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Beautifully Damaged(119)

By:L.A. Fiore

"The women, how will we learn who they are?"

"Heidi for one and maybe she knows someone and so on. To break the silence it only takes one."

"I'll speak up," I said.

He walked over and hunched down in front of me, taking my hands into his, before he said, "I know and I'll be standing right at your side."

Lucien's voice was soft but determined when he added, "We all will."

Later, after everyone went home I took a shower and when I stepped in front of the mirror I couldn't help inspecting myself. There was a nasty bruise over my kidney, one along my ribs and a splash of purple along my jaw.

I was reaching for my robe when I saw Trace standing in the doorway but his eyes were staring at my back and, even from my distance, I saw the fury burning there.

"It looks worse than it feels."

"When I saw the bastard touching you, knowing what he intended to do to you, I lost it. You were right, Ember, I was going to kill him. As I was re-arranging his face my nightmares about losing you, that I wasn't going to be able to save you, flashed through my mind but I realized something. I don't need to save you because you, Ember Walsh, are a force of nature. You went up against that bastard and held your own. I don't want to sound condescending but I am so proud of you..." He started towards me before he whispered. "...in awe of you" he stopped just behind me as his hand lightly brushed down my arm before moving around my side to rest against my stomach "...so fucking in love with you."

I turned then and held his tender gaze. "I love you."

Trace studied me for a minute before he asked, "What are you thinking?"

"Why didn't I see it, Trace? How could I not have seen Lena for what she was?"

"Because you, like your mom, can be very trusting. I don't think that's a bad thing, Ember, as long as you have others in your life that are watching your back."

A smile touched my lips because my avenging angel was a very wise man. "Wise you are, Master Yoda." I wrapped my arms around his neck before I whispered, "Love me, Trace, I need you to touch me, hold me..." I didn't realize how much I needed his gentle, and tender touch, to obliterate the ugly memories of Dane. He understood what I was thinking, understood far better than anyone else could, as he gently pulled me closer.

"I wasn't sure that you wanted me to."

I reached up and framed his face in my hands. "I will always want you to touch me."

He gently lifted me into his arms and walked us into the bedroom. He placed me on the bed before he undressed, my eyes falling on the tattoo that rested over his heart, and then he moved, caging my body with his own, just as his mouth moved to cover mine.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Since I was ordered to rest, I found myself with an abundant amount of time on my hands. I asked Trace and my uncle for copies of the police reports for both Trace's parents' murders and my mom's accident because I was going a bit loony playing Wii and watching television all day.

We still didn't know with certainty who killed Trace's parents and I still questioned who killed my mom so I decided to use my downtime to read everything the police had gathered on both cases.

As I settled down at the desk, I flipped open the folder on Trace's parents' murders. The pictures were really gruesome: the subjects practically unrecognizable. The bodies were found in the living room, on the sofa, which was where Trace remembered his mom to have been that night when he begged her for help.

Another shot was of the kitchen. There were dirty dishes on the counter and used pans on the stove but it was the bottle of wine that caught my eye: more specifically the two glasses sitting near it. I sat for a good long time staring at that bottle and those glasses. Who the hell was Douglas drinking with because I'd bet the farm it wasn't Victoria? Was there someone else in the house that night; someone else who witnessed Douglas' depravity?

Was it Vivian and was it possible that she was the murderer? I flipped through the pages reading the notes from the lead detective, a one Vincent Gowen, and found the statements from both Charles and Vivian. They both had alibis for the night of the murders: a charity function where dozens of people had seen them. Okay, so if it wasn't Vivian in the house, and the likelihood that Douglas was sharing a romantic evening with the woman he was drugging was unlikely, then who the hell was in that house?

As I reviewed the file, there was one noticeably absent document and that was the autopsy report. In fact, there was nothing in the file that definitively identified the victims. That seemed odd to me but since the bulk of my knowledge came from crime dramas I decided to call my uncle. I reached for my cell phone and hit three; Uncle Josh answered on the second ring.