Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(8)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(8)
Author: H.M. Ward

“Likewise,” his expression is hard.

“So, what?” my eyes shift over his face, taking in the stance of his body, the tension in his shoulders. “We just start over?”

He nods, “Yes. Or say yes to Sottero and good-bye to me.”

I eye him, my gaze sliding over his suit. My mouth hangs open and I shake my head, not believing what I’m doing.

Reaching out, I take the phone from him and press it to my ear. “Good-bye Sophia. Enjoy your afternoon. I’ll be interning at Le Femme.” I press end call and hand him back the phone. “Prove to me that I didn’t just make the biggest mistake of my life.”

He seems surprised, but takes the phone back and slides it into his pocket. “There’s no reason to. You’ll see it for yourself soon enough.”


Stupid men. One won’t touch me. The other won’t stop screwing with me. My head is spinning. The past twenty-four hours have left me in emotional overload. Edward is sitting next to me while I eat chocolate ice cream out of the carton. My hands are getting sticky. I can tell it’s bothering him, but he says nothing. I consider taking his face in my hands and smearing the ice cream over his cheeks, and pressing my lips to his. Getting covered in ice cream and licking it off his skin sounds wonderful, but I don’t do it. Edward would freak out. No sticky sex.

The TV flickers with some show neither of us is watching. Glancing at the carton, Edward says, “You don’t have to be nervous about tomorrow. Le Femme has a sterling reputation. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

Edward thinks I’m nervous. He thinks it’s because tomorrow is my first day and I have new-job-jitters. I didn’t tell him what happened in the park. Without meaning to, I bypassed an important part of my life. I just didn’t want him to freak out about Cole, and now I can’t backtrack and add what happened today.

I nod and shove another scoop in my mouth. “Thanks.” I put the carton down and push it away. Grabbing the napkin, I wipe my hand off. When I go to hold Edward’s hand, he takes it, but makes sure that he doesn’t the touch the spot I cleaned with the napkin. “I’ve known you for what, two years and I had no idea you were such a germ-a-phobe.”

He glances at me out of the corner of his eye, “I’m not. I just don’t do sticky.”

I snort, “Then what do you do?”

“What’s the matter?” his voice is soft and comforting. He wraps his arms around me and my anger deflates. “You seem bent out of shape. Like something’s wrong. You can tell me, baby. If it’s the ice cream, cover me in it. I’d do sticky for you. I’d do everything for you.”

Those are the words I wanted to hear. I melt in his arms. The tension flows out of my body. I feel better. He made things better. “I know you would.” I lean into his chest and blink at the TV, not seeing the picture on the screen. “Can you stay a little longer?”

He nods, “As long as you need.” His hands pull my hair away from my face. “Summer sessions don’t start for another week. I can stay overnight, if you’d like. On the couch,” he adds quickly.

I smile, “When you stay overnight, it won’t be on the couch.” I feel him smile against my head. He’s happy. “What’d I say?”

“You said when... not if.” Turning me toward him, he tips my head back and lowers his lips to mine. His kiss heats my body and makes me feel better. When he releases me, he kisses my temple, and whispers into my ear, “Just let me know when. I’ll be there for you in every way you want.”

They are nice words, words that I wanted to hear—words that I needed to hear. But even as he says them, I know they are like the early morning mist that burns away in full heat of the sun.


The skinny girl looks like a model, not a receptionist. “Yes?” she asks as I push through the door on Monday morning. “Can I help you?”

I’m dressed normally now, a dark suit clings to my body. It’s not as nice as hers, but interns aren’t paid much and I’m next to broke. “Anna Lamore. I’m the new intern.”

“Ah, yes,” she presses her manicured finger to a button on her desk phone. It looks like a sleek piece of glass. Figures. Cole has a designer phone, and a designer receptionist. The piece of plastic beeps and I hear his voice.

“Yes,” Cole’s voice sounds relaxed.

“Miss Lamore is here. Should I send her back?” I stand there in shock. Why is she telling him? Cole can’t be the one training the intern. That doesn’t make any sense.

“Yes,” he replies.

