“You won’t,” he said, and I lifted my gaze to his. “I’m not going to lie to you. It’s going to hang with you. Seeing death like that isn’t easy. It’s a darkness you just can’t explain and can’t understand.”
That was so true. “You see it a lot?”
His head tilted to the side. “I’ve seen enough, Abby. Enough.”
The need to apologize again rose, but I squelched it now. It was a terrible habit of mine. Apologizing for things I had no control over. Without apologizing, I had no idea what to say to him.
“I need to ask you one more time,” he said, all softness gone from his eyes. They were like chips of blue ice. “Are you positive you didn’t hear any of their names?”
“The one guy was talking—the one with the scar, but I didn’t hear what he was saying. I was too…shocked by what I was seeing. I wish I did, but I couldn’t make any of it out, but I got this impression that he…I don’t know.”
“What impression?” He leaned forward, gaze sharpening.
Unsure if what I was saying was correct or more of just a feeling, I squirmed a little in my chair. “I got this feeling that he wasn’t okay with what was happening. He appeared upset. Like he had his hands in his hair. Like this.” I raised my hands to my shoulder-length hair and scrubbed my fingers through it. “He seemed upset. I know that’s not much—”
“No, that’s definitely something. That’s good.”
Colton smiled tightly. No dimple. “Because if this guy didn’t like what was going down, then he could turn against the one who pulled the trigger.”
“Oh.” I thought that made sense.
He was quiet for a moment. “What a horrible way for you and I to run into each other again, huh?”
My answering smile didn’t feel as forced as the one before. “Yeah. Not the greatest circumstances.” I reached up, tucking my hair behind my ear. I started to yawn, weary with exhaustion, but the stretching of my face caused me to wince. “Ow.”
Colton had somehow moved closer and before I knew it, I could catch the scent of his cologne. It was crisp, reminding me of mountain air. A single finger curved under my chin, startling me. The touch was simply electrifying, like a jolt of pure caffeine to the nervous system. The grasp was surprisingly tender. That softness was back in his gaze.
And it had been so long since I’d been touched in what felt like such an intimate way.
For some god-awful reason, tears started climbing the back of my throat. Granted, there were currently a lot of reasons to begin sobbing hysterically, but the last thing I needed to do was cry over Colton.
I knew I should pull away from him because the comfort his slight touch offered was too much. The wall I had built around the nearly consuming terror started to crumble. “That man…that murderer? He saw me,” I repeated in a hushed voice. “If I can describe him, he can describe me.” My voice caught, cracked a little. “That’s terrifying.”
“I know how scary that is, but trust me, Abby.” The hard glint was back in his icy eyes as his hand shifted slightly and his thumb smoothed under the tiny cut along my cheek. “I’m going to make sure you’re safe.”
None of the pictures that had been splayed out in front of me or had been included in the most disturbing photo album ever were of the men I’d seen in the alley.
Strangely, I felt like I had failed.
I wanted to be able to point at someone and say that was them. The bad guys would be found, and all of this would be over. I wanted that so badly.
But that was not what happened.
Colton had been called out toward the end and even though he’d said he’d be back, I hadn’t seen him while I was ushered out of the police station and guided to my car by Detective Hart.
They’d be in touch.
I had no idea what that meant and I was too exhausted to figure it out. The drive from the city to the townhouse I’d purchased when I moved back wasn’t particularly quick, even at damn near close to three in the morning. By some kind of miracle, I made it home, parked my car, and hobbled up the steps and let myself in. It was only then that I remembered that my one heel was broken. I didn’t recall how I got the shoe back. Maybe Officer Hun?
Or was it Colton?
Please not Colton.
I really didn’t need him knowing that I was near caveman size when it came to my feet.
Flipping the light on inside, I quickly closed the door behind me and kicked off my ruined shoes. My pinched toes sighed in relief as I stared up at the narrow staircase directly in front of the door. More than anything I wanted to climb those steps and throw myself into my bed, but I felt disgustingly dirty and my throat felt like the Mojave Desert.
The section of townhouses had been built in the early nineties so the entire first floor rocked the whole open concept. The living room area was cozy with a couch and chair, situated around a TV and coffee table. The space opened right into a dining room that I honestly never used. Most of my dinners were on the couch. All the appliances had been new in the kitchen, and I’d fallen in love with the gray granite countertops the moment I walked into it.
I turned on the light in the kitchen and went straight to the fridge. Diets be damned. I picked up a can of Coke, popped the lid, and nearly drank all of it while the fridge door was still open, throwing out cold air.
“God,” I whispered, lowering the can slowly as I closed the fridge door. “Tonight…”
There were no words.
I turned around and walked out of the kitchen, carrying my can of soda and purse with me. As I walked back through the dining area, my gaze fell over the framed photos nailed to the wall. When I moved in, it had taken me nearly two years to hang those portraits.
Some were easier than others. Like the picture of me and the girls from college, standing in Times Square, or the really terrible college graduation photo. For some reason, I ended up looking cross-eyed in it. Most people would want to hide the photo, but it made me laugh.
It had made Kevin laugh.
My gaze tracked over to the photo of my parents. It had been taken in their home, in the kitchen I’d grown up in. It had been Thanksgiving morning and Dad had snuck up on Mom, wrapping his arms around her waist from behind. Both were smiling happily.
They passed away in a car accident my second year of college. It had been a huge blow, shattering. Dealing with the loss of both parents at once had been nearly impossible, but naïvely, I had believed that would be the only real loss I’d suffer. I mean, come on, what was the statistical probability of losing another loved one to something as unfair and unpredictable as another car accident?
The only photo I had hanging of Kevin was the one of him standing alone at our wedding, dressed in the tux he’d rented from a cheap wedding shop in town. It was outside, in the bright July sun, and he was more golden than blond. I loved this photo so much because it captured the warmth in his brown eyes.
That was Kevin. Always warm. Always welcoming. He was the kind of person who never met a stranger. I pressed my lips together as I stared at his boyishly handsome face. As the months had turned into years, it became harder and harder to pull his features from memory alone. The same with my parents. There were days when all of them would appear in my mind as clear as day, while other days they were nothing more than a ghost.