Laree Bailey Press
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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 © 2013 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: June, 2013
THE FERRO BROTHERS SERIES
AN EXCERPT FROM THE ARRANGEMENT, VOL. 1
ALSO BY H.M. WARD
Sam leaves, Peter picks up his cell phone. His gaze lifts and meets mine. It's
like his heart is caught in his throat. He's thinking something, but I don't
know what. Those sapphire eyes lower when Peter looks at the phone cradled in
his hand. "Let's take our time getting out of here and put some space between
you and Dean. I need to make a call and then we can sort out the details. Okay?"
When he finally looks up, I get the feeling that Peter isn't telling me
are you calling?"
brother. I need to ask him something." Peter turns abruptly with determination
across his face. His features harden, and he no longer looks like the man I
don't snoop and linger at the door listening to that phone call. There's
something between him and his brother, old scars maybe. I don't want to make
Peter's life harder. Maybe I should go? I mean, this isn't his fight. It's
mine. Just because I utterly failed last time doesn't mean that I'll get the
crap beat out of me this time. I glance at my hands, which are covered in
scabs. Damn it. I don't know what to do. I glance back at Peter's room.
decision is taken from me when his door opens and Peter walks out. Tension
lines his neck and shoulders. His jaw shifts from side to side as though the
conversation he just had pissed him off. His eyes flick up from the floor and
meet mine. "My brother's an asshole."
smile at him. "So is mine."
watches me for a moment and sighs. He runs his hands through his hair and
stretches. The anger that was there washes away, but it's not totally gone. "I
need to tell you something." The way he says it makes my stomach dip. The tone,
the way he looks away from me sends a shiver down my spine. The words hang in
the air like a bad omen.
takes my hands and pulls me over to the couch. At first we're seated next to
each other and he's holding my hand, but it's like he can't sit still. Peter is
on his feet moments later, pacing. Every few seconds he tries to tell me
something but can't choose the right words. Peter makes an aggravated sound in
the back of his throat as he works his jaw. When he turns and looks at me, I
know there's something wrong.
lips are parted as he stares at me. "I didn't want to bring this up, not now,
but you need to know something about me." He swallows hard and looks away.
push off the couch and walk over to him. "You can tell me anything." When I
touch his arm, Peter flinches. The movement is so subtle but speaks volumes. It
makes me nervous. Why is he acting this way? I kid to try to lighten his mood. "You're
not the one who put the squirrel outside the bathroom window, are you?"
snorts a surprised laugh and looks over at me. He takes me in his arms and
pulls me to his chest. It feels so good, so safe. He kisses the top of my head.
"Do you know anything about the Ferro family?"
question confuses me, but I nod. "Yeah, who doesn't?"
me what you know." I step back and look into his face, but it doesn't clarify
This seems like a weird question, but I answer him anyway. "Well, they have
more cash in their pockets than Scrooge has in his money bin. The mom is a hard-ass,
the dad is a player with a new mistress every other week, and the three sons
can't seem to stay out of trouble.
youngest, Jonathan, was in the paper the other day for doing something stupid,
but most people forget that and get blindsided by his charm—and his looks. The
oldest brother, Sean, is estranged; at least that's what the paper said. Same
thing goes for the middle child." I have no idea where he's going with this. I
stop talking and wait for him to clue me in, but he doesn't.
else have you heard?"
really. The same stuff you heard, probably."
doubt it, but go on."
give him a weird look and think back. "The oldest brother was accused of
killing his wife. He was in the news for a long time until he got off. After
that, Sean left the family and walked away from all that money. The papers
started calling it the curse of the Ferro fortune or something like that. After
the oldest brother left, the next heir was Pete Ferro. A few weeks later he was
proposing to his fiancée in Rockefeller Center and…" I stop talking. My eyes go
grip on my hands tightens. "Say it. Finish the story, Sidney."
hard, I continue because it can't be, no matter how striking the similarities.
"And she was killed. Pete was stabbed in the side. He seemed to drift for a
while, not taking an interest in anything, until one day he disappeared. He
walked away from the Ferro fortune completely."
our eyes lock I realize that this is his story. My jaw quivers and I don't know
what to think. Part of me wants to yell at him for not telling me that he's
Peter Fucking Ferro, but the other part is afraid. The Ferro brothers have a
reputation, and he's one of them. I stand there too long and blurt out, "You're
watching me; his blue eyes are locked on mine. Peter nods slowly. He rubs his
thumb over the back of my hand. "Yeah, I am." I blink, too shocked to speak.
