Home > Heart Strings(4)

Heart Strings(4)
Author: Melanie Moreland

I tamped down my retort and smiled at my mother. No one knew how important the company was to him more than I did. It had replaced everything else in his life after Josh was gone.

I also knew the fleeting moment that passed between my mother and me earlier was gone. Any hope she would speak to my father on my behalf disappeared. She always sided with him. “Of course.”

She patted my cheek. “Like you said, you can take a break when this next project is done.”

“Right. I’ll consider it later.”

“Good.”

“Goodnight, Mom.”

I hurried away, worried my father would appear from the den and stop me.

 

 

My feet dragged coming off the subway; weariness made my body feel older than my twenty-six years. I climbed the steps, welcoming the cold air as I exited the station, and I tucked my scarf tight around my neck. I walked sluggishly, not in any hurry. I doubted I would sleep much with everything on my mind.

I felt trapped. I truly despised my job, yet I had no idea how to get out of it. My father owned the firm, and I was the heir apparent. It was expected of me. My heart ached when I thought of the reason why. It should have been Josh. Like my father, he’d loved all elements of business. He soaked it all up like a sponge. He had been the golden child, groomed to take over and carry on the Prescott name. Even at his young age, he understood the nature of my father’s business and loved it. I was just the little girl, loved for being the baby of the family, with no expectations placed on me, until Josh got sick.

It happened fast. One day, he was fine. And it seemed, at least to the child I was then, the next, he was dangerously ill. Life revolved around the hospital and Josh. All I heard were discussions and plans for treatment options. Nothing else mattered. As options were tried, and failed, my parents began to shut down. When the doctors discussed stem cell treatments, my parents were tested, but they came back as not a good match. He was put on the OneMatch Network, but time was running out. All I knew was I missed my big brother, and I wanted him home. I wanted life to go back to the way it was. When the doctors suggested, despite my age, I be tested, that there was a good chance I could be a match, I saw the hope in my parents’ eyes. I’d known how important it was that it work. I had been the last hope to save Josh.

And despite being a perfect match and going ahead with the efforts, it was in vain.

I would never forget the disappointed look on my father’s face as he turned away from me when he realized it wasn’t going to work. I had failed.

The day Josh died, my entire family did. It was as if they forgot about me. I tried so hard to get their attention. To bring back the people I once knew as my parents. I excelled at school. I put aside my silly dreams of being a pastry chef and concentrated on business. I went to work for my father since I was certain that was what he wanted.

I tried to step into Josh’s shoes. To make up for his loss to my parents by giving them my life.

I failed at that as well.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

Lottie

 

 

It was late when I switched off my desk lamp. My clock chimed out eight bells as I slipped on my coat, stretching my sore muscles. I didn’t bother packing my laptop tonight. By the time I got home and had something to eat, it would be time to sleep, and I’d be back to work early.

I sat, unseeing, on the subway, my brain still processing the day. The meetings melted into one another, the emails and to-do lists constant. I could barely keep up. I wasn’t sleeping well, and my appetite was almost nonexistent. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep going that way.

My stop approached, and I stood, feeling the sadness of knowing I wouldn’t see him tonight. I had missed him one night last week as well. The next day, when our eyes met across the platform, I was certain I had seen relief flash across his face, but that was probably wishful thinking. I had sat for a few minutes, listening to him, letting his music soak into my soul, then headed home to another evening of more work.

I wouldn’t even have those few minutes tonight.

However, as I rounded the corner, I halted in shock when I saw him, leaning against the wall, lazily strumming his guitar, an abstract tune I hadn’t heard. He lifted his head, our gazes locked, and happiness welled in my chest. I didn’t know why he was there so late, and I didn’t care. He was there. That was all that mattered.

The station wasn’t busy, and I sat close to listen. He began another song—one of my favorites—and I relaxed back, letting my eyes shut as the notes drifted over me, low and sweet. When he began to sing, a tear slipped down my cheek at the richness of his voice. It felt as though he were singing only to me. Another wistful thought, but it was how I felt.

His voice wrapped around me like a lover’s embrace. I felt warm, soothed, and my body eased for the first time since I had left his presence last night. As the song faded away, another began, and I let myself remain. I needed that, him, so much tonight. With a sigh, I let my head fall forward, immersing myself in the song. His fingers coaxed the notes from the guitar; his voice weaved a spell around him and me.

And my miserable world disappeared.

 

 

Something was different. The music still played, but it sounded close. I blinked open my eyes, realizing in horror that I had fallen asleep in the subway station. I sat up straight, panicked.

“It’s okay. You’re okay,” a voice soothed.

I knew that voice, but not from hearing it spoken. It was always raised in song. I turned my head, shocked to find him beside me. He sat, his guitar on his lap as he strummed, never missing a note.

“I’ve been watching over you.”

“Wh–what?”

“You fell asleep. I made sure you were okay.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Thank you.”

He tilted his head and studied me. “You’re working too hard. You’re exhausted.”

I shifted, uncomfortable with his accurate observation.

“You don’t know me. I’m not sure you should be making a statement like that.”

His fingers stopped their strumming, and he rested his hands on the guitar. “I’ve overstepped. I apologize.”

“Um, okay.”

He held out his hand. “As for not knowing you, let’s change that. I’m Montgomery Logan.”

I stared at his hand. His fingers were long, the nails neatly trimmed. He waited patiently until I slipped my hand into his. He closed his fingers around mine, pressing lightly. And again, he waited, lifting one eyebrow.

“Charlotte Prescott.”

He squeezed my hand. “It’s great to meet you, Charlotte.”

“Lottie. My friends call me Lottie.”

He smiled, his dimple deepening. “My friends call me Logan. Montgomery is a mouthful.”

“Logan,” I repeated.

He nodded. “Now that we’re on a first-name basis, I assume we’re friends?”

“Okay?”

He hunched forward and winked. “You look tired, Lottie. You need to take better care of yourself.”

That made me chuckle. “Okay.”

He lifted the guitar off his lap, placing it inside the case, shutting the lid. He bent over, rested his arms on his thighs, and studied me. “You’re late tonight.”

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