Home > Secrets Vol. 3 (Secrets #3)(11)

Secrets Vol. 3 (Secrets #3)(11)
Author: H.M. Ward

“I swear to God, i have no idea what you’re talking about.” Tears stream down my face and mix with rain drops. “I went crawling back to Sottero after the school told me I couldn’t intern with you. I didn’t tell her anything.” He doesn’t turn back to look at me. “I didn’t do anything!”

He turns quickly, his eyes burning like blue flames. In a low tense voice he warns, “Don’t lie to me.” He practically growls the words at me. My heart pounds harder in my chest. I don’t step away even though I want to run. “Someone gave Sottero exactly what she needed to hang me. You’re the only explanation.”

Swallowing hard, I look him in the eye, “I never said anything to anyone about you. I sure as hell didn’t tell Sophia Sottero!” I’m shouting in his face. He doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t back away. “She’s a two-faced bitch. I can’t stand her. That’s the truth.” Cole shakes his head ever so slightly, like he still thinks I’m lying. I lean closer so we’re nose to nose. “I have never lied to you. Go ahead and think whatever you f**king want, but you’re deluding yourself.”

“You had nothing to do with Sophia? Nothing to do with the paper? Come on, Anna. How foolish do you think I am? Your roommate is a reporter. You’ve been planning this with Sottero from day one. You think I didn’t notice the guy you sent snooping around? You think I didn’t see him watching me? Watching you? Looking for whatever she needed to seal her case.”

“What the hell are you talking about? I didn’t send anyone to follow you!”

He continues like I didn’t speak, “I didn’t touch her. I never hurt her. Do you know why she did this? Do you know?” I flinch when he yells in my face. “Because she thought I lied to her when we were younger. That Tiffany’s ring in the safe was hers. The night I gave it to her, she f**king ran it over with her car. Want to know why, Lamore? Want to know why your boss ripped my heart out and ran it over? Because of my name. My f**king name. She thought I still had my inheritance and I was stupid enough to think she loved me.” My jaw drops as horror bubbles up into my throat. The ring box, the one that I saw, was Sophia’s. She used him. She rejected him after his family disowned him. My God. The devastation from that betrayal is strewn across his face. It was too thick to hide.

“You think I helped her?” I can’t breathe. Something changes as he speaks. I finally understand what he’s been through, why I couldn’t get close to him. Sophia broke him. His family shattered him and Sophia destroyed whatever hopes remained. Cole’s been alone all this time, too afraid to get close to anyone.

“Stop acting now, Anna. I applaud your efforts. You were very convincing. I admit it, I fell for it. I fell hard for you.” His eyes narrow as his voice changes. Instead of anger, it’s laced with apathy. “So tell me, how much did she pay you to get close to me and stab me in the back? One mil? Two?”

I stare at him. Tears overflow from my eyes and continue to fall in a silent stream. He thinks I betrayed him. He thinks everything that’s happening to him is because of me. I can’t think of anything to say, any plea that would make him hear me. His eyes burn into me as they slide over my skin with scorn.

I don’t answer him. I can’t.

“I thought so,” he says. It feels like he hit me with a bat.

His words knock my breath from my lungs, but I don’t look back. The fact that he can even think that makes me sick. There’s no reconciliation. Not this time. Not for us. Sophia Sottero decimated any chance we had. She f**ked with his mind twenty years ago and she stole his life’s work today.

I find myself walking back toward my bike, wondering how this happened. Sophia Sottero was everything I wanted to be. I said as much to Cole. Damn, he must have cringed when I said it. He knew what she was, what she was capable of, and I was sputtering like an idiot… talking about my idol like she was flawless, like she was a god. No wonder he thought I helped her. I couldn’t blame him. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t trust anyone either. I couldn’t. And after this, I didn’t know if I ever could. I’d been lied to and used, manipulated into being the straw that cracked the back of the famous Cole Stevens.

Turning back, I stare at a destroyed man staring at the sea. The wind whips his dark hair, his wet clothing clings to his body, but he doesn’t care. I watch Cole—I see the man I love becoming a hollow shell of what he once was and I vow that I’ll destroy Sophia Sottero for everything she’s done to him. To us. Cole has never seen forgiveness, so neither will she.

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