Home > Secrets (Secrets #1)(4)

Secrets (Secrets #1)(4)
Author: H.M. Ward

A lopsided grin spreads across my lips. My voice is soft, and I can’t look at him when I say it. In hindsight, listening to Sophia was definitely a mistake.

“No, the deranged clown look was just for you. It’ll give you something to talk about for a while...” my voice trails off. Cole doesn’t seem amused. I feel bad and stand to leave, holding out my hand. The phone is next to his ear and I can tell he’s on hold. “No hard feelings, I hope.”

Cole stands, presses the phone to his ear with his shoulder, and takes hold of my hand, “None.”

A smile lights up his face. I glance at our hands. He hasn’t released me. Something feels strange, surreal, like this moment matters more than any other. His pink lips are parted slightly, and Cole breathes slowly, gazing into my eyes. I pull away, and my hand slips from between his fingers. A shiver runs through my shoulders and into my chest, stealing my breath.

Cole watches me, like he’s completely aware of my reaction to his touch. His eyes pin me in place. For that moment, I don’t want to move…I don’t want to breathe. I don’t know what I want, but something is pulling inside of me, demanding that I don’t walk away from this man. Cole stands close enough to me that I can feel his breath on my cheek. When I drop his hand, he steps toward me. Every inch of my body reacts.

A voice rings in his ear breaking the moment. Startled by the draw to Cole Stevens, I ignore whatever happened. I don’t even want to think about it. Goosebumps cover my skin and I rub my hands over my arms quickly to smooth them down.

Nodding at Cole, I turn and start walking toward the door, taking it as a sign that I’ve been dismissed and that there are hard feelings. Damn. I didn’t want that. As I lift my hand to the knob, I look over my shoulder. Cole doesn’t look at me. He doesn’t say good-bye. Inwardly, I cringe. This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made. I can feel it and yet I have no idea what kind of impact this one event will have on my life. I twist the knob and pull the door open.

Talking to the person on the phone, Cole says, “Finally. What were you, sleeping? Yeah, well, I’ve been here chatting with Anna Lamore.”

My eyes go wide and I nearly trip over my sparkling feet as I come to a stop, and look back at his broad shoulders. He turned away from me, but I can see the grin on his face when he turns his head. “What are you doing?” I whisper, panicked, and walk in front of him. An insane thought crosses my mind—I could jump on his back and take the phone—but I can’t. Whatever he’s doing is already done. He already said my name, told someone I was here. My stomach sinks and my hands shake. This feels bad. Whatever he’s doing throws me into a full blown anxiety attack.

Cole covers the phone with his hand, “Talking to your dean.” He uncovers the phone, “Yes, she is.”

Terror courses through me as my eyes go wide. If he tells the dean what I did, the university will be pissed. Attending this interview and making sure Cole didn’t want me still counted as an interview, right?

A thought takes hold and makes me feel sick—this could mess up my chances with Sottero.

For a moment, I wonder if Sophia did this to me on purpose. It could have been a cruel trick on her part, but for the life of me I can’t see why. If she intended on offering me the internship, why would she encourage me to do something to Cole that would warrant this kind of reaction? She knew him. They worked together. She told me these things, the clothes, the kid in need of a serious attitude adjustment, would make his people show me the door faster than I could blink. Instead, Cole grabbed the phone and called my dean.

My stomach twists when his eyes lock with mine. A mischievous grin spreads across Cole’s lips, he looks sweet and playful, but I’m too on edge to notice, “She told me that I’m a washed-up, sexist, has-been and that she has absolutely no intention of working for me. Yeah,” he laughs, “she really did. So I wanted to make sure that I got hold of you first.” His voice turns serious. The smile fades from his face, “Tell Sottero and Couture that they’re too late. I hired Anna this morning.”


I stand there like I’ve been sucker-punched. My ears are ringing with his words, but I can’t believe Cole did it. For a few moments after he hangs up, I just stare at him wide-eyed. My mind is reeling, trying to determine why he did that.

I’m near tears. “How could you?” I gasp, and fold my arms across my body. I fall back into the chair, completely deflated.

