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Driven (Page 110)

“You play?” I ask, nodding my head toward the guitar.

“For myself.” His answer mixed with the unexpected softness in his voice has me turning to look at him. He shrugs, “It’s what I do to help me think…to work though stuff in my head.” As he talks, I step further into the office and run my fingers across bookshelves, looking at the scattered pictures of his family. “I don’t play for others.”

I nod my head in response, understanding the need to have something to help when your head is troubled. I continue perusing the bookshelves and one photo causes me to do a double take. A younger Colton looks exhausted yet jubilant in his race suit standing in front of his car, arms raised in victory, smile wide with pure accomplishment, and confetti raining down. The only distraction in the picture is the woman wrapped around his torso. She stares up at him, love, adoration, and reverence plastered blatantly on her face. I’d know her face anywhere.

“What’s this picture of?” I ask casually as I turn to him where he’s relaxed against the doorjamb, watching me as I look at his things.

“What’s that?” he asks tilting his head and walking toward me. I lean back and point toward the photograph in question.

A reflective smile graces his lips and his eyes light up. “That was my first win in the Indy Lights circuit.” He shakes his head in remembrance, “God, that was a year.”

“Tell me about it.” He arches an eyebrow at me as if he is questioning whether I really want to hear about it. “I want to know,” I prompt.

“It was my second year and I thought I was going to lose my ride if I didn’t pull a win. I had come close so many times and something always happened to prevent it.” He reaches out and takes the picture off of the shelf to look at it. “Looking back, I know now that I made a lot of rookie mistakes that caused the problems. But back then I was just frustrated and scared I was going to lose the one thing I really loved—too much ego, too little listening. Some things never change, huh?” He glances up and I smile at him. “Anyway, everything seemed to be going bad this race. We couldn’t get the car adjusted right because the weather was erratic. Too many variables to explain. But we found ourselves with five laps left and I made a run at the lead. Passed the leader in a stupid risk that I never should have taken, but it paid off and we won.”

“First of many victories, right?” I ask as I take the picture from his hand and study it again.

“Right,” he smirks, “And hopefully more this season.”

“Who’s this?” I ask pointing to Tawny, getting to my real question.

“You didn’t meet Tawny at the track the other day?”

“Oh,” I play stupid, “is that who you were speaking with before you tested?”

“Yeah. I apologize. I thought you’d been introduced.”

“Uh-uh.” I place the frame back on the shelf and follow him as he steps out of the office. “Did she work for you way back then?”

“No,” he chuckles, showing me into a den complete with some of his racing memorabilia, a huge flat screen television, and a pool table. “She’s a family friend and we kinda of grew up together. We, uh, actually dated a while in college, and it was a long-running joke between our families that we would end up married some day.”

Whoa! Did I just hear that right? Only a guy would think nothing of making that comment to the woman he is currently doing whatever we are doing together with. Their families think they’ll end up married some day? Fuck! I swallow loudly as he takes me into a guest suite. “Why’d you guys break up?”

“Good question,” he sighs giving me an odd look, and I wonder if I am being too obvious in my probing. “I don’t know. She was just too familiar. I thought of her like a little sister. It just didn’t work for me,” he shrugs. “When that picture was taken we were still dating. In the end, we remained good friends, seeing as she’s one of the few people I can really trust and depend on. When she graduated from college with a degree in marketing and I started CDE, she helped me out. She was good at what she did, so when the company became a reality, I hired her.”

Well, at least the platonic edge is from his side because she sure wants more than that. I turn from looking out the wall of glass at the ocean and look at him. He holds his hand out to me, “C’mon, let me show you upstairs.”

We ascend the wider-than-normal freestanding staircase on stone steps, and I find myself impressed with the lived-in feeling of his stone fortress. I tell him I assumed it was going to be cold and uninviting but it’s the exact opposite. He tells me he opted for the stone exterior to limit the maintenance required from the continual wear of being exposed to the harsh beach conditions.

When we reach the top of the stairs, we come to an open room that is the patio portion I saw from the front of the house. “I think I found heaven,” I murmur as I take in the indoor/outdoor patio. Lights wrap around an overhead trellis covered in a growing vine, twinkling in the darkening sky. Four chaise lounges I could sink into and get lost in are artfully arranged around the space.

Colton laughs at me as he tugs my arm, “We can enjoy out there later,” he says wiggling his eyebrows at me.

“Man with a one-track mind,” I tease as my words falter when he brings me into the doorway of his bedroom. “Wow,” I breathe.

“Now this is my favorite place in the house,” he says and I can see why. An oversized bed is situated in the room with the footboard facing the view of the ocean. The room is done in soft browns and blues and greens. A love seat is situated on an angled wall and a coffee table is in front of it where magazines and books are haphazardly thrown. A large dog bed sits in another corner beneath a fireplace with chewed toys and a rumpled, blue blanket. The focal point of the bedroom is similar to downstairs, a wall of glass consisting of opened windows and the breeze blowing in off the ocean.

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