Read Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 Online

Authors: H.M. Ward

Tags: #New Adult Romance

Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 (7 page)

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
11.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

When he opens the door and leads me in, I stop in my tracks. It's a massive bathroom equipped with a gigantic shower of polished white stone, and an exquisite bath. After the night I've had, my body is aching to crawl into it and soak for hours. As with everything in this place, the tub is huge. It could easily sit four people very comfortably. I try not to think about how many people he's actually been able to entertain in it. In fact, I'm trying so very hard not to think about how I'm in an opulent bathroom with a beautiful man who is not my boyfriend and who is probably considering entertaining me in here as well. After the phone call fiasco with Erin, who knows what's going on in this guy's head? What the hell am I doing here?

Pete takes out not one, but two folded bundles from the cabinet and hands them to me.

My stomach is twisting in knots and I’m exhausted. Our fingers touch very briefly, and the caress is to die for. Instantly I blurt out, "I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!" I cringe as soon as the words come out. Oh yeah, I'm so smooth.

Pete lets out a laugh and shakes his head before saying teasingly, "Yes, and your friend Erin speaks very highly of him. Actually, I was thinking that maybe you would like to freshen up a bit before Logan gets here." After I shoot him a panicked look that is the equivalent of screaming
I'm not into gang bangs
, he laughs and explains, "He's a doctor and my cousin, I trust him. The least I can do is make sure you get some help before I send you on home, and he's promised not to say anything to anyone."

Okay, so now I feel like a moron. I automatically jump to the conclusion that he wants to jump me when all he’s trying to do is help me. I need a nap and a new brain.

Pete points to the shower adding, "You should find everything you need in there. Will you be okay on your own?" His voice is no longer teasing, so I know he's not offering to give me a sponge bath. He adopts a sense of reverence, like I’m untouchable, too respectable to be looked at. I don’t like it.

Maybe I’m reading him wrong. I can’t tell.

"I should be fine. I'm feeling better than I was earlier, but thank you for your concern." My voice catches when I start to talk, but I quickly recover.

Pete offers a friendly nod. "All right. I'll be back soon, then." He turns away towards the door, but hesitates before leaving. After scanning my body up and down, then moistening his bottom lip with the tip of his tongue, he flashes a salacious grin and gives me a wink. "Are you sure you don’t need any help? You're not the only one who needs a little... cleaning up and I’m very thorough. Maybe we can help each other feel… refreshed." With that, he removes his shirt slowly, as if he was a male stripper, slowly teasing it up over his head.

“Omigod! Get out!” Before he has time to take a step closer, he gets hit in the face with one of the towels he handed me.

Taking the hint, Pete laughs and leaves the room, closing the door behind him. I'm left alone, holding the other white fluffy towel, with thoughts of him... naked, wet and covered in suds. A smile tugs at my lips. What an idiot. He’s teasing me and seems to like it. I’m sure he knows he’ll get a rise out of me.

My mind strays back to Anthony. There’s no playful banter between us, nothing like this. It’s safe to assume Pete doesn’t like me that way, but he likes taunting me. I’m nun material, not something he wants to nail to the wall.

He’s just being nice. There’s nothing weird about this, but it feels weird. I shove the thoughts aside, strip and kick my clothes toward the door. The thought of putting them back on and smelling like a smoked pig again isn’t appealing. As the steamy water hits my face, I grab a bottle of body wash. After squeezing it into my palm, the scent hits me. Holy shit, it’s Pete Ferro in a bottle. I glance at it, wondering what it is, but it’s not a name brand and the label is in Italian. Maybe he patented it, “Ferro Wash, for all your dirty parts.” I laugh at my fake slogan and shut off the shower.

Feeling more like a human being, I step out of the shower and gently towel off, making sure not to aggravate any wounds. After a very unladylike session of coughing up crap from my lungs, I reach for my clothes, but they are gone. In their place is a white fluffy robe, the Ferro family crest embroidered on the left breast.

The fact that someone came into the bathroom while I was in the shower doesn't go unnoticed. I pull on the robe, wrapping myself in its soft white fluffiness, and tie the belt tightly around my waist. Thanks to the person who took off with my clothes, I'm going commando and feeling more than a bit self-conscious.

