Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(10)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(10)
Author: H.M. Ward

From over my shoulder, he says, “Hook the edge of the curl on her nipple. The one curl will hold and then you can place another over it.”

I freeze when I hear him speak, and shiver. The way he says it, like he uses the word nipple frequently, shoots up warning flags in my mind. His proximity puts me off kilter. I feel his eyes on my back, waiting for me to do it. Suddenly I wonder if I can do this job, and everything it entails. Being comfortable around bodies changing in the gym is one thing, touching to make the poses right is another.

I swallow hard, my fingers hovering above the curl. Cole seems annoyed—or disappointed—and says, “Come on, Anna. This is the last set for today. Once we shoot this, we’re done.” He hoovers, waiting for me.

My hand is shaking for some reason. It might have something to do with Cole being so close. It might have to do with paying such careful attention to someone else’s n**ples. Irritated with myself, I blow out a huff of air between my lips and take the curl.

I chose this. I passed up Sottero. This was my choice.

I do as he says and the curl stays. I beam like an idiot, and then quickly drape the other locks in place. They all hold. I step back into Cole, smashing his toes with my bare feet. He’s not wearing shoes either. Cole steadies me, his warm hands on my elbows.

From behind my shoulders, he says, “Don’t be shy when you’re shooting. It makes your job harder. You could have used fashion tape to hold the hair in place, but we don’t want to do anything we don’t have to. Tape in hair sucks. The temperature in the room is warm, but it’s still chilly enough—for obvious reasons. I thought you’d be okay with this kind of stuff.” His hands slip away from my elbows and he passes in front of me. The sound of the shutter snapping fills my ears. He’s so at ease, moving, speaking, and acting like this woman is anyone else and not a nearly-naked super-model.

I don’t answer.

I didn’t want this job, but I chose it. This wasn’t my career goal, but here I am. I’m perplexed because this shoot isn’t what I thought it would be. I moved at ease through the room, right up until this last part. And the only reason I hesitated was because of Cole. It wasn’t like I didn’t notice the half nude person in the room, it’s that I wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought I’d be.

And Cole, he was nothing like I thought he’d be. I expected him to be sleazy, touchy, and filled with innuendo. As the shoot progressed, I don’t know if he even realized the woman he was shooting wasn’t clothed. This was second nature to him. It’s like he is a fish and this scandalous world of his is water. He doesn’t notice it, and he moves through it with ease.

Today I learned that Cole Stevens isn’t the photographer I thought he was, and neither am I.


Edward’s arm is draped across my shoulder. We are walking down the street to the steady hum of car engines. The buildings glow against the inky sky. The diner was packed after work. We met there, shared a meal, and are walking back to my place. By the time I finished with work, I was starving.

Edward squeezes my shoulder, and grins down at me, “So, tell me how today went. What do you do all day? How’s working with your boss?” We didn’t talk about work at dinner, instead I put it off. He lifts his chin and we stop at a corner, waiting for the light to change. A car horn blares behind us. When the light changes, we walk in the mass of people.

I say, “Well, it turns out my boss is Cole Stevens.”

Edward gasps, “No way.” He knows who Cole is. Everyone knows who Cole is, so that isn’t surprising. But, like me, Edward assumed someone else would be overseeing the internship.

Nodding, I say, “Yeah. It turns out that he’s in charge of my internship. I stay here with him to do some shoots in the city this week, and then the rest of the summer, I’ll be out East on Long Island somewhere. I probably should have asked where.” My voice trails off.

I grew up out there. In the back of my mind, I’m hoping that the new studio is near enough to my parent’s house to commute. Housing arrangements would be an issue, paid or not. Renting something short term on Long Island was expensive.

His shoulders sag and Edward stops walking, “No. The whole summer? Are you serious?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize exactly what this internship included until today, but it’s only a few weeks.” He still looks crestfallen. I add, “And it’s not like I’m that far away. I’m sure we can get together a few times a week.”

He’s smiling at me again. Pulling me close, we stop on the sidewalk. People walk past us, some bumping into me, but I don’t care. In the moment, there is only Edward and me. He lowers his lips to mine and that familiar light feeling floats through my stomach. Gently, he pushes my hair away from my cheek.