"It's not something I talk about. It's part of my past, Sidney. When I lost
Gina, I walked away from everything. Sean was gone and my parents aren't
exactly helpful. My mother's solution to everything is to see a shrink. I tried
that. I decided the best way to get on with my life was to start over, so I
did. I took Gina's last name and finished my doctoral work." He shrugs like it
isn't a big deal. "Then I came here and met you."
Sean Ferro's brother?" He nods. It feels like I'm lost in a dream, being sucked
in deeper and deeper. "How? How could you…?" I falter. I don't know what to
say. I can't say what's racing through my mind. How could you help cover up a
murder? How could you be related to someone like that? How could you be the
Pete Ferro, the player, who is so much like his father?
said Peter didn't love Gina, that it was a marriage/business merger, but that's
not true. Peter did love her. I hear it in his voice. That night haunts him.
sorry I didn't tell you before now. I didn't want them to find me. I wanted a
chance to start over. You can understand that."
not the same. What I did is not the same! I ran from someone who was hurting
me. How could you help him?"
How could you help your brother cover up
brutalizing his wife?
The question is lodged in my throat. I can't spit it
out because it strikes too close to home. Something snaps inside my mind. I
feel duped, like he tricked me. The public perception of Peter is nothing like
the man I've fallen in love with. One of them is fake, but I don't know which
one. It makes my heart race, and I'm scared that I've lost him, that Peter was
never really mine—that my Peter doesn't exist.
rip my hands out of his grip and start backing away. The look on his face isn't
comforting. Peter doesn't correct me, which makes it worse. "Who are you? Do I
know you at all?"
you know me—"
why does it feel like I don't? Why does it feel like you've been lying to me
this whole time?" Tears make my eyes sting, but I don't let them fall. "I have
to think. I have to go."
darts in front of me and blocks the door. "I can't let you leave. Not with Dean
out there waiting for you."
I really safer in here?"
flinches as if I slapped him. He steps away from the door and opens it. "You
know who I am better than anyone else. Names don't matter, not to me. If you
think I've misled you on everything and that I've been lying to you since the
beginning, then walk through that door and don't come back." His gaze narrows
as he waits for me to decide.
don't know what to think, and I can't believe he said that to me. I'm speaking
without realizing what I'm saying. It's all gut instinct, and right then my
guts feel like they've been spinning in a Gravitron for twenty years. "Names
mean something, Peter, or you wouldn't have hidden yours from me. You're not
the man I thought you were. I can't even—" I shake my head and push past him.
walk out the door and fly down the staircase. I don't stop. Peter calls after
me from the landing above. I jump into the car and peel out of the parking lot
as fast as I can. I need to think, but I can't. Everything I know about Peter
Ferro is crashing into everything I know about Peter Granz. Nothing
fits—there's no thread, no continuity. My mind reels, searching for a
thread—anything—when it snags on something Peter did. At the time I thought it
was good, but it cinches Peter to his past, binding them together. It's the
whispered threats to Sam and the way my brother went white as a sheet. The
things the Ferro family can do, have done, makes my tears turn to big, ugly
pull into a parking lot and slam my hands on the steering wheel. Another liar.
Another man who made me think he's one person and then turns out to be someone
else. It feels like my heart has been ripped out of my chest. I can't breathe.
I tip my head back and scream. If Peter said any other family name, I'd be
stupid for walking away—but he said Ferro. That family is so messed up. It
doesn't make me feel sorry for Peter; it makes me feel played. He used me.
Peter wove a web of lies and I laid down in the center.
been lying to everyone about everything. I wonder if Strictland knows who he
really is, if she caught it when she hired him. I would have never put them
together. The Pete Ferro I remember from the countless sightings was surly,
rude, and nothing like the man I've spent the past three months with.
done with this, done with him. I can't take the heartache.
I pull up in front of the dorm, Millie is standing there with my suitcase
already packed. She steps toward the car when I roll to a stop. After tossing
my bag in the backseat, she says, "Are you sure you want to drive up there all
by yourself?" Concern covers her face. I nod. I don't trust myself to talk. "I
can come with you. I just have to finish up my term paper and we can go. Or I
can come now and ask the prof for an extension. You shouldn't take off by yourself,
not with your mom sick."