Authors: H. M. Ward
his 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 © 2015 by H.M. Ward
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form.
H.M. WARD PRESS
First Edition: August 2015
he Arrangement Series is different
. How? The story is organic--and growing swiftly. Originally intended to be four serial novels, fans of the series demanded more Sean & Avery, spurring an entirely new concept: a fan-driven series. When fans ask for more, I write more.
I am astonished and humbled by the response this series has received. As the series grows, I am constantly fascinated by the requests and insights from readers. This series has sold over 10 MILLION copies! The average length of each book is 125 pages in paperback and can be read in a few hours or less.
This series intertwines with my other work, but is designed to be read independently, as a quick read between other titles.
You can join in the discussion via my Facebook page:
For a complete listing of Ferro books, look here:
& click BOOKS.
Thank you and happy reading!
y muscles twitch
, desperately trying to react. I want to run to Sean, but, in my mind, I know he’s already dead. The gunshot still rings in my ears. I know there’s nothing I can do. Rushing to him will kill us both, and still I struggle to keep my feet planted.
The shore in this spot is away from the houses. There’s no one to hear us. No help is coming. The roar of the ocean muffles the sound. My chest feels as if it’s being crushed from within. I can barely breathe.
I want those final moments with Sean. Just as I decide to rush to him, consequences be damned, more gunshots ring out. My body stiffens. The noise pierces the night sky, echoing guiltily in my ears. My stomach tries to climb into my throat, and I know the expression on my face gives away my true feelings. I’m frozen in a silent scream that won’t end.
The only thing working in my favor is uncertainty and my brother’s need to humiliate me.
Vic turns toward me, the wind blowing his shirt open, making him look like a hero rather than the deranged murderer he is. His expression is smug, so arrogantly certain of himself. His hands are casually shoved in his pockets and a triumphant smirk crawls across his lips. I can clearly read his thoughts on his face--he thinks I’m weak. He thinks he’s won.
“The Ferro family has fallen,” Vic says, projecting his voice across the beach to make sure his men can hear us as well. “By the end of the day, you’ll wish you were with them, little sis. Revenge isn’t my thing--but seeing you suffer--that I’d like to watch. Care to see the remains of your boyfriend?”
I can’t see Sean from here. They dragged him behind a dune where the shoreline curves out of sight. In my mind, I can see the sand stained with blood and Sean’s vacant eyes.
Gasping, I fall to my knees in the sand. I’m unable to wipe the horror from my face. Vic thinks it’s because his men put a set of bullets in Sean, but it’s so much more. Despair is creeping around my throat, threatening to pull me under.
Vic kicks sand at me and laughs.
His words sound like buzzing and hold no meaning. He continues with his harsh tone, but I can’t hear him. My guts feel as if they were ripped from my body. I’m fighting an internal battle and losing. My chest screams from the anguish of losing Sean. Death rips me in half, from nose to navel. I can’t hold myself upright any longer. I fall forward and gasp, trying to breathe.
The air has turned toxic. It fills my body with a poison I can’t expel. My mouth waters as my throat tightens. My stomach twists as it plummets into an unending freefall. I can’t control my reaction. It’s consuming me. Vomit creeps up my throat and I can’t hold it back any longer.
Uncontrollably, I spew my stomach contents onto the sand in front of me. When there is nothing left, I dry-heave until blood vessels pop. My vision blurs and I press my face to the sand.
Vic turns his back to me, leaving me wallowing in misery, and begins to bark orders as he walks down the beach. There are about one hundred feet between me and the dune by the shore. The wind blows the grass plants behind me. They divide the ocean from the marshes on the other side of the beach.
Angry tears roll down my cheeks. There’s nothing I can do to stop Vic, nothing I can do to fix this. Sean is gone. He’s dead. I’ll never see him again.
Every inch of me is coming undone, pulling apart seam by seam. There’s nothing left of me--my life is over.
My stomach contracts and forces up air as I wretch again. Sweat covers my skin, clinging to my face as I clutch the sand. The harder I try to grab it, the more it forces the grains between my fingers. In this moment, nothing is real; even existence is beyond my grasp.
I feel everything and nothing. The wind swirls around me, licking my glistening skin, whipping strands of hair into my eyes. They flutter there, suspended in space, frozen in time as I stare at the waves pounding against the shore. The roar of the ocean should be loud, but I don’t hear it. The cries of the seagulls sound as if they’re far away, trapped in another world.
This can’t be happening. After everything we’ve been through, it can’t end like this.
Sean was my other half. I wasn’t certain until this moment, but I am now. In a world of horrors, he was my light. It didn’t matter that he was shrouded in darkness. For some reason, he still shone brightly around me. I could see the real man--the one beneath the shadows and behind the pain--and now he’s gone.
The sky churns like my stomach, swirling clouds into an angry mess. The bottoms of the clouds are ominously dark, evil like my brother.
