His hands were planted on each side of the doorframe and he was leaning in. Blue eyes met mine. “Abby.”
Somehow I plastered a smile on my face, and I had a feeling it was a crazy looking smile. “Hi, Colton!” The enthusiasm was a bit much, but I couldn’t tone it down. “How are you—?”
“Don’t do that,” he cut in, and I felt my creeper smile wobble and then fade. “After what happened yesterday, don’t pretend with me.”
He lowered his hands. “We need to talk.”
We did. I stepped aside, pressing my lips together. “Come in.”
Colton closed the door behind him, but instead of walking to the couch, he stopped in front of me. My breath caught as he clasped the sides of my face in a gentle grasp. His intense gaze swept over me. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay. Really.” I forced a less weird smile. “Thanks for asking.”
The skin around his eyes tensed. “I wanted to get over here earlier.”
It was then when I realized he was wearing the same clothes from last night. Needless to say, he probably had a lot of…cop things going on. “It’s okay. I—”
“It’s not okay. It fucking killed me not to be over here. Fuck.” He dropped his hands and ran one through his hair as he stepped back. “Seeing you last night, with blood on your face—fuck,” he cursed again, looking away. “Damn, I said I would protect you. I didn’t.”
“What?” I blinked. “You couldn’t have known that was going to happen. Even Detective Hart had said he figured the shooter would’ve run after his friend or whatever was found dead. That’s not your fault.”
The look on his face said he wasn’t so sure of that. “He followed you to your house and he hit you with a gun. You could’ve died, Abby. I—”
“Colton,” I tried again. “I’m serious. It wasn’t your fault. Okay? And you didn’t have to come over here to check on me. I’m okay. You’ve…you’ve done enough. You got your brother and Roxy to take me home and—”
“I’ve done enough? Obviously, I haven’t done enough.” His gaze found its way back to mine. “I need to make a couple of things clear. When you left Mona’s last night, you were upset. I get that. You just saw me walk out with Nicole and you left before I could say a single thing to you. Don’t pretend like you didn’t see that.”
“Okay. You, um, seemed busy.” I swallowed, taking a step back. “So that…that’s your ex-fiancée? She’s gorgeous.”
“Yeah, she is.” His brows knitted as he stared down at me. “You know, I was hoping I would hear from you. I figured after Sunday, I was going to leave the ball in your court.”
He had? Had he given that message through man code? I wasn’t good at reading man code.
“Obviously, you need to work through some issues and I was hoping that you would let me help you with that,” he continued. “I’m impatient though. I was planning on calling you last night, but my brother does this thing every week at his place—game night. It’s stupid, but fun. I thought I’d swing by his place for about an hour and then call you.”
I didn’t know what to say about any of that, but I wasn’t going to stand here like I was mute. I had a voice and I was going to use it. “But you were at Mona’s, with Nicole.”
“I was,” he said, a muscle flexing along his jaw. “I met her there on the way to Reece’s. When we broke up, there was a watch that my grandfather had given me before he passed away. One night at her place, I had taken it off and I never found it after that. Nicole finally found it.” Lowering his one hand to the pocket of his denim jeans, he fished out a gold watch that looked like it cost a pretty penny. “She wanted to talk. That’s why we were in Jax’s office.”
I stared at the watch and then watched him place it back in his pocket. Part of me felt like an idiot, but how would anyone really react in this situation? “What did she want?”
Colton didn’t lie. “She misses me. That’s what she wanted to talk about.”
Sucking in a sharp breath, I schooled my expression blank. “Okay.”
His eyes narrowed. “Is that all you have to say about that?”
The frustration rose again, rushing over my skin like an army of fiery ants. If last night had taught me anything, it was that I wasn’t a coward. I was a survivor. I really found my voice then. “What do you want me to say, Colton? How do I respond to that? I’m not mad that she misses you. You probably miss her too. You were together for a long time, but…” My words started to fade, and while there was a part of me that just wanted to show him the door and retreat, I refused to do it. “But we just reconnected and I don’t know where our relationship is going. And you know what? Yes. I don’t have the greatest confidence in myself right now. I haven’t seriously dated anyone besides Kevin, and the last four years have been a really long dry spell. And I know that’s not the greatest issue to have, but whatever. I like you.”
I’d blurted those last three words out and then I couldn’t take them back. “I really like you, Colton. I’ve always liked you, but I’m going to be honest. I’m going to suck at this whole dating thing and I’m going to have moments when I doubt why you’re here. And it doesn’t help when your ex-fiancée looks like a Sports Illustrated model. I shouldn’t have run from the bar. That was stupid, but guess what, I’m probably going to do a lot of stupid things. That’s just the beginning.”
His lips started to twitch.
My eyes narrowed. “You think this is funny?”
“No.” His eyes said he was lying. “Not at all.”
“Uh-huh.” I folded my arms across my chest and parroted back what he’d said earlier. “Is that all you have to say about that?”
“No. That’s not all.” His lips did curve up at the corners then. “I don’t think less of you because you don’t see what I see, what I know, when I look at you. That’s the issue I’m more than willing to work with. You get that?”
I nodded as I pressed my lips together.
“I like you, really like you,” he repeated, and that hope in my chest sparked into a wildfire. “I’ve always liked you, too. And yeah, Nicole is great looking, but she’s not the person I’m standing in front of and she’s not the person who gets me hard when I think of her. And she isn’t the person I almost lost last night. That’s you, sweetheart, all you.”
Warmth invaded my cheeks. Oh…oh wow.
“I can tell you where this relationship is going. Or at least where I hope it is. We’re going to spend more time together. We’re going to really get to know each other, and I’m going to chip away at that low confidence shit until you see what I see,” he said, and a shiver curled along the base of my spine in response to his steely determination.
My breath caught as he took a step forward and lifted his hands, gently holding my cheeks once more. “I want this to work,” he said, his voice low. “Because like I said before, I believe in second chances and I don’t believe in coincidences. There was a reason why you and I reconnected, and I don’t want to pass that up. And we almost lost that last night, so really, we’re working on a third chance. I want this to work.”