Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(14)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(14)
Author: H.M. Ward

He sighs and rubs his hands through his hair again. He does that when he’s upset. I’ve seen him do that at work when he can’t get a pose to work right. “It was nothing. Really—”

I can’t let it slide. It would be the height of stupidity to do this and not insist on knowing what happened. I lean my face a little closer to his. Catching his gaze I say, “Ten grand worth of nothing? By the way, that was insane. You have a mini bank in your office. Who needs that much cash? Is that why they picked you up?”

He shushes me, and puts his hand on my back, leading me toward the parking lot. “Oh my god, Anna. Stop talking. Really. They’re still criminals around. Do you want my office to be tossed before we even get back?”

Turning to look up at him, I ask one more time—one last time, “Listen, I think you’re...” I’m so upset that I want to cry. I like working with him. I like my internship and whatever he just did shot it all to hell. There is no way I can finish now, and the craziest part is that I want to. When did that happen? I push away the thought. I’ll deal with it later.

A knot forms in my throat. “Why’d you have to go do something horrible, Stevens? I actually liked going to work, and now you messed it up.” I rub my face with the heel of my hand.

“What?” Shock is in his voice.

We’re standing on a cement island between the police station and the parking lot. I’m so disappointed with him that I can’t hide it. “I can’t work for a felon, and I think it’d be better for both of us...”

His laughter cuts me off. His face lights up like I said the funniest thing ever, “What are you talking about, Lamore? You think I did something? What do you think I did!”

“I don’t know. Something bad, since you won’t tell me. I can’t work for someone who might knock me into the East River one night.” I’m only half joking. He worries me now. I thought about it on the way out here and unless he was tossed in the slammer because of unpaid parking tickets—which he should have been able to tell me—then I can’t work for him anymore.

“You watch too much TV, Anna. Seriously.” He scans the parking lot. “Where’s my car?”

I look at him like he’s crazy, “Not here. I took my ride. And I’m leaving.” I wait half a beat and when he says nothing, I say, “Have a nice life, Cole” and walk away.

Cole reaches out and grabs my arm. A shiver shoots through my body from his touch. I jerk my arm away. He holds his hands up, like he doesn’t want to fight, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to...” he closes his eyes. When he opens them again, he says, “Anna, I didn’t do anything. I was headed out here for a meeting and got ID’ed. Apparently some tranny slugged a cop today. I—” he swears and shakes his head “I can’t believe you’re making me say this. I got picked up because I look like him. They took me in because I matched his description. Then, I called you. Nothing happened. I swear.”

I stare at him as he speaks. My lips part and my jaw drops. “You were arrested for looking like someone else?” He nods. “Someone who assaulted a cop?” He nods again. “A transvestite?” my voice squeaks the question as my lips quiver into a smile.

“Yes,” his hisses, obviously still mad. “Now you see why I didn’t want to tell you, and why I don’t want anyone else to know. It’s the kind of mistake that smears people and it doesn’t matter if it’s not true.” The strain flows out of his voice and I feel his hand on my shoulder. I’m shaking from trying not to laugh. “Miss Lamore?”

I don’t trust myself to answer; I nod, “Hmmm?”

Both his hands rest on my shoulders and I avoid his gaze. The giggles lick my stomach and toes, causing convulsions to rake through me as I try to hold myself still. Cole lifts my chin to meet his eyes. When a smile forms on his lips, I’m doomed. Before I know what’s happening, we’re both laughing. I double over, clutching my stomach, barely able to stand. Cole is leaning on me, laughing just as hard.

Wiping a tear from the corner of my eye, I straighten and look at him. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

“There is no secret, Miss Lamore. I don’t wear women’s clothes. I don’t punch police officers.” He’s still smiling, his voice lighter. He shakes his head at me, like he can’t believe he’s laughing. He must have sat inside stewing for hours. “So where’s this car of yours?”

Looking him in the eye, I grin, “I never said it was a car. Come on, old dude. I’ll take you home.” He follows me through the parking lot. When we stop before the bike, he tenses. I shove the golf ball helmet into his hands and tell him to put it on.

“You’re kidding?” he asks, his voice too high. “You drove here on that?”

