Reckless In Love
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“Two years. I worked for a real piece of work right before him. Can’t name any names, but let’s just say I’d be happy never to hear the song ‘Love Robot’ again.”
Her eyes widened before she could stop them. James had been Cal Sextin’s bodyguard? She’d never been a huge fan of his music, but he was a big star with a string of hits that stretched back at least a decade.
“When I couldn’t take it anymore, I asked around, and Nicola Sullivan—you probably know her by her stage name, Nico—who I’d done some work for here and there, gave me a reference for Drew. I owe her.”
“Wow, it sounds like you’ve worked with tons of famous people. How long have you been a bodyguard?”
“I’m sure you must have a ton of incredible stories.”
“I sure do.”
She was riveted, despite knowing she’d moved way beyond research and was solely in the personal interest zone. “Tell me one, James. About Drew.”
He didn’t look particularly surprised by her request. “One night about a year ago, Drew was feeling a little...well...antsy is probably the best word for it. Just tired of being on the bus and under pressure, you know.”
“I’m sure that must happen a lot,” she mused aloud. After only one night in the really nice tour bus, she could imagine how small it could come to feel. “Especially when it’s hard even to do things like walk into an airport without calling security first.”
“I should have been there at the airport with you guys,” James said with a frown. “Anyway, we were out in the middle of the Australian Outback, and he decided to get a horse and go riding for the day. I can’t ride, so I didn’t go with him. And none of the other guys could keep up. When he didn’t show up at the hotel five hours later, we knew something was up. No cell reception out there, of course, so we got in a Jeep and headed out into the wild, praying nothing had happened to him. I was picturing broken bones and snakes and rabid red kangaroos gnawing at his flesh.”
Even though she knew Drew had obviously gotten back safe and sound, she was still riveted. “What happened, James? Where was he?”
“Turned out he’d been spotted by a couple of teenage girls on their horses doing their chores. They knew exactly who he was, of course.”
“Even in the middle of the Outback, he couldn’t escape his fame.”
“Nope. Although I think there were plenty of other things he was trying to escape that day,” James added in a low tone, and Ashley finally realized the timing worked out to be right around when Drew’s mother had passed away. “He’d been helping the girls and the rest of their siblings fix fences all day. Fit right in, just like he’d been born and raised working on an Outback ranch. Took some ugly threats to drag him back to town that night so he could play his show. It’s the only time he’s ever gone on late. And it was also the last time I ever let him out of my sight on a horse.”
Just then Drew walked out of the radio station, before she had enough time to put her heart back together from the story she’d just heard. She knew what it was like to want to ride off on a horse into the desert and never come back. She’d felt that way so many times when her parents were splitting up. But riding away hadn’t saved her.
Only Drew’s music had been able to do that.
The expression on Ashley’s face when Drew stepped out of the radio station—a cross between heartbreak and hope—hit him square in the chest. He knew that feeling. Hell, sometimes he felt like he’d invented it, loving so hard and hurting so much at exactly the same time.
“Ashley?” He quickly moved to her side and didn’t think before putting his hand beneath her chin to tip her beautiful face up to his. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head, so fast that she blurred in front of him for a second. But when she licked her lips, he lost his focus on everything but how much he wanted to kiss her. More than he’d ever wanted anything.
“Nothing.” She put a smile on her lips that didn’t reach her eyes. “James was just telling me some stories for my research.”
What kind of stories could they be to make her look the way she had when he’d walked out? But he never got a chance to ask her, because his bodyguard got off the phone and said, “A big crowd has assembled out front. Do you want to go out the back?”
Drew was tempted to escape without being seen, simply because then he could return his focus to Ashley. But early on in his career, he’d promised himself he’d always be there for his fans the way they’d always been there for him. Plus, in his lowest moments, playing for them had given him a reason to get up in the morning.
“Nope, let’s go say hello to the fans.”
James nodded. “I figured you’d say that, so I’ve got a local security crew already waiting downstairs.”
“Make sure to write down in your notes that James is the best security director in the business,” Drew told Ashley.
“I already have,” she said with a smile that knocked Drew’s heart around in his chest like a pinball.
“Do you want to head out the back? Max could take you down.”