Page 10 of Burned (Ignite #1)

Without a word, I turn away from Collin and rush down the hall, pushing my way through the crowd that has doubled in size since we walked to the bathroom. When I get back to the patio, I walk as fast as my high-heeled feet will allow, pull Phina out of D.J.’s arms and tell her we need to leave. She takes one look at my face and scoops up her purse, blowing a kiss to D.J. and giving him a wink before whisking me down the steps of the patio and into the parking lot, where she shoves me into her car and quickly pulls away from the bar.

Wanna know why Phina is my best friend? Please tell me how many women would walk away from a make-out session with a gorgeous fireman without a single protest.

We’re a few miles down the road before she finally breaks the silence.

“You were gone for an awfully long time. Does that have anything to do with your flushed face and the guilty look you’re currently sporting?” she asks, not taking her eyes off of the road.

Letting my head fall back against the seat rest, I close my eyes and bring my fingers up to my lips, the feel of Collin still there and the ache between my legs a reminder of how close to release I was before we were interrupted.

“He kissed me,” I finally admit after a few seconds, turning my head to stare at Phina’s profile.

“Hot damn, he doesn’t waste any time, does he? He totally still has a thing for you.”

I throw her a look of disbelief even though she can’t see it in the dark car. “It’s been seventeen years, Phina. I highly doubt he has any sort of thing for me aside from a case of blue balls at this point in time.”

She laughs and shakes her head at me when she stops at a read light and turns to face me. “Come on, you know he’s regretted breaking up with you every day since he did it.”

“I know nothing of the sort. You’re delusional.”

She cocks her head at me and narrows her eyes. “This is a small town, my dear, and everyone has a mother with a big mouth. I know for a fact that Collin asks about you practically every time he talks to his mother.”

I knew it for a fact, too, mostly because my mother, who had never been Jordan’s biggest fan, mentioned it dozens of times over the years. I never paid it much attention, seeing as I was married and all. Sure, I thought about Collin from time to time, but I didn’t really think we’d ever see each other again and I certainly never expected to be kind of single when it happened. I always figured that when I ran into him again, Jordan would be at my side and we’d be blissfully in love and I could rub it in Collin’s face that the guy who picked up the pieces of the broken heart he left behind turned out to be the love of my life and we were living happily ever after.

Clearly, that is not going to happen.

Everything about tonight has me confused and I know tomorrow will bring a headache that’s equal parts tequila and emotional distress over what I’m fairly sure was the huge mistake I made tonight.

I mean, it was a mistake, right?

This was the first time I’d laid eyes on Collin since graduation and I’m sure it will be another decade and a half before I see him again. We can probably just chalk this up to a lapse in judgment due to an overabundance of alcohol.

Right?

Chapter 6—Playing With Fire

IT’S OFFICIAL.

It’s done. Jordan has been served the separation papers and my cell phone has been ringing non-stop since it happened. I know I’m being a coward by sending his calls to voicemail, but I really don’t give a shit. He’s had plenty of years to change, plenty of years to be the man I needed him to be.

Too little, too late.

There’s not one single thing he could say to me now that would make me change my mind. This wasn’t a rash decision. I took these four weeks away from him to really sit down and think about our life together. I was with him for so long. We grew up together and he’s all I’ve ever known. It’s a scary thing to realize that I stayed for so long because I was in love with the idea of our relationship, not with him. I was seduced by the idea of showing everyone that we could defy the odds, that a couple who met and fell in love in high school could live happily ever after. Walking into the courthouse today, I knew I’d made the right decision when I didn’t mourn the future we might have had if things had been different. Instead, it made me sad to think about all the time I wasted trying to fight for something that was clearly never meant to be.

After a few hours of work, I suck it up and head into an empty conference room to listen to his voicemails. The first couple of them were just as I expected. Jordan pleading and apologizing for screwing up, promising that he’ll get help and he’ll make it up to me. Each one grows increasingly more desperate until I can pinpoint the exact moment when he stops being upset and just gets angry. He calls me every insult he can think of, curses and yells and then apologizes for his behavior the very next message. It’s an emotional tidal wave that I’ve dealt with from him for years. His words cut like a knife and he thinks that an apology can staunch the bleeding. He has no idea that those words have piled up until the scars on my heart are so jagged there is no sewing them back together.

I feel like a fool for the guilt that’s consumed me since Collin’s kiss and my almost-orgasm Saturday night at the bar. Once the residual effects of tequila overload dissipated, I was filled with regret over my response to Collin on what was my first night out without my husband. Even though I feel nothing in my heart anymore for Jordan, he was still my best friend and the man I’d loved for half of my life. I was more than a little ashamed at having let things get so out of hand with Collin, even though I knew the combination of tequila and nostalgia were mostly to blame. Seeing him again brought back a lot of memories and took me back to a time when I was young and carefree and had my whole life ahead of me. It made me remember what it felt like to get butterflies in my stomach during a first kiss and how exciting it was to experience all of those firsts.

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