The Carrero Heart - The Journey (Carrero book 5)

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SOPHIE HUNTSBERGER has been living her own life for the past three months. She is finding her feet and her strength - determined to survive in a world without ARRICK CARRERO. Unfortunately for Sophie, the wheel of fate throws them straight back together again. And they find their feeling for each other are like magnets, pulled by a stronger force that neither can fight. The heart is a funny thing: it can both hate and love, hurt and heal - at the same time. However, something given so readily once upon a time is not so willing to peek out from the safe shadows. Sophie has to decide if she can let that one person back in that she never thought would ever betray her - Arrick. A roller coaster of a journey that you won't want to get off. Contains some mature, adult content, and language.

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Chapter 1

“Here.” I pass Jenny the sketches we have been working on across the table, and the pretty brunette leans in to pour over them with curious soft brown eyes. Tall and slender and a little shy in her mannerisms, Jenny is my classmate and fast becoming one of my closest friends. Next to Christian, both of whom I met on day one of orientation. Something just clicked with the three of us straight off. I have something real with these two, and despite myself, they have both wormed their way under my self-defense system over the last few weeks until I needed them around me to function.

Christian is standing five feet away and draping some wild bohemian fabric on a tailor’s dummy to no avail. All tall and immaculately groomed in his “preppy boy” outfit today. Blonde floppy hair and gray-eyed, a grin aimed at his two best girls. We are tucked in the corner of the busy sewing room while the hustle and bustle of the other students around us float this way and the commanding voice of today’s lecturer. They have split everyone into groups of three this week to work on designs. Our first assessment of simple tailoring skills is fast approaching.

“I think if we go with this one, it’s pretty much a circle skirt and easy bodice, simple enough for us to draft ourselves, and we could make it edgier if we are clever with it.” Jenny slides back one of the drawings, tapping a pink floral idea I have been mulling over, based loosely on a trending dress I have seen everywhere for a new season release.

We’ve been in class for a few weeks, and it’s been almost three months since I walked out on Arrick and booked myself into a hotel. Two weeks later, Jake found me a cute two-bed apartment within walking distance, and school started days later. Everything was swift in his capable hands, as I assumed it would be. I’ve concentrated on my studies, getting my apartment how I like it, and going home every four weeks to see my family. It’s been hard, far worse than even I could envision a life without him, but I’m doing it; day by day I’m still breathing, fighting, and not falling to a watery end like I thought I would.

I can live an Arry-free life.

For the most part, I can push down the empty ache that I know is him, focus on work and blank the need to bring his name up in my cell every day. I deleted all our pictures on my phone, so I don’t have the memories of his smile, those hazel eyes, or that gorgeous face. He made me hate him for a moment … then I shut down the parts of my soul that he’s entwined with and blocked him out. It’s better this way.

Arrick has been a missing chasm in my life, but it seems both of us concluded that we shouldn’t contact one another. A real wall of silence at last, and even Jake avoids mentioning him when I see him at our fortnightly lunch date. He knows how I feel, how much I don’t want to know how he’s getting on and how angry I still am that he could throw me away like I never meant a thing to him. I never really knew him if this was how he could treat me after everything I was supposed to mean to him. He told me I was a part of him, yet he let me go as if I meant nothing.

It hurts a lot more than I thought it would, considering he told me that life sucked without me, and yet here we are, three months of no Arry … no calls, no texts, and no chance encounters, despite living close to one another. I guess I haven’t tried to reach out to him either, but then why would I? He made it clear that night that she was his future. There was no way around that I couldn’t be, and I’m learning how to live with a broken heart that will eventually disappear.

He seems to plan his trips home when he knows I won’t be in the Hamptons, so I guess he relies on Jake for that, seeing as I fly home with him once a month. To date, I haven’t run into him in passing in the city either. Not that it’s a surprise. I’ve kept my head down and left the party animal in me behind, and apart from the occasional party, Arrick never used to travel in the same circles as me. His fight career and Carrero Corp means he will never randomly roam the city or any women’s fashion stores. I’m just focusing on the future I want for myself and finally feel more in control of some aspects of my life.

I’m doing it … growing up all by myself.

I go home at the end of the day and spend time with my new-found two best friends, watching movies, or working in my custom-made sewing room, where I’m finding so much joy nowadays. Eating, breathing, and living the life of a fashion student and compiling an impressive array of mock-up designs hanging on clothes rails, despite the early days of my student life.

