Luck was finally shining down on me. The tarp Colton gathered from the shed was useable. I put on a pot of coffee while he broke out the duct tape, and then I pretended not to be watching him cover my window.
I was totally watching him. I mean, who wouldn’t? When he’d spread out the tarp, he’d bent over and good Lord in sweet, sweet heaven, that man had a great rear end. And then when he started hanging it up, I was witness to the amazing display of muscles rippling and straining under his shirt.
What I would give to see that man in the buff.
During this, I did make a mental note to contact my insurance company on Monday morning, so I wasn’t a complete fail at prioritizing.
I walked his cup over to him, placing it on the coffee table. Working on one corner, he glanced over his shoulder. “Thanks.”
Since I had tried to help already and was virtually shooed away, I sat on the couch. “I really do appreciate this.”
“It’s no problem.” He ripped off the section of the tape. “There’re a couple of things I need to talk to you about. I was planning on filling you in tomorrow. Maybe over some pancakes this time.”
I squeezed my eyes shut briefly and wished his words meant more than just charming flirtatiousness. “Okay.”
“We’ve identified the victim.” He stretched the tarp down the right side as he filled me in. “Not the most upstanding citizen, but his record was mostly petty crimes, a few drug infractions. Looks like what went down Friday night might have been more of a turf thing, but obviously it’s bigger than that.”
My spine stiffened. “I figured as much. Creepy van dude gave me that impression.”
“The man murdered worked for Isaiah Vakhrov. Have you ever heard of him?”
“No. Should I have?”
He shook his head as he tore off another piece of tape. “Not if you want to live a long, healthy and safe life, no. Isaiah Vakhrov pretty much runs the city, but not from the right side of the fence, if you get what I’m saying. His fingers are in everything. Some of his business is legit and some of it’s not. Lot of drugs come in and out of this city because of him.”
I frowned. “So, he’s some kind of crime lord? And everyone knows this? How is he still doing what he does?”
“Cause like I said, he’s got his hands in a lot of things, and that means he’s got a lot of people in his pocket. He’s Teflon. Nothing sticks.”
“Wow,” I murmured.
“Anyway, the man murdered worked for Isaiah, and one thing every shitbag in this state and the ones touching ours knows is you don’t mess with Isaiah’s people unless you want a target on the back of your head. Whoever the shooters are, either aren’t the brightest or they have more balls than brains. And whoever they work for doesn’t want that connection made,” he told me. “Which explains what happened at the store and this. Someone ID’d you. Could’ve been anyone hanging around the crime scene Friday night or…”
Or it could’ve been someone in the police department. Good God, this was unreal.
“The thing is, knowing Isaiah, he’s going to find out who pulled that trigger before us.” His laugh was without humor. “He almost always does. And he’s going to take care of it. But what I don’t like is whoever the punks work for coming after you.” He yanked on the tape. “They’re not going to get close to you again.”
The way he said it almost had me convinced he could single-handedly ensure that. I wanted to believe that, but he couldn’t be around me twenty-four hours a day. The fear I’d been holding back pressed on me. “Should I…should I be worried about this Isaiah?”
“Honestly?” The muscles moved along his spine. “No. But he’s not a good guy. Don’t ever mistake him for that, but he has his own sense of moral code and conduct. Violence against women or children is a surefire way to get on his bad side. He will leave you alone.”
“That’s sort of comforting,” I mumbled, taking a sip of my coffee. “Kind of.”
“Gotta say, though, you’re handling all of this like a champ.”
I got a wee bit distracted by the way his bicep bunched and blurted out, “I cried myself to sleep last night.”
My eyes widened. “Oh my God.” I placed my hand over my forehead. “I cannot believe I just said that out loud.”
Lowering his hands, he let the tarp flap to the side as he faced me. The roll of duct tape dangled from his fingers.
Warmth invaded my cheeks. “I mean, I didn’t like sob or anything, and I don’t cry a lot. It’s just that—”
“Honey, you don’t have to explain anything. You saw some shit last night.” Dropping the roll of tape on the arm of the chair, he walked around the coffee table and got right in between it and me. Plucking the cup out of my hand, he placed it beside his and sat on the corner of the table in front of me. He was so close our knees pressed together when he leaned in, resting his arms on his thighs. “Having an emotional reaction is expected. If you hadn’t, I would be concerned. To be honest, I didn’t like the idea of you being alone after seeing something like that.”
“Why?” I asked before I could stop myself. “Why do you care?”
He tilted his head to the side. “I’m not sure what to think about that kind of question.”
I exhaled slowly. “I mean, do you treat all your witnesses this way? Bring them crepes in the morning and fix vandalized windows?”
Colton raised a brow. “No.”
Well, that was a blunt answer. “Then why are you doing it now?”
“When I asked you if you believed in second chances, I was hoping you’d say yes.” Those thick lashes lifted. “I don’t like the way our paths crossed again, but I’m glad they did.”
There were no words.
A playful grin appeared. “I noticed you in high school, Abby. I thought you were pretty and smart. I liked how you were always the first one in the class and the last one out.”
Oh my God, I was always the first one in and the last one out.
“I liked how you were nice to everyone, even the assholes who didn’t deserve it,” he continued, those azure eyes glimmering. “So, yeah, I noticed you, but you had a boyfriend. You always had a boyfriend. I respected that, but I know you noticed me.”
The warmth increasing in my cheeks had nothing to do with embarrassment.