Read Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 Online

Authors: H.M. Ward

Tags: #New Adult Romance

Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 (6 page)

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
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Pete handles his car like he’s been driving it his entire life. He’s fast and reckless; if I wasn’t in shock, I’d be screaming right now. He cuts across three lanes of traffic, and then darts through a just-turned-red light, before flooring it onto the expressway. He barely slows down to see if there’s oncoming traffic.

As he shifts gears, his elbow bumps into mine. The jolt makes me pull my face off the glass and glance over at him. As soon as we’re barreling down the expressway, he retrieves a cell phone from his back pocket. Pete fumbles with the screen and sets it down on the console in front of him.
 

The interior of his car is all brand new supple red leather. The dashboard has multiple circular chrome dials. The car swerves a little bit, as he gets the phone in place. I tense in my seat, trying not to grab the door. Erin hates it when I do that, even though she can’t drive worth a damn. Well, that’s not exactly true. She can drive into things, like shopping carts and the guardrail on the Sagtikos Parkway. How do you hit a parkway rail? It’s not like they jump out and say BOO!
 

Pete’s voice is firm, “Siri, call Logan.”

The phone rings through the car’s sound system, breaking the silence. Yeah, I'm pretty sure Bluetooth technology didn't exist back in the 1960's. According to re-runs, the best the 1960’s had to offer for cellular technology was Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. I still want one of those.
 

After a couple of rings, we hear a resounding click. A male voice mumbles, "Mrphmph! Hello?" Whoever he is, he was obviously sleeping.

"Great. You're awake. Logan, it's Pete. Be in my quarters in forty-five minutes and bring your stuff." Wow. That was curt.

"No."
 

"It wasn't a request, Logan. Be there in forty-five and bring your equipment. I need your help with... something." Pete keeps his eyes on the road. He has a severe look on his face as he speaks. Pete clenches and relaxes his jaw repeatedly, tightening his grip on the wheel as he does it.

"Pete, I'm not your fucking house nurse. I'm not going to be at the ready 24/7 to stitch you up after each of your barroom brawls. Get your shit together, do like everyone else, and wait in line at the ER. Call me if you're dying, but don't ever wake me up again just to fix up your pretty face."

Pete’s nostrils flare like he’s losing his temper. "It's not for me, it's for someone else." Pete's eyes glance my way briefly when he says this.
 

I'm not sure I like where this is going. I don't want anyone to know about tonight. I don’t want anyone seeing me. I just wanted him to drop me off at Erin's apartment and be done with it all. I needed an escape plan and he was available. I open my mouth to interrupt their conversation, to protest, but he raises his right hand from the polished wood steering wheel, motioning for me to keep quiet. All righty then, mouth closed it is.
 

The man on the other line lets out a rush of air. "What do you mean, not for you? Jesus, Pete! Please don't tell me you knocked someone up? Keep it covered or keep it in your pants for chrissake! If you think I'm going to help you run your own private abor..."

Before the man can finish his sentence, Pete cuts him off of the sound system by placing the phone to his ear.
 

Okay, that was awkward. I bite my lip and look down at my battered hands, trying to stay in my own little bubble. Pete does have a reputation of being a lady's man. If you believe everything you read, he always has a different woman on his arm. It's a typical case of the rotten apple not falling far from the dead tree.
 

According to gossip, out of the three brothers, Sean, the oldest, is the hard-ass workaholic. Jonathan, the youngest, is the charismatic, yet impulsive fuckup. As for Pete, the middle child, well, he got his Dad's promiscuity and his Mom’s short temper. Their Dad has a constant string of mistresses that he flaunts, in front of his wife, no less. I know. I've seen it in person on various occasions. Some of these women are barely my age. Pete is just following in his Dad's footsteps, I suppose. I wouldn’t know what to do if my Dad acted that way. It probably sucked for him as a kid, always seeing his parents apart and his dad with a new woman. That doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it does offer a little insight into Pete now. People become what they see, and he wasn’t shown much of anything good. His mother is a psycho and his dad is a whore. I imagine his childhood was pretty awful.

"Logan, it's not what you think. I have someone with me and she needs help." Pete's voice is stern, and he looks at me with an odd expression I can't quite place.
 

