Reckless In Love
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It sucked. Especially with the label breathing down his neck for another hit—and the soundtrack Smith Sullivan and Valentina Landon were waiting for him to deliver for their new movie. But all he’d been able to write was one song: “One More Time.” Hell, he hadn’t even been able to play it for anyone until tonight—not when it was the most raw, intense song he’d ever written. But he hadn’t been able to keep it inside himself for a second longer.
Working to push away his thoughts about his mom, he refocused on Ashley. “I have no doubt that you’re good enough. The admissions committee must have screwed up. They’ll jump at your application this year.”
“They didn’t screw up,” she said softly. “I didn’t have any practical music experience, but I definitely will after watching you on tour.” Another flush came. “I didn’t mean for that to sound stalkery.” She repeated the words watching you on tour in a low, creepy voice, making fun of herself.
He couldn’t keep from laughing out loud. Couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted to laugh out loud. Even with his family, who usually made him laugh until his stomach hurt, things had been strained. Ever since their mom got sick the previous year, none of the Morrisons smiled as much. Just thinking about his mom had his smile falling away.
“I meant to tell you earlier,” she said into the silence that fell between them as his mood turned darker, “just how great your show was tonight.”
“Thanks.” His mom would have loved Ashley. But thinking that only brought him down further, unfortunately.
She studied him then, but not in a bad way. It was more like she was trying to figure out how she could help him feel better. “Were you not happy with the show?”
Jesus, he was acting like a total douche. Saying he wanted to hang out with her tonight, then getting all moody. “No, it wasn’t bad.”
“Wasn’t bad?” She leaned forward over the tabletop between them. “It was amazing.”
“Our timing was a little rough on some of the faster songs.” He just hadn’t been all there, hadn’t been able to find that feeling he used to get from the songs. No matter how far he reached, no matter how hard he tried.
“I know it’s good that you notice all the details,” she said, “because then you can perform your songs even better the next time. But I can guarantee that there wasn’t a single person in the audience who noticed any timing problems or fumbling. Probably because we were too busy crying—”
Her eyes went wide the moment the words came out. And maybe he should have let it go, but knowing she had cried during one of his songs—it meant something to him. Something big.
“When?” She didn’t answer right away, so he asked again in a gentle voice, “When did you cry, Ashley?”
He’d been naked with plenty of women over the years, but no moment had ever felt as intimate as this one, where they both had all their clothes on and weren’t even touching. When he was simply waiting for her answer to a question that seemed incredibly important.
She didn’t say anything for a long moment, and just when he thought she might not respond at all, she finally spoke. “During your new song, ‘One More Time.’ The way you sang about pain, about heartbreak, and feeling like you’d never be whole again...it was just so beautiful.”
“I wrote that song the day—” His throat tightened down before he could finish the sentence.
“Drew.” Ashley’s voice was thick with emotion. “I’m so sorry.”
For a moment he thought it might happen, that the tears he hadn’t shed would finally fall. But then he felt himself shut down, like a shutter clicking into place one slat at a time.
“I am, too.” He looked out the window just as the bus came to a stop. “We’re here.”
He felt her gaze on his face for several moments before she finally looked away and scooted out from behind the table. He should have been glad that she wasn’t witnessing his pain anymore, but strangely, it felt just the opposite. He’d been working to hide his grief from the world for so long that it had almost been a relief to think it might finally spill out—and that, even though he barely knew her, Ashley Emmit might be the one to face the flood with him.
His driver opened the door for them, grinning through the piercings that covered his face. “I’m Max. Hope the ride wasn’t too bumpy.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” She shook Max’s hand. “And the ride was very smooth, thank you.”
Max was clearly instantly enamored with her. So much so that for a moment, Drew thought he might give a thumbs-up to Drew right in front of her. Though Max looked like the quintessential rock ’n’ roll driver, and had been one for over twenty years, he wasn’t a fan of groupies. He had a great wife and three kids at home, and he never looked too pleased with the women who threw themselves at Drew.