Home > Secrets Vol. 2 (Secrets #2)(4)

Secrets Vol. 2 (Secrets #2)(4)
Author: H.M. Ward

"Oh, I don't know." She tears a piece of toast in half and offers me a piece of her breakfast. I take it. "He has you working odd hours, is dragging you out to the Island again, and I'm not going to see you for the rest of the summer. He's a pain in the ass, Anna." She's laughing, as she turns and puts her empty mug in the sink. Glancing in the mirror, she checks her make-up and heads for the door. She shouts, "Check in once in a while so I know you're safe. Your boss gives me the creeps."

"Sure," I reply and the door slams shut. I'm staring at her toast. Something bothers me, something she said, but I don't know what.

Ignoring the sensation, I jump in the shower. I take my time getting dressed and then pack. When I pull open my negligee drawer, I wonder if I should take anything. What Cole suggested last night killed me. A one-night stand. I slam the drawer shut. There is no way I'm sleeping with him. Whatever I thought happened, didn't. It is that simple. He sees me as a tryst and nothing more.

The doorbell rings, and breaks my thoughts. I walk toward the door telling myself that this is necessary, but when I yank open the door, Edward is standing there with a huge bouquet of yellow roses. My mouth opens into a little O and I can't talk. I feel like scum. He hands me the flowers. I smile at him sadly, but he mistakes my emotion as something good.

"Hey, baby," he kisses my cheek and pushes past me into the apartment. "I remember you saying you love yellow roses, and well, I thought since you were going away for a while, that you could take them with you to remember me by."

Gazing at the flowers, I say, "Edward... these are lovely. Thank you, but - "

He turns and looks back at me. Taking the flowers from my hands, he places them on top of my suitcase in the hallway, before reaching for me. He slides his arms around my waist and pulls me to him. I feel like I'm hugging an eel. I can't muster the strength to pretend anymore. This relationship has run its course and I want out.

He smiles huge, and turns, saying, "Emma has a vase here. She said you could take it with you..."

"Edward, stop." But he doesn't. He's smiling like he's happy, totally ignoring that my mood doesn't match his. I push away from him, but he's walking away from me to get the vase. I follow him into the kitchen. "Please stop. I need to tell you something," my voice is too loud, too curt.

He straightens and turns to look at me. His eyes sweep over me and he shakes his head like he's missed something, "Oh, I'm sorry babe. I didn't see it before. You're all shaken up because you're going to miss me." Reaching for me, he takes my hands in his and says, "I love you, babe. It won't be that long. We can - "

I cut him off, "This isn't working out." I blurt it out while tugging my hands away. The way he came through the door and continues to speak makes it very hard for me to say anything. I realize that he keeps doing this to me - when I try to talk, he talks over me. It's like he's trying to control the relationship and keep it from ending. But after I've yelled at him, I think I'm wrong. Edward looks like I've hit him with a frying pan.

I sound apologetic, "I really like you, but I just think we're a mismatch. We're too alike in some ways, and not enough in others. In the long run, we'll both be sorry for it. I can't do that to you. I think we need to take some time to - "

"See other people. Sure, why not?" He shrugs, sounding angry. His fingers ball into fists and he turns like he wants to punch the wall, but he doesn't. Instead he takes a deep breath and tries to shake off the rage building inside of him. I've never seen him so angry. I never thought he had it in him.

Holding his head high, he turns back to me, "Just tell me why."

"I did," I say. I feel nervous now and I don't know why. Something about him makes me step away, "We won't make each other happy. You're vanilla, Edward, and I'm sticky. You said so yourself - "

He steps toward me, hands out, "Baby, I said I could change that for you. I could - "

"No, you can't. You can't change who you are, what you want, what turns you on. We're not the same, Edward. We never will be. It just wasn't meant to be." He stands there silently, looking completely shocked. "I'm sorry," I say.

Edward nods, but says nothing as he heads toward the door. I feel horrible. The tightness in my throat is making it impossible to swallow. I want to say something to him, comfort him, but that will only make it worse.

Before he pulls the door open, he turns and looks at me, "We could have been great, you know. You could have learned to like the way I love you."

I stare at him for a moment, and then say, "But I want more that..."

