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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
I’d forgotten all about the onesies until the picture had come through via text of my almost one-month-old niece and nephew sporting them with Jake giving a double thumbs-up over their heads. Immediately an agonizing burn tore through my chest, and I wanted so much to be back home where I could hold them in my arms. Although my older sister, Andrea, had married two years ago, she hadn’t had kids yet, so Jax and Jules were my first niece and nephew. It wasn’t just the fact that I loved babies and children that made me want to be around them. It was more the fact that I was so very close to my family, especially Jake, that I needed to be with them.
So it didn’t help that I found myself almost three hundred miles away in Savannah. Not only was I so far from the twins, but the rest of my family, my friends, and everything I held dear in the world. I’d decided that instead of attending the satellite campus for the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, I needed to go four hours away from home to gain freedom and independence. With ten and twelve years between me and both my half-siblings, I’d grown up pretty spoiled, not only by my parents, but by Jake and Andrea as well. I’d lived in an almost cocooned world of safety and comfort for almost twenty-one years. There was a part of me that felt to truly mature and grow as a person, I needed to clip the strings that were tied so tightly to my parents. I needed life experiences outside of the comfortable suburb I’d grown up in. Looking back now, I had been utterly delusional.
Practically the moment my parents’ SUV, coupled with a U-Haul, left the driveway of my new home, I realized I’d made a huge mistake. Now two months later, my misery still hadn’t dissipated. Of course, it also didn’t help I was licking my wounds from a breakup with my boyfriend of six months right before leaving home. So now I was in a strange city without my friends, family, and a boyfriend. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be back home where everything was familiar and comfortable. In the end, I guess you could say I wasn’t a big fan of change.
A lot of people in my situation would have just accepted defeat, thrown in the towel, and gone back home with their tail between their legs. But I wasn’t that kind of person. Tenacity resided in my DNA, and I was determined to see at least this semester through. Then, and only then, would I allow myself to pack it up, move myself home, and transfer to SCAD-Atlanta.
Although seeing the picture of Jax and Jules had tested my resolve on seeing things through. They were already growing so fast. I’d flown up the weekend after they were born, but since Jules was in the NICU, I didn’t get to see that much of her. Now that they had been released from the hospital, I wanted a chance to snuggle them both.
Knowing that Abby was waiting on a reply, I quickly texted OMG, J & J look so cute. Would give anything to be holding them.
Her reply came right back. Next weekend that u can get free, Jake & I want to fly u up 2 see them.
A strangled cry came from deep within my throat when I read the text. With shaky hands, I started texting back my thanks. I was wishing I didn’t have to work the next day, and I could actually get away. Abby promised to FaceTime with me and the twins soon. I was so thankful that Jake had married such a sweet and caring woman. She had embraced me as the sister she’d never had, and it meant so much.
Long after Abby had texted a final See u soon! I remained unable to focus on my assigned reading. Instead, I sat with my head in my hands fighting the urge to cry. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, three little words caused my entire world to tilt and spin on its axis.
Jerking my head up, I peered down the porch to the top of the stairs where he stood. “R-Rhys?” I stuttered.
He grinned. “Yes, it’s me.”
“But what are you—” In a rush to see him, I tried sliding off the railing. Instead, I made a total ass out of myself by getting my legs tangled together and falling off the side. Thankfully I only fell into the shrubs that ran the length of the porch. “Oomph,” I muttered, as I tried clawing my way out of the greenery that was scratching my bare arms.
“Hang on. Let me help,” Rhys said, leaning over the banister.
The last thing on earth I wanted was for him to help me out of the mortifying situation I found myself in, but when I realized I was getting nowhere fast, I relented. I grasped his hands and let his strength pull me back over the railing. Once my feet were back on solid ground, I went to readjusting my top and jeans.
When I thought I was thoroughly put back together, I finally looked at Rhys. “Thank you.”
“You’re more than welcome. It’s not every day I get to save a damsel in distress.”
I laughed. “You seem to be saving me more times than I would like to admit.”
A genuine smile stretched across Rhys’s face. I knew, that like me, he was thinking back to that first weekend we had ever spent together. “At least these shrubs seem a little less dangerous than that downed tree.”
“That is true.” Rhys snickered for a moment, which caused me to throw him a puzzled look. “I’m sorry. I’m just having a shrubbery moment from Monty Python.”
His eyes widened as he held up a hand. “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail?” When I shook my head, he tsked at me. “We’ll just have to remedy that one ASAP. You can’t go through life without the cheeky, sarcastic humor that is I.”
I smiled at his enthusiasm. “Sounds good to me.”