“Indies?” Genuine curiosity colored his tone.

“Independent authors—those who don’t work with a publisher. Right now I’m working on Jamie McGuire’s new novel. It’s called Other Lives, and it’s freaking fantastic. Sometimes my job is hard, though.”

“Why? Dealing with authors?”

I laughed. “All the authors I’ve worked with have been great. Like Jamie? She’s one hell of a firecracker, but she’s a sweetheart. But sometimes I just suck at remembering this is a job. Like I need to be paying close attention, but I get caught up in the story and the next thing I know I have to go back and reread an entire chapter. I’m hoping she hires me for her next Maddox Brother’s book. I’m a huge…” I laughed, a bit self-consciously. “Sorry. I can be a bit of a fan girl.”

“It’s okay.”

I bit down on my lip. “There’s nothing more amazing than seeing a book you’ve worked on get talked about and loved or when it hits a list. You feel like you’re a part of something bigger.”

Colton was grinning as he watched me closely. “You really love your job.”

“I love books,” I said simply. “There’s nothing more powerful than the written word. It can transfer you to a place that exists right now that you’ll never get to visit or it can take you to a world that doesn’t. It can show you things you’ll never experience otherwise in life, and books…most importantly, they can take you out of your own world, and sometimes you need that.”

“I feel you.” He was still watching me with those intent blue eyes.

A moment of silence passed between us. “I’m sure you didn’t come here to hear about all of that.”

He put his fork down. “Actually, yeah, I did.”

I blinked. “What?”

Colton leaned toward me with his gaze locked onto mine. “I didn’t know you in high school, but I knew of you.”

“You did? I can’t imagine it was anything interesting. I was boring as—”

“I never got the impression you were boring,” he interrupted, and goodness, I could fall into those eyes and never come back out. So cheesy sounding, and if I saw it in one of my author’s books, I’d redline the hell out of that, but now I got it. It was possible. “I just thought you were this pretty girl who sat two seats behind me in history class and was shy.”

Several things occurred to me at once. He remembered that we shared history class together? Holy crap on a cracker. And he thought I’d been pretty? I was sure I probably weighed twenty pounds more back then and I wore these god-awful glasses that were so trendy nowadays.

Colton was a flirt.

“Looking back, I wish I had the balls to talk to you then.” He returned his attention to his crepe while my jaw hit the table. “But you were with Kevin and…yeah, that’s not my style, you know?” He glanced in my direction. “You’re going to eat the crepes, right?”

“Yeah,” I murmured, cutting into one side. I forced myself to eat a bite, and it was like heaven just orgasmed in my mouth. Wow. That was inappropriate. I resisted a giggle. “What about you? You’ve been a cop this whole time?”

“Yep. It’s what I always wanted to do. Started off as a deputy, then became a detective for the county before transferring to the city. I love working as a detective, but with my hours all over the place, Reece, my brother, has pretty much straight up adopted my dog. She doesn’t even stay at my house anymore.” He finished off the second crepe with an impressive quickness and then settled back against the chair, stretching out his long legs. “Almost got married.”

Thank God I had just swallowed a piece of crepe because there was a good chance I would’ve choked. “Almost?”

“Was engaged.” He grinned, and I felt my tummy dip in response. “Nicole and I were together for…hell.” He glanced up at the ceiling, pursing his lips. “For about six years.”

Holy crap, six years? That was a long time. I wondered if she was the woman I’d seen him with at the movies that one time, but that was like, maybe a year ago.

“Got all the way down to planning the wedding date when we came to the realization that we wanted different things in life.”

I picked up my coffee, more intrigued than I should be, but I couldn’t imagine what more this mystery woman could’ve wanted beyond having Colton putting a ring on it. Granted, there was more to life, to a relationship, than having a hot guy to wake up to, but Colton and his younger brother, Reece, had always given the good-guy vibes. Colton could’ve changed since high school, but I didn’t think so. “How so?”

“At first I think Nicole liked the idea of dating a cop.” He laughed as he ran his finger along the rim of his cup, and damn, he had long fingers. “But it’s not an easy life. Odd hours. Then there’s the danger factor. I make decent money, but I’m never going to be rolling around in it. I think she hoped that I’d grow tired of being a cop.”

I didn’t understand. “But you guys were together a long time. Why would she think it was something you’d grow tired with?”

He raised a shoulder. “I think some people pretend at being okay with something because they think there’s some kind of payoff in the end. That they’ll eventually get what they want, and when they realize that’s never going to happen, they just can’t pretend anymore.”

I shook my head. “I still don’t get it. Why would someone waste their time pretending—waste the other person’s time? There’s no point in pretending in a relationship. It’ll never work.”

His dark lashes lowered, shielding his eyes as a small smile played across his lips. “Agreed.”

Sipping my coffee, I tried to ignore the wild fluttering and the thousand questions whirling around in my head. I peeked over at him as I lowered my cup, and our gazes locked. Air leaked out of my parted lips. Colton didn’t look away, and neither could I. Absolutely struck helpless by the intensity in his stare, the wisps of excitement building in my belly gave way to a slow burn that got my pulse pounding. How could a single look from him draw such a response? That gaze of his dipped, and I drew in a shallow breath and felt the warmth travel through my veins. Was he looking at my mouth again? Oh Lord, it was getting hot in here.

Goodness, this man…even his stare was pure…pure sin.

I cleared my throat. “So…um, when did you and Nicole part ways?”

“About six months or so ago.”

Ice chased away the warmth as I schooled my expression blank. Six months? That wasn’t a long time ago, especially considering they were engaged to be married and were together for six years. Six months was…was nothing. After I lost Kevin, six months had changed nothing for me. How could he be over the failure of a relationship in six months?

And why did it matter? No, it didn’t, but there was no mistaking the rise of disappointment. I wanted to smack myself.

Colton leaned forward. “I did have another reason for stopping by. It’s about what happened last night.”

“Of course,” I murmured, slapping a smile across my face as another surge of dismay made itself known.

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