I’d loved Kevin. I still did. And I missed him. We had been high school sweethearts, and he’d been the only man I’d been with. Looking back, I knew we didn’t have the kind of passion that curled the toes or woke you up in the middle of the night, wet and ready, and we were simply…familiar with one another, but we loved each other.
And I didn’t regret a second I spent with him.
I just regretted the moments afterward because I knew that Kevin would’ve wanted me to move on, to find someone else to love. He wouldn’t want me to be alone.
My throat clogged and I briefly squeezed my eyes shut against the rush of tears. Holding it together, I trudged on, heading upstairs. There were three bedrooms, but one of them was barely large enough to hold a bed, so it had become my office. Which was perfect because the room faced the backyard and the garden down below, enabling me to procrastinate for hours when I should be working.
I passed the tiny hallway bedroom and entered the master at the front of the townhouse. The room was spacious, complete with its walk-in closet and attached master bath. The Jacuzzi tub had become my best friend forever since I moved in.
Flipping on the nightstand light, I walked my purse over to the dove-gray sitting chair near the door. I dug my phone out and then plugged it into the charger on the nightstand. All I wanted to do was plop face first onto the bed, but I went into the bathroom and peeled off my clothes. I started to dump them in the laundry basket, but instead, I rolled them up in a ball, panties and bra included, to take down to the trash in the morning. I didn’t want to wear the clothing again, let alone see it.
Tired, I cranked the water up and waited with my back to the mirror above the sink for the water to heat up to near scalding temps, the way I liked it.
I tried not to look at myself in the mirror when I was completely nude.
I didn’t like to see my reflection.
I wasn’t…comfortable with it.
It wasn’t the tiny dimples or the roundness of certain parts of my body that made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t physical. Or maybe it was, because I hadn’t felt…attached to my own skin in a while. I knew that sounded crazy, but it was almost like I no longer even knew my own body. It was something that I wore. I wasn’t intimate with it beyond using my trusty vibrator every so often. Maybe I’d just gone too long without intimacy.
And tonight, for the first time in years, I actually felt something when Colton had touched my chin. And how sad was that? The guy had touched my chin and that was the closest to physical interaction I’d gotten since Kevin.
This was the last thing I wanted to think about tonight. My body ached as if I had overexerted myself as I stepped under the steady spray. The shower felt like the longest of my life and slipping on the worn Penn State shirt and thin, cotton shorts was literally a chore.
Finally, after what felt like forever, I was in bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I stared at the silently spinning ceiling fan and I couldn’t stop thinking about the man who died tonight. Did he have a family? A wife who was going to be getting that horrific knock on the door? Did he have kids? Were his parents still alive and would soon be burying their son? Would they ever catch the man responsible?
Did I have something to fear?
Reaching over, I picked up the remote and turned the TV on, keeping the volume low, but it did nothing to stop the steady stream of thoughts.
I’d seen someone die.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I rolled over onto my side and for the first time in years, I cried myself to sleep.
* * * *
The following morning, I stood directly in front of my coffee maker, bleary-eyed and impatient as I waited for pure happiness to stop percolating. All I’d managed to do so far was scoop up my hair and toss it up in a messy twist, but already, shorter strands were either slipping free or sticking out in every direction.
In other words, I looked like a hot mess, but I really didn’t care as I poured the steaming coffee into a cup halfway full of sugar, and I still stood there, taking my first drink, my second, and my third as the cool tile seeped through my bare feet.
Well, sleeping past eight a.m. nowadays was sleeping in. It was close to nine before I dragged myself out of bed. It wasn’t that big of a deal. The only thing I had planned later in the day was to meet up with Jillian Lima for dinner.
Jillian and I met each other at a book signing in the city. She was almost ten years younger than me, but the age difference had quickly evaporated. Jillian was a hard cookie to crack. She was almost debilitating shy, but love of books crosses all barriers. We bonded over our favorite authors and themes, and once she discovered what I did for a living, she started to open up.
For the last year, we met every Saturday night to discuss books over dinner. Sometimes we’d grab a movie or head to the bookstore, and I was going to miss her. In the spring, she would be transferring to a college in West Virginia. I still didn’t know why she was doing that. That was a little nugget of info I couldn’t wiggle out of her.
I’d just topped off my cup of coffee when the doorbell rang, surprising me. I wasn’t expecting anyone. Leaving the cup on the counter, I padded across the floor and peered out the front window, but since there were always cars I didn’t recognize parked out front, that made no difference. Rolling my eyes, I reached for the door handle, cursing the fact that there wasn’t a peephole in the door.
My jaw unhinged on a sharp inhale, and the ability to form comprehensive thoughts fled.
Colton Anders, in all his blue-eyed babe glory, stood on my stoop. “Good morning, Abby.”
I was beyond responding.
He stood there with a medium-size pink box in one hand and the other shoved in the pocket of his trousers. The five-o’clock shadow was heavier, giving him a rough edge that my sleep-fogged mind found incredibly sexy.
Okay. I would find that sexy anytime.
He was dressed as he was the night before, and I had the distinct impression he hadn’t been to bed yet, which really wasn’t fair, because how could he look this good without sleeping?
One side of his lips curled up, revealing the left-sided dimple. “Can I…come in? I brought crepes with me.”
“You like crepes, right? You have to like them,” he added, grinning. “Everyone loves crepes and these are the shit. They are rolled in cinnamon and brown sugar.”
“I…I thoroughly enjoy them.” My ass also thoroughly enjoyed them. Moving back, I stepped aside. “How do you know where I live?”
Colton stepped in, his chin dipped down. I wasn’t a small lady, coming in at five foot eight, but standing next to him, I felt small, delicate even, and that was an odd feeling. “It was on your statement. I probably should’ve called first, but I was on my way home from the station and your house was on the way. So was the bakery.”
I didn’t know what to say as I closed the door behind him, but my heart was pounding in my chest and my stomach was wiggling in a weird way, sort of like the way I’d seen described a thousand times. Butterflies. But more powerful. Like large birds of prey or pterodactyls. “You live nearby?”
His grin spread. “I live over on Plymouth Road.”
That was nowhere near my house. The butterflies increased. “Oh. In the apartments over there?”