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The Arrangement Vol. 18(7)

By:H.M. Ward

He immediately pulls away, mortified. "Oh my god. I'm so sorry."

On my knees, I look up at him. "There's nothing to be sorry for. I loved it."

Sean hesitates. "I've never fucked your face that hard before. Are you sure you're okay?"

Leaning in close, I press a kiss against the V in his legs, right in the perfect place. "I'm more than okay. I wanted it. I wanted you. I love you."

He takes my hands and lifts me, pulling me against his chest. "I love you too. I hope you feel like letting me show you how much."

I smile against his warm skin. "I'd like that."


After the shower, Sean takes me to his bed, carrying me like a bride across the room. He loves me slowly and softly until we are both sated again. Then we lie tangled together, skin on skin, on top of Sean's posh bedding. It feels like raw silk beneath my fingers. Caressing the bedspread, I slide my hand over the surface, feeling the small bumps of the natural threads beneath my finger. We're both tired and exhausted, not able to move, but not willing to sleep. This day, this week, has been unimaginable. Add to it this night, and I would've never thought this could happen, not in a million years. I'm in Sean Ferro's bed in the Ferro mansion, being cradled in his arms.

Sean's breath is warm in my ear. He's been silent for a while now. The sun has set and night has fallen. His room is absolutely still. There's no noise from trains or cars or highways. It's just him and me, his breath in my breath.

I wonder if he's contemplating what we're going to do next or if he's sated and ready to sleep. It isn't until he talks that I know. Tucking a curl behind my ear, he whispers, "Why do you always come back to me?"

I can't help it, my lips tighten up. "Why do you always feel like you have to push me away?"

I feel Sean smile behind me, as his cheek presses to my neck. "You didn't answer my question, Miss Smith"

"Ditto, Mr. Jones." Shifting, I snuggle my back into his front, and Sean holds me tighter. "I'm thinking that these may be questions that we'll never have answers to. Am I supposed to stop asking? I feel like I should know, but I don't. This doesn't even feel real. This thing between us feels like love and it scares me to death. Sometimes I want to run, but being without you-I just can't do that. Maybe love is as fragile as a snowflake, but we both know I like the cold." The memory makes me smile. It brings me back to the day in the snow, sledding with Sean. That was like today, like right now. It's surreal because I thought I'd never see that man again. I'm still not sure if things will stay the same once we leave this bed, actually I'm terrified of it ending.   


Sean runs his fingers over my curves, down my side and over my hip where he rests his hands "Yes, we know that for sure. We also know that no matter what I do, you come back. I don't know what I've done to deserve you, I feel like you must've done something horrible to deserve me-"

Turning back, I look at him. "Stop it. You keep saying things like that, you keep acting like you're beyond saving, but you are not. I know what's real and what's fake. I know you're afraid the same way I am, but is it better to be alone? I had thought so, but building up all these walls and becoming numb doesn't keep you from feeling. I still feel every bit of remorse, every pang of pain, and every bit of guilt. I thought walls would save me from that, I thought pushing people away and making myself numb was the only way I could endure, but I was wrong. Those walls, those barricades I built to keep people out-they worked. They kept people out, but they also locked me inside with all my agony. I know what that feels like, and I know you do too."

Sean presses his lips to my temple slowly and softly. His strong arms wrap around me, holding me tightly. My heart beats faster and faster as the moments pass. He says nothing. I don't know if I've guessed wrong, if only I feel that way and he doesn't, or if he's regretting this intimacy with me-but Sean's silence is unnerving. I could speak and break it, I could pass over it like the comments meant nothing, like they were meant in jest, but they weren't.

When I feel his lips part, I have no idea what he is going to say. "I don't like admitting this part but I made a mistake, Avery. Some mistakes can't be undone. I've been festering in anguish and blaming myself for Amanda, for losing everything that was important to me, for not being there for Peter, for bailing on Jon. I've lost them, Avery. And the thing is, I can't bear to lose you too. Whenever that thought surfaces I raise my guard and push you away. It's the only way I knew how to survive. No one's come back, except you. I've never broken a promise to my mother before. I know it seems like a strange thing to say in the middle of a conversation when the most beautiful woman in the world is lying naked next to me, but I swore you'd be gone and here you are."

