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Beautifully Damaged(118)

By:L.A. Fiore

"I'll dream of you..." I looked up at him and smiled before I added, "...and cake-pops."

A few days after the attack I went to my old apartment building. I had a few days to stew on Lena and how her need to build herself up by putting me down put me on Dane's radar. Yes, Trace's humiliation of Dane fueled him but it was Lena who put that animal on my scent to begin with and that was not something I was going to forgive or forget. Trace was with me as we walked up the familiar stairway to my old apartment and knocked as we reached the door. Lena pulled it open and surprise crossed over her face before quickly being replaced with disgust and what looked like pity.

"I see your man has some anger-management issues." Lena sneered as she leaned up against the doorjamb. Trace tensed at my side as he realized that Lena thought he was to blame for my battered condition. I reached for his hand and squeezed never averting my eyes from Lena's.

"This is the handiwork of Dane Carmichael."

I could tell she didn't believe me so I continued on.

"He had some interesting things to say about you." I cocked my hip before I said, "Getting on your knees in a public restroom, Lena, my how you've hit rock bottom."

The sneer dropped from her expression as her face paled.

"Yes, Lena, I'm speaking the truth. It was your insecurity and spitefulness that put me in the crosshairs of a sociopath. I've only one thing to say about that."

I curled my hand into a fist and planted it right in the middle of her face, the sound of her nose breaking pulled a smile on mine. My hand hurt like a mother but, oh, it was good pain. Lena stumbled backwards before falling on her ass. She was holding her nose as the blood just poured out.

"You're bleeding everywhere, Lena."

It wasn't disgust but fear looking back at me just as Trace offered in admiration, "Nicely done, slugger."

I spared him a glance. "Thanks, love."

I hunched down in front of Lena and looked her right in the eyes."We done here?"

She averted her eyes as she nodded her head. I stood and started for the door but offered from over my shoulder, "I don't want to have this conversation again."

Trace took my throbbing hand and brushed his lips over it before he reached for my good hand as we started down the hall. We didn't get far before Trace looked down at me with a big grin on his face.

"What's that look for?"

"You've got style, Ember, and as far as exits -- that was pretty fucking awesome."

My grin was wicked and razor-sharp when I offered, "All those hours of movie watching does come in handy."

Trace's laughter echoed down the hallway.

That night, Trace, Lucien, Rafe and I sat in Trace's kitchen. I noticed that Lucien had a black eye so I asked, "Lucien what happened?"

He looked nervous as a slight blush tinted his cheeks.

"Are you blushing?"

Trace and Rafe were laughing as Lucien lifted his eyes to mine. "You got one in on one, Ember."

"What?" And then I had my revelation.

"...in the alley. Lucien I'm so sorry."

His eyes turned hard before he said, "Don't apologize, you thought you were fighting off that motherfucker."

I stood, walked over and wrapped my arms around him. He didn't hesitate to pull me close. Memories of Sabrina were no doubt swirling around his head and until Dane was in prison, or six feet under, he was going to be haunted by his past just as Trace had been.

"We won't stop, Lucien, until he is stopped."

He pulled back and touched my cheek with his finger before he whispered, "Agreed."

He led me back to my chair before my eyes turned to Trace who was leaning up against the counter.

"What are we going to do about Dane?"

"He's untouchable in New York, we have to change that. We need someone with enough political clout and money to really start putting pressure on the Carmichael family."

"Your uncle," I said.

"Yeah. Based on what we know of the exalted Carmichael clan the one characteristic they all have in common is self-preservation. Dane is a wild card at best, a liability at worst, and I don't see the family going down because of him. I think if enough pressure is applied, they'll cast him out and when he's no longer protected under the Carmichael name, he's fair game."

"As far as the family, I agree with Lucien, they should be held accountable for allowing that animal loose. I do believe your friend Caroline would just love to sink her teeth into a story like this, not to mention your contacts at The New York Times. The power of the media to sway popular opinion, to reach out and touch the masses, it's extraordinary I think."

"We get a few women to step forward about their abuse, about what they remember and it could be the beginning of the end for the Carmichael empire."