I nod, fastening my chin strap. Swinging my leg over the seat, I say, “Yup, I rode here on this. And this is your ride home. Get on.” I start the bike, but Cole just stands there. I glance back at him. “What?”

“They just accused me of being...” he sputters, blinking hard like he’s in a nightmare, “I can’t ride two-up on the back of a pink bike with a girl helmet.”

Grinning, I pat the seat, “Come on, Cole. Suck it up. Be my bitch for a few miles and we can call you a cab. There’s a diner a few miles away. We can stop there, I can eat—you can grab a cab from there, that way no one knows where you were.” His lips are in a soft smile, like he’s in shock, and I wonder if he is.

Finally he slams the helmet on, fastens it, and gets on the bike behind me. “You’ve done this before? Driven with two people on this thing?”

“Yeah, just keep your feet up and don’t grab my boobs if you freak out.” He laughs. I feel his hands slide around my waist. His weight shifts behind me when he puts his feet on the back pegs. “Hold on tight,” I say, and we’re off.


The diner was one of those circa 1950 deals, complete with shiny façade. Cole and I walk inside. Before we even have a chance to sit down, a guy walks in behind us with a girl on his arm. Her hair is teased out to Mars, and her implants bounce around under a tiny tank top. She’s snapping her gum and I instantly hate her.

A middle-aged waitress sees us and holds up her pointer finger—the universal signal that she’ll be right back. I glance through the place. There are about five tables filled, all in the same section. Great. That means she’s waiting tables alone, so gum-smacker would end up right next to us. I try not to roll my eyes.

I don’t really notice the guy she came in with until he speaks. He has that fake Brooklyn accent that Italian guys think is so macho. He’s wearing a bowling shirt with a once-white undershirt peeking out. His hair looks like a skunk crawled onto his cranium and died. There’s a peppering of dark hair all over his body. He looks like a Sasquatch with gold medals hanging around its neck. When he walked in, he had his hand in the girl’s back pocket. They were laughing like something was hysterical.

It doesn’t happen until the waitress walks away. The tension didn’t balloon into anything until the ape-man tapped Cole’s shoulder, “Hey buddy, you lose your balls or what? Who the f**k lets the dame drive?” He snort-laughs like he’s hysterical.

As he’s speaking, I turn and glance over my shoulder at him. My mouth starts to open with some snappy retort, but Cole’s already acting. His fist flies into the man’s face and connects with his nose in a loud crack. The hairy guy grips his face and blood streaks between his fingers. Before he can say a word, Cole is tugging my hand and pulling me out the door.

I’m stumbling through the parking lot toward the bike. Ape-man’s girlfriend follows us out, but she doesn’t approach. Instead she stays by the door screaming profanities at us, saying she’s calling the cops.

“Cole, what the hell was that?” I finally manage, looking back over my shoulder. He sucker punched a guy in the face. Every muscle in Cole’s body is tense. His fingers release my wrist when we get to the bike. He thrusts my helmet at me, an obvious sign that he wants to leave.

“Are you insane?” I scold. “You just made bail and now you punched some schmuck in the face?” I’m yelling and shaking as I start the bike.

Cole says nothing. We pull away and I don’t know where to go. If they called the police, Cole’s screwed. He doesn’t tell me where to go or where to drop him off. He just sits on the back of the bike with his hands around my waist, rigid and fuming.

Since we are already out on Long Island, I decide to head toward my parent’s house. They aren’t too far away, and with the way Cole’s fingers are digging into my sides, we can’t get there fast enough. His reaction seems unwarranted, but he had his masculinity questioned too many times today. Apparently he was at his limit.

Cole doesn’t complain, but I can tell the bike isn’t his thing. Instead of wrapping his arms around my waist, he’s been trying to keep a respectable distance between us, which makes it harder for me to keep a respectable distance from the asphalt. Cole didn’t do corners when we started, but after the diner, he holds me tighter and leans farther as the bike winds down the ramps and turns corners. It makes it a hell of a lot easier to drive. I can’t really blame him for not adapting to the motorcycle at first. Trust fund babies don’t ride Harleys, not unless they are taunting some distant relative into disowning them. Me on the other hand, I was on my own and could do whatever I damn-well pleased.

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