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Secrets & Lies 7: The Ferro Family, page 1

 part  #7 of  Secrets and Lies Series

 

Secrets & Lies 7: The Ferro Family
 


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Secrets & Lies 7: The Ferro Family


  Secrets & Lies, Vol. 7

  The Ferro Family

  H. M. Ward

  Laree Bailey Press

  Contents

  Secrets & Lies

  Copyright

  1. CHAPTER 1

  2. CHAPTER 2

  3. CHAPTER 3

  4. CHAPTER 4

  5. CHAPTER 5

  6. CHAPTER 6

  7. CHAPTER 7

  8. CHAPTER 8

  9. CHAPTER 9

  10. CHAPTER 10

  11. CHAPTER 11

  12. CHAPTER 12

  13. CHAPTER 13

  14. CHAPTER 14

  15. CHAPTER 15

  16. CHAPTER 16

  17. CHAPTER 17

  EXCERPT: THE WEDDING CONTRACT

  SEXY SCENTS

  MORE FERRO FAMILY BOOKS

  SUGGESTED FERRO SERIES READING ORDER

  MORE ROMANCE BY H.M. WARD

  CAN'T WAIT FOR H.M. WARD'S NEXT STEAMY BOOK?

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Secrets & Lies

  Volume 7

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2016 by H. M. Ward

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form.

  LAREE BAILEY PRESS

  First Edition: JULY 2016

  ISBN: 978-1-63035-135-9

  CHAPTER 1

  There’s no arguing with Ferro. The man was livid at this turn of events. Apparently, Nate is anti-fracking. Or maybe he just hates his father and wants to screw him over? Who knows? He hasn't said a thing to me about it. As I drive back to campus, my stomach is in knots. Ferro didn’t elaborate on what would happen to Nate if he didn’t agree to fork over the house, but he didn’t need to. There’s a soul-sucking darkness in that man that sets me on edge. It’s like standing next to a domesticated monster disguised by a designer suit and a placid smile. The long, lazy movement of his limbs and relaxed tones Ferro speaks with can lull a person into a sense of security. But around that guy, once your guard drops, you’re toast. I have no doubt human life is cheap in his eyes, and blood has no bearing on his actions. He’d kill his son if it were required to get what he wants.

  What the hell did I get myself into? I’m so far over my head I can’t breathe. I’m drowning and have no idea who to ask for help. If I tell Nate, he’ll dig in his heels. If I don’t, and he finds out from someone else—that’s even worse. There’s no safe option here, no clear path leading in a direction I want to go. I slam my palm against the steering wheel and swear.

  Pita hisses from the back of the bus. “I’m not in the mood for your crap right now,” I scold.

  More hissing wafts up from a few seats behind me. It’s like the beast is trying to tell me something. Too bad I don’t speak raccoon.

  “That’s nice, Fuzzball, but I need a plan. How can I outfox a Ferro?” As the light turns red, I brake and bring the big, rusty bus to a stop.

  A sleek black convertible full of guys pulls up in the lane next to me. The driver's slicked-back hair is the color of honey. Coupled with his olive skin and dark shades, he looks totally badass.

  The passenger directly behind him is super-pale, with a mess of dark hair standing up in all directions. He’s the only one in the group not wearing sunglasses. I can see his dark eyes look up at me. Shock skitters across his face, and then his lips curve into a coy grin.

  He tips his chin up and hollers, “Hey, baby! Nice ride.” The guy chortles and bumps fists with the man next to him. They’re clearly college guys who think they’re God’s gift to the opposite sex. Rich, spoiled, brats who never had to work hard for anything. They all leer up at me, the driver included.

  I pull the handle that opens the door, press my hand to my chest, and bat my lashes. “Really?” My voice is syrupy sweet. I smile like there isn’t a thought in my head.

  The dude with the 'fro, continues, “Yeah, it’s fucking hot. Hey, if you want something a little less rusty between your legs, I’m here for you.”

