Authors: K. Bromberg
“You at least deserve someone that’s going to try to be what you need. Give you what you want…and I don’t think I’m capable of that.” He shakes his head, eyes fixed on his damn keys. The raw honesty in his words causes my heart to lodge in my throat. “Thank you for being you…for coming back this morning.”
He finally says something I can latch on to, a diving board I have to jump from. “That’s exactly right!” I tell him. Using one of his moves, I reach out and lift his chin up so he’s forced to meet my eyes, so he’s forced to see that I’m not scared of the way he is. That I can be strong enough for the both of us while he works through the shit in his head. “I came back. For you. For me. For who we are when we’re together. For the possibilities of what we can be if you’ll just let me in…”
I run my hand over the side of his cheek and cradle it there. He closes his eyes at my touch. “It’s just too much, too fast, Rylee.” He breathes and opens his eyes to meet mine. The fear there is heartbreaking. “For so long I’ve…your selflessness is so consuming that it…” he struggles, reaching up to take my hand framing his face in his own. “I can’t give you what you need because I don’t know how to live—to feel—to breathe—if I’m not broken. And being with you? You deserve someone that’s whole. I just can’t…”
The words to the song from the car flash into my mind, and they are out before I can stop myself. “No, Colton. No.” I tell him, making sure his eyes are on mine. “
You’re not broken, Colton. You’re just bent
Despite my saying it with serious intent, Colton belts out a self-deprecating laugh at the apropos corniness of me using a song lyric to try and express myself. He shakes his head at me. “Really, Ry? A song lyric?” he asks, and I just shrug at him, willing to try anything to break him out of this rut he keeps returning to. I watch as his smile fades and the concern returns to his eyes. “I just need time to process this…you…it’s just too…”
I can feel his pain and rather than just stand there and watch it manifest in his eyes, I opt to give him what he needs to confirm our connection. I step up to him and brush my lips against his. Once. Twice. And then I slip my tongue between his lips and connect with his. He won’t hear the words, so I need to show him with this. With fingertips whispering over his jaw and up through his hair. With my body pressed tight against him. With my tongue dancing with his in a lazy, decadent kiss.
He slowly lets go of the tension in his body as he accepts and gives in to the feeling between us. The desire. The need. The truth. His hands slide up to cup the sides of my face, thumbs brushing tenderly over my cheeks. Rough to soft, just like the two of us. He places a last, lingering kiss on my lips and then rests his forehead onto mine. We sit there for a moment, eyes closed, breath feathering over one another, and souls searching.
I feel settled. Content. Connected.
,” he whispers against my lips.
The words come out of nowhere, and I jolt at their sound.
I try to pull back to look at him, but he keeps a firm grip on my head and holds me against him, forehead to forehead. I’m not sure how to respond. My heart’s unable to follow the path he’s just chosen while my head is already five steps ahead of him.
“A pit stop?” I say slowly as my thoughts race one hundred miles per hour.
He eases his hold on my head, and I lean back so I can look at him, but he refuses to meet my eyes. “It’s either a pit stop or I tell you that Sammy will drop by a set of keys for the house in the Palisades and we meet there from here on out,” he slowly lifts his eyes to meet mine “…to keep the lines from getting fuzzy.”
I hear him speak the words but don’t think I actually listen to them. I can’t comprehend them. Did he just actually tell me that after last night—after this morning—he’s going to pull this shit on me? Push me back in to the
category of his life.
So this is how it’s going to go?
Fucking hell, Donavan
. I take a step back, needing the distance from his touch, and we stand in silence staring at each other. I look at the man that broke down in front of me earlier and is trying to distance himself from me now, trying to regain his isolated state of self-preservation. His request stings but I refuse to believe him, refuse to believe that he feels nothing for me. Maybe this all spooked him—someone too close when he’s used to being all alone. Maybe he’s using his fallback and trying to hurt me, put me in my place, so I can’t hurt him in the long run. I so desperately want to believe that’s what this is about, but it’s so hard to not let that niggling doubt twist its way into my psyche.
I hope he can see the disbelief in my eyes. The shock on my face. The temerity in my posture. I start to process the hurt that’s surfacing—the feeling of rejection lingering on the fringe—when it hits me.
He may be telling me he needs a break, but he’s also telling me I have an option. I either give him the space he needs to process whatever’s going on in his head or I can choose the arrangement route. He’s telling me he wants me here as a part of his life—for now anyway—but he’s just overwhelmed by everything.
Instead of pushing me away and purposely hurting me to do so, he’s asking me—using a term I told him to use if he needs some space—so I can understand what he’s requesting.
I push down the hurt and the dejection that bubbles up because regardless of my acknowledgement, his proverbial slap still stings. I take a deep breath, hoping the pit stop he’s asking for is the result of a flat tire and not because the race is almost over.
“Okay.” I let the word roll over my tongue. “
A pit stop it is then
,” I offer up to him, resisting the urge to wrap my arms around him and use the physicality of it to reassure myself.
He reaches out and brushes a thumb over my bottom lip, his eyes a depth of unspoken emotions. “Thank you,” he whispers to me, and for just a second, I see it flash in his eyes.
. And I wonder if it’s because he’s relieved I chose pit stop over an arrangement or because he gets to walk away right now without being pushed any further.
“Mmm-hmm,” is all I can manage as tears clog in my throat.
Colton leans forward and I close my eyes momentarily as he brushes a reverent kiss on my nose. “Thank you for last night. For this morning.
.” I just nod my head, not trusting myself to speak as he runs his hand down the length of my arm and squeezes my hand. He pulls back a fraction, his eyes locking on mine. “I’ll call you, okay?”
