For Abby Renard, the plan was supposed to be simple—join her brothers’ band on the last leg of their summer tour and decide if she’s finally ready for the limelight by becoming its fourth member. Of course, she never imagined stumbling onto the wrong tour bus at Rock Nation would accidentally land her in the bed of Jake Slater, the notorious womanizing lead singer of Runaway Train. When he mistakes her for one of his groupie’s, Abby quickly lets him know she sure as hell isn't in his bed on purpose.
Jake Slater never imagined the angel who fell into his bed would resist his charms by promptly kneeing him in the balls. Of course, the fact she seems like a prissy choir girl makes her anything but his type. So he is more than surprised when after betting Abby she wouldn’t last a week on their tour bus, she is more than willing to prove him wrong. But as Jake’s personal life begins to implode around him, he finds an unlikely ally in Abby. He’s never met a woman he can talk to, joke with, or most importantly make music with.
As the week starts comes to a close, neither Abby nor Jake is ready to let go. Can a sweetheart Country songstress and a bad boy of Rock N Roll actually have a future together?
I need to tell you how sorry I am about earlier. That was a real douche move. Not that it matters, but she came on to me. But I should have told her no and meant what I told you.”
I was so not expecting an apology from him, so it took me a minute before I could even process thoughts, least of all acknowledge what he had said. “Thank you.” When he gave me an embarrassed smile, I sighed. “As much as I appreciate hearing that, it’s not what’s really bothering you, is it?”
He shook his head. “It’s just...” He cleared his throat. “My Aunt Sally was calling for my mother. She said Mama didn’t want to worry me in the middle of the tour and refused to tell me the truth of what was going on…”
“What’s wrong?” I urged.
His chest rose and fell in harsh breaths. “After being in remission for three years, my mom’s cancer has come back. Aunt Sally says…” His face contorted in agony. “She says there’s nothing they can do this time—no more treatments. She’s being given medicine to make her comfortable for her last…few months.”
I gasped. “Oh Jake, I’m so, so sorry.” I took his hands in mine and squeezed. The expression on his face was one of pure anguish and devastation, and my chest constricted for the pain I could feel radiating off of him.
Tears welled in his tormented blue eyes. “It’s just…” He motioned towards the bunks. “You can ask the other guys about what an absolute Mama’s Boy I am. After my dad ran off with his secretary and got remarried, I was her world. She’s everything to me. I can’t even think about…” His words choked off with emotion, and then he started crying. Well, it was more harsh, body shuddering sobs. I wrapped my arms around his neck, pulling him to me. He buried his face in my stomach, his body heaving and shaking from his cries.
His wailing brought Brayden from his roost while Rhys staggered out of the bedroom. Both of them stared at Jake in disbelief like he was some alien life form. I don’t know if it was the crying or the fact he was wrapped in my arms. When I glanced up at AJ, his expression was shell-shocked, but there was also pain in his eyes. After all, he’d grown up with Jake and knew his mom very well.
I gave AJ an empathetic look. “Not Susan,” he said softly. He pinched his eyes shut, and I knew he was fighting not to start crying himself. “Motherfucker,” he muttered under his breath.
The next thing I knew I tumbled backward when Jake sank onto his knees on the floor of the bus. Pulling on my hips, he jerked me down beside him, wrapping me in a bear hug. “Shh, it’s going to be okay,” I crooned into his ear.
He shook his head wildly back and forth. “No, it’s not. If it hadn’t been as bad as it was, Aunt Sally would never have called.” My body shook so hard with his sobs that my teeth clattered together. “Oh God, I can’t bear this, Angel. I’ll die without her.”
Although I’d grown up watching my parents handle emotional parishioners on a daily basis, I felt completely and totally helpless when it came to comforting Jake. I tried to draw on the right words to say to comfort him as I rubbed wide circles across his back.
“Listen, I’ll call my parents and tell them to put her on their prayer list. I mean, they don’t call my dad’s church the God-dome for nothing! And maybe there’s another doctor she can see. You know, get a second opinion or something.” My mind spun with thoughts as I tried to think of something to do or say to comfort Jake since he continued to sob uncontrollably. As soon as I thought of another one, I blurted, “Hey, one of our church’s deacons is on the board of a cancer treatment center. We can get your mom an appointment there.”
Jake’s sobs started to wane, but he kept his arms firmly around me. His voice, hoarse from his crying, came muffled against my chest. “I appreciate it, Angel. But Aunt Sally made it abundantly clear. The cancer’s been back, and there’s not a fucking thing I can do but watch her die.”
Running my fingers through his hair, I leaned over to whisper in his ear. “I’m so, so sorry. I’d give anything if I could take away your pain.”
“Thank you,” he murmured. He pulled back to stare up at me. Tears glistened in his blue eyes while his expression still contorted in misery. “You really mean all that, don’t you?” When I creased my brows in confusion, he replied, “The wanting to take my pain away and what you would do for my mom.”
“Of course I do.”
He continued to stare at me with an incredulous look as if he thought at any moment I might disappear—like I was just some illusion. His trembling hand came to rest against my cheek. “You really are an angel, aren’t you?”
I smiled. “No, I’m just someone who cares about you and your mom.”
“But don’t you see. I’ve never met a girl who really cared about me and not because I’m Jake Slater from Runaway Train.”
“Then that’s sad because in spite of some of your faults, you really are worth knowing and caring about.”
Jake blinked a few times at my words as he ran his thumb across my cheek bone. He leaned up, and just when I sucked in a breath because I thought he was going to kiss me, he planted a tender kiss on my cheek. “Thank you, Abby. Maybe my mom was right when she claimed fate brought us together.”
Excerpt # 4
My eyes widened at his statement. “Maybe so,” I murmured.
After standing there staring at each other for a few moments, I patted Jake’s shoulder. “Are you feeling better now?”
He shrugged. “As good as I can be, I guess.”
“Need some water or milk before you go back to sleep?”
The corners of his lips tugged up. “Are you going to offer to read me a bedtime story next?”
I laughed. “No, I was just trying to take care of you.”
“You were mothering me,” he murmured as sadness washed over his face.
Music of the heart by Katie Ashley excerpt
Monday, April 8, 2013