Reckless In Love
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“I’ll talk to him,” Drew promised her. “I’ll make him understand.”
But her frown only deepened as their father walked in. “It’s okay, Drew,” she said in a low voice. “It’s only four years. I’m sure I’ll have fun at Stanford like the rest of you did, and then he won’t have to be any more stressed-out than he already is.”
While Drew was growing up, their father had been easygoing about things that other parents freaked out about, like grades or staying out late. Even when their mom got sick, he’d still held it together pretty well. But then at the end, he’d lost it on all fronts. Work. Sleep. Fun. None of those things happened anymore for Michael Morrison. All of them tried to pick up the slack as much as they could, but the truth was that you couldn’t make a person laugh if they didn’t feel like it. You couldn’t order a person to fall asleep if all they did was have nightmares whenever they closed their eyes. And there was no point in their dad staring blankly at a computer screen all day either.
Drew wished he could help his father—they all did—and it killed him that he hadn’t figured out how to do that yet.
“Happy birthday, son.”
As his father hugged him close, Drew was upset to feel his ribs protruding slightly. His father was a great cook, and so was Maddie, who was still living in the house with him. But his appetite clearly hadn’t yet returned.
“Thanks for coming all the way to New Orleans, Dad. It means a lot to me that you travel to wherever I am on my birthday.” Except for last year, when their mom hadn’t been well enough to fly or drive long distance.
“We don’t see you nearly enough. It looks like the road is agreeing with you on this tour, Drew. I’m glad to see it.”
It’s Ashley. She’s the reason everything is better.
“Everyone else should be here shortly,” his father continued. “We’ve all been looking forward to tonight.”
Drew couldn’t wait to see the rest of his siblings. But this time, his happiness came from more than simply knowing he was going to spend time with his family. He really wanted all of them to meet Ashley, too. And though he wasn’t yet able to tell them what she meant to him, he wouldn’t be surprised if they all saw it as clear as day, even without him saying, She’s my girlfriend.
“There’s someone I really want you guys to meet.” He craned his neck to see where Ashley was and found her chatting with one of the radio station staff members. She obviously intended to give him time to greet his family alone. Unlike pretty much everyone else in his world, she never wanted to invade his space. Didn’t she know she was the number one person he wanted by his side? He told his sister and father, “I’ll be right back.”
When he moved beside Ashley, it was nearly impossible not to put his arm around her or even take her hand. Just hours ago, they’d been as close as two people could be. Now, it felt unnatural not to be able to touch her. To kiss her.
“Ash, I’d like to introduce you to my family. Come over and join us.”
“I’d love to. But I know your time with them is limited, so maybe I shouldn’t—”
He moved another step closer, close enough to inhale her fresh, clean scent. “You definitely should.”
“Okay.” She made an adorable face. “I don’t know why I’m being so weird about this. Especially since your sister and father look so nice.”
“You don’t have any reason to be nervous. They’re going to love you.”
He put his hand in the small of her back and led her over to where his father and sister were standing. “Maddie, Dad, this is Ashley Emmit. She joined the tour last week as part of a research project she’s doing on the music industry for her Stanford Business School application.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Ashley,” his father said as he shook her hand.
“It’s so nice to meet you, too, Mr. Morrison.”
Maddie’s smile was huge. “Wow, you’re really pretty. Are you having fun on tour? Isn’t Drew great? All of my friends are in love with him. I swear at least a dozen of them begged me to bring them with me today. I can’t believe you’ve been in Palo Alto all these years and we’ve never met before. Have you met Olivia or Sean or Justin or Grant at Stanford?”
Drew laughed out loud as he watched Ashley try to process everything Maddie was throwing at her. Luckily for her, before she had to figure out which question to answer first, his brother Sean walked in hand in hand with Serena, his supermodel girlfriend. Ex-supermodel, actually, since she’d recently given it up to study English at Stanford.
“This is Ashley, guys,” Maddie said before Drew could introduce her. “Her dad is Drew’s former professor, and she’s on tour with him to learn about the music business. Ashley, Sean is one of my older brothers. His twin, Justin, will be here soon. And Serena is Sean’s girlfriend. They met at Stanford, and she’s not modeling anymore because she’s super into books.”
Drew loved his little sister, but she was a handful. Someday she was going to make some guy really happy...and drive him crazy all at the same time. Just as crazy as she drove all of them.