My gaze slowly lifted at the sound of my name. His voice was deep and gruff—a morning voice.
He leaned toward me, placing his arms on the table. Short dark hairs dusted powerful forearms. The few times I’d seen him over the years, I hadn’t been in close proximity to him, but now I could see the tiny differences between the Colton I’d admired from afar in high school and the one sitting in front of me, some ten years later. Fine lines had formed around the corners of his eyes. His jaw seemed harder, and the five-o’clock shadow was something new.
I really needed to stop thinking in general.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Abby?” he asked, and real concern filled his voice.
I shook my head slowly as a shiver raced down my spine. “Yes. No? I’m sorry. I’m so tired.”
“I can imagine.” He glanced at the door as he moved his shoulders, as if working out a kink. “We’ll get you home soon.”
Slouching in the metal chair, I sighed. “Is this…the start of your shift or…?”
Colton’s cobalt gaze tracked back to me. “I usually get off around eight, but we work in cycles for homicide calls. It was our weekend.”
“Sorry,” I whispered, and then frowned. “I don’t even know why I apologized. It’s got to be hard working those kinds of hours, having to be on call.”
“I imagine it is for some, especially those with a family.” One side of his lips quirked up, and despite the dire situation, my stomach dipped a bit. He lifted his left hand. “Obviously, I’m not married. I wouldn’t know.”
I thought about the beautiful blonde I’d seen him with at the movies. “No girlfriend?” My eyes widened. Did I seriously just ask that?
That half grin spread, revealing the one dimple he had in his left cheek. “No. Not really.”
Not really? What in the heck was that supposed to mean? Did it matter? No. Not at all. I dropped my gaze to the table. A moment passed and I didn’t think about what I was saying. It just…came out. “I’d never seen anyone die before. Never saw the exact moment life was snuffed out. I’d lived through death. With my parents and then with Kevin, but…” I’d seen my husband after he’d passed away. He’d been a pale, waxy shadow of himself and as traumatizing as that was, it was nothing compared to witnessing a life end. “I won’t ever forget tonight.”
“You won’t,” he said, and I lifted my gaze to his. “I’m not going to lie to you. It’s going to hang with you. Seeing death like that isn’t easy. It’s a darkness you just can’t explain and can’t understand.”
That was so true. “You see it a lot?”
His head tilted to the side. “I’ve seen enough, Abby. Enough.”
The need to apologize again rose, but I squelched it now. It was a terrible habit of mine. Apologizing for things I had no control over. Without apologizing, I had no idea what to say to him.
“I need to ask you one more time,” he said, all softness gone from his eyes. They were like chips of blue ice. “Are you positive you didn’t hear any of their names?”
“The one guy was talking—the one with the scar, but I didn’t hear what he was saying. I was too…shocked by what I was seeing. I wish I did, but I couldn’t make any of it out, but I got this impression that he…I don’t know.”
“What impression?” He leaned forward, gaze sharpening.
Unsure if what I was saying was correct or more of just a feeling, I squirmed a little in my chair. “I got this feeling that he wasn’t okay with what was happening. He appeared upset. Like he had his hands in his hair. Like this.” I raised my hands to my shoulder-length hair and scrubbed my fingers through it. “He seemed upset. I know that’s not much—”
“No, that’s definitely something. That’s good.”
Colton smiled tightly. No dimple. “Because if this guy didn’t like what was going down, then he could turn against the one who pulled the trigger.”
“Oh.” I thought that made sense.
He was quiet for a moment. “What a horrible way for you and I to run into each other again, huh?”
My answering smile didn’t feel as forced as the one before. “Yeah. Not the greatest circumstances.” I reached up, tucking my hair behind my ear. I started to yawn, weary with exhaustion, but the stretching of my face caused me to wince. “Ow.”
Colton had somehow moved closer and before I knew it, I could catch the scent of his cologne. It was crisp, reminding me of mountain air. A single finger curved under my chin, startling me. The touch was simply electrifying, like a jolt of pure caffeine to the nervous system. The grasp was surprisingly tender. That softness was back in his gaze.
And it had been so long since I’d been touched in what felt like such an intimate way.
For some god-awful reason, tears started climbing the back of my throat. Granted, there were currently a lot of reasons to begin sobbing hysterically, but the last thing I needed to do was cry over Colton.
I knew I should pull away from him because the comfort his slight touch offered was too much. The wall I had built around the nearly consuming terror started to crumble. “That man…that murderer? He saw me,” I repeated in a hushed voice. “If I can describe him, he can describe me.” My voice caught, cracked a little. “That’s terrifying.”
“I know how scary that is, but trust me, Abby.” The hard glint was back in his icy eyes as his hand shifted slightly and his thumb smoothed under the tiny cut along my cheek. “I’m going to make sure you’re safe.”
None of the pictures that had been splayed out in front of me or had been included in the most disturbing photo album ever were of the men I’d seen in the alley.
Strangely, I felt like I had failed.
I wanted to be able to point at someone and say that was them. The bad guys would be found, and all of this would be over. I wanted that so badly.
But that was not what happened.
Colton had been called out toward the end and even though he’d said he’d be back, I hadn’t seen him while I was ushered out of the police station and guided to my car by Detective Hart.
They’d be in touch.
I had no idea what that meant and I was too exhausted to figure it out. The drive from the city to the townhouse I’d purchased when I moved back wasn’t particularly quick, even at damn near close to three in the morning. By some kind of miracle, I made it home, parked my car, and hobbled up the steps and let myself in. It was only then that I remembered that my one heel was broken. I didn’t recall how I got the shoe back. Maybe Officer Hun?