Home > Secrets Vol. 3 (Secrets #3)(5)

Secrets Vol. 3 (Secrets #3)(5)
Author: H.M. Ward

I walk past him into the office. He closes the door and clears his throat as he makes his way to his desk. “Since there is no easy way to begin this conversation, I’m just going to jump right in.” He sits behind an old wooden desk piled high with papers. He shifts his work to the side, folds his hands together, and looks at me sitting across from him. “Miss Lamore, someone has brought to our attention that you may be in an inappropriate relationship with your internship supervisor. Is this true?”

My voice catches in my throat, “No,” I clear my throat and say it again, louder. “No, it’s not true. Whoever told you that was misinformed.”

The dean‘s shoulders don’t slump with relief when I say it. “Anna, we know you’re an adult and can make your own choices when it comes to dating, however, when coupled with academia—”

I cut him off. “Nothing happened.” My hands are clutching the arms on the chair so hard that my knuckles are turning white. I don’t let go. This has me so angry that I can’t stand it. “Cole Stevens has been an excellent supervisor. My internship is going well, which is why I can’t understand who would say this.”

“You haven’t been sleeping with him?” He asks me pointe blank.

I don’t think he means it literally, so I shake my head, “No. We do not have a sexual relationship. This is ridiculous! Graduation is too close for me to start over. You have to believe me.” I’m pleading with him. It hurt that Cole rejected me, but this makes it even worse.

“I’d like to, Anna, but the person who brought this matter to our attention has proof that you did stay at Mr. Steven’s residence on multiple occasions.”

My skin prickles as I realize what it means—someone has been following me. All those times I felt like someone was watching me, I thought I was insane, but now I’m angry.

“So, let me get this straight, Dr. Grillo. Someone provided you with proof that we were hav**g s*x. Is that what you’re saying?” I’m at the edge of my seat, ready to bounce out of it. Fury is fuming silently inside of me, threatening to explode. This is so wrong.

“Please Anna, calm down. It’s enough to have your internship pulled and have Mr. Stevens reprimanded. We cannot allow even the appearance of indiscretion when it comes to academics. You know this, Anna. Do you want people questioning your grades? Do you want them to say your class rank had nothing to do with your mind? They will -- especially with regards to you. You’re at the top of your class. I’m sorry Anna, but we can’t let this slide. You’ll have to find another internship and start over in the fall.”

“But that means I won’t graduate until December.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “There is nothing I can do about that. The internship is a requirement for graduation.”

“If I get another internship and complete the requirements in the next three weeks, can I still walk in August?” I don’t breathe. I didn’t want it to come to this, but this is what it came to.

The dean leans back in his hair and looks at me like he feels sorry for me. “If you can complete the requirements, then yes.”

I nod slowly. I don’t know what to say. It hurts that my words don’t matter, that the appearance of a relationship was enough to damn me. A question crosses my mind, “Have you spoken to Mr. Stevens yet?”

Dr. Grillo nods, “Yes. He knows the repercussions for such an accusation.” I wait for him to explain, to tell me more, but he doesn’t. Instead he stands and says, “Go to the registrar’s office, get new forms, and if you manage to talk someone into an internship now, file the papers directly with me.”


Emma isn’t home yet. I move around the tiny apartment, wandering like I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. Jesse was right. My internship with Cole is void and I have to start over. Nerves choke me, but I have to do it—there are no other options.

Dialing her number, I wait for Sophia to pick up. “Sottero Studios,” she says, even though she has caller ID and knows exactly who it is.

“Ms. Sottero, this is Anna Lamore. We met earlier this summer at an internship interview.”

“Yes, Anna. How can I help you?” Although that’s what she said, her voice sounds clipped, like she doesn’t want to waste more time on me.

“I need an internship. I’m willing to work every waking moment for the rest of the month.”

She sighs. “What happened? Did Cole fire you? I told you to avoid that man, but you didn’t listen. Why should I take you now?”

