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Beautifully Damaged(13)

By:L.A. Fiore

He sat back and grinned.

"I'm a big boy."

That comment had my eyes unconsciously looking over his most excellent form and I had to agree with him but he was no boy, oh no. He was most definitely one hundred percent man. When my eyes returned to his he was silently studying me before he asked, "So what are your interests outside of music?"

"I love reading. I like being transported to another place, to live a day in a life of someone else."

He smiled before he asked, "What do you like to read?"

"I'm making my way through the classics; currently I'm reading Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre."

"I'm sorry I missed you this evening. What did you sing?"

"I didn't sing because I didn't drink enough alcohol so I accompanied Trent on the piano."

"Didn't drink enough alcohol?"

"I'm shy so find without the benefit of alcohol I'm too nervous to get up in front of a room filled with people and sing."

"That's a shame because you've a beautiful voice, Ember."

I felt like a peacock, at the compliment, and wanted to preen with pleasure but was pulled from that temptation when Trace added, "Sorry I missed you play. How long have you played the piano?"

"Since I was a little girl. I was raised by a single parent and though my dad taught me all kinds of useful skills none of them were considered typical female skills so he enrolled me in piano lessons. As it happened, I was a quick study."

"Is Trent your boyfriend?" Chills went down my spine at this question and it was probably just my imagination but he seemed very interested in my answer.

"No, he's just a friend. We met at work and discovered we both have an interest in music."

"Where do you work?"


I noticed that something flickered in his eyes -- a reaction it seemed -- but then he changed the subject.

"You're not a local." He wasn't asking.

"No, I grew up in Fishtown, a tight community in Philly, went to school at UofD and moved here last summer."

"Why New York City?"

"I'm an aspiring writer, thought this was the place to be."

"And were you right?"

"Yes, I like it here. What about you, Trace, what do you do?"

He seemed to hesitate for a moment before he offered, "I'm an amateur fighter."

That certainly explained the bruises and his quick hands. I waited for him to offer more but he didn't. Instead he leaned over and took a lock of my hair between his thumb and forefinger as his eyes held mine before he said, "I'm glad we met up tonight."

"Me, too."

Trace brought me home at seven in the morning and I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes opened. I thought he was just going to drop me off but, no, he parked his bike at the curb and walked me to my door.

"I really had fun tonight, thank you." I said.

"So did I."

I wanted him to kiss me, almost puckered up, but then he took a step away from me as he pushed his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. I had the sense he did so to prevent himself from touching me but I so wanted him to touch me. Everywhere.

"Goodnight, Ember."

"Goodnight, Trace."

I walked inside and turned as a smile touched my lips. I closed the door behind me and though I couldn't see him, somehow I knew he stayed there until he heard the lock click into place.

I climbed the stairs to my apartment and walked right into a heated argument between Lena and Todd. Todd saw me and hissed through his teeth as he stormed past me.

"Are you okay, Lena?"

Her green eyes looked up into mine and she looked angry with me. For what, coming home? Being seven in the morning, I think I gave them the apartment for long enough.

"I'm fine. I'm going to bed."

And then she, too, stormed off.

I slept until two in the afternoon and was less than eager to leave my bedroom. I could tell from the movement in the other room that Lena was home, possibly Todd as well, but there was no point in delaying the inevitable. I climbed from bed and made my way to the bathroom. A little while later, I entered the kitchen to find Lena sitting at the table with a cup of cooling coffee sitting in front of her. She was looking out the window so lost in thought that she didn't even hear me enter.

"Hello, Lena."

Her head jerked in my direction before she stood and walked around the table to wrap me in her arms.

"I am so sorry that I've been such a bitch, Ember."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Todd was drunk and upset over losing a big bet."

"A bet?"

"Yeah, you know: poker, pool, ponies. He likes to gamble."

...and apparently Todd hated to lose and was just setting himself up to fail since the odds were stacked against you in gambling.