My shot with Sophia Sottero is gone. In one phone call Cole changed my future. Instead of being the elegant wedding photographer to the famous, I am going to be something else, something that will ruin my career before it starts. Shocked, I glare up at him. Cole is leaning against the side of the table. His gaze rests on my face, waiting for me to react. I try to hold everything in check, but I don’t understand. Why did he do that? Rage floods through my tiny body.

Rising to my feet, I step toward him. My hands are balled into fists at my sides, shaking, “How could you do that? You had no right!”

Cole remains relaxed, like he pisses women off all the time, like my temper-tantrum is theatrics, but it isn’t. He folds his arms across his chest, “I did you a favor, Lamore. The last thing the world needs is another wedding photographer—”

I cut him off, shoving my finger into his chest. “That wasn’t your decision to make!”

“The hell it was,” his eyes are cold, his expression rigid. He grabs my finger and flings my hand away. “Who’s the arrogant ass here, Anna? Who walked in here looking like a side-show act? That was you. Remember?”

I try to control my temper and force back tears that are building behind my eyes. “It’s not the same thing,” I say coolly. “I had no intention of working here. Ever. You know what the University puts us through. You’ve had interns before! Maybe I didn’t approach it right, but I didn’t deserve this. And just because you made one call, doesn’t mean I’ll work here.” Glaring up at him with barely contained fury I continue, “I’ll call Sophia myself and tell her that I’m still on the market—that your claim with the dean was an attempt to steal me away from her.”

A cold dark expression crosses his face. His brow rises slightly, and his arms unfold. He leans toward me, making my heart race faster, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

“Is that a veiled threat?”

He leans closer to my face, his warm breath flowing across my lips, “No, it’s a plain old overt threat. If you don’t work here, you won’t work anywhere. New York moves in social circles that you aren’t a part of. One word from me will keep you on the outside.” He pulls away, the tension in his jaw easing slightly.

Fury rages in my eyes. Every dream I had was just ripped apart. I make a false start and then press my lips together and shake my head. When I steady my voice, I say, “So this is what I get for screwing with you and wasting your time? This is my punishment for messing with the famous Cole Stevens?”

“Something like that,” he replies before pushing off the table and standing in front of me. “Don’t screw with things that you can’t control.” The fire in his eyes softens.

Rage flows through me, engulfing every muscle, every fiber of my body. The floodgates behind my eyes are ready to overflow, but I try to hold them back as I stare him down, shaking. A tear escapes from the corner of my eye and streaks down my cheek. His gaze shifts, watching it fall. Wiping it away with the back of my hand, I steady my voice. It is deep and dangerous, my rage barely in check, “I’ll never forgive you for this.”


Fumbling the dish, it slips between my hands and lands hard on the counter. Emma is here, locked in her room. I try to be quiet. I don’t want her to know I am home. I don’t want to talk about Cole or what he did, or the threat he made. I’d go at him if I could, but I am a nobody. There are no socialites in my circles, no way to do any damage, no way to bend his arm to let me go.

The dish clangs on the counter. As I reach for it, the noise echoes loudly through the tiny apartment. Every emotion that surged through me that morning comes rushing back. Taking the bowl in my hands, I swing my arm, and send it sailing into the wall. It shatters into a million pieces, shards flying everywhere. Tears sting my eyes, and I finally give in and let them come. Burying my head in my arms, I lay it down on the counter, sobbing.

The music in Emma’s room shuts off and she opens her door. “Anna?” she asks, hanging her head out. Her eyes drift to the broken dish and then to me. I hate crying. I never cry and I’m near hysterical. “Oh my god. What happened?” She rushes toward me, not knowing what’s wrong. “Anna, are you all right? Did you cut your hand?”

“No,” my voice bleats between sobs. Raising my head, I look at her. I’m still wearing my tee shirt and jeans. I’ve taken off the tutu, socks, and sneakers. Tearstains chill my cheeks. “That dick screwed me. I... I tried to... And he...”

Emma starts looking me over like she thinks some jerk grabbed me on the subway. “No, Em! The interview. It was the interview! Cole Stevens screwed me over.” I finally get enough control over myself to tell her what happened. Emma listens to the entire story.

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