Read Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 Online

Authors: H.M. Ward

Tags: #New Adult Romance

Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 (3 page)

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
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"Ferro? They're here? Where? I didn't see any of them walk in." On my tiptoes, I look around the mass of bodies, trying to find anyone in the crowd that would fit their trademark description.

The Ferro family is one of the oldest and richest families in New York. Hell, they’re the wealthiest family in the Tri-State Area. My family is pretty well off, and from what is called "old money", which is another way to say "my ancestors worked their butts off to make it big and we're keeping the ball rolling", but the Ferros are insanely rich, powerful... and scary.

It is wise to never ask a Ferro for a favor, because you never want to be in their debt. On the other hand, if they ask a favor of you, you NEVER refuse. You don't want to be on Constance Ferro's shit list. She's head of the Ferro clan, and a very imposing woman, to put it mildly. I've met her and her husband on various occasions, mostly during fundraisers and social functions. Her three sons, on the other hand, I have yet to meet, although they constantly make their way to the social pages of the paper every time one of them screws up. It seems like not a day goes by without one of the Ferro boys making headlines.

"Uh, yeah Gina. That would be Mr. Humpty Dumped-His-Load over there. You didn't recognize him?" I shake my head.

Erin huffs in exasperation. "Regina Granz! Where have you been the past couple of years? That hot guy nailing the redhead to the wall is Pete Ferro."


8:33 pm

"I never thought I'd actually see the sex god in action!” Erin makes a high pitched squeal only dogs or dolphins could hear, and balances on the balls of her feet, trying to get a better view. “I can die a happy girl now. Best. Party. Ever, Gina!" Erin lets out a contented sigh before dramatically falling sideways onto my shoulder. I have no idea what expression is on my face, but Erin laughs and kisses me on the cheek before heading back toward the crowd.

“Stop kissing me!” I yell after her, wiping away her lipstick. It’s not until I yell the words that I realize what I’ve said. My cheeks warm, and I back away from the few faces that reassess me. Erin’s answering giggles are swallowed by the noise of the crowd.

That’s when a whirl of red hair catches my eye. It’s not my fault. I swear I’m not a perv, but they’re in my line of sight now. I stare at the couple, wondering things that shouldn’t be thought, clutching a crumpled plastic cup in one hand and my cell in the other.

Did I really just imagine what it would feel like to have sex with—eck—Pete Ferro?

Where’s my mental Lysol? That’s so gross. Of all people, I swoon over the most notorious asshat. It's a well-known fact that he sleeps with every woman he comes into contact with and punches whatever guy gets in his way. Just the thought of him would make any respectable girl like myself slap on a chastity belt, throw away the key, and run for the hills. Guys like him can’t be trusted. They’re all smiles and sweet-talk until the panties drop. When the conquest is over, they’re gone. From what I’ve heard about Pete, Red is going to be old news as soon as he zips his fly.

With my eyes still on Pete and his newest conquest, I watch them straighten their clothing. He turns around and that's when I recognize him—the dark messy hair, the shocking blue eyes, and the cocky self-satisfactory grin on his stubbly face. Damn. He’s hotter than I thought. The way the light falls across his face makes him look like an angel, freshly fallen. Shadows play across his eyes, making him look like he should be the Wikipedia entry for SINFUL. The pictures I've seen of him in the tabloids and gossip columns are lacking. They don’t reveal that combustible aura about him, like his errant glance could cause you to erupt in flames at any second. He’s male perfection on the outside, from his freshly fucked hair down to his tight firm butt in those slim-fitting jeans. Too bad he’s an asshole.

Pete’s lazy gaze scans the room and connects with mine just as my eyes drift past his hips. My spine goes ramrod straight and my stomach flips. Oh crap! He's looking straight at me. He holds my gaze, offering a crooked grin that becomes devilish.

I gulp and force my gaping mouth shut. He knows I’ve been watching. He knows I saw everything. That look, the way he devours me with his eyes, makes my palms sweat and fires up parts of me I wish it wouldn’t. Pete scans my body up and down, as if I’m his next meal. I feel naked, despite my clothes. My insides quiver and I let out a shaky breath. He’s trying to rattle me, but I refuse to let him. My gaze remains on him, eyes narrowed, and obviously not interested.

