A damaged wedding, p.1
A Damaged Wedding, p.1Part #3 of Damaged series by H. M. Ward
A Damaged Wedding
The Ferro Family
H. M. Ward
Laree Bailey Press
A Damaged Wedding
1. CHAPTER 1
2. CHAPTER 2
3. CHAPTER 3
4. CHAPTER 4
5. CHAPTER 5
6. CHAPTER 6
7. CHAPTER 7
8. CHAPTER 8
9. CHAPTER 9
10. CHAPTER 10
11. CHAPTER 11
12. CHAPTER 12
13. CHAPTER 13
14. CHAPTER 14
15. CHAPTER 15
16. CHAPTER 16
EXCERPT: SECRETS & LIES
PRE-ORDERS BY H.M. WARD
COMPLETED SERIES BY H.M. WARD
MORE FERRO FAMILY BOOKS
SUGGESTED FERRO SERIES READING ORDER
MORE ROMANCE BY H.M. WARD
CAN'T WAIT FOR H.M. WARD'S NEXT STEAMY BOOK?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 © 2016 by H. M. Ward
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form.
LAREE BAILEY PRESS
First Edition: September 2016
ISBN: 9781630351250, 9781630352059 (Paperback)
A Damaged Wedding
I’m ready to cry. Tears form behind my eyes, pricking like little needles, demanding to fall in great globs and roll down my cheeks, streaking my makeup. Normally, that wouldn’t matter so much. I usually have on minimal makeup, but today is different. Today is supposed to be the happiest day of my life, but it’s not.
I stiffen and look down at the flowing white dress covered with intricate lace and shining sea pearls. My wedding gown hugs my body, flaring just below my hips into a chapel-length train puddling on the carpet behind me.
When I glance up at Peter, my gaze rakes across his tuxedo jacket to the splatter of blood across his lapel. Leaves and dirt hug the supple fabric as if he’s been rolling on the ground, fighting. I thought that side of him was locked in his past, but it’s not. Today it reared its ugly head, and I know that part of him will never be gone. For as hard as he’s tried, it’s still there, glowing softly like an ember.
It’s just him and me in the bridal lounge of the estate house. Between the last second move from this location and my soon to be mother-in-law’s Gestapo wedding coordinator, my nerves are shot. The last minute location change was rough, but we’re here now. Everything will be fine. Just breathe and calm down. In all honesty, I like this location better, it’s smaller and we lost half the paparazzi in the shuffle. Bonus.
The sprawling grounds include a chapel, a great lawn complete with water and fire features, and a guesthouse. Everyone is here. My dad is waiting to walk me down the aisle, but the thing is, I no longer know what to think.
The man I love, the guy who fought like hell to survive the unsurvivable is slipping away, and I can’t fathom why. Why fight so hard to overcome the past if you have no intention of living that way? I don’t understand. I can’t. I don’t get it, and the only person I can think of to bend Peter’s will like this is Sean.
Something’s been going on with them. I’m glad Peter is back with his family. His brothers need him. Peter is the only positive influence they have, but that means he’s constantly in the thick of it, doing God knows what, and this isn’t the first time he’s come home covered in blood.
I try to swallow the lump in my throat, but my throat is so tight that I can’t do it. I croak out a barely audible, “What have you done?”
Peter’s blue gaze falls to the carpet. Within those twin orbs, fear mingles with something I can’t identify. That tux looks stunning on him, fits him perfectly, accenting all the right places. The chiseled lines of his chest all the way down to his narrow hips. I was supposed to take that supple fabric off of him tonight. We were finally going to be together again. Now I know it won’t happen. He’s slipping through my fingers, and I can’t comprehend it. Fear chokes me with invisible fingers until I can’t breathe.
Peter lifts his head, letting a dark strand of hair fall into his eyes. He leaves it and looks down at me. That man can protect me from the world. His body towers over mine, perfect and beautiful. “Sidney, it’s not what you think.”
“I don’t know what to think. Your Uncle Luke comes in here claiming you were with an ex-conquest last night and then you show up like this today. Whose blood is that?”
He opens his mouth as if to argue his side, but then decides against it. His lips close and his eyes dart to the side. He won’t look at me. My heart climbs up my throat, pounding frantically. “Sidney, if I’d known what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have...”
I’m shaking the tiniest amount. Peter stands there calmly, so completely still I can’t help it. I lose whatever element of calm collectedness I possess. “Last night doesn’t explain today. Right now. Peter—” I don’t get to finish because he cuts me off.
He steps closer, closing the space between us. His lips are a whisper away, and his eyes lock on mine, intense as ever. “Don’t ask. Please don’t ask me. I can’t involve you in this. I won’t.”
My brows knit together as icy fear claws its way up my spine. “What are you saying?”
Peter leans in, kisses my forehead softly and steps away. “I’d rather you hate me for your entire life.” There’s more he’s not saying. I can sense it. His sapphire gaze lowers, obscured by his dark lashes. Peter’s shoulders slump forward in defeat. He breathes in for a moment, releases the air from his lungs in one long steady stream, then turns on his heel and walks away.
