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Beautifully Damaged(125)

By:L.A. Fiore

Trace, who had remained completely frozen, suddenly stood and reached his hand down to me.

"I would like to go see my mom. Would you please come with me?"

I stood and took his hand. "Absolutely."

I drove my uncle's car, since Trace really wasn't up to driving, and when we arrived at the bar in Ramsey I turned to him.

"Do you want me to stay here?"

"No, please come in with me."

Five minutes passed but Trace made no move to leave the car so I turned in my seat to face him.

"Tell me what you're thinking?"

He was silent for a minute, and I didn't think he was going to answer, and then he offered very softly, "There's so much going on in my head but the only thing I can seem to focus on is that my mom is alive."

He turned then as tears filled his eyes.

"She's not just alive, Trace, but she fought for you and was the one who ultimately saved you."

He moved then, with such speed, to pull me across the gear shift into his arms and when he spoke his voice was hoarse from unshed tears. "No, Ember, she made sure that Chelsea and I were safe but it was you, Ember, who saved me."

I felt my own tears stinging my eyes and not just because of the conviction in his tone but also from the magnitude of his love for me that was burning in his eyes. He wrapped my face in his hands as his lips lingered just over mine. "Never, ever forget that."

I walked with Trace into the bar and as soon as we stepped over the threshold, I spotted Victoria. It took her only a moment to turn and when she did, her expression said it all. Trace had yet to let go of my hand and, when he started to walk, I realized that he wanted me to come with him. We met her halfway and I watched as mother and son were reunited after over a decade of separation. I couldn't help the tears that fell freely down my face when Trace moved without speaking a word and wrapped his strong arms around the delicate frame of his mother. She, in turn, wrapped her arms around him, both of them crying. Trace reached for my arm and pulled me towards them as they both included me in the hug and there we stood for quite some time.

Chapter Thirty-Two

The day before my wedding, I was in my room getting ready for the rehearsal dinner as my thoughts drifted back to the reunion   between Chelsea and Victoria. After our near Guinness record-breaking group-hug, Trace and I sat with Victoria for almost five hours talking. It had been heartbreaking to witness the pain in Victoria's eyes as Trace recounted the events leading up to the accident and Chelsea's condition. Like mother like son, Victoria blamed herself while fervently telling Trace that he was not at fault. None of it mattered when the two women actually met and though thirteen years had passed, the bond between mother and daughter was still there. In the two weeks since, the three of them had gotten to know each other and had become a family reconnected.

There was also the moment when my dad and uncle got to meet the woman who, among many things, avenged my mother's death. Needless to say, the three of them came to be like Manny, Moe and Jack. In Fishtown, among our families' close circle of friends, Victoria Michaels was a local hero and with none of the Moore family in the area any longer, her secret identity was safe.

With all that was happening, I decided to wait until after the wedding to give my gift to Trace but I found myself to be almost as excited for that as I had been for the actual ceremony.

"Ember, come down here."

My dad sounded odd so I hurried down the stairs to find him, my uncle, Trace, Lucien, Rafe and Trent standing in the living room looking at the television.

"What's wrong?"

Trace looked up and his eyes moved from my head to my toes and back again. He clearly liked my hot-pink bandage gown as a wicked smile curved his lips.


I threw him a saucy smile as he moved to pull me to him so he could get his hands on me, roaming in a manner that was not appropriate in front of his soon-to-be father-in-law.

"Stop it, you wicked man," I whispered.

"Make me," he growled before he bit my ear.

I blushed, he laughed, and then my father's voice pulled both of our attentions.

"An ethics committee has been convened to review the case files on two of the Carmichaels, the judge and the DA."

"I wonder what prompted that?" I asked.

Lucien's voice was so very soft when he said, "It's only the beginning. The Carmichael empire is going to crumble. I won't stop until they're all ruined." I turned to Lucien just as Trace placed his hand on Lucien's shoulder. "We won't stop."

"Damn straight," My Dad and Uncle Josh said in unison.

The sun was shining and the chapel was filled. I stood in the small room designated for the bride as I studied myself in the full-length mirror. My gown of white was of embellished lace on tulle with a sweetheart neckline, halter straps, and fitted bodice with a flared skirt. My hair was twisted up and I wore a cathedral-length veil trimmed in beads. The only jewelry I wore were the earrings from my dad and Trace's ring.