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The Arrangement Vol. 18

By:H.M. Ward

CHAPTER 1


Sean towers above me, his toned body backlit by the chandelier hanging overhead. If he'd said anything else, I would have thought he was an angel in that moment. Repeating the phrase, he kneels down and whispers, "You shouldn't have come."

There's not a drop of strength left in my body. I can't fathom why Sean answered the door in the first place. Where's Jeeves or whatever they call him? He's Constance's right arm. That guy was supposed to take me to the craziest Ferro of them all. That would have worked. I had to choose a side, and it's clear that I didn't pick Sean.

Even so, Sean moves closer, trailing his fingers along my temple, and smearing through the blood staining my skin. Those blue eyes pin me in place. I can't move, or speak. I can't tell him why I'm here or what I intended to do, although I suspect that he already knows. Those luscious lips of his are smooth and his jaw isn't locked tight.

I must be delirious. Why isn't he mad?

He whispers again, "Why do you do this to me? It's like you decided to make my life a living hell from day one."

That's rich, I made his life hell. "Are we talking proximity or prostitution? Because I sure as hell never thought I'd be this close to a Ferro, or spread my legs for one, ever again." I'm taunting him, pressing buttons that will set him off. I can't help it, my defenses are up.

Sean makes a deep sound in the back of his throat and cocks his head to the side. "Irony."

"Ain't that the truth."

"Stop speaking like a hillbilly. You know how lusty that makes me." Sean's lips twitch as if he's trying not to laugh.

He should be mad, but he's not. I don't get it.

Holding up a finger, I wave it between us and then press it to his nose. Those cobalt eyes remain locked on mine, ignoring my touch. "Boop."

"Oh God. Was this your plan? To come to the mansion and boop my mother on the nose?" He laughs, amused for real. Sean shakes his head, like I'm a pathologically needy black hole-I suck everyone and everything into my mess of a life, if they get too close. Sean's been sitting on the edge, carefully balancing himself-until now. His demeanor shifts as he scoops me up into his arms.

"Where are we going?" I thought this was his bedroom.

Sean's hand covers my lips, silencing me. "Shhh. I don't want them to hear you." With that, Sean turns on his heel and retreats, taking me from this room, and carries me into a darkened hallway.

My eyelids feel like lead and I can't help it, they droop as my cheek falls against his chest. I finally ask, "You're not mad?"

Sean is quiet and then smiles. "No."

"I came to your mother instead of you. You know what that means. Right?" I should probably shut up now, but I can't.

He nods once, carefully, as he pads down hall after hall. We pass no one, which is odd. No maids, no servants of any kind.

Sean sucks in air and glances down at me. "I did the same thing, thinking it would save you. I can only imagine what you thought the Ice Queen could do. Mother has a way of overpromising and under delivering. For example, she promised me a particular name the night of Trystan's concert, and I promised her something in return."

His voice trails off as we come to a set of massive wooden doors. They tower above us and each panel is carved intricately and laced with iron. There's iron lattice work, scrolls, and twisting decorative bars.

I reach out, sliding the pads of my fingers over a piece of metal. "Was this on purpose? All the iron? An old lady told me that Ferro means iron in Italian."

Sean smiles. "I'm not certain. Mother didn't elaborate whether it was a preference for the Old World style or family pride. Either way, I'm glad you like it, because my rooms are nothing but wood and iron."

My heart turns to ice and drops to my toes. "Your rooms?"

Sean nods, sensing my reaction. He tightens his hold on me, and repeats those words once more, "You shouldn't have come."





CHAPTER 2




The interior of the Ferro mansion is a labyrinth. I couldn't find the front door again if I tried, and Sean's rooms don't appear to have another exit, aside from the massive double doors. I struggle to get out of his arms. Between his cryptic words and the serene look on his face, I'm more than mortified.

Swallowing hard, I ask, "I didn't think you lived here anymore."

"I don't." Sean continues walking with me cradled against his chest, passing from one lavish room to the next. His rooms are dark red, gold, and filled with leather and iron. Each velvet drape hangs from twenty feet up and extends all the way down to the floor. They're closed, sealing out the light. Golden tassels adorn the pillows on a brown leather Tantra Chair. Leather cords are wrapped around the legs and tucked neatly underneath. It's the only piece of furniture in this room.   