I’m excelling and seem to have a natural talent for this. The opportunities to attend catwalk shows, new releases, and sneak peek of next season’s designs completely overtake my life. Enough to cope with the constant black hole of ache that happens when Arrick is a missing part. I won’t let this affect me.

“Lemme see,” Christian moves over the table to nosey at our group project. We’ve been challenged to come up with a summer item of clothing to fit the current trend of loose, floaty, feminine, and floral. With me being the one who loves to sketch designs all day long, I’m the appointed designer on this one.

Christian leans in close, smelling a little too sandalwood good, as he always does, and surrounds us in a fog of scent. I squint at his comical expression as he regards the papers.

“Lift the hem by a few inches, and we have a winner.” He smirks cheekily; despite his aversion to sex with the fairer species, he has a thing for female legs on show. I’m borderline sure it’s a fetish and does not fit at all with his love for men’s abs and what’s between their thighs.

“We’re going with classy and fifties-inspired.” Jenny nudges him in the ribs as he leans over her, making it awkward for her to sit straight. Jenny is the quiet one of our trio, shy and softly spoken, while Christian is the flamboyant drama queen. The one who eye rolls and huffs, much like he does now.

“Whatev’s. Far too conservative if you ask me!” He goes back to trying to wrap his fabric around the dummy, and we leave him to sulk, giggling at his grumpy stamping and glares cast our way. He likes to think he knows best, but his strengths are edgy and bold design, nitty-gritty and daring. Jenny is classier and more stylish, while I seem to have a bit of a mix and a keen eye for trends.

“You guys still coming for lunch today, my treat?” I glance at Jenny across the table, reminding them of the celebratory plan. I finally finished my apartment and felt like it was worth celebrating over. My first steps toward real adulthood. No more boxes or half-furnished rooms and mess, no more bare walls and feeling like it’s a temporary home. It’s finished, decorated, and adorned with all my little touches. And it only took me two and a half months of abusing my two besties to help me get it that way.

We have come so far in such a brief time. My parents visited a week ago and made me feel like I’ve finally found my place in life. Now I’ve regained their trust, love, and things are looking up. Leila hates that I have moved here permanently, but she is warming to it, and my frequent trips home mean she can forgive me for it. She refuses to come to the city to see me though. Apparently, leaving this life behind to marry Daniel means she has an aversion to ever leaving home.

“Oh, shit, Sophs, is that today? I can’t, it’s Mark’s birthday, and I promised him I would meet him at lunch.” Jenny’s big eyes and wobbling lip dismiss any urge to be mad at her. Her boyfriend works crazy shifts, and she barely sees him. I know they have been having a rough time together lately. Well, truth be told, she never seems happy when it comes to him. I can’t be mad for her wanting to see him on his birthday, over my nothing lunch.

“It’s okay, as long as Chris doesn’t bail too.” I lift my brow at him as he wiggles his very muscular pert butt our way, laughing at his weirdness.

“I wouldn’t bail on my queen.” Christian blows me a kiss, and I can’t help but think, not for the first time, how unfair it is that a guy as perfectly formed and handsome as him is gay. When he isn’t being overly camp and emphasizing it, then he pulls off a straight guy all day long, and he is always immaculately dressed. I sigh at the unfairness of life, having found a man I get on with almost as much as “him, whom I will no longer name,” only it’s typical that he is out of bounds.

“Well, I fancy somewhere more upmarket; on me.” I smile his way, and he shrugs in return. I want to throw on the dress I brought with me, flick out my hair, now that I’m back to rocking blonde and have a sophisticated lunch with my new favorite beau. So not in the mood for fast food or our usual deli today.

Second favorite beau, even if the first one no longer deserves the title.

“I think I know the perfect place. It only opened a month ago, and no reservation is required.” Christian beams at me with that dazzling, all too white, cosmetically enhanced grin, looking a little Calvin Klein model with the way he’s leaning in.

“Sure. I trust you as long as it’s not sushi! I do not like raw fish.” I frown and mock throw up with fingers down my throat in his general direction. Jenny giggles at me with an adoring expression that makes her seem cutely juvenile.

“Ewww, no … I prefer meat to fish! I can swallow that all day long, bitches.” Christian sasses with a dirty wink, and Jenny and I eye roll and grimace at his filthy joke. Sometimes Christian is shameless and likes to shock.

My kind of friend.

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