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Authors: H.M. Ward

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The Proposition 5: The Ferro Family

BOOK: The Proposition 5: The Ferro Family
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Title Page


Title Page

Author's Note

- Chapter 1

- Chapter 2

- Chapter 3

- Chapter 4

- Chapter 5

- Chapter 6

- Chapter 7

- Chapter 8

- Chapter 9

- Chapter 10

- Chapter 11

- Chapter 12

- Chapter 13

- Chapter 14

- Epilogue






The Proposition 5


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 by 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: August 2014

ISBN: 9781630350345

The Proposition 5

The events in this volume take place prior to The Arrangement 15.

HM Ward

Chapter 1

Early morning light shines through the heavy drapes lining his walls and forms a thin slit of pure white on the dark carpet. I stare at it, lost in thought. Next to me, Bryan is sleeping. I wrap my arms around him, and his body feels so strong. That’s why this is so hard. It makes no sense. Other than the pain, I can’t see what’s happening to him. It’s internal. His body is killing him, second by second. Eventually, he’ll take a breath and there won’t be another. I can’t stand the thought.

My life has been shaped by death. Everyone I care about, everyone except Maggie, is gone. I slip out of the bed, grabbing my phone before heading down the hall. I text her even though I doubt she’s up.

I text:
I’m with Bryan. Just checking in to make sure you’re okay.

To my surprise she texts back:
I am, but I have something horrible to tell you.

Nothing could be worse than losing Bryan. I type back:
Me too. B home in a lil bit n we can talk.

She replies:

I tuck my phone into my pocket before picking up Bryan’s sweatshirt and tugging it over my head. I pull my hands under the cuffs and wander through the mansion until I find the kitchen. I smell coffee and desperately need a cup. Unfortunately, the beast—Bryan’s aunt—is sitting at the table with another woman. They’re both dressed in robes. I blink as shock washes over their faces. I can’t imagine why she’s here so early, not dressed. How weird is that?

Within a heartbeat, Constance is out of her seat and in my face. “How dare you parade around in my sister’s home wearing my nephew’s things? Get out right now, you little whore!” She tries to slap my face, but I catch her wrist.

Things finally click into place. The way the women were looking at each other, the touch of her hand, the way their eyes linger in that familiar gaze, the fact that she’s here when her sister and husband-in-law are gone, and the way Constance turns into a tiger when she sees me—it makes sense. She’s been hiding a secret for years, one that could ruin her forever. That’s why she puts up with Mr. Ferro’s infidelities and why she allows his women to waltz around her home.

Constance is gay—and this woman is her lover. She thought I knew, but I never noticed before now.

She pulls her hand from my grasp and prepares to start yelling again. I interrupt tiredly, “I don’t care about your life or your preferences. I understand it’s taboo for you to be seen with her. I get that, Constance, I really do. I don’t judge you for it, so stop judging me. The only thing of yours that I want is coffee.” I shove past her.

Constance’s chin is on the floor. Her girlfriend, a woman at least ten years her junior, sits rigid, regarding me fearfully. Same sex relationships might be cutting edge and trendy in New York, but not among old money families like this one. This would ruin her. It’s why she hates me. She thinks I’ve been walking around waiting to drop a bomb on her life.

When Constance speaks, her tone is skeptical, “You’ve known for ages and said nothing. Why?”

“Because I don’t care about you.” I keep my back to her as I pour the dark liquid into a heavy cup. It’s too early. Normal people aren’t up at five in the morning. They were probably having morning coffee before parting ways for the day. When I turn to speak, both women are staring at me mortified. “I care about Bryan. Have you not noticed anything about him that concerns you?”

Her gaze narrows. “Don’t toy with me. I know my family, every single one of them.”

“Yeah, well, you might want to talk to him.” She locks her jaw, preparing to order me out, but I add, “Time is a funny thing. We all think we have tons of it until it’s taken from us—then we realize there was never enough to start with. Use the time you have, Constance. Love the people you love and make sure they know you do. The day may come when you wish you had, but the chance has passed you by.”

She stiffens as I speak. “Are you threatening me?”

I laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of her statement. She has no clue. I was referring to me and Bryan, to the constant pool of regret that fills my stomach. We could have been together, but that chance is lost now, time we’ll never have.

“You’re so wrong about everything, sealed in your little bubble, out of touch with the real world. This isn’t your house, so you thought you were safe, but you’re never safe, not from time—not from death. Your nephew...” I swallow hard but don’t break eye contact. “Make sure his mother finds out. That’s all I want.”

The assumption I’m making is massive—that Elizabeth Ferro will care whether her son lives or dies. Bryan hasn’t told anyone about his illness except me. Jon can see it, but the others have no clue. I don’t know how long Bryan has left, but I don’t want him to spend it worrying or fighting. I want to be there to protect him and, by alerting the Ferros to his condition, I probably just made that harder to accomplish—but it’s the right thing to do. If I had an extra second to spend with my dad… The thought lurks in my mind, sunrise to sunset. When night washes the sky with purple hues of ink and speckles of sparkling amber, I wish I had one more opportunity to say all the things I never had the chance to voice. Now, those thoughts are trapped within my soul, holding me captive. I’ll never be free. I never had the chance to say good-bye. I’m giving the Ferros that chance and hoping beyond hope that they don’t toss me out on my ass in reward.

