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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
Jake’s dark eyes widened in shock as he stared at me. AJ and Brayden once again stepped up to form a protective arc around Rhys. When Jake’s glare turned icy, they should have been standing in front of me. After a few seconds of silence, he finally spoke.
“You know what? I call bullshit. You’re just a twenty-year-old kid—you don’t know anything about love,” he snarled.
My tears dried up with my anger at Jake dismissing my feelings. “How dare you stand there and try to tell me what I feel! I know what love is. And I love him!” I said pointing at Rhys. “No matter what you do, you can’t stop the way I feel about him.”
Before Jake could say anything else, Rhys broke past AJ and Brayden to stand by me. Widening my eyes, I stared at him with disbelief as he took my hand in his. After bringing it to his mouth and tenderly kissing it, he said, “You can’t deny us being together. Someday I plan on marrying her.”
Wheezing out the breath I’d been holding, I struggled to keep my emotions in check at hearing Rhys voice his intense feelings for me in front of everyone.
Cocking his brows, Jake skeptically questioned, “You really do?”
Rhys smiled and squeezed my hand. “Yeah, I really do.”
Just when I thought I couldn’t get any happier, Jake crushed me. “Yeah, well, f**k that. Allison, you’re still out of here on the next plane.”
“But I don’t want to go.”
Jake held up a hand to silence me before closing his eyes in pain. “Don’t you get it? Even when it’s all said and done, I can barely look at you right now. Seeing you like that with him…” His eyes popped open, and he shook his head. “You broke my heart.”
“I’m sorry, Jake. I’m so sorry you feel that way, but as much as you want to, you can’t send me away. I’m a grown woman, and I can make my own decisions.”
“Then how’s this? You’re fired as our nanny and from the internship,” he seethed.
I hated myself for showing weakness when tears filled my eyes at his venomous words. “You don’t mean that,” I protested feebly.
“No, he doesn’t,” a voice came from the doorway. I swiveled around to see Abby standing with Eli and Gabe. With her arms crossed over her chest, she gave Jake a glare that could curl paint off the wall.
“This is not your concern,” he snapped.
She cocked her head at him. “Excuse me? While I may not be able to call the shots when it comes to Runaway Train, I sure as hell get to make the choice of who takes care of my children.”
“Abby—” Jake growled, his jaw clenching and unclenching.
Stalking across the room, she threw a hand up in front of his face. “Oh, hell no. This is not how you are going to handle this situation. I’m going to give you time to cool off and get your wits about you, and then you and Allison or you and Rhys are going to sit down and talk about this like a civilized human being would. I will not allow you to kick your baby sister—a sister you love and adore more than life itself—to the curb just because of something you’re not happy about.” As Jake’s chest rose and fell in angry pants, Abby shocked me by reaching up to cup his cheeks in her hand. “Just for a minute, I want you to think about how my brothers could have reacted to us. I was only a year older than Allison when we got together.”
“Your brothers were not my bandmates. We didn’t have a f**king bond and code that went back for years,” Jake hissed, cutting his eyes to Rhys.
Rhys exhaled an agonized sigh. “I’m sorry, man. I really am. I never meant to do anything to hurt you or our friendship,” Rhys said. He glanced over at me. “I never expected to fall in love with Allison, and when I did, I tried everything I could not to give in to my feelings.” Rhys’s expression turned apologetic. “In the process of trying to deny what I felt, I hurt Allison pretty badly. At the end of the day, her happiness—our happiness—mattered more than what you would think or do.”
“Yeah, well, how f**king long have you been lying to me?” Jake demanded.
Narrowing his eyes, Rhys replied, “Trust me, I’ve been lying to myself for much longer. If I was to be truthful, I think I first fell for Allison the night of her Sweet Sixteen when she asked me to kiss her.”
Jake’s mouth flopped open and close like a fish out of water gasping for air. Then he jerked his hands through his hair. “Since she was sixteen?”
“Well, not exactly—” Rhys started, but then Jake lunged at him. Brayden and AJ barreled forward and kept Jake from trying to hit Rhys again.
“Enough!” Abby shrieked. She then took Jake by the bicep and started dragging him from the room.
“Don’t shuffle me out of her like some punk-ass kid!” Jake growled.
“Then stop acting like one!” Abby countered.
Jake glared at her for a moment before his expression softened. “Babe, the only reason I’m letting you treat me this way is because I love you more than life itself.”
Abby sighed. “I know you do. But I’m just trying not to let you something you’ll regret.” When they got to the doorway, she glanced at us over her shoulder. “When he’s ready to act human again, I’ll come for you.” Then the door slammed behind her.
“Motherfucking hell,” Rhys muttered, before he sank down on the couch. He buried his head in his hands. I eased down beside him, rubbing his back in wide circles. When I glanced up, AJ and Brayden were staring curiously at us.