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|Music of the Heart(Runaway Train #1) by Katie Ashley|
“Okaaay, if you say so.” She ran her hands up my chest. “Just don’t get too wasted where you can’t make me scream at least three times.”
I forced a smile to my lips. “Now why would I want to do that?”
I could only push around the food on my plate after Jake refused to sit at my table. I tried reasoning that it wasn’t really a slight against me. Maybe he needed some space after AJ’s dig about our writing session or maybe he wanted time with the roadies and crew. He’d obviously already opened up to me far more than with anyone else, so I guess he needed time to process it all. I had to remember that I would be a total bitch if I laid too much fault with him considering he was going through hell right now with his mother’s illness.
We’d barely known each other twenty-four hours, so he didn’t owe me anything. But deep down, his behavior pierced through my heart to sting my soul. If I allowed myself, I could really feel something for him—something more than sympathy or compassion. I could even maybe grow to…like him.
When I saw Jake fly out of his chair and storm out of the diner, it took everything within me not to go after him. Instead, I tried focusing on Brayden’s stories about his children or how Rhys’s parents had almost disowned him after he gave up his Ivy-League background to pursue life with the band. AJ remained conspicuously silent, and from time to time, I would cut my eyes to catch him staring at me.
As we started back to the bus, he grabbed my arm. When I turned back, his expression was pained. “You’re starting to like Jake, aren’t you?”
“No! Why would you ask such a thing?”
The corners of his lips quirked up in a sly grin. “Call it my Latin intuition.”
“Wait, I thought it was supposed to be Irish institution.”
“Are you saying we Mexicans can’t have it too?”
A relieved giggle escaped my lips. “Yeah, I guess you can.”
AJ laughed. “Whatever it is, I meant what I said.” When I started to protest, he held up his hand. “You know, it’s crazy, but after I met you, I thought I might try to be a one- woman-man for a while. See if your angelic nature couldn’t tame me.” He winked to which I rolled my eyes but laughed in spite of myself. “But after last night and this morning, I realized there isn’t any point.” As the wind whipped the long strands of my hair into my face, AJ reached over and pushed it away. “I could go all medieval and fight for you, but there’s no point. You and Jake seem to have this magnetic pull.”
Before I could stop myself, I gave a mirthless laugh. “Yeah, well, I call bullshit on your little magnetic theory considering he steered right past my table this morning. Not to mention he let that waitress from the diner…” Warmth flooded my cheeks as I realized I’d said too much.
AJ shook his head. “This morning was my fault for giving Jake shit about the songwriting. And the waitress…well, you got him worked up, and I’m sure she was more than willing to take care of it for him because he’s Jake Slater of Runaway Train, not because he’s Jake this good-looking guy who has a lot of unattractive demons he’s dealing with.”
Glancing down, I scuffed my boots against the uneven pavement. “Look, AJ, I appreciate your honesty, but I don’t think anything is going to happen with me and Jake.” Before he could say anything else, I held up my hand. “And nothing is happening with you either. I want us to stay friends, okay?”
“Of course, Angel. Anything you want.” He then wrapped his arm around my shoulder and led me to the bus. Frank and Brayden stood in the galley while Rhys was sprawled out on the couch.
“Okay, I’m going to make a quick grocery run, and then we’ll get back on the road,” Frank said. He glanced around the inside of the bus. “Where’s Jake? I thought he might like to go with me?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since breakfast,” Brayden replied.
Frank grimaced. “Lemme go look for him.”
Brayden exchanged a knowing glance with Frank. “I’ll come with you.”
While they went in search of Jake, AJ glanced at me. “Wanna play some video games, Angel?”
I wrinkled my nose. “No thanks, I think I’m good. I’ll do a little studying.”
“Suit yourself.” AJ shoved Rhys’s legs off the couch. “You down to get your ass whipped, dude?”
“Yeah, right, douchebag. You know I wipe the floor with you each and every time,” Rhys replied.
As they settled in for a raucous Call of Duty marathon, I headed down the hall to the bedroom. I dug out my giant study packet for my nursing exam along with some of my books from my suitcase. I came back to the living area and plopped down. I lounged on the couch, balancing my opened Anatomy and Physiology book on my knees while AJ and Rhys shouted obscenities at each other’s game characters.
Fifteen minutes passed before a red-faced and out-of-breath Brayden appeared. He stalked up the stairs, muttering something under his breath. After flopping down across from me, he jerked up the magazine on the table. With his shaky hands, I could tell he was pissed about something.
It was then Jake staggered up the bus stairs with a leggy, dark-haired goddess. I couldn’t help but gasp as pain crisscrossed through my chest. The sight of him with another girl—one that I couldn’t possibly compete with when it came to sex appeal—caused me to heave in a few desperate breaths. The knife I felt that was wedged in my chest twisted further at the sight of him so wasted. The Jake swaying to and fro in front of me wasn’t the Jake I’d held as he cried or the one who I had made music with this morning. But it hurt just as bad that he had forgotten my very existence. Almost too quickly to believe, he had cemented back up any of his walls I’d managed to break down.