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Beautifully Damaged

By:L.A. Fiore

Part One

"No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human beast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed." - Sigmund Freud



Chapter One


It really wasn't my scene: the dark, smoke-filled nightclub, the loud bassy music, the bodies -- shoulder to shoulder -- and the noise -- the eye-bulging, brain-numbing noise. The bar was sleek and black-topped and spanned the whole side of the place. It was littered with glasses that were filled with a variety of colored liquids. The people who were standing around the bar were some of the most beautiful people that I'd ever seen in real life. Yes, I was definitely way outside of my comfort zone.

Lena was meeting the boy she liked here and wanted me to tag along just in case. She was my best friend and had been since we were in middle school. It was a friendship that endured high school and separate colleges. I was very shy but also valued my friendship with her; my being in a place like this was proof of just how much this friendship meant to me.

We pushed our way through the crowds as my toes got stomped, my hair got pulled and I couldn't help but think that I could have been at home, sipping a glass of wine and reading Jane Eyre. We somehow managed to reach the bar when Lena grabbed my hand.

"Look, Em, there he is."

I followed Lena's gaze to the blond standing near the bar. He was tall, maybe six feet, and his hair was perfectly cut and even in his khakis and oxford shirt, you could tell his body was built like a runner with long, lean muscles. When his face turned in our direction I saw that his eyes were a hazel-green in a face that was classically handsome.

"What do you think?"

I looked up at Lena and realized that she had been studying me while I studied him.

"He's very handsome, Lena. What's his name?"

"Todd."

Todd started towards us. His eyes sparkled in greeting as a smile curved his lips.

"Hello, Lena. I'm so glad you made it." He stepped into Lena and pressed a kiss on her lips and I couldn't help the pang of envy I felt at their greeting but immediately my mind switched gears when Todd turned to me as Lena made the introductions.

"Todd, this is my best friend, Ember."

He reached for my hand to shake it. Handshakes were big with my dad and Todd's was one of those half-girlie shakes and his hands were too smooth and soft -- softer than mine. For my dad this would be a serious red flag but I pulled my thoughts from that when Todd smiled at me.

"Nice to meet you, Ember."

"...you, too, Todd."

A favorite song of Lena's came on as she grabbed Todd's hand. "Let's dance."

She pulled him to the dance floor looking back at me as she went. "Are you coming, Em?"

"No, you go."

"Okay." And just like that they disappeared into the crowd. A stool at the bar emptied as I sat down and flagged the bartender. He was in his thirties, big in the shoulders and arms, with a buzz cut but his eyes were friendly. He stopped just in front of me and placed down a napkin.

"What can I get you?"

"Cabernet, please."

"Sure thing."

I watched him pour the ruby-red wine into a glass before I pulled out a twenty and moved it across the bar to him just as he placed my glass in front of me.

"Keep the change." I said.

"Thanks, beautiful." He threw me a grin as he moved down the bar while I took a sip of my wine.

I turned in my stool and looked out at the sea of people. This place wasn't like the clubs we used to hang out in during our college years but it was still a place to see and be seen and though I tried to mingle like Lena, it was hard for me to strike up conversation since the mere thought of talking to a stranger had my stomach filling with butterflies and my palms going sweaty. It was for this reason that my dating life was very anemic. Although I had the ability to attract a man, keeping him interested when I fumbled over my shyness -- not so much.

I took another sip of my wine, caught a flash of Lena's auburn hair before she was pulled deeper into the crowd, and then a stir across the dance floor pulled my attention. There were at least six ladies dressed in the shortest, most revealing dresses that I'd ever seen. Every one of them was gorgeous but it was the man walking in their midst that had my complete attention. He was dressed in faded jeans, a black tank and boots. He was at least 6'4"; his black hair was short and spiky around a face of sheer beauty but it was the tattoo that covered his left arm that captivated me. From shoulder to wrist he was completely covered in ink. The design was indiscernible from my distance and never really having a feeling about tattoos one way or the other, I found it to be both beautiful and sexy as hell. Maybe I was moved in this case because of the arm; it was a spectacular arm with a wide shoulder, thickly muscled bicep and a powerful forearm.

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