  I angle my chin down, drop my fake smile, and glare at him. “Wow, that sounds amazing," I say, flatly. "A stellar guy like you shoving his little rusty dick up inside of me would be amazing. Best pickup line ever.”

  The other guys in the car start laughing as their friend frowns. “I didn’t say little!”

  “Yeah? Because that’s the only reason I’m not dropping my panties for you. It had nothing to do with the fact that you inferred your little soldier was rusty from misuse. Or did you leave him out in the rain? Either way, not appealing. At the next traffic light, you should really stick to the classics. Try, ‘Hey, baby! I wanna melt in your mouth, not in your hand.’”

  The guys stare at me, eyes wide, tongues hanging out like I’m a sex goddess. Idiots. The light flips to green, and I beam at them, wave the tips of my fingers, and pull away with the bus door still open.

  The car speeds past me, vanishing from sight. Assholes. Why do they even do that? Has chatting up a girl at a traffic light ever worked? I mean, what do they think is going to happen? Even if I wanted him, where am I supposed to leave my bus?

  Meh. I drive on, maneuvering the bus through the narrow streets near campus. As I’m prowling for a parking spot—or five—to wedge my bus into, I see Carter crossing the parking lot. I’m so pissed at him. Everything he said from day one was a load of crap. I don’t realize I’m doing it, but the bus creeps up behind him. It crawls forward in neutral, stalking him across the asphalt.

  When Carter glances behind his shoulder, he flinches and frowns at me. I inch the bus closer, making him walk faster. He’s speed walking now, frantically looking over his shoulder. “Cut it out, Kerry!”

  In response, I inch closer. Carter shrieks and takes off at a full run, spewing curses at me. I lurch the bus to a stop, occupying an entire row of spaces in the teachers' parking lot. I’m going to get ticketed, but as long as they don’t give me five tickets—one for each parking spot—I don’t care. There was nothing up by the dorm. I cut the engine, stuff the keys under the seat, and bound down the steps to see Emily rushing toward me.

  She’s excited, her face bright. “Holy shit!” She slaps my arm—hard. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  “Tell you what?”

  “That you took on the beast? And that you landed an internship at Le Femme! Holy shit, do you know how hard it is to get in there? They just opened that branch, too. I heard the entire staff relocated from New York. They're your people, Kerry. The mothership has landed!” She snorts a laugh and bumps her shoulder into mine.

  “Le Femme? Who told you I'd be working there?” I make a face and glance over at her warily.

  “First, did you or did you not hogtie your roommate in the quad this morning.”

  “I did.”

  “Awesome! Second, internships were just posted, and I got Le Femme. Jax said you would be there, too. You didn’t apply?”

  I frown, trying to figure out what happened. “No, I didn’t. I planned to continue modeling here, but Dr. Jax said he was moving me, that he got me a job.”

  “Holy shit! You’re modeling for Cole Stevens?” Her face is more expressive than I’ve ever seen it.

  “No. Well, I have no idea.” I stare at her, wondering what Jax did. The old guy is shifty. It wouldn’t surprise me if I were hired as a model.

  “Well, you need to find out. If you model for Le Femme, your face will be everywhere. Scratch that. Not your face. Your tits and hips—no one will
care about your face by the time that guy is done with you!” Emily waggles her eyebrows at me.

  I groan inwardly. I need to get my life together. Somehow everything went from being perfect to being insanely hard again. It’s like trying to catch a herd of cats. The little bastards won’t sit still. I’m staring straight ahead, lost in my own miserable life.

  Emily keeps talking, but when I don’t respond, she scolds, “Hello? What’s wrong with you? Are you pissed because I’m working there too?”

  “No,” I say, rolling my eyes involuntarily. Emily folds her arms over her chest, juts out a hip, and glares at me. “Emily, I didn’t know that’s where Jax sent me. I’m glad you’ll be there with me. I have too much shit going on right now. I feel like I’m going to lose it.” School and work are crazy enough. Add in Ferro, Nate, and Carter—and if I keep ranting my voice will get so high-pitched only dogs will hear.

