Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(7)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(7)
Author: H.M. Ward


My feet pound the pavement until I make it to the park. I have an earbud in one ear and the other is tucked into my sports bra strap. I want to be able to hear if someone is coming up behind me. I find my pace and jog the familiar trails beneath the leafy green canopy. The sunlight forms patches of lace on the ground. The splattering of light is a photographer’s nightmare, and a nature-lover’s dream. I’m both. I love the feel sunlight on my skin.

My mind goes back to last night. If I can get through this with Edward, everything will be all right. It’s always a little bumpy in the beginning, right? I think back to the other two men. Honestly, I ‘m not even sure if they count. We did stuff, but my first boyfriend wasn’t exactly skilled. And the second guy turned out to be an ass. I huff a steady stream of breaths. The music soon diverts my thoughts and I sing softly to myself, going faster—trying to outrun problems that would crush me.

I don’t realize how zoned out I am. Normally, I make sure I pay attention while I’m running, but today I’m out of it. As I pass the clearing toward the swank end of the park, I see someone on a bench stand up. My mind makes a mental note, but I don’t notice that it’s him until it is too late.

Suddenly, a strong hand touches my shoulder. Without hesitation, my elbow flies back and my fist comes up. I twist out of his grip and pivot, my knee rising to kick him in the crotch, when I see it is Cole Stevens. He is dressed in a suit like he’s been at church. My knee nearly connects. When I realize who it is, I try to stop. It throws off my momentum and my knee kind of brushes his pants and I lose my balance.

Before I can fall back, his hand shoots out and grips my arm. He steadies me, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m sorry, Anna.”

Crap. Can this day get any worse? I just brushed my boss’s nuts with my knee. I pull out of his grip, and bend at the waist breathing hard. Sweat drips down my spine. I sputter, “What the hell, Stevens?” Tiny beads slip over my neck and when I look up, they slip down between my br**sts.

He holds up his hands, palms facing me like he means no harm. “Again, sorry. It’s a mistake I won’t repeat. You nearly took my balls off.” His voice is light and he seems off balance.

I nod, admitting that’s exactly what I would have done. He says nothing. After a moment, I ask “What do you want? Did you stop me to throw more threats in my face?” I shouldn’t mention it again, but I had to.

“No. Nothing like that,” he twitches slightly, like my words surprised him. “Actually, I wasn’t sure it was you, until you attacked me—”

My jaw drops, “You scared the hell out of me! I thought you—”

He’s smiling, laughing at me, “I know. I’m teasing. Listen, I’m sorry for the way things went yesterday.”

Straightening, I wipe the sweat off my temples with the back of my hand, “Yeah, me too. I shouldn’t have shown up dressed like a circus freak and you shouldn’t have been a prick. Does that sum it up?” I push the damp hair out of my face. “Let’s cut through the crap, Stevens.” The smile melts off his lips. My voice is cold and curt, “I don’t like you and an apology isn’t going to fix it. You f**ked up my life, and I’m not letting it go, so deal with it.”

I stare into his eyes and wonder if he’s a sociopath, but when our gazes lock my body reacts to something else. My heart skips a beat and my stomach twists. Annoyed, I turn on my heel, ready to jog away. His hand shoots out and clasps my wrist. The movement slows me. My body is covered in sweat. His hand pulls away damp, and he makes no effort to wipe me away—no movement to show how repulsed he is by my appearance. I can’t help but notice his reaction is different than Edward’s.

Cole’s jaw tenses, like he’s trying not to fight with me, “I plan on it. In the meantime, I wanted to tell you that I’m willing to start over whenever you are—with everything.” His gaze is intense; his dark lashes lower after a moment. He looks past me, then back at my face.

“Then let me go.” My voice is soft, and askance. It doesn’t sound like me. Unblinking, I look into his face. His eyes are an intense shade of blue with black and silver flecks. They are locked on mine.

His lips form a thin line and he shakes his head, “It isn’t what you want.”

