Tempt Me Like This
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Her father still didn’t smile. He didn’t reach out to shake Drew’s hand. But he wasn’t scowling or frowning anymore. And when he asked the waitress to bring him a fresh cup of coffee, then said, “You put on quite a show tonight,” Drew hoped he’d succeeded at taking the first important step toward Ashley’s father accepting him as her boyfriend.
An hour later, Drew and Ashley were alone on the bus. He would be playing in Miami again tomorrow night, and there was a hotel room they could have gone to for the night. But both of them wanted to be here on the bus where they’d first made each other laugh. Where they’d first fallen in love. And where they’d first slept in each other’s arms.
Her entire face was lit up with the biggest, brightest smile he’d ever seen as she took his hands in hers. “I love you. And I don’t want to hide our relationship from anyone anymore. I want the whole world to know that you’re mine.”
“I love you, too, Ash.” He’d never grow tired of hearing her say I love you to him, or saying it to her. Just as he’d never get enough of kissing her gorgeous mouth the way he was right now. “And I’m going to love telling everyone on the entire planet that you’re my girlfriend,” he whispered against her lips.
“I still might be a little nervous about it,” she admitted, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it. It just means I’m still getting my feet wet with all of this. I’ve never been in love before.”
“I haven’t either, Ash.”
“Aren’t you even the slightest bit nervous?”
“Only with your father.”
She bit her lip, clearly worried as she asked, “How’d your talk go?”
He didn’t want to upset her, but he couldn’t lie to her. “It was pretty rough going there for a while. For most of our talk, actually. But I have a good feeling that he’s going to come around.” He smiled and added, “Eventually.”
He was really glad to hear her laugh out loud. “I think it’s all hard for him to take in. Both that I’m officially grown up now and that I won’t be right there at home all the time anymore.”
“Because you’ll be...”
“There’s nowhere I want you more. But my dreams aren’t the only ones that count. Yours do, too. So when Stanford Business School begs you to attend, you can’t turn them down to be on the road with me.”
“Honestly, I’ve finally accepted that getting into the best graduate program in the country is a pretty big if. And if they do accept me next year, we can figure things out then. But even if they don’t, I’m going to be okay with it—especially after the email Grant sent me while you were doing your meet and greet tonight.”
“He wants you to come work for him, doesn’t he?”
“Kind of. He said he’d like to hire me as a consultant to do some research into the nuts and bolts of actually starting an artist-run indie label from the ground up.” She was glowing as she told Drew the great news. “Thank you for telling him about my idea.”
“This is all you, Ash. Your brains. Your ideas. Your enthusiasm. I can’t wait for everyone else to meet you and see what I see.” He brought her closer and leaned in to kiss her. “But you should know I’m going to keep all of your beauty, and your gorgeous sensuality, for myself.”
“They’re all yours.”
Her lips were soft and sweet, and so damned seductive beneath his that he lost the thread of everything but her for several heady moments. But he didn’t want to wait any longer to tell her his news either.
“There’s actually another reason that I’m glad you’re going to be working with Grant on figuring out how to put together a new record label. I’ve decided not to sign the second Chief Records contract.”
“Wow. That’s huge.” She studied his face for a few moments before smiling and saying, “You’re really happy about it, aren’t you?”
“I didn’t realize just how handcuffed I felt working for someone else. Or maybe it was that I didn’t want to see it, because it was easier to follow the plans that have worked for their other artists. At least at first.” He looked down at their linked hands and told her the rest of the truth he’d only begun to understand. “At first, my songs couldn’t come because I was shutting down my feelings to block out my grief over losing my mom. But then when I thought I needed to stop falling in love with you, that’s when everything broke completely apart. Because I couldn’t stop falling, Ash, and it tore me up to even try. Just destroyed me. Once I knew I loved you no matter what, and that I wasn’t going to let anything keep us apart—that was when everything finally started to make sense again. You’re the person I’ve been looking for. The woman I’ve been waiting for. The only one who can help me see the things I’ve been hiding from. And the only one who can pull me from the darkness with nothing but a look, a touch, a smile, a kiss.”