Shoving aside my thoughts, I put my empty cup down and walk out, leaving Constance and her lover gaping in my wake. The two women behind me are children playing house. I may be younger than them in years, but my soul feels ancient. It’s juvenile to think your life is only about you. Life is about the people around you. How I wish I never grew up, but wishing is time wasted and I refuse to fritter away another second.

Chapter 2

Maggie and I plan via text to meet at a bagel place just after sunrise. The only cars in the parking lot are by the store. The rest of the shopping center is still closed. I haven’t been waiting long when she joins me at the end of the line.

“Hey,” Maggie says, wrapping me in a hug.

I hug her back, holding her a second too long. She’s going to dart again. I know it. She doesn’t handle death well. I suppose no one does, but Maggie’s seen too much of it. When I release her, I force myself to forgive her in advance. A soul can only take so much abuse before it can’t help but react. It’s like Pavlov’s dog. The death bell rings and Maggie runs.

I tuck a piece of hair behind my ear and lean against the glass storefront, before shoving my hands in my pockets. “Hey. How’ve you been?”

The line wraps out the door and down the front of the shopping center with people who’ve stopped for a bagel and coffee on their way to work. The line inches closer to the food and we move with it, before resuming positions against the glass. My stomach rumbles at the smell of yeast, and I can’t wait to taste the soft, warm bread and bite into it, savoring the thick cream cheese. I’ve learned not to take little things for granted. Bagels help me find my happy place.

I plan to grab one for Bryan too—poppy seeds with butter—just like he ordered in high school. We came here so many times. I stare out at the parking lot, my mind wandering into a memory of Bryan lifting me into a shopping cart and pushing me like a lunatic into the grocery store, laughing the whole time.

Another customer had asked, “What aisle did you find her on? I want one!”

Bryan just smiled, his eyes sliding over me in the cart. “Sorry, man. This was the only one and she’s all mine. I’ll never let her go.” The memory echoes sharply in my ears. It feels like it could have happened yesterday.

Maggie’s voice snaps me back into the present. She shrugs and pulls her purse strap up onto her shoulder. “I’m all right. I think I found us an apartment, but I heard Neil bought you guys a house.” She makes a face, well, tries not to make a face, which makes her pained expression even worse. The line moves again and, as we step forward, she blurts out, “Are you really going to marry him? I thought you loved Bryan? Like were totally smitten with the sex kitten. Well, you’re the kitten. Guys are what, tigers? Sex tiger sounds wrong.” She laughs, but her light laughter fades when she sees my fake smile. “What’s wrong, Hallie?”

I try to keep my voice steady, but it quivers without my permission. There’s no point in stalling any longer, and besides, I need her. Even though she’s going to run, I have to talk to someone while I have the chance. “Maggie, he’s dying.”

“But, he can’t be! He—” Maggie blurts out too many words at once and nearly starts crying. She’s the most empathetic person I’ve ever met. My pain is playing across her face when she stops, squeezes my hand, and pulls me into a bear hug that could pop my head off. “I’m so sorry, Hallie.” She wipes away her tears with the back of her hand and looks at my shoulder, not wanting to ask. Every word is like a knife in my side. “What’s wrong with him?”

I fill her in with what I know, what’s happened so far. My voice goes hard as I come to the end of the story. “We broke up because of his Aunt Constance. She thought I’d ruin her with information I shouldn’t have known, so she figured out a way to break us up.” Anger I hadn’t noticed until now bubbles beneath the surface of my mind. I won’t be angry, I can’t be. I refuse to waste my time on her or what she did. “Maggie, I couldn’t care less about her, but I’ve wanted Bryan all this time and didn’t have him because of her.”

“And yet, you don’t sound mad. You sound more creepy serene about it.” A red brow lifts slightly on her freckled forehead.

I glance over at her as we move with the line inside the little shop, and approach the case of baked bread. Maggie orders first, then I order and pay for our items. Taking our breakfast, we cut back through the line, out the door, and into the parking lot. I stand there in front of her, wanting to speak but unable to find words, then hand over her bagel and orange juice.

My mouth opens twice, but no words come out. I finally look her in the eye and explain. “I’m not mad. Well, I am—but I don’t want to be. It’s a waste of time and I have no time left. I’m planning on staying with him, Maggie. Whatever time he has left, I want to be there.”

“I understand, and I’m here for you.” She takes my hand, but I can’t look at her.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Maggie.”

“I’m keeping them this time.”

“I’d rather know now that you’ll vanish. I can handle this on my own. I’m fine, really. I know what this does to you and—” I make excuses for her until she cuts me off.

“No. Last time I wasn’t there for you because Victor was an asshole. I didn’t have a choice. It was part of the way he was controlling me, but he’s gone now, Hallie. I won’t run. I’ll be there for you. You won’t have to deal with this alone. I promise. We can get through anything, you and me. I won’t leave you Hallie. We’re sisters. I’ll be there this time.” She smiles awkwardly and looks at the pavement beneath her boots.

BOOK: The Proposition 5: The Ferro Family
5.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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