Reckless In Love
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“It’s great to meet you, too,” Sean said, before turning to give Drew a look that he easily read. If she’s heard all about us, then why haven’t we heard about her?
Drew sent back a silent message: It’s complicated, but hopefully it won’t be for long, because she’s special. Really, really special.
If anyone knew about things being complicated, it was Sean and Serena. They’d had a heck of a time when they’d first started dating. Being a new couple wasn’t easy for anyone, but due to Serena’s fame, they’d had to deal with paparazzi—and a crazy, lecherous professor, too. Thankfully, the two of them had come out on the right side of it all, and he could see that they were more in love than ever.
Sean’s twin, Justin, was laughing with someone Drew couldn’t see as he walked in, but Drew would bet his savings account that it was Taylor, his brother’s closest friend. A moment later, when his father shifted to one side, Drew confirmed it.
Justin and Taylor had been friends ever since their first day at Stanford. And yet, for some reason none of them could understand, given that Taylor was cute, fun, and as brilliant as Justin, they’d never dated. Drew had hardly been able to wait a week to kiss Ashley. How the hell his brother had already waited three years was beyond him.
Drew pulled his brother in for a big bear hug, but he was much gentler with Taylor. Before Maddie could beat him to it with Justin’s and Taylor’s full histories, Drew said, “Ashley, this is my brother Justin and his friend Taylor.”
“Are you having a good time on tour?” Taylor asked.
“The best. The most I had hoped for was to be on the fringes of the crew and observe from a distance. But Drew includes me in absolutely everything.”
When she turned to smile at Drew, he was this close to chucking his promise to keep their relationship private. He wanted to hold her hand the way Sean was holding Serena’s. But even more than that, he’d never held back something so important from his family before.
As if she could read his thoughts—and felt guilty about withholding this final piece of herself from him—her smile fell slightly.
Life, he’d learned the hard way, could be far too short for holding back. But at the same time, pushing her right now would be akin to trying to bend her to his will. Ashley was one of the strongest people he’d ever met. And the smartest, too. Surely it wouldn’t be long before she took in all the data she needed and made the same decision he had: That they belonged together for the whole world to see.
“I’m really lucky,” she told his whole family.
But he needed everyone to know, “I’m the lucky one.”
His two other siblings, Grant and Olivia, arrived just then. After they hugged and he introduced Ashley, Grant said, “Drew emailed me a couple of days ago with an idea that you gave him about a radically new way to approach a record label. It struck me as really smart, and I’d like to chat with you about it in more detail, if you can spare a few minutes over dinner.”
“I’d love to,” Ashley said, flushing with obvious pleasure at the compliment. “I actually have my laptop with me, so I can show you the business plan I’ve been putting together if you’re interested in seeing it.”
“The restaurant we’re headed to is just down the street,” Drew said. “It’s supposed to have the best gumbo in New Orleans. So why don’t we all head over, and then the two of you can geek out once we’re sitting down?”
Olivia was quiet as the group headed out to the restaurant, walking beside their father. Maddie, of course, was talking Ashley’s ear off. Sean and Serena were lost in each other. Justin and Taylor were too busy trying to ignore the sparks between themselves to pay much attention to anything else. And Grant brought up the rear with Drew.
James, who already knew them all, was keeping an eagle eye on everyone and everything. Drew appreciated the way he paid especially close attention to Ashley’s safety. Though Drew knew she could take care of herself, she wasn’t familiar with any of the big cities they were touring through. Plus, he knew his fans could get a little overexcited sometimes, and he couldn’t stand the thought of Ashley ever getting hurt because of him.
“So,” Grant said, “that’s Ashley.”
Drew grinned at his oldest brother. “Beautiful, isn’t she?”
“Damned smart, too, and you only gave me a hint of her ideas, didn’t you?” When Drew nodded, Grant shot him a serious look. “You really are thinking about going indie, aren’t you?”
Until now, the only person Drew had talked to about this was Ashley. Despite all the rules she’d obviously tried to follow in her life to please her father, she was a fiercely independent thinker. Day by day, he found himself depending on her more and more. Especially when he couldn’t just drop into his brother’s office on a whim to talk things through.
Even more thankful that his family had shifted their busy lives around to clear this day in New Orleans for him, Drew told Grant, “The label is pushing hard for my next album. But I know what they want, what any label would want given the sales we’ve had—more of what I’ve done before. My manager keeps calling and emailing about the new contract on the table. But I just don’t think I can do it, Grant. And even if I could, things have changed too much for me to want to repeat the past.”