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       Secrets & Lies: The Ferro Family, p.1

         Part #1 of Secrets and Lies series by H. M. Ward
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Secrets & Lies: The Ferro Family


  Title Page













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  Volume 1

  H.M. Ward



  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2014 H.M. Ward

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form.


  First Edition: June 2014

  ISBN-13: 9781630350291


  Is he serious? What an assface! I stumble through the quad, accidentally bumping shoulders with someone.

  “Watch it, bitch.” I look up to see a pointy-nosed girl surrounded by a pack of nasty friends, all sneering at me. I have no friends here, not yet.

  The truth is, my life sucks. It’s sucktacularly fucked up and I refuse to cry on the first day of college, but I’m having trouble swallowing the plate of shit my wonderful boyfriend just force-fed me. Excuse me, force-texted me. The asswipe texted me. He didn’t even call. The more I think about it, the more my throat tightens. Breathing is overrated.

  I mumble, “Sorry,” and get the hell out of there, before they hogtie my ass and toss me down a flight of stairs. Not that I’ve ever seen anyone hogtied, but this is Texas, right? I’m out of my element, by far.

  As I hurry away, I hear my roommate’s voice ring out, “That’s right, Bacon! You better run!” The girls all giggle like Chelsey just said the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. Great. She’s leader of the bitch pack. Why can’t I ever attract a psycho sans backup? My luck sucks. Have I said that? Well, bad luck is my key feature and the bane of my existence.

  As I haul ass across the quad, my phone chirps. Don’t look at the screen. Don’t look at it! I chant to myself, but I can’t. I have to see what he said. It might be an apology. He might be breaking up with his other girlfriend and texted me by accident. Uh, wait. That’d be worse. I think.

  The thing is, we’ve been together since we were kids. Our parents used to joke that we’d be married one day, as if it were meant to be. It even felt like fate brought us together. On the day we met, I was playing outside when a terrified bunny chased Matt the two blocks from his house to my front yard. Running blindly, Matt mowed me down, leaving me for the bunny to attack instead of him.

  Okay, this bunny was the size of a small dog and had a hunger for marigolds. In an effort to save their gardens from becoming rabbit food, the sweet little old ladies in the neighborhood were actively trying to poison it. I saved that rabbit from the wrath of the grannies and my prize was Matt. He called me cool names like Rabbit Slayer. Okay, it sounded cool in grade school, and much better than the normal nicknames kids give each other. Boogerface or Rabbit Slayer? Please. Like that’s even a choice.

  Matt and I have been together so long, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be apart. Now the unthinkable has happened and I’m two thousand miles from home, completely on my own. Matt is everything to me.

  I pluck the phone from my pocket and scan the screen.

  There’s this other thing…

  Fuck. Like it could get worse. He already broke up with me. What’s worse than that?

  I type back, I doubt it.

  No, you need to know. There’s someone else. I’m in love with her, Kerry.

  The prickling sensation hits the back of my eyes hard and fast. As I push through the door, I turn right and search for a bathroom. I can’t fake my way through this. I can’t sit here and pretend that he didn’t just rip my heart out. How can there be someone else? I was his and he was mine. We were a couple. I have his damned ring on my finger. We were going to give this long distance relationship thing a chance.

  But Matt didn’t give it a chance.

  A sob escapes my throat and my vision blurs. I race down the hallway, feeling the stares of strangers following in my wake. I can’t cry now. I’m trying so hard not to, but my heart won’t listen. It’s curling into a ball and shriveling inside my chest. Grief takes hold of me, but I’m not crying yet. I try to find a restroom, holding back the cascade of sorrow that’s building behind my eyes.

  Plowing through the door, I head straight for the mirrors. There are always sinks by mirrors. I slam my books down on the counter and clutch the edge of the sink. Big gasping sobs wrack my body as I bend over the sink and stare at the white basin. Just as my tears start to fall, I see something move in the mirror. I feel eyes on me and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I hadn’t noticed anyone—not that I could see with my eyes full of tears.

  Glancing up, I look across the room and don’t understand what I’m looking at. A guy is standing by the wall. He’s tall and toned, with dark hair and of standard build. At least, that’s what he looks like through tears. Why is he in the girl’s room? My brain is broken. I stand there and gape, not realizing that he’s holding his thingy in his hand and standing in front of a urinal.

  A crooked smile lines his lips when he sees me staring. “I, uh, think you’re turned around.”

  His voice doesn’t reach me. My body is in the middle of a full-fledged freak out and there’s a guy in the ladies room, peeing on the wall. What the hell kind of school is this? I keep blinking, but I can’t wrap my brain around what I’m seeing.

  I manage to squeak out, “What?”

  The guy zips up and gives me that pity look—you know the one. It says thank God I’m not you, in the nicest way possible. “You’re in the men’s room. The women’s room is down the hall.”

  This can’t be happening. Horrified, I lunge for my books, but he steps to the counter to pick them up at the same time. We collide and his firm body smacks into mine. I stutter something incoherent, finally getting a good look at his face. Holy hotness! I never look at other guys, but once in a while someone that is supermodel perfect catches my attention. When people like that cross your path, it’s impossible to look away. His beauty is blinding, and even through tears I notice his sexy smirk, mildly amused blue eyes, and perfectly smooth skin.

