Reckless In Love
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“No. We’re all booked up for the night.”
“Did she tell you where she was going?”
The woman shook her head. “She said something about maybe trying to find a B&B, but we were cut off before she told me what her plans were for sure.”
Drew ran through the hotel’s foyer and out toward the back of the building, where his bus was parked. If Ashley planned to stay in a B&B for the night, she’d probably need to grab her computer first, wouldn’t she?
He could barely type in the code next to the door correctly, he was in such a rush, and when it finally clicked open, he nearly tore it from his hinges in his haste to get inside. “Ashley?” he called as he hurried up the steps.
Thank God, she was standing right in the middle of the bus. But she had her hands on the bodice of her dress, and it looked like she was trying to rip the fabric apart.
“Ash?” He quickly moved to take her hands in his. “What are you doing?”
“This dress, I hate it. I want it off. Now.”
“No, it’s beautiful. You’re beautiful.”
“Stop!” She shook off his hands and moved away from him. “You don’t have to keep up the act. You can have them, any of those models and actresses. You didn’t have to come here to try to convince me that I’m special, that I’m beautiful, when we both know I’m nothing compared to any of those models or their friends, or even the women in your audiences.”
“You’re usually right about everything, Ash. But right now, you’re wrong. So damned wrong.” He’d come to apologize, but he hated hearing her talk about herself as though she were less than anyone else, and he wasn’t going to back down about this. “How can you not see that you outshine every single one of them?” He moved close again, put his hands around hers. “What you saw at the party, I swear it was innocent. She was drunk and could hardly stand. I only put my arms around her so that she wouldn’t fall. If I could have stopped her from putting her mouth on me, I would have. I swear I didn’t want her, Ash. I only want you.”
He watched as Ashley’s expression slowly changed from angry to surprised. But then, instead of looking happier, she simply looked resigned.
“I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions,” she finally said, “but the two of you just looked so natural together. You don’t understand how I’m not seeing things that seem obvious to you, but how can you not see that someone like her—like any of the women you’ve been with today—are a better fit for you?”
“Because she isn’t. None of them are, Ash.”
“But when your hands were on her hips...” She broke off with a shake of her head. “When I saw you touch her, I realized just how foolish I’m being. You and me—whatever we’ve been feeling is probably just because of our close proximity on the bus. Or because we each know the other is off-limits so that makes it seem more exciting. But out in the real world—”
His mouth was on hers before he even knew what he was doing. He just couldn’t stand to listen to her tell them both lies. Not when everything they’d said to each other before tonight had been completely honest.
This was the real world.
The only world that mattered.
He was too wound up to be gentle. Too scared that he was going to lose her to do anything but thread his hands into her hair and deepen the kiss. He’d tried to show her with words just how much she meant to him, but she stubbornly refused to listen. Which left out every option but this—his mouth on hers, their bodies straining together, the aching need that had been building between them about to combust from nothing more than a kiss.
But then, he realized she was trembling, and sanity washed over him like a bucket of ice water dumped over his head.
“Ash.” He slid his hands from her hair to stroke her cheeks, as gentle now as he’d been rough just seconds before. “The last thing I want to do is hurt you. Or scare you.”
“You aren’t hurting me. And you’ve never scared me.” But when she inhaled deeply, he saw the way it shook through her. “I just...I’ve never felt this way. Never felt so much. I don’t know how to process it. First, I was so happy after this afternoon. And then I was so jealous at the party. And now, after that kiss...” She shook her head. “It’s like I’m completely full and yet empty all at the same time. Empty and aching.”
“I’ve never felt like this either. Just with you. I know I’m going too fast, but the thought of losing you—” His chest squeezed tight at the thought of not seeing her every day. Of not being able to talk with her and laugh with her. Of never holding her in his arms again. “I don’t want to lose you. Tell me what to do so that I don’t keep screwing this up.”
“If it were just us...”
She stopped and looked down at their entwined hands, and he finally realized just how small hers were inside his. She was so capable, so strong, that he’d never noticed before just how delicate she was—and it only made him angrier at himself that he’d just been so rough with her. All because he couldn’t stand the thought of her leaving his bus tonight and never coming back.
“Honestly,” she finally continued, “even just us is complicated, since you’re a superstar and I’m just me.”
“Just you?” Frustration bubbled up inside him again. “Why can’t you see how amazing you are?”