There’s no air. It feels as if my chest will burst open if I don’t breathe soon, but I can’t. Time is frozen, and I can’t understand what’s happening. This isn’t real. It can’t be. Every hair on my neck stands on end, waiting for something terrible to occur. Something horrible is happening right now though, and I don’t want to be the kind of woman who is so paralyzed by fear that I let him walk away. I lift the hem of my lace gown and rush toward the door.
As I reach for the knob it swings open, and Constance Ferro blocks my path. She strides into the room with long, elegant steps. Her face is devoid of emotion, completely stoic.
I try to move past her, but she grabs my arm, positioning herself in front of the door. “Sit down, Sidney.”
Chin tucked, and eyes narrowing to slits, I growl at her, “Get out of the way!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not getting married today. Accept it like the good girl you are and walk away.”
My face crumples as I hiss at her, “I don’t care what you think, and if you don’t move away from that door, I’ll make sure you regret that decision for the rest of your life.”
One corner of her mouth tips up slightly. “A bride scorned is a beautiful thing, a force of nature. Men are fools when it comes to judging a woman’s emotional response. Peter wants to put distance between you for a reason. Don’t be foolish and rush after him. It’ll only make him run faster.” Constance is completely calm, but there’s something about her voice—it’s a little bit pinched, pained almost. “Sit down,” she repeats, more gently this time.
Constance holds out her palm and gestures toward a set of chairs a few feet away. The balcony door is open, and the scent of cherry blossoms sweeps through the room.
My heart slams into my chest, cleaving it in two.
“Since I’m the only mother you have, I suggest you sit and listen.” Her tone is sharp, and though her blow hits below the belt, I understand her motive. She wants Peter to get away.
I’m shaking, rage brewing within my body until I’m about to explode, but I manage to make my way to the chairs, hoping to see Peter as he flees. As he runs… from me. The pit of my stomach sinks when I realize I may never see him again. What happened?
I sweep my arm and gather up the back of my gown and sit down on a small chair facing the windows. The sky is bright blue with fat, happy clouds. The pink flowers on the cherry trees seem brighter contrasted against the azure sky. I silently place my hands on my lap and glare at Peter's mother.
Constance doesn’t take the seat opposite me. Instead, she steps in front of the windows, blocking the view. “Listen closely. This is about you in every way imaginable. I could snap my fingers and break you, make you hate him forever, cause you to walk away from him without a backward glance.” She peers out the windows at the beautifully manicured grounds below before turning on her heel. When Constance faces me, she has her fingers knitted together, holding them loosely in front of her waist.
I don’t doubt her threats. Constance Ferro is a scary woman, but the thought of losing Peter scares me more. “If you’re done—”
“I’m not done, you insolent child. For once in your meaningless life, listen to me. Peter is a Ferro through and through, no matter what name he signs on his driver’s license. The question is what are you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“What are you made of, Sidney? Are you going to chase him down and beg him to stay? Or are you a Ferro, already devising a way to make him come to you? Ferros don’t beg, we don’t apologize, and we rarely sacrifice time helping anyone outside our family.”
My gaze narrows. “So why are you helping me?”
“Because you’re already in his heart and no piece of paper will change that. Which begs the question—are you a Ferro or not?”
I stare at her, studying the blood-red suit hugging her body like a glove. Her hair is lighter now, close to blonde, with golden streaks along her temples, and swept elegantly away from her face. A blood-red ring is on her finger with the Ferro family crest in the center. Family means everything to her, and, for some reason, she’s not chasing me away.
“Why are you helping me?” I eye her suspiciously.
“Why does Peter love you? You’re too young for him, too damaged, carrying too much baggage and, yet, here you are, dressed in a white gown that’s neither truthful nor flattering.” Constance doesn’t hold back her barbs. She simply works them in as if it were any other day.
My mouth dangles open, unable to believe she'd insult me now.
Constance appears bored and rolls her eyes. “Champagne would have flattered your complexion and been a bit more truthful. Ferro women don’t hide from their past, and they banish shame. Embrace your life, Sidney, before you lose everything you care about. The past is behind you and cannot change. What happened is gone. Tomorrow is all that matters, so it comes down to this—what are you willing to do to get what you want?”
Millie walks in before I can answer, her blonde head set with springy curls. Combined with the slate blue bridesmaid gown she’s wearing, she looks vibrant. “Hey, Sid, your dad is pacing a hole in the floor out here, and the little string trio is on their third round of Canon in D. Any chance you’re coming out soon?” She smiles as if nothing were wrong even though I know she’s aware something is majorly screwed up. She glances past me, out the window. I wonder if she saw Peter walk out.
Blinking rapidly, I force the tears back and smile at my friend. “Apparently, today isn’t my wedding day. Fate had other plans.” I turn to my soon-to-be mother-in-law. “However, I intend to bitchslap fate, destiny, or whatever you want to call her, so hard that she's knocked into next week. Is that clear enough for you?”