She stands and smooths her outfit. She’s wearing a silk skirt with a vibrant floral pattern. Her blouse is sheer and I can see a lacy cami underneath. Her arms are bare. The heels make her nearly a foot taller than me. “This way Miss Lamore. I’m Vanessa Todd...” she speaks as she takes me through the building toward Cole.

I trail behind the woman, feeling like an ogre in comparison. I try to remember everything she’s saying but feel a little bit overwhelmed. When we stop in front of the mahogany doors, she places a hand on my shoulder. I glance up at her.

“If you need anything, have any questions, I’m happy to help you get on your feet here.”

Dazed, I nod and smile, “Thank you.” She walks away leaving me alone. The studio is quiet and I can’t help but wonder where everyone is. This is a huge company. There should be graphic designers, photographers, and assistants—but there’s no one in the halls. The offices we passed are empty.

I look at the silver plaque on the door. It’s Cole’s office. His name is scrawled across the plaque in an elegant script. I push the door open and step through.

I don’t feel nervous, but I’m not confident either. Yesterday knocked me off kilter. The day before that blindsided me. Since I met Cole Stevens, nothing has gone according to plan. The thought of hanging up on Sophia Sottero made me feel sick. There’s no way to know if I’ve made the right decision, not until it’ll be too late, but I refuse to second guess myself. Something burned through me yesterday in the park. It was like a spark of fate ignited within me indicating my future was somehow tied to Cole. I don’t believe in destiny, but the surge of—whatever it was—was too powerful to ignore. It made me confidently end the call with Sophia Sottero and walk into Cole Steven’s office today.

Cole’s sitting on his desk wearing designer jeans that hug his beautiful body perfectly. I wish I could afford jeans like that. After the thought passes, I realize that I’m over-dressed. He swings his legs once, dangling his feet. The desk is made from dark, carved wood. It must have cost a fortune.

Cole looks up at me from a manila file folder on his lap. “Miss Lamore. Good to see you.” His gaze slips over my body, taking in my formal attire. “For future reference, casual clothing works best here. Crawling around during shoots in a pencil skirt isn’t ideal. I would have mentioned it the other day, but your outfit kind of shocked the hell out of me.”

The corner of my lips pull up and I laugh. I didn’t know what to expect today, but this surprises me. “That was my intention.”

“Ah, well. It worked. I’ve never seen anyone show up to an interview dressed like a giant Skittle.” He looks me square in the face and grins. “I was hoping you weren’t insane. Good to see you can dress yourself.” He’s teasing me. It makes me smile and relax a little bit.

I step closer to the desk, half listening while looking at the books that line the walls. “Har. Har. Very funny. So tell me. Why is this place empty?” I can’t address him with revere, not after the way we met.

He looks up from the papers in his hands. They look like bills. There are numbers across the sheets, dates, and dollar signs. “What do you mean?”

“No one is here, except for Amazon Barbie at the front desk. Where is everyone? I would have thought Le Femme had at least twenty employees on any given day, running around half clothed—or half nak*d, depending on how you look at it.” Was I joking? Where’d the light teasing tone come from? What the hell is wrong with me?

I blink hard, trying to find my brain and make it work while I scan the spines on the bookcase. It’s filled with art books about Romanticism. My mind tries to make sense of that. The Romantics are known for their somber sublime works. Looking at those pieces of art make the viewer feel a sense of loss and uncertainty. Cole’s work makes people want the girl in the shot, or her underwear. I don’t turn to look at him as I ask. I don’t want him to notice my shock.

I feel his eyes on my back when he answers, “Miss Todd is the receptionist. She’s here weekdays. Everyone else is already out on the Island. We’re keeping a skeleton crew here for the week. Guess who’s on skeleton staff?”

I whip my head around, and my hair flies over my shoulders. What? Is he serious? I’m alone with him here for a week? “There’s no one else here? For a week? Why?” My mouth is hanging open. It won’t close and I have no idea why.

He chuckles and puts the papers next to him. Leaning forward on the desk, he puts a hand on either side of his hips. The effect makes his arms look perfect.

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