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Driven (Page 89)

I ignore the raised eyebrows that Dane gives me before turning and following the boys out the door. Not trusting my voice, I figure that my lack of forward movement is enough of an answer for Colton.

“It’s good to see you.” His voice is gruff.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes momentarily, trying to clear the emotion from my face and remove my heart from my sleeve. I slowly turn around, a falsely calm smile on my lips as I remind myself of his words from the other day. The full force of the devastating effect he has on me hits me when I meet his eyes.

This would’ve never worked. “You too, Ace.”

He’s sitting on the edge of a table, one foot resting on the seat of the chair in front of him, his hands twirling his sunglasses by their arm. My heart twists at the sight of him, knowing I can have some of him but not the whole I need. I walk toward him, our chemistry irrefutable, and his pull on me magnetic. I smile shyly at him, trying to keep my emotions under wraps. I stop in front of him, my fingers itching to touch. His eyes watch my hand as I reach out and wipe off an imaginary piece of lint from his shirt. “You look so official!” I laugh anxiously saying the only thing that comes to my mind.

He cocks his head and raises an eyebrow at me. “What? You think I’m faking it and this is all for show?” he says dryly rising from the table. When he unfolds himself and stands to full height, his body is a mere inches from mine. His scent envelops me and I take a step back to prevent myself from reaching out to touch him again. Any measure to try and preserve my dignity.

“No. That’s not what I meant.” I shake my head flustered, stepping back again to create some space. “Being here just makes it all so real; the track, seeing you in your suit, the grandstands … the enormity of it all.” I shrug, “Thank you so much, Colton.” With these words I look down at my hands where I instinctively go to worry the ring that’s no longer on my finger. Instead I lace my fingers together and try to hide the emotion swarming in my eyes.

“For what?”

“You went over and above. The stuff in the bus for the kids. Having them here today. Everything.” I look back up at him, tears of happiness swimming in my eyes, and say softly, “Zander’s first word.”

“A break-through is so important to healing invisible wounds.” I know he understands these words more than most. He reaches out and wipes the lone tear that spills over. That simple sign of compassion leaves me shaken. His eyes meet mine, and I can see the feelings he has for me in them. I just wish he could see them himself. He slips his sunglasses on his face, shielding my ability to read more from them, and holds his hand out to me. “Come walk me to the pits?”

When I just stand there staring at him, confusion etching my face, he answers for me by grabbing my hand and tugging it so that I am forced to go along with him. We walk in silence, both occupied by our own thoughts. So many questions I want to ask remain unspoken on my lips for this is not the right time or place for them. I place a hand on my stomach to settle the nerves fluttering there.

“Why do you seem so nervous when I’m the one that’s going to be hurling myself around the track at two hundred miles an hour?”

I stop and look at him and am unable to see through his dark lenses, wondering if he really doesn’t get that spending time with him, being with him when I can’t have him, does this to me. Has me walking on eggshells and thinking of what ifs. I decide to take the easy way out. “I’m nervous for you. Aren’t you ever afraid that you are going to crash?”

“Oh, I’ve crashed plenty of times, Ryles.” He lifts his sunglasses so that our eyes can meet. “Sometimes you need to crash a couple of times to learn your mistakes, and then when the smoke clears, sometimes you’re better off in the end. Lesson learned in case there is a next time.” He shrugs, squeezing my hand and smiling shyly, “Besides, sometimes the dents just add more character in the long run. Looking pretty can only last so long.” Our eyes hold each other’s, and I know he is talking about more than racing. My eyes beseech his, silently asking the questions I’m afraid to voice, but he slips his glasses back on, pretending he didn’t see them. He tugs on my hand again to start walking, our linked fingers the only answer I receive.

I try to think of something to say to add some levity to our walk. “Aren’t you supposed to have a pre-race face on or something saying you’re in the zone?”

“Something like that,” he laughs at me, “but it’s not a race today. Besides, I usually get that way once I walk on to pit row. It pisses my sister off to no end.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I can just tune everything and everyone out instantly,” he says wryly, a diminutive smile on his beautiful lips.

“Typical male,” I laugh shaking my head. “Thanks for the warning, Ace.”

“And she says I look mean. I try and tell her its just part of my job but she doesn’t buy it.” We walk for a bit more in silence, a smile on my lips. I can hear an engine revving off to my left and hear the clatter of a wrench on concrete somewhere to my right. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to come today.” His words surprise me. I think I do a pretty good job of hiding it on my face. “I thought you might send another counselor in your place instead.”

“No,” I murmur as we stop at the corner of a building, and I look up at him. Doesn’t he realize that even when he pushes me away I am irrefutably drawn to him? That I couldn’t stay away even if I wanted to? “I wanted to see you in your element. Watch the boys experience it.”

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