  Add in his hard body and holy crap. I smacked into the hottest man I’ve ever seen, stared at his package, and made an ass out of myself. I’m still upset, but so mortified at the same time, that I no longer think and adrenaline takes over. Heart pounding, I push off his firm chest and right myself. My mouth dangles open as I try to form words, but my balance sucks and my hip bumps the books. They topple off the counter and clatter to the floor, while the rest of my stuff slides into the sink for a swim. I can’t be this catastrophe. I can’t face this hot guy with raccoon eyes, unable to do anything but grunt at him like a baboon.

  There aren’t many ways to play off a disaster of these proportions. I decide to do the only respectable thing and run like hell. Before he can say anything else, I’m out the door and down the hall. And we’re talking full out run, not that little sissy girl run. I mean full out, an axe murderer is going to chop me up, run.

  I hear his voic
e behind me, calling me to come back. Thank God I didn’t put my name in my books, yet. I have enough problems without shit like this happening. Horrified, I think about how freaking weird I had to look standing there, mascara running, just staring at his thingy. I stared. What the hell is wrong with me? Who does stuff like that?

  I shove through the door at the end of the hall and fly down the stairwell. I’m outside and into the parking lot before I slow down. Rasping for air, I round the side of the building and double over, struggling to breathe. I stand for a second before sliding my back down the wall and pulling my knees to my chest. I bury my face and let the tears fall.


  “Hey?” The voice is coming from my left. I spot a Chinese Slipper out of the corner of my eye and a long blue skirt. “Are you all right?”

  I don’t glance up. “Yeah. I’m fine.” I’ve been sitting on the side of the building for a while. I completely blew off my art class. Great first day. Even if I can make it to my dorm room, I can’t cry there because the roommate from Hell might walk in.

  Slipper Girl sits down next to me and gives a gentle laugh. “Dude, you’re a really bad liar.”

  “I know.” We both offer up a nervous laugh. I chance it and peek out at her. I know I look terrible. My face is puffy and smeared with makeup. I’m pretty sure my jeans are covered in snot. It’s one of those moments where you wish you had the power of invisibility, but I don’t. And she sees me. I haven’t made a single friend since I got here, so I feel weird actually talking to someone. I give her a weak half-smile.

  She pulls her knees into her chest, and wraps her arms around her ankles. The little black slippers stick out from under her skirt. “So, I’m thinking we need emergency ice cream and maybe—a frying pan.”

  What? I sit up a little bit and look at her. Slipper Girl has a pretty face and light brown hair that flows like a silky curtain from the top of her head to her waist. It’s really long. “What’s the frying pan for?”

  “To smack the guy who made you cry like that on your first day.”

  I sniffle and swipe my eyes with the back of my hand. “Oh, I thought we were going to make stir fry.”

  She smiles at me. “You can cook?” She reaches into her little woven purse and hands me a tissue.

  “Not really. I’m pretty good at burning things and making food that’s easy to cook but tastes really gross. How about you?”

  “Eh,” she tilts her hand back and forth. “So-so, but I make some badass cookies. They’re orgasmic. Seriously. I’m the cookie queen.” She laughs and looks bashful, which makes me smile. “So, since cooking dinner sounds less than tasty, there’s this great Chinese place near here. Are you hungry?” The girl tucks a lock of hair behind her ear and motions to a nearby parking lot. “My car is right over there. We could eat and be back before the next class begins. What do you say?”

  “I look like a train wreck.”

  “Yeah, you don’t know this about me, but I’m not taking no for an answer. Everyone tells me yes. To everything. I’m spoiled rotten.” She grins and flashes all her teeth before standing. Holding out her hand, she says, “Come on. I won’t bite and I have an emergency Guys-Suck pack in my car. It has cookies, Midol, concealer, a baseball cap, and a pack of condoms. We can make balloon animals. I make a mean giraffe.”

  Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, I say, “You had me at orgasmic cookies.”

  She laughs and helps me up. “They are. You better be ready, otherwise you’ll be blushing, I’ll have to pretend it isn’t awkward, and we won’t be able to look at each other. That’s pretty lame, right?”

  “Yeah, I have enough people to avoid eye contact with right now, anyway.” A small smile spreads across my face, and my cheeks suddenly burn.

  “I sense a story, here. What happened? You have to tell me.”

  “Nothing,” I hedge, but a smile tugs at my lips and a fresh blush burns under my cheeks.

  “You can totally tell me! I won’t say a word.” I follow her to a new white Volvo parked at the back of the lot. She throws her bag in the back seat as I get in on the passenger side. “Oh, dude—my name is Beth. Beth means keeper of secrets.” She shoots me a winning smile and starts the car.

  “I’m Kerry.”

  “So, spill. What’s your major and all that?” She starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot.

