Home>>read Beautifully Damaged free online

Beautifully Damaged(16)

By:L.A. Fiore

I was having a moment fantasizing about cake on a stick and wasn't paying close enough attention to my surroundings. I was startled when I heard someone screaming and by the time I realized they were screaming at me it was too late. I pulled my focus back just in time to have a head-on collision with a beast of a dog as we tumbled to the ground, our limbs flying everywhere. I attempted to draw breath into my lungs as the dog righted himself looming over my prone position. He then started licking me with his huge, wet, pink tongue. Fabulous. I turned my head to avoid the tongue and that's when I saw two pairs of black, scruffy boots. I followed the legs attached to those boots and had a moment of clarity before my eyes eventually settled onto steel-blue ones.

I stared for a moment at Trace, who was grinning down at me, before I turned my eyes to his friend, and, honestly, what the hell was in the water? Long black hair framed a face of sheer beauty as eyes, which were green as summer grass, looked down at me in humor. I closed mine and willed the ground to open up and swallow me but when I peeled my eyes open they were still standing there, grinning. And then Trace reached his hand down to me.

I couldn't help the little thrill that worked through me since Trace knew I ran this route every morning. This meeting was not a coincidence. And what did that mean?


I accepted his offered hand as he helped me to stand. The dog was sitting at the other man's side, as perfect as you please. I couldn't help the glare I gave the dog which only made Trace's friend laugh out loud before he held his hand out to me.

"Rafe McKenzie. Thanks for stopping my dog, even if your method was somewhat unconventional."

I narrowed my eyes and had to suppress the urge to stick my tongue out at him. "Ember Walsh, and I was more than happy to play speed bump but you really should pay better attention to your dog."

"He rarely runs off."

"Really? So today's an exception."

I saw his look of confusion just as Trace started to laugh which had Rafe looking down only to realize that his dog was gone, again.

"Damn it." We all looked to see as the large black blob ran down the path in the distance. When I was younger my part-time job was walking dogs and I had learned the voice of which the four-legged fur-balls were most receptive.

"What's his name?" I asked.


I put my fingers in my mouth and blew a loud whistle which caught Loki's attention making him stop so he could turn in the direction of the sound. In a commanding voice, I called, "LOKI, COME!"

Like magic the dog trotted back to us, stopping just in front of me. I rubbed his head before reaching for his leash.

"Good come, Loki."

My eyes turned to Rafe to find him silently studying me. I handed him the leash as I smiled and spoke to him as if I was talking to a five-year-old.

"You want to hold on to that really tightly."

He was expressionless for a moment and then he threw his head back and howled with laughter before he turned to Trace.

"I like her."

I smiled. "It was nice to meet you, Rafe." I moved my eyes to the dog and rubbed his head. "Loki, be a good boy." When my eyes found Trace it was to find him watching me with an expression that looked remarkably like affection.

"Nice to see you again, Trace."

He reached out and touched his finger to my cheek before running it down along my jaw as he whispered, "Thank you, Ember."

Being so close to him, my pulse was erratic, and I knew he saw it when his finger brushed against the pulse-point that was jumping in a spastic rhythm. Words were impossible so I nodded my head in acknowledgment and then turned without a word and ran, not walked, away. I hadn't even made it out of the park when my cell phone rang and when I looked my heart skipped a beat.


"Ember. Are you free tonight?"


"I'll come for you around seven?"


I hung up as a smile spread over my face as I floated, not walked, home.

A few hours later I was home, cleaning the apartment with a smile permanently affixed to my face. When Lena arrived home I wanted to talk with her about Trace but one look at her and I knew she was in another mood.

It was getting a bit uncomfortable in the apartment because she was constantly bitchy but I never knew what was going to set her off. She was turning into a complete stranger and I knew the reason for it was Todd. I told myself I wasn't going to say anything but she was my friend and I wasn't being much of one if I said nothing. I moved to join her in the kitchen as she sifted through the mail.


She looked up at me and I saw the temper behind her eyes.

What's going on with you? You've been out of sorts, down right nasty."