Logan must be saying something Pete doesn't like, because the muscles in his jaw twitch and his fingers of his right hand tighten around the phone, while his left hand grips the steering wheel increasingly harder. That’s when I notice the thin white lines on his hands. Scars, old and new, marring the skin of his knuckles, proof he’s been in multiple fights.
 

"No, I didn't... we didn't." He says through clenched teeth. I can see his patience snapping away, strand by strand. He's a wild card. The other side of Pete, the fighter, is starting to show through. He looks like he wants to inflict bodily harm to whoever is on the other end of the line.
 

Eventually, he sighs and rubs his eyebrows with the fingers of one hand. His temper seems to simmer down a smidgen. "She's not like that. I—owe it to her. It's the right thing to do. Please."
 

His eyes look straight into mine as he speaks, and it's all I can do not to squirm in my seat.
 

He owes it to me? What was that about? Since when does a Ferro owe anything to anyone?
 

Maybe it was just a ploy, or maybe this is his way of apologizing for having been rude to me earlier when he invited me for a
ménage à trois
with the red head?
 

That’s doubtful. It’s something else. Pete’s dark gaze darts back to the road.

"Thanks. I owe you one. Bring whatever you would need for burns and don't mention this to anyone." Done with his call, Pete reaches over and puts the phone in the cradle in front of me. His arm brushes against mine and I'm suddenly very aware of his proximity, the heat radiating off of his body in the close quarters. I mean, the man is attractive, after all. There's a reason why women are always flocking to him.
 

I can totally see the appeal. Tall, strong, reckless, handsome, the bluest eyes ever, kissable lips...
 

He’s impossibly hot. No wonder why Erin calls him a sexy beast. Beautiful and strong. Rare combo. Too bad there are no brains in there.

“Pete, you shouldn’t take me home. In fact, you should drop me at my friend’s house.”

He laughs. “The grinder girl?” I don’t get it. He smirks. “Your friend had fun shaking her ass between two guys all night. She probably doesn’t even know there was a fire.”

“You saw who I was standing with?”

“I saw you. She was noticeable.”

That’s not the word used to describe Erin. I stare a hole in the side of his face waiting for more, but he doesn’t offer.

“Whatever. Drop me at her place. I can’t go home with you. People will talk and my parents will have you castrated. I don’t want to fend off the swarm of women hoping to have your babies, so just drive me to Erin’s.”

Pete laughs that deep chuckle of his. He glances at me quickly, amused. “I didn’t think you’d be into that.”

“Into what?”

“Your friend left with them. Odds are she’s getting nasty right now. If you walk in on that you’ll imply you’re open.”

“Open?”

“Yeah, like you’re open for business. Wrong message, Princess. Besides, everyone is asleep or passed out. Reporters can’t get on the mansion grounds, and Logan can discreetly help you with that cough and the other stuff. If you want to keep this between us, fine. Believe me, I can’t let people know I was seen with you. It’d ruin my image. You’re a fucking nun.” The corner of his mouth pulls up and he steals a glance my way.

I huff and try not to look at him. Arrogant asshole. He’s right, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. “Fine, but let me call Erin. She’s dumb enough to run into the rubble looking for me.”

“Or call your parents.” Pete smiles and shakes his head. “Stop pretending you have no motives.”

“I don’t have motives, you just don’t need to know my business. And I could have been in a four-way.” Pete smiles, but doesn’t respond. I prattle on, irritated at his assumption of my purity. I’m not a nun. I could be slutty. “For all you know, I’m a nympho and I was trolling for fresh meat.”

Pete busts a gut laughing, which immediately turns into a coughing fit. My hand flies to slap his arm, but by the time it makes contact, he’s dealing with the aftermath of the smoke. I rest my palm on his arm for a second.
 

“Sorry. Are you okay?”

His gaze drops to my hand and then trails up my arm and to my face. His eyes dart between the road and my touch. I pull away because I can’t read the look he’s giving me. Tucking my hair behind my ear, I glance at his phone.

“Can I call my friend?”

Pete keeps his eyes on the road as he considers my request. Without a word, he reaches over and I feel him brush up against me once more. That feeling is still there, that awareness of having him so close, the sense of his warmth. My fingers twitch, wanting to touch him again, just a little bit.
 

