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Beautifully Damaged(18)

By:L.A. Fiore

"You were supposed to stay in the gallery."

"I wanted to help."

I watched as his fists clenched and saw that he was trying really hard to control his temper when he said, "I should get you home."

At that moment the owner of the gallery came out to see what was happening. Trace walked over to him, they spoke softly for a few minutes before the man walked over to the woman and helped her to her feet. Two others came out to watch over the unconscious man so he couldn't run off after he came to.

"Let's get you inside and call the police." He then looked over at Trace.

"I'll see you when you get back."

I heard the woman offer her thanks to Trace but looking at him I could tell he wasn't really there anymore. Whatever put that empty look in his eyes was consuming his thoughts. He walked over to me and reached for my hand as he said, "This was not how I saw the evening ending."

"Why does it have to end?" I asked.

He stopped walking and looked down at me and when he answered his voice was whisper-soft.

"I'll not be very good company."

I didn't think, only acted on impulse, as I stepped into him and wrapped my arms around his waist. "You did a good thing here tonight, Trace."

I felt his hesitancy and then those arms wrapped around me and held me close. When he spoke there was anger laced through his words.

"And you did a stupid thing walking into something blindly."

"I acted without thinking. I was worried about you."

That had him pulling away from me so he could look at me incredulously.


I didn't understand his question. "Why was I worried about you?"

"Yes." He acted as if the very notion was completely unbelievable so I answered with all honesty.

"Because I care about you."

He didn't say anything just continued to look at me like I had six heads. He pulled me back into his arms pressing me as close to him as possible.

"I should get you home."

"Thank you for tonight, Trace."

His lips brushed along my jaw as he whispered, "Thank you."

Chapter Four

I was lying in my bed the next day reading but I couldn't really focus on the book because my mind kept turning to Trace. I couldn't stop thinking about him. Yes, I was wildly attracted to him but it was the lost, vacant look that I'd seen in his eyes at the gallery and the rage I saw later in the parking lot that occupied my thoughts.

There was a dark side to Trace Montgomery. It should be my clue to stay away but, despite that darkness, my gut was telling me there was so much more to him than the callous, womanizing hot-head that he was rumored to be -- that there was a really good man underneath.

My phone rang and I answered it without looking but was ridiculously happy to hear Trace on the other end.

"Hi, Ember. Are you busy?"

"Trace, hi. No, I'm not busy."

He was silent for a moment before he offered softly, "I'm sorry about cutting the night short last night."

"It's alright. Are you okay? I kind of got the sense that there was more going on in that parking lot, well, more than you rearranging that sick bastard's face."

Silence met that question and I thought he wasn't going to answer me but he surprised me when he said, "Yeah, I'm fine."

"I'm not asking you to share your past with me, Trace, but if you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here."

A warmth came into his voice when he replied, "Thank you, Ember."

There was silence over the line for a few moments before Trace asked, "I wondered if tonight I could make up for last night?"

"There's nothing to make up but I'd like to see you."

"Dress casually and I'll see you at five."

"See you then."

Promptly at five, the bell sounded and I pulled open the door to find Trace standing there with a smile on his face. He was dressed in faded jeans, a black t-shirt and a leather jacket. The sight of him had me just staring speechlessly. I managed to pull my eyes back to his face and saw a heated look in his eyes.

"You look beautiful, Ember."

I blushed and felt my face burn from it, which only made Trace grin as he reached for my hand.

"Are you ready?"

"Where are we going?"

"It's a surprise."

I let him pull me down the hall as I offered, "I like surprises."

We climbed onto his bike and drove outside the city towards the suburbs. About half an hour later I saw the lights in the distance as a smile spread over my face. We parked and I climbed from the bike and pulled off my helmet just as Trace came to stand at my side.

"The fair -- we're going to the fair?" I asked and I didn't bother to hide my joy because I loved the fair.