Reckless In Love
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“I knew she was going to go soon. We all did. But even though we knew we were saying good-bye, we all broke.”
“Drew.” Ashley slipped her hand from his and wrapped both of her arms around his waist as she pulled him close.
She wasn’t only his lifeline now. She was his strength, too.
“Grant just kept swearing. Dad and Madison couldn’t stop crying. Justin kept wanting to hit buttons on the machines all around her, as if science could save her. Olivia went so silent it was scary. Sean looked like he was on the verge of breaking down a wall to get out of there.”
“What about you?” She didn’t let go of him as she asked the question, just held him so tightly that the words coming from her chest vibrated through his. “What did you do?”
“I nearly slammed my guitar into the ground, but Olivia took it away from me before I could destroy it. I wrote ‘One More Time’ that day.”
“It’s the most beautiful song, Drew. She would have loved it.”
“I didn’t mean to write it,” he admitted in a low voice, “but I couldn’t stop the words or melody from coming out. And I didn’t mean to play it for anyone either. But last night...last night it felt like she was there. Like she really was listen—” The word broke in half as the tears he hadn’t been able to cry since his mom died finally broke through the wall of pain he’d built around them. “I miss my mom so much. So damned much, every single day.”
Ashley didn’t say anything, didn’t tell him that one day the pain would go away, didn’t make promises about time healing wounds. She simply pressed her face into his chest and held him even tighter—and it was exactly what he needed.
She was exactly what he needed.
Ashley never wanted to let go of Drew. But as soon as she felt the tension slide from his body, she made herself loosen her hold and step back so that they could continue their hike.
“I’ve never told anyone that before,” he said after a few minutes of silently walking through the sand, side by side.
He’d never know how much it meant to her that he’d felt safe enough to share so much of himself. “I won’t tell a soul.”
“I know you won’t. You would never betray anyone’s trust, would never hurt anyone, would you, Ashley?”
“I hope I never do.”
When she’d been thinking about going on tour with Drew, she thought she’d only be granted access to him periodically between interviews and shows. She hadn’t thought she’d get to spend so much time with him. And the truth was that if she had, she would have been even more nervous. Because when someone had as big a crush as she did—seriously, at this point, she was just going to have to own up to it already—every time he looked at her the way he was right now, she went from zero to a million on the flustered scale.
“Your brothers and sisters all sound really great. I know about Grant’s business prowess already, and Sean plays baseball at Stanford, right?”
“He’s actually focusing more on photography now. I’m hoping I can convince him to take the pictures for my next album.”
“That would be amazing. And if you could convince Grant to open a record label one day, you’d not only get to work on everything with your family, but you could also put whatever pictures you want in your liner notes.”
“You know what,” he said as his gaze sharpened on her, “Grant would probably run one hell of a label. I always figured the admissions people at the biz school had to know what they were doing, but if they turned you down, I’m not so sure they do.”
Ashley couldn’t ever remember a man looking at her the way Drew did. As though she was special. Feeling flustered by the attention, she quickly said, “You have three other siblings, don’t you?”
His lips quirked up slightly at the corners as if he knew exactly what she was doing—redirecting the focus from her back to his family. “Olivia is going to graduate school for education in the fall. She’s the most serious one of all of us. Justin is Sean’s twin, but they’re not much alike. Justin’s a science genius and is usually locked away in a lab, also at Stanford. And then there’s Madison.” He grinned. “She’s a bundle of energy. She wants to open a restaurant one day and be a chef and is always giving people something to taste-test. They’re all coming for my birthday next week when we get to New Orleans.”
“Your family sounds amazing. I can’t wait to meet them.” She paused for a moment before realizing he hadn’t said anything about his father. “How’s your dad doing?”
“He’s pretty much a shell of himself now. My mom was everything to him—his sun, moon, and stars.” He stared out into the desert. “I’ve often wondered if they were the exception.” He looked back into her eyes. “Or is it possible for the rest of us to find a love that strong? That pure?”
When he looked at her like that—with such dark, deep intensity—she forgot how to think, how to speak. How to do anything but feel. And in the end, all she was able to say was, “I don’t know.”
But, oh, how a secret part of her wished that there were a love like that waiting out there for all of them...even though her experience with her own parents had left her with a deep core of cynicism.
“Do you have any siblings?” he asked.