Reckless In Love
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She tried to center herself and steady everything that had just gone so topsy-turvy. She knew from reading all those science journals that a good song could trigger a cascade of involuntary physical and emotional responses. That had to be why she’d reacted so emotionally, right? Plus, she wasn’t used to being around so many people who had so few inhibitions.
From the first moment she’d set foot inside the venue, just as she’d thought, she stuck out. Her hair was too neat. Her clothes were too plain. Her shoes were too flat. And her makeup was too—well, nonexistent. The women in Drew’s audience were openly sexual, both in the way they dressed and in how they danced. And the truth was that at the same time as she felt out of place, Ashley envied them a little bit for the way they owned their sexuality. As if it were something not only perfectly natural, but also wonderful.
But when the girl next to her sniffled and said, “Isn’t he amazing? When I listen to his songs, I feel like I can do anything,” Ashley was surprised to realize she didn’t feel like a total outsider anymore. Drew’s music had brought all of them together. And even if the moment they stepped out onto the sidewalk they reverted back to their normal roles, at least for a couple of hours they’d all shared the exact same urge to dance and sing along and even cry.
The lights suddenly blazed back on in a kaleidoscope of colors that had everyone cheering just as Drew launched into “Wild,” his biggest hit to date. And even though she never danced in public, she couldn’t keep from wiggling her hips, lifting her arms to the beat, and clapping along with everyone else.
Suddenly, Ashley could see it all so clearly—this was Drew Morrison’s gift. Not only could he write one heck of a chorus, but he was also able to tap into the purest of emotions again and again with every song he wrote. Tears to laughter. Pain to joy. And everyone in the venue was more than happy to be taken on the roller-coaster ride with him. To let him take the wheel as he whirled them up and around, inside and out.
After his encore, however, Ashley forced herself to watch, to listen, to examine the reactions of the audience members, the managers of the venue, the employees running concessions, and to note her impressions in the tablet she took out of her bag. An impressive number of people had walked in wearing T-shirts with his face on them before the show, but pretty much everyone bought one on their way out and put it on. She could only imagine how gleeful Drew’s label must be at the way his fandom was growing.
A few minutes after he left the stage, the staff was quickly working to clean up, and she was one of the only people out on the floor. Having previously arranged over email with Drew to meet backstage after the show, she fished her VIP pass out of her purse and showed it to the large man guarding the door.
“Drew is just about done with pictures and autographs,” the man said as he gave her a surprisingly nice smile, “but if you hurry, I’m sure he won’t leave you hanging.”
“Thanks, but I’m not a fan.” The man’s eyes widened, and as she realized what she’d said, she fumbled to say, “I mean, of course I’m a fan. It’s just that I’m here to go on tour with Drew.”
“Are you Ashley?”
Surprised that this man knew her name, she said, “That’s me.”
He grinned even wider as he reached for her hand and gave it several good, hard pumps. “I’m James. It’s my job to keep Drew safe.”
Resisting the urge to rub her shoulder socket after he let go of her hand, she smiled back at Drew’s security guard. “It’s lovely to meet you.” Of course, as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she had to fight the urge to groan out loud. Lovely to meet you made her sound like she was an eighty-year-old grandma rather than a twenty-two-year-old woman.
“I’ll let Drew know you’re on your way.” James pulled out his phone and sent a quick text, probably also letting Drew know he should expect a supernerd backstage. “Welcome to the madness, Ashley.”
As she walked down the hall in the direction in which James had pointed her, she mused that Drew’s bodyguard really was a lovely man. And though he’d just referred to touring with Drew as madness, the truth was that he’d helped make her feel a whole lot less nervous about being here.
Ever since the night she’d introduced herself to Drew after one of his shows and realized just how ridiculously good-looking he was in person, she’d been more than a little anxious. Going on a rock tour at all was a huge leap away from her normal life, but going with Drew?
It might very well be madness.
Ashley took a deep breath and tried to push her nerves away as she walked through the door at the end of the hall. A group of women were all talking and laughing at once, obviously still on a high from the show. She didn’t see Drew at first and thought maybe she was in the wrong place. But then, when the crowd parted to reveal him standing in the opposite corner of the room, she swore it was as though everything slowed down and then went completely still as Drew looked right at her.