Authors: K. Bromberg
“I told you to leave them,” Colton says from behind me as I wash the dish in my hand. “Grace will get them or I’ll clean them up later.”
“It’s no biggie.”
“Yes it is,” he whispers into my neck, sending an electric pulse straight to my sex as he slides his arms around my waist and pulls me backwards against him.
God, how I could get used to this.
I’m grateful he can’t see the look on my face that I’m sure is one of complete satisfaction. Adoration. Contentment.
“Thank you, Rylee.” His voice is so quiet I almost miss the words over the noise of the water.
“It’s one dish and a knife, Colton. Really.”
“No, Rylee. Thank. You.” His words are swamped with sentiment—a man drowning in unfamiliar emotions.
I set the plate down and turn off the water so I can hear him. So I can allow him the moment to express whatever it is he needs to say. I may not be very experienced when it comes to men, but I know enough that in the rare instances that they want to talk about feelings or emotions, it’s time to be quiet and listen.
“For what?” I ask casually.
“For this morning. For letting me work through my shit the way I needed to. For letting me use
you for lack of a better term.” He moves my ponytail off of the back of my neck and places a soft kiss there. “For letting me have mine and for you not complaining when you didn’t get yours.”
His words, the thoughtfulness behind them, has me biting my lip to prevent me from making that verbal pitfall I was worried about earlier. I take a second to think of my next words so I don’t take that stumble. “Well, you more than made up giving me
in the bathtub.”
“Oh really?” He nuzzles that sensitive spot just beneath my ear that drives me crazy. “That’s good to know, but I still think I might need to further remedy the unsettled situation from earlier.”
“You are insatiable, Colton.” I laugh, turning in his arms to have my lips captured in a tantalizing kiss that funnels sparks all the way to the tips of my toes. His hands map themselves down my torso and over my backside, pressing me into him.
“Now let’s talk about that image I can’t get out of my head of you with a whip and wearing only bright red stilettos.” The wicked smile on his lips has the heat flowing from my toes back up.
“Ahem!” The clearing of a throat has me jumping back from Colton like I’ve been singed by fire.
I snap my head up, warmth burning through my cheeks when I hear Colton shout out, “Hey, old man!” and then embrace whoever it is in a huge bear hug. They have turned, hugging so fiercely that I can only see Colton’s face, his pleasure evident.
I catch murmured words in gruff tones as they hold on to each other, hands slapping each other’s backs, and when I think I know who it is, my blush deepens at the knowledge that he overheard what Colton had said to me. My hunch is confirmed when the two break apart and the visitor places a hand on the side of Colton’s face and stares at him intently, concern etched on his face over something he sees in his son’s eyes.
“You okay, son?”
Colton holds his father’s stare for a moment, the muscle in his jaw pulsing as he reins in the emotions playing over his face. After a beat he nods his head subtly, a soft smile turning up the corners of his mouth. “Yeah…I’m okay, Dad,” he acquiesces before glancing over to me and then back to his dad.
They draw each other into another quick man-hug of loud back slapping before they part, and the clear, gray eyes of Andy Westin dart over to me and then back to Colton, love and I think surprise bordering on shock reflected in them.
“Dad, I want you to meet Rylee.” Colton clears his throat. “Rylee Thomas.”
The woman you will forever think of in correlation with red stilettos and a whip.
. Can I die now?
Andy mirrors my step forward and reaches out a hand to me. I try to act calm, to pretend like I’m not in front of a Hollywood legend who has just caught me in a compromising situation, and when I see the warmth mixed with disbelief in his eyes, I relax some. “Pleased to meet you, Rylee.”
I smile softly, meeting his eyes as I shake his hand. “Likewise, Mr. Westin.”
He’s not big in stature like I expected, but something about him makes him seem larger than life. It’s his smile that captivates me. A smile that could make the hardest of people soften.
“Pshaw, don’t be silly,” he scolds, releasing my hand and brushing his salt and pepper hair off his forehead, “call me Andy.” I smile at him in acceptance as he shifts his gaze back to Colton, a bemused look in his eyes and a pleased smile on his face. “I didn’t mean to interrupt anything—”
“You didn’t,” I blurt out. Colton turns to me, an eyebrow arched at my staunch denial, and I’m grateful when he lets it go without correcting me.
“Nonsense, Rylee. My apologies.” Andy glances over at Colton again and gives him an indiscernible look. “I’ve been on location for work in Indonesia for the past two months. I got back late last night and wanted to see my boy here.” He pats Colton on the back heartily, and his obvious love for his son makes me like him that much more. And even sweeter than Andy’s adoration of his son is Colton’s reciprocation. Colton’s face lights up with complete reverence as he watches his father. “Anyway, I’m sorry I barged in. Colton never has...” he clears his throat “...Colton is usually out on the deck alone, recovering from whatever the chaos the night before has brought upon him.” He laughs.
“You two obviously haven’t seen each other in a while, so don’t let me get in your way. I’m going to go grab my purse and I’ll be on my way.” I smile politely and then frown when I realize that I don’t have my car to drive.
Colton smirks at me, realizing my oversight. “Dad, I’ve got to drive Rylee home. Do you want to hang here or I can stop by the house later?”
“Take your time. I’ve got some stuff to do. Stop by later if you get the chance, son.” Andy turns toward me, an inviting smile warm on his lips. “It was very nice meeting you, Rylee. I hope to see you again.”
