Dream of You, Page 2J. Lynn
He had no problem doing it to that man.
Folding my arms across my chest, I stared at the near-empty paper cup in front of me. I’d all but gulped it down when the officer had brought it to me. A shiver rolled across my shoulders. It was so chilly in here. Even the tip of my nose was icy.
Instead of keeping my thoughts blank, I focused on what had happened. How much time I thought had passed between when I left the bar and had walked in front of the alley. What I saw was important. Someone was murdered, and I’d seen the persons responsible. Whatever information I had would help bring them to justice.
So I replayed the events over and over, up to the horrifying moment the gun had gone off, despite how badly it made me shudder and how I wished I had kept walking. That may be wrong, but I knew that until my dying day, I would never forget tonight.
That man died with his face pressed into an alley that smelled of urine.
I shuddered again. Never in a million years had I thought accepting a date with Rick the Dick would end with me sitting in a police station after witnessing…a murder.
I had no idea how long I’d been sitting in this room, but at some point an officer had shown up with my car keys. After confirming the make and model, the officer had left again to retrieve my car from the scene. I wasn’t sure if that was protocol or not, but I appreciated the gesture.
The last thing I wanted to do was return to the scene.
A shaky breath puffed out as the door opened, causing my chin to jerk up. Two men entered. The first thing I noticed was that both were dressed like I expected detectives to be. The first man wore tan trousers and the other one had on black. The first man’s dress shirt was slightly wrinkled, as if he had gotten the call in the middle of the night and had picked the first thing up from the floor. He was older, possibly in his fifties, and his dark gaze was sympathetic as he moved closer to the table. The scent of fresh coffee wafted from the cup he held. He placed a closed file on the table.
“Ms. Ramsey? I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I know you’ve had a long night. I’m Detective Hart.” He stopped, turning halfway. “And this is Detective…”
I was already looking up at the other guy, taking in how the pressed, white polo was loose at his trim waist and a bit tighter along a clearly defined chest and shoulders. Right now really wasn’t the best moment to be checking out a guy, so I forced myself to look up. My gaze had just moved to his face when Detective Hart introduced the second detective.
My heart stopped for the second time that evening.
Oh my God.
I could feel my eyes widen as I gawked at the second man, who was openly staring back at me with the same look of disbelief on his unbelievably handsome face. I didn’t even need to hear his name spoken. I knew who it was.
Oh my God, there was no mistaking him. Those high, angular cheekbones, the cut line of an often stubborn jaw, his full lips and those bright and piercing blues eyes had spawned an embarrassing amount of fantasies in high school and beyond.
God, it probably made me a terrible person. I had a boyfriend all through high school—a boy who ultimately became my husband—but there had always been Colton. He was the untouchable god in high school, the boy you went to school for and lusted for from afar, even though an icicle had a better chance of surviving in hell than you did when it came to gaining his attention.
Colton was classically handsome, just like his younger brother, Reece, and he looked more ready to arrive at a fashion shoot for a men’s health magazine than he appeared ready to investigate a homicide.
So shocked at the sight of him, the question blurted out of me. “I thought you worked for the county?”
“I did, but I transferred to the city.” Colton lifted his arm, running his hand over his dark brown hair. Did he still live in Plymouth Meeting? Had he moved to Philadelphia? Those questions were so inappropriate, and I was amazed I kept my mouth shut as he stared at me. “Damn, Abby. I had no idea it was you in this room.”
He knew my name? Let alone, remembered it? The Kool-Aid dude could burst through the one-way mirror and I wouldn’t be any more surprised. Colton and I hadn’t run in the same circles, and I was sure, a hundred percent positive, I hadn’t been on his radar in high school.
“You two know each other?” Hart asked with a frown as he glanced between us.
Colton gave a tight shake of his head. “We went to high school together, but I haven’t seen her…” He lowered his arm. “I haven’t seen you in years.”
