Apologies

Published September 23, 2011 by Christa Maurice

Want to start at the beginning?

 

Colleen had filed police reports before, but never one for assault. This was a whole lot more complicated. Scott and Dan left her with a detective who took her report in detail. He asked questions and made her backtrack to fill in details Colleen didn’t think she should even remember. Before she was halfway through the interview she was really glad for the coffee and danish. By the time the detective turned her over to a female officer for photographs of her wound, she felt headachy and dizzy.

And she really, really needed to talk to Dan. Or Scott. She didn’t know what was bugging Scott, but something was and that made her uneasy. And Dan, well that was just strange. Kissing him had almost made it worth nearly getting killed.

Then he had to get all weird and disappear. Now she was stuck here without a ride back to her car, lost in limbo in her love life and really glad she had a backup plan.

Mike would never have done this to her. He wouldn’t have let her drift like this for hours. He might have stammered and stuttered and flailed his arms around, but he’d have talked to her. He wouldn’t have been kissing her passionately in the break room and then ditched her with a detective she didn’t know to cool her heels for a couple of hours.

Colleen sat down on a bench in the hall wondering what she was supposed to do now. Obviously, curling into a ball and weeping wasn’t acceptable. Unfortunately, it was the only thing she wanted to do. This was exactly why she didn’t want to fall in love. It hurt too much.

Colleen?”

She turned around. Scott and Dan were walking up the hall in civilian clothes.

You need a ride back to the store?” Scott asked. He blushed when he said it. Then he looked at the floor.

Colleen drew in a breath because she knew if she spoke, she was going to start screaming. She couldn’t even look at Dan because she wanted to punch him. How could he kiss her like that and then treat her like something he’d scraped off his shoe? How could he make her feel like that and then turn right around and make her feel like this?

I’m taking her,” Dan announced.

Colleen looked at him. He looked as handsome and wonderful as he had at the store, but she still wanted to punch him. And she wanted to burst into tears at the thought of being alone with him.

He was going to dump her. That had to be it. He’d kissed her. She’d been all too eager. He couldn’t deal. So he was going to drive her to her car and on the way he was going to politely spell out the reasons he didn’t want to see her any more.

Okay,” Scott said quickly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Dan. Night Colleen.”

Scott hurried down the hall leaving Colleen alone with Dan. Colleen looked at the floor, blinking back tears. It hurt more than it should to be dumped by Dan. She’d kept herself from getting attached to him. To either of them.

Come on.” Dan escorted her down the hall and pushed open the door for her. “Did you get the report filed?”

Sure.” The air outside was cool and still. Traffic passed irregularly on the street. All very eerie and foreboding.

It was a good collar for us. You know, between the credit card theft and the assault.” He opened the car door. “You certainly earned our pay for us tonight. We should thank you.”

No problem.” Colleen slid into his car. It smelled like him, that heavy, spicy aftershave and his own clean, masculine scent. As always it was neat. Colleen closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She wondered if she could convince Mike to switch aftershave. Except that she liked Mike’s aftershave too. It was lighter and kind of piney.

Dan climbed in and pulled the door closed. “I wanted to talk to you about what happened at your store.”

Colleen tried to respond, but it came out as a moan so low he couldn’t possibly hear it over the car’s engine. This shouldn’t hurt so much. It shouldn’t matter. She was just having fun here.

I wanted to apologize for taking advantage of you.”

Colleen opened her eyes. She could feel tears on her lashes. “What?”

I took advantage of you when you were upset. I should have kept my hands to myself and kept some distance.” Dan sighed heavily. “I understand why you’re angry with me and I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Forgive?”

I got too personally involved. I should have been able to see you as just another citizen and not …” Dan’s voice tightened. “I was really glad Scott went after the guy because I’d have hurt him if I got my hands on him. And I should never have gone with you into the office. I should have waited for you outside. It was just too charged. I was too charged and I hope you can forgive me.”

Forgive you?” Colleen asked. If this was a dumping it was definitely the weirdest dumping she’d ever heard about. It had to be some kind of cat and mouse game and she hated being the mouse. “So when do we get to the part when you tell me that you never want to see me again?”

What do you mean?” Dan glanced at her.

Look, let’s not play games here. Okay? Maybe you thought I was …” Colleen groped for the word. ‘Slut’ kept popping up but that would put a bad image in his mind. But what did she care what image formed in his boy scout, white bread, too straight and narrow mind? He was dumping her. She never had to see him again. Except maybe at a party at Laura and Scott’s, but so what?