The drive home from Malibu is beautiful as is expected, but the cloud cover starts to move in and smother the coastline the closer we get to Santa Monica. We talk about this and that, nothing serious, but at the same time I sense that Colton is distancing himself a bit from me. It’s nothing he says per se, but it’s more what’s not said.
He’s not rude, just quiet, but it’s noticeable. Those little touches are absent. The knowing looks and soft smiles gone. The playful banter silenced.
I assume that he’s taking the drive to think about his dream, so I leave him to his thoughts and stare out the window watching the coastline fly by. The radio’s on low and the song,
Just Give Me a Reason
by Pink plays softly in the background as we exit the highway and head toward my house. I sing softly, the words making me think about this morning, and as I hit the chorus, I notice Colton glance over at me in my periphery. I know when he hears the lyrics because he shakes his head and the slightest of smiles graces his lips; his silent acknowledgement of my knack for finding the perfect song to express my feelings.
We remain in a contemplative silence for a bit longer until Colton finally speaks. “So um, I’ve got a crazy busy schedule the next two weeks.” He glances over at me momentarily, and I nod at him before he looks back at the stoplight in front of us. “I’ve got a commercial to shoot for the Merit endorsement, an interview with Playboy, um…Late Night with Kimmel, and a whole lot of other shit,” he says as the light turns green. “And that doesn’t include all of the dog-and-pony shows coming up for the sponsorship with you guys.”
I take no offense to the comment because I’m not too thrilled with the dog-and pony- show junket either. “Well that’s good, right? Publicity is always good.”
“Yeah.” I can tell he’s irritated at the thought as he slips his sunglasses on. “Tawn’s doing a great job garnering press this year. It’s good and all...and I’m grateful that there’s the attention, but the more shit there is, the less time I have on the track. And that’s where I need to concentrate my time with the season right around the fucking corner.”
“Understandably,” I tell him, unsure what else to say as we pull onto my street, unable to help the smug smile that tugs at the corners of my mouth. It’s been a profound twenty-four hours with Colton. He’s let me into his personal world some, and that counts for something. Our sexual chemistry remains off the charts, and I think it actually intensified after our night together. I told him about Max, and he listened with compassion and without passing judgment.
Then we had this morning. An hour filled with poisonous words and overwhelming emotions.
And not once did he mention his idiotic arrangement to me. How he’ll only accept less when I’ll only accept more; we find ourselves at a proverbial impasse despite his actions expressing the exact opposite.
Maybe my smile reflects my optimism over the possibilities between us. That Colton’s unspoken words speak just as much to me as his spoken ones do.
I sigh as we pull into the driveway, and Colton opens the door for me. He offers me a tight smile before placing his hand on the small of my back and directing us up my front walkway. I struggle to figure out what his silence is saying, to not read into it too much.
“Thank you for a great night,” I tell him as I turn to face him on the front porch, a shy smile on my lips, “and…” I let the word drift off as I figure out how to address today.
“A fucked up morning?” he finishes for me, regret heavy in his voice and shame swimming in his eyes.
“Yes, that too,” I admit softly as Colton turns his attention to the absent fiddling with the ring of keys in his hand. “But we got through it…”
His gaze fixates on his keys, his eyes never lifting to meet mine when he speaks. “Look, I’m sorry.” He sighs, shoving a hand through his hair. “I just don’t know how to—”
“Colton, it’s okay,” I tell him, lifting my hand to squeeze his bicep—some form of touch to let him know I’ve said my piece about this morning and my lack of tolerance of it happening again.
“No, it’s not okay.” He finally lifts his head up, and I can see the conflicting emotions in his eyes, can feel the indecision of his thoughts. “You don’t deserve to have to deal with this…with all my shit,” he murmurs quietly, almost as if he’s trying to convince himself of his own words. And I realize that his internal struggle has to do with so much more than just this morning.
His eyes swim with regret, and he reaches out to tuck a loose lock of hair behind my ear as I search his face to try and understand his unspoken words. “Colton, what are you—”
“Look at what I did to you this morning. The things I said. How I hurt you and pushed you away? That’s me. That’s what I do. I don’t know how to—
!” he grits out before turning and looking out toward the street where a teenager is making his way down the sidewalk. I focus on the thunk-thunk of his wheels as they hit the lines in the sidewalk panels while I process what Colton is saying. He turns back around and the lines etched in his striking features cause me to close my eyes momentarily and take a deep breath to prepare for what’s coming next. For what I see written on his resigned expression.
“I care for you, Ry. I care about you.” He shakes his head, the muscle in his jaw pulsing as he clenches his jaw, trying to find the right words. “I just don’t know how to be...” He stumbles through words trying to get out what he wants to say. “You at least deserve someone that’s going to try to be that for you.”
“Try to be
for me, Colton?” I ask taking a step closer as he takes a step back, unwilling to allow him to break our connection. My bewilderment in regards to his confusing statements does nothing to squash the unease that creeps into the pit of my stomach and crawls up to squeeze at my heart. I part my lips and breathe in deeply.
His discomfort is apparent and I want nothing more than to reach out and wrap my arms around him. Reassure him with the physical connection he seems to need more than anything. He looks down again and blows out a breath in frustration while I suck one in.