Home > Scandalous 2 (Scandalous #2)(15)

Scandalous 2 (Scandalous #2)(15)
Author: H.M. Ward

"A secret that nobody knows..." I breathe hard, lost in the memory. "Do you remember our prom?" Jack nods. "I had a cut on my cheek that night. When you pulled me into the corner and asked who did it, you were on the right track. It scared me to death. I made it through eighteen years without a single person noticing but you."

Jack's brush stills as he looks up at me. My eyes sting. I blink, clearing the memory away. "Abby," he breathes, with so much concern in his voice that it kills me.

"Keep painting. I can't talk about this with you looking at me like that." Jack's eyes hold mine for a moment, but he nods and continues painting.

"I bought my dress a few weeks before. I'd gone shopping with Kate and paid for it myself." I smile thinking about it. Kate picked up the sluts-r-us dress and I picked up something more classic. It was a strapless sapphire blue gown with a long flowing skirt. "I was so happy that afternoon when I was getting ready. Kate and I got our hair done. My mother came with us and fussed over both of us. Kate's mom was overly critical and Kate didn't want her around. Anyway, after we dropped Kate off, Mom took me home to finish getting ready." My voice grows quieter as I speak, the memory becoming more vivid, choking me. I blink and clear my throat, forcing a smile. I look down at Jack, but he doesn't look up. He continues to paint swirls of color across my body. He's working his way up my torso with splashes of green.

"Go on," he says, his voice tight. The grip he has on the brush is so tight that I think it might snap.

"Well, Daddy and Mom had dinner without me while I put on my make-up. When I came out of my room, my mother beamed at me, but my dad - he looked angry. I was so proud of myself up until that moment. I thought I looked beautiful. I thought..." My voice cracks. I swallow hard and continue. "We fought. Mom did nothing. She just stood there and watched. The cut on my face and the bruise was from him. He told me that I looked like a slut and forbade me to leave. I tried to leave anyway. He caught my arm as I ran out of the house. His fist just missed my eye. His wedding ring did that to my face. It was like getting hit with a crow bar." My fingers touch the spot. The memory still burns inside of me. "He was drunk, although he'd never admit it. Things like that happened when he was like that. That's the reason why I never touched the stuff. It was a promise I made to myself when I was a kid." I breathe in deeply.

Jack stills. I know he wants to stop, but if he does, I'll burst into tears. "Keep painting, Jack. There's more to the story." His brush goes back to work. His eyes move across my body, painting just below my br**sts. "Up until then, I thought I was totally alone, that no one knew - no one cared. Then this guy who wasn't even my date, pulled me into a dark corner and pinned me to the wall, demanding to know the name of the ass that bashed my face in. You thought you could save me, even then."

"I would have," he says, his voice too tight. "I didn't realize it until then. I thought your date hit you."

"It would have been better if he did. At least I could have gotten away from him." I pause for a second and say, "I'm glad we shared so much time together. I wish I'd told you back then. It would have made things easier."

"Abby, I had no idea," he says, looking up into my eyes. There's such remorse on his face that I want to cry with him.

"Of course not. I hid it. I did what my mother told me to do. Look the other way. Pretend it's not happening. My dad was a 'good man,' besides that. She didn't want to ruin him because he had a temper. Sometimes I just wished she would have tried to protect me. She didn't lift a finger. She never said a word." My eyes take on a vacant stare. "She died because of it. Ignoring things doesn't work. Maybe that's why I confront everything. Maybe it's reactionary, but I can't help it. I fix what I can. I try to live a good life. Sometimes I mess up. Other times," I say, shrugging, "I get lucky." I smile sadly at Jack. He's stopped painting and stands and looks at me.

Jack lifts his hands. They hover next to my cheeks, like he wants to hold me. He laughs bitterly. "I can't touch now."

"It's all right, Jack. I never thought I'd tell anyone that. There isn't really a point anymore. He's dead. I'm not. There's a hollow place inside of me that's almost relieved that he's gone. I'm a horrible person for feeling that way, but I can't help it."

Jack's fingers twitch by my face. He presses his hands to the sides of my head and pulls me to his lips. He kisses me gently. When he breaks the kiss I feel like I can breathe again. It's like Jack has restored a part of me that had died. "You are the best person I know. You don't have to feel guilty anymore, Abby. Dads are supposed to make their daughters feel safe. He took that away from you. You have every right to feel however you feel. I wish I could have been there for you." He pauses, his eyes falling to the floor like he's remembering something. When he looks back up, I can tell he remembers. "Oh God. The bike accident? The skis? All of it was him, wasn't it?" Fear wells up inside of me. I hear my mother's voice telling me not to condemn him for one fault. I stare at Jack blankly. I've been conditioned not to answer, and even though I'm grown and my parents are both gone, I still carry the scars. "Abby," he breathes my name. His blue eyes pierce into me and tears begin to roll down my cheeks. They ruin his paint, streaking it.

He takes me in his arms and holds me, smearing paint on his clothes.

