Home > Secrets Vol. 3 (Secrets #3)(10)

Secrets Vol. 3 (Secrets #3)(10)
Author: H.M. Ward

“I’ll take a few questions on Miss Lamore’s behalf. The entire story will run in Newsday tomorrow.” The reporters polarize. Some continue to follow me, ignoring Emma, but eventually even they stop in their tracks and look back at her, unsure of who to follow.

I hustle to the parking garage and once I’m out of sight, I take a deep breath to steady myself. I can still see them even though I’m in shadows and out of sight. They look for me, but can’t tell where I went.

Turning, I walk toward my bike and will my heart to slow. I swing my leg over and quickly pull on my helmet. That’s when Edward appears again. He’s walking to his car, which is parked right next to me.

He rushes toward me and wraps his arms around me before I have time to blink. “Anna! Thank God you’re all right. I’ll kill him for touching you. I swear,” he says holding my helmeted head in his hands, “I’ll make sure he never touches you again.”

I’m past the point of reasonable conversation. I’m angry and hurting. I hate that he’s here now, seeing me like this. I hate that he assumes I let Cole use me like that. I swat his hands away. The expression on his face changes rapidly from concern to shock. His lips part like he’s going to say something else stupid or condescending.

I speak before he has the chance, “Nothing happened between us. It was lies. I didn’t cheat on you. I never did anything with Cole like they implied in that article, so don’t stand there feeling sorry for me because nothing happened. It’s part of whatever crap is going on with my current boss—an attempt to smear Cole more than she already has. She tossed me under the bus with him. Do you understand? I’m pissed, but other than that, I’m fine.”

Edwards eyes are too cool for someone so mad only seconds ago. He nods calmly. “Many victims can’t accept what happened to them. It’s not your fault, Anna.” He reaches for my hand.

I snap. I can’t stand him. I don’t want to be here with him. I smack his hand and rev the engine as I kick start the bike. “Stay away from me, Edward. If I see you again, even by accident, I swear to God that I’ll punch you. So just stay away.” My voice is full of anger as I speak. When I finish I don’t wait for him to respond. Instead I gas the bike and peel out of the parking spot, zipping into traffic.

I drive too fast, bobbing and weaving when there’s no need. I do everything possible to hold myself together until I step onto my parent’s doorstep. Then the tears start and don’t stop.

My mom takes me in her arms and for once doesn’t ask about anything. She runs her hand over the back of my head, and pulls me inside.


“Frankie, grab us some coffees. Anna looks like she could use one.” Ma says.

Daddy grabs the coffee pot and makes me a cup the way I like it. Then he grabs some cookies from a white bakery box and puts them on the plate, too. He hands it to me and I know he’s thinking of me when I was little and he knew what to do. Now he stands there awkwardly, not sure if he should chase down Cole and skin him, or wait and listen to what I have to say.

“Here baby,” Dad says. His voice is gruff, like his rage is barely in check. After a moment, he says, “Tell me the truth. That guy, the one you brought here—was he forcing you to...?” Dad can’t finish the sentence. His face turns red, his mouth crushing into an expression of fury as he says it.

I reach out for his hand and look him in the eye. “No. They lied. The paper lied, Dad. Whoever had that article run was gunning for Cole. I just got caught in the splatter.” At least I hope that’s it. Admitting that Cole somehow wronged Sottero like that, with a settlement so large, is unthinkable. Cole is always so careful, not touching, always asking the assistant to do things at shoots. I never even saw him touch a woman at the studio, well, besides me.

I backtrack and tell my parents about the dean and the internship. I tell them how I was surprised that I liked working with Cole and how horrible it was with Sottero. When I’m done they know everything. I even told them that I had a crush on Cole, and that he said no.

Dad’s shoulders relax as I speak, but the tension in his arms remains the same. He still wants to break something. There’s no doubt that Dad would be happy to kill someone and bury them in the backyard if they hurt me. The nervous twitch of his hands, the way his fingers move like he wants to strangle something doesn’t stop, even after he knows the truth.

Ma is silent, which is unusual. She watches me as I speak and I feel foolish telling her about the crush on Cole. I don’t mention the stripping, the touching right before he told me good-bye. Sadness consumes me, but I don’t want it to. Clearing my throat, I push away from the table.