"Yes, you're safe. I'll make sure of it. What's your friend's number?"
 

I blink, not realizing that he is no longer reaching in front of me, but sitting straight behind the steering wheel once more, pushing buttons on his screen, smirking. Does he know what I was just thinking? I clear my throat and feel my face burning up. What the heck is wrong with me tonight? I shake the feeling off and give him Erin's number. The ringing comes through the sound system once more.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Erin, it's me." I try to talk as loud as I can so that she can hear me, but my voice is still fairly weak.

"Holy freaking hell! Gina! Are you okay? Where are you? I was looking all over for you! I went outside to have a smoke and then all hell broke loose. I couldn't find you outside, so I came back to my place, but you weren't here either and you weren't answering your cell and I thought you were dead and I practically crapped my pants I was so worried! Don't do that to me again, bitch!" Her voice is frantic, screeching, words coming out rapidly without a breath in between them.

"Erin, Erin! Stop! I'm ok. I made it out of the building safely." And then it hits me. I made it out of the building safely. But how? I was locked up, in a remote room, and I’m fairly certain I was unconscious. When I came to, I was outside in Pete's arms. Did he get me out? If so, why and how? How did he know to look in that tiny hidden space? He saved my life.
 

"Where are you, Gina? I'm coming to get you."

"No. Don't. I'm fine. Listen. Whatever you do, don't mention my name to anybody and stick to the original plan. I'll make sure I get back to your place... soon, and then we'll figure out what to do with my father. Just don't worry about me okay?"
 

"If you say so. Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes, Erin. I'll be just fine."
 

Erin lets out a snort, "This has been quite the night, huh?" Her voice has a bit of a smirk to it. Leave it to her to find the humor in something so horrific.

"Yes, it has." My voice is more somber than hers, and we both go silent for a while. Eventually, I hear her stretching and yawning on the other end.

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm beat and in need of a distraction. I think I may take a little trip downstairs to Ricky’s before catching some zzz's. You know, take the edge off a bit? Hey! I think I may pretend he’s Pete and think about how Ferro was driving it home tonight. Man that was hot as Hades! He can ram into me in a dark corner like that any day. You gonna picture that next time you're stuck starfishing with Dr. Missionary?"

Oh.
 

My.
 

GOD!
 

If my eyes could pop out of my skull they would. With those few words, Erin took mortification and brought it up to levels of epic proportion. I dive for the phone, wanting desperately to hang up on her and end this nightmare of a phone call, but my seat belt jams and throws me back against the seat. The impact makes me start another fit of coughing, and Pete grabs the phone before I can. I reach out and try to swat at him repeatedly, desperately trying to grab that phone. He even has the audacity to chuckle. I'm dying of embarrassment, and the man is frigging laughing!
 

"Hey. It's Erin, right? Hi, Erin. Pete Ferro, here. Just to let you know, I'll be taking
very
good care of your friend Gina. She's in extremely good hands. You don't have to worry about a thing." The way he says it, it's laced with sexual innuendos of the sexy sexual type. "Oh, and by the way, I'm glad you found me so inspiring, but there is NO substitute for the real thing. Just sayin'."
 

Pete smiles a wicked, crooked smile and hangs up, but not before I can hear Erin let out a high pitched "eeep".

NO SUBSTITUTIONS OR EXCHANGES

3:21 am

 

Pete leads us silently through the endless maze of hallways inside the Ferro mansion. The interior is stunning. I had seen the grounds before during social events, but had yet to set foot inside. I catch my reflection in an intricate gilded mirror somewhere down one of the hallways. I'm a mess. I look like a hobo. My white sleeveless blouse is tattered and stained, my hair looks like road kill and my mascara has run down my cheeks, leaving dark black streaks along my face. Pete, on the other hand, looks wonderfully rumpled and filthy. Life is so unfair. His hair is a beautiful floppy brown mess, and his soot-stained face makes him look like he's Mr. June in a sexy firefighters calendar.

He eventually stops in front of a door and turns to face me. I try to tame the wild animal that has taken refuge in my hair, and Pete just grins. I want to smack him. Jerk.

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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