“Yeah, I do.” His gaze swept over her, head to toe. “You look a little better. You should take some ibuprofen, though.” He lifted a bottle from the counter and when she held out a hand shook out two pills into her palm. He’d already poured a glass of water, too.
Colin sent her to the living room and carried two mugs of cocoa when he followed her. This time he sat down beside her on the sofa and put the mugs on the coffee table.
“All right.” He was, momentarily, all cop. “Tell me what happened.”
She told him the story and watched his expression harden.
“No headlights.” It wasn’t a question.
She shook her head anyway.
“You think he was trying to run you down.”
Nell’s whole body tightened. “It...felt like it. But, honestly, I guess it’s possible the driver didn’t see me at all. Visibility was really bad, and if he just hadn’t turned his headlights on yet...”
“Where did he come from?”
Startled, she looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“Was there any other traffic? Would you have heard this vehicle coming down the street, turning the corner?”
Chilled, Nell gazed down into her cocoa, cradled to warm her hands. “I think so. Even if I wasn’t thinking about it, I wouldn’t have stepped out into the street without a glance and without being aware of a car engine. I mean, that’s automatic.” She frowned. “I think he must have been parked at the curb down the block.”
“Watching for you.”
“Oh, God,” she whispered.
He set down his own mug with an abrupt motion and clasped her free hand in a reassuring grip. “Nell, it may have been a neighbor or some idiot teenager.”
“But you don’t think so.”
His dark eyebrows rose. “Do you?”
Once again she hesitated, only reluctantly shaking her head. “It felt...malevolent.” She studied his face. “This is what you were afraid of, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t have encouraged you to come home if I’d expected anything like this. Like I told you, some of my worry really was a product of occupational paranoia. I may still be overreacting, but having something like this happen is too suggestive to make me happy.”
“Maybe I should leave.”
His eyes had darkened. “I think it’s too late for that, Nell. Now people know you’re alive, that your memory isn’t a complete blank. Whoever he is, he may be afraid that this visit home will have triggered your memory to return. He could follow you.”
“I haven’t told anyone where I came from or what name I live under.” Her voice had risen.
Colin held her gaze, his own steady, if worried. “You did tell your parents. Anyone could have noted the license plate number on your car. People could find out I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. I mentioned seeing you on the local news. Anyone could find you, Nell. I can watch out for you here. I can’t if you’re in Seattle.”
Her fingernails were probably digging into his flesh, but she held on to his hand anyway. “Yes.” She steadied her voice. “Okay.”
He grilled her on what she’d seen of the vehicle and she was embarrassed to admit that she couldn’t even swear it was an SUV versus a pickup with a canopy, and no, she wasn’t absolutely positive it was black, only that it was a dark color. And no, she hadn’t caught even a glimpse of a license plate.
“I was just so scared,” she explained. “And it was snowing and...”
“Getting out of the way was a lot more important than trying to see a license plate. Hey.” He let go of her hand and wrapped his arm around her instead.
After a stiff moment, Nell let herself relax against him, laying her head against his chest, broad and solid. A bubble of laughter arose, and when he cocked his head to look at her face, she had to explain what Emily said about men preferring to have a dainty woman instead of an Amazon.
He chuckled. “Can’t say I ever thought one way or another about a woman’s height.”
Of course she now burned with self-consciousness, because she’d implied he was cuddling her for, well, romantic reasons rather than simple reassurance. But he seemed to be rubbing his cheek against her hair even though it was still damp, and his big hand was gently kneading her shoulder. And did police officers make a habit of cuddling citizens even if they had just had a close call?
He let out a sigh. “Damn,” he murmured. “I’m sorry, Nell. I got you into this.”
Like another slap of snow in the face, he’d managed to remind her of his oversize sense of responsibility and, yes, his need to win, or maybe only find answers. One or the other of which had kept him looking for her all these years.