Home > Secrets Vol. 5 (Secrets #5)(6)

Secrets Vol. 5 (Secrets #5)(6)
Author: H.M. Ward

She laughs at that. “Yeah right.” Okay, maybe that’s a bad idea. Em and her Mom fight like rabid cats. “No, I’ll stay here. Edward will stick around for a while, right?” He nods. While we’re speaking, Edward crosses the room and slips himself up onto the kitchen counter. “I should be okay as long as I’m not alone. And you staying with Cole for a little while is a good idea.”

I nod and look at my hands. My fingers twist together. I glance up at her. “Actually, it might be longer than a little while.” I flick my eyes up to meet Em’s.

“He asked you to move in with him?” she asks, mouth hanging open. A wide grin spreads across her face. I glance at Edward, not wanting to say it in front of him, but he’s going to be around for a while.

I shake my head. “He asked me to marry him, Emma.”

“Holy shit! What’d you say?” Emma’s eyes are so big that they look like saucers. She practically bounces up and down as she grabs my hands. She thinks I said yes, but I didn’t and I don’t know why.

I do my best to treat Edward like a person, but I can’t meet his gaze. I look back at Emma. “I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say.”

Emma drops my hands. She’s shocked into silence and stares at me with her mouth in an O. Two seconds later she shakes her head and looks at the clock. “I’ve got to get to work, but we are talking about this later.”

“Definitely.” Things feel normal for a second. Emma hugs me again, quickly this time. Her phone rings. Edward lifts it off the counter top and hands it to her.

“It’s work.” He says.

“Damn it,” she mutters, and says, “Hello.” Emma takes the phone into the other room. Her voice carries through the apartment for a moment until she closes the door.

Edward and I are alone. He sits on the counter, his spine ram-rod straight. “So, a proposal?”

I nod, “Yeah, is that too weird? I didn’t know if I should mention it in front of you.” I don’t want to hurt you more than I already have.

Edward smiles at me and shakes his head. “Nah, don’t be silly. You and Emma are best friends. Tell her anything you want. Besides, I’m not real keen on leaving her alone right now, not with someone breaking-in and all that.”

“You’re a good brother, Edward. Emma’s lucky to have you.” I say the words and mean them. He’s a good brother.

Emma bursts through her door. She pulled on clothes, but doesn’t have that polished look she’s normally sporting. Em grabs an apple from the fridge. “That ass. He wants me there now. Thanks for telling me.” Emma says to herself, muttering. She looks at me, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to run out on you like this. I should have had another forty minutes. I can’t believe Stacy thinks he can call me in like this.”

“Looks like he can,” Edward says, and Em shoots him a look that says drop dead.

“Stay with Anna until she leaves, okay? I’ll be home at five. Let’s have dinner, Edward. And I’ll catch up with you later tonight, Anna. Call me when you have a second. I want to hear about Sottero and Cole. I can’t believe he proposed!” She bites the apple and runs for the door, practically tripping over her feet. Turning back, she says, “I can’t believe you said no!”

“I didn’t say ‘no,’” I reply, but Em is already gone.

When the door slams, I look at Edward. “Mind hanging out for a few more minutes?”

“No, that’s fine.” He tilts his head toward me. “There’s something black on the back of your arm.”

I twist my arm and try to look. There’s a thin black line that runs from my upper arm to my elbow. It looks like tar. I press my finger against it and it smears. “Shit. What is that?” I look at my fingers.

Edward slips off the counter and comes over. He examines the black goo, but doesn’t touch. “It looks like grease or something. You want me to try and wipe it off with a sponge?”

“Nah, I know how much dirt freaks you out. I’ll do it.” But as I do it, I smear the black goo across my arm. It doesn’t come off and now there are black streaks of water running down my arm and into my shirt.

Edward watches me for a second before snatching the sponge, “I swear, Anna. It’s a wonder you’re—” he stops before he says it. “Just stay still.” He puts warm water on the sponge and uses dish soap to get the grease off my arm. When he’s done, he throws the sponge in the sink and says, “Take a shower to get the rest of it washed off.”

I glance at the time. I need to get to the courthouse early. Cole’s lawyer is supposed to go over stuff with me. “Damn it.” I look at the gray schmutz on my arm. He’s right. I dart to my room.

Edward returns to the couch and flips on the TV. It’s blaringly loud, like he’s totally deaf, which is weird, but I’m in too much of a hurry to think about it. I strip quickly and pull on a robe. Racing to the bathroom, I turn on the water and scrub my arms until they’re raw.

When I return to my room, I’m dripping wet. I leave a path of puddles on the floor. My robe clings to me because my skin is still damp. I towel off my legs and then turn my head to the side to dab the ends of my hair. My eyes drift across the room to my dresser. The top of it is exactly the way I left it with one glaring difference.

My heart stops. I drop the towel. It lands in a lump at my feet. Fear chokes me, making it impossible to swallow. I stare at the tube of lipstick and feel my heart slam into my ribs like I just got electrocuted. I step toward it, my hand shaking as I lift the tube. I stop in front of it, not wanting to touch it. This was gone. The perv took it with him and now it’s back.

