* * * *
The following morning, I stood directly in front of my coffee maker, bleary-eyed and impatient as I waited for pure happiness to stop percolating. All I’d managed to do so far was scoop up my hair and toss it up in a messy twist, but already, shorter strands were either slipping free or sticking out in every direction.
In other words, I looked like a hot mess, but I really didn’t care as I poured the steaming coffee into a cup halfway full of sugar, and I still stood there, taking my first drink, my second, and my third as the cool tile seeped through my bare feet.
Well, sleeping past eight a.m. nowadays was sleeping in. It was close to nine before I dragged myself out of bed. It wasn’t that big of a deal. The only thing I had planned later in the day was to meet up with Jillian Lima for dinner.
Jillian and I met each other at a book signing in the city. She was almost ten years younger than me, but the age difference had quickly evaporated. Jillian was a hard cookie to crack. She was almost debilitating shy, but love of books crosses all barriers. We bonded over our favorite authors and themes, and once she discovered what I did for a living, she started to open up.
For the last year, we met every Saturday night to discuss books over dinner. Sometimes we’d grab a movie or head to the bookstore, and I was going to miss her. In the spring, she would be transferring to a college in West Virginia. I still didn’t know why she was doing that. That was a little nugget of info I couldn’t wiggle out of her.
I’d just topped off my cup of coffee when the doorbell rang, surprising me. I wasn’t expecting anyone. Leaving the cup on the counter, I padded across the floor and peered out the front window, but since there were always cars I didn’t recognize parked out front, that made no difference. Rolling my eyes, I reached for the door handle, cursing the fact that there wasn’t a peephole in the door.
My jaw unhinged on a sharp inhale, and the ability to form comprehensive thoughts fled.
Colton Anders, in all his blue-eyed babe glory, stood on my stoop. “Good morning, Abby.”
I was beyond responding.
He stood there with a medium-size pink box in one hand and the other shoved in the pocket of his trousers. The five-o’clock shadow was heavier, giving him a rough edge that my sleep-fogged mind found incredibly sexy.
Okay. I would find that sexy anytime.
He was dressed as he was the night before, and I had the distinct impression he hadn’t been to bed yet, which really wasn’t fair, because how could he look this good without sleeping?
One side of his lips curled up, revealing the left-sided dimple. “Can I…come in? I brought crepes with me.”
“You like crepes, right? You have to like them,” he added, grinning. “Everyone loves crepes and these are the shit. They are rolled in cinnamon and brown sugar.”
“I…I thoroughly enjoy them.” My ass also thoroughly enjoyed them. Moving back, I stepped aside. “How do you know where I live?”
Colton stepped in, his chin dipped down. I wasn’t a small lady, coming in at five foot eight, but standing next to him, I felt small, delicate even, and that was an odd feeling. “It was on your statement. I probably should’ve called first, but I was on my way home from the station and your house was on the way. So was the bakery.”
I didn’t know what to say as I closed the door behind him, but my heart was pounding in my chest and my stomach was wiggling in a weird way, sort of like the way I’d seen described a thousand times. Butterflies. But more powerful. Like large birds of prey or pterodactyls. “You live nearby?”
His grin spread. “I live over on Plymouth Road.”
That was nowhere near my house. The butterflies increased. “Oh. In the apartments over there?”
He nodded. “Did I wake you?”
“No. I…” That was about when I realized that I was wearing nothing but a pair of sleep shorts and an old shirt that pretty much hid nothing. I didn’t even need to look down to know that my nipples were most likely noticeable. And my thighs? Oh, dear God.
“I smell coffee though,” he said, glancing toward the kitchen. “So I’m guessing not?”
He spoke as if he hadn’t noticed I had some major headlights and chub rub going on, but then again, why would someone like Colton even notice that in the first place? My attention flipped to the stairway. A huge part of me wanted to rush upstairs and throw a Snuggie on. Or at least a bra.
I really needed to put a bra on.
“No. You didn’t wake me up,” I said, glancing back at him. The air suddenly punched out of my lungs.
Colton was so not looking at my face.
He was looking below the shoulders, his gaze lingering in some areas longer than others. Like at the edge of my shorts and then across the chest, as if he were committing the words Penn State to memory. A tingle buzzed to the tips of my breasts. His gaze gradually drifted up to my face and those blue eyes…they reminded me of the core of a flame. Heat blossomed deep inside me, infiltrating my veins. The intensity of it was shocking.
So much so I stepped back. “I’m going to…I’ll be right back.”
That half grin remained in place. “Mind if I help myself to the coffee?”
“No. Not at all.” I edged toward the stairwell. “Help away.”
Spinning around, I dashed up the stairs and into my bedroom. Once inside, I pressed my palms to my warm cheeks. “Oh my God.”
I headed into the bathroom and saw, thank God, that my face wasn’t blood red, but my cheeks were flushed and my hazel eyes, more brown than green, seemed bright. Feverish. Turning on the cold water, I bent over and quickly splashed it over my face. Oh goodness, I had only ever read about men staring at women in a way that it felt like a physical touch before. I hadn’t really believed it possible.
Straightening, I grabbed my toothbrush and quickly got down to business, all the while trying to get a grip on reality. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Colton was here because of what happened last night. There could be no other reason, so I needed to keep my overactive imagination where it belonged, at work. Yes, it was odd that he’d just pop over, but maybe he felt like he needed to tell me in person. And the checking me out? Maybe he was just reading my shirt.
Okay. That was stupid. He had definitely been looking at my breasts, but he was a dude and I was a chick, so these things happened.