Page 25 of Burned (Ignite #1)

Pushing aside all thoughts of the woman who f**ked up my life, I storm out of my office and make my way upstairs to the weight room. A tour of the house and a meeting about protocol is just the distraction I need right now.

Chapter 13—Hearts on Fire

STARING AT MYSELF in the wall of mirrors in the dimly lit room, I nervously fuss with my long hair, smoothing the soft layers over my shoulders as I take in my outfit. I’d paired a short black miniskirt with a form fitting grey cotton shirt, an ensemble that hugs my curves and highlights my best assets. It’s what I have on underneath my clothes that has butterflies flapping around in my stomach, though. The lace at the tops of the black thigh-highs is just barely hidden under the hem of the skirt. If I sit down, cross my legs, bend over or shift more than an inch, the garters and lace will peek out and make themselves known.

I try not to trip in my five inch black stilettos as I turn away from the mirror and slowly walk around the room, running my hand over the exercise equipment. The guy who let me in here couldn’t keep his eyes off of my legs, so I can only hope it has the same affect on Collin. I need him unfocused and seething with lust so he’ll give me a chance to talk before he throws me out on my ass. Considering he hasn’t returned any of my calls this week, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take everything in my limited arsenal of seduction to get him to listen to me right now.

My plan of attack didn’t really make it beyond what I would wear when I showed up at the firehouse. Everything I want to say to him is a jumbled mess in my mind and I pray to God it doesn’t get even more screwed up the minute I see him again.

I can’t count the number of times Collin made me trip over my words when we were teenagers. He was the cutest guy in our school, incredibly sweet, smart and funny and I never fully wrapped my head around the fact that he chose me to be his girlfriend. Two years together didn’t cure me of my nerves where he was concerned. Now, after having taken him inside my body and sharing something so shockingly intimate, those nerves feels a thousand times stronger. I want him to see me as something more than the teenage girl he once knew or the woman who f**ked him within days of finding him again. I want him to know me and I want him to like the person that I’ve become. I know I’m completely contradicting myself by coming over here with the intention of seducing him to get what I want, but I don’t have it in me right now to care. There’s nothing I won’t do to make him understand.

I’m standing in front of a speaker that’s roughly the size of a coffee table, wondering about boys and their need to blast music so loud the windows rattle as they work out, when I hear the door on the other side of the room squeak open. I look up at the mirror in front of me and, just like the other day, my eyes meet Collin’s in the reflection. His eyes widen in surprise when he sees me and I catch a faint glimpse of appreciation in his eyes as they roam over my legs before it’s hidden behind a mask of irritation.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

He stops short in the doorway, stubbornly refusing to come any closer, and his voice thunders across the room. I try not to cringe at the venom in it as I slowly turn around to face him.

“You haven’t returned any of my calls.”

My voice comes out raspy and shaky and I silently will my nerves to go the f**k away as I clear my throat.

“I’m pretty sure we have nothing to say to each other. Feel free to let yourself out,” he tells me as he turns to leave.

My determination begins to wilt under his quick dismissal. Maybe this wasn’t meant to be. Maybe he’s decided the baggage that comes along with me is more than he’s willing to take on. Maybe…

No. To hell with maybe. I’ve spent seventeen years building a life on f**king maybes.

As I stand there watching him walk away from me, I huff out the breath I’m holding and remember who the hell I am. I’m not this woman any more, this woman who sits in silence and lets life happen all around her. I’ve spent years keeping my feelings inside and not standing up for myself. I’m not about to take ten steps back when I finally feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

“So, you’re just going to walk away like a coward?” I shout to his retreating back.

I watch as his footsteps falter and the muscles in his shoulders tighten. I hit a nerve by calling him a coward and I know it. A man who races into burning buildings on a daily basis is anything but a coward. Even back in high school Collin was courageous and strong, always the first to fight for what he believed in, and the years apart haven’t changed that. If anything, following his dreams and doing what he was always meant to do only amplified the characteristics he was born with. He’s a proud man who knows exactly who he is. There is no way he’s going to walk out that door without trying to prove me wrong.

He slowly turns around and stares at me. “You’re calling ME a coward? That’s rich coming from you.”

His voice is low but filled with enough heated anger to burn this place to the ground.

I take a deep breath and place my hands on my hips, standing tall and swallowing all my pride.

“I’m sorry about what happened last week. It was a complicated situation and I needed to handle it how I saw fit. I’m sorry if that hurt you or you felt like I was pushing you away.”

He laughs cynically and crosses his arms across his broad chest. “You don’t know a damn thing about me, sweetheart, OR what I’m feeling.”