Colleen, what are you talking about?” Dan asked.

I’m talking about how you’re going to dump me because I was a little too enthusiastic in the break room.” Colleen sobbed. The tears she’d been holding back started pouring down her face. It shouldn’t hurt this much. She’d been so careful not to get in too deep with either of these guys. Hell, that was the point of dating both of them at the same damn time.

Colleen, I’m not dumping you.”

The hell you aren’t,” Colleen shouted. “I know how your mind works Daniel Joseph O’Neill. You don’t want to think about how you’re dating a girl who’s been around the block once or twice. And you just got proof tonight that I’m not pure as a saint so you’re done with me.”

No. That’s not it at all,” Dan told her calmly.

Colleen wiped her eyes. Part of her wanted to rage at him for being so calm when she was coming apart like a cheap toy, but something in what he said kept her from really starting to scream. “What do you mean?” Her voice hitched.

Colleen, I know you’ve been involved with other men. That came up on our first date. If it bothered me that much, there wouldn’t have been a second date.” Dan stopped at a red light and turned to look at her. “I was trying to apologize for kissing you at your job. I put you in a compromising position and I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”

You’re sorry?” Colleen stared at him.

Yes, I’m sorry.” He reached across the seat and wiped a tear from her cheek. “I should have known better, but I just wanted to touch you.” The light changed, but Dan didn’t move. “You scared me and I just needed to make sure you were alright.”

Oh.”

Dan turned back to his driving. There was no one else on the road with them.

So, you’re not dumping me?” Colleen felt herself starting to shake. This felt remarkably like when he said she was getting shocky.

Not unless you want me to.” Dan smiled uncertainly.

I never said that.” Colleen wrapped her arms around herself. She really was starting to feel chilly and disjointed. Her brain was still stuck in that moment just after the guy threw her in front of Dan’s car. Dan’s official car. Since that time she’d packed a busy week of activity and emotion in about three hours.

Are you okay?”

Yeah, fine.” Colleen shrugged. “A little chilly. It’s been a tough day.”

I know.” He put his arm over her shoulders and pulled her closer. “I don’t happen to have a coat handy right here, but I’m happy to share my body heat.”

Gee thanks.” Colleen thought it might be a bad idea to get close to him right now, but she couldn’t stop herself from melting against him. If he’d thought she was vulnerable earlier, he had no idea what vulnerable really looked like. She closed her eyes again and leaned her head on his shoulder. He felt solid and safe. She could hear his heart beating. This was too nice, too easy. Even Mike couldn’t provide this kind of security.

You want to stop for a cup of coffee? I know an all night diner.”

I bet you do.” Colleen smiled. His predictability, which had seemed like such a sin earlier, now felt very comfortable. There would be no surprises with Dan, just solid routine. “Not tonight. I just want to go home and go to bed.”

Okay.”

Not that I don’t appreciate the offer.”

Of course.” Dan turned into the parking lot. He pulled into the space next to her car. “There you are. Door to door service.”

Why, thank you, officer.” Colleen sat up, but didn’t move away. She wondered what he would say if she invited him come along with her home and bed. It had been along time since she made love to a man and she suspected that Dan O’Neill was no ordinary man. But maybe waiting would be best. And she was still dating another guy. “I guess I should go home then.”

Dan’s eyes held hers. “I guess you should.”

I’m going to get out of the car now.”

Good start.” Dan leaned forward.

I’m getting out of the car.” Colleen didn’t move, watching Dan breathlessly. Her chill was steaming away under his gaze.

I see that.” Dan slid his hand around her neck. “You need to get home and get to bed.”

I’m starting my car right now.”

He kissed her. Colleen let herself go. She let him carry her away. His hands were steady and sure, touching her gently. She moaned at the light, teasing pressure of his fingers across her back and neck. She could hear herself begging him not to stop, but knew she couldn’t be because she could still taste his mouth against hers. Coffee. He tasted like coffee and cherry danish. She buried her fingers in his short hair. Dan’s lips slid away from her mouth.

Colleen,” he murmured against her ear. “You are so irresistible. It is so hard to be near you and not touch you.”

Don’t stop,” Colleen moaned. She arched her neck allowing him to kiss down her jugular vein. Her blood caught fire where he touched her, roaring through her body until she thought she must be glowing. “Come home with me.”

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