I frowned. “So, he’s some kind of crime lord? And everyone knows this? How is he still doing what he does?”

“Cause like I said, he’s got his hands in a lot of things, and that means he’s got a lot of people in his pocket. He’s Teflon. Nothing sticks.”

“Wow,” I murmured.

“Anyway, the man murdered worked for Isaiah, and one thing every shitbag in this state and the ones touching ours knows is you don’t mess with Isaiah’s people unless you want a target on the back of your head. Whoever the shooters are, either aren’t the brightest or they have more balls than brains. And whoever they work for doesn’t want that connection made,” he told me. “Which explains what happened at the store and this. Someone ID’d you. Could’ve been anyone hanging around the crime scene Friday night or…”

Or it could’ve been someone in the police department. Good God, this was unreal.

“The thing is, knowing Isaiah, he’s going to find out who pulled that trigger before us.” His laugh was without humor. “He almost always does. And he’s going to take care of it. But what I don’t like is whoever the punks work for coming after you.” He yanked on the tape. “They’re not going to get close to you again.”

The way he said it almost had me convinced he could single-handedly ensure that. I wanted to believe that, but he couldn’t be around me twenty-four hours a day. The fear I’d been holding back pressed on me. “Should I…should I be worried about this Isaiah?”

“Honestly?” The muscles moved along his spine. “No. But he’s not a good guy. Don’t ever mistake him for that, but he has his own sense of moral code and conduct. Violence against women or children is a surefire way to get on his bad side. He will leave you alone.”

“That’s sort of comforting,” I mumbled, taking a sip of my coffee. “Kind of.”

“Gotta say, though, you’re handling all of this like a champ.”

I got a wee bit distracted by the way his bicep bunched and blurted out, “I cried myself to sleep last night.”


Colton stilled.

My eyes widened. “Oh my God.” I placed my hand over my forehead. “I cannot believe I just said that out loud.”

Lowering his hands, he let the tarp flap to the side as he faced me. The roll of duct tape dangled from his fingers.

Warmth invaded my cheeks. “I mean, I didn’t like sob or anything, and I don’t cry a lot. It’s just that—”

“Honey, you don’t have to explain anything. You saw some shit last night.” Dropping the roll of tape on the arm of the chair, he walked around the coffee table and got right in between it and me. Plucking the cup out of my hand, he placed it beside his and sat on the corner of the table in front of me. He was so close our knees pressed together when he leaned in, resting his arms on his thighs. “Having an emotional reaction is expected. If you hadn’t, I would be concerned. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of you being alone after seeing something like that.”

“Why?” I asked before I could stop myself. “Why do you care?”

He tilted his head to the side. “I’m not sure what to think about that kind of question.”

I exhaled slowly. “I mean, do you treat all your witnesses this way? Bring them crepes in the morning and fix vandalized windows?”

Colton raised a brow. “No.”

Well, that was a blunt answer. “Then why are you doing it now?”

“When I asked you if you believed in second chances, I was hoping you’d say yes.” Those thick lashes lifted. “I don’t like the way our paths crossed again, but I’m glad they did.”

There were no words.

A playful grin appeared. “I noticed you in high school, Abby. I thought you were pretty and smart. I liked how you were always the first one in the class and the last one out.”

Oh my God, I was always the first one in and the last one out.

“I liked how you were nice to everyone, even the assholes who didn’t deserve it,” he continued, those azure eyes glimmering. “So, yeah, I noticed you, but you had a boyfriend. You always had a boyfriend. I respected that, but I know you noticed me.”

The warmth increasing in my cheeks had nothing to do with embarrassment.

“You know, every couple of years, you’ve crossed my mind. That’s the damn truth.” His eyes met mine and held. “It was always unexpected. Never unwelcomed. Did you think of me?”

“Yes. I’ve thought of you,” I whispered.

His grin turned smug. “Hell yeah.”

Stunned by what he was admitting, it still didn’t make sense. “I’ve seen you around town, Colton, since I moved back. At the store or the movies.” I left out the part that he was with someone else because that was irrelevant. “You never noticed me then.”

“Then I’m a fucking idiot if that’s true.”

I blinked and my gaze centered on his well-formed mouth. What did his mouth feel like? Was it hard? Soft? A mixture of both? And what did he taste like? I bet a marvelous mix of coffee and man. “Colton—”

“I should’ve noticed you. Damn, I hate the idea that I hadn’t.” Sincerity filled his tone. “I notice you now, Abby.”

My heart started tripping all over itself. “This doesn’t seem real.”

A chuckle rumbled out of him. “Why not?”

“Because these things don’t happen in real life,” I told him, leaning back and needing the space before I decided to find out exactly how his mouth felt and what he tasted like. “They don’t.”

His brows knitted together. “This is happening. It’s real life.”

“You are not getting what I’m saying.” I drew in a deep breath. “Extremely gorgeous men like you—”

“You think I’m extremely gorgeous?” His grin reappeared and so did the left dimple.

I shot him a bland look. “Like you don’t know that. And see, that’s the thing. You’re the gorgeous, confident cop and I’m not the worst thing walking on two legs, but I’m not the type of woman who snags the interest of a guy like you. That only happens in books.”

He stared at me for a moment and then he shook his head. “First off, what the hell do you mean by woman like you?”

“Do I really need to spell it out for you?”

His eyes narrowed. “Yeah, yeah you do.”

Frustration rose, racing across my skin like an army of fire ants. He couldn’t be serious. “I don’t look like the woman I saw you at the movies with. She was a tall, thin beautiful blonde. No one in this world would describe me as that beautiful woman with the hot guy. They would be like, wow, he’s really with someone quite average. And I’m totally okay with being that average chick. I know what I am, so this doesn’t make sense. I mean, unless you’re just horny and want to get laid and you have no other prospects at the moment, then that makes more sense, I guess.”

He opened his mouth, closed it, and then tried again. “If I’m horny and want to get laid?”

Yeah, I sort of couldn’t believe I said that myself.