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  • Home > Strings of the Heart      Page
  • Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley
  • Prologue

    “Go on, Allison,” Mallory urged.

    “Yeah, do it now!” Kim chimed in, as she nudged me forward.

    I tore my gaze from staring out the ballroom’s glass doors back to my two best friends. Their bright eyes danced with a mixture of excitement coupled with the champagne we’d been sneaking when the adults weren’t looking. I’d downed two flutes myself, and it was strictly the bubbly fueling my courage at the moment to give in to their dares.

    “He’s alone for the first time all night. It’s the perfect time,” Mallory said.

    Gnawing my bottom lip between my teeth, I shuffled indecisively on my heels while wringing my hands. Turmoil raged within me about my potential course of action. “I know, but…”

    “But what?” Kim pressed.

    “What if he laughs at me?” My eyes widened in fear at the wild thoughts galloping through my head. “What if he won’t do it, and then he tells Jake what I asked him?”

    Mallory rolled her green eyes. “Quit stalling, and just do it!”

    Kim nodded. “You’ll always regret it if you don’t.”

    I threw both of my hands up in defeat. “Fine, fine. I’ll do it.” I wagged a finger at them. “But if it goes horribly wrong, I’m never speaking to either of you again.”

    With a laugh, Mallory said, “Yeah, right.”

    Glancing over my shoulder, I searched through the crowded room teaming with party guests for my parents. Relief flooded me at the sight of them completely occupied. Although intrigued by why my older brother, Jake, stood before them soaked to the bone in his dress suit with a sheepish grin on his face, I managed not to let my curiosity get the better of me for once. Instead, I focused on the task at hand.

    Just the thought of what I was about to do sent my spray tanned legs shaking beneath the yards of satin on my Sweet Sixteen gown. I took a few deep breaths to try and calm my nerves. The last thing I needed was to pass out and have my dress around my head for all my friends from school to see. I’d picked the lavender perfection a few weeks before. It was exactly like what I had envisioned when I’d made sketches of my dream dress. The bodice was encrusted with silver sequins and beading while the bottom of the gown flowed out, making me look and feel like a Disney Princess.

    I tried my best to tune the voices of doubt out of my head. On my trembling legs that reminded me of the new colt at Jake’s farm, I pushed myself forward and headed out the door into the courtyard. Standing in front of the sparkling fountain was the man I’d been in love with for the past three years. Rhys McGowan—the bassist for the world famous band, Runaway Train, and my older brother’s best friend. The man who had no idea how I truly felt about him because all he saw me as was Jake’s kid-sister. But that was all going to change. Tonight I was going to make him see me as more.

    For a moment, I could only stare at his broad back, watching his movements as he smoked his cigarette. In an instant, I was transported back in time to the first time I’d met him. My older sister Andrea and I had gone up for a weeklong campout at Jake’s farm. I didn’t know at the time that he had invited his new bandmates to come along. The guys were just starting out, playing weekends at Eastman’s Pub in downtown Atlanta. I knew AJ because he was our next-door neighbor when I was little, but the two other guys, Brayden and Rhys, I’d never seen before.

    The moment Rhys stood up from his lawn chair and held out his hand to me, I was a goner. I liked every single thing about him, from his bygone era manners to his wavy dark hair and chocolate brown eyes. He was younger than the other guys, and somehow that made him seem more accessible to my teenage self.

    But my love for him was sealed the next day—the day he became my true knight in shining armor. During a swim at the waterfalls on Jake’s land, I was deep underwater when I swam by a downed tree and became entangled in the branches. Panicking, I flailed left and right, but I couldn’t seem to get loose. And then out of nowhere, Rhys’s strong arms pulled me free. When I reached the surface, I was coughing and sputtering between fearful tears. “Hey now, don’t cry. You’re okay,” he had said, pulling me against his bare chest.

    I’d melted against him. Even after I could breathe again and knew my life was no longer in danger, I couldn’t bring myself to tear away from him. Instead, I kept trembling all over from my growing feelings, which Rhys mistook as me still being shaky from almost drowning. When he started rubbing wide circles over my back, I sighed with contentment.

    I jumped at the sound of a voice behind us. “What the f**k do you think you’re doing?” Jake demanded.

    A chuckle rumbled through Rhys’s chest. “Easy man. I’m not putting the moves on your baby sister.”

    “Yeah, well, that’s what it looks like to me.”

    A whimper escaped my lips as Rhys gently took my arms and extracted me from his embrace. He then turned back to Jake. “She got tangled in that downed tree and almost drowned, you ass.” He shook his head. “I don’t like to think what would’ve happened if I hadn’t seen her.”

    A shudder rippled through Jake as he processed Rhys’s words. “I-I didn’t know. I’m sorry,” he replied, as he took long strides in the water to come to my side. He wrapped his arms around me. “Oh, Allie-Bean, thank God you’re all right. I don’t even want to f**king think of anything bad happening to you.” Once again, a shudder rippled through him.