  She drops her arms and softens her expression. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to jump down your throat.”

  “Don’t worry about it. I just have a lot on my mind. Sorry, I spaced out.” We talk about the internship and Emily begins telling me about her plans for after graduation. The internship is a stepping stone—one she needed to get where she wants to go.

  I wish I had such a clear vision of what I want to do with my life. Lately, it feels like I’m bumping around like a drunk goat with a stomach full of trash. Things that shouldn't get to me do. It feels like there’s too much pressure and I’m ready to crack. I want to go to Nate, but Carter will know. Three days. How am I supposed to get Nate to do anything in three days? That timeline is insane. It’s time to crank up the crazy, and let the pieces fall where they may. If I’m alone at the end of this, so be it.

  CHAPTER 2

  Sunday evening creeps ever closer. As the night sky swallows the sun, I head over to the classroom one last time to see if there’s anything else I should do to my painting. I’m turning it in this week, and the truth is I’m worried I’ve ruined it—and everything else in my life. It’s not the random gnawing of doubt that sometimes floods through me. It’s different this time. I feel like I stepped on a slippery slope at some point and fell on my ass. I’ve been barreling down the side of a ravine at full speed. The unease relentlessly twisting inside of me is truly apprehension toward my imminent impact.

  The hallways are empty, and the building is streaked with long shadows spilling across the floor in shades of orange and pink. I take the stairs two at a time, and as I pass Nate’s office, I slow, stop, and circle back. If he’s here—I could talk to him without Carter discovering it.

  I rap my knuckles on his door. “Professor Smith?” That’s not his real name. He’s a Ferro. How weird is that? I wonder if he’s going to tell anyone or if it will remain his deep dark secret.

  There’s no answer. I turn away and continue down the hall. When I get to the classroom, I yank open the door, walk inside, and flick on the lights before heading to my cubby and pulling out my painting. I put it on an easel and step away. My hand rises to my chin as I sweep my eyes over my work. I was afraid the gashes would seem like a mistake after a few days passed, but I like them more now.

  I mix up a few colors to add some highlights to the girl’s hair and along the hem of her dress. Tugging back my hair, I twist it into a bun and stab it with a paintbrush. After a few minutes the silence gets to me, so I turn on some music and crank it up. I find myself singing softly at first, making careful strokes with the brush. But after a while, I relax, and my voice is no longer soft, my feet are no longer still, and my ass begins to sway as I sing about the son of a preacher man, bobbing my head and waving my arms rhythmically with a big smile on my face.

  I forget about the painting, caught up in the dance, eyes closed, body swaying to the beat, and singing like I’m totally in love with the sweet-talking son of a preacher man. When the song climaxes, I hold a paintbrush to my lips and belt out the words like it’s a microphone. I shake my hips, swaying and spinning in a full circle while holding the brush to my lips, my head tipped back, and my eyes closed.

  That’s when a small sound catches my ear—the scuff of a shoe. A chill races over my skin and my eyes flash open. Nate is standing there, hands in his pockets, a fascinated smile on his face as he leans into the doorway. His eyes glitter blue with too much affection, bursting with emotion that’s too strong for someone he isn’t involved with.

  I freeze, hand over my head, mouth open wide in the middle of a long note with my butt jutted out. It’s an incredibly awkward pose to hold. I stop and straighten like I wasn’t doing anything. “'Sup.”

  CHAPTER 3

  Nate’s booming laughter rings out, warming the room. His eyes flash up to meet mine, then fall to the floor as he steps across the threshold and closes the door behind him. “I thought I heard someone, so I came to see who it was. I didn’t realize you could sing.”

  I’ve not spoken to him since he stormed off the other night. He’s acting like that never happened, like we didn’t fight. Fine by me. I bat a hand at him and scoff. “I can’t sing.”