My panties on my bike.

The words on my mirror.

Horror washes over me in an icy wave. I lift the tube of lipstick and slip the cover off. It’s the cherry red. The tip has been smashed like someone used it as chalk. Terror courses through me and I drop the stick. It falls to the floor and rolls under my dresser. My hand slaps over my mouth to muffle a noise that sounds like a cross between a cry and a sob.

Frantically, I look around the room. There are no signs of forced entry, no broken windows, no opened locks on the windows, no nothing. My body acts like it wants to run. The muscles in my legs twitch. I turn toward the closet, deciding to get dressed and get the hell out of here. I’m never coming back. I’ll never leave Cole’s side again. And I’m telling Emma to frickin’ move.

My veins are coursing with panic. As I turn toward the closet, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Edward pulls the door open. He stands in the doorway, watching me in my robe. My wet hair is plastered to my face. A shiver slips down my spine like an ice cube. I stare at him for a second, wondering if he’s twisted enough to do this to me. I think I’m going insane and ignore the warning flags my mind is beating me with over the head.

Edward doesn’t look at me. He looks past me, at the dresser, and asks, “I heard something fall. Are you all right?” I nod, too freaked to talk. I clutch my robe tighter at the neck. Edward finally turns and looks at me. “Did you get the grease off? Are you clean?”

Am I clean? That question would have pissed me off a few months ago. Now, it just sends a jolt of panic through my throat. I can’t swallow. My mouth is so dry. My neck feels thick, like a log, and words won’t form. I nod again.

Edward steps into my room, his body blocking the door. I feel like I’m cornered. I glance over my shoulder at the window, wondering how much it will hurt to throw myself through it. Logic intercedes and tells me that this is Edward. I know him. He won’t hurt me. He isn’t the one that’s been messing with me. But, memories that seemed odd, or didn’t make sense before, come racing back.

Edward showing up when he didn’t know where I was. Edward finding me outside of Cole’s. Edward showing up at the beach. Emma knowing things she shouldn’t have known, things I never told her. The missing panties. The cherry red lipstick that he hates. The way he said he’d wait for me, that we weren’t over.

My chest tightens. I shrink back from him, still not wanting to believe what I’m thinking. Edward looks apologetic. I don’t understand why. He presses his palms together and then parts his hands as he speaks, “Good. I knew there’d be a day that you came home and I’d be here—that you’d want me here.”

“Edward,” I manage to choke out his name. I lift my hand without meaning to, the universal sign for STOP but he keeps coming toward me. “I need to get dressed. I have to be at court. Can we talk later?” My voice cracks. It’s a pathetic attempt to placate him, to ward him off, so that I can run and never look back.

He stops in front of me, my hand pressing into his chest. Edward presses his hands on top of mine. “Now’s as good a time as any. I heard what you said before—about not accepting his proposal.”

“Edward, I—” I try to pull my hand away, but his fingers wrap around my wrist. Edward lifts my hand to his lips and brushes a kiss against the back of my hand. I yank harder, but he won’t let me go.

“You’re still in love with me. I know.” He says it with complete certainty.

“I’m not!” I jerk my wrist again and stumble backwards when he releases me. A pained expression draws his dark brows together. It’s like he won’t accept that I don’t like him, that he intends to have me anyway.

“You are,” he insists. “You told him no. You dumped Jessie. I can forgive your infidelity, Anna, but I won’t tolerate your lying.” Edward’s eyes blaze with fury. His arm swings before I see it coming and he connects with my cheek in a loud WHACK.

Stunned, I stagger back into the corner. My back presses against the wall as my hands cradle my cheek. Pain splinters through my face, exploding behind my eye. I’m trembling. I can’t help it. Something is very wrong with him and I never saw it coming. I plead, “Edward, this isn’t like you. You—”

He steps toward me and lifts my chin. I can’t pull away from him. I’ve pinned myself against the wall. There’s nowhere to run. No way to escape. “I’m a forgiving person, Anna. I’ll take you back. You don’t even have to ask, but… Do. Not. Lie. To. Me.” His hand squeezes my face hard as he bites off the last words staccato, practically spitting in my face.

My body is jacked up. Part of me wants to attack him in order to get the hell away. The other part of me is falling to pieces, ready to fall at his feet and sob, hoping to God that he isn’t this monster he seems to be. I don’t decide what to do. My body trumps my mind, and before I know what I’m doing, I tear my face out of his hands and jerk my knee up between his legs. Edward sucks in air as he staggers back from me. I have enough room to get by. I dart for the front door, intending to run screaming into the street.

Before I manage to make it down the hall, Edward is behind me. I hear only the heavy thumping footfalls and my clamoring heart. Although the TV is blasting, I no longer hear it. My bare feet slip on the hallway floor as I race forward. The puddles that I tracked from the bathroom are still there, gleaming, and knock me off balance.

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