I just nod my head again at him. He’ll call me? When? In a couple of days? A couple of weeks? Never? He leans forward and grazes my cheek with a kiss. “Bye, Ry.”
“Bye,” I say, barely a whisper of sound. He squeezes my hand one more time before turning his back and walking down the walkway. Pride over the small step he took today tinged with a flash of fear fills me as I watch him climb in the Range Rover, pull out of the driveway, and until he turns the corner from my sight.
I shake my head and sigh. Taylor Swift’s definitely right. Loving Colton is like driving a Maserati down a dead end street. And with what he just said to me, I feel like I just slammed into it head first.
Haddie and I have been like ships passing in the night the past couple of days, but she is awfully curious as to my cryptic notes about my night with Colton. I’m still confused as hell at what happened between leaving Colton’s house and arriving at my doorstep. The two differing vibes have left me confused and moody and desperate to see him again, see if what I thought was between us was real or if I’d imagined it. At the same time, I’m angry and hurt and my heart aches at what I want so badly to be but am afraid never will. I have over-thought and over-analyzed every second of our drive home, and the only conclusion is that our connection unnerves him. That my willingness to return when all others would have run scares him. And even with that knowledge, the past few days have been unsettling. I’ve shed a few tears from my doubts and Matchbox Twenty has been on repeat on my iPod. It has also helped that I have a job where I have to work twenty-four hour shifts to occupy my time.
I take a sip of my Diet Coke, singing along to
, and finish adding ingredients to the salad when I hear the front door slam. I can’t fight the smile that spreads on my lips when I realize just how much I’ve missed Haddie these past few days. She has been so busy working on projects for a new client that PRX is trying to land she’s basically been sleeping at the office.
“My goodness, I’ve missed you, silly girl!” she announces as she comes into the kitchen and wraps her arms around me in soul-warming hug.
“I know.” I hand her a glass of wine. “Dinner’s almost ready. Go get changed and get your butt back here so we can catch up.”
“And you better not hold back on me,” she warns with one of her looks before leaving the kitchen.
Our dinner has been eaten, and I think we are on our second or third bottle of wine. The fact that I’ve lost track tells me it’s been enough for me to relax and tell Haddie everything. Her no-holds-barred responses to my replay of events have left me gasping for breath from laughing so hard.
Should I Stay
plays softly on the speakers around us, Haddie leans back against the chair behind her and stretches her legs out on the floor. Her perfectly manicured toes are a bright pink. “So, have you talked to him since then?”
“No. He’s texted me a couple of times, but I’ve only given him one word responses.” I shrug, not having any more clarity after relaying everything to her. “I think he might have a clue I’m hurt about something but he hasn’t asked.”
Haddie snorts loudly. “C’mon, Ry, he’s a guy! Which means first of all he has no clue and, secondly, he’s not going to ask even if he does think you’re pissed.”
“True,” I concede, giggling. The aura of sadness that’s been around me for the past few days continues to dissipate with my laughter.
“But that’s no excuse for him being a dick,” she says loudly, raising her glass up.
“I wouldn’t exactly call him a dick,” I argue, silently chastising myself for defending the one person that is responsible for my current confused and miserable state. Haddie just arches an eyebrow at me, a smarmy smirk on her face. “I mean, I am the one who told him to take a pit stop if he needed to deal with things instead of push me away. I just don’t understand how he’s kissing me one minute and then the next minute asking for one.”
“Let me think about it a minute,” she says, a look of amused concentration on her face. “My head’s a little fuzzy from all this wine.”
I giggle at her and the determined look on her face as she tries to work through everything. “Okay, okay, I got it,” she shouts victoriously. “I think that…hmmm…I think that you freaked him the fuck out, Rylee!”
I throw my head back laughing hysterically at her. A drunk Haddie means a fouled mouth Haddie. “That’s very astute, Had!”
“Wait, wait, wait!” She throws her hands up and luckily her wine doesn’t slosh over the side. “I mean from what you’ve told me, you opened up to him, you talked about stuff, he fucked you seven ways from Sunday—”
I have to stop myself from spitting my wine out of my mouth at her last words. “Jesus, Haddie!”
Well, it’s true!
” She shouts at me like I’m a dumbass, holding my gaze until I nod my head in compliance. “Anyway, back to what I was saying…you guys were flirty and fun and serious and had a great time. He found himself liking you in his surroundings. He saw himself being okay with you in his element. And then in walks his Dad. Having someone else see you there…with him…made it real for him. All of it combined probably freaked Mr. I-Only-Do-Casual out, Rylee!”
I eye her over the rim of my glass, adjusting my knees that are pulled up to my chest. Her words ring true to me, but it doesn’t dissipate the hurt I feel. The ache that only reassurances from him can soothe. I need to do a better job of guarding my heart and pulling back more. I need to not give so freely to him when he isn’t in return.
“God,” I groan, laying my head on the back of the couch. “I’ve never been this wishy-washy in my life over something like I am over him. I’m driving myself crazy sitting here whining like one of those chicks I swore I’d never be. The ones we make fun of. ” I sigh. “
Shoot me now!
Haddie giggles at me. “You are kind of all over the place when it comes to him. Shit, the two of you are giving me fucking whiplash.”
I continue to stare at the ceiling, expressing my agreement of Haddie’s unsolicited opinion by giving a non-committal grunt before I lift my head back up and look at her. “You’re probably right about the freaking out part,” I muse, taking a sip to drain the rest of my glass, “but in all fairness, he told me from the start that he couldn’t give me more.”
!” she shouts, raising her middle finger emphatically.