Take Me On (Take Me Duet Book 1)

By: Stephanie Summers

PROLOGUE


The deep, somber voice of the man I gave my whole heart to fills the air around me. Lyrics of the lost love of his life assault my mind, pulling me back to a time when we were inseparable. Standing frozen in place, I know undoubtedly those words are meant for no one but me as I see him for the first time in over a year. The stage where he stands is less than fifty feet away, but his presence is felt in every corner of the room.

As his lyrics wash over the chaos of the crowd, he takes control of them, bidding them to feel the emotion pouring from his voice. His gaze seeks me out though I know he can’t possibly see me. His eyes close and everything else but the two of us disappears.

His voice finds its way to me, forcing everything else to melt into the background as it wraps around me much like his arms used to. Each word escaping his lips is like a hammer smashing to bits the wall I’ve built around my heart. Try as I might to repress them, plump tears form at the corners of my eyes as I think back to what he did for me and how much he cared when no one else seemed to even notice I was broken.

I thought I would be okay seeing him from afar, but I’m not. I want to run up on that stage like a mad woman, drop to my knees, and beg him to take me home and make the pain stop for both of us. I have to get out of here now… before I do something stupid… before the man I’m here with notices my heart still belongs to Ash London.

10 days earlier...

Looking down the tracks for a glimpse of the train, like that action alone will make it appear sooner, I shift my weight back and forth impatiently. Sadly, patience is a virtue I no longer possess, though I never had much to begin with. I’ve had enough of the stench of urine and rats scurrying about on the tracks below. I’m ready to get above ground once more so I can get to a brunch date with my best friend, Tori Tabor. Just my fucking luck, the train is running late when I have somewhere important to be. Isn’t that how it always is?

Finally, the train arrives, and I push my way on, but give up my potential seat to an elderly lady who needs it more than I do. More and more people crowd on, and I’m starting to feel like a canned sardine. The guy next to me, with his unkempt hair and mouth hanging agape, leers at me with a dead-behind-the-eyes stare the entire trip. I inch away from him as best I can, but it just seems like every time I look up, he’s that much closer. Why do I always attract the attention of weirdos? I sometimes wonder if I have a sign on my forehead that says, “Hey! You there, nut job! Pay attention to me!”

As the train nears my destination, I’m ready to disembark and get to the restaurant. The train slows, grinding to a halt, as a throng of people try to exit while narrowly avoiding those cramming their way on. Chaos ensues, and I barely make it off the train in time.

I rush up the steps, making sure I have left Mr. Weirdo far behind. The warm summer air greets me as I emerge and hurry toward my destination. I have several blocks to go, and as I finally approach the home stretch, I rush down 9th Avenue and to the restaurant where I’m meeting Tori.

Glancing into the restaurant window as I get closer to the door, I spot Tori sitting just inside. Waving to her, I enter and squeeze past a small group of people crowding the aisle.

“I’m so sorry I’m late. The train was held up. Have you been here long?”

“Just got here. I was afraid I had left you waiting.”

“Oh, good, so we were both late. No harm, no foul,” I say, plopping myself down on the chair.

A tall thirty-something waiter casually strolls over to our table. He takes our drink orders and gives us a few minutes to look over the menu.

“He was a cutie. Maybe you should give him your number,” Tori says with a twinkle in her eye.

“Yeah, and maybe a monkey will fly out of my ass. Oh, look…” I say, pointing at nothing, “there goes a pig flying by, too.”

Tori laughs, rolling her eyes at me in the process. She always tries to get me to hit on some guy, and I never do. Seriously, she’s done this since high school. Some things never change.

She glances toward the floor. “Let me see the shoes. Did you go shopping?” Tori and I have shared a major shoe addiction for years.

“No, I didn’t. I’ve had these for a year or so.” One foot adorned with a black Giuseppe Zanotti strappy sandal with a three inch heel emerges from underneath the table. I fail to remind her that I very rarely ever go shoe shopping anymore, despite the rush it used to give me. It’s just one of the many parts of myself I entangled with him that no longer gives me the joy it once did.

“They’re quite lovely, Lila,” Tori says as she admires them like the shoe junkie she is. “Did you get the invitation to the opening yet?” Her raised eyebrows and wide eyes give away her excitement. She’s been working hard for months to open up her own rock and roll nightclub.

“I did, and can I just say that it looked fabulous? It really captured the feel you’re going for.”

“Thank you! I designed it myself…” Drumming her fingers on the menu, her eyes dart to the floor and back up at me. “So?”

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