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Driven (Page 64)

I twist my ring around and around on my finger, contemplating whether I should wear it or not. I take it off and look at it; three thin, wavy, intertwined diamond bands. Past, present, and future. I can still hear him whisper those words in my ear as we stared at it on my finger the night he proposed. I close my eyes and smile at the memory, surprised when the tears that usually threaten don’t come. I play with it on my finger a moment more before hesitantly twisting it off. I stare at it for a beat before I place it in my jewelry box. I pick it back up in indecision, the war of emotions raging inside of me.

Fresh start, I remind myself with a deep, steadying breath, and place it back in the box. I’ve worn the ring, in one way or another, everyday for three years. I feel naked without it, both inside and out. I wiggle my fingers and look at the lighter band of skin marked by time. I feel a weight lifting off of me and at the same time a sadness in the acceptance that it’s time to move on. I kiss the spot on my finger and say a silent I love you to Max, taking a moment to absorb the importance of this moment before turning to do my last minute touch ups in the mirror.

I’m slipping on my black, heeled boots when the doorbell rings. I press a hand to my belly, finding it oddly strange that I’m nervous. The man has seen me naked and yet I still have butterflies. Haddie calls out to me that she’ll answer the door. I grab my cropped leather jacket and purse, check myself in the mirror one last time, and make my way down the hallway. I nervously run my hands over my sides and hips, smoothing down my shirt, the clicking from the heels of my boots muted by the runner on the hardwood floor. I hear Colton laugh out loud as I turn the corner near the family room.

His back is to me when I enter the room. I suck in my breath when I see him. A pair of dark blue jeans hangs low on his hips, hugging his ass and thighs. The man can fill out denim, no question about that. His broad shoulders and strong back stretch the cotton of his plain white t-shirt. The back of his hair curls up at the nape of his neck, and I itch to run my fingers through it. He oozes sex appeal, smolders with rebellion, and radiates confidence. One look at him makes me crave and want and fear all at once. And he’s all mine for the night.

Before Haddie can acknowledge my entrance into the room, Colton stops midsentence. My body tightens at the anticipation, and the deep-seated ache he’s awakened in me rises to new heights as he looks over his shoulder, his body sensing my presence. I swear I can feel the air crackle with electricity as our eyes meet, our bodies vibrating with the awareness of each other’s.

“Rylee.” My name comes out in a breath. The single word laced with so much promise for the night.

“Hi, Ace.” It’s impossible to mask my pleasure at seeing him again. I smile, hoping he sees how much I want to spend time with him and fearing he might read the emotions simmering beneath the excitement.

We step toward each other as he flashes his megawatt grin at me. I fumble with the strap of my purse anxiously as he simply stares at me. “Gorgeous as ever,” he murmurs finally after I feel like all of the air has been sucked out of the room. He reaches out and runs his hand up and down my bare arm, the contact casual but resonating. “You ready?”

Two simple words. That’s all they are really, but with Colton, he makes those two simple words sound seductive with the implication of so much more. I nod my head and murmur, “Hmmm-hmmm,” and am caught off guard as he leans in and kisses the tip of my nose. Such a simple gesture but so unexpected from someone like him.

“Let’s go, then.”

I glance over my shoulder and flash a smile at Haddie, my silent goodbye. I catch the quick thumbs up she flashes me before we exit the front door.

Colton places his hand on the small of my back as he walks me toward the Range Rover, the simple placement of his hand a comfort to my unsettled nerves. Before he reaches for the passenger side door handle, Colton moves the hand from my lower back around to my stomach and pulls me backwards into him so that his body ghosts mine. I hold my breath, the unexpected contact with him awakening the smoldering burn he’s set fire to. He wraps his other arm around my shoulders and he lowers his head to nuzzle his face in the crook of my neck. The warmth of his breath, the sandpaper feel of his shadowed beard, the suggested intimacy of the touch, and the rare glimpse at the affectionate side of Colton causes me to close my eyes momentarily to steady myself and quiet the mixture of sensations rioting inside of me.

“Thank you for saying yes, Ryles,” he murmurs before kissing the hollow spot just below my ear. “Now, let me show you a good time.” I angle my head against his cheek, and close my eyes enjoying the firm heat of him against me. And all too soon he’s released me from his arms and is opening the car door for me, ushering me in.

By the time Colton has reached the driver’s side, the glimpse inside his tough façade is gone and has been replaced with his brooding silence. He clicks his seatbelt and glances over at me. Despite the apprehension I see flickering his eyes, he reaches over and places a hand on my knee, squeezing it in reassurance.

We drive in a comfortable silence as I watch the tree lined street of my neighborhood pass by us. The moon is out, full and bright lighting up the warm January night sky. I look over at Colton, the dash lights casting a glow on his face. A shock of his dark hair has fallen haphazardly over his forehead and I watch his eyes, framed by thick lashes, scan the road ahead of us. The line of his profile is stunning with his imperfect nose, strong bone structure, and sensually sculpted lips. My gaze trails down to take in his strong arms and competent hands on the wheel. The combination of dark hair, translucent eyes, and bronzed skin mixed with the potency of his indifferent attitude—an attitude that makes you want to be the one who matters and be the one who can break through that tough exterior—that combination, it should be illegal. He really does take one’s breath away.

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