Secrets Vol. 2

By: H.M. Ward

Chapter 1

"I wasn't really sleeping well either," Cole says sympathetically. He has no idea what he's doing to me. I'm breathless, embarrassed by things he can't possibly know, but it still makes my cheeks burn.

My emotions are jumbled. I look up at him. He's too old. I'm too young. He's from money. I hate money. I glance at Cole again. Damn. I still want him. That stirring, whatever put the idea into my head didn't leave when I woke up, and having him that close is like setting a magnet on a compass. My emotions are spinning like a top.

It's after 2:00am, but I feel wound tight. Pushing off, the couch I tell him, "I'm getting a drink. You want one?"

Smiling, he teases, "Sure, but are you legal?"

My cotton shorts cling to my hips as I walk away. I laugh over my shoulder, "Legal to do things you couldn't imagine, old man." I have no idea why I said that, but it makes me feel better. Cole remains in the den, but by the time I come back with drinks, he's sitting on my bed, also known as the couch.

He was sleeping on the floor next to me. The den doors were closed and my parents left us alone to make babies all night.

I hand him a glass with whiskey at the bottom and a can of Coke. I have a glass of wine. When he takes his glass, I clink them together, "Cheers."

He nods, pours the Coke into his glass, and puts his feet up on the table and looks at me, "What are we drinking to?"

I say the first thing that flies into my head, "To your appreciation for women, but not women's clothes. Unless you count Le Femme's panties. You don't wear those, do you?" I laugh and sip my wine.

"Only on my head. That one with the apple makes a really cool mask," he laughs and I spew a sip of wine, trying to stifle a laugh. "That's second grade underpants humor, Lamore. Seriously, underpants jokes make you laugh?"

I'm covering my mouth so I don't spew again and try to swallow the wine left in my mouth. Nearly choking, I laugh, "Combined with the image of you dressed as a super hero, sporting tights, with a panty-mask on your face, yes."

Cole grins at me.

I rest my head against the back of the couch. Cole's sits next to me, his bare chest is distracting. He's wearing his jeans, and is barefoot. I watch his chest rise and fall out of the corner of my eye. Damn dream. I shrug like he doesn't affect me. I don't want him to.

Changing topics I say, "I'd like to see your paintings, the ones you told me about the other day."

"Oh," and then he's quite. His eyes look into his glass like it has answers that he doesn't.

"I take it that you don't show that stuff to people too often?"

He shakes his head, "No, not really." He's silent for a moment, then says, "If you really want to see them, I'll show you. I owe it to you for tonight."

"Psh," I say swatting him in the shoulder, "You owe me nothing. It's not like I would have left you sitting there." I stare at the ceiling, not thinking. Well, not wanting to.

"You're a rare breed, Lamore." He finishes his drink, sets it down, and threads his fingers behind his head.

"You have no idea," I glance at my wine glass and set it down. I rub my eyes with my hands.

He watches me before saying, "You say that like it's a bad thing."

"That's because most of the time it is." I look at him.

Cole's sitting next to me, stretched out, completely at ease. At least he appears that way. Everything about him says he's comfortable in his own skin, that he likes who he is and what he's become. He glances at me out of the corner of his eye, "How? How is that bad?"

"It just is. I'm a moron magnet. Being me attracts every loser in a twenty mile radius. The guy seems nice at first, but each and every one of them is totally messed up. Or maybe it's me. Maybe I'm the one who's messed up." These were thoughts that had been banging around in my brain. Without Emma to talk to, they stayed there. Cole rattled me and has made me feel ten times more alive in the past day than anyone else ever has.

Cole laughs initially, but when he realizes I was serious, he says, "Anna, you can't be serious. It's not you."

I pull a pillow across my chest, "How would you know? You just met me. And it's not like you know me that way. You can't be sure it's not me." My voice softens as I speak.

"It's not you," he repeats. Tension lines his shoulders. It wasn't there a moment ago, but it seems hard to miss now.

"Sorry," I say. "I'm making you uncomfortable. I didn't mean to - "

When he turns to face me, my breath catches in my throat. His eyes are so soft, so sincere, that I can't look away. He takes the pillow that I crushed against my chest and I feel exposed.

He says certainly, "You're not making me feel uncomfortable." He places the pillow on the floor. When he turns back to me, he asks, "Do you know how I can tell that it's not you?" I shake my head. My heart races faster. His eyes search my face like he can't believe that I don't see that I'm not the reason morons flock to my side. "You're naturally inquisitive. You question everything, to the point of exasperation," he smiles at me like it's an endearing trait. "Anna, people who question things usually know themselves pretty well. They want to know why things work and they try to fix them when they don't. If he was doing that - if he was trying to take care of you - you wouldn't be asking me this right now, you'd be asking him."

Blinking hard, I look away. I pull my knees into my chest, and wrap my hands around my ankles. "He's tried to do what I want." I realize where this conversation is going. I'm not sure if I want to talk about it with him. I barely know Cole, but after today, things have changed. The fact that he blindly trusts me wasn't missed. And it's so easy to talk to him.

"And?" Cole prompts.

"And he offered to do what I want, but it's not the same. It's like the difference between really wanting a cookie and just thinking it's so-so." I'm staring at my feet. When he doesn't' answer, I look up at him. He's smiling at me with a strange expression on his face. "What?"

"Cookies? Really? We're using a cookie metaphor in sex conversation?" he smiles at me, and nudges my shoulder with his. "Come on. Talk to me. You know my darkest secret. You can tell me yours."

I smile softly, "How'd you know it was about sex?" I cringe as I say it, my cheeks growing hotter.

"Why else would you be beat-red right now? And I'm onto your diversions. Cookies, Skittles - do you always chose food when you're trying to skip over something important?" I smile shyly at him, but don't respond. I can't say it. I want to, the question is sitting on my tongue, but I can't. "Come on Lamore," he urges, bumping my shoulder again

"Fine," I say nervously. "I'll just ask, but don't laugh at me. This is a girl question, and you're not a girl."

"Obviously," he grins.

I bump his shoulder back and then say, "Do you think a relationship has a chance if one partner is too bland for the other?"

"Bland?" he asks like he doesn't know what I mean.

I nod, "Yeah, like he likes things kinky and I like things vanilla." I have no idea why I switched our roles. Edward was vanilla, and I wanted to be the kink goddess. I didn't realize I was wringing my fingers until Cole patted my hand.

"Stop," he releases my fingers when I look up at him. "It doesn't mean it can't work out, but there will also be a rift there for him. You won't feel it, but he's not going to feel satisfied as frequently. That's an issue in any relationship. And it's not something that's your fault. It's just the way it is."

"You don't think he'd change? That he could be more... vanilla?" There is desperation in my voice, like I know the answer before he even says it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I already know that things are destined to fail with Edward. I just don't want to write off a good man for something that seems so selfish, especially if he is satisfied. At the same time, dealing with bland sex for a lifetime is something that doesn't hold much appeal.

Cole looks aside, and shakes his head. "Sorry, but no. People like that tend to be passionate and they want to show it. It surfaces in other areas of their lives, too. A person who speaks, acts, and breathes passionately isn't going to become a subdued lover. It's not who they are... "

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