Oh, but I had seen him around town. Not often. At the grocery store once in a while. Once at the movies. I’d been with my friend and he had been with this statuesque blonde.
“I…” Swallowing hard, I glanced at Detective Hart. Off kilter from what had happened, I already felt like I was stuck in a dream. Or a nightmare. “I left for college and then moved to New York after I graduated. I’ve been back for about four years.”
Colton stepped around Hart and those blue eyes, framed by a heavy fringe of lashes, narrowed. “Are you okay?” His head jerked back toward the other detective. “Has she seen an EMT?”
“From what Officer Hun said, she was treated and refused to go to the hospital.”
That narrowed gaze landed on me sharply. “You need to get—”
“I’m fine.” How bad did my face look? I resisted the urge to glance at the one-way glass window. “Really, I am.”
“You were shot at,” Colton stated.
I flinched, unable to stop myself. Either the responding officer had filled him in or that info was in the file. “The bullet must’ve hit a nearby wall. It was chunks of brick.” Pausing, I wetted my lips. “It’s not…”
Colton’s gaze dipped to my mouth for a second too long for me to have completely imagined it. His eyes met mine quick enough as he slid into the seat closest to me on my left. “Have you called your husband?”
What the…? I blinked once and then twice. He knew I’d married? Granted, it wasn’t like it had been a secret or anything. Kevin and I…we’d gotten married right after graduation, during the summer, and by winter we had moved. Yes, we all went to school together, but I had been completely invisible to him.
Drawing in a shallow breath, I loosened my grip on the tissue as I refocused my thoughts. “Kevin passed away four years ago. It was a car accident.”
“Shit.” Colton straightened as the look in his steeling blue gaze softened. “I didn’t know.” He reached over, placing his large hand on my shoulder. The weight was shockingly comforting. “I’m sorry, Abby.”
“It’s…” It wasn’t exactly okay even though I’d long come to terms with the loss of Kevin. Some days it was still hard. Something small, like a certain scent or a song on the radio would remind me of him and how uncertain life could be. “Thank you.”
He squeezed gently and then lowered his hand, the tips of his fingers brushing the bare skin of my arm. “Okay. Let’s get this over so you can go home.”
Hart arched a brow as he eyed Colton. He took the seat across from me. “I know you’ve already given your statement to Officer Hun, but we’re going to want you to start from the beginning, okay?”
I nodded slowly. “I was leaving the bar Pixie’s and walking to my car. It was parked a couple of blocks away. Maybe three or four blocks. It was early. Maybe around eight-thirty. I was on a…a date, but the guy was a total douchebag.” My cheeks heated as my gaze darted to Colton. “I’m sorry. That’s not really important.”
Colton’s lips twitched. “Everything is important.”
I forced myself to take another slow, steady breath. “All right. I was walking to my car and I really wasn’t paying attention. That area of the city isn’t bad and so I wasn’t expecting anything to happen, you know? I was just walking and I saw my car up ahead. I was thinking about going home and reading this book,” I continued, knowing I was rambling again. “I heard someone groaning and it was like I had no control over my feet. I stopped and I looked
to my right. There was an alley and that’s when I saw them.”
Extending an arm, Colton snatched up the file on the table and flipped it open. His brows burrowed together as he quickly scanned it. “You said you saw three people.”
“Yes. There was a man just standing there. He had…he had a scar on his face and bleached blond hair. The other man, the one with the gun, his head was shaven and he had a huge tattoo on his arm. I couldn’t make out what it looked like. It was too dark. I’m sorry.”
He glanced up at me, his gaze roaming over my face. “That’s okay. You told the officer you could recognize them, right?” When I nodded again, he smiled tightly. Not the big, warm smile I’d seen him throw around when we were teenagers. Not even a hint of it. “They’re compiling some mug shots of those who’ve met your description right now. So we’ll go over that in a few.” There was a pause as he sat back in the chair. “How many times did you hear the gun fire?”