At least not interested in him. The concept of being desired like that is what caught my attention. The fact that the man is Pete Ferro makes me wish I followed Erin into the crowd. Besides, a guy like that isn’t serious. He’s a one-off, a fling. I want steady and I found a steady guy. He’s the most brilliant up-and-coming doctor on the East Coast. But while I’m proud of him, while he’s everything I wanted, I’ve never been with him like that. Passion isn’t something we do. So when Pete checks me out, my heart stops. I’m the polar opposite of the woman in his arms. Why is he even looking at me?

That’s when Pete winks and throws his head to the side slightly, an invitation to join them.

Not him, THEM.

My thoughts shatter, clanging on the floor like a dropped gong. Every single piece of my previous lust—or whatever that was—drops into my shoes. Blinking twice, I stiffen as my jaw flaps open. Heat flashes through me, streaking across my face and over my chest, and pooling in my belly. I ignore that last part.

I just, I can't even… Is he really inviting me over for a threesome? Who does that?

Disgusted, and slightly mortified, I look away. Damn it! We were in a visual tug-of-war and I lost. I slap my mouth shut and push my way through the crowd. Sweaty bodies bump into me, and there’s an occasional pair of hands that grabs hold of my hips before I manage to break away. I may have growled at one guy, who immediately released me. I suspect Pete would have held on tighter. Freak.

My stomach is still in a suspended motion, like I’m walking on Mars. Wrapping my arms around my middle, I tighten my grip on my phone and keep my eyes glued to the floor. Although I’m in a mass of people, I can still feel eyes on me. My fingers straighten and ball up again as I think about it. What a jerk. I know he just did that to get to me. No one would ever invite me to a threesome. I mean, look at me. I’m the only woman here who isn’t flashing boob every two seconds. Mine are wrapped up tightly in my virginal little blouse. So again, why would he ask me to be part of a sex sandwich? Do I look like that’s my thing? Maybe he thought my pearl necklace was made of butt beads.

Scowling, I shoulder my way through the crowd, putting as much distance as possible between Pete Ferro and me. The music continues to pulse and I wish I could relax, but that’s not my MO. I’m uptight Gina, the chick with the pearls around her throat, not up her ass. The stick is in the way.

My shoulders sag as I stop and back up to lean against a wall. Why do I even care? So what if Pete Ferro thinks I’m a prude? Who cares if he was teasing me or serious? It doesn’t matter. For one, I’m dating someone, and reason number next—he’s Pete Ferro—and it’s been confirmed that the tabloids didn’t make the man. He did that himself by nailing women to the wall with his thingy, in public!

I shiver thinking about it. I can’t even kiss in public. When I feel other eyes on me I freeze. The action lacks intimacy and seems wrong.

Laughing to myself, I think, maybe I am a prude.


8:47 pm

Just then, my cell phone vibrates, flashing my boyfriend's name across the little screen. I love him but crap! Anthony can’t know what's going on here tonight, he’ll blab to Dad about it. Since Anthony’s working the night shift in the ER for his residency in med school, the timing for this party was perfect. He's probably just on his break and calling to say goodnight and a quick I love you.

I’m not a total ass; I would have invited him. The thing is I needed to unwind and have some time with Erin. Then my girl time turned into this. A rave with drugs and half-naked women isn’t really his scene. Too many people in too small a space, plus the added opportunity of going to jail, not finishing his degree, and alienating himself from his future seemed like unnecessary temptation. So I didn’t give him the option. I feel a little bad about that, about being here without him. Maybe I should go.

The phone continues ringing in my hand, as I gaze across the warehouse and the throng of people, tables, and dancers between the door and me. I’ll talk to him and then bail. Erin can have enough fun for two people. This isn’t my scene.

Headed toward a spot where the noise level is at a minimum, I run up an old metal staircase toward the storage room. After a couple forceful pushes and tugs on the handle, I notice that the lock at the bottom of the door is on. It’s the kind that slides down into a hole in the floor. Lifting the pin with my foot, I slip the lock up, and push the door open.

