Home > Secrets Vol. 5 (Secrets #5)(4)

Secrets Vol. 5 (Secrets #5)(4)
Author: H.M. Ward

Breathing hard, Cole breaks the kiss and looks down at me. “I love you, Anna.”

His blue gaze makes me feel like I’m flying. I smile widely and say, “I love you, too.” We continue kissing, maintaining a slow pace. Cole kisses me, enjoying my mouth before moving onto my neck. His teeth nip my ear, before pressing gentle kisses along the side of my neck.

I pull him to me, trying to flip him over so that I can spoil him with affection, but he won’t let me. “No, Anna. I want you like this. I want to show you how much I love you.” The way he says it sounds like a question, like he’s asking me if it’s all right.

My heart is pounding. The way Cole looks at me is wonderful and terrifying. I’m not sure what he means, but I want to find out. I tuck my hair behind my ear. “All right.” I hear my voice and am surprised at how frightened I sound. This is different for us. Lust burns hot and bright, but this—whatever this is—feels like forever. It feels like love, the kind that doesn’t ever fade away.

Cole’s eyes follow my fingers as I move the curl. The corners of his mouth pull up. He looks down at me and asks, “You only do that when you’re nervous.”

“Maybe,” I confess.

Pressing a kiss to my neck, he asks, “What’s making you nervous, Miss Lamore?”

My eyes close as his lips press to my neck. God, his mouth is so warm. I enjoy the sensation. “Well, my boss says he wants me…” my lips twitch. I’m trying to smile, but I can’t. I’m scared and unsure why. My eyes lock with his. I tell him the truth. “I can do the lust thing, Cole, but I’ve never done the love thing.” My pulse pounds harder, until the only sound I can hear is my heart racing. I can’t swallow. I can’t breathe. I don’t know what I expect him to do. Confessing that I’ve never been in love before doesn’t seem that intimate, but now, at this moment, it does. I wonder if he knows what I feel. The crash of ecstasy and fear are twisting together inside my chest. My jaw locks as I press my lips together.

Cole is quiet for a moment. He looks at me, his eyes slipping over my face. Finally, he says, “At one time, I thought love was so devastating when it was over, that it wasn’t worth the risk. I don’t think that anymore. I think love’s worth chancing the agony that things may go wrong. Besides, I don’t want to live like that, always wondering what I could have had, if we would have been happy. I’ve done that. It’s a lonely life, Anna.

“There are only a few things I’m certain of. I have here and now. I have today. I had thought that there were no promises in this life, nothing to grab hold of—I used to think that nothing was forever, Anna. But this, me and you, it’s worth the risk. You’re already part of me, and it’s not that I can’t let you go, it’s that I don’t want to. I love you, Anna. You’re worth the risk.” He caresses my cheek with the back of his hand. His gaze doesn’t stray from my eyes.

“What made you change your mind?” I lean into his hand. His touch makes my stomach fall away. I feel like I’m flying or falling—or both. The moment feels surreal, like it’s passing in slow motion.

Cole’s eyes lower. Answering, he breathes, “You. You changed my mind. You changed my world…”

Taking Cole’s face in my hands, I pull his lips down to meet mine. I kiss him. It feels like my life is in a free fall. I don’t know which way is up and at that moment, I don’t care. I feel found in Cole’s arms. I feel whole. The feminazi inside my mind is screaming at me, but I ignore her. Relying on another person isn’t weakness. Wanting a man doesn’t mean I’m not a strong woman. It means I have a heart. It means I can love someone and for some crazy-ass reason, he loves me back.

We spend the night together in his bed, neither of us sleeping. Cole’s hands study every inch of my body. His lips follow, and he touches me, kisses me, and learns my body. I lay on my back as he strips my clothes away, leaving me nak*d. His eyes rake my figure, but he quickly moves on to caresses and kisses so soft and adoring that I’m floating in sheer bliss. My skin grows hot as my insides twist with each gentle touch. Every kiss is like a flame licking my skin. I feel Cole slide between my legs. He touches lightly before pushing his hard length inside of me. I moan and dig my nails into his back. I feel dizzy and giddy. There’s a smile on my face and no matter how hard I try, I can’t hide it.

Cole’s hands tangle in my hair. He whispers in my ear, kissing my neck, as he rocks into me over and over again. I wrap my legs around his waist and pull him in farther. We stay like that, in that euphoric state for hours, until Cole finally pushes me over the edge. My body shatters as I come. Every inch of me is hypersensitive. I feel him inside me and want him there. My nails claw his back as he finds his release, saying my name. He moves to pull away, but I hold him there.

Looking into his eyes, I say, “I love you, Cole.”

Our sweat covered bodies are tangled together. He lays on top of me as I stroke his hair. My heart is pounding and I can’t stop smiling. My messed up cave-man has a soft side.


The night passes slowly. When I try to fall asleep, I find that I can’t. The red letters are there when I close my eyes, sending my pulse into panic mode. I refuse to be thrown out of my home, but this stalker has done more than that—he’s gotten into my head. Fear courses through me and I shudder. Cole lays next to me, dozing on and off. He feels me move and tightens his arms around me, hugging me to his chest.