Ma says, “Where are you going?”

“I have to find Cole. I have to know what’s going on. Whether I like it or not, I got sucked into this mess, and tomorrow I’m supposed to walk into Sottero’s and act like nothing happened?” My voice is getting louder, more terse as I speak. I can’t help it.

“No, of course not, but I’m not sure if talking to Cole is a good thing now or not.”

Grabbing my helmet, I say, “It’s a good thing. I need this. It’ll tell me what I need to know. It’ll give me closure.” I strap my helmet on as I speak, my fingers expertly moving the strap through the metal loops. I pause for a second, thinking of Edward and glance at my parents. “Has anyone been out here looking for me?”

Dad shakes his head, but Ma looks away. I tilt my extra-large, helmeted head and put my hands on my hips. “Just tell me, Ma. Who was it? And when?”

She blinks rapidly, looking at my face. “Just a young man. He said you knew him.”

My heart flutters faster. “What’s his name?”

She fumbles it for a moment and shakes her head as she tries to remember. “He didn’t say, but he knew so much about you that I thought you were close. Is something wrong?”

I stare at her for a minute, too afraid to ask if it was Edward, if the man at the door matched his description. I can’t fathom it. I can’t picture him finding my parents and driving all the way out here to do...what? A chill races up my spine.

“Is someone following you?” Dad asks, voice stern. He looks at me, still tense.

I don’t want to worry them more, but I feel sick. My stomach is churning like I drank sour milk. Flashing a false smile, I shake my head. “No, Dad. I’m fine.” I give him a hug from behind, careful not to hit him with my helmet. “I’ll be back after dinner. Call me if you need anything.”


Dialing Cole’s number, I sit on my bike and wait but he doesn’t answer. I think about where he’d be, where he’d go, and I know where he is. That place outside the Le Femme studio in the Hamptons. He went there last time he got bad news.

When I get there my skin is chilled. It starts misting like the sky is going to open up. There are no cars out front. No reporters. There’s a sign on the door that the studio is closed. Ignoring it I reach for the handle, but it doesn’t open. I place my helmet on the porch, under the awning, so it doesn’t get wet.

Unzipping my leather jacket, I walk around back looking for the path that leads to the bench down by the water. The sound of the waves fills my ears. My stomach is climbing up into my throat. I don’t know what to do or what to say when I see him.

I stop a few paces back. Cole is sitting on the bench. He is leaning forward, his head in his hands. His dark hair hangs over his fingers as he stares at the ground. Everything I feel for him comes rushing back. I can’t stand to see him like this. Suddenly, I don’t care that he pushed me away, that he told Jesse he could have me. I step toward him slowly, carefully. When I’m a few paces behind him, I call his name.


He doesn’t move. Instead he closes his eyes tightly and clenches his hair hard. His fingers practically pull it out by the time he sits up and looks at me. “Lamore. What are you doing here?”

I want to go to him and wrap my arms around his shoulders, but I don’t. I maintain my distance. The sky opens up and the mist turns to drizzle. Beads of water cling to my bare arms and run down to my wrists. My hair finally stops frizzing under the weight of the water and drips onto my tank top. My jeans stick to my skin, making me shiver. But none of that matters. The look in Cole’s eyes makes me forget everything else.

“I saw the paper. What happened with you and Sottero?” Cole watches me, his eyes giving nothing away. I step closer. “I have to know. They ran an article next to it. One about me.”

Cole exhales loudly and stands. “So that’s what you want? A piece of me? Well, get in line. Sottero will wipe me clean. You can take whatever you can scavenge before that.” Cole turns his back to me and walks toward the water. The ocean is churning like a storm is coming. The waves crash into the shore.

“What are you talking about? I’m not here for a damn thing. Damn it, Cole! Wait!” I run up behind him and grab his elbow.

He spins around. Leaning down in front of my face, he says, “Yes, you are. Is that why you did it? Is that why you couldn’t keep your pants on? Now you have something to go with your claim at the University? I would have given you anything you asked for, but doing it like this was—” he shakes his head and doesn’t finish. His fingers pinch his eyes and I can tell his voice is caught in his throat. “Just leave. Tell Sottero you got what she needed. Game over.”

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