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Beautifully Damaged(11)

By:L.A. Fiore

I made no attempt to move though since I wasn't quite certain my legs were going to carry me. He smiled, as he rested his hands on my shoulders, and turned me towards the entrance as his head lowered so his lips could brush over my ear. That action had delicious little chills skirting down my spine.

"You have to put one foot in front of the other, sweetheart." And then he pressed a kiss just above my ear and gave me a gentle push forward. I was in a state of overload so found myself doing exactly as he had suggested and just put one foot in front of the other.

I woke in the morning and wanted to remove my head. Oh man, I felt like crap. I was tempted to pull the covers up over my head and sleep the day away but I knew once I started my run I'd feel worlds better. I dragged myself from bed, hastily dressed and left the apartment. When I reached the Gapstow Bridge my feet just stopped because Trace was there, waiting for me. Of all the days the man could have joined me he picked the day when I felt like something the dog dragged in. He turned in my direction as his eyes found mine. A smile touched his lips as he started over to me.

"How are you feeling today, Ember?"

...like shit, actually. There was a constant pounding behind my eyes and I was a bit off balance but the run would help detox me of the alcohol still lingering in my system.

"I've been better." I think it was the lingering alcohol that had me ask, "Why are you joining me this morning?"

"I suspected that you could probably use the moral support today."

"How did you know I would come today?"

"You strike me as a person who doesn't give up easily."

How did he know that about me? I wondered as I heard myself reply absently, "You're right."

"You don't mind, do you?"

I was more than likely hallucinating this entire conversation but there was an edge to his voice, as if he was truly concerned that I didn't want him here. I've only thought of him every day since we met. Hell, I was even willing to stalk the man. I held his gaze before I replied with stunning frankness, "I was following you the other day."

Heat flashed in his eyes before he offered, "I know."

"You're under my skin, Trace." He said nothing to that but the look in his eyes had my toes curling. Somehow I held that heated stare as I offered, "I've been hoping you'd take me up on my invitation."

Though I was being uncharacteristically open, I lowered my head since I was still mildly embarrassed. He touched my chin with his finger and lifted my gaze to his.

"I've wanted to."

I just stared at him trying to understand his words. He wanted to, so what stopped him? I was so tempted to ask but I chickened out. We warmed up in silence, and ran the five miles with Trace keeping pace with me.

While we warmed down he said, "Are you going for your coffee?"


"Do you mind if I join you?"

"I'd like that."

We started along and I couldn't help looking at him from the corner of my eye. He really was amazing and the fact that he was here, with me, made my heart skip. I was pulled from my crushing when his voice filled the silence.

"There's a club that I thought you and your friend might enjoy. It's called Nocturne and it's in the Village. They have open-mic night every night."

I turned my head to him and smiled. "We'll have to check it out."

"If you do decide to go, would you give me a call? I'd like to hear you perform again."

A wicked thrill skirted down my spine at the look in Trace's eyes. How I managed to retrieve my cell phone for his number without fumbling it, I didn't know. My voice was barely a whisper when I replied, "I will."

We reached Starbucks and he held the door for me, offered a smile and said, "See you, Ember." Then he was gone.

I called Trace three nights later and left him a message that Trent and I were heading to Nocturne. I stood at the bar with Trent and found myself constantly looking towards the door.

I'd had a few days to think on Trace's request that I call him, and I couldn't lie, I was surprised by it. Trace had a reputation for being a player but in his interactions with me he was a complete gentleman. I knew he slept around; it was obvious from the looks the ladies gave him, but he didn't sleep with that beauty from Starbucks. He didn't linger over a woman and yet I'd seen him a few times and he still seemed interested in seeing more of me. He was a walking contradiction and since I was already enthralled with him, this contrary behavior only made me more so. I was pulled from my thoughts when Trent reached for my hand.

"We're up."

I wasn't up to singing since I didn't want to indulge in alcohol again, so I was going to accompany Trent's most excellent guitar skills. I settled behind the piano and I lost myself in the music as soon as my fingers touched the ivories.