Tempt Me Like This
Page 94

 Bella Andre

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“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.”
He put his arms around her, and his hug felt so good. But even though they’d talked about so much already, there was one more thing she needed to discuss with him. She pulled back slightly and said, “There’s one more thing, Dad.” Before she lost her nerve, she said, “Drew told me what you said to him before I joined his tour. That you were trusting him to keep me safe.” Neither of them had really ever been angry with the other before, but evidently there was a first time for everything. “It’s like we were living in medieval times and you wanted to send me out in a chastity belt.”
At the words chastity belt, her father’s face turned a ruddy red. “That’s not fair, Ashley. I just wanted to protect you the way I always have.”
“I know you did, but I’m twenty-two. I’m not a little girl anymore, like that picture you insist on keeping in your office that was taken almost ten years ago. You had to know that I was going to grow up and fall in love one day.”
“I did know that,” he said in a resigned voice, “but I hoped it would be with someone normal. Someone steady. Someone safe.”
“Drew is normal and steady and safe. He’s also exciting and brilliant and the most fun person I’ve ever been around.” Despite his enormous fame, she’d seen that right from the start. “You know how great his family is and how great he is, too. So why would you think that would change just because he’s a big star?”
“It’s less that he’s a big star,” her father said slowly, “than that he’s always had big dreams and plans. I can’t see him being happy buying a house in Palo Alto and settling down.”
“But you’re assuming I would be happy doing that.”
Her father started at the unintended sharpness in her tone. “Well...I suppose I have always assumed that.”
It wasn’t fair to be angry with her father for that. Not when she’d always assumed the same thing. “Like I said, I was really nervous when I first joined his tour, and I thought I would be totally out of my element and that I belonged in an office somewhere. But I love being on the road. I love how every day is a new adventure. I love coming up with new ideas and trying new things. And, most of all, I love being with someone who has never for one second thought about making his big dreams smaller.”
“You really are happy, aren’t you?”
She reached for her father’s hand again. “I really am. I mean, I’m still scared, too. But I’m starting to think that some fear is good...because it means I’m risking. Risking for what really matters. Risking for love.”
Her father’s eyes grew watery then. “I love you, honey. But you have to understand that it’s going to take a while for me to learn to deal with all of this. And not just because it’s Drew. It could have been any guy and I would have had just as hard a time letting you go.”
“I’m not asking you to let me go, Dad. Just to let him in.”