 

My jaw drops and I stare at it. Sean notices, "When I turned twenty-one I was given funds to redecorate my quarters. This is my favorite room, although the box is long gone."

I stare at the chaise lounge and stiffen in his arms. The memories of the box come racing back, making me shiver in a bad way, and then my stomach twists as if disappointed. What the hell is wrong with me? I didn't like the box.

"Poor little rich boy only got a sex room for his birthday." I make a pouty face, but I can't hold it in place. When we enter the next room, the ceilings stretch higher. Ornate moldings, covered in gold, accent the deep red finish on the walls. Golden drapes cover these windows, but they are pulled back enough to let in a little bit of light. That sliver of light lands directly on the biggest bed I've ever seen in my life. It's the size of two king beds pushed together.

The burgundy crushed silk coverlet lies over a fluffy down comforter. Tall spires of iron and wood stretch into the air, the tops adorned with swags of cream and blood red silk. They tangle together and hang down the poles, forming puddles of fabric.

An antique carpet covers a hand carved floor that looks an awful lot like ebony. I can only imagine how much the floor alone cost. As I look around, my senses are filled with things that are rich and lavish. Dark bookcases line another wall. They also appear to be custom and hand carved. The Ferro family crest adorns the top of each case. It's inlaid with gold filigree on the center bookcase, surrounded by red stones that I can only assume are rubies. This is more opulent than I would've ever thought. The ceiling is obviously 24 karat gold leaf. I can see each little patch and know someone took hours upon hours applying each one by hand. Over the years, it's developed a beautiful finish.

Opposite the bed are more large iron doors with ornate twisting metal, inlaid with mirrors so I can't see what's beyond.

"Would you believe me if I said I've never done more than sleep in here?" Sean smirks and gently sets me down on his bed.

"Liar." I try to tease, to smile, but I'm pretty sure I look like I've been dragged through the Pine Barrens after falling off a donkey. I'm schmexy.

Sean leans over me, allowing those dark eyes to move from cut to cut. When he gets to the ones on my hands, he lifts my wrists and looks closer. "And why would I lie about it, Miss Smith? Especially when you are laying here in obvious distress on my bed?"

A smile crosses my lips. "You sleep here?"

"When I sleep, yes. And if I owe my mother a favor, I tend to stay close by."

"What favor do you owe her?"

His dark lashes lower and he glances to the side after dropping my wrist. "I promised her that I'd get rid of you."





CHAPTER 3




Jerking upright, I'm ready to bolt from the room, but Sean steps in front of me. Grabbing my shoulders, he stops me. "Stop and listen before you make any decisions. Avery, trust me here."

I laugh bitterly. "You lied to me, abused me, bought me, sold me, and trapped me. Did I leave anything out?"

"Yeah, one important thing-I saved you. I bartered for your life. I promised to get rid of you if Mother gave me the name of the person trying to gun us down. I'd assumed it was me they were after. I assumed too many things, and since I had no other options, I agreed. The problem came when I learned the gunners name was Marty. I backed him into a corner one day and that's how we ended up working together. He wouldn't let them hurt you-the dumb ass fell in love with his mark." Sean smirks. His hands trail down my arms as he stares at me. "I can't say I blame him."

"So, you reneged on a promise to your evil Mother?" He nods. I feel sick. I was gonna come here and ask Constance for help, meanwhile she was trying to think of ways to get me chopped up and shipped away. It makes me wonder why he'd cross his mother and I can't help it, I have to ask, "Why?"

"Why do you think?" I'm not sure, but I don't say it. I still don't know if he's being friendly, or poising me so he can inflict the most damage.

When I don't answer, Sean continues. "Masterson might have been an asshole for falling for you, but I was worse. I trusted Black to give me a girl I could handle. I thought you'd come one night, and be gone the next morning. But, things didn't work out that way. Now, I can't stand the thought of seeing you leave. I'm too late. I already know that. I did too much, and went too far. I don't expect anything from you. But, if you'll let me, I'll get you to safety and you won't be alone."   





 

My brows scrunch together. "You're sending me away with a blind date? How nice of you." Sarcasm drips from my voice. This is not what I want to hear.

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