I might be a little bit tipsy from having chugged down my drink so fast. I’m also frustrated with the way this whole evening is turning out, and the fact that I’m still irritated over a Ferro. I slam the door shut and take a deep breath before answering the phone. Luckily for me, the room is more soundproof than I remembered. The bass is just a dull vibration on the floor, and the walls and the door muffle most of the high-pitched treble sounds.

“Hey, babe,” I say, answering the call.

“Where are you? The phone rang forever. I thought you fell down a well or something,” Anthony teases. I think of myself as graceful, I mean who ever heard of a clumsy dancer? But Anthony has this way of making me feel awkward.

I laugh it off. “Ha, ha. I’m fine. Just hanging out with Erin.”

He groans. “Oh God, seriously? I thought it was bath night?”

The way he says it makes me sound like an old lady with too many cats. My brows pinch together. “It might be, and Erin’s not that bad.”

“Fine, whatever. It’s just that she always gets you into trouble, and then where…” Static cuts through the line and his voice fades in and out. I have no idea what he’s saying, but I know he’s still mad about Erin.

I interrupt. “You’re breaking up. I can’t hear you.”

He tries to answer, “Babe…they…come,” and then more static.

“Anthony, you’re breaking up.” My phone beeps, making me look down at the screen. The battery flashes two percent. Aw, crap. Pressing it to my ear I hear him still trying to talk. “I can’t hear you. Don’t worry. I’m heading home, okay? The night was completely uneventful. A bust.” Lots of busts—in fact, it was boobfest of the year. I smirk and wish I could joke with him like that, but he’ll think I’m being crass.

“All right, well, I just wanted to tell you goodnight. Who loves you?”

I smile like a dork. “You do.”

“Who’s my good girl?”

“I am.” I roll my eyes at this little ritual. Anthony started it almost as soon as we met. If he were here, he’d kiss my cheek and pat my head. Other women might take that wrong, but he means well. “I love you. Don’t stay too late.”

“I won’t be by in the morning. Sorry babe, work has been crazy. If I don’t get my shut-eye, I’m no good to anyone. I promise I’ll…and then…” his voice breaks as more static sizzles in my ear. He keeps talking even though my battery is beeping. I keep trying to tell him that the phone is going dead.


“This patient was really…” he keeps talking, like he can’t hear me at all.

“Hey, my phone is—” Too late. It cuts him off mid-sentence and the screen goes black. Totally dead. Great. Looks like I’ll have to hail a cab. So much for the catch-a-cab app.

I tuck my phone in the back pocket of my jeans and pad back toward the door. I pull on the handle and give it a big tug. It doesn’t move. The thing was sticking on the way in, so I yank again, throwing my whole body into the tug this time, but it doesn’t budge. My stomach drops.

"No. Nonononononono! This can't be happening!" Making sure the handle is turned properly, I pull on the door again but it still won't move.

My heart starts to pound at the frightening prospect of being locked in. I try to wiggle and jiggle the door some more, playing with the handle as much as I can, but my hands are getting sweaty and slipping. The door seems to be jammed from the bottom.

Oh, no. The facts hit me hard and fast, I must have slammed the door too hard when I came in and the metal pin slid back down into its hole in the floor. Banging my forehead on the door with a painful thump, I exhale loudly. This evening is just clusterfucktabulous.

What else could go wrong? Feeling my cell phone press into my butt from the rear pocket of my jeans, I get the answer to what was supposed to be a rhetorical question.

Damn it. I forgot that my battery is dead.

I can't call anyone for help.





9:02 pm

“HEY!” I scream repeatedly at the top of my lungs, but the only response is the echo of the empty room.

Pressing my forehead to the door, I curse myself for stepping over that pristine line I was taught to follow. Mother made it crystal clear that following the rules would make me happy. The one time I deviate, I get locked in a storage room. Karma is a mega-bitch.

The music is blaring downstairs and although I doubt anyone can hear me, I start bellowing again. The thought of being locked in here when everyone leaves makes my skin crawl. Alone in an abandoned warehouse—no, bad plan. The thought of falling asleep on the floor and waking up to a rat gnawing on my face flashes in my mind. Goosebumps break out up and down my arms and I pound harder on the door.

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
7.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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