Safe Word Page 1

Author: Teresa Mummert

Genres: New Adult , Romance

Chapter One

Rose-Colored Glasses

I’ve watched the social elite of New York City mill around me for three f**king hours now. Their faces buried in their smart phones, oblivious to the dangers that lurk around them. I don’t blame them. If I had the luxury to view the world through rose-colored glasses, I wouldn’t hesitate. Instead, my lenses are fractured. I’ve seen the world at its ugliest. Women prostituting their bodies to make a quick buck, children sick from disease. I’d watched my own father beat my mother to within an inch of her life. She prayed every night and was in the front pew every Sunday. None of it mattered. Even when he was murdered, justice wasn’t served. He never paid for what he had done to our family. This is why I have become who I am.

“Another?” The bartender wiped down the oak bar top with his rancid, mildew-stained rag. He raised his eyebrow at me as his hand paused by my glass.

I ran my thumb up the side of the half-drunk beer, letting the drop of condensation spill over my thumb. I raised it to my mouth and poured the contents down my throat before setting it harshly back in its place and nodding once.

“Coming right up,” he mumbled as he made his way to the cooler. The chime above the door jingled, broken from years of neglect. It now sounded like a muffled death rattle. I glanced over my shoulder at the couple that had just entered. I ran my hand over the gray hood of my sweatshirt, as a bead of sweat slipped down the back of my neck, catching on the collar of my dark-gray T-shirt. I wanted to shove the hood down and give myself relief from the oppressive heat, but I needed to keep myself concealed as much as possible. A leggy brunette stepped inside and her eyes scanned the bar. Her hand clutched her other elbow as she worried her lip between her teeth. The man that followed in his perfectly tailored gray suit placed his hand on the small of her back and she glanced over her shoulder, giving him an easy smile.

I turned back to the bartender, who was placing my drink on the bar.

“I wouldn’t bother.” His grin made my lip twitch and I wanted to pull him over the bar just for thinking I couldn’t have any of these women if I wanted them.

“I didn’t come here for her.” I looked to my left where she was settling on a stool just two spots away. Her male companion took the seat on the other side of her. Her chocolate-brown eyes caught mine and her brow furrowed. I grabbed my glass and turned my focus to the rows of half-empty liquor bottles behind the bar; the mirrored wall behind them was excellent for people watching. The woman at the table by the door would have to do. She was a redhead and had come to the bar alone. I could tell she was well off. Someone would pay a hefty price to get her back.

She fumbled with her napkin, then ran her fingers suggestively up the stem of her wine glass. I couldn’t keep my lips from pulling into a grin. This was going to be cake. She was already on her fourth glass. My gaze shifted to the left and caught the reflection of the leggy brunette’s big brown eyes on mine. She smiled, looking down at the bottle in front of her. Too bad she didn’t come alone. She would make things…interesting.

I nodded in the direction of the redhead. “Send her another glass on me.” The bartender smirked like a f**king pervert. I guess it did look like I was trying to get laid, but that was the last thing on my mind. This was about money. Nothing else.

“I wouldn’t have pegged her for your type,” the brunette said quietly from beside me. I glanced to the empty stool next to her. That f**king idiot went to the restroom and left his woman out here for the wolves. That’s the problem with rose-colored glasses. Everything they see is red, blinding them from the blood on my hands until it’s too late.

“I don’t have a type.” I pushed my hood off my head and ran my hand over my short dirty-blond hair. If people were going to make small talk with me, I would have to finish what I came here for another night.

“Everyone has a type. We just don’t like to admit how shallow we are.” She giggled as she picked up her bottle and brought it to her lips. “My name’s Lily.”

“I wouldn’t peg you for a beer girl, Lily.” I raised my eyebrow at her as she swallowed. I allowed my eyes to drift down her plum-colored dress. Lily had no idea what she was talking about or whom she was talking to. Redheads were a personal weakness of mine.

“You of all people should know better.” Her laugh was soft and innocent. I liked the sound of it.

“What does that mean?” I asked, turning my body in her direction. She didn’t even need to open her pretty little mouth to get any man’s attention, but what she said had solidified my interest. The day was already a bust now that I was holding conversations with other patrons. I might as well make the best of it.

Her companion made his way around the bar, adjusting the buckle of his belt. Her eyes followed my line of vision and she smiled as she saw him. I turned back to my drink, gulping down a large sip before running the back of my hand over my lip to catch a wayward drop. The liquid was cool and burned against my throat but offered little relief to the overly harsh summer heat.

Her words played over in my head as I glanced up at the mirror. The redhead had a new admirer and he was hunched over her, blocking her from leaving the booth. I couldn’t see her face and wasn’t sure if I should intervene. I shook the idea from my head. I was plotting on kidnapping her and now I wanted to protect her from that creep? The difference between someone like him and me was that I wouldn’t harm her. Not physically anyway.

“Why don’t you play some music on the jukebox?” I overheard Lily ask in a hushed tone. Her brown eyes flicked to my blue in the mirror. I knew she was buying an extra moment to talk to me. This same game was playing out in countless bars across the country at this very moment. The man stood and pulled his wallet from his pocket. He was a few inches shorter than me and I knew he didn’t work out as much as I do. He blended with the crowd. Something I wished I was able to do. My hair, a sandy blond, and my eyes, a light blue, attracted more attention than I would have liked for the way I make my living.

As the man walked to the far side of the bar and began flipping through the CD pages in the jukebox, Lily leaned closer to me.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” She cocked her head to one side.

“Why don’t you enlighten me?” I leaned slightly closer to her, flashing her my best boy-next-door smile.

She shifted in her seat and looked toward the ceiling as if pondering my request.

“No. I think I will let you figure that out.” She winked, and her teeth dug into her plump lower lip as the music began to play. My eyes locked on her mouth. I wanted to run my tongue over those lips. Have them wrapped around my cock.

