I couldn’t help hot tears from rolling down my cheeks. I wiped them from my face in a hurry, embarrassed that I was crying over something like this, but as I did, more came rolling down. Why was I getting so upset over this? I never would’ve imagined Jax shutting me out would hurt as much as it did. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how far I’d fallen for him.

Jax had been right when he said that we hadn't known each other for that long, but it felt like so much longer. My fear all this time had been what would happen if I gave in to him, but now for the first time, I began to fear what would happen if I lost him.

I curled into myself. It was like the pillow wall had been put back up and Jax, laying beside me, was a million miles away. With the pain in my chest eating away at me, I began to worry that I was getting myself in too deep. The more time I spent with Jax, and the closer we became, the more he’d be able to hurt me.

Chapter Twenty-Four

ALONE

I tossed and turned most of the night in Jax's bed as he slept soundly next to me. It almost felt like the pillow wall was back up and between us.

Thankfully, I must’ve dozed off sometime in the middle of the night since the next time I opened my eyes, sunlight streamed through the windows. Frustrated from my fitful night's sleep, I rolled over and realized I was the only one in bed.

"Jax?" Still woozy, I rubbed my eyes and scanned the room. There was no sign of him.

We still hadn’t spoken since our troublesome talk yesterday and both of us went to sleep angry at each other, all of which made his absence worrisome. The last time I woke up and he wasn’t around, he’d been planning our hotel getaway at the Palms. And while he could’ve been out making similar arrangements to make up for being so walled-off yesterday, I couldn’t shake the feeling that because of how we left things, this time it was different.

I wanted to know where Jax was, so I got up to look around the bus. Something was off though. There were no other footsteps, or music blaring, or any sounds of any sort.

After not finding anyone on the first and second floor, I went up to the sundeck and saw that we were parked amidst a grove of trees nestled in between rocky hills. In between the trees, I could see white stone columns and rows of red seats built into the hillside. It was The Roman, tonight's historic outdoor venue. It was supposed to be one of the hottest places to hold a concert in Los Angeles. Tonight’s show was special because it was going to be recorded for a live concert DVD.

I figured the band must’ve gone inside the venue to practice early and Jax was with them. Still though, it would’ve been thoughtful if Jax would’ve at least left me a note or something.

Even though Jax and I had issues we needed to work out, he’d made it clear that he didn’t want me to push him to talk, so I figured I’d wait until he decided to broach the subject.

Because of all the headaches and hanging out during the past few days, I had a lot of catching up to do before tonight's show so I went through my morning routine and then shifted myself into work mode. I spent the whole day on the bus' first floor couch, tossing around my laptop, hastily shuffling through papers, and shooting off brusque emails to my co-workers.

Later that afternoon, as I stretched out my stiff back, my phone started ringing. I eagerly grabbed it, hoping it was Jax calling to apologize.

But it was only Jen. Even though I’d gotten my hopes up for Jax, I was still happy to see her name show up. I answered and we chit-chatted for a bit. It was great to catch up with her and hear all the latest gossip about Hans Peterson. The whole time, though, she wouldn’t stop pestering me about Jax. Reluctantly, I gave her a few juicy snippets. But once I let a little slip out, I couldn’t stop, and I spilled everything that’d been going on. After I finished bringing her up to speed, including telling her how I woke up alone this morning and haven’t heard from Jax all day, there was a silence on the other end.

Jen cleared her throat. "I’m not trying to make any waves here, Rye, but as one of your very good friends, I feel like I should say something. Now, I know you’re the expert in bad boys, but I just watched this documentary on TV about them. This is how it always starts. First they wall themselves off, then they cut themselves loose. And usually with no explanations or anything."

"Oh stop, you’re over-exaggerating," I said, letting her words fly out the other ear. I knew she meant well, but I also knew that Jax and I had something special. "Trust me, Jax might be a bad boy, but he’s . . . different."

"If you say so, but if things go south, don’t say I didn’t warn you."

After we said our goodbyes and hung up, Jen’s words haunted me. First they wall themselves off, then they cut themselves loose. But I knew Jax wouldn’t do that to me. I thumbed around on the phone’s screen, ambivalent over whether I should text Jax. I wanted to see how he was feeling, but I was resolved to let him make the next move. I tossed the phone down and went back to work.

I worked for a little while longer when muffled laughs and footsteps trickled up from the door. I held my breath, anxiously waiting to see if Jax was coming up the stairs. Chewie, Sky, and then Kev burst in from the stairwell. Kev looked a little irritated. I was guessing that Jax still hadn’t made up with Kev because I knew he hadn’t apologized yesterday. I wanted to ask about it, but I also didn’t want to open up any closed up wounds.

"Hey guys, ready for the show?" I asked, keeping my eye on the door. When Jax didn’t appear behind them, I realized that he must’ve stayed behind in the venue, maybe to keep practicing.

Chewie smiled. "Wait 'til you see how hard we're gonna rock The Roman." He started headbanging for a second, and then stopped and said, "Man, I'm probably gonna win an Oscar once they release the DVD."

I couldn't help but smile at Chewie's exuberance. "Can't wait to take it all in from the sidelines. So what have you guys been up to all day? Practicing for tonight?"

"Nah, this entire tour's been one long practice sesh," Chewie replied with a blasé wave. "They’ve got this badass arcade in there and I've been wasting these two in videogames all day."

Kev rolled his eyes. "You won one game, Chew. One."

"Yeah, the final winner-takes-all game," Chewie said, confidently crossing his arms.

Sky shook her head at the two of them. "How's your day going, Riley? Thought you'd be off spending it with Jax before the show."

The sound of his name made me sigh. I wished things were good enough between us to be on a date right now, I'd much rather be laughing and drinking with Jax than working and lamenting here on the bus by myself. "Nope. I've been working all day keeping your wallets stuffed." I paused. "Actually, I thought Jax was with you guys . . . "


Tags: Priscilla West Forever Billionaire Romance
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