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|Music of the Heart(Runaway Train #1) by Katie Ashley|
AJ groaned and rubbed his face. “Nine? Jesus, it might as well be the asscrack of dawn.”
Abby laughed. “Let me guess. Not a morning person?”
“Hell no.” His gaze then fell on the notepad and our guitars. “Whoa, hold the phone. Don’t tell me you guys were songwriting?”
“Yeah, we just wrote a duet. Isn’t that amazing?” Abby gushed.
AJ’s dark brows shot into his hairline before his eyes locked on mine. Even though I felt like an absolute pu**y, I squirmed under the intensity of his stare. Mainly because I knew my secret was about to be out of the bag, and it was going to change things even more with Abby.
With a smirk, AJ crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Oh yeah, it’s more than just amazing. It’s f**king incredible considering this dude never, ever lets anyone in on his writing sessions. I mean, even he and Bray don’t collaborate together—each of them just writes his own part and then they merge it together.”
Abby stared at me in utter disbelief. “But I…I didn’t know. You should’ve told me you wanted privacy or that—”
“No, it’s fine,” I muttered, glancing out the picture window as we pulled off the interstate.
“You say that now, but just wait until Bray hears about this,” AJ said. He thumped me on the back. “Of course, I can’t say I blame you. Who wouldn’t want to make music with Angel?”
AJ’s words had the same effect as pulling a dark, heavy cloak across my raw and open emotions. Whatever openness and honesty Abby had coaxed out of me automatically shut down. My mother’s advice echoed in my ear about giving Abby a chance and how fate could’ve brought us together. Her words coupled with what had happened last night and this morning made my throat close up, and I fought to breathe. Without another word, I whirled out of my seat and stomped down the aisle to the bedroom. I flung open the door to find Brayden getting dressed. “Where’s the fire, man?” he asked.
“Nowhere. We just need to hurry the f**k up and eat so we can get back on the road.”
Bray gave me a funny look before leaving me in the bedroom. Once I slid on my jeans and threw on a clean shirt, I didn’t go back out into the living room until I was sure we were about to be parked.
When the bus finally shuddered to a stop, I couldn’t get off of it fast enough. I didn’t say anything to Abby or the guys. I couldn’t take being with Abby one more minute. Her very presence had sent tiny fissures through my carefully constructed wall of emotions. She was getting to me too fast and too soon. No woman but my mother had ever seen through to the real me, and I wasn’t about to let Abby in.
So I hauled ass down the bus steps and started powerwalking across the parking lot.
“Jake?” Brayden called.
“He must have to piss or something,” Rhys replied.
Ignoring them, I threw open the diner door and craned my neck for the bathroom. Once inside, I splashed water on my face and tried to get my bearings. An image flashed before my eyes—one that had an almost identical purity as Abby’s. Her name was Stephanie, and she had been my first and only love. I’d been eighteen when I first met her—she apprenticed under my mother at the dance studio. We dated for two years before I made the decision to drop out of college and go on the road with the guys. When I couldn’t give her the commitment she needed, she didn’t just break up with me—she tore my heart to shreds.
Of course, the songs I wrote from that hellish experience propelled Runaway Train to stardom. I hadn’t opened myself up to another girl since then, and I sure as hell couldn’t now with everything in my world spinning out of control. I couldn’t let the feelings I was experiencing for Abby take hold.
After collecting myself as best I could, I left the bathroom and headed for the breakfast buffet. Filling my plate to the brim, I then turned and went in search of somewhere to sit. At the sight of Abby seated with the other guys, I quickly side-stepped their table to plop down with Frank and some of the roadies. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Abby’s quizzical expression turn almost wounded.
Her reaction caused me to spear my French toast with a little more determination than I should have. Yeah, I was a bastard for ignoring her after everything we had been through the night before and this morning. But I couldn’t keep opening up to her and feeling what I did. It had f**king train wreck written all over it.
“You okay today?” Frank asked.
“Fine,” I muttered through my bacon.
“I don’t want to talk about it, okay?”
“Okay, son.” After taking a thoughtful sip of his coffee, he drew in a ragged breath. “Just so you know, your mom called me this morning.”
I choked on my orange juice. After succumbing to a coughing fit, I questioned, “She did?”
Frank nodded. “She knows that Sally called you, and she wanted me to make sure I kept an eye out for you. She’s afraid you’ll be…destructive.”
The agonizing thought of my mom dying once again sliced through to my soul, and I fought to breathe. Nausea crashed over me, and I feared I was about to heave up my breakfast. I knew I had to talk to her again. So I tumbled out of my chair and sprinted out of the diner. When she answered the phone, I demanded, “Why?”
Mama sighed. “I thought it was for the best.”
“You thought not telling your only child that you’re dying is for the best? Do you know how sick and warped that is?”