Reckless In Love
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Ashley nearly sighed out loud with relief when Drew’s mouth quirked up slightly at his own question. So, she thought, did Smith and Valentina. Clearly, they hadn’t wanted to lose Drew.
“Keep writing for the film for another couple of weeks,” Valentina suggested. “And then if you’re still having trouble, let us know. But we still have a good feeling about what you’re going to give us, Drew.”
Drew stood up to thank both of them for giving him another chance to get it right. Ashley hoped at least a chunk of the huge weight on Drew’s shoulders had just fallen away.
A few moments later, Smith headed outside to deal with the drunken grip while Valentina went to see if their clothes were dry.
When they were alone, Ashley needed him to know, “I think they’re right.” She didn’t want her voice to carry, so she spoke softly, but she hoped Drew could hear the passion behind her words. “I know we talked about it in the desert, and then again on the beach, but Smith and Valentina both just put it perfectly—you need to trust your new musical vision the way you’ve always instinctively trusted your old one.” She hoped it wouldn’t hurt him to hear her say, “It’s like your mom said in her letter—you’ve always been perfectly in tune with the music in your heart.”
His eyes were dark and intense as he reached for a lock of her damp hair curling over her chest and wound it around one of his fingers. “Thank you for being here, Ash. And for understanding, even when I barely can myself.”
She was about to tell him he was being too hard on himself—and knew that confessing how badly she’d missed him these past few days would be only a beat behind that—when James knocked on the French doors.
Poking his head in, he said, “We’ve got to get moving, or we’ll be late to the studio for your next round of TV interviews. In fact, we’ve got to call in to the first one in five minutes. Hey, nice dress, Ashley.”
For a few moments there, she’d hoped that maybe she and Drew could get things back to where they’d been before their night on the beach, when everything had fallen apart. But within minutes of saying good-bye to Smith and Valentina, who told her to please keep the dress, not only were they back on the insanely paced treadmill of Drew’s tour as he headed into a glass and steel building to do the first of a half-dozen back-to-back interviews...but her father also chose that moment to call.
Right when she felt as twisted up inside as she ever had.
“Honey, how are you?”
She gestured to Max that she was going to head back into the bus before saying, “I’m fine, Dad.”
“You don’t sound fine.” That was the problem with being so close to her father. He was way too attuned to the tone of her voice. “What’s wrong? Is Drew—”
“Being the perfect gentleman!” She couldn’t stop her irritation from spilling out. “Why are you so worried about him hurting me? You had him in your class, so you should know how great he is.” Great enough that you shouldn’t have felt you had to warn him not to come near me.
“Ashley.” Her father was clearly hurt by her outburst. She’d never spoken to him like that before. “Why are you so upset with me for asking a simple question?”
Because you made Drew promise not to touch your precious little girl!
But she couldn’t bring herself to say that to her father, not after a lifetime of believing he was right about absolutely everything. And that was part of it, she suddenly realized as her father waited for her to tell him why she was angry with him: Ashley hadn’t learned how to fully trust herself, not when she’d always looked to her father for help in making her choices. But if what she’d said to Drew about not being her father’s little girl anymore was true, then she couldn’t do that anymore, could she?
“I’m sorry, Dad,” she said, feeling like a balloon with all the air slowly fizzling out of it. “It’s been a long couple of days. I know you just want to make sure that I’m doing okay.”
“Are you?” He asked it much more hesitantly this time.
She couldn’t lie to her father, so she simply said, “I’m learning so much. In fact,” she added, hoping to distract him from asking any other questions about her emotional state, “I just met Smith Sullivan. You know, the big movie star.”
“Of course I know who Smith is,” her father said with a laugh. “He was also one of my students way back when.”
“No way.” How many other famous people had her father taught that he’d never mentioned to her?
“How is Smith?”
“He’s engaged to this great woman named Valentina, and he’s very kind.” She almost told her father about falling into Smith’s pool, but she had a feeling that would only make him panic again when he seemed to be feeling better about things.
“That’s good to hear, honey. I always hope that fame won’t lead people astray.”
“It definitely hasn’t. Not with Smith.” She couldn’t stop herself from adding, “And not with Drew either. They’re both great people.”
“So are you, honey. You’ve always made me so proud.”
His gentle, heartfelt words made her wish she was a little girl again, if only for a few moments, so that he could stroke her hair and tell her what she should do to make everything feel okay.