I held his hand quietly for a moment. "I . . . I know it's not going to be the same in a few days, when the tour's over," I said, trying to keep my voice level and calm. "I'm going back to New York, you're staying here to record your next album. It's just. . ."
"What?" Jax asked, his voice calm and assured. "You know I'll come back to New York, right? I do live there."
"Yeah. I know," I said, struggling for the right words. "It's just—I don't know what's going to happen when I leave."
In the darkness, something brushed against my cheek, and I flinched before realizing it was Jax's hand, caressing my cheek. "You're overthinking it." His voice was warm and relaxed. "It's going to be a few weeks in Los Angeles, and I'll be laying down tracks with the band the whole time. Then I'm going to come back to New York. While I'm gone, we'll talk on the phone and it will be fine."
My heart beat faster. We'd been avoiding talking about our relationship for so long, and I had been so careful about getting my hopes up. "So you're telling me that once you're back, we'll . . ."
" . . . Pick things up where we left off? That's what I'm expecting. Unless you'd be too embarrassed to tell your New York friends that you're slumming it with a guy in a band."
I laughed, relief coursing through my body. "Slumming it? Are you kidding? I'll be telling everyone!" Fumbling for my purse next to the chair, I searched with my fingers for the envelope I'd placed inside just before we'd left the bus.
"Here," I said, placing the square envelope in his hand. "I want you to have this."
"What is it?"
"Just . . . something I've been working on for the last few days. A present."
"It's not going to do me much good to open it in the dark," he said, sounding confused.
"It's not for you to open here," I said quickly. "It's for after the tour. When we're apart."
The envelope rustled and I felt Jax's hand close around mine again. "Thank you, Riley. I'll treasure it—whatever it is."
We shared a silence together as I reveled in the removal of a huge weight I hadn't even realized I had been carrying. I was so glad to be done with our conversation about what would happen between us after the tour. And that Jax sounded so sure about it.
Drunk with warm feelings, I felt a torrent of words escaping from my lips before I could stop them. "I'll miss you so much, Jax. I . . . I love you."
My heart thumped so loudly it almost hurt. A small noise came from Jax's throat. After a long silence, he found my shoulder with his arm and gave it a soft squeeze.
"I think you're incredible," he said softly, caressing my arm. "And now I wonder where our dessert is."
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. My cheeks got hot with embarrassment. The darkness had made me feel like Jax was ready to open up, but it was clear there were still locked doors in his heart I couldn't reach.
I pressed my lips together together as we shared an awkward silence. Thankfully, the waiter did come with the dessert quickly, giving me time to think as we ate.
I hadn't meant to do it, but I'd finally told Jax how I felt. If those words were hard for me to say, then I knew how much harder it would be for him. Maybe I had been too fast to say it. I probably had.
But it was done, and even if Jax wouldn't tell me he loved me, he had already given me enough for the night. I knew he wanted to be with me, and if we continued to grow together eventually he would say those words.
The next day, I sat alone on the bus. A tapping noise filled the room.
My fingers flew over the keys of my laptop as I pounded out a status report to Palmer. Other than the sound of my typing, an eerie quiet blanketed the bus. I missed the usual noise of the band, but they were downtown doing a meet and greet with a possible producer for their next album.
I bit my lip and tried to concentrate, but my mind kept slipping back to Jax. Last night, I finally found the courage to talk to him about our future past the tour. Knowing that he wanted to be with me once we were back in New York filled me with a happiness that I hadn't known was possible, even if he hadn't been ready to say he loved me yet. We now had a future—and in time, maybe I would be able to unlock all the secrets of Jax's scarred heart.
I shook my head and hunched over the keyboard, willing away my distracting thoughts so I could hurry and finish my report. Crunching numbers was just one thing I had to do today, and the least important to me.
This morning, Jax had invited me to go along with him to his promo at five o'clock. He had seemed eager to hang out with me, even though he warned me that I might not have that much fun at this promo, which he called "lame."
Waves magazine planned to do a spread on up-and-coming leaders of hot bands for next month's issue, and they'd invited Jax to participate. But alone, without the rest of the band. No one liked the idea, but Reed had managed to convince everyone that this kind of free exposure couldn't be passed up. So reluctantly, Jax had agreed to do it.
I glanced at my watch. Shit.
It said 4:00. If Jax didn't hurry back soon, we'd be late. Not like that didn't happen all the time in the music business, but apparently this world famous photographer hated tardiness with a passion that bordered on the insane. If we were late, Reed informed us, this guy would cancel the whole gig, and then there would be hell to pay not only from him, but also from the rest of the bands involved.
A loud rumble came from outside, and I snapped my head up to listen. Next I heard a jarring screech. What the hell?
I ran to the window and peeked out into Reed's driveway.
To my surprise, Jax sat outside on a growling red motorcycle. He wore sunglasses, and held his phone in his hand, typing into it.
I stared at the beautiful bike. It looked smaller and more streamlined than his black Vincent Shadow. More feminine. Why would he be driving something like that?
My phone chimed. Smiling, I picked it up and read the message from Jax: Hey baby, check this out.
I hurried outside to meet him, and he revved the engine proudly as I approached. A loud roar filled my ears and I cupped my hands over them for protection. He smiled and switched it off.
"So what'd you do, trade your bike in for this?" I grinned at him. "It looks kind of girly for you."
Jax laughed, his eyes flashing. "That's good. This one's for you."
My eyes widened. This is too much, Jax. "Are you serious?"
"Just for today, that is," he said, swinging his leg over the seat and standing up. "It's a rental."