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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
Sweeping his hands to his hips, he asked, “So how are you, Allie-Bean?”
My response to his very general question was to burst into tears. I detested my out-of-control emotions, but the very fact he was standing before me today, not to mention partially rescued me, was just too much. Regardless of other boyfriends over the years, I had never stopped loving Rhys. He was the ideal man that no other guy could ever live up to. He was the dream I hoped to one day come true.
Even though his reflection was wavy, I could make out his concerned expression. Good lord, was it possible for me to do anything else mortifying in front of him? Swiping the tears from my eyes, I said, “I’m so sorry.”
“Do I need to go?”
“No!” I shouted a little too quickly. At his raised brows, I tried backpedaling. “I’m sorry for flaking out on you. It’s just been a hard day.” After a mirthless laugh, I added, “Actually, make that a hard two months.”
“Jake mentioned you were a little homesick.”
“He did?” Immediately my heart plummeted into my stomach. Of course Rhys hadn’t come to see me of his own volition. That would have been far too much to hope for. He had been coerced by my well-meaning brother, which crushed my hopes and dreams.
“Yeah, he asked me to check in on you when I got to Savannah.”
“When did you get in to town?”
“Just this morning.”
“And you came so soon?” I couldn’t help asking while trying not to let my traitorous heart get too excited.
Rhys smiled. “Of course I did. Jake’s my family, and that means you’re my family, too.” He patted my cheek. “Truth be told, I couldn’t bear the thought of you homesick and miserable.”
“That’s so sweet,” I murmured.
Cocking his head, Rhys said, “Well, it would be pretty unchivalrous of me to say that you’re a good excuse to get out of the house and away from my f**ked-up family, right?”
“Just a little.”
“So I guess the crying jag there tells me all I need to know about how you’re holding up?”
I sighed. “Yeah, pretty much.”
Fiddling with his collar, Rhys said, “Jake also said you’d just been through a break-up.”
I swept my hands to my hips. “Was there anything Jake didn’t tell you?”
“He just said you were homesick on top of the fact your boyfriend broke up with you because he didn’t want to do the long distance thing.”
With a laugh, I replied, “The long distance thing is just what I told my parents and Jake. There was more to the story.”
“Since you’re Mr. Inquisitive today, I’ll give you the full scoop. Then you can decide if you’ll report in all the details to Jake.”
Rhys chuckled. “All right, Miss Sassy, hit me with it.”
“Mitchell didn’t think our sex life was adventurous enough, so he wanted me to start going to this private sex club his father belonged to.”
Rhys’s usually tan skin paled, and he staggered back. “Fuck me, I didn’t need to know that.”
“Well, that’s the truth about what happened. We actually broke up a few weeks before I left, but I figured my parents could handle that story better. I mean, if Jake found out, Mitchell probably wouldn’t need to worry about his sex life because Jake would render him dickless.”
After staring in disbelief at me for a moment, Rhys finally threw his head back and howled with laughter. “Yeah, you got that one right. Of course, I’m tempted to find this ass**le myself. Who the hell does he think he is trying to corrupt you like that? He should be happy some beautiful girl wanted to waste her time with him at all.”
My heart beat wildly like a jackhammer in my chest at his words. “Thank you. He really was a decent guy. I just didn’t know there was all that seedy stuff below the surface.”
“Don’t let a jerkoff like that bring you down. You’re better than that.”
“That’s sweet, Rhys. Thanks.”
“And now I think it’s time for a conversation change. Somehow I feel like I fell into the Twilight Zone by standing here talking about sex with you.”
With a scowl, I countered, “I’m almost twenty-one, Rhys. I’m not a baby anymore.” I’m sure my petulant tone did nothing to prove my point. All I needed was to stomp my foot, and I would look like I was throwing a tantrum like a toddler.
“Okay, okay, you’re not a baby. That has been fully illustrated to me today,” he replied, with a grin.
“Good. Now we can officially change the subject.”
Rhys glanced around the porch. “So this is a really nice place. I expected you to be in some of those converted hotel room dorms or any of the other shitty housing for college students.”
I laughed. “I lucked out on finding this place in a Craigslist ad of all things.”
“You’re shitting me?”
Shaking my head, I replied, “Totally serious. Of course, after I met the owner, Cassie, I wasn’t too surprised that she listed the room like she did.”
Cocking his brows, Rhys inquired, “Is she an eccentric old woman with a house full of cats?”
I grinned. “Actually, she’s twenty-five. She rents out four of the five bedrooms.”
“My parents were much more sold on me living here than in some of the SCAD dorms, especially since I lived at home the past two years commuting to Georgia State.”