"So, how are you going to get rid of me? Because the box thing didn't work." I smile and shiver at the same time. Sean notices and rubs my arms chasing the chill away.

"Well, I planned on arranging your marriage to someone I can't stand to make sure we didn't see too much of each other and to satisfy my mother, but the main reason I was doing it was to keep you safe." Sean's grip around my waist tightens. "Trystan's staff, his security team, is older than mine and less likely to have been tampered with by any of the Ferro's. Unlike our security team that's obviously been tampered with. That guy Bob, that mountain of a man that Trystan always has around, I know he can watch out for both of you in a way that I can't. It seemed to me that his lifestyle would suit you better and that you would be better protected. As it is, I'm having to go back through all the employees that we've had to see which ones were tainted, and speculate who ruined them. My pilot for example, no one should have been able to corrupt him, but someone did. You're safer with Trystan."

This part frightens me. He's serious when he says these things, when he thinks he can marry me off as if that would solve everything. "I'm not marrying Trystan. If there's a wedding, there's only one man I want to marry and he's behind me, holding me tight. Besides the man gunning for me is dead. You have the papers they want, so the power vacuum is gone. You won and we can be together. I'm not totally naïve Sean, I know what this means, what you are going to do. I've made decisions that I thought I would never make, and I did things that I thought I would never do, and all in the name of survival. If this is what you need to do to survive, I'm with you, and by your side."

I feel Sean move his jaw before he finally speaks. "You don't know what you're agreeing to, you don't know what you're offering. There are things that I can't say within these walls, but would make your blood run cold. I've come back covered in blood, I've done things that I can't confess, things that weigh heavily on my heart-things that have destroyed my soul. That's not the life I want for you, but that is my life, this is my life, and there's no way out." Sean kisses the back of my neck before he pushes away.

He swings his feet over the side of the mattress and stands up before walking over to one of the massive windows. He stands there for a moment and then pulls back the drapes. Sean stares through the glass at the moonlight and the tall cypress trees that line the front drive. The reflecting pools in the gardens outside make his face glow softly.   


As I watch him, I wonder what he's done and why he thinks he can't be redeemed. I roll on my side and prop my head up with my hand, looking at him, I ask, "What if we did it together? What if we took over Campone's investments together? I can keep you from falling off the cliff and you can do the same for me. It would protect your brothers, and shove your mother out of the middle. I don't think we can take all of his endeavors," I smile, confessing that I don't know exactly what Campone was running, unless you consider bribery, drugs, prostitution and that sort of thing as properties in normal investments, "and make them into something good. I can't stand Miss Black, but if I hadn't found that job, I would've been homeless. I had no other options. Sean, prostitution is legal in some states, and there's a reason for it. It's one of the oldest businesses in the world, right?" Did I just say that? Sean turns slowly, dropping the draperies. I wink at him.

Sean presses his lips together forming a tight seam. His blue eyes drop to the carpet as he walks over to the bed and sits down on the side. His gaze lowers to my hand, which he lifts, taking it in his own, and presses it to his lips. "If only it were that simple. This is blood money, Avery. The entire company runs on fear and is fueled by blood. There is no good in it, there's only power. That's why my mother wants it so badly. If she can own everything that Campone had, then she will be unstoppable. Wealth, power, dirty secrets. In short, she'll own every wealthy family in New York. That legacy will be passed on to Jon, and I can't let that happen. I failed them once, I am not doing it again. That's why I need to get there first. I don't want Peter, Jon-or hell-even Hallie, dragged back here. The only way to make sure that doesn't happen is if I'm the point man."

"I understand what you're saying, and I'm saying you don't have to do it alone."

"This is a slippery slope, Avery. I can't let you step onto it."

I laugh at that. Leaning closely, I place a finger on his cheek, saying, "Don't give me the morality speech, not from you. Besides, I don't believe that crap. People can choose to be good and people can choose to be bad. Good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things. No one is intrinsically anything. Besides, from what you just said, you want to make sure you're the one with the power to save your brothers and the people they care about. That doesn't sound bad to me." I touch his shoulder, leaving my hand there, feeling the strong, firm muscles beneath my grip.