Color Me In (Last Chance #2)(7)

By: Riley Hart


“I think I’m going to head out too,” Caleb told her.

She prepared both their checks, and they paid. When they got to the door, Caleb pulled it open for Ryan.

“Thanks, man,” he replied as he walked out.

The two of them stopped in front of their vehicles. Caleb broke the silence. “I hate to admit it, but the black isn’t so bad.”

“Yeah…I guess the red isn’t either. Little flashy for my taste.”

“Hey, you trying to bust my balls? I was being nice.”

“Nah, just giving you shit.” Ryan shrugged. “Only thing I’ve ever done for myself like this.” Well, shit. He wasn’t sure why he’d said that. Caleb cocked his head slightly as though he was trying to figure something out.

“That won’t do. You should treat yourself more often. If you don’t, who will?”

Caleb’s statement hit close to home—more than he could realize. “Guess you’re right about that.”

The two of them stood there for a moment like a couple of idiots. Ryan wasn’t sure why he didn’t just get into his car or why Caleb didn’t do the same.

Finally, it was Caleb who broke the silence. “Guess you should get some sleep. Wouldn’t want to make your boss angry.”

“I was teasing. Shane’s a good guy.”

“Yeah…yeah, I know he is.” His voice was a little soft, maybe sad. Caleb pushed his hands into the pockets of his jeans as though he was slightly uncomfortable.

Hmm…that was interesting. Though he guessed it made sense that they knew each other if Caleb grew up here. He could see it, though, the story in Caleb’s eyes. He and Shane had some kind of history.

The wind blew, making a chill rush down Ryan’s spine. “It was nice to meet you.” Before they stood there all night, Ryan walked to the driver’s side of his car. Caleb did the same.

“Maybe I’ll catch you around sometime, Sweet Tooth.”

He didn’t know why, but the nickname made a grin tug at his lips. “Yeah,” he replied. “Same to you.”

Caleb got into his car, revved the engine, and pulled away. Ryan stood there a moment, watching his taillights until they disappeared.





CHAPTER THREE





Caleb had forgotten how dreary Oregon in the fall could be. Every morning there was a thick layer of fog that hung against the trees surrounding his property. The sky had a dark, gray tint to it. Some mornings he’d sit on the wraparound porch, coffee in hand, and look out at the land—this town that had been his home, his world, for sixteen years—and it was somehow both eerie and welcoming.

He’d needed a change something fierce. It was why he came. He’d lived a lot of life since he’d left Last Chance—loneliness, denial, depression, suicide attempt, prison, the death of his parents, college, porn… The list went on. Caleb couldn’t help but wonder if he would fit here now, if there would be a space for him—especially if people knew his past—but the truth was, he was pretty good at carving his own space. His past showed that, and he hoped he’d be able to do it again.

Start over. Rediscover who he was and what he wanted. He’d done it over and over, and now? Now he wanted to settle. It was exhausting reinventing himself. Losing and finding himself—though he guessed if he’d ever truly found who he was, he wouldn’t have then become someone else. Or hell, maybe he would have. Life was funny like that.

Caleb pushed off the chair on his front porch and walked inside. His house was ridiculous—much too big for him, but he fucking loved it—a two-story, gray, farm-style home with four bedrooms and a balcony in his master room. It was the kind of place his mother would have loved. Being in it made him feel close to the parents he’d lost.

He had a troubled relationship with their memory. They’d lost each other; his parents had hurt him…but they’d loved him too. They’d been sorry, tried to make amends, but that had been hard when Caleb was behind bars for a drunken assault he had no business committing.

It sure as hell was quiet, though.

“What the fuck am I doing?” Caleb mumbled to himself as he walked to the kitchen. He made himself a cheese omelet, washed his dishes, and then went up the hardwood stairs to his room and logged on to the computer. Instead of doing anything productive, he browsed social media, then checked his email, before he made his way to the shower. Caleb jerked off, cleaned up, and then…nothing.