Tempt Me Like This
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“Take care of my baby.” Drew could hear her father’s words as clearly as if the man had been standing in front of him right now. They’d spoken on the phone that morning, and the professor he’d had for statistics at Stanford three years ago couldn’t have been clearer. “Don’t let anything happen to her. She’s the whole world to me.”
“You have my word,” Drew had promised.
With two younger sisters—Olivia was going to start a graduate program in education at Stanford in the fall, while Madison would be going into her freshman year, also at Stanford—Drew knew all about protecting the people he loved. He’d do anything for his family, give up anything for them if it would keep them safe.
“I wouldn’t let her go on tour with anyone else, Drew.” Dr. Emmit had clearly wanted to hammer his point home. “Just you. After having had you as one of my students, I know you and trust you.”
So even though Drew was probably going to deplete the bus’s cold-water storage tank with the copious number of freezing showers he would need to take, it was why Ashley was traveling on his bus. Normally, he traveled solo so that he could write and record without disturbing anyone else. But not only was he not doing any writing or recording lately, he needed to make sure she stayed safe.
The guys in his band and on his crew were great, but they were still guys who were sure to think she was just as pretty as Drew did...and who hadn’t made any vows to his professor. He’d already told them all that she was off-limits, but as soon as they turned in for the night, he’d send a text out to everyone to remind them that if they so much as looked at her wrong, they’d have to answer to him. And there would be no second chances where Ashley was concerned.
As pure as she’d come onto his tour, she was going to leave the same way.
Drew got himself a beer and poured her the glass of wine she finally requested in a near whisper. He was used to making girls nervous. It had happened to him and his brothers ever since they were kids. In first grade, he’d gone up to ask Jennie Leland if he could share her crayons, and her eyes had gotten real big right before she’d dropped the crayons on the floor. She’d pretty much hidden from him for the rest of the school year.
But he didn’t want Ashley to feel she needed to hide from him. Even if he needed to keep his hands and mouth—and every other part of himself—from touching her, he still wanted her to get what she needed out of this tour. Not only because he felt he owed it to her father, who had been a great teacher, but also because after only a handful of minutes he already liked her.
He could do this, damn it. He could do his favorite professor a favor, could be a platonic friend to Ashley, and all would end well.
“My brother Grant went to Stanford Business School,” he said. “Seems like they give their students one hell of an education.”
“They do. And your brother is a legend. Collide is by far the best social network around.”
Drew laughed, even though every time she spoke, his heart beat a little faster. Her voice was beautiful, a melody unlike any he’d ever heard. He realized now that he’d heard that melody the first time they’d met, but it had been faint enough then for him to let it fade away.
But tonight? Tonight, he wanted Ashley to keep playing that melody for him over and over again.
“He’s got a few brains knocking around in there, for sure. And so, I’m guessing, do you, if you’re aiming for the biz school.”
She frowned, and he wanted so badly to reach out and smooth away the lines on her forehead and the ones that formed at the edges of her beautiful mouth. “Aiming is a good way of putting it.” She sighed, and he could see what it cost her to admit, “I applied last year, but they rejected me.”
“Isn’t it the toughest school to get into in the country? Maybe even the world? Doesn’t pretty much everyone get rejected?”
“It is tough to get in.” Her chin went up. “But I’m good enough. At least I thought I was, until they rejected my application. That’s why I’m here, to get my act together so that they say yes when I apply again.”
He stilled, suddenly feeling as though he was looking in a mirror. He knew that expression of disappointment and confusion on Ashley’s face as she talked about being rejected by the business school. Just as she’d always thought she was good enough to get into the top-notch program in the country, music had always been the one thing Drew could count on. He’d never thought to lose that certainty, never thought he’d have to reach so far or so hard for lyrics and notes, never thought they’d still be out of reach no matter how hard he tried.