There was never a time when I dreamed that I'd tell someone that. It shames me to my core. I feel like it's my fault even though I've learned that it isn't. Jack holds me tight and I wish I'd told him sooner.

Chapter 24


As his brush slips over her skin, Jack hears Abby's voice stick inside her throat. All these years and he never knew. That night, at their prom, Jack was with some other girl. When he cornered Abby after seeing that cut on her cheek, he knew what it was because he'd had a fist to the face a few times. He remembers the way she smiled, like nothing was wrong. Abby looked him in the eye that night and swore up and down that it was something stupid - a curling iron. But her face wasn't burned. In the dark room, it was difficult to read her eyes. That was something that Jack was very proud of. He could look at Abby and know if she was telling him the truth. They finished each other's sentences. But that night, he ignored what was in front of him, and then a few weeks later, he'd f**k it up so badly that Abby would disappear for ten years.

Jack stands and looks into her eyes. He can't act like it doesn't hurt her because he knows damn well that it does. Her voice shakes as she speaks, but her tone is too level, too apathetic. When she talks about her mother, Jack can't stand it. How did he miss it? How didn't he see? All those years when the two of them were out late, why didn't it dawn on him that she didn't want to go home?

He watches her for a moment, uncertain of how to handle this information. Part of him wants to rush off and bash her father's face in, but the man is dead. When Abby says it, when she spills her confession, everything changes. There's a fragile side to her that she's kept hidden. Without a thought about his work, Jack throws his arms around her and pulls her to his chest.

Stroking the back of her head with his hands, he says soothing things in her ear. Finally, he says, "I'm sorry that I didn't see it then. I wish I could take it away."

Abby sniffles and laughs into his shoulder. "That's funny. I think the same thing about you. There's this painful look in your eyes and I have no idea why it's there. Sometimes I think it's my fault. Sometimes - "

Jack holds her tighter. "It's never your fault. None of it." It's my fault. Every bit of it. Every time I saw you and ignored those bruises. Shit. Jack curses himself. "Abby, you're my life. You're safe with me. I promise you." He pulls away and kisses the tears off her cheeks. Jack's gaze takes in the streaked paint and the glassy eyes. Jack pats the canvas and Abby sits next to him. He lays back and she follows. They both look up at the ceiling. "I was a shitty friend back then."

"No, you weren't. You were a kid. Kids aren't supposed to protect other kids from their parents. The world is f**ked up, Jack. We both know that." Her voice sounds a little better. Some of the emotion is returning. She always looks out for him.

"Remember that time we cut class and went to Captree?" It was a boat basin where fishing boats docked. They took out passengers into the Sound to fish for the afternoon.

Abby snorted. "Yes. That was the stupidest thing I'd ever done  -  up until that point anyway."

Jack grins at her and takes her hand. They stare at the rafters overhead. "I didn't know you'd do that."

"I don't know how I did that." When Abby tried to hook a worm onto her fishing line, somehow the hook went through her palm. She screamed and showed him. The hook went through the meaty part of her palm. Jack remembered every bit of that day. She needed him. He got a pair of wire cutters from one of the crew and removed the hook from her hand. She holds up her palm and shows him the scar. "The mark is still there. It's my memento of my fishing trip with Jack." She laughs. "Who cuts school to go fishing?"

"Cool kids, like us. And we didn't just go fishing, we jumped on a flounder boat. Totally different. Way bad ass." He grins at her and she laughs. That sound fills him like nothing else. One moment he can feel completely dejected, but when he hears that sound - there's nothing that makes his heart soar higher or faster.

"Bad ass flounder fishers. Yeah, that sounds like us." Abby smiles at him.

Jack says, "This is horribly tactless, but you look perfect. I have to paint you."

"Now?" she asks.


"Like this? I cried. I messed up the paint."

"It's completely perfect." He kisses her temple and jumps up. Abby lies on the canvas as Jack touches up some of the flowers painted on her chest. They dip beneath her pale br**sts and vine up her sides. Jack's eyes take on that look he has when he's working.

They talk about lighter things, remembering the past and laughing about the future. Jack feels it as he's painting. Without a doubt, this will be the most devastatingly beautiful thing he's ever made.

Chapter 25-26

Chapter 25


The next afternoon everything changes. Suddenly there are picketers in front of the studio. A swarm of them appeared overnight. They stand on the front lawn and in the street holding signs that say wonderful things like:




And my personal favorite: "ABBY GRAY: THE HAMPTON WHORE"

I'm sitting with Gus and Jack in the conference room. Their faces are straight, utterly serious, waiting to see how I'll take the personal attack. After the painting session last night, Jack thinks I'm fragile. Maybe I am a little, but not about this.

I can't be somber about it. I laugh and say, "They made me sound like a ghost. Wooooo, the Hampton Whore used to haunt this very building." I make more ghost noises as the guys' eyebrows creep up their shocked faces. I can't believe it. I lean back hard in my chair and say, "Oh, come on. It's funny."

Jack looks at Gus and then back at me. "This doesn't bother you?" His eyes are kind, worried.

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