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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
“Really?” Jake asked, his brows rising in surprise.
“Yes. Runaway Train is the only true family he has, and he didn’t want to do anything to risk it, even if it meant throwing away his own happiness and mine to keep the peace.”
Running his hand through his hair, Jake gave a ragged sigh. “I had no idea.”
“No, you’ve been too much of a stubborn ass to see anything past your own feelings,” I replied.
Jake’s eyes momentarily bulged. “Hey now.”
Cocking my head at him, I gave him a tentative smile. “It’s the truth on some level, and you know it.”
With a sheepish expression, Jake said, “Yeah, I guess it is. You know me too well, Allie-Bean.” He then glanced down at his hands and sighed raggedly. “Hell, I knew Rhys’s home life was f**ked up, but I had no idea how strongly he needed the band. Not only do I feel terrible about hitting him, but I feel like a huge ass for all of the horrible things I said to him. The truth is he’s never been like me in the way he treated women. I shouldn’t have called him out for behavior that wasn’t really his. It’s just hard to think any man would ever be f**king good enough for my baby sister, Allie-Bean.”
“All you have to do to make it right is apologize.” When Jake gave a frustrated grunt, I brought my hand to his cheek. “Rhys isn’t the type of guy to hold a grudge. The most important thing in his life is harmony between those he loves. You can make things right because you love him and because you love me.”
Jake brought his gaze to mine. “Fine. I’ll f**king apologize, okay?” he growled.
“Can you work on your tone a little before you try?” I teasingly asked. He plastered on a hideous fake smile. “Well, that is truly frightening.”
He chuckled. “You’re really busting my balls, kiddo.”
I grinned. “Just go easy on Rhys, okay?”
Jake nodded. “For you, I will.”
“Don’t just do it for me. Do it because of your love for him. He’s your family.”
Rolling his eyes, Jake gripped my waist and then set me on my feet. “Fine, fine. I’ll get all mushy and sentimental and do it for our—” he paused to make air quotes, “bromance. How’s that?”
Motioning to the door, he said, “Go send him in.”
Although I felt like everything was good between us, I was still a little scared to have Jake talk with Rhys. “Alone?”
“Yesss,” Jake hissed, as if he couldn’t believe I doubted his ability to be civil.
“Okay, okay,” I replied, heading for the door. Peeking my head out into the hallway, I saw Rhys pacing back and forth. It warmed my heart to see that he had stayed relatively close in case things went bad. “Rhys?” I called.
His head snapped up, and he whirled around to stare expectantly at me. “Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine. Jake’s ready to talk to you now.”
Rhys’s brows shot up. “Really?”
I nodded as he exhaled his breath in one long whoosh. As he strode up to me, he gave a shaky smile. His being nervous would have been quite comical if I hadn’t been so apprehensive myself. “So should I be worried about more bodily harm?”
With a laugh, I replied, “No, I think you’re okay.”
“And we’re okay?”
He leaned in and gave me a tender kiss. “I’m glad to hear that.”
I was almost too overwhelmed with emotions to respond. I felt like pinching myself to make sure this was really happening. It felt too good to be true. With a gentle nudge, I pointed Rhys in the direction of the doorway. “Go on, face the music, and get it over with.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, before giving me a mock salute.
After he disappeared inside the room and shut the door behind him, I couldn’t help saying a prayer that everything would finally be right between us—and that meant all of us.
While I tried masking my nerves about Jake in front of Allison, I was still a basket case inside. Sure, I had made my argument and stood my ground, but there was still a pansy-ass part of me that dreaded facing Jake. Somehow I couldn’t help being a little apprehensive about actually sitting down with him to talk man to man about what I had done. Throwing back my shoulders, I gave Allison a reassuring smile. Then I took in a deep breath, bit the bullet, and headed inside the room.
When I shut the door, Jake raised his brows at me and then winced in pain. “You look like hell,” he mumbled, as he rubbed his forehead.
“Yeah, some crazy f**ker punched me,” I replied, with a wry smile.
The corners of Jake’s lips turned up a little. “Guess we’re going to give Darla a run for her money in the makeup chair tonight, huh?”
“Yeah, I think she’s going be pretty pissed at us.”
“Have a seat,” he said, motioning to the couch across from him.
After I eased down onto the sofa, I glanced expectantly at him. “Your right hook is pretty intense,” I said, trying to ease the tension that hung heavily in the air.
Jake chuckled as he flexed his fingers. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had to throw a punch. I wasn’t sure I still had it in me.”
“So glad I could help get you back in the ring.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Jake replied.