After untangling my long brown hair with my fingers, I step into the corridor, barefoot. Pete is waiting for me, leaning against a wall, reading a book with a pen clamped between his teeth. He's ditched his clothes from earlier, and is now wearing a pair of dark blue lounge pants and a white V-neck shirt that clings to his muscular chest. His hair is wet and slicked back. Of course, he looks freshly showered and ready for bed. Pete’s scent fills the air, and my stomach dips with the realization that we smell alike. It implies something intimate happened, even though it’s not like that.

When Pete sees me approach, he smiles and closes his book, placing the pen inside to mark his page and tucking it under his arm. To my surprise, he extends a hand, "Hi, I'm Pete Ferro. Pleased to meet you. And you are?" His eyes have a bit of a gleam and the corner of his mouth lifts on one side, offering a friendly smile.

"Where are my clothes?" Yeah, I'm not going to win the prize for Miss Congeniality this year. Despite his attempt at friendly chitchat, I'm feeling very vulnerable, not to mention drafty in the nether regions.

I want my clothes.

Maybe Pete is one of those creepers who keeps trophies from each conquest. Maybe he has drawers full of women’s underwear and mine are the new addition? They’d be smokin’ hot. Bad pun. I’m too tired. My mind turns to pun pudding after two in the morning.

Pete's smile turns mischievous, and he takes another step forward. That scent fills the air between us. A coy look crosses his face, like he knows what I’m thinking, and how nervous he makes me.

"I've sent them to be laundered. They'll be brought back to you when they are ready. However,” he walks slowly around me, and I can feel his eyes appraising me up and down, “I like this look on you much better. Less hassle.”

He flicks a finger at the neckline of my robe, and I clutch it tightly to keep it shut. Gone is the man who was taking care of me before, and I am now confronted with the playboy the tabloids love to write about. This is the man who constantly tries to bed women, and he’s not looking at me like I’m his little sister anymore. I swallow hard, feeling the sting in my throat, and step back.

Pete steps toward me, closing the space, and extends his hand once more, “Now, seeing that we got off on an unusual start, let me do this again. Pete Ferro, and you are?"

I tentatively place my hand in his, and he gives it a bit of a gentle squeeze. Despite his smugness, he's being careful not to hurt me. “Gina Granz."

He hums to himself once and releases my hand. We continue our trek through the mansion, me in a robe, Pete in his pajamas. He leads us into what appears to be a study, and stands in the doorway, letting me go in first.

"Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. I'll be right back." He motions towards a dark leather couch in the center of the room.

Make myself comfortable? I’m not naïve, I’ve seen movies. When a man asks a woman to make herself comfortable, it usually involves lingerie and a sexy pose that feels ridiculous.

“I meant, have a seat and relax. Damn, are you always this uptight?”

My jaw drops. “Are you always so rude?”

“No, it’s only after saving women who drown themselves in my body wash so they can secretly take me home with them.” The corners of his mouth twitch like he wants to smile. “Do we have a little crush, Miss Granz?”

“You wish. I’d rather smell like smoke than you. I didn’t realize what it was until I already dumped it out.”

His face drops. “You poured my soap down the drain?”

I can’t help it, I grin. What’s with him and this magical cologne? “Maybe,” I lie. “Was it infused with your body oil or something?”

“You can’t dump it down the drain! That stuff was like $800 for a little bottle!” He glances back at the bathroom with a forlorn expression on his lips. Is he pouting? I let him suffer for a second longer, then let him off the hook.

“I’m not crazy, Pete. I didn’t trash your stash of metrosexual products.”

“I’m not a metro.” I lift my eyebrows and fold my arms over my chest, making his eyes lower for a second, before meeting my gaze.

“Then what’s with the soap and the custom stuff?”

He grins a little bit, like he’s totally busted, and turns his back on me. “A guy just likes certain things, that’s all. I had that scent made for me in this little shop in Venice.”

“To woo a woman through her nose.”

He grins. “Maybe.” Something’s changed in those moments. The lightness of the moment took away everything else and it felt like he was a real person, not the fist-flinging Ferro depicted on the television. “Like I said, have a seat, and don’t worry, Gina, I won’t bite.” He says it with a friendly and reassuring tone, easing my nerves somewhat, but adds, “Not unless you ask me to.”

