it was mine as well. I just had to get used to it. But I couldn’t help wishing for the past—the days when the band was just starting out and Brayden and I were of one mind and body.
I don’t know how much time passed. It seemed like an eternity. I’d downed two flutes of champagne. After a trip to the ladies room, I ran into Rhys in the hallway. “Hey!” I cried, enthusiastically.
He grinned. “Hey, yourself.”
“Sorry. It’s just good to see a familiar face among all these people.”
“I know what you mean.” After glancing around, he made a face. “I thought I’d escaped all the pretentious bullshit when I left home. Unfortunately, I’m right back in hell tonight.”
“I’m glad I’m not the only one who isn’t comfortable with all this.”
“If you ask me, this is the worst part of the business—boot licking and ass kissing.”
I giggled. “You’re right. I was just thinking how I missed the early days, especially last summer when we were all together on the bus.”
“Yeah, those were some good times.” He smiled at me. “I’ll never forget how sweet you were to me. I was in a really bad place with my parents disowning me because of the band. You really came through for me.”
“Stop, you’re going to make me cry,” I said, as I felt my eyes moistening.
“It’s the truth.”
“I feel the same way about you.” Glancing around, I asked, “You guys done with your meeting?”
Rhys brows furrowed. “What meeting?”
“Marcus came and got Brayden because the label had some people they wanted you to meet.”
Shifting uncomfortably on his feet, Rhys said, “Uh, I haven’t met with any of the label guys tonight.”
My stomach plummeted to my knees, and although I hated myself for it, tears stung my eyes. “I see.”
Rhys hand came to touch my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Lily.”
I held up my hand. “You don’t need to apologize. It isn’t your fault.”
He sighed. “Look, I know it doesn’t make it any easier, but we’ve all noticed a change in Bray over the last few months. And it’s not a good one.”
“Thanks,” I replied, in a whisper.
“He’ll come to his senses soon.”
“You sure about that?”
“This world,” he motioned around him, “is hard for the others to acclimate to. I grew up with money and excess, so it doesn’t have the shiny appeal to me like it does for the others. AJ would be the same guy if he was living in a mansion or in a box on the street. He’s just that kind of guy. As for Jake and Brayden…” He shook his head. “The greatest prize comes from corrupting the incorruptible. He’s been a target of theirs from the beginning.”
“Their minions, yeah.”
The thought of Runaway Train’s handlers manipulating Brayden made me sick. “I just thought that Brayden was too strong to let all this get to him.”
“You hear their line of bullshit day in and day out, and anyone can fall for it, especially when the brand of propaganda comes in the form of houses, clothes, and cars. Money talks more than anything in the world.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Just give him some time. He’ll come around.”
“I hope so, Rhys. Because if he doesn’t…” I bit down on my lip to keep from crying.
“The worst thing in the world that could happen to him would be to lose you.”
I barreled forward and threw my arms around Rhys’s neck. “Thank you for being so good to me.”
He chuckled. “You don’t need to thank me for that.”
I pulled away and kissed his cheek. “Yes, there is. Just like you thanked me earlier for being good to you last summer. You have such a good heart, Rhys. In spite of what you grew up with, you are a decent, caring person.”
Rhys’s jaw clenched like he was fighting his emotions. “Thank you, Lily. That means a lot coming from you.”
“I’m going to go find Brayden. I think it’s time I left for the night. Let him do his thing.”
“Thanks, I’ll probably need it.”
After I made my way back to the main room, I started searching through the crowd for Brayden. When I didn’t see him, I started down another hallway. Just as I came around the corner, AJ stepped into my path. “Hey, Lils, what’s up?” he asked, a plastered smile on his face.