He breaks the kiss, and breathes deeply. A rush of warm breath flows from his lips as he breathes, “Oh God, I want you. When you kiss me like that, I can’t think. You’re amazing.” His fingers tangle in my hair. I look up into his cool eyes. The way he looks at me makes me squirm. Someone bumps my elbow. It brings attention back to where we are.

“We’d better get home so I can make you think even less,” I try not to giggle. I try to be sexy, but I laugh softly anyway. Taking his hand in mine, we walk faster down the street.


By the time we plow through the apartment door, his hands are all over me. One is pushing up my skirt, my leg is hiked up and wrapped around his hips, while he cups the curve of my ass. We don’t break the kiss. I’m so hot. It feels like every inch of me is on fire. I want him. I need him. The place between my legs is throbbing. Feeling his lips there is what I want, but I’m too afraid to ask. I want him to do it, I want him to take me—and not ask permission—to have me how he wants. But Edward won’t do that. He’s too cautious, that carnal part of him seems buried too deep. I wonder if I’ll ever get at the part of him that’s wild and dauntless. The part of Edward that’s more animal than man, the part that wants me in every way. I tell myself that every relationship has problems and that we can learn to deal with them.

My hand slides down between us and below his waistband. I stroke his hard length, hoping he’ll ravish me the way I want him to. His breath hitches and before I can do anything, his fingers are around my wrist. “Slow down, babe.” He’s breathing hard in my ear, his face is flushed.

Disappointed I say, “Don’t you ever just want to tear my clothes off and take me?”

Between kisses down my neck, he says, “Of course.”

My heart is pounding. Pulling his face back, I hold his cheeks between my palms. Breathing hard I say, “Then do it. Anything you want, anyway you want. Right now.”

His eyes are wide and dark. They look into mine with an expression that makes me afraid. Edward doesn’t move. His eyes drift lower, watching the deep breaths making my chest rise and fall. After a moment, he steps back and releases me. A rush of cold fills the void. Ice drips down my spine. He’s going to reject me. That look on his face says what I already know.

He pushes his hair out of his eyes and looks up at me, “I—“ he starts to say, but a noise stops him from speaking. The telltale sound of metal scraping lets us know the door is being unlocked. Emma will step into the room any second. His eyes are apologetic, like he can’t be the man I want.

I don’t understand.

We blink at each other as Emma pushes the door open and turns to yank her key out of the lock. She sees us, but doesn’t sense the tension right away, “Hey guys. Anna, you gotta tell me how today went. I can’t wait—” she turns and realizes she walked in on something. It’s probably not what she thinks it is.

I act like nothing happened, and turn toward the kitchen. I pull open the fridge door and bend over, peering inside. “It was interesting. That’s for sure.” I need a drink. Where’s the wine?

I hear plastic bags being set on the counter. Emma says, “I bought your favorite.” She holds up a bottle of White Merlot. I could die. Smiling at me, she holds the bottle by the neck. “You guys can celebrate without me. I totally didn’t mean to...”

I cut her off, “You didn’t. And we already celebrated, didn’t we Edward?”

He nods, “Yup. Dinner and stuff.” He’s staring at me. I can’t tell what he wants from me. I wish he’d just take me in his arms and say he wanted me. But he says nothing. He stands there with his arms folded like he’s an awkward kid.

Emma pulls out two glasses and looks at her brother, “Well, I want to hear about it. Sorry if it’s old news to you. So are you staying or going?” She has her fingers on a third glass, but he shakes his head.

“Nah, I’ll head home. Things to think about.” His eyes are on me, but I can’t look at him. “Congratulations, Anna.” He steps toward me, and kisses my temple. I smile at him, but it’s one of those smiles that feels wrong, like the lines of my face are filled with cement. “See you tomorrow?”

I nod, “Sure,” my voice is too soft.

He knows our relationship is broken. He likes slow and steady. I like everything else. Slow makes me fall into a coma. Steady isn’t my idea of romantic. But I don’t want to lose him. In every other way, we’re perfect together. He steps toward the door and lets himself out. I watch him go. Part of me wants to call him back and be with him his way, but I don’t move.

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