He waggles his eyebrows as he disappears through the same door we came in.

The smell of new leather and old books fills the air. Wooden shelves line the walls, and there's a massive mahogany desk at the far end of the room. I pad over to the couch and take a seat, making sure the robe is tightly tucked around my legs. Tapping the tips of my sore fingers nervously on my knees, I look around and spot a pile of books on the side table next to me. Curiosity gets the better of me. I pick up the pile and stare at the authors, slightly amazed.

They're all famous poets.

The pages all have scribbled bits of paper sticking out of them, as if the reader was taking massive amounts of notes while reading. This can’t be his. Pete likes poetry?

Just as he comes back into the room, I put the books down and readjust my robe, making sure no bits are showing. He is followed by a tall man, who must be his cousin Logan. The family resemblance is noticeable. He's carrying a large duffle bag, which he sets down beside me. Holding out a hand, he introduces himself as Dr. Ferro.

Logan carries himself with all the professionalism you would expect from a doctor. He is gentle, yet efficient, tending to the burns and splinters on my hands, then the scrapes on my legs, never pushing for more information than I am willing to give. He takes the time to listen to my breathing and check my vital signs. When he places a small clamp with a red light on the tip of my finger he explains that it's to check the oxygen levels in my blood. I stifle a giggle. I'd love to wave it in his face and say "E.T. phone home!" but I resist the urge. I don't want him admitting me to the hospital for brain damage or oxygen deprivation.

Pete sits at his desk, pretending to read, but I can tell he's watching us intently, rubbing his bottom lip with his index finger. I feel his eyes on me and can't help but wonder what’s going on in his head. This man is a mystery. He’s been genuinely gentle and caring. The look of concern is unmistakable in his eyes, yet he’s also being a douche, constantly throwing seductive comments at me. It’s done lightly—teasingly, like he knows he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting between my legs.

Before he leaves, Logan tells me how to take care of my wounds and what symptoms to look for in case smoke inhalation causes any trouble. He even goes so far as to suggest that Pete keep an eye on me for the next couple of hours, to make sure my condition doesn't deteriorate. With a slap on the back and a handshake, Pete thanks his cousin and shows him out the door. We are alone once more.

Wordlessly, Pete takes a seat at his desk and resumes his reading, as if I'm not here. This man is bipolar or tripolar or how many other poles a personality can have. Wanting to break the uncomfortable silence, I walk over to his desk and lean against it. He raises his eyes towards me, above the pages of the book, but still doesn't say anything.

I'm still very much on edge from everything that's happened tonight. I don't have patience for his moody silent treatment. "So, what now?"

Pete closes his book, puts it down on his desk and, leaning back in his chair, puts both hands behind his head. "Now, we wait for your clothes to be ready and I drive you wherever you want to go. Unless you'd rather leave in that?"

Subtlety is not his thing, and he overtly checks out my attire. I bring my hands to the front of the robe, frowning, as I clutch the bottom and top firmly closed. "That's what I figured. Until your clothes are ready, feel free to rest on the couch or grab a book.” He sits up straight in his chair, arms folded across his chest, giving me a look that makes me nervous. “Unless you had anything
in mind to help pass the time?"

Cocking my head to the side, I smirk and answer, “As tempting as that sounds, I do have standards, oh and that thing, what's it called again?” I tap my finger on my bottom lip, as if I’m trying to remember something. “Oh yeah, morals. I have a boyfriend, remember? I’m not having sex with you." I shrug a shoulder at him, trying to look as smug as I can.

He gets up from his chair and saunters over to my side of the desk, putting me more on edge. Maybe taunting him wasn’t such a good idea after all. With the desk acting as a physical barrier between us, it was so much easier to put up a strong front and he knows this. Well, if he thinks he can break me with his sexy self-assured walk, his perfectly toned muscles and his beautifully tempting smile, he has another thing coming.

Pete rubs the stubble on his jaw with the back of one hand. “Yes, well, according to your friend on the phone, it seems that your boyfriend may be lacking in some areas.” His lips curve into a presumptuous expression that I want to smack off of his face. Okay, so first thing tomorrow morning, I’m killing Erin for that starfishing comment she made on the phone!

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
11.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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