“I’ve had to,” he said carefully. “There’re glitches in the—”
“There are always glitches, Spence. It’s part of the process, part of the challenge on which you’ve always thrived. I have complete faith you’ll figure everything all out.”
This wasn’t comforting in the least. It was actually the opposite of comforting and only served to make him all the more edgy because what if he didn’t work everything out? What then? He’d have to tell her that once again he’d let her down—
“Stop,” she said more gently now, all amusement gone from her voice. “Stop beating yourself up. You’ll get this, Spence. You always do. Work always wins in the end with you.”
“Ouch,” he said but couldn’t take offense, because it was true.
Work did always win.
Personal life always lost.
“You know what I mean,” she said softly.
“Listen,” she said. “I’m thinking of skipping Christmas in Cali this year. My folks flew here to meet up with me for a few days, and then I’m thinking I might head down to Miami.”
“What’s in Miami?”
Another pause, and this one had him taking his gaze and hands off his laptop and pausing back. “What,” he asked, jokingly. “You’ve got a guy in Miami?”
Her voice was regretful. “Spence . . .”
“Wow,” he said. “You do.” He nodded. “Okay, then. Well, good. Good for you.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“Yeah.” And he did. Even more than that, there was in fact a small surge of relief going through him. “Who is he?”
“A doctor in the Docs Without Borders Extreme organization I work with.”
Shit. A noble cause, but probably yet another man who would put his work before her. “Clarissa—”
“Don’t worry about me, Spence. I’m okay, I promise.”
“I get that. But if something changes and suddenly you’re not okay, then I’ll—”
“—Kick his ass,” she said with a smile. “I know. I’ll keep that in mind. How about you?”
“What about me?”
“You putting yourself out there at all?”
He thought of Colbie and could almost see her smile, hear her laugh . . . feel the touch of her mouth to his.
“You need to get back on the bike,” she said.
“So I can hurt someone else?”
He closed his eyes.
“What do you want me to say?” he asked.
“That I didn’t destroy you for all other women.”
He had to laugh. “It wasn’t you. It was me. We both know that.”
“Bullshit. I was needy.”
“And I was an oblivious, self-centered asshole. That hasn’t changed.”
“You were never a self-centered asshole,” she said. “Oblivious . . . maybe. But it’s how you’re wired. You’re programmed to concentrate on a problem until it’s fixed, and until you do, you can’t easily concentrate on anything else. You need to accept that about yourself. You’re working your ass off on this drone project to get meds and personalized doctor care delivered to tiny corners of the world. It’s a big deal.”
“Other people have big-deal jobs and they can successfully manage to keep a relationship.”
“You can too,” she said.
But . . . could he really? He’d seen no proof of that. And yet there was no denying that he wanted to do just that with Colbie.
“Are you sure you’re okay with me not coming home for Christmas?” she asked. “I know it’s a rough holiday for you.”
It wasn’t rough so much as . . . lonely. His mom always flew back east to visit friends. He’d spent his last few Christmases right here with his friends. But he couldn’t deny he’d felt something was missing. He scrubbed a hand down his face. Christmas was two weeks away. He had plenty of time to think about it later. “I’ll be fine.”
“Because you always are,” she said.
That got a smile. “Yeah.”
“I’ll be there in January though,” she said. “And I’m not rushing you, but . . . is there any chance you have a projected date for the prototype? We’d said January and I was hoping that was still the case. I’ve got some heavy-hitting investors interested in helping me fund the program once we get it up and running, and they’re pressuring me for an estimated start date.”
Tension set in Spence’s shoulders. He could feel the burn across the back of his neck.
And in his gut.
“Yes,” he said. “January works. But say end of the month.” That gave him a cushion he needed—only until Colbie left, he told himself; then he’d get caught back up. Which in no way helped to alleviate the pressure he was feeling now.
“You sure, Spence?” she asked softly.
He got the question. Once upon a time he’d disappointed her. Was he going to do it again? “I’m sure.”
“I have faith in you,” she said. “You know that, right? You’re the guy who can do anything he sets his mind to. Anything at all.” She blew him some kisses and then was gone.
He tossed his phone aside and dove back into work. Normal habit for him. But then he stopped and looked at the clock.
Not normal habit.
Also not normal—he didn’t have to stretch his brain to try to remember what else it was that he was supposed to be doing.
He had a date.
He headed straight for the door and yanked it open, only to stop at the sight of Caleb standing there, keycard in hand to let himself in.
“You got food?” Caleb asked hopefully.
“Yeah.” Distracted, Spence waved to the kitchen. “Trudy restocked me. Help yourself.”
“Where you headed?”
“Date,” Spence said.
Caleb reached out and blocked Spence from leaving. “Whoa.”
Spence gave him a look. “Come on. It hasn’t been that long.”
“Actually, yeah, it has. And that’s not what I meant. You trying to get laid tonight? And before you bust out my teeth for asking, take a good look at yourself.”
Spence looked down. He was in knit boxers.
Caleb grinned. “You know what? On second thought, by all means go just like that. But first . . .” He took out his cell phone and took a pic. “Looking good, man. That gym’s really paying off.”
Spence flipped him the bird and went through the door that took him directly into his apartment.
A two-minute shower and a quick toss of his closet later, Spence was on the third floor, knocking at Colbie’s door.
She opened up and swept her gaze over him from head to toe. “Nice,” she said. “But I preferred your first outfit.”
She smiled when he just blinked, and it was the kind of smile that could light a guy up from the inside out, the kind of smile that also had her face coming alive.
“Kylie had me add her on Instagram,” she said, “and she reposted a pic that someone named Caleb posted. Your business partner, right?” She leaned in. “Seems as though you really do put your gym to good use.”
“Excuse me a sec.” He pulled out his phone and hit a button on his security app. This would set off an internal alert that would go straight to his security company.
In two minutes or less, Archer’s men would storm Spence’s apartment in full kickass mode and scare the ever-loving shit out of Caleb.
“Everything okay?” Colbie asked.
He smiled. Payback’s a bitch. “Everything’s great.”
Colbie had to laugh at the look on Spence’s face. Pained, but not even remotely embarrassed. And since he looked fantastic in his clothes—and now she also knew he looked fantastic out of his clothes—she wouldn’t have been embarrassed either.
“I wasn’t sure what we were going to do,” she said. “So I didn’t know how to dress.”