Page 26 of Burned (Ignite #1)

“That’s just it! I DON’T know anything about you!” I fire back. “What was I supposed to do? Just take a chance on something when I have no idea what’s going on in your head?”

He takes a few steps in my direction and stops again. “Don’t make this out to be more than it is. You got what you wanted: the perfect payback for your loving husband. Now you can go back to living in your perfect little home with your perfect little life and you can push me out of your mind like you have for seventeen years.”

I don’t let his words upset me, mostly because I can see the hurt written all over his face. Collin wanted me to pick him. He wanted me to throw Jordan out and choose him. He has no idea how much I wanted to do just that—or how much I regret allowing fear to hold me back.

“You think my life was perfect?” I argue. “It was a mess. From almost the very beginning, it was all a lie. I did think about you. I thought about you so much it made me question everything I thought was right. I didn’t ask you to leave because I didn’t want more time with you. Think about it. There’s no way Jordan would have listened to anything I had to say with you standing right there, ready to beat his ass if he said something wrong. You have no idea how much I wanted you to stay, how much I wanted to drag you back to my bed and forget about the outside world.”

Collin’s arms drop to his sides and he stalks towards me, stopping when there are only a few feet separating us.

“If you wanted me so f**king much, explain why it took you five days to come here, making me wonder if it meant absolutely nothing to you. I don’t like feeling like a chump, Finnley.”

I reach my hands out to him and he flinches, but I don’t let that bother me. I keep moving until my hands are flat against his chest and I can feel his heart beating against my palms.

“I left you ten messages,” I remind him. “I should have come to you sooner, I know that. I didn’t stay away to torture you or to make you question what we shared. I did it to protect you.”

Collin narrows his eyes and bites out, “I’m not afraid of f**king Jordan Castillo.”

I manage to tamp down my irritation over his macho bullshit. “I wasn’t insinuating you are. Besides, this has f**k all to do with Jordan. I was trying to protect you from me.”

Collin stares at me, clearly confused, so I explain. “This is all new for me. I’ve slept with one man my entire life. One. I needed to get my head on straight and make sure I didn’t just do it to get back at Jordan. I needed to make sure that what I felt didn’t go away as soon as I wasn’t in the same room with you. You cloud my judgment, Collin. You make me feel alive for the first time in years and that scares the hell out of me.”

He sighs and I can see the fight he’s waging within himself slowly start to die away.

“Also, I needed to do something I never thought I would have to do. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but it was important to do it before I came to you.”

He gives me that adorably befuddled look yet again and I move closer.

“God, this is so embarrassing,” I mutter, looking away from him.

I see his hand move out of the corner of my eye and, seconds later, I feel his fingers on my chin. I don’t resist when he turns my face back to his, his eyes imploring me to keep going.

I rush through the most important part of my explanation in one breath. “Jordan and I never used condoms. I was on the pill and obviously I never thought my husband would be a cheating sack of shit. He f**ked around on me, Collin, and I had to get tested before I talked to you again. I needed to be sure that I hadn’t done something to hurt you. I would never be able to live with myself if I knew I put you in harm’s way without even knowing it. I’m clean, by the way. Phina is a phlebotomist and she was able to put a rush on the blood draw. So, aside from a complete mistrust of men and a failed marriage, at least that ass**le didn’t leave anything else behind when I kicked his ass to the curb.”

Collin is quiet for so long that I’m a little afraid I freaked him out with my babble. I had to put everything on the table, though, because he deserves to know the truth. I don’t want any lies between us. I’ve dealt with that enough in my life.

“Are you really done with him?” Collin finally asks quietly, breaking the silence.

“I’ve been done with him for more years than I care to count. I’ve spent my life doing what I thought was right instead of doing what I wanted. I don’t want to live like that anymore,” I tell him honestly.

He leans his body into mine without touching me.

“What do you want, Finnley?”

I take a deep breath and lay it all on the line.

“You. I just want you, but it scares the hell out of me,” I whisper.

He moves forward until the toes of his boots are touching the toes of my heels. Bringing his arms up, he cups my face in his large hands and I feel like I can finally breathe again. One week without him and I missed his touch, I missed his closeness.

“What are you so afraid of?”

I look up into his bright blue eyes and I wonder how it’s possible to feel such a strong connection with someone in such a short amount of time. Years and distance separated us for so long, but right now, being close to him, feeling his hands on my skin, makes it feel like we were never apart—that my marriage with Jordan was just a dream and Collin has always been my reality.

“This, all of this,” I tell him. “I’m scared by how much I need you even though I barely know you anymore. I spent seventeen years with someone I thought I knew and look how that turned out.”