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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
After grabbing the baby monitor off the nightstand, she gave me a sincere smile. “I owe you a big thank you. I don’t think I could have survived without your help.”
“No need to thank me. I was glad to help,” I replied. After I grabbed my phone, I started out of the bedroom. Allison followed me out and then closed the door of Jake and Abby’s bedroom.
We stood there, staring at each other, both silently daring the other one to mention the white elephant in the room. After what felt like an eternity, neither one of us spoke up to acknowledge it. “Yeah, well, I’ll see you later,” I muttered before starting for the door.
When I reached for the doorknob, Allison’s voice caused me to freeze. “Rhys, wait.”
I whirled around. “What is it?”
Nibbling her lip, she appeared to be trying to find the right way to tell me something. Finally, she just blurted, “Eli has asked me out on a date. Alone.”
That motherfucker. It wasn’t enough he had dry-humped and kissed her last night on the dance floor, but now he was upping the ante by wanting to take her out to wine and dine her. Alone. Jake was going to love the hell out of that. At her expectant look, I knew I needed to get out of there before I betrayed any of my emotions. “Good for him. I hope you have a great time,” I replied, unable to contain my sarcasm.
“That’s all you have to say?” she asked, her expression one of betrayal.
I shrugged. “Were you looking for my permission or something? You told me last night I’m not Jake, so what does it matter to me what you do?”
Tears pooled in her eyes, causing me to feel like the biggest ass**le on the face of the earth. But of course, it didn’t make me man up and tell her how I felt about her. No, I was still letting myself be deluded into the notion that I was doing what was best for the both of us. While Jake wasn’t keen on the idea of Eli dating Allison, he would feel a hell of a lot different if it were me—his bandmate and brother.
“I just thought…” She shook her head. “Never mind.”
“You thought what?” I urged.
Her dark eyes took on a pleading expression as they bore into mine. “Regardless of how badly it ended last night, I don’t believe you could be so callous as to use me the way you did,” she replied, in a hushed whisper.
Seeing her trembling body, coupled with the haunted look in her eyes, broke me. I almost barreled right through the wall that I had so carefully constructed between us by ensuring her that she wasn’t wrong about last night. It had almost been my undoing.
And then at the most inopportune moment, a scene from my childhood flashed in my mind. It reiterated to me once and for all where my horrible sense of self-worth and self-esteem come from. I was sick and home from school—a seven-year-old boy who desperately wanted some of his mother’s love and attention. Peeking through the banister, I watched as her heels clicked along the marble floor as she headed out the door to some charity function. Just as she reached the door, I raced down the stairs to grab hold of her waist. “Stay with me, Mommy.”
Her venomous voice rang in my ears as if she were standing right in front of me. “Rhys, I told you earlier that I do not have time for you today! Go back to Trudie.” Desperately, I clung to her, but she shook me off as she always did. After all, I was always too much of a bother for her to pay any attention to. She stared down at my frail form. “Why can’t you do as you’re told? God, you’re almost as worthless as your sister!”
I had barely been able to make out her face through the blur of my tears. “Don’t you love me, Mommy?” I had asked in a soft voice.
“I could love you more if you weren’t such a nuisance.”
That day my mother had once again broke my already fragile heart into even more unfixable pieces. I toughened up after that, but the hurt was always there. With such a loveless past, how was it possible that I could ever give Allison all that she needed? No, I had to stay strong. I had to keep my true feelings concealed. As much as I wanted to, I could not give in. I had to drive her away once and for all.
Crossing my arms over my shoulder, I asked, “So you were thinking that having angry sex in a club bathroom was supposed to have some underlying meaning besides just f**king?”
A lone tear streaked down her cheek. When she raised her hand, I thought she might slap me—I sure as hell deserved it—but instead, she used it to swipe the tear away. “You can say what you want to save face, Rhys, but I know you better than that. It may have started out as ownership, or just sex, but you wanted to kiss me. You wanted me just as much as you had three months ago.”
“Keep telling yourself that, little girl.”
Her face crumpled, and she turned and fled to her bedroom. When the door slammed behind her, I jumped. Her sobs filled the air around me, piercing through my chest like knives. I wished for the moment that she was more like Abby and Mia—that she had verbally berated me for the bastard I was. But no, tears were worse, especially for a girl…or woman like Allison.
Unable to stand the sound of her cries any longer, I fled from Jake and Abby’s suite. I bypassed my room and kept stalking down the hallway. When I got to the elevator, I hit the button for the lobby. Once I got downstairs, I headed straight for the revolving doors that took me out into the city.
Then I began to walk aimlessly up and down the streets. I stopped for coffee and something to eat at a small diner. But no matter how long or how far I walked, one thing was still true. Once again, I’d behaved like an utter ass**le to Allison—a far cry from the gentleman I’d been raised to be. After all, it was only the best for Mommy and Daddy Dearest. But worse than the despicable things I’d said was the fact I’d lied to her. Again. Why the f**k did I keep doing that?