Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(12)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(12)
Author: H.M. Ward

I tilt my head, looking up at him, “Was that your intention when you started shooting?”

He laughs, “You didn’t ask if you were right. Most people would have waited for confirmation of their claim, and then asked the next question.” He has a dimple on his cheek when he smiles hard.

“Dude, we both know I’m right and that I’m slightly arrogant—kind of like you—so let’s just call it what it is so you can answer my question.” He laughs. “When you started Le Femme, did you set out to showcase femininity and power?” Sometime while I was speaking, I sat up. By the time I finish, the tips of my fingers are on his knee, and I am looking up at him. I smile noncommittally, and lean back into my chair, slouching, not sure why I did that.

His lips press together into a straight line, almost disappearing. His hands rest on either side of his h*ps on the desk. He leans forward when I lean back, “You’re dangerous, you know that? Not only do you see things clearly—well, when you actually take the time to look at them—but you also call people on it. You demand honesty.”

“I’m scary as hell,” I joke.

“More than you know,” he says seriously. His eyes rove over my face like he’s considering something. He looks to the side, careful to avoid my eyes. Rubbing an imaginary spot on his jeans, he says, “I started Le Femme as a fly-by-night artist. I wanted to be a painter, but that didn’t pay the bills. Someone took pity on me and handed me a camera. I was able to cut my own path from there.

“When I was on my own, I didn’t like what I saw. Women were portrayed as weak. They were cast into a mold that no longer fits,” he looks up at me and continues, “if it ever did. The pieces that dominated the market only show a certain type of woman—a specific type of beauty. I want to show what I think is beautiful. I want the world to see things through my eyes. And I can do that Anna, I can make you see my perspective through this lens.” He taps at the glass on the end of his camera and looks up at me. “It tilts the world on its side. It has the potential to change everything, every concept you have, every belief you hold...” he places the camera down and shakes his head, running his fingers through his hair. “God, if you saw my earlier work, you wouldn’t believe it. Le Femme pays the bills. Le Femme is the tame version of me and that’s the Cole Stevens the world knows.

“So, yeah, my ideals leaked into my work. I’ve found that it’s impossible to keep them out, no matter how hard I try.”

While he speaks, I’m glued in place, mesmerized. His blue eyes pierce me and hold me still. I forget to breathe. Stunned, I wonder, who the hell is this? Who is this man? Do I know him at all? Was every assumption I made, every educated guess about him completely wrong?

I drool at him, lost in the shy passion barely contained in his voice, until he says he was on his own. Liar. I know that’s not true. I know he comes from money. Everyone knows that, so I wonder why he says it—why he tries to tell such a blatant lie. Does he think I’m a moron? Maybe. Instead of calling him on it, I listen to the rest of his story. His passion is addictive.

As soon as he stops speaking, I want to hear more, even if it is lies. No one talks like that anymore. No one says what they actually think, what they believe. I find myself staring at his dark eyes wondering how I could be so drawn to him when we are so different. It’s a question that I smash away with a mental broom as soon as it surfaces. Thinking about Cole Stevens is not the pastime of a prudent person.

My inner-self reminds me that I am not a prudent person.



The week creeps slowly by. The days are long and every minute of it spent with Cole. Work is more fun than I expected. I still wonder if I made the right decision. I have no idea what to do later in life with the things Cole is teaching me. I’m not going to shoot this kind of stuff, although I start to see more of him. He seems to trust me, and speaks more freely. It’s strange how often I have a smile on my face lately.

I am seeing double by the time we stop after lunch. Cole stays in order to keep working, getting ready for a meeting later, but he sends me home. The halo that’s burned into my retinas from editing images all day on the computer has started to dull and fade. I don’t know how he stares at a screen all day.

The changes he makes to the photos during editing are so minute. It’s like shifting a grain of sand on the beach. The one tiny movement seems to pull the whole thing together. I’m still uncertain of myself, of what he expects from me. But I show up and I’m trying. I feel like there’s more to learn from him, but I’m not sure what. The speech he made the other night is still fresh in my mind.

