“No,” he corrected softly. “I want this to be perfect for you. It’s gonna kill me trying to take this slow.”

I dragged my hand down his back as my heart pounded. “Don’t take this slow. I’m ready.” The peaks of my ears burned. “I’m wet…for you.”

He said something I couldn’t quite understand under his breath and then his hips thrust, plunging into me with one deep stroke I felt to the tips of my toes. I cried out, tossing my head back as he stretched and filled me. Nothing ever in my life had felt like this.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice harsh as he stilled, seated deep.

“Yes.” I grabbed onto his arms as I swallowed. “Yes. Don’t stop.”

“Stopping right now is the last thing on my mind, sweetheart.” He rolled his hips back, pulling out halfway, and then he thrust forward again. “Stopping would kill me.”

It would kill both of us.

But he didn’t stop. Oh no, he moved and contrary to what he said, he used slow, languid strokes as his hand brushed the damp hair off my forehead. He built a fire deep within me as his breath danced over my lips, our gazes locked together. There was a connection there, flowing back and forth between us, something intense and consuming.

It was love.

I knew that, felt it in every cell of my being, and I closed my eyes, unwilling to show him the deepest part of me because it all felt too soon, and love had never been spoken between us.

Curling my arm around the one he rested his weight on, I wrapped my legs around his hips, drawing him in even further and eliciting a ragged groan from him. I rocked my hips and he tossed his head back, his arm trembling.

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“Don’t hold back,” I ordered in the space between us. “Please.”

And he didn’t.

Restraint broke. Those tentative strokes turned deep and powerful. He grabbed my hand, stretching it above my head, and clamped his hand down on my wrist as he moved over me and in me, his hips plunging wildly.

Pressure built, zipping through my veins and crackling over my skin. I cried out his name over and over as the tension coiled deep in my core. It was too intense, too much and still not enough.

Shifting his weight, he caught my other hand and joined it with the one he held. In one fluid move he had me immobile under him, completely under his control, helpless to him and yet entirely safe in his arms. Something about that combination undid me.

I came apart, shattering as the sound of his name and my cries mixed with his groans. He thrust once and then twisted, hard and deep, and then his huge body spasmed over mine as he buried his face in my shoulder.

When he lifted his head and pressed a tender kiss to my lips, I wasn’t sure I was still existing on Earth. I felt like I was floating to the clouds, maybe even all the way up to heaven.

“You okay?” He eased his hand away from my wrists, drawing my arms back down.

I drew in a shallow breath. “I think I might have died in a totally…good way.”

Colton chuckled and then brushed his lips over my forehead. “Be right back.”

An aftershock stole my breath as he eased out of me. I was nothing more than a puddle as he rolled onto his feet and disposed of the condom in the bathroom. When he returned, I hadn’t moved. Every part of me was sated, but I told myself I needed to move. Put some clothes on. He’d be leaving soon, and I didn’t need to be lying here with everything on display. I started to rise onto my elbows.

“Where are you going?” He climbed onto the bed, half on his side.

“I…I thought I should grab my dress.”

“Why?” Shaking his head, he snaked his arm around my waist. “No. Don’t answer that question.”

“But—”

He tugged me down so my back was curled against his front and his arm was a heavy, pleasant weight across my waist. “I’m not going anywhere, Abby.”

I squeezed my eyes shut tightly. Could he read minds?

“Do you understand?” His voice was quiet, and when I didn’t answer, his arm tightened around my waist. “I’m not.”

But he would, because—

I stopped myself. I shoved that ugly part of me away. In my head, I bitch slapped it. I told it to shut the fuck up, because that nasty part sure as hell hadn’t been entirely helpful in the past.

“Okay,” I said, placing my hand on his arm. “I…that was wonderful, you know, what we did—you did.”

“Of course I was.”

I laughed lightly. “Wow.”

There was a pause. “It was, Abby. It was perfect.” He pressed a kiss against my shoulder. “And it wasn’t me. It was you. You made this perfect.”

Chapter 15

Perfect was a theme I was getting used to, or at least trying to. It wasn’t entirely hard. Not when Colton excelled at making me feel like I was perfect.

A month had passed since the night Charles came through that front door. He was still in the county jail and from what I’d learned, I doubted there would be a trial where I would have to testify. Charles would plead guilty to murder and attempted murder. He would go away for a long time.

Unless Isaiah got ahold of him.

But that wasn’t something I was going to focus on. Every once in a while, I had…nightmares. Sometimes Colton was there to ease those troubling memories. Other nights, it was up to me to get through them, and I did.

I couldn’t believe how much could change in a short time.

While Colton had a role to play when it came to the changes I was making, the feeling of self-worth and confidence had to come from within. Yeah, the external stuff helped, but using a guy’s attention to build your confidence wasn’t something that would last long. It would be dependent upon him, a strength that could be flimsy.

The strength needed to come from me.

And the best way I could gain back the stronger part of me was through actually experiencing life.

I wasn’t working myself to the bone any longer. Meaning after I put in a normal eight-hour shift, I forced myself to stop. Who knew how much extra time existed when you weren’t avoiding…well, avoiding actually living?

I visited the museums in the city with Jillian, something I hadn’t actually done in years, and I even started going out with Roxy, Colton’s younger brother’s girlfriend. Through her, she introduced me to Calla, who was dating Jax, and to Katie, a very…odd stripper who apparently had gone to the same high school as Roxy and I.

For the first time in years, I had a circle of girlfriends, and I had forgotten how incredibly important that was. When Kevin had died and I’d left New York City, it was like I’d closed a door on the life that had existed with him, including all our mutual friends. It seemed a little late now, four years later, to try to rebuild those bridges, but it was something I’d thought about a lot and wanted to try.

And like Katie had said last Sunday, while the four of us had breakfast at IHOP, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? They ignore you or think you’re some crazy cat lady reaching out to them?”

I was also thinking about taking cooking lessons. That was something else I’d forgotten that I’d loved—baking and all things food related. Colton was a hundred percent behind the idea, mainly because I think he just wanted to eat the food.