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“What are you doing here?” he asked, his tone noticeably guarded.

Emily shifted nervously, staring into his scrutinizing green eyes. She swallowed. “I have to speak with you.”

“That’s obvious.”

“Then why did you ask?” She tilted her head in question.

Colton lifted a brow, a smirk tipping one corner of his mouth. “Let’s go talk.”

Following him, Emily tried to ward off the anxious nausea simmering in her stomach. Once in his office, Colton closed the door and shrugged out of his suit jacket. Without a word, he gestured to a chair in front of his desk. After shedding her coat and scarf, Emily took a seat as her thoughts contended with a powerful urge to leave. But she wouldn’t. She knew she had to keep the reason she was there in her forethoughts. Casting a furtive glance in Colton’s direction, she watched him hang his jacket in a closet, make his way over to his desk, and lounge into a seat across from her.

Colton cleared his throat, his eyes penetrating. “You hurt him, Emily.”

Longing rolled through Emily’s already aching heart, but somehow, hearing those words from Gavin’s brother intensified it, thickened the feeling beyond any measure. “I know I did. I know that better than anyone. “ Emily struggled to keep her voice from cracking. “But I love him, and I have to make this right. Olivia told me you said he’s not in the country. I need you to tell me where he is, Colton.”

Leaning back, a condescending snort slipped through his nose. “You love him? How come I find that hard to believe?” Emily reared back, shocked, but Colton continued. “And how do you plan on making things right with him? Even if I tell you where he is, who’s to say he’ll take you back? You didn’t see what he looked like when he showed up at my house that night. The look in his eyes. The hurt on his face.” Colton leisurely shrugged, smugness clinging to his voice. “That’s right, how could you? You were too busy enjoying your rehearsal dinner.”

Heavy tension fell over the room, its presence nearly depleting the oxygen in Emily’s lungs. His insinuation slapped her hard across the face. No longer able to control her emotions, she blinked as tears slipped from her eyes. “I paid that night in more ways than one. I tortured myself in more ways than anyone will ever know.”

The sour truth tumbled from her mouth as her mind replayed the self-inflicted pain she’d allowed from Dillon as punishment for her actions and indecision. As much as she loved Gavin, she refused to subject herself to Colton’s accusations of her enjoying anything from that hideous evening. Fumbling out of her chair, she brought her hand to her chest. “You have no idea how much I love your brother. I can’t breathe without him. I haven’t slept. I’ve barely eaten. No, I didn’t believe him at first. I couldn’t. I opened the door that morning to his past when I thought I was his future. It killed me. My instincts told me to run, and so I did, and now we’re both suffering for it.”

Cupping her hand over her mouth, Emily looked down to the ground, her heart throbbing. She slowly brought her attention back to Colton, her frantic green eyes begging. “I don’t know if he’ll take me back, and I don’t expect him to. I don’t know if he’ll even look at me, because I can barely look at myself. What I do know is I need to see him. I need to tell him how sorry I am. Even if it means putting myself out there without knowing any of those things, I have to do it.” Emily drew in a gulp of air, her eyes narrowing. “But don’t you dare tell me I don’t love him because you’re wrong.”

Eyes no longer smug, understanding and compassion filled Colton’s features. Rising, he grabbed a pen and a sticky note. After scribbling something onto it, he rounded the corner of his desk and handed her the tiny piece of paper. “Here’s the address to his house and a beachside bar you’ll probably find him hanging out at.” Colton dug into his pants pocket and pulled out his wallet. After thumbing through some cash, a smile pulled at the edge of his mouth. “Though I wasn’t too fond of you earlier, I’m not going to let you foot the bill to go down there for the little wiseass.” Colton reached for Emily’s hand and tucked the money into it. “It’s not my style.”

Looking at the cash, Emily sniffled. She shook her head. “I can’t take this. It’s enough you’re letting me know where he is.” She attempted to give it back.

“I insist.” He lightly pushed her hand away. “Besides, it’s only a few hundred bucks. I’ll charter the jet to bring you down there, and I’ll make sure everything else is taken care of, including your hotel.” Colton cleared his throat and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Though I hope otherwise, we need to go with the assumption that… well, he might not be thrilled with you showing up.”

Emily swallowed tightly and nodded. As she gathered her belongings, she tried to push that haunting fact from her thoughts, but she knew making a move like this was something she might have to face. After slipping on her coat, she stared at Colton for a moment. “Have you heard from him at all?”

“No.” Colton shook his head. “Not yet.”

Fear scissored through her stomach. “How do you know he made it down there? Something could’ve happened to him.”

“Believe me, I know my brother. Nothing’s happened to him.” Assurance spun through his tone as he walked Emily to the door. “He’s the only one who’ll do harm to himself.”

With her mouth parting and worry lines cinching her brows, Emily’s eyes widened. “You don’t think he’d—”

“No. No,” Colton interrupted, a grin twisting his lips. “That came across the wrong way. Forget what I said.” The tension in Emily’s shoulders scattered like leaves in the wind. With his voice low, his grin fell away. “I apologize for my crudeness. He’s my kid brother, and even though he’s a diehard Yankees fan, which I loathe because I’m a diehard Mets fan, I kind of dig him.”

“I kind of dig him, too,” Emily whispered, staring at her feet. She brought her gaze back to Colton’s eyes, traces of Gavin lingering in them. “I really do.”

“I know, but you don’t have to convince me. You have to get down there and prove it to him. I’ll have my assistant call you with the information you’ll need.”

Emily hugged her purse to her chest, her eyes swimming with gratitude. “Thank you, Colton.”

Colton nodded and pulled open the door.

Making her way out, tears trickled down Emily’s cheeks. As she stood once again in the elevator where it’d all started, a mixture of relief and fear flooded Emily’s body. A dangerous storm ricocheted through her nerves, escalating her heart rate. Still, though doubt about showing up unannounced in an attempt to salvage any relationship with Gavin strained through her muscles, Emily knew she couldn’t add any more numbers to the growing seconds passing, keeping them apart.

Tick-tock…

CHAPTER THREE

The setting Caribbean sun cast low shadows against mosaic tiles lining a small outdoor bar on the beach. Sitting on the southernmost tip of 5th Avenue, Gavin knew the place well and frequented it each time he visited the area. Smoke lazily wended up from a fiery grill, the drifting aroma of shrimp tacos and tamales filled the air. With warm winds kicking up, Gavin’s broken heart raced in rhythm with the waves crashing against the sand as he took in the sights and sounds around him.


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