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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
Ouch. Had he seriously just called me a kid? I so did not want to be in “kid” territory. After I recovered from my slight horror, I said, “Well, I’m different because I’m an old soul.”
“Yes, you are. That’s one thing we have in common. I was always old for my age. I never really fit in with the kids around me. That, plus my intelligence, made me somewhat of a misfit. I didn’t exactly feel like I belonged until I met Jake, Brayden, and AJ.”
“And they completed you.”
Rhys snorted. “That sounds completely sappy and emasculating.”
“I like the sound of it. I know Jake had a terrible hole within him that needed completing. You and the guys did that.”
“Yes, she did.” Tapping my fork on my plate, I decided to address something that was still bothering me. “For the record, I’m not a kid, okay? I’m pretty sure that you hated for the guys to call you that back in the day.”
“Back in the day? Hell, they still pull that bullshit on me.”
I laughed. “Am I going to have to have you repeat after me? Allison, you are a woman.”
With a scowl, he replied, “I know you’re a woman.”
“You called me a kid two seconds ago,” I countered.
“Even if it’s hard for me to believe you aren’t the same thirteen-year-old I rescued all those years ago, I am aware that you are indeed a grown woman.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear that.”
“You’re welcome, kid,” he replied, with a teasing wink.
“You, sir, are impossible.”
“Want some dessert?” he asked.
Tilting my head, I tried reading Rhys’s watch. “Wait, what time is it?”
“Almost six thirty.”
I slammed my napkin down on the table. “Oh shit, really?”
“What’s the problem?” Leaning forward, he gave me an impish grin. “Don’t tell me you turn into a pumpkin at eight?”
With a grin, I replied, “Ha, ha, not exactly.”
After taking a sip of his wine, Rhys’s expression darkened a little. “You didn’t tell me you had a date tonight.”
“No, it’s nothing like that.” Part of me debated lying to him and telling him I had to go to work. Where I needed to be was somewhere secret—something I hadn’t even told my parents or Jake about. It wasn’t something I was ashamed of. It was just something I wasn’t sure how they were going to feel about it.
When I continued to remain evasive, Rhys said, “Are you sure? You’re certainly acting like there’s some mystery man you have to get to.”
As he continued staring me down, I finally decided to give in. “Do you promise not to tell Jake?”
Rhys’s dark eyes widened. “You’re doing something Jake doesn’t know about?”
“Seriously? I’m twenty years old. Jake certainly doesn’t know half of what I do or don’t do,” I replied.
“Interesting,” Rhys replied.
“You didn’t answer me.”
Holding up his hands, he replied, “Fine, fine. But only if it turns out not to be something dangerous or illegal.”
“Okay, here it is. I have to get back home and change because at ten tonight, I’m singing at Saffie’s Tea Room.”
Silence permeated the table as Rhys didn’t have a quick response or retort. Instead, he sat motionless, ingesting what I had just said. Finally, he replied, “Did you just allude to the fact you’re singing at some club tonight?”
“And just how is that possible? You’re only twenty.”
“The owner happens to be Cassie, the woman who owns the house I live in.”
Taking my napkin back in my hands, I twisted it nervously at his response. I don’t know why I was so concerned with his approval. In the end, he wasn’t my parents or Jake. He was just the guy I was completely in love with.
“You see, she has this band that plays during the week. Well, when the lead singer broke up with the drummer, she left the band, and in turn, she left Cassie without entertainment.”
“What’s the name of this band?”
Rhys’s brows shot up, sending my already frayed nerves into overdrive. I couldn’t help hoping that the name of the band had made him think of the magnolia charm he’d given me on my sixteenth birthday. I was probably desperately clawing at straws on that one. “I see,” he once again replied.
“Anyway, so after she heard me singing in my room when I was unpacking, she totally ambushed me to take the singer’s place until she could find a replacement. At first, I didn’t want to because Jake is the entertainer in the family, not me. Truth be told, I’m not that great a singer. But she was desperate, so I finally agreed to do it.”
“Saffie’s Tea Room,” he repeated in an even voice. “Am I correct in assuming this is named after Sappho, the Greek poetess?”
“Yes, it is,” I replied, twisting my napkin a little farther.
“The lesbian Greek poetess.”
“Yessss,” I hissed like the sexual orientation was supposed to matter.
Leaning in on the table with his elbows, Rhys cocked his head at me. “Let me get this straight. You are underage and singing at a lesbian nightclub?”