Reckless In Love
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“I hope so. I’ve just been working to get my thoughts down and also trying to make sense of them.”
He wanted to ask her if she could do the same for him, to try to make sense of the mess his mind had become. But since nearly all of his thoughts were about her, he couldn’t. “Can we talk for a few minutes, Ash?”
“Sure.” She didn’t sound sure, though, as he slid into the booth across from her. His cell phone buzzed in his pocket, but he ignored it, focused only on Ashley now.
He hated not talking to her. Hated trying to corral his feelings. No matter what else happened between them, he needed her to know one important thing. “I miss you.”
Her breath hitched, and she bit down on her lip as she stared across the table at him. Her hazel eyes were so clear and beautiful that he swore he could see all the way down to her very soul as she admitted, “I miss you, too.”
Relief washed over him in a huge wave. “I know things got weird after LA, but I don’t want to lose your friendship.”
“I don’t want that either. It’s just...”
“Before we kissed, remember I told you that whatever you need to say to me, I don’t want you to be scared of saying it?” When she nodded, he reached for her hand. He simply couldn’t stop himself from touching her. “Tell me what’s going on. Tell me what you’re feeling.”
Her cheeks were already flushing. “I don’t know how to be friends with you without wanting to be more, too. I thought maybe if I kept my distance, it would make the wanting go away.”
“But it hasn’t.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. Because he felt exactly the same way.
“If anything, I only want you—”
“More,” he finished for her.
They stared at each other, his hand still over hers, until, slowly, she turned her hand so that her palm faced his.
It was an electric moment. Just holding hands like this should have been innocent, but amazingly, just the slide of her palm over his felt as powerful as their kiss had been on the beach.
“I was so happy to hear that you were in the recording studio last night. How did it go?”
“It didn’t.” His gut twisted. “And since you’ve seen all the shows, I know you’ve seen the way I’m even screwing up there.”
“Your shows have been great,” she said, “but I know how much you’ve been wanting to write again.”
“I couldn’t write anything worth a damn last night, but I did think a lot about what you said, and what Smith and Valentina said, too. You’re right that my influences have changed a ton from when I was a teenager making demos. And I think I’m okay with that. Even if people don’t end up liking whatever I finally write as much as they like my old stuff.”
He smiled at her, her hand warm against his, her fingers long and pretty as they wrapped over his. “You’re so sure, aren’t you, Ash?”
“Only about you.” Her cheeks flushed as she amended her sentence to, “I mean your music.”
But he liked thinking that she’d meant it the first way. His mom had always been sure of him, and it had made it easy for him to be certain about things, too. In his pocket, his cell phone continued buzzing with incoming text messages, but he didn’t want anything to come between him and Ashley. Not when they were finally talking again. Whoever was trying to reach him could wait.
“What about you?” he asked. “You were so deep in concentration just now. Are you working on your grad school application?”
“I started out trying to put together my thoughts about how major labels could work better with artists and the emerging digital industry for my application, but I keep veering.”
She looked a little uncertain for a moment, before seeming to come to a decision. “Toward this.” She slid her hand from his so that she could open up her computer.
At the same time that he was glad she trusted him enough to show him what she was working on, he hated that they weren’t touching anymore. But when he looked at her screen, his eyebrows went up. “You’re putting together a business plan for an indie, artist-run label?”
“I’ve learned so much this week with you, Drew—learned things I never could have from a book or case study or documentary. And the biggest thing of all that I’ve learned is that you not only know your music and what makes it special better than anyone else ever will, but you also understand your fans better than anyone else does. All I could think of as I sat in those meetings earlier this week at your label, and then during every interview and planning session you have with your crew, is how incredible it would be if you were running your own label. And when you said to Smith and Valentina that you were worried about not having a hit for them on the soundtrack and they said they didn’t care about hits, only that your heart is behind the music, everything fell into place. What you’re doing—it doesn’t have to be about hits that radio stations have to approve before playing. You can put out whatever you want on the Internet in whatever format you want. Or you can just play songs live at shows and never play them the same way twice. Your fans love what you do so much that I know they’re going to follow you wherever you are and love whatever songs you write. At least, they will as long as you love the songs you’re writing.”