Color Me In (Last Chance #2)(100)

By: Riley Hart

That was the hardest because there was a quiet truth in Caleb’s brain since they’d spoken this morning. She still cared about Ryan—maybe still loved him. They’d been happy…and maybe they could be happy together again. She could give Ryan the life he’d seen for himself, the things he’d wanted, in a way that Caleb couldn’t.

They were down the hall from the room when Caleb stopped. Ryan took another few steps, then did the same, looking back at him. “Are you coming?” Ryan asked.

He couldn’t. He really didn’t think he could fucking do it. “My stomach is a little upset. I think I might go down to the cafeteria and get something to eat first. Do you mind?”

Ryan walked back to him. “Are you okay?” He reached for Caleb, then stopped himself.

“Yeah, I’m good. Just hungry.” He wasn’t okay at all.

“You should get some food, then. I want…I want to introduce you to him.”

Caleb wanted to meet him as well, but he wished to God he could do it as Ryan’s boyfriend. He’d never had that, not with his parents or anyone else’s.

“I won’t be long.” They were close. He could smell Ryan, and Jesus, he wanted to reach for him, to kiss him. Wanted to claim Ryan as his.

Ryan gave him a sweet smile, looking like he wanted the same thing. It was there between them still—the connection. Caleb could feel the air zap with it.

Just as he thought Ryan was going to lean forward and take his mouth, there was a noise. They both snapped their heads up at the same time to see Danielle standing outside the doorway of the room, looking at them.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt. I thought I heard your voice, Ry.”

Ryan cleared his throat. “You didn’t interrupt. Caleb needs some food. He’s going to run downstairs real quick.”

“I’m actually hungry too. Do you mind if I go with you, Caleb?” she asked, walking toward them. “That’ll give you some time alone with your dad, Ryan.”

He saw Ryan bite back a frown. It hurt Caleb, while he felt the same way too. He didn’t want to share a meal with Ryan’s pregnant ex-wife. He didn’t want to like her. “Yes, of course. We’ll see you soon, Ryan.”

She smiled at Ryan and then joined Caleb. He could feel Ryan’s eyes on them as they walked down the white hallway and back to the elevator.

They were quiet until they got to the cafeteria and Caleb held the door open for her.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Not a problem.”

They got sandwiches and chips before finding a table. Luckily, the cafeteria wasn’t busy as it wasn’t a typical mealtime.

They sat, and Danielle immediately started talking about Ryan, his dad, her job—anything and everything. She was kind and friendly. There wasn’t a doubt in Caleb’s mind that she was a good woman, and part of him hated that. He wanted her to be a bitch, to not deserve Ryan. He didn’t want to see how happy they had been or to know that if the situation was different, they could be happy again. Hell, maybe the situation didn’t even have to be different.

Ryan had no ties to Last Chance—not really. Just himself and a couple of friends. He had Danielle here, the place he’d grown up, his father. Ryan was a good man, and Caleb wasn’t stupid. If his dad was going to need rehab…would Ryan have to stay to help?

All those thoughts soured his stomach and made it hard for him to eat, even though he truly was hungry.

The more she spoke, the more he liked her and the angrier he became. She was… He could see Ryan with her. They’d been dealt an unfair hand. Their relationship had suffered for it. Would they want to try again? Why in the hell were his thoughts going this way?

Mixed in with everything else was the fact that he also knew she’d hurt Ryan. She’d ended them for something that wasn’t his fault, and Caleb knew what that had done to him.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been talking your ear off. Tell me a little about yourself. You’re looking to buy a bar, right? Is that always what you’ve done?” she asked.

“No. I actually haven’t bartended in years. Before that, I was in prison.” He’d said it to be mean…to make her uncomfortable, to make her look differently at him so she wouldn’t seem so perfect. He wasn’t proud of himself for that, but it was the truth. There would always be a small part of him that felt unworthy because of where he’d been.