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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
“I can’t believe I ever took you for such a smart man, Rhys,” Allison snapped.
Running my hands over my face, I shook my head. How in the hell had this happened? We’d just been hanging out and having fun—I wasn’t sure how she had taken it differently. “God, how did I not see it for all those years?” As my mind whirled with thoughts, I wondered if I had just been ignoring all the signs that were already there. I’d never had a girl that was just a friend. All these years, I’d treated Allison as a little sister. Somehow in the last three weeks, our relationship had changed into one of intense friendship. At the same time, I had to wonder if I’d been deluding myself. Was what I was feeling for Allison more than just friendship? Sure, considering how gorgeous and sexy she was, it wasn’t hard to be attracted to her physically. But it was the emotional aspect of my attraction that I was worried about.
After exhaling a ragged breath, Allison said, “I’ve waited and tried to be patient. I thought once I was of age, you would be able to see me differently. And then when that didn’t happen, I almost gave up hope that we could ever be together. But no matter who I was with or where you were in the world, that little flicker of love I felt for you never extinguished. Then you came to see me, and we had the most perfect last few weeks together.” Tears streaked down her cheeks, causing my chest to clench in anguish. “But all that was for nothing because you’re standing before me now saying that you feel nothing for me.”
“That’s not true. I do care about you very, very much.”
“Yeah, as a sister or a friend. But do you care for me as someone different? A girlfriend or a lover?”
Even if I was beginning to feel more for her than I should, there was no way I could ever allow myself to date Allison. Jake would never allow or accept it. The band could implode under the stress and tension. There was also the fact that I didn’t do relationships anymore—I wanted my freedom, not to be tied down. Allison wasn’t the type of girl who became a f**k buddy. She was the hearts and flowers kind of girl, the hopeless romantic, who was waiting for her Prince Charming. We were at an impasse, and when it came down to it, there was really no future for us. “Allison,” I began in an even voice, “what you’re feeling for me isn’t real.”
Sweeping her hands to her hips, she angrily questioned, “It isn’t? Then pray tell me exactly what it is.”
Never being good at talking about my emotions, I found it hard to try to put into words what I meant. “Infatuation…a crush. All these years you just thought you were in love with me because you had a false sense of who I was. I was the older guy who was off limits. It’s romantic wish fulfillment.”
There it was—the honest truth. Logical. Intelligent. Allison was still too young to really understand love. Hell, I didn’t even understand it. No, this was the right path to take.
“That is the worst bullshit I’ve ever heard! How dare you tell me how I feel? I know what I’ve felt for you Rhys, and it’s love. Now if you’re too chicken shit to admit that you feel something for me, then fine. That’s how we’ll leave things between us. But don’t you ever tell me that I don’t know what love is.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just trying to find the right things to say to you.”
“The right things to let me down easy? The right way to put the sad, confused little girl out of her misery?”
She shook her head. “Why? Why can’t you be honest with me? Why can’t you be honest with yourself?”
“I am being honest,” I argued feebly.
“So in your warped frame of mind, last night was just a mistake? It wasn’t an amazing connection between two people who care for each other?”
“We can’t get caught up with what happened last night. Yes, the sex was amazing and it was an incredible time, but we were wasted. We have to think about Jake and everyone else. Whatever this is between us, it has to stop. Too much is at stake for us just to throw it all away because of a drunken night.”
Her hand swept to her throat as a strangled cry escaped her lips. Once again, tears began flowing down her cheeks. “Okay then, I’ll put it all behind me. We’ll go on like this never happened. If that’s what you think is best.”
“I’m sorry, but I really do. It’ll be fine in the end, you’ll see. We’ll be able to be friends just like nothing happened.”
She gave a quick jerk of her head. “I’ll just try not to think each and every time I see you that you’re the man who didn’t just break my heart—you shattered it.”
I didn’t anticipate her next move. Wrapping her arms around my neck, she dipped my head down to where she could kiss me. Her lips tasted salty from the tears she’d been shedding. And as the fading thought of her lips left my mind, it was like every molecule in my body jolted, causing me to shudder. The years melted away to another time when I had felt the same way as I kissed Allison. In the moment itself and over the years, I’d denied the feelings I’d experienced with a sixteen-year-old Allison in my arms. But here I was experiencing the exact same reaction again to kissing her.
In that instant, I knew I had been deceiving myself for the past three weeks. I hadn’t been just hanging out and having fun with Allison. She had been getting under my skin. I’d slowly been falling for her. But all along, I’d been lying to myself. I’d wanted someone as beautiful, talented, and kind-hearted as she was to care for me on a deeper level. And now that I had it, I was throwing it away. But it really was the only choice I had to keep the peace with Jake. Allison was young—too young to really know what she wanted. When she matured on her, she would realize I was the last person she could truly love. She would come to believe, as I did now, that she deserved far better. Because I sure as hell knew I didn’t deserve her. She was too precious with too much of a bright future ahead of her to be saddled with someone like me. In that moment, I would have given anything to have stayed with my arms around her, with her sweet, soft lips on mine, but it just wasn’t meant to be.