I hear his heartbeat, slow and steady. The warmth of his body pressed to mine is perfect. We stay like that for a while. Eventually Cole kisses my brow and says, “I’ve been thinking about what you said, about my name.”

Surprise fills me. I didn’t expect him to decide anything. Actually, I realized his name is important to him. It is the only part of a life that he no longer has. I guessed that his last name is like a security blanket, that it gives him comfort in some way that I don’t understand. I can’t rip that away from him. It makes sense. It’s also the only reason I can fathom as to why he’s letting Sottero walk all over him and steal his fortune.

I don’t lift my head from his chest. I lay in his arms and feel his smooth skin under my fingers. “Oh?”

“I think you might be right—that it isn’t worth holding onto. Not anymore. I know who I am. I don’t need a name to tell me that.”

Worry trickles through me. “Cole, I just want you to be happy. I’m not sure if you should listen to me on that. I really don’t know anything about it or what you went through… I just,” I chose my words carefully, “didn’t understand before, but I think I do now.”

“You think so?” He shifts me in his arms and looks down at me. His eyebrows lift into his hair. A crooked grin lines his sleepy face. I nod. “So, tell me, then.”

I squirm in his arms, but he holds me tighter, not letting me wiggle away like I want to. I relax and his grip loosens. “Maybe I don’t know my ass from my elbow, but it seems like that name means a lot to you. It anchors you, gives you security about who you are and who you want to be. I get why you want to keep it. I shouldn’t have said anything. I was thoughtless. You should ignore me. I haven’t lived your life. I have no idea about anything. I showed up in a tutu for godsakes. I seriously doubt you should be taking advice from a life-size Skittle.”

I feel Cole smile against the top of my head as I speak. He trails his finger along my arm. “I like your ass, and your elbows are lovely, Lamore. And—a secret between you and me—I actually think you know more than you let on. You see more than you let on, Anna. I love you. I want to hear what you think, and on this, you were right the other day.

“That damn name carries a ton of baggage with it. Every time someone says Mr. Stevens, I think of my father. I wonder if I’m like him, even though I’ve tried so hard not to be. I thought I needed the reminder. I thought it guided me and helped shape me into who I am, and maybe it did, but I was thinking and realized that I don’t need it any more. I know who I am, with or without the name. And I want you, without all the crap that the Stevens name brings with it.”

I turn on my side. There’s a pillow under Cole’s arm that is behind my head. I don’t know what he’s saying. I look at him and our eyes meet. “Cole?” My voice is light. The moment feels fragile. I watch Cole’s face, wondering what he’s thinking and can’t understand why he’s suddenly silent.

His eyes lower, and when he lifts them again, they are completely vulnerable. “Anna Lamore, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. I want to make you happy for the rest of your life. I want to hold you in my arms every night and see your face every morning. I want you to be mine and I want to be yours.” His eyes don’t leave mine. “Will you marry me, Anna?”

Shock hits me in the head like a pail of ice water. “What?” I eloquently blurt out. I push my nak*d body up on his bed and look down at him. Sheets cover his lower body. Cole folds his hands behind his head and smiles at me.

“Are you really that surprised, Miss Lamore? Did you really think that I only took you into my bed, but managed to keep you out of my heart?”

My jaw is hanging open. I can’t breathe. I never expected a proposal. My lips press into a thin line and then lift into a smile. It’s like my face can’t decide if I should laugh or cry. “Are you serious?” I pull the sheet up, covering my chest.

Cole pushes up onto his side. He reaches for the sheet and gently pulls it from my fingers. His eyes drink in my curves, before his gaze meets mine. “Completely. I can’t resist you, and if you say no, I’m afraid that I’ll have to keep asking until you say yes.” He leans over me and presses a kiss to my neck. His lips are so warm. I enjoy the sensation for a moment before my mind starts yelling at me to pay attention.

“Until I say yes?”

“Mmmmh,” he says, pressing another kiss to the back of my neck.

I can’t think. I don’t want to think. I want to say yes, but fear won’t leave me alone. I try to be light, to joke to avoid answering right then. I shudder as his kiss presses to the back of my neck, right at that lust-inducing spot. “I might need some convincing,” I say in breathy voice.

“I’d be happy to.” Cole doesn’t press me. Instead he continues his kisses down my back. I slip face-down on the bed and turn my head so I can see him. I clutch the pillow under my head as Cole lights my body on fire. His touch is electric, his kisses drip with sensuality. I can’t resist him. I know I can’t, and I don’t know why I feel like I have to. I give in to his caresses, to his hands. He loves me and shows me. It’s more than I thought I’d ever get. I thought I’d have to settle for someone. Cole isn’t settling. He’s perfect, and yet, I notice that I couldn’t say yes to his proposal.


The next morning Cole dresses quickly. He has a meeting with his lawyer and I have to show up for the hearing later in the afternoon. I don’t want to go, but it’s a necessary evil.

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