  “I’m Kerry Hill, an art major from New York. My boyfriend dumped me this morning via text message, and I was so upset that I mistakenly walked into the men’s bathroom right before class. While there, I bumped into a super-hot guy, saw his, uh—package—and stared. After that, I made friends with the brick wall until you came along. It’s a pretty pathetic first day of college.”

  Her jaw drops and she stares at me for way too long. Since we’re in moving traffic, it’s alarming. The girl is the worst driver I’ve ever seen. I’m having trouble not screaming. The light is yellow and about to flip to red and she’s not slowing down. “You have me beat. Beth Gallub from Seattle, the youngest of four siblings, with three overprotective brothers that follow me everywhere. Ten bucks says one of them shows up before your class later. No joke.”

  “Awh, you’re the baby.”

  “Psh. Yeah. It sucks monkeys, man. What about you? Do you have siblings?”

  “Yeah, an older brother and a younger sister.”

  “So, you’re the pathologically needy middle child.”

  “Psych major?”

  She laughs. “How’d you know?”

  “A hunch. You seem like the kind of person who can’t pass a crying chick on the sidewalk.” I laugh and the rest of my nerves flutter away. I relax as much as I can pretend to with Beth driving. Seriously. People in Seattle must not think lines are important. The girl is all over the road.

  Finally, she pulls into the parking lot for the Chinese restaurant. We get out, head into the buffet and grab a table.

  After we eat and talk about our horrible first days—mine takes the loser cake—Beth leans back in the booth and watches me. “So, it’s rebound night, right?”

  I shift in my seat and scrunch my face. “Not unless we’re talking about a cake rebound.”

  Beth shakes her head. “The fastest way to get over a broken heart isn’t a lifetime in a shrink’s chair, it’s screwing another guy. That severs the connection, so the next time you meet a guy you’re really into you won’t compare him to your ex. If you still feel an emotional connection to your ex, you’ll compare sex with the new guy to sex with your ex—which will make you an emotional basket case.” She pauses for a second, then leans forward, a curious expression on her face. “What do you usually do to get over a guy?”

  This feels personal and the urge to make something up comes over me, but I don’t do it. Instead, I tell her the lameball truth. “I haven’t broken up like this before. We were together for a long time.” My eyes drop to the table and my throat tightens, but there are no more tears. I won’t cry for him again, but that doesn’t ease the pain flowing from the center of my chest.

  “Oh, that’s rough.” Beth glances over my shoulder and waves at someone. I don’t turn, because it’s just a passing gesture. She didn’t wave the person over, but before I know it, there’s a guy standing at the table. Beth rolls her eyes. “What did I tell you? This is my brother, Josh. One of them. This is Kerry. Note the boobs. She’s a chick. Now, leave me alone.”

  My face turns bright red when she directs him to look at my chest, but he seems to be used to her antics. At least I hope that’s it, because he doesn’t look. Josh is a nice looking guy and faintly resembles Beth. He’s on the shorter side, built with broad shoulders and gold-streaked brown hair. It’s pulled back into a ponytail. “When you didn’t show up, Justin asked me to check on you.”

  Beth groans and fake shoots herself in the head, before falling sideways into the booth, and then disappears under the table. “I have my own life,” she whines from the bench.

  “Obviously. You’re ve
ry mature.” Josh flashes a smile my way and slips into the booth next to me. I slide over and Beth sits up, a plastic smile on her face.

  “I am,” she says, smoothing her skirt and raising both her eyebrows excessively high. “Kerry and I were discussing rebound sex. Would you like to enlighten us with your wisdom regarding the best course of action following a break up?” She folds her hands on the tabletop and smiles like a deranged secretary.

  Josh laughs once and looks over at me. “Was your relationship serious?”

  “Very,” Beth answers for me. “What’s the best way to move on?”

  He looks at me a moment longer than I expect him to. “I don’t know you, Kerry, but the only way to get over anyone is to move on. Rebounding is one way, but—”

  Beth cuts him off. “But it’s not for the faint of heart. Oh my God. You’re such a dick. There’s no way in hell that I’m letting her hook up with you, assface, so drop it.” For a second I think Beth is being too harsh. He wasn’t going to hit on me, but then Josh laughs and relaxes.

  He bumps his shoulder against mine. “Fine, but I had to try. She’s hot.” Glancing over at me he says, “Have sex with a stranger to cut the cords and wipe the slate clean. It’s the fastest way out of the hellhole you’re in right now. And I strongly suggest you pick the guy or some dickwad will play you.”

  “Like you?” Beth asks, sticking out her tongue at him. Josh smiles.

  “Exactly like me, and since I know Beth, you’d have to see me again, which would suck. My advice—pick a guy from a bar on the other side of the city, making the odds of running into him again unlikely.” He swipes Beth’s glass and downs the rest of her soda.

  “So, people really do this? No one will think I’m a slut? It seems kind of crazy to walk up to some guy and say, what? I need to get laid. Wanna have sex with me?” This conversation is making me really uncomfortable.

  Josh laughs. “Well, don’t say it like that. You sound crazy. You need to make him think you’ve done it before or you’ll set off his psycho-bitch alert.”

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