“Once. No. Twice,” I said. Detective Hart was scribbling something down on a small notebook he must’ve had hidden somewhere. “He shot…he shot that man in the alley, and I dropped my keys like a dumbass. Oh!” I smacked my hand over my mouth. “I’m sorry.”
The blue hue of Colton’s eyes had lightened. “Honey, saying dumbass around here isn’t going to offend anyone.”
“No truer words ever spoken,” Hart added dryly.
The smile that curved up the corners of my lips felt weak and brittle. I’d also never in a million years thought I’d hear Colton call me honey. Hell, never in a million years did I think I’d be sitting in front of him.
I really needed to focus, but now it was a struggle. Adrenaline had long since faded and it was way past my normal bedtime of eleven-thirty. “Um, after I dropped the keys, the man with the gun, he turned to me. I saw him. He…he saw me.” My fingers tightened around the poor tissue as a slice of panic cut across my chest. “I turned and ran. He must’ve fired at me, but missed. The bullet hit a nearby building.” I raised my hand toward my cheek and then immediately dropped it back to my lap. “I kept running and that’s when I ran into the man.”
Detective Hart asked a few more questions. Did I notice if they had gotten in a car? No. Was a name even spoken? Not that I recalled. Did they say anything to the man they shot? I wasn’t sure. Eventually, he got up and left the room to retrieve some photos they wanted me to look at.
I was alone with Colton.
Any other time I probably would’ve been beside myself with nervousness, but at this point, I barely registered his presence. All I wanted to do was go home and forget this night.
My gaze slowly lifted at the sound of my name. His voice was deep and gruff—a morning voice.
He leaned toward me, placing his arms on the table. Short dark hairs dusted powerful forearms. The few times I’d seen him over the years, I hadn’t been in close proximity to him, but now I could see the tiny differences between the Colton I’d admired from afar in high school and the one sitting in front of me, some ten years later. Fine lines had formed around the corners of his eyes. His jaw seemed harder, and the five-o’clock shadow was something new.
I really needed to stop thinking in general.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Abby?” he asked, and real concern filled his voice.
I shook my head slowly as a shiver raced down my spine. “Yes. No? I’m sorry. I’m so tired.”
“I can imagine.” He glanced at the door as he moved his shoulders, as if working out a kink. “We’ll get you home soon.”
Slouching in the metal chair, I sighed. “Is this…the start of your shift or…?”
Colton’s cobalt gaze tracked back to me. “I usually get off around eight, but we work in cycles for homicide calls. It was our weekend.”
“Sorry,” I whispered, and then frowned. “I don’t even know why I apologized. It’s got to be hard working those kinds of hours, having to be on call.”
“I imagine it is for some, especially those with a family.” One side of his lips quirked up, and despite the dire situation, my stomach dipped a bit. He lifted his left hand. “Obviously, I’m not married. I wouldn’t know.”
I thought about the beautiful blonde I’d seen him with at the movies. “No girlfriend?” My eyes widened. Did I seriously just ask that?
That half grin spread, revealing the one dimple he had in his left cheek. “No. Not really.”
Not really? What in the heck was that supposed to mean? Did it matter? No. Not at all. I dropped my gaze to the table. A moment passed and I didn’t think about what I was saying. It just…came out. “I’d never seen anyone die before. Never saw the exact moment life was snuffed out. I’d lived through death. With my parents and then with Kevin, but…” I’d seen my husband after he’d passed away. He’d been a pale, waxy shadow of himself and as traumatizing as that was, it was nothing compared to witnessing a life end. “I won’t ever forget tonight.”
“You won’t,” he said, and I lifted my gaze to his. “I’m not going to lie to you. It’s going to hang with you. Seeing death like that isn’t easy. It’s a darkness you just can’t explain and can’t understand.”
That was so true. “You see it a lot?”
His head tilted to the side. “I’ve seen enough, Abby. Enough.”
The need to apologize again rose, but I squelched it now. It was a terrible habit of mine. Apologizing for things I had no control over. Without apologizing, I had no idea what to say to him.