The corner of Constance’s lip twitches. I can’t tell if she’s amused or upset. “Very well. I’ll settle things here. You should change and leave.” Without another word, she’s gone.
Millie deflates and rushes toward me, her hands seeking mine, as she carefully looks me over. “What happened? Where’s Professor Pete?”
I can’t help it. I smile at the old name she gave him while we were in college back in Texas. That seems like a lifetime ago. Now we’re in New York, hobnobbing with socialites and celebrities. Since Peter reappeared, the press has lingered. They’re here today, just outside the immense iron gates surrounding the property. Peter’s a private man, and I understand why he left all this behind, why he doesn’t want the fame or the glory. I don’t enjoy the limelight either.
Millie rests her hand on my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” I reply. “Peter’s not spooked, it’s not cold feet, but he left. He has issues—other issues.”
As I talk to my friend, I can see movement on the circle drive below. A man wearing a tuxedo mounts a motorcycle and disappears from sight.
Mille laughs with a Texan drawl, flipping her head to the side and folding her arms across her chest. She juts out her hip and twangs, “Well, of course he does. He’s a Ferro. They’re all squirrely.” She snorts and glances around. “I bet that pet of yours set some bad juju on you two for not bringing him.”
I frown. “Constance didn’t want Mr. Turkey here. The venue didn’t want him here either.”
“Yeah, but you’re one of them now. I heard her say as much.” Millie jerks her thumb back at the door Constance left through.
“You were listening?”
“Not on purpose, but I wanted to know if you were okay, and like I said, your father and brother are really—”
I tense. “Sam’s here?”
“Yeah. He walked in at the last second and sat down in the back. Things haven’t gotten any better between you two, have they?”
I shake my head and have trouble hiding the tremor in my voice that comes out whenever I talk about my twin brother, Sam. He’s connected to Dean and, no matter how much I try to forget that past, I can’t. Unfortunately, Sam was part of it. I don’t trust him anymore. I don’t think I ever will.
I swallow hard and say, “No, they haven’t.”
When I don’t elaborate, Millie inclines her head and lifts a hand toward my dress. “Let’s set this aside for another day and—”
I shake my head. “No. I’m wearing the dress.”
It’s a heavy gown, and the skirt is way too long to move around in at any place other than my wedding. Constance’s attitude toward the dress irritated me at first, but maybe she’s right. Maybe holding on to ideals constructed before I met Peter wasn’t a good idea. I’m not the woman in white, the virgin bride. I’m someone who has been through hell and survived. I’m at the point now where I want to live again. I want my life back, and it seems like I’ll have to fight for it. It’s strange, but after hiding from Dean for so long, fighting to keep the metaphorical bear from mauling me, I thought the days of keeping up my guard were over. I thought I’d have a period of peace and happiness. Apparently not. Life is a fight, and I’m not just going to stand there and take the blows without fighting back. Whatever happened to Peter is my mess, too. He’s mine, and I’m not letting him walk away.
I walk across the room, kicking out the hem so I don’t trip, and pull open a drawer at the top of an antique bureau. Millie quietly watches me as I lift the scissors from the drawer and cut the white lace just above the knee. I hack at the petticoat underneath until the bulk of it pulls away, leaving a little dash of white tulle poking out just beneath the lace hem. Peter’s leather jacket is hanging on the hook where I left it
Millie giggles. “Wow. That’s a look.”
“Tell my dad I’m all right, that the wedding is only delayed a little bit. I need to take care of something first.”
Millie laughs and shakes her head. “You’re insane if you think I’ll let you do whatever you’re planning by yourself.”
I plead with her. “Someone has to tell Dad, and I can’t. I don’t have the heart to do it. This morning he was caught between prideful tears and misery because Mom isn’t here. I can’t do that again, not right now. I had enough trouble smiling through it the first time, and I don’t want to make him worry more. Please, Millie? Take him out to lunch or something?” I flash a hopeful smile at her.
Millie sighs and then says, “Fine, I’ll make sure he’s not worried about you. But you better come home later.”
Millie has been staying at our little house. Peter was rooming with Sean until the wedding. I thought it was romantic in the beginning, but everyone arrived over a week ago, and, in hindsight, separating was a stupid plan. If he'd been with me, whatever happened last night wouldn’t have happened. If he hadn't been with Sean, things would have turned out differently. As if I needed another reason to detest Sean Ferro.
“I will. Thank you, Millie. I couldn’t have done this without you.” I’m out the door before I can process the fact that I’m walking away from my own wedding, unmarried.
I tug at my dark hair, pulling the bobby pins out, before slicking it back into a ponytail. The only vehicle accessible without making them move all the cars is Peter’s motorcycle. I take the keys, crank it, pull the thing upright, and put up the kickstand. I’ve driven it a few times before with Peter's help, but never really liked it.
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