Tempt Me Like This
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Only with Ashley in the desert today had he felt a little bit like himself again. At the very least, he’d finally been honest about some of the pain of losing his mom. But even then, he’d made sure not to go too far by admitting that ever since the moment his mom had become so sick that they knew she was never going to recover, his songwriting had left him as if it had never been there in the first place.
He hadn’t told her that even the way he heard music now seemed to have changed—that what used to move him no longer did, and that now it was almost like he was hearing entirely different tonal patterns in his head.
And he hadn’t admitted that sometimes he just felt like getting on a horse like he had in Australia and going walkabout...only this time he wouldn’t come back and get on another stage, wouldn’t play the same songs everyone wanted to hear, because he couldn’t. Because he didn’t feel like the same guy anymore.
Because he wasn’t even sure who the hell he was anymore.
“Drew.” He felt James’s hand on his arm. “You okay?”
But he stuffed the silent answer down as quickly as it had bubbled up. “I’m good.” He’d been raised never to lie, but over and over during the past year that was exactly what he’d been doing. Again and again until it should have gotten easier just to keep telling those lies. Instead, though, it had only gotten harder.
Ashley, he thought as he quickened his pace down the hall. He wanted to see her. He needed to see her. Today she’d made everything matter again, at least for a little while. Just knowing she’d be there in the meet-and-greet room made his heart beat a little faster.
As soon as he pushed through the doors, he sought her out. The screams of the fans he was about to meet barely pierced through as he scanned the room and found her standing in the corner with Max. He smiled at her, and she looked surprised for a moment before smiling back. And mouthing, You were great tonight.
The answering grin on his face was a real one. And it felt good. So good that when he turned to his fans, he barely felt like he was faking being Drew Morrison.
During the meet-and-greet, Ashley watched and learned and took notes on her tablet. Drew had never met anyone so focused on her purpose, and it only served to make her more attractive.
Clearly, he wasn’t the only one who thought so, because the venue manager wouldn’t stop interrupting her. Every time Drew looked in her direction, the guy was trying to get her attention. With a drink. Or a joke. Couldn’t he see that she was working? And why the hell wasn’t Max or James squashing the guy like a bug?
If she had looked at all irritated, Drew would have been over there in a millisecond with the guy pinned against the wall begging for mercy. But she wasn’t frowning. On the contrary, she was actually smiling a little, even laughing softly at one point.
Jealousy ate at Drew, taking big chunks of him in its jaws and grinding him into pieces. More distracted than ever, he barely stopped one of his more mature fans from yanking off her shirt in front of an eight-year-old girl. In fact, the woman already had her top more than halfway off when Ashley grabbed the little girl’s attention by asking if she wanted to put on a concert T-shirt and take a selfie with him.
Drew gestured for James to come deal with the woman, who had no business exposing herself in front of a kid, then turned and gave his full attention to the little girl. Afterward, he went to thank Ashley, but she was back in her corner where the venue manager had clearly been waiting for her so that he could hit on her some more.
Finally, he finished meeting his last VIP fan and headed over to her. Just in time to hear the guy say, “This has been a lot of fun, Ashley. Any chance I can get your number for the next time you’re in town?”
Before she could reply, Drew said, “You ready to head to the bus, Ash?”
Her surprised gaze shifted to Drew. He’d called her Ash out in the desert when he’d been talking about all the fire she had inside and how well it fit her. But tonight he’d deliberately said it in the most possessive way possible.
The venue manager put up his hands and took a step away from her. “Sorry, man. I didn’t realize she was taken.” In a really polite tone, he added, “Great show tonight, Drew. It will be our pleasure to have you back soon.” And then he was gone.
Ashley was frowning as she walked out of the room with Drew. A couple of minutes later they were back on the bus, James had wished them both a good night, and Drew had given Max the all-clear to head for Los Angeles.