I stiffened, eyes widening. “What?”
“One of the men you saw that night is dead, Abby.”
All the heat vanished and a different kind of tension built in the pit of my stomach. At first, I didn’t think I heard him right. The bomb he dropped came out of nowhere.
I said the first thing that came to mind. “Are you sure?”
And that was a dumb question.
He nodded. “It’s not the man who did the shooting. It appears to be the other suspect.”
Leaning back against the cushion, I tucked my legs under me as I tried to process what had just happened. My thoughts were running in so many different directions. Not the man who pulled the trigger—the one with the cold, dead eyes? “How did he die?”
Colton twisted his body toward me. “Sweetheart, that’s not something you need to know.”
Part of me wanted to know, as morbid as that sounded. “But how?”
He glanced at the paused movie. “Remember when I told you about Isaiah Vakhrov?”
The mob guy. How could I forget him? I nodded.
“As far as I know right now, there’s no evidence pointing to him having a hand in this, but I’d be willing to bet my retirement it was him.” Colton lifted his hand, sighing as he scrubbed his fingers through his hair. “It’s messed up, you know? These guys have their set of moral codes, twisted moral codes, and while those guys killed someone, murdering them isn’t the answer.”
“Agreed,” I whispered, shivering. “I…I don’t even know what to say.”
“There’s really nothing to say, but with the one dead, the shooter is probably going to be on the run. If he’s smart that is.”
My gaze flipped to his as pressure squeezed my chest. “What about the guys who warned me in the parking lot? They won’t think I ratted their guys out?”
His jaw hardened as his gaze turned icy. “They’d have to be fucking idiots to think you had anything to do with this.”
But they had been idiotic enough to approach me in the first place. Another shiver tiptoed its way over my shoulders. I hadn’t forgotten about them or the fear they’d induced this past week. It was just something I tried not to think about. I didn’t like the idea of living with that kind of fear.
Maybe that wasn’t wise.
“There’s one more thing. Hart was able to pull some more photos of those who match your description of the shooter,” he explained. “We’d like you to look at them as soon as possible.”
I nodded again.
Colton reached over, placing the tips of his fingers under my chin. He lifted my gaze to his. “I’m going to make sure you’re safe, Abby.”
“Is that why you’ve been spending so much time with me?” The moment that question left my mouth, I wanted to dropkick myself in the face. I couldn’t even believe those words came out of me. It was like they existed in a dark, stupid as hell place that I had no control over.
His brows lifted as he stared at me. “Come again?”
Oh God. My cheeks heated. “I mean, I know I’m a witness and keeping me safe is a part of your job, but I…” I mentally strung together an epic amount of curse words. “I don’t even know what I’m saying.”
Colton dropped his hand. “I think you kind of do, Abby.”
Uncurling my legs, I nervously smoothed my hands over the skirt of my dress. Was my question a Freudian slip in a way? Of course it was. Because that stupid as hell, ugly part of me still couldn’t fathom Colton being here because he was sincerely attracted to me, even after what had just gone down between us.
I was an idiot.
His eyes narrowed. “Do you really think that me being here has to do with what happened last Friday?”
“Well, that’s how we crossed paths—”
“You know that’s not what I’m getting at,” he interrupted. “And I know that’s not what you were trying to say. You think I’m here, with you, with some kind of ulterior motive?”
A sick feeling expanded in my chest. “I don’t think…” I trailed off because if I was being honest with myself, I was lying.
“I’ll do anything to keep a witness safe and to get the job done,” he said, shaking his head. “But I wouldn’t go that damn far, Abby. I’m here and have been here with you simply because I want to be. I’d think the fact that I had my hand between your thighs ten minutes ago would be proof enough of that.”
Warmth infused my cheeks as I bit down on the inside of my cheek. A moment passed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insinuate anything.”
“You don’t need to apologize.”
It was my turn to shake my head because I did need to apologize. “But I do, because…because saying something like that isn’t saying great things about you as a person.” I let out a long breath. What could I say? That I was trying to improve my confidence? That I just… “I’m stupid.”
One eyebrow rose. “You’re not stupid. That’s not the problem.”
A slice of unease lit up my chest as I glanced at him. He was staring straight ahead, his gaze fixed on the wall. A numbness settled in the pit of my stomach.
His shoulders tensed. “You’re a beautiful woman, Abby. And you’re smart and kind. You’re funny.” He turned to me, a distant gleam in his eyes. “And it’s a damn shame you don’t see that.”
The numbness spread like icy drizzle, coating my skin. Underneath it, embarrassment burned. Were my hang-ups that obvious? I squeezed my eyes shut. God, this was humiliating.
“I’m going to…I’m going to go ahead and head out,” he said, and my eyes snapped open. He was staring at the wall again as disappointment, remorse, and a hundred other messy emotions churned inside me. “Keep the movie. We’ll watch it later.”
A knot formed in the base of my throat. For some reason, I didn’t think “later” was going to come soon.
“Okay?” he asked.
Pressing my lips together, I nodded as he rose and then I forced a smile when he bent over, pressing his lips against my forehead. My chest squeezed at the sweet gesture, and somehow I managed to walk him to the door and to say good-bye. And when I closed the door, I leaned against it, pressing my balled hands against my eyes.
The sick feeling expanded, circling my heart. There was a good chance that in such a short period of time, I’d fallen for Colton and I…I might have already lost him.
Colton had texted Monday morning asking if I could stop by the office today to look at the photos again, but when I got there, he wasn’t there. I tried not to take it personally as I was handed off to Detective Hart and taken into a private room, but it was hard. My stomach churned as Detective Hart spread glossy photographs across the scratched surface of the table.
I wanted to ask where Colton was. Hell, I wanted to whip out my phone and text him. Call him.
“Just take your time,” he said, sitting back in the metal chair. “There’s no rush.”
My gaze flickered over the photographs as my heart started pounding in my chest. I needed to focus. Priorities. Right now, what had happened with Colton wasn’t the most important thing going on.