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Authors: Katie Ashley

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Melody of the Heart

BOOK: Melody of the Heart
4.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

To the readers who loved the men of Runaway Train enough to keep the series going.

And to
Kim Bias
Paige Silva
—my two wranglers who keep me sane, make me laugh, & keep me focused.

* D P G R O U P . O R G *






















The wind whipped through my hair and rippled through my clothes as I drove over the Bull River Bridge that connected Tybee Island to Savannah. I couldn’t help feeling seventeen again. With a Beatles CD blaring, I sang along at the top of my lungs like I didn’t have a care in the world. Of course, a day at the beach always made me young again. It reminded me of summer vacations with my parents and grandparents. A smile tugged at my lips when I pondered how in the world we were able to get my two younger sisters, my parents, my grandparents, me, and all of our shit into one van. Of course, I’d faced a similar predicament today with the convertible I’d rented for the day at the beach. It had taken two or three times of repacking before I’d managed to get my three children and all of our beach gear inside.

My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I dug it out. Glancing down at the screen, I motioned to my eleven-year-old son, Jude, who sat next to me. “Cut the volume. It’s your mother.”

After he reached forward to turn down the music, I answered the call. “Hey, baby. What’s up?”

“Where are you?” she demanded.

I could tell by her tone I was already in deep shit. “Almost back to Savannah. Why?”

“Because we’re supposed to be sitting down with Giovanni Coppola right now for an interview, remember?”


“Daddy!” my daughter, Melody, admonished from the back seat.

“Sorry, sweetie, but at the moment, that’s the only word that will suffice.”

When I glanced in the rear view mirror, my less vocal daughter, Lucy, shook her head at me in disapproval. Although their father was a rock star surrounded by men, and sometimes women with mouths like sailors, their mother taught them that swearing was wrong. I don’t know what Lily was thinking when she started that up with them. It was like she was setting my bandmates and me up for failure. Besides, she’d been known to let a few juicy words slip before, especially in the heat of the moment when we were in bed.

“Time just slipped away from me, baby. I’ll put the lead out and be there in ten.”

“Don’t you be driving crazy with my babies in that car. You’re carrying precious cargo.”

I smiled at her admonishment. “I won’t, I promise.”

“Bye,” she said, tensely.

“Bye, honey.” Grimacing, I hung up the phone.

“Is Mommy mad at you?” Melody questioned.

“Just a teeny bit.”

“What did you forget this time?” Jude asked, with a grin.

It was common knowledge among my children that I was a little scatterbrained. Without a wife like Lily, I’m not sure if I would be able to survive. It was a personality quirk that had been a part of my life since I was sixteen years old. “This interview thing with a very important rock magazine.”

“Epic fail, Dad,” Jude said, shaking his head.

With a chuckle, I replied, “Ya think?”

Eyeing the speedometer, I then eased my foot down on the accelerator, slightly increasing the speed. I kept my promise to Lily to be safe, but I still wanted to get back as fast as I could. For over half of my life, Lily Marie Gregson had been keeping me on my toes. More than that, she’d been the love of my life through thick and thin, the good and the bad, for better or worse and all that jazz. She’d given me the family I’d always dreamed of with our three beautiful children. And after all these years, she could still get my blood up and running.

The five of us had left our family farm in Roswell, Georgia and had descended on Savannah yesterday. Actually, the entire Runaway Train family, sans Rhys and Allison, had flown in on our band’s jet. We had come to the capitol of Southern grace and charm to see our last single bandmate tie the knot. That was also the reason I had Lily on my ass to get back for the interview. Rolling Stone had decided to do a feature on Rhys and Allison’s wedding. After all, it wasn’t everyday a rock star married his bandmate’s little sister, who was also a rising star in the fashion industry.

 But it wasn’t just the soon-to-be newlyweds they wanted to focus on. They wanted to devote a large part of the spread to Lily and me. While the media often loved to focus on Jake and Abby being music's power couple, Lily and I had been singled out this time as music's lasting couple. To them, we were an enigma—high school sweethearts whose twelve-year marriage had stood the tests and trials of the rock star lifestyle. Our envied relationship was put on a pedestal for the rest of my bandmates and their significant others to aspire to. All the attention was a little overwhelming. It was one of the reasons I'd wanted to escape to the beach.

The other reason being that today was Allison’s bridal luncheon. Since Lily was a bridesmaid, I had offered to take the kids to the beach to get them out of her hair. AJ and his girls had joined us as well.  Poor Jake, as the brother of the bride, had been roped into staying for the luncheon and helping Abby out with their twins, who rounded out the wedding party as the ring bearer and flower girl.

With all the fun in the sun, I had let time get away from me. I cherished every damn minute we had off the road. Although I now had my own bus that enabled Lily and the kids to travel with me, I thoroughly enjoyed the time away from all that craziness. In the last few years, we had drastically scaled back our touring. Once AJ and Jake became fathers, coupled with Abby wanting to be a hands-on mother, the call of the road was no longer as alluring as living at home with our families. In the end, fame, Grammys, and money are fleeting. Your family is really all you have, all you can count on, and everything that keeps you centered in this crazy world.

