Reckless In Love
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She licked her lips, shook her head, tried to slide out from beneath him. “How can you...”
He threaded his fingers through hers to keep her from moving away. “How can I not? I want everyone to know. My family already guessed. And I know my crew and band aren’t stupid either. I promised your father I’d keep you safe, and I want him to know that I have.” He stroked her cheek. “Safe with me.”
She shook her head, the force of her panic strong enough for her to wriggle out from beneath him, the sheets bouncing over her naked skin as the bus hit a rough patch of freeway. “He won’t think I’m safe.”
Drew had never told a woman he loved her. He hadn’t honestly thought he’d do it anytime soon. But then Ashley had appeared in his life and made him feel whole again.
So now, even though it hurt not to hear her say the words back to him, he tried to tell himself that with enough patience, they could work through her fears together. He understood how deeply the pain of losing a parent—even to divorce rather than cancer—could run. Knew, too, that he’d do anything to avoid that kind of pain again.
Anything, except giving Ashley up.
“Your father knows me. From before all of this.” He was sitting across from her on the bed now. “He knows the family I come from. He wouldn’t have trusted you with me if he didn’t.”
“But if we tell him about us, everything will change. I know I’m an adult. I know my choices are my own. It’s just that I’m all he’s ever had. I know what he wants from my life. And I know what he thinks of this one. How much it scares him to think of me anywhere in it. I had to fight to get him to accept that I wanted to be a part of this tour. And now...I just don’t want it to end too soon.”
Even as a kid, Drew could hear between the lines to what people were really saying—but never more so than now. Ashley kept saying that she didn’t want things to change, that she didn’t want the summer to end too soon, and that it all tied into her father.
But Drew was afraid her reasons for trying to keep space between them didn’t have nearly as much to do with her father as she thought. What if the real reason she didn’t want her father to know was because all she thought they were doing was sleeping together? After they’d broken past trying not to touch each other, he’d assumed they were on the same page with everything. But what if they weren’t?
What if he was gunning for something that looked like forever...and she wasn’t?
“Are you really sure your father is the one who won’t think you’re safe with me?”
In a split second, he saw her eyes shutter. From as open as they’d been before, when she was whispering every second, every day to him...to completely closed.
“You’ve got early radio tomorrow, and it’s been a really busy day and night for you.” She moved to slide off the bed. “I should let you get some sleep.”
Drew didn’t think, didn’t pause, before reaching out and wrapping his arm around her waist. “Don’t run, Ash. Please don’t freeze me out.”
He could practically hear the thoughts racing through her head, not in straight lines the way they normally did, but in jagged zigzags. He appreciated that she was a woman who didn’t like being confused by anything or anyone—it was one of the reasons she looked so deeply into everything. And he would have done anything he could to clear up her confusion about the two of them, if only he could figure out exactly the right thing to say.
She’d told him he was a good listener, and for now, something told him it would be better to listen...but first he prayed she would trust him enough to at least keep talking.
“I know I shouldn’t run,” she finally said as she slowly began to relax her tense muscles, “not after I watched my parents run and freeze each other out for fifteen years, and it only ever made things worse. All night it was so hard to try to keep our relationship a secret from your family. I kept asking myself why I was. Especially when Olivia all but asked me if we were together. Not because she’s nosy, but because she loves you and doesn’t want you to get hurt by anyone.” She shifted slightly so that she could look into his eyes while still remaining in the circle of his arms. “I swear I’m trying to wrap my head around everything that’s happened, Drew. Trying to wrap my head around us. I know you must be so frustrated with me.”
“I am frustrated, Ash. But only because I want you to love me back just as much as I love you.”
“We don’t have to tell your father yet. But taking more time to get comfortable with telling him doesn’t mean my feelings are going to change.” He shifted her so that she was straddling him on the bed. “I’m still going to be in love with you. And I’m still going to hope that you’ll let yourself fall in love with me, too.”
After watching his father and mother together over the years, he knew when it made sense to back off. Ashley was a very strong woman. One who would never let anyone tell her what to feel, who would never let anyone bully her into saying or doing anything she didn’t want to.
So he wouldn’t push her more tonight. Not with words, anyway.
* * *
Moments after telling her just how much he loved her—again!—Drew’s delicious mouth was on hers, and his big hands were holding Ashley captive on his lap.
But that was a lie, and she knew it. She was the one holding herself captive. Utterly ensnared by a man whose life—whose entire world—was so big, and so fast-rising, that it was taking every last bit of energy she had just to keep her head above water.