Reckless In Love
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“You never distract me, Ash. You inspire me. Every second of every day.”
He stroked her hair back from her face and gave her the gentlest, sweetest kiss in the world, before finally signaling to his band that he was ready to take the stage. And even though Ashley knew the conversation she was about to have with her dad wasn’t going to be an easy one, she was smiling as Drew stepped out of the curtains and twenty thousand people went wild.
When she finally turned to head over to her father, he looked stunned. She didn’t know if it was because of how much Drew’s fans obviously loved him...or if he still couldn’t quite wrap his head around his little girl having fallen in love.
“Dad, this is James,” she said, realizing that in the heat of the moment she’d forgotten to introduce her father to anyone.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Emmit. Your daughter is a treasure, and you’ve obviously done a great job raising her.”
“Thank you,” her father said, clearly taken more than a little off guard by the heavily tattooed bodyguard being so respectful and complimentary.
“James, is there an open room back here where my father and I can talk?”
“Absolutely.” James led them down the hall to an empty dressing room that had a couple of couches and a table with a few chairs around it. But neither Ashley nor her father sat. Instead, they stood facing each other as the door closed quietly.
There were a thousand things Ashley needed to say to her father, but the most important was, “I love you just as much as I always have. Just because I’ve also fallen in love with Drew doesn’t mean that has changed.”
“You love him.” Her father ruminated on that information for several long moments, before he finally asked, “Does he love you, too?”
“He does. And I understand that all of this must seem really crazy and unexpected to you, because that’s how it seemed to me, up until today…when I went to see Mom.”
She hadn’t thought her father could look more stunned than he had earlier, but his eyebrows went up nearly to his hairline. “Has she known about this the whole time?”
“No. No one has. But I needed to see her today.” She shook her head. “I should have come to see her in Miami before now. But I was too scared that if I came here, I might want to stay. And I couldn’t leave you, Dad.”
“Ashley.” Her father reached for her hand, and even now his touch was as warm and comforting as ever. “I thought you stayed in California because that was where you wanted to be.”
“I love where we live, but now that I’ve been to Miami, I can see why Mom loves it so much. And I can see that there’s a part of me that would have loved it, too. Everyone just seems so free. So relaxed. Like they know the rules, but don’t treat them like a prison.”
“I didn’t mean to make you feel like you’ve lived in a prison all these years.”
“Oh Dad, you didn’t. Not at all. But it’s always been easier for me to hide out in a library or behind a computer. Coming on this tour was the first really scary thing I’ve ever done.”
“You were scared? You didn’t say anything about being scared.”
“Because I didn’t want you to worry about letting me go any more than you already did. And it turned out that coming on tour with Drew was the best thing I could have done, for so many reasons. Not only because I met him and fell in love...but also because I had to learn to trust myself. My own decisions. And I’ve been learning how strong I can be. Strong enough to take risks that are worth taking.”
“You’ve always made good decisions. And you’ve always been strong. How could you ever doubt either of those things?”
“That’s just what Mom said.” Ashley stared at her hand in her father’s and decided it was long past time to delve even deeper into the hard stuff. “She also said that she left because of me.”
“No.” Her father shook his head so hard that his hand pulled free of hers. “She left because I could never be what she needed. What she wanted. Not because she wanted to be apart from you. She hates not being close to you.”
“I know that wasn’t how she meant it, Dad. She just didn’t want me to be stuck in the middle of you two anymore, always trying to mediate or to feel like I needed to go hide.”
He looked stunned. “You were the only thing either of us could ever agree on. How much we loved you. That we wanted to protect you. Always. If we’d known we were putting you in that spot—”
“You would still have tried to stay together, just like you did for fifteen years. Because you loved each other, Dad. I could see that, even when you were fighting. I could see the love that was still holding you together. And that’s what scared me the most—that even when you love someone, it doesn’t mean things are guaranteed to work out. Which is why I thought it would be better not to let myself love at all.”
Looking shell-shocked, her father said, “I did love your mother. You and she are the two great loves of my life. I lost her, but I don’t want to lose you, Ashley.”
“You haven’t lost me, Dad. And you won’t, even if I grow up and move away and fall in love.”