Home > Heart Strings(6)

Heart Strings(6)
Author: Melanie Moreland

“Yes.”

“It’s always a bonus, but it wasn’t the reason. I wanted to do something for you. You looked so lost, almost broken.” He slid his hand along the table and hooked my pinkie with his finger, squeezing it. “I wanted—I needed—to help you.”

I didn’t know what to say. I stared down at our hands. Mine looked so small compared to his. The way his palm rested against mine, almost encompassing it with its size. His grip was strong, the ends of his fingers calloused from playing guitar, and what I assumed were many years of hard work. His rough skin didn’t bother me at all. In fact, his touch brought comfort. I raised my eyes, meeting his gaze, finally plucking up the courage to say what I had been thinking for so long.

“Your music brings me such peace, Logan. It’s the one thing I look forward to every day. I can’t begin to express how much it means to me.”

“I play it only for you.”

I had no time to respond.

Macy arrived, setting down plates loaded with massive burgers and French fries piled so high, they tumbled over the edge of the plate. We broke apart, and for the first time, I realized how close we’d been leaning into each other. It didn’t seem to embarrass Logan. He winked and picked up the ketchup bottle, adding a generous amount on his plate, offering it to me. I took it, putting a small squirt to the side of my plate.

I studied the burger, unsure how to eat it without it ending up all over me. I glanced up to Logan, who was attacking his burger with gusto. Cheese and ketchup dripped from the corner of his mouth, and with a smirk, he wiped it away with a napkin. He tapped my plate closer.

“Tuck in, Lottie. I want to see you eat it.” He took another huge bite, chewing it leisurely. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. A handful of fries were dragged through the ketchup, shoved into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed, as I watched, fascinated by his actions.

He shook his head and leaned across the table. “Do I have to feed you?”

I snapped out of my trance. “No.” I picked up the burger and bit down. Hot cheese, greasy meat, and fried onions hit my taste buds. I chewed and swallowed, my eyes closing on their own in pleasure. He was right. It was the best burger I had ever eaten.

His chuckle made me open my eyes. He winked at me, offering me a napkin. I wiped away the ketchup on my chin.

“It’s good.”

“I told you it was.”

“You’re awfully sure of yourself.”

He bit and masticated, shrugging one shoulder. “I suppose I am. You have to be in this life.”

“In this life? You mean in general or in, ah, your line of work?”

He pushed the hair off his forehead, shaking his head. “You mean as a young, single guy in a big city? Or as a struggling street musician?”

“Um…”

“That’s what you see, right? When you look at me? Poor, struggling, in need of handouts, like the other night?”

His eyes never left my face, and I felt heat rush up my neck, blooming on my cheeks. “It wasn’t a handout.”

“What would you call it?”

“A thank-you.”

“Do you toss a hundred bucks into every open guitar case?”

“No. But…”

“But, what?”

It felt as if the conversation had suddenly drifted into dark waters. Carefully, I set my burger back on my plate, wiping my fingers.

“Your music, it means something to me. More than I can tell you. It brings me peace. It–it’s the only thing I have to look forward to every day.” My voice rose. “And you never let me put money in. You let everyone else!”

“They’re different.”

“I don’t understand.”

He finished his burger, pushing his plate away roughly. He drained his mug and signaled for a refill, waiting until Macy brought him more coffee and left, taking his empty plate.

“You’ve barely touched your food.”

I looked down at my half-eaten burger and the large pile of fries that still sat on the plate. “Not that hungry. You want it?”

“No. I want you to eat it.”

“Tell me what you meant by that statement.”

He scrubbed his face roughly. “I play for you. If other people listen and get some enjoyment, that’s great. They want to drop in money, fine. But my music is my gift for you. You don’t have to pay to hear it. Ever.”

His words astounded me.

“What makes me different?”

“You make you different.” He bent low, extending his hand across the table, running his finger over my wrist. “Ever since I saw you that night, I felt this draw…this need to watch for you. I was heading home when I caught sight of you. You looked as if the weight of the world were on your shoulders. It reminded me…” He frowned, falling silent.

“Reminded you?” I prompted.

“It reminded me of how my father used to look. Worn-down, beaten. Stretched to his limit.” His eyes blazed as he stared across the table. “The corporate world killed him. He was dead at forty-two. He had a heart attack sitting at his desk. Just dropped dead.”

I covered my mouth. “Logan,” I breathed out.

“I was fourteen. I used to watch him, see how hard he worked. And it was never enough. If he gave ten hours, they wanted twelve. If he worked six days, they wanted seven. He struggled to be enough every fucking day—and he never was. He gave everything he had to a demanding corporation, and all he got in return was an early grave.” He flung his napkin on the table. “And all I got was one foster home after another, until I ran away.”

“What about your mother?”

“She left when I was a kid. She hated the mediocre life she led. She kept telling my father she wanted more. She packed up one day and left without a word to either of us.” Logan closed his eyes for a moment. “My dad was stuck with me and a job he hated.” He huffed out a loud breath. “Some life.”

I didn’t know what to say. Silence descended around us. Logan’s fingers drummed on the table in a restless beat, his leg swinging like a pendulum in short, rapid movements. He reached across the table, dragging my plate closer, and started eating the French fries. His movements were jerky and tense, and he didn’t meet my eyes.

Finally, he spoke. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have dumped all that on you. I rarely talk about my past, but somehow with you, it just sort of came out.”

“No, I’m glad you told me. What was your father’s name?”

“William. William Logan.”

“I’m sure he’d be very proud of you.”

Logan brushed off my words. “Tell me about you.”

“Not much to tell, really. I work at Prescott Inc.”

“The investment company?”

“Yes.”

“Prescott, as in your family?”

“Yes, my father owns and runs it.”

“No nepotism there, I see.”

A shot of anger went through me. “Actually, no. I went to school and earned my degree. I had to work my way up, just like everyone else. I’m only a manager of one small group. If anything, I have to work harder, prove myself more than anyone else there because of who I am.” I lifted my chin, meeting his steady regard. “My father believes you have to earn your place, family or not.”

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