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.
The shooter was still out there.
Taking my time, I looked at each of the photos spread out in front of me. At first, they all looked alike—men in their upper twenties, bald with tats on the neck or just on their arms. I’d looked at twenty or so before Detective Hart added five more photos to the mix. I glanced over at them.
My heart stopped as I sucked in an unsteady breath. I reached over, picking up the third photograph, and held it close. There were three shots: full frontal and two profiles.
For a moment I couldn’t get my tongue to work. Like it was glued to the roof of my mouth. My hand trembled as I stared at the face of the man I’d seen shoot someone—kill someone. My throat was dry. “It’s him.”
Detective Hart leaned forward, placing his forearm on the table. “Are you sure?”
“Positive.” I cleared my throat. “That’s him.” Unable to look at the photo any longer, I handed it over to the detective. Satisfaction gleamed in his eyes. “What’s his name?” I asked and then frowned. “You probably can’t tell me that, can you?”
He slipped the photo in a file. “You’d be correct. At least not right now.” Standing, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “There’s just a couple of forms we need you to sign and then you’ll be on your way.”
Taking several shallow breaths, I ignored the unease twisting up my insides. Detective Hart paused at the door. “You’re going to put this man behind bars, where he belongs.” His smile was tight. “And you’ve probably saved his life.”
* * * *
Monday was weird.
I couldn’t focus on the new manuscript, not that anyone would blame me. I’d identified a murderer this morning and according to Detective Hart, I’d probably saved his life by doing so. Unless the mob guy Colton had mentioned got to him first.
Throughout the day, I engaged in some major wishful phone checking. As if somehow I had missed his text or call. Of course, there were no missed messages. My stomach dropped. After identifying the shooter, I figured Colton would be in contact, even if it was in a purely professional sense.
Monday slowly churned into Tuesday. No calls. No texts. I could’ve messaged him, I realized that, but I was the one who messed up and I honestly had no experience in these things. Dating was so far out of my realm of understanding. Was I supposed to give him space? Give him time? Or was he waiting for me to reach out? Or was he just really busy? The latter made sense. He was probably trying to search down the shooter.
Sitting at my desk, I groaned as I leaned over, resting my forehead against the cool wood. I was such an idiot. I’d let that stupid, ugly voice in my head get the better of me. I was still letting it get the better of me, wasn’t I? Because why hadn’t I messaged Colton?