That is a good question. “You shouldn’t,” I say. “I should have listened to you. I’m sorry to have bothered you. You’ve been more than kind. Thank you for your time—” I feel dejected and embarrassed.

She cuts me off, “Oh, don’t be so melodramatic, Anna. It’s not the end of the world, it’s an internship. Come to my office tomorrow morning. Bring the papers. We’ll get you started. How many hours do you need to log before the end of August?”

“Three hundred and twenty,” I say cringing.

“Not a problem,” she replies. “It’s wedding season. We can knock that out in a couple of weeks if you’re willing to work 18-hour days.”

“I am.”

“Good. Be here at 8:00am.” After giving me final directions on attire and locations, she hangs up.

I hold my phone in my hand looking at it. Nausea washes over me. It feels like I stabbed Cole in the back. It’s necessary I tell myself. Cole will understand.

The key scrapes the lock and Emma pushes through the door. “Oh, my god. Has hell frozen over?” She glances around the room and then back at me with a grin on her face. “Are you actually going to sleep in our apartment tonight?”

Emma should have been the only one who knew where I have been sleeping. Leaning on the counter I ask, “Did anyone ever talk to you about me? Ask where I was sleeping?”

She tosses her purse on the couch and sits down like her knees broke. “No. What’s going on?”

I told her everything and she listened with her mouth hanging open. “No f**king way. What did Cole say?”

“I haven’t spoken to him yet.”

“He’s going to be pissed.”

“I think he already knows,” I say. “His lawyer’s been around a lot lately.” I press my lips together to keep from saying more. “I need to go see him.” I head toward the door.


By the time I get to Cole’s apartment, it’s nearly midnight. I walk through the front door and call his name. When I don’t get a response, I make my way through his house and find him sitting in the blue chair in his bedroom. A glass of amber liquid is in his left hand. His dark eyes look more black than blue. He sits in the shadows with the lights off.

“Cole,” I say, and he looks up at me in the doorway. I linger there for a moment, afraid of what will happen when I tell him, but from the look on his face I suspect he already knows.

“Miss Lamore.”

“Anna,” I correct and walk to the bed and sit on the edge across from him. “I suppose you already know.”

He stares at me blankly. Nerves slither over my skin and make me shiver. Finally he says, “The University told me that you’ll no longer be working for me. Is that your decision?”

“I don’t have a decision, Cole. I need an internship to graduate. If I don’t do one, the last four years mean nothing.” My voice is higher than usual. Panic spreads through me. He doesn’t want me to leave, but I have to.

“You’re the one who decides, Anna. Not them.” He swirls the contents of the glass and stares at me like I stabbed him in the back.

“My decision would have been to be with you. My decision would have been to have you touch me. My decision would have made the accusations true.” The words pour out of my mouth and don’t stop as I rise and step toward him. “But my decision doesn’t seem to matter.” I stand before him with my hands on my hips. Cole stares up at me.

“I apologize for depriving you, Miss Lamore.”


The way his eyes bore into me steals my breath. “But I make decisions and stick with them. I will not touch you.”

“Fine. Then don’t.” Turning on my heel, I mean to leave, but he grabs my wrist.

My pulse skyrockets as he speaks. “I won’t,” he breathes inches from my lips. The way he says it sounds sexy, like that’s all he thinks about. He steps forward and I back into the bed. “Sit,” he says and I comply.

The intensity of his gaze and the way his body moves, like he wants to crawl across the bed and take me, makes me shiver. I don’t speak. I can’t. The entire thing seems surreal.

“Touch me,” I breathe.

Any restraint Cole kept in check snaps. His lips gently brush against mine and I melt. My stomach flips inside of me and I want to tangle my fingers in his hair, but he pulls away. His hands are splayed on my face. He presses his forehead to mine and sucks in a ragged breath, before stepping away from me and back into his chair. I don’t know why he left, what he’s doing. He relaxes a little, and grips the sides of the chair.

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