Secrets Vol. 3

By: H.M. Ward

CHAPTER 1

I don’t understand. I stare at him with my mouth hanging open. “What’s not possible? At least tell me.”

Cole leans close enough to kiss me, but he doesn’t. My heart jumps. Those blue eyes are on me and my brain melts. His perfect lips form words and I can’t take my eyes off of them.

“Us. We’re not possible.” He licks his lips as he speaks. My eyes fixate on the movement. I think he’s going to say more, but he doesn’t.

Disappointment leaks across my face. My heart is pounding and I don’t even know why. The way he looks at me, the soft touches—that kiss—all of it says we’re out of the friend-zone, but this utterly confuses me.

Cole sees it in my eyes, I know he does. But instead of putting my confusion to rest, he leaves it there. I feel hollow, like fragile glass, like I might shatter.

I want him to say it. I think about forcing the issue, but I can’t. Blowing the relationship apart, banishing the pieces I have for the pieces I want, seems foolish.

The disappointment slides off my face. Cole crosses the room and sits in the blue chair. His dark hair falls forward, obscuring his eyes. Tension lines his shoulders and creases his brow. This relationship will break if I push him. Something is there, something hidden that I can’t see. It holds him back. It makes him act like this.

I shift my weight in the bed and pull my knees into my chest. I don’t take my eyes off of him. Cole feels my gaze and looks up. I manage to say, “Then give me something else.” My heart is pounding. “You hold me at arm’s length with some things and then with other things, well—” I point both hands at the bed I’m sitting in, “Just give me something. Anything.” The plea in my voice makes my stomach twist.

Cole gazes at me from the chair, “What do you want, Anna? No one is as close to me as you are. No one else shares my bed. Ever. It’s been years since another woman walked through that door every night,” he points toward the front of the house as he says it. Cole doesn’t sound mean, but he does sound like I’m asking for something he can’t give.

My voice is soft, “I’m not asking for everything. I actually like this, even though it sounds insane.” I wish it was more, but if it’s this or nothing, I choose this. I lick my lips, watching him shift his weight in the supple chair. “Tell me something, something about you. We can trade secrets. Tit for tat.”

Cole’s gaze narrows and a dark brow lifts, “Really? You’d be willing to answer anything I asked you? A complete revelation? No holding back? No areas off limits?” He leans forward, placing his elbows on his knees. Cole shakes his head, but he smiles softly as he does it, “I hardly think that’s wise, Miss Lamore.”

“Half the things I do aren’t wise, Mr. Stevens. As an act of good faith, you go first.” My hands are pulling the sheet over my lap. My bottoms are nothing more than a lacy boy short.

Cole is bare-chested. Soft flannel pants hang from his hips showing off his toned body. His tanned skin is smooth and completely lickable. Cole wiggles in the chair as a smirk lines his lips. “This isn’t a good idea, but...”

“It’s too tempting to refuse?”

He nods, “Like so many things about you, it has the same seductive allure.” The corners of my mouth lift and I look away. His gaze is too intense. Cole straightens and leans back in the chair, “Very well, I’ll play along, but it’s only because I have a few questions that you aren’t forthcoming with, and your logic is baffling at best—”

“Just ask, Cole.”

He takes a breath, “The day you came to the internship interview, it was obvious that you didn’t hold me in the highest regard—”

I laugh, “I didn’t like you, dude. You can say it.” I lower my voice and bob my head as I imitate him, “Anna detested me.”

“Is that what you think I sound like?” he grins and shakes his head. Smiling,

I lift a brow at him and say, “Is that your question?”

“No,” he becomes serious again. “I am however wondering if I want to know the answer. It seemed like I disgusted you. I want to know why.” Cole’s voice becomes a whisper as he speaks.

I fidget in the bed. Swallowing hard, I look him in the eye, “The reasons seem stupid now. I didn’t know you, then. I thought I did, and I was wrong.”

“That was hardly a personal answer, Miss Lamore. Care to elaborate?” His voice is teasing, but I can hear the genuine curiosity there as well.

I press my lips together gathering my thoughts. “I thought you were a sleaze, running a sleazy studio, groping girls in their underwear. Add to that your money and you didn’t have a chance.”

“The money made it worse?” he asks, his fingers steepeled at his lips. Those blue eyes gaze at me, unblinking, waiting for an answer.

I nod slowly, feeling more exposed than I thought I would. “Yes, the money made it much worse. It would have been better knowing you were disowned.” I straighten and kick the sheets off. Moving to the end of the bed, I flip onto my stomach and pull my feet up behind me, twisting my ankles together. I can tell he wants to ask more, but he doesn’t.

“Now it’s my turn.”

Cole seems nervous, but he doesn’t look away. He leans to the side, resting his head on his hand. “Ask me, Anna.”

“Who’s the chick in the red dress?” I nervously tuck some of my loose curls behind my ear. Ever since first seeing her, I’ve wanted to learn who she was and what she means to him.

“My lawyer. She’s been helping me prepare for something... unpleasant.” His voice is cool and even as he says it. This wasn’t the answer I expected. It’s revealed more questions I don’t have the answers to. But, whatever is going on, whatever Cole is dealing with, must be crushing him. The things that make him sound like that—voice level to the point of apathy—are the things that are the worst. Something bad is happening to him, something that requires legal advice.

“And?” I prompt.

“And nothing more. I believe you were inquiring as to our relationship status. It is professional and always has been. The formality of our attire was for appearances only, part of a public display to help cushion what’s coming.” As he speaks, Cole’s eyes take on a distant expression. The muscles in his arms tighten as his fingers fist. He tries to hide it, but he can’t. Something’s going to happen to him, something that I can’t stop.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I had no idea.” I want to fix it, I want to take away his burdens, but I don’t know how. I don’t even know what’s wrong. Attempting to lighten the mood I say, “Ask me about Vanilla.”

Cole’s eyes dart up and meet mine. He holds my gaze and finally says, “Tell me why you prefer vanilla, Miss Lamore.”

“Anna. Call me Anna, Cole.”

His chest expands as he takes a deep breath and I openly admire him, my eyes drifting and lingering on his smooth skin. “Why do you prefer vanilla, Anna,” he breathes my name and sends shivers down my spine.

A wicked grin twists my lips. “I don’t.” The words roll of my lips and I’m suddenly very aware of my tongue.

Cole’s eyes darken. The stubble lining his cheeks accentuates the strong lines of his jaw. He’s gazing at me with a predatory look. “Explain.”

“My ex liked things plain and simple. I don’t. I like things he didn’t think were sexy. I like sticky, sweaty, slippery sex. I’m not Miss Vanilla, Cole. I’m the opposite.”

Cole works his jaw as I speak; his eyes riveted to my face. He stares at my eyes, then my mouth. He sucks in air and tilts his head back as I speak. “The opposite?” I nod slowly. My hair slides forward and I reach around and pull it to one side. Cole’s eyes drift to my chest and the cleavage that becomes visible as I do it. Something changed, but I don’t notice it yet.

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