I avoid Edward. I don’t know what to do with him. He said he loves me. I owe him an honest explanation about what I’m thinking, I know I do, but I can’t do it. Not yet. Mainly because I have no clue what I’m thinking.

I pull my hair into a pony tail and slip on a pair of cotton shorts and a tank top. My plan is to lounge in front of the TV while Emma is out, and let my subconscious deal with Edward.

As soon as I kick my feet up, my phone rings. I tilt the screen so I can see the name. SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE is across the screen. Sitting up, I answer it. “Hello,” I say, wondering who is on the other end of the line.

“Anna, good you’re there.”

“Cole?” I ask, shocked. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I can’t talk. I only have a minute. I hate to ask you this, but I need a huge favor. I’m in jail. Please go to the studio, take cash out of the safe. The combination is scratched onto the back of my main camera body. Take ten grand and come get me out. Please.”

I’m trying so hard to remember everything he says, but I just blink at the phone like it’s a joke. “You’re serious? You’ve been arrested and you’re all the way out in Riverhead?”

“Yes,” he says. “If you don’t get here by six, I’m going to be stuck in a cell overnight. It’s four now. Do you think you can make it?”

I glance at the clock. There are a million questions I want to ask. Emma walks through the door, but I ignore her. “Fine, but you owe me huge.”

“Fine, anything you want. Just don’t tell anyone. That’s why I asked you.”

I scoff at that. Walking away from Emma and into my room, I close the door and hiss, “You trust me? Are you insane? How the hell am I supposed to keep this a secret? You’re a frickin’ socialite! The papers will be all over this!” I rub the heel of my hand over my eyes. I have no idea why he called me. Me, out of all people!

Cole says, “I have a pretty good idea of what kind of person you are. You won’t tell the press. I know you won’t. And you keep your promises.” It’s a statement, a true cold hard fact that he picked up from working with me for hours on end. In that moment I understand why he called me and not someone else. I won’t draw attention, no one knows who I am, and no one would ever expect the intern to go bail out her boss.

He trusts me. And he’s shrewd.

“Gah,” I sigh like a melodramatic teenager and laughingly say, “You suck. You know that.” But I’ve already made up my mind. Cole was right. I won’t tell anyone he’s in jail and I won’t tell him no. I can’t turn my back on someone who asks me for help. Call it a code of ethics, or maybe it’s just a desire to be a better person, but somehow Cole sniffed it out. And that made him call me and not Miss Todd.

Shaking my head, I say, “Riverhead. Fine. I’ll be there in a couple of hours.”

He’s quiet for a moment then says, “Thanks, Anna.”

“Sure,” I reply. I press END CALL and he’s gone.


When I hang up the phone Emma is lurking in the kitchen. She’s a bit of a busy body, always wanting to know what’s going on. I suppose that fits her personality. “Hey,” she says smiling at me. “You’re home early.”

I tug on my boots quickly and lace them up. When I come out of my room, I’ve already pulled on jeans and my leather jacket. “Yeah, well, it was short-lived. I have to go out to the Island. Something came up. I’ll probably just stay out there tonight.”

My parents live out there; I could crash at their house after I free Cole. I wonder what he did. I walk to the closet and pull out a black full face helmet and a second larger helmet. It’s white like a giant ping pong ball. Emma’s eyes drift to the white helmet.

“Riding out there with someone?” she asks. Emma is leaning her hip against the counter. Her arms are folded over her chest. She seems relaxed, but I know she’s not. I’m moving too quickly for her to think everything is all right.

I shake my head. “No.” I hold up the white helmet on my fist, “I prefer this one at night, if I ride back later.”

She arches her eyebrow, “Since when?”

“Since it’s summer and I’m taking Ocean Parkway. Geeze, what’s with the third degree?” I’m a little defensive. I strap my backpack on. This is insane. I’m going to be riding with ten grand in cash on my back.

She shrugs and uncrosses her arms, “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” She walks into the kitchen and grabs a loaf of bread. “You want some food to take with you? I can toss you a PowerBar or something.”

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