He glances up at me, "So, there's someone else?"

Hell no, there is not someone else. I feel the retort bubbling inside of me, but I shake my head and say, "No. I'm not seeing anyone else. I'm not sleeping with anyone else. It's been me and you this whole time and we haven't had sex once. Every time I'm with you, I feel like you don't want me, that I'm not good enough for you." I am scared to tell him how much more I want, how much more I need. He doesn't know, but I think he suspects. "I can't do it anymore. I've had this relationship before. It doesn't end well."

He blinks slowly. The sadness fades from his eyes. His gaze meets mine and he says, "I love you, Anna. I always will."

"Then let me go."

Chapter 5

By the time I'm driving East on my bike, I'm in a horrible mood. Edward wouldn't take no for an answer. He is convinced that we belong together, that destiny will reunite us. I ended up being harsher than I wanted. I took his beautiful roses, shoved them back into his arms, and pushed him out the door. I literally threw him out. He gave me his love and I tossed him out like trash.

I wish there was traffic, something to distract me during the drive, but the roads are fairly empty. When l I hit the end of the highway and it turns into rural roads, it's barren. There isn't another vehicle in sight.

I follow Cole's directions and stop at a beach-front home that has been converted into his studio. Outside there is the Le Femme sign, but the colors are different - hot pink and black. His New York City studio is pale blue and gray. I wonder why this one is different, but don't pay it much attention. Different locations can have different colors. Besides, what do I know? Le Femme is his business, not mine, and if he thinks it makes sense to rebrand his studio, that has nothing to do with me.

Parking the bike on the side of the house, I get off and stretch. The air is balmy and warm. The sound of the ocean fills my ears. Seeing Cole after this morning's event with Edward is too much. My emotions are in overdrive and I can't contain them. It feels like my eyes will betray me and gush tears at any moment.

No, I can't see Cole. Not yet. So, I set my helmet on the bike and walk toward the water. The sound of the ocean lapping into the shore calms me. Cole is so lucky to have this place. I'd live here year-round if I had a place like this. It is isolated, but part of a smaller town outside of the Hamptons hamlet, or whatever you call them. Townships? Anyway, it is perfect. The town itself feels like a piece of Americana New England. It is picturesque. Add in the house and it's a dream. I sit down on the sand, and watch the waves crash into the shore. The wind whips my hair, separating tiny strands that float on their own. My mind clears after a few moments and I feel a little better.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" his voice flows over my shoulder, sending a chill down my spine. I turn, sucking in a deep breath. Cole's staring at the surf like there might be mermaids in there.

"Sublimely so," I answer softly. I wonder how Cole can act like nothing happened last night, but he does. It makes me wonder if I misread him, if he was really just offering me a guest room.

"Ah, and that's the most bewitching kind of beauty. Isn't it?" Cole is standing barefoot a few paces from me.

He offers his hand, but I don't take it. "Come on, Lamore. Let me show you around." He puts his hands back in his pockets and gazes at the ocean once more before turning back toward the house. He walks away from me before I can get up. I jump up and follow him inside.

The exterior of the studio looks like a little a Cape Cod style house complete with gray shingles and white trim. It's perfect. We pass through glass sliding doors that lead to the beach.

Cole says, "The studio has several rooms. There is a guest section with full bedding. Each room has a private bath." And it does. As we peek in the empty rooms, Cole shows me the upscale finishes with marble tiles and white fixtures. It's so soft and feminine. I wish I had a bathroom like this. It's completely perfect. Cole forgot nothing.

He looks down at me and says, "The staff gets these two rooms, and the others are for clients who need to stay overnight. Some will want to fly in or need the session in the evening. The assistant will oversee all this, so you don't have to worry about it." Before I can ask anything, he's walking again. I stop gazing at the room and follow him.

Cole leads me into a room that still smells of paint, "This is the shooting room. The electricians fell behind, so it isn't ready yet. That slows things down a little bit. The lights will be there and there. Additional units can be placed at these intervals." He shows me the room, and is talking layout, but I don't understand what he's shooting.

The set-up is similar to his city studio, but it's different - smaller and more posh. The sets have more details, more color. One set is solid pink like strawberry soda. It has a lightness, and feels girlie and seductive at the same time.

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