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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
As her fingers played with the label on the beer bottle, Allison stared straight ahead. Finally, she murmured, “Three.”
Her gaze flicked to mine, and she gave me a mischievous smile. “My number is three.”
I sucked in a breath like I’d been sucker punched in the gut. I wasn’t sure why her number mattered to me. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or slightly shocked. Not that in the vast scheme of things, three was that big a number. I knew Jake would be horrified she had been with one guy. “I see.”
Raising her beer bottle to her lips, Allison snorted. After taking a sip, she eyed me. “That’s all you have to say. ‘I see’?”
“Congratulations?” I suggested.
She laughed and shook her head. “Not quite the reaction I expected.”
“And what did you think I would do?”
Tilting her chin in thought, Allison replied, “Go all apeshit and tell me that three was entirely too many partners for a girl my age.”
“Oh please, you make me sound like some uptight Neanderthal man. Your life, including the sexual aspect of it, is entirely your business and yours alone. Fuck anyone else who tries to tell you anything different.”
“Thank you for your candor.”
“You’re welcome,” I replied, with a smile.
“As much as I would like to think I was liberated sexually, I’m still pretty old school.”
“You mean like not wanting to partake in that ass**le’s sex games?”
“No, I meant my attitude about who I will be with.” Cutting her eyes over at me, she shook her head. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation. It seems the alcohol is freeing my tongue more than I would like. The truth is that two were relationships, Dylan and then the douchebag of late, and then one was pure lust.”
“Now you’re getting judgey?”
I laughed. “No, it’s just hard to believe that after how you’ve described yourself that you actually just succumbed to lust.”
A giggle burst out of Allison lips. “Did you just say succumbed?” This time she snorted. “Oh Rhys, you sound positively blue blood when you’re down here and away from the guys. They would so call your ass out if they heard you.”
“Whatever,” I grumbled.
Nudging my shoulder with hers, she said, “Your turn.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“And why not?”
“I don’t want you to think badly of me.”
She rolled her eyes. “Like I don’t already know you’re a slut.”
“Y-You think I’m a slut?” I sputtered indignantly.
“Yeah, I do.”
“I’ll have you know my number isn’t over a hundred.”
“How comforting,” she mused.
Rising to my feet, I stalked over to the trashcan and tossed my beer bottle. “You know, the fact that I’m now a famous musician and have that low a number is pretty impressive. Your brother’s was off the charts.”
“Not surprising that Jake surpassed slut to reside into dirty whore territory.”
My anger dissipated, and I found myself laughing at the summation of her brother. After popping the top of my third beer, I sighed. “I think it’s time for a conversation change.”
“Sure. Just ones that don’t have anything to do with sex.”
“Sounds fair to me.” With a grin, she added, “Fire away.”
I thought about a safe question to ask her. “Okay, how old were you when you drank for the first time?”
“Sixteen—it was the champagne at my party.”
“Ah, I see.”
Allison’s eyes bulged. “Twelve? That’s just a baby.”
“It was just one drink. I didn’t start down an alcoholic path at that age.”
She giggled. “I’d hope not.” Taking another sip of her beer, she asked, “So where was it?”
“It was during a society party of my parents. I wanted to be like the older guys who were there. We’ve already established that I was a socially awkward misfit, so it should make total sense that I was being a dick to try and fit in. So when they dared me to drink a glass of Scotch, I downed it in one gulp.” I shuddered as the memory flickered through my mind. “I thought I was going to die. I think I ended up puking most of the night, and lying to my nanny that it was some stomach bug.”
Allison frowned. “You poor thing.”
I chuckled. “Nah, I deserved it. But it did teach me a lesson about trying to fit in with the older kids. From that point on, I didn’t give a shit about what they thought—I was really my own person.”
“Such a wise revelation to have for such a young person,” Allison mused.
Shaking my head, I replied, “Kids in my world grow up fast. When you’re shuttled away to boarding school practically as a baby, you learn to only rely on yourself. In the end, that’s all you have.”
When I looked up at Allison, tears shimmered like diamonds in her dark eyes. Trying to ease the tension of the moment, I laughed. “Okay, no more beers for you.”
“Sometimes you remind me so much of Jake.”