I sense something in Vic, something that sets my hair on end and makes my skin turn to ice. Sean thinks of himself as a monster, but he’s wrong; his actions are born of love. Sean protects his family, even when they don't notice. Vic is on a power trip and thrives on the rush. He won’t stop until every Ferro is dead, or worse.
My chest tightens with the realization of that truth.
I watch Vic’s back as he recedes and wish to God that I could hurt him. I want to claw off his face and make him scream out in agony. My rage is pent up, unfocused and building. My hands shake as I breathe in and exhale loudly. My nails dig into the sand and squeeze hard.
Body poised to launch at Vic, I push myself up slightly, intending to spring forward.
He’ll shoot me before I reach him. His men will stop me. There’s no way my hands will ever wrap around his throat, but I have to hurt him. I need to feel my nails rip that arrogant smirk off his face.
Before I can move, something grabs my ankle and pulls me backward. Sand forces its way into my mouth as I’m whipped with dune grass. I’m dragged over the dune and down the other side. A hand clamps over my mouth, stifling my scream. I can’t see who it is--they're behind me. I part my lips and bare my teeth. I’m done with this. I’m going to bite their fucking hand off.
A familiar voice whispers quickly, “If you use those K-9 fuckers on me, I’ll throw your sorry ass back to that deranged shithead.” She whirls me around but keeps her hand in place.
Mel's eyes scan the crest of the dune, her hand still clamped over my mouth. “He has one fine ass, though. Why are all the hot ones insane? Is that like a Darwinist thing? Survival of the sexiest?” Mel looks down at me and sighs. “You’re one lucky chick, you know that? I’ve been following you. If I hadn’t, well, you’d be going home with hot pants over there. I heard he’s a sick fuck, but damn.” She draws out the last word, making it multiple syllables before looking at me once more.
“Choose your poison, Avery--me or him?” She pulls her hand away from my mouth and sits back on her heels, allowing the dune to hide us from sight.
Mel’s dressed in a black sweatsuit with the hood pulled up, her hair slicked back beneath the thick fabric. Her trademark hoop earrings are missing, as is the normal bling that’s all over her fingernails.
With my heart pounding wildly, I make my choice.
Mel’s golden eyes glance around before she nods.
“Then follow me.”
y heart is
in my throat. I follow Mel blindly, unable to see in the seemingly endless darkness. Even though we’re moving parallel to Vic, we’re still too close to him to feel at ease.
I want to ask Mel where she's been, but I'm afraid of the answer. Mel is more of a sister to me than I thought possible, but Sean's claims that everyone around me was a plant echo through my head. If Amber was a cop, maybe Mel is, too. It’ll suck if she’s been lying to me this whole time.
We snake around the spot where everything went wrong. I can see Sean slumped face down in the sand, cold and expressionless.
Oh, God! His death is my fault! I press my eyes closed and try to stop the tears. I need to see right now, and big snotty sobs aren’t an option.
Mel elbows me. She presses one finger to her lips, another toward the marsh. I nod, thinking that we’re heading toward a boat or something. When Mel walks straight into the slime and reeds, I realize no one is picking us up. The water comes up to my chest as she leads me slowly through a maze of reeds.
My clothes stick to my skin and the cold water chills me until I’m numb. I like the lack of feeling; it’s familiar and comforting.
We wade through the muck, slowly, carefully, steering clear of the boat paths cut into the marsh. Nearly to the opposite shore, gunshots crack through the night from behind us. Mel freezes. We wait and listen, hearts pounding.
Mel holds up a hand, signaling for us to be still. Her eyes dart back and forth as she listens.
Birds rustle the reeds reacting to the gunshot. As they settle back in or fly away, the only thing I can hear is the hammering of my heart.
Mel’s gaze locks with mine. It’s too wide, too panicked. My lips part, ready to speak, but she shakes her head slowly.
Just then a light sweeps over our heads. Mel grabs my shirtfront and pulls me close. We sink down in the water, leaving only our noses above the waterline.
Mel presses her eyes closed and forces her breathing into a slow, steady rhythm. I’m ready to suck up swamp water and scream. The beam of light goes right over our heads again.
That’s when we hear voices.
“She couldn’t have made it far.” The irritated male voice is deep. He’s close.
The sound of water splashing fills my head. Someone is wading into the marsh. My insides twist as a scream builds inside of me. I lock my jaw and try to swallow it back.
“Do you think she’s out here?” His voice is higher, uncertain if he should wade in further.
The light sweeps over us once more, slower this time. I close my eyes and count. That scream is ready to explode. I mash my mouth together and keep counting.
The light sweeps over us, again, moving so slowly that I’m sure he sees us. The beam slices through the darkness, creating shafts of light between the reeds. There’s no way I blend in.
The beam slowly drifts to us again and holds.
Shit, shit, shit! He sees us. He has to.
Mel’s grip on me tightens. She’s completely still, barely breathing.
The light clicks off.
“Nah, the only thing left in this shit-hole is the body we put here. Come on.” Water sloshes noisily as the man makes his way out and they move on, their voices receding into the distance.