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|Music of the Heart(Runaway Train #1) by Katie Ashley|
They all swore to me they’d be perfect gentlemen if I stayed on the bus with them! I silently fumed. What kind of sex-fiend maniac is Jake that he needs to do that again after just getting off at the diner? I don’t care if he needs to relieve some stress after the phone call earlier. This is bullshit!
Flopping back down on the mattress, I crossed my arms over my chest before a frustrated grunt escaped my lips.
“¿No puedes dormir, Angel?” AJ’s deep voice questioned from behind my curtain.
I flipped back the heavy fabric. He reclined on his bunk, flipping through a sports magazine. “No, I can’t sleep with all the racket going on next to me.”
He met my gaze and grinned. “Don’t get the sexy, lacy panties I dream about you wearing in a twist. He isn’t jerking off.”
“That’s not what I was thinking.”
“Yeah right,” he snorted with a wink.
As if on cue, Jake let out a long moan. I shook my head. “Um well, if he’s not doing that, then is he okay?”
“He’s been having a lot of nightmares lately. I try to ignore it—let him save face and not look like a pu**y.”
I rolled my eyes. “Did you ever stop to think maybe you should ask him if something is going on with him?”
AJ quirked his brows at me. “If I started getting sappy and shit like that, Jake would ask me when I grew a vagina.”
“Well, I think someone should check on him. I mean, he sounds like he’s in both physical and emotional pain.”
When AJ didn’t move, I heaved an exasperated sigh before hopping out of my bunk. I could not believe after everything I had been through with Jake so far in the last twelve hours that I even had one shred of care left for him. But I had seen something within him—some flicker of decency—that made me worry and care about him, even when I shouldn’t.
I shot AJ a murderous look to which he held up his hands. “Look, mi amor, guys just don’t do the touchy-feely shit, okay? If I woke up Jake right now to cuddle him, he would get super pissed.”
I ignored him and tip-toed over to Jake. With trembling fingers, I opened the heavy curtain to his roost. Jake had the sheet twisted around his waist. A coat of sweat covered his heavily tattooed chest. His brow creased, and his mouth curved up in a grimace. My hand hesitated above his shoulder. Finally, I shook him gently. “Jake, wake up,” I urged softly.
His body jerked before his wild eyes popped open and swept across the top of the bunk.
“Shh, it’s okay,” I murmured.
Jake’s frantic gaze swept over to mine while he opened his mouth and gasped for breath.
I gave him a reassuring smile while rubbing his shoulder. “You were having a nightmare.”
Jake continued wheezing in air. I eased back as he swung his legs out of the bunk and onto the carpet. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he leaned forward and put his head in his hands. “I’m sorry I woke you,” he replied.
With my protective side shooting into overdrive, I scooted closer to him, bringing my hand to his hair. Gently, I ran my fingers through the dark, sweat-stained strands, pushing them out of his eyes. “You didn’t wake me. I was worried about you.”
His head jerked up as surprise flooded his face. “You were?”
I nodded. “You seemed a little down after your phone call with your aunt. Then with the nightmare.” I glanced up at AJ who was curiously watching us. “I know most of the guys aren’t men enough to handle emotions and issues—”
AJ snorted. “Those are your words, not mine.”
“Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I’m here for you. If you need to talk about something or if you just need someone to sit with you until you can go back to sleep, then I’m here.”
With wide eyes and his mouth gaping open, Jake stared at me for a moment like I had grown horns. Realizing I wasn’t getting anywhere with him, I held up my hands. “Or I can just leave you alone and go back to sleep. Either is fine.”
When I turned to leave, Jake grabbed my hand. “Wait,” he instructed in a hoarse voice.
“That’s a really sweet offer, Angel. It makes me feel like a real ass. I need to tell you how sorry I am about earlier. That was a real douche move. Not that it matters, but she came on to me. But I should have told her no and meant what I told you.”
I was so not expecting an apology from him, so it took me a minute before I could even process thoughts, least of all acknowledge what he had said. “Thank you.” When he gave me an embarrassed smile, I sighed. “As much as I appreciate hearing that, it’s not what’s really bothering you, is it?”
He shook his head. “It’s just...” He cleared his throat. “My Aunt Sally was calling for my mother. She said Mama didn’t want to worry me in the middle of the tour and refused to tell me the truth of what was going on…”
“What’s wrong?” I urged.
His chest rose and fell in harsh breaths. “After being in remission for three years, my mom’s cancer has come back. Aunt Sally says…” His face contorted in agony. “She says there’s nothing they can do this time—no more treatments. She’s being given medicine to make her comfortable for her last…few months.”
I gasped. “Oh Jake, I’m so, so sorry.” I took his hands in mine and squeezed. The expression on his face was one of pure anguish and devastation, and my chest constricted for the pain I could feel radiating off of him.