“I need to ask you one more time,” he said, all softness gone from his eyes. They were like chips of blue ice. “Are you positive you didn’t hear any of their names?”
“The one guy was talking—the one with the scar, but I didn’t hear what he was saying. I was too…shocked by what I was seeing. I wish I did, but I couldn’t make any of it out, but I got this impression that he…I don’t know.”
“What impression?” He leaned forward, gaze sharpening.
Unsure if what I was saying was correct or more of just a feeling, I squirmed a little in my chair. “I got this feeling that he wasn’t okay with what was happening. He appeared upset. Like he had his hands in his hair. Like this.” I raised my hands to my shoulder-length hair and scrubbed my fingers through it. “He seemed upset. I know that’s not much—”
“No, that’s definitely something. That’s good.”
Colton smiled tightly. No dimple. “Because if this guy didn’t like what was going down, then he could turn against the one who pulled the trigger.”
“Oh.” I thought that made sense.
He was quiet for a moment. “What a horrible way for you and I to run into each other again, huh?”
My answering smile didn’t feel as forced as the one before. “Yeah. Not the greatest circumstances.” I reached up, tucking my hair behind my ear. I started to yawn, weary with exhaustion, but the stretching of my face caused me to wince. “Ow.”
Colton had somehow moved closer and before I knew it, I could catch the scent of his cologne. It was crisp, reminding me of mountain air. A single finger curved under my chin, startling me. The touch was simply electrifying, like a jolt of pure caffeine to the nervous system. The grasp was surprisingly tender. That softness was back in his gaze.
And it had been so long since I’d been touched in what felt like such an intimate way.
For some god-awful reason, tears started climbing the back of my throat. Granted, there were currently a lot of reasons to begin sobbing hysterically, but the last thing I needed to do was cry over Colton.
I knew I should pull away from him because the comfort his slight touch offered was too much. The wall I had built around the nearly consuming terror started to crumble. “That man…that murderer? He saw me,” I repeated in a hushed voice. “If I can describe him, he can describe me.” My voice caught, cracked a little. “That’s terrifying.”
“I know how scary that is, but trust me, Abby.”
The hard glint was back in his icy eyes as his hand shifted slightly and his thumb smoothed under the tiny cut along my cheek. “I’m going to make sure you’re safe.”
None of the pictures that had been splayed out in front of me or had been included in the most disturbing photo album ever were of the men I’d seen in the alley.
Strangely, I felt like I had failed.
I wanted to be able to point at someone and say that was them. The bad guys would be found, and all of this would be over. I wanted that so badly.
But that was not what happened.
Colton had been called out toward the end and even though he’d said he’d be back, I hadn’t seen him while I was ushered out of the police station and guided to my car by Detective Hart.
They’d be in touch.
I had no idea what that meant and I was too exhausted to figure it out. The drive from the city to the townhouse I’d purchased when I moved back wasn’t particularly quick, even at damn near close to three in the morning. By some kind of miracle, I made it home, parked my car, and hobbled up the steps and let myself in. It was only then that I remembered that my one heel was broken. I didn’t recall how I got the shoe back. Maybe Officer Hun?
Or was it Colton?
Please not Colton.
I really didn’t need him knowing that I was near caveman size when it came to my feet.
Flipping the light on inside, I quickly closed the door behind me and kicked off my ruined shoes. My pinched toes sighed in relief as I stared up at the narrow staircase directly in front of the door. More than anything I wanted to climb those steps and throw myself into my bed, but I felt disgustingly dirty and my throat felt like the Mojave Desert.
The section of townhouses had been built in the early nineties so the entire first floor rocked the whole open concept. The living room area was cozy with a couch and chair, situated around a TV and coffee table. The space opened right into a dining room that I honestly never used. Most of my dinners were on the couch. All the appliances had been new in the kitchen, and I’d fallen in love with the gray granite countertops the moment I walked into it.