I look both ways, making sure no one is within ear shot, “Fuck you, Stevens! You have no idea what I want.” My voice is low, threatening. He took away the thing I wanted most. In one move he out played me and I’d pay for it for the rest of my life. I jab my finger into his chest, poking his ironed shirt. “No, wait. Actually, you do know what I want, because I told you. I was stupid enough to trust you and I told you exactly what I wanted.”

“The internship with Sottero.”

I nod, dropping my hand. “And you made sure I’d never have it.”

“Fine,” he says pulling a phone out of his jacket pocket. The way the suit clings to his lean body makes me notice his figure. That suit fits him like it was made for him. It probably was. Fucking rich people think they own everyone. I don’t want to stand there. I don’t want to talk to him, but that phone makes me nervous. It feels like he’s doing a replay of yesterday.

“One call puts things back the way you wanted,” he says. “I’ll call Sophia right now. We swap interns. It’s your choice.” He arches a brow and glances at me, the phone cradled in his hand.

Shocked, I glance at his palm and then back at his face. I don’t buy it, “You’re lying. I don’t know why, buy you’ve decided—”

“Lamore, you’re trying my patience.” He shifts his weight to the other foot, like he’s been standing there too long. “You pissed me off yesterday, and there were better ways to deal with you. I apologize. I’m not saying it again, and I won’t offer this again. You blamed me for f**king up your life, so fix it. Have me call Sottero and you’ll start there tomorrow.”

I blink. It feels like I’m falling off a cliff. There are no bearings and I can’t tell which way is up. “Why are you doing this to me?” My breath hitches in my throat and I want to punch him. “Why are you batting me around like my life doesn’t matter? I don’t come from a pampered-ass home like you did. Everything wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter with a side of gold doubloons. I carved my own path, and you decided to crush it on a whim!” My hands ball at my sides. No one pays any attention to us. They walk on by, ignoring my tirade.

“Doubloons?” his lips pull into a smirk. My eyes widen, shocked that he decides to tease me when I’m ready to rip his head off in the middle of a very public park. Every inch of me is vibrating with anger and I know he can see it.

The smile fades from his face, “Fine.” He presses a number on his phone. It dials and I hear a woman’s voice, but I can’t make out what she’s saying. “Sophia,” he says curtly. “Cole. Yes, I’d like to exchange interns with you. I know you wanted Miss Lamore.” He pauses, then nods. “Yes, a trade. Mine for yours. That’s my offer. I’m handing the phone to her. It’s her call.” Cole extends his arm, shoving the phone at me.

Time slows to a crawl. Light-years pass as I reach out to take it. Sophia’s voice echoes in my ear. It’s her. It’s Sophia Sottero. She wanted me to be her intern. Yesterday could be erased. All I have to do is say yes.

“Anna, darling let’s put this whole mess behind us.” She laughs, but it sounds bitter, “You know, for a moment I actually believed that you choose to work for Cole. As if you would sink to his level…” she continues to criticize Cole, undermining his ability and reputation.

I stare at Cole wondering if he has any idea how much Sophia Sottero hates him. I missed it during the interview, but now it’s completely clear. He’s put his hands in his pants pockets and is looking at his shoe. The action makes him seem younger than he is. Why did he do this? He chased after me through the park, risked getting maced, and clipped in the groin by my knee—for what? To say sorry? To set things right?

Something keeps me from speaking. I can’t find my voice even though Sophia is excitedly chattering in my ear about the internship and the things I’ll learn—skills that I can use toward my own business one day. Skills that will help me get a kick-ass job at the end of the summer. Skills that I don’t have and desperately need.

Skills that Cole can’t give me.

Cole pushes a rock with his shiny black shoe. He doesn’t look at me until it’s obvious Sophia has grown quiet and I’m not speaking. It feels like the air is fluid. I hear nothing. Sophia’s words float away from me as she asks if I’m still on the line.

Cole looks up at me. There’s something there—I can see it within him in that moment—something that is better than I am. I would have never tried to fix a mistake of this magnitude like this. He is offering me everything I want, I just have to take it. He apologized. He fixed his mistake. I didn’t.

Without a word to Sophia, I hand him back his phone wondering if I’m insane. He takes it, but doesn’t end the call. Glaring at him I say, “Last time I trusted you, you screwed me.”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)