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|Music of the Heart(Runaway Train #1) by Katie Ashley|
Tears welled in his tormented blue eyes. “It’s just…” He motioned towards the bunks. “You can ask the other guys about what an absolute Mama’s Boy I am. After my dad ran off with his secretary and got remarried, I was her world. She’s everything to me. I can’t even think about…” His words choked off with emotion, and then he started crying. Well, it was more harsh, body shuddering sobs. I wrapped my arms around his neck, pulling him to me. He buried his face in my stomach, his body heaving and shaking from his cries.
His wailing brought Brayden from his roost while Rhys staggered out of the bedroom. Both of them stared at Jake in disbelief like he was some alien life form. I don’t know if it was the crying or the fact he was wrapped in my arms. When I glanced up at AJ, his expression was shell-shocked, but there was also pain in his eyes. After all, he’d grown up with Jake and knew his mom very well.
I gave AJ an empathetic look. “Not Susan,” he said softly. He pinched his eyes shut, and I knew he was fighting not to start crying himself. “Motherfucker,” he muttered under his breath.
The next thing I knew I tumbled backward when Jake sank onto his knees on the floor of the bus. Pulling on my hips, he jerked me down beside him, wrapping me in a bear hug. “Shh, it’s going to be okay,” I crooned into his ear.
He shook his head wildly back and forth. “No, it’s not. If it hadn’t been as bad as it was, Aunt Sally would never have called.” My body shook so hard with his sobs that my teeth clattered together. “Oh God, I can’t bear this, Angel. I’ll die without her.”
Although I’d grown up watching my parents handle emotional parishioners on a daily basis, I felt completely and totally helpless when it came to comforting Jake. I tried to draw on the right words to say to comfort him as I rubbed wide circles across his back.
“Listen, I’ll call my parents and tell them to put her on their prayer list. I mean, they don’t call my dad’s church the God-dome for nothing! And maybe there’s another doctor she can see. You know, get a second opinion or something.” My mind spun with thoughts as I tried to think of something to do or say to comfort Jake since he continued to sob uncontrollably. As soon as I thought of another one, I blurted, “Hey, one of our church’s deacons is on the board of a cancer treatment center. We can get your mom an appointment there.”
Jake’s sobs started to wane, but he kept his arms firmly around me. His voice, hoarse from his crying, came muffled against my chest. “I appreciate it, Angel. But Aunt Sally made it abundantly clear. The cancer’s been back, and there’s not a f**king thing I can do but watch her die.”
Running my fingers through his hair, I leaned over to whisper in his ear. “I’m so, so sorry. I’d give anything if I could take away your pain.”
“Thank you,” he murmured. He pulled back to stare up at me. Tears glistened in his blue eyes while his expression still contorted in misery. “You really mean all that, don’t you?” When I creased my brows in confusion, he replied, “The wanting to take my pain away and what you would do for my mom.”
“Of course I do.”
He continued to stare at me with an incredulous look as if he thought at any moment I might disappear—like I was just some illusion. His trembling hand came to rest against my cheek. “You really are an angel, aren’t you?”
I smiled. “No, I’m just someone who cares about you and your mom.”
“But don’t you see. I’ve never met a girl who really cared about me and not because I’m Jake Slater from Runaway Train.”
“Then that’s sad because in spite of some of your faults, you really are worth knowing and caring about.”
Jake blinked a few times at my words as he ran his thumb across my cheek bone. He leaned up, and just when I sucked in a breath because I thought he was going to kiss me, he planted a tender kiss on my cheek. “Thank you, Abby. Maybe my mom was right when she claimed fate brought us together.”
My eyes widened at his statement. “Maybe so,” I murmured.
After standing there staring at each other for a few moments, I patted Jake’s shoulder. “Are you feeling better now?”
He shrugged. “As good as I can be, I guess.”
“Need some water or milk before you go back to sleep?”
The corners of his lips tugged up. “Are you going to offer to read me a bedtime story next?”
I laughed. “No, I was just trying to take care of you.”
“You were mothering me,” he murmured as sadness washed over his face.
“Well, if you don’t need anything else, I guess I’ll go back to bed.” When I started to my roost, Jake grabbed my arm, pulling me against him. “Sleep with me,” he whispered in my ear.
I jerked away, ready to launch into a tirade for him playing on my emotions to put the moves on me when the tormented expression on his face stopped me cold.
He stared pleadingly into my eyes. “I’m still so f**king scared, Angel. I need someone just to hold tonight so I won’t be alone.”
I had to fight to catch my breath. How was it possible that the broken, vulnerable guy in front of me and the cocky, self-absorbed Jake who infuriated me were one in the same?
“No funny business?”
He shook his head. “I swear.”
I drew my bottom lip between my teeth as I weighed my options. After his emotional breakdown, I couldn’t imagine being cruel by leaving him all alone. I tried to think about how I would feel if it were my mom. “Okay, I will. If it’ll make you feel better.”