Home>>read Beautifully Damaged free online

Beautifully Damaged(14)

By:L.A. Fiore

"How often does he gamble?"

Her eyes were like green fire in response to that benign question. "Not that often."

I could tell by the way her eyes shifted that she was lying.

"Is he like that every time he loses?"

She didn't answer but then she didn't need to.

"Seriously, Lena, I think you need to really think about a relationship with him. Do you really want to get involved with a hot-headed gambler?"

"He's more than that. Yes, the gambling is unsettling but it's only a small part of who he is. I like him, I really do. Just give him a chance, you'll see."

I was not as optimistic and worse, I was concerned that Lena could so easily dismiss what I thought was a serious red flag in Todd's personality but what could I say.


Later that day my dad called and just hearing his voice lifted my spirits.

"Hey, Emmie, how's the big bad city?"

"Conquered." It was my standard, ludicrous answer.

"How's Lena?"

"She's dating a gambler, a hot-headed one at that."

"How long have they been together?"

"They just started dating."

"Gamblers are a tough lot, kiddo. Seems to me since their relationship is only in the infancy that Lena ought to pull stakes and get out of Dodge."

"My thoughts exactly but she wants to try."

"You guys still sharing a bank account?"

"Yeah, different accounts within the same account, but yeah."

"I'd move your money out, sweetheart, get your own account. Wanting to make it work with a gambler could make Lena an enabler and what a gambler needs more than anything is money."

Shit, I hadn't even thought of that.

"You're right. I'll do it first thing Monday morning."

"Emmie, I've been wanting to mention this for a while. I know you and Lena have been close since you were school girls but I think you need to look long and hard at your relationship."

"What do you mean?"

"Your shyness, as you call it? I don't think it is shyness at all baby girl because I've seen you go toe-to-toe with a team of men and hold your own. I think, if you spent less time with Lena, you might find that you aren't as shy as you think."


"She undermines you, Emmie, belittles you to make herself look better. You accepted the role as the shadow while she stood in the spotlight, and worse, she's convinced you that the shadows are where you prefer to be."

I had to take a seat because this was the very first time I was hearing that my dad wasn't a fan of Lena's.

"Why didn't you ever tell me this before?"

"I wanted you to be happy and Lena seemed to do that for you but I will admit that I pushed UofD instead of Temple because I wanted you away from her for four years. Think about your time in Newark, Emmie. You shined."

I hadn't thought of it but he was right.

"Just be careful. Lena looks out for Lena and if the time comes when you need her to have your back, I wouldn't hold my breath that she will."

I had a terrible feeling in my gut that my dad was spot on.

"I will, Dad, and thanks for the advice."

"No problem, kiddo. Be safe. I love you."

"I love you, Dad."

Chapter Three

Monday morning found me dealing with my finances. Not only did I move my money from our joint account but I also moved it into another bank. I explained to Lena that I signed up for some electronic bill pays and got a discount if I switched banks. I really hoped that Todd could move past his gambling but if not, I was relieved to know that my money would be safe.

Later that night I had to work. Clover was sponsoring another benefit, this time for battered women and children. The menu included the most popular dish in each course and cost a thousand dollars a seat.

You can imagine my shock and confusion to look up at one point in the evening and see Trace enter. I realized as I watched him that I really didn't know anything about him. What does he do for a living that he could afford the two-thousand-dollar price tag for this dinner?

He was dressed in a beautiful black suit that was clearly tailored just for him and, though he looked elegant, there was no denying the hard, muscular body under it. The suit was offset with a charcoal-colored shirt and silk tie and to say he looked exquisite wasn't being fair to him.

The woman on his arm was a stunning blonde dressed in a silver, silk sheath. Her sharp features hinted at a Slavic background.

I was filled with disappointment seeing him with her but it was a good reality check. I naively hoped that our breakfast the other night might have been the start of something but Trace didn't play the game that way and I needed to remember that.

I wasn't thrilled -- actually I was down-right annoyed that they were seated in my section but since the menu was fixed I only needed to get their drinks and bring them their meals. As I approached, Trace's head moved in my direction and then those eyes looked right up into mine.