I eased the convertible up to the valet stand. After Jude and I hopped out of the front, we worked to quickly extract the girls and our plethora of beach gear. I then handed off the car keys to the attendant and corralled the kids inside the hotel. After the elevator let us out at our floor, I drew in a deep breath as I neared our suite. I dug in my pockets for the key card but came up empty. “Dammit, what did I do with the key?”

“Daddy!” Melody admonished again as Jude waved the key card in front of my face.

“Sorry,” I mumbled before taking the key from Jude. “Thanks.” I didn’t even want to begin to wonder how he had the card.

The girls pushed past me to run into the suite. As I drew in a breath, I couldn't help feeling like a pussy. I mean, I was a grown man for fuck's sake, but I was practically cowering from the impending wrath of my wife. Maybe it was because Lily was usually so easy going and laid back. She very rarely lost her temper, and she was the level-headed one who evened out my manic side.

I hustled down the short hallway. Peeking around the corner, I watched as Lily embraced our girls, planting a kiss on the tops of their dark-haired heads. They had both inherited my dark hair and eyes, but they each had the same dimple in their left cheek that their mother did. While the reporter might've thought Lily’s affection was all for show, I knew better. The sight caused warmth to flood my chest.

Glancing over Lucy's head, Lily met my gaze. The beaming smile she had for our girls tightened considerably. "So glad to see you finally made it home safely." While the reporter might not have caught her veiled hostility, I heard it loud and clear. I had to do something fast to get my ass out of the doghouse.

Plastering on my most apologetic smile, I power-walked around the corner. I then threw my hand out to the reporter. "Brayden Vanderburg."

As he pumped my hand, he replied, "Giovanni Coppola."

"I'm so sorry I'm late. I'd love to blame the kids, but sadly it's all my fault."

He laughed good-naturedly. "It's okay. You guys have a lot on your plate with the wedding. I just appreciate you making time for me."

"We're just honored that an esteemed magazine like yours would want to interview us,” I drawled, laying it on extra thick.

When Lily raised her brows at me, I winked. She ignored me and turned to the kids. “Okay guys, Mia is waiting on you next door. She’s had an early dinner delivered from her dad’s restaurant.”

“Mama Sofia’s!” Melody squealed while Lucy gave an enthusiastic smile.

“Good. I’m starving,” Jude replied before he headed to the door with Melody and Lucy trailing behind him.

Before Lily could ask me if I had also managed to forget to feed our kids, I held up my hands. “He ate everything you packed as well as raiding the concession stand twice. I swear that kid will be eating us out of house and home when he turns thirteen.”

Lily cocked her head at me. “I seem to remember you having the same appetite when you were a little older than him.”

Sensing an opportune moment for interrogation, Giovanni asked, “Just how hold were you when you met?”

“Sixteen,” Lily and I replied in unison.

Our shared reply brought a beaming smile to Giovanni’s face. “Do you finish each other’s sentences, too?”

“Sometimes,” Lily replied.

“I’m usually forgetting what I want to say so I need her to finish,” I joked.

Giovanni scribbled something down in his notebook. When he glanced up, he motioned to the patterned sofa. “Why don’t you two sit there, and I’ll have a seat here?” His hand fell on the back of one of the antique chairs.

I nodded. Easing down on the sofa beside Lily, I leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. “You smell good,” I complimented.

The tight expression that had been on her face since I came in receded, and a genuine smile appeared. “You smell even better because you smell like the ocean.”

I then turned my attention to Giovanni. “Once again, my deepest apologies for being late.”

“It’s all right.”

Cocking my head at him, I asked, “Did my lovely wife give you the sad sap story as to why I’m not always with it?”

Giovanni grinned. “Yes, she did. And I have to say it was quite fascinating hearing about your head injury and how without it, you might not be where you are today.”

With a chuckle, I replied, “I would have to say that’s the truth because if it weren’t for the short-term memory issue shit, I would have been here a lot earlier.”

Waving his hand dismissively at my joke, Giovanni said, “I don’t think most of our readers or your fans know you didn’t grow up playing guitar or having the desire to be a rock star. That without the football related injury, you would have never taken up the guitar or written your first song.”

I shifted in my seat. Talking about my injury always made the hairs stand up on the back of my arms and neck. It was one of those life-altering moments that set me on an entirely different path I could never have imagined. At sixteen, my entire universe revolved around the emerald green grass of the field and the smell of pigskin in my hands. I had my eye on a college scholarship and maybe some time in the NFL. I was that good.

But life changes in an instant—a play you had executed flawlessly a hundred times before can go so very wrong. Instead of being carted off victoriously on the shoulders of your teammates, you leave in a neck brace laid out on a stretcher. A brain injury coupled with a cracked vertebrae that narrowly missed severing your spine brings the curtains down on your dream. But then you realize the life you thought was ending was truly just beginning.

The squeeze of Lily’s hand brought me out of the past and back to the present. I cleared my throat. “Yes, it is true that my life would be so very different and not for the better. But I don’t mean in the sense of not having the fortune or the fame.” I turned to gaze at Lily and smiled. “I might not have Lily by my side.”

She brought my hand to her lips and kissed it. “When I was seventeen, I told you I’d follow you anywhere and everywhere. If your life had taken you somewhere else, I would have been there.”

BOOK: Melody of the Heart
4.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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