Reckless In Love
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“Heat. Flames. Ash.” She opened her eyes and looked at him as he said, “It all fits you. Fits you perfectly.”
She licked her lips, and he couldn’t stop his gaze from dropping again to the damp flesh. Her breathing hitched in her chest, and the very thin thread still holding his self-control together snapped. But when he was halfway to reaching for her to drag her against him so that he could devour her mouth, he looked into her eyes...and saw the panic in them.
Damn it, the last thing he wanted to do was scare her. Especially after he’d promised her last night that he would be a perfect gentleman. Stealing a kiss from her today wasn’t just breaking his promise to her father—it was breaking his promise to her.
“Maybe,” he made himself say, “we should head back before James starts freaking out.”
* * *
For the rest of the day, Drew continually reminded himself that he needed to rein in his attraction to Ashley. But every time she laughed—or so much as looked him in the eye—he had a harder and harder time remembering why. She drew him in as no other woman ever had. Not only physically, but also because she got him and his music on a really deep level.
By the time he strode on stage that night, he was more than ready to burn off his pent-up energy. They went five songs over, not just because the crowd was great, but also because he knew what awaited him when he got offstage was another night alone on his bus with Ashley. Trying to stay away. Trying not to kiss. Not to touch. Not to devour every beautiful inch of her.
But even if it was nearly killing him to keep his hands off her, he couldn’t have put her in with his crew. She was too fresh, too gentle. He didn’t want to risk anyone taking that away from her.
And when he played “One More Time” for the second time, he didn’t just play it for his mom. He played it for Ashley, too.
“Great job tonight, guys,” he told his band before he headed off to the meet-and-greet room.
James handed him a towel as they walked down the long backstage hallway. “You seemed closer to your old self out there tonight. Got something you’re trying to work out of your system?”
Drew could guess his bodyguard knew damn well exactly who he was trying to work out of his system. But it was clearly a rhetorical question, because James followed it up with the piece of information that Drew needed most.
“Ashley is already in the meet-and-greet room with Max.”
“Thanks for keeping watch over her.” He’d already made it perfectly clear, more than once, to his entire staff that both Drew and her father would kill them all if anything happened to her.
“My pleasure. She’s smart, pretty, and has a big heart. I’m glad she’s joined us.”
They were the same things Drew had been thinking—or, rather, trying not to think about.
Then again, there were a lot of things he was trying not to think about: his mom being gone and his dad being a wreck; the fact that not only could he not write a song worth a damn anymore, but also how he felt like he was faking it more and more every night on stage; how Smith Sullivan was waiting for him to deliver a great soundtrack for his new movie soon and had no idea that Drew had a grand total of zero good songs for it so far; and the meeting he’d be having with the label the following morning, where they were sure to drag out the golden handcuffs again.
Chief Records had sent cardboard cutouts of him to stores with the last album. More and more, he felt like that was what he was becoming—a cardboard cutout of himself. A guy playing the role of Drew Morrison for the crowds, for the press. Even with his family and friends.
Only with Ashley in the desert today had he felt a little bit like himself again. At the very least, he’d finally been honest about some of the pain of losing his mom. But even then, he’d made sure not to go too far by admitting that ever since the moment his mom had become so sick that they knew she was never going to recover, his songwriting had left him as if it had never been there in the first place.
He hadn’t told her that even the way he heard music now seemed to have changed—that what used to move him no longer did, and that now it was almost like he was hearing entirely different tonal patterns in his head.
And he hadn’t admitted that sometimes he just felt like getting on a horse like he had in Australia and going walkabout...only this time he wouldn’t come back and get on another stage, wouldn’t play the same songs everyone wanted to hear, because he couldn’t. Because he didn’t feel like the same guy anymore.
Because he wasn’t even sure who the hell he was anymore.
“Drew.” He felt James’s hand on his arm. “You okay?”
But he stuffed the silent answer down as quickly as it had bubbled up. “I’m good.” He’d been raised never to lie, but over and over during the past year that was exactly what he’d been doing. Again and again until it should have gotten easier just to keep telling those lies. Instead, though, it had only gotten harder.
Ashley, he thought as he quickened his pace down the hall. He wanted to see her. He needed to see her. Today she’d made everything matter again, at least for a little while. Just knowing she’d be there in the meet-and-greet room made his heart beat a little faster.