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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
Pointing up the hallway, Rhys said, “The first room on the right is the ballroom. That’s where the music is coming from and where most of the party guests are. The doors open to a veranda.”
I widened my eyes. “You have a ballroom?”
He shrugged as if it was the most normal thing in the world to have a ballroom. “We also have a study, library, and a billiard room, just like in Clue.”
A nervous giggle escaped my lips. “You do?”
“It was fun growing up with such a big house to explore, but now it seems a bit pretentious.”
Inwardly, I agreed with him. I’d never been comfortable with over-the-top expressions of wealth. While my parents made good money, we lived rather modestly compared to a lot of their friends. I was thankful that when Runaway Train took off, Jake stayed very true to his roots, which meant staying at the farm he grew up on. “I never knew you were this rich.”
Rhys shook his head. “Just remember, this is my parents’ world—it isn’t mine. It never has been, nor will it ever be.”
“I’ll try,” I murmured, as Rhys swept me into a room to the left. This must have been the formal living room. It was heavy on the formal part with chandeliers, Persian rugs, and ornate furniture. It certainly wasn’t the type of living room where you kicked off your shoes and watched TV.
“Rhys darling, there you are,” Margaret called from the corner of the room. She, and who I assumed was Rhys’s father, was talking with another couple. As we approached, the couple excused themselves, and then it was just the four of us.
“Mother, I believe you have had the pleasure, but Father, please allow me to introduce to you, Allison Slater.”
Rhys’s father’s dark eyes narrowed slightly at me as he took a puff of a foul-smelling cigar. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Slater. I’m Elliot McGowan,” he said, extending a hand. Just like Rhys, he was outfitted in a blue and green checked kilt.
As I shook his hand, I quickly replied, “It’s a pleasure meeting you too, sir.”
“I understand you’re here in Savannah for school.”
“Yes, sir. I attend the Savannah College of Art and Design.”
“And what exactly do you plan to do with your degree?”
At his father’s obvious lack of enthusiasm for my major, Rhys cleared his throat. “Allison’s just been accepted for a very prestigious internship.”
I smiled. “Rhys flatters me, but I will be fulfilling my internship while out on tour with his band.”
Margaret made a strangled noise beside me. When I turned to her, she asked, “So you and Rhys will be spending a lot of time together?”
With a nod, I replied, “Yes, just for the summer. I’ll pick up classes again in the fall.”
“I see,” she said, not bothering to hide her disdain.
Craning his neck around the room, Rhys asked, “Where’s Ellie?”
Margaret immediately stiffened before exchanging a glance with Elliot. “Tonight just isn’t the place for Eleanor,” Elliot replied.
Rhys’s pleasant expression instantly darkened. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
A nervous titter escaped Margaret’s lips as she gave a flippant wave of her hand. “You know your sister’s limitations. A crowded party full of strange people isn’t the place for her.”
“What you mean to say is, it’s the perfect place for you to be embarrassed by your own daughter?”
“Rhys, you may be a grown adult, but I will not have you speak to your mother with that tone,” Elliot warned.
Shaking his head, Rhys questioned bitterly, “I don’t know why I’m even surprised. Is she even here, or did you keep her as far away as possible by having her stay at the Brandewine Institute?”
“She is here, just like she is every weekend. She just will not be attending the party.”
“You two really disgust me sometimes,” Rhys bellowed, before he turned and strode determinedly out of the room.
I exchanged a horrified glance with Rhys’s parents. “Excuse me,” I said, before hightailing after him. When I got back into the foyer, I glanced left and right to see where Rhys had gone. I heard a door slam in the back, so I raced as best I could in my heels and dress to catch up with him.
As I got outside, I saw him stalking across the garden area. “Rhys, wait!” I called.
He froze. He still hadn’t turned around by the time I got to him. Instead, his broad shoulders were drawn, his head tucked into his chest. Tentatively, I reached my hand out to touch his arm. Words seemed to escape me. There was obviously a sordid history about Rhys’s younger sister that I wasn’t privy to—one that hurt him very deeply. “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
Rhys turned his head to look at me. “There’s nothing you need to apologize for. It’s my f**king parents and their bullshit way of thinking.”
My hand rubbed up and down his arm. “I’m still sorry they upset you. It’s obvious that you love your sister, and that you don’t want to see her mistreated.”
“I do love her.” Rhys’s shoulders slumped farther. “Sometimes I think I’m the only one who does.”
“Then let’s go see her. I’m sure she wants to spend time with you.”
With a slight nod of his head, Rhys started toward the front door of the carriage house. His hand hovered over the ornate door knocker before he pulled it back. “Allison, before you meet her, I guess I need to explain about Ellie.”