  “You’re wrong about that.” He grins, revealing a dimple on his cheek. “If you couldn’t I would have offered you a sock—because I already know you put on a great puppet show—but this? Damn, woman! You’ve got a set of pipes the music department would kill for.”

  My face is bright red, hot. “Yeah, right.”

  “You sound like Aretha Franklin. You. The little white girl with a bus.” He watches me for a moment, those blue eyes searching my face for something I can’t fathom.

  I joke, “You like my bus.”

  “That I do," Nate says, grinning as he steps closer. "I like a lot of things about you.”

  “Yeah, I’ve got mad skills.” I joke, but he takes me seriously.

  “You do, and you underestimate what you’re capable of accomplishing. Kerry,” he glances at my painting, “You’re the most talented person I know.”

  His words floor me, especially after the way he left things last time. I stand there with my heart wide open, terrified. No one ever sees the real me. They see a young girl trying to be older than she is, or a student too immature to handle things. I’m someone who’s always trying but hasn’t arrived. When people consider me, I’m always found lacking. For a long time, I’ve hoped to fit in somewhere. Why do I have to fit so well with him? Nate feels like home. He’s everything I want, but I can’t have him. There’s no happy ending for us.

  I force a smile and shove the thought away. Nate isn't mine and never will be. We’re two people passing in the night on different paths, going different directions.

  I joke, “Good thing your dad wasn’t a preacher, huh?” I wink at him and turn away. “Because we’d be in serious trouble then.” I’m about to go back to my painting when I feel his presence behind me.

  His warm breath is by my ear, and his body is so close to mine I can feel his body heat. “I’m starting to think you like trouble, Kerry.”

  “As much as the next girl, yeah, sure.”

  “Nothing about you is like the next girl.” His voice is firm, powerful. It’s a statement, a complement he fully believes.

  “You think too much of me.”

  “You don’t think highly enough of yourself.”

  “I know what I am, who I am.” I turn slowly toward him with my heart slamming rapidly into my ribs. I hate it when he’s this close. It’s hard not to touch him, to pretend there’s nothing between us. “Not many people see me.”

  “Only because you don’t let them. Your guard is always up, and, while it keeps you from getting your lights knocked out, it also keeps everyone else at arm's length. No one really knows you.”

  “Except you?”

  “I’m not sure how well I know you, either. Sometimes I think I see all of you, but there’s always more, something else to make me smile. Still waters run deep—I had no idea what that meant until I met you. There’s always another layer, more to discover about you.” His eyes loc
k on mine, and his body is so close I can catch his scent.

  A shiver licks my spine, and I want to laugh nervously, or dance, or cry out. Since I can’t do any of those things, I step away. The distance between us does little to alleviate the tension. The air is charged with electricity when Nate’s nearby. It’s the way he stands, the way his beautiful body calls to me as if he were mine. He’ll never be mine. Even if the student teacher thing didn’t matter, when he finds out what I did to get his house back and how I plan to make him sell it—he won’t forgive me.

  I have three days to keep this man safe. The only plan I came up with so far ensures Nate’s safety, but I get the crappy end of the stick when all is said and done. I need a different plan, one that doesn’t end so poorly, but nothing else comes to mind.

  Nate watches me, his lips close enough to kiss my skin. I think about his mouth and those hands. Butterflies flutter inside of me, reminding me of how wonderful he feels and how perfectly we fit together. Every time we’ve been together, it’s been hard and fast, frantic even. There haven’t been any slow kisses unwinding from deep within to make my toes curl. There’s been no lazy tracing of curves, no exploration of his body under my palms. I want that. I want the feeling like we have all the time in the world, but we don’t. I tear my gaze away from his and step back again, forcing a smile on my face. It feels wrong.

  “There’s nothing more, Nate. You’re wrong about that.”

  “Am I?” He follows me, stepping closer every time I back away until I’m against the wall at the back of the room. The counter is to my left, and the line of cabinets is to the right, blocking our view of the door. He presses his body to mine.

  “Yes, you’re wrong. There’s nothing more to see. Move along.”

 
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