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Beautifully Damaged(5)

By:L.A. Fiore


"It was, which is why I'm a bit sad that the evening was cut short but I understand; work is work."

I didn't understand what kind of business would pull a man from a date at ten in the evening but I didn't say as much.

"I'm beat. I'll see you in the morning, Lena."

"Night, Em."

In the morning I dressed and hurried downstairs where Trent was waiting. We were heading into Central Park for a jazz festival. It was a beautiful day and as soon as I stepped outside Trent smiled big and pretty.

"Are you ready for a day of jazz, Ember?"

I grinned before replying, "I am."

We started down the street and I could see how excited Trent was since he adored jazz. For him to have an entire day where he could sit under a tree and listen to it, yes, Trent was going to be in heaven. We stopped off at Starbucks for some coffee and then we made our way into the Park. We found a nice patch of grass and sat down. Trent actually lay down and closed his eyes and lost himself in the music.

I leaned back against a tree, drank my coffee and did some people-watching. Sometimes the writer in me crafted stories about the people I saw but today I just observed. There was one couple, hand in hand, giving each other looks of adoration. It was sweet but I had the sense they had yet to have their first argument. As my dad would say, they were still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. Another couple walked by with a screaming toddler. It wasn't adoration in their expressions but complete exhaustion. It was the elderly couple passing by that had me sigh. They had to be in their eighties and yet they were holding hands. You could see how comfortable they were with each other after having shared a lifetime together. That was what I wanted: someone who knew me better than I knew myself, someone who knew all the worst parts of me yet still loved me.

While watching the elderly couple, I noticed the tall man further down the path, who was walking toward the music. As he approached I saw the spiky black hair and the tattoo on his arm -- Trace Montgomery. I just stared since I couldn't believe I was seeing him again. What were the odds? I wondered if I was tapping into some latent magic and had the power to conjure him at will since, if I was being honest -- and if you couldn't be honest with yourself then you were in trouble -- he'd been in the back of my mind since we met. He stopped by a tree, leaned up against it and listened to the music. In the days since we met I had convinced myself that I had exaggerated his beauty but, oh no, I hadn't embellished. I had the strongest urge to go over and talk to him. Considering I usually couldn't get past my nerves to engage a man in conversation, the fact that I wanted to engage that man was odd.

I watched as the women approached him but what was interesting was the look on his face as they did. He looked annoyed which seemed rather contrary to his reputation as a player of the first order. He didn't actually engage any of them in conversation and it seemed that when asked something he replied with as few words as possible. You could tell by the looks some of the ladies were giving him that they knew him intimately and yet there was no familiarity in his expression, just irritation. You'd think he'd be more flirtatious but with the expression he was sporting, I was surprised women were brave enough to approach him.

Since I was far enough away from him, I let myself really study his face. He had nice cheekbones, a strong jaw, a poet's mouth and a nose that'd been broken a time or two which kept him from looking too perfect. His face was gorgeous but hard and there was a coldness in those beautiful eyes. I was so lost in that face that I didn't realize that he was looking in my direction and then to my utter horror I realized he was looking right at me. How did I know this you ask? Well, because there was a slight grin on that mouth and damn but that grin was sexy as hell. I blushed, right up to my hairline, as I quickly turned my head away from him. My heart was pounding like a frightened rabbit and I had the sense that those eyes were still watching me. A half an hour later I worked up the nerve to look over. I decided that if he had still been there I was going to walk over to him and thank him for coming to my aid the other night but when I looked over, he was gone.

For the rest of the day my mind happily lingered on Trace. I had the sense that he remembered who I was and that knowledge had the butterflies doing somersaults in my belly. It was foolish for me to think about him since we definitely did not move in the same circles but I couldn't seem to help it. There was something about him that intrigued me. Thoughts of him had taken up residence in my head and I just couldn't seem to expel them -- not that I really wanted to since what was the harm in admiring him from afar?

The following morning I had a 5-k run in Central Park sponsored by Clover. All the proceeds from the day, including the profits from the restaurant sales, were going to various charities supporting underprivileged children. When I arrived I was happy to see the turn out for the event. I registered, got my number, and then moved on to the side to warm up.