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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
Jake smacked the back of his head. “Ow!” Eli cried.
“Watch what you say to my sister,” Jake muttered through gritted teeth.
“Honestly, Jake, I’m almost twenty-one, not twelve,” I countered.
“You’ll always be my baby sister, even when you’re eighty.”
“And you’re ninety and dead?” Eli questioned.
“Shut up,” Jake replied, which caused me to giggle. Jake then jerked his gaze over his shoulder to Rhys. “Anything else I need to know about that happened when you two were together in Savannah?”
His question caused a shudder to run through me. Rhys threw a quick glance at me before fixing his gaze on Jake. A nervous laugh escaped his lips. “Nothing else besides some touristy stuff I dragged Allison to.”
Jake snickered. “Guess you’re still a history nerd, huh?”
“Yeah, he is,” I quickly replied.
After Jake seemed appeased with our responses, he, Abby, and Eli began to run through the merits of my performance. But I tuned them out. All I could do was stare at Rhys. Even when he met my gaze and held it, I couldn’t look away. I didn’t care what he thought about me staring at him—I enjoyed even the smallest of connections with him. And while my chest clenched with the agony of how I should abandon my feelings for him, I once again wished that somehow or some way things could be different between us.
After leaving Omaha in the night, we pulled into Cheyenne, Wyoming just as the sun had begun to rise outside my window. After grabbing a quick shower, I headed into the kitchen. Outfitted in only his boxer shorts, Jake stood in front of the counter mixing up baby cereal while Abby sat at the table holding the wailing twins. “Morning,” I said, over Jax and Jules’s cries.
“Morning,” Jake mumbled.
Nudging him out of the way with my hip, I said, “Here. I’ll finish this. You get their bottles.”
Jake nodded and then pivoted over to the fridge. I’d prepared their bottles for several feedings the night before. He popped them in the microwave, and when it dinged off, he sprinkled formula on his arm to test it. As I was sucking up the cereal into one of the feeders, Jake was taking Jules into his arms and handing Abby a bottle. Once the twins had their formula, they quieted instantly.
I brought the feeders over to the table. “Can you take her, Allie-Bean? I’ve got to get the musical arrangement for the new song from Brayden.”
“Sure.” Jake passed Jules over to me before I eased down at the table. He then hurried back to the bedroom to throw on some clothes. When he returned, he kissed Abby and then each of the twins. After he was gone, Abby and I made small talk as the twins finished their bottles.
As I started bringing the feeder of cereal to Jules’s open and waiting mouth, the faint sound of a strumming guitar drew my attention to the window. I glanced across the table at Abby. “Do you hear that?”
She nodded. “Eli must be practicing pretty loud for it to come through the bus like that.”
Once Jules was sucking heartily, the music continued growing louder and louder. I rose up and peered out the glass. Balancing Jules on one hip, I used my other hand to pull up the blinds and open the window. I gasped at the sight of Eli strolling down the alley between the buses, playing the melody to James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful. When he got in front of the window, he grinned up at me and began to sing. “I saw an angel, of that I’m sure.”
Warmth spread through my cheeks. Just the night before after Jacob’s Ladder’s show, he’d caught me in the dressing room singing along to the song on the radio while giving Jax and Jules their bedtime bottles. Shaking his head in mock disgust, he’d questioned, “Don’t tell me you actually like that shit?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I do. I like all of his songs. Same Mistake and Goodbye My Lover are some of my favorites, too.”
Eli had rolled his eyes as he plopped down on the sofa next to me. After taking Jax into his arms to help me out, he said, “Blunt’s a mediocre songwriter at best, not to mention a dick who cheats on women.”
Cocking my head, I had countered, “You know an awfully lot about a guy whose music you hate.”
He had shrugged. “I know my music.”
“Whatever,” I had muttered.
“Regardless of the shitty song, I didn’t realize you could sing.”
Eli grinned. “Don’t be modest.”
“Modesty is something your egocentric self might find beneficial,” I teased.
With his free hand, he scratched his chin. “Hmm, I’ll give it some thought.”
Abby had then appeared, and we had started to the bus to get Jax and Jules down to sleep. Now I couldn’t believe Eli was standing before me singing. Pausing in the song, he threw up his arms and cried, “There she is! The beautiful angel who haunts my waking thoughts!” Wagging his eyebrows, he added, “Mmm and maybe some of my naughty dreams.”
I burst out laughing at his declaration. “The only angel I know is your sister and the dog, and I’m not sure why you’re out here singing to her…or having naughty dreams about her. Wait, is it furry Angel you’re hot for because I could get her for you?” At the mention of her name, Angel barked and wagged her tail.
“You’re breaking my heart,” he said.
Abby joined me at the window. “Eli, what in the world are you doing? It’s barely eight a.m.”