Lily’s date slid back onto his bar stool, his eyes trained on me as he said something quietly into Lily’s ear. He placed his hand on her back in a protective manner and I clenched my jaw. I needed to ignore his alpha male posturing. I wasn’t here to show everybody I had the biggest dick in the bar. In fact, I didn’t even know why I was still here. My mark was long gone. I picked up my beer and finished it off before shoving back my stool and standing. I leaned closer to Lily, placing a hand on the bar in front of her.

“It was a pleasure, Lily.” My eyes were locked firmly on her date as I spoke. I could see the anger in his eyes as his nostrils flared, but he didn’t say anything. Fucking pu**y.

I left the bar with a smirk on my face and my dick half-hard from getting close enough to Lily to smell her soap. The disappointment of the day was replaced by the need to f**k someone. It didn’t really matter who it was.

“Hey,” a soft voice called from behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and couldn’t suppress my smile as my eyes landed on Lily.

“Uh oh…someone’s date is going to give them a stern look.”

Lily’s eyes narrowed as she playfully crossed her arms over her chest and pursed her plump lips.

“Not that I don’t enjoy this pissing contest you guys are doing, but he isn’t my date.”

I took a step closer to her, shoving my hands in the pockets of my dark-wash jeans. Through the front window of the bar I could see her companion’s glare.

“You come all the way out here just to clear that up?”

“You really don’t remember me.” She smiled and shook her head before reaching her hand out to me, a small piece of paper pinched between her fingertips.

“What’s this for?” I took the paper. Her name was scrawled across it and her phone number was scribbled below.

“I thought we could catch up.”

“Did we…?” I cocked my head to the side as I scanned my memory. It would be impossible to forget someone like Lily. The feel of her skin would not leave my thoughts that easily.

“No!” She sounded insulted that I would even think that we had slept together. It was kind of cute. Someone with her innocent demeanor shouldn’t be flirting with a man like me. I should throw her number away and tell her to f**k off, but I was intrigued. She had no idea how dangerous the game she was playing really was. I slipped the paper into my pocket and chuckled.

“Something to look forward to then.”

Her gaze dropped to her white strappy sandals as her cheeks flushed pink. I wanted to watch that flush spread all over her creamy skin. She tucked her long, dark hair behind her ear with shaky fingers.

“How rude of me. I didn’t offer you my number.” I couldn’t help but grin through the window of the bar at the ass**le she came with. I had no intention of calling her, but I just couldn’t help myself.

She slipped her long, slender fingers into the tiny black purse that hung from her shoulder. She pulled out a pen and an old receipt from Damon’s Jewelers. I took them from her, letting my fingertips slide over hers. Her chest rose as she sucked in a ragged breath. I quickly scrawled my number and Colt across the paper and placed it in her palm. She looked down at my number and smiled.

“Colt. Like a horse?”

“Like the gun, sweetheart.” I winked and her face brightened with a nervous smile.

“Well…I should get back to my friend.”

I loved how shy she was. For a woman who looked as if she just stepped off a runway, she had no idea how good-looking she really was.

“Talk to you later, Lily.” I watched her walk back into the bar, admiring the view, before I turned and continued down the road toward my place. I was anxious to get home and take a cold shower to help escape the heat. I pulled my hood over my head and kept my head low as I weaved through the lingering crowds of people outside the local clubs. I preferred to be unseen by the masses. It made my job easier. It allowed me to run several cons at once without worrying I would be called out. I was thankful the sun wasn’t out, or concealing myself would be almost impossible in these temperatures.

I slipped down the dimly lit alley and made my way to Brooks Avenue, opting to enter my place from the fire escape. I didn’t need to make idle chitchat with the f**king neighbors. I wasn’t in the market for friendships, relationships, or a family. I wasn’t running from anything. In fact, I wanted my demons to catch up with me so I could face them once and for all, possibly form some semblance of a normal existence. For now, this was a means to an end. This was the reason I got up in the morning.

I reached the top of the old brick building and pulled back my sweatshirt sleeve to check the time. I had twenty minutes to spare. I grinned as I pulled open the dirty window that led into my living room. I glanced around and saw the stacks of books piled around an old mahogany leather couch. An old box television sat on the counter leading to the kitchenette. I wasn’t much for watching shows and wasting away my life. I only turned it on to keep track of the news. That was very useful in my profession.

A muffled whimper broke the silence and I stopped, just as the floorboard squeaked beneath my sneaker. I steadied my breathing and reached behind my back to pull my Glock from my jeans’ waistband. The sound rang out again and I walked closer to my guest bedroom. As I reached the door I leaned in closer, waiting.

One heavy panicked breath and I couldn’t help but smile.

“You know the rules.” I waited, but there was no response.

I grabbed the keys from my front pocket and slipped the gun into the front of my jeans. As I grabbed the padlock that held the door closed I began speaking to her again.

“This isn’t gonna work out if you don’t trust me, darlin’.” I knew I was being an ass**le, but part of me found humor in the situation. Living the life of an animal will do that to you. I’ve been straddling the line of good and evil for too long. “Back away from the f**king door.” I made sure all traces of playfulness had left my voice. I heard a stumble and the sound of her body hitting the back wall. I pulled the lock from the door and pushed it open with my shoe.

My eyes danced over the woman curled up on the floor, her knees against her chest. She looked like a frightened animal with her dirty-blonde hair knotted and hanging in her face. I kept my distance. You have no idea how someone will react in a frightening situation until you’re in it. Most would call me a monster, but even I get scared of the darkness that creeps inside of me. I had no way of knowing what lurked beneath the surface in Holly.

“This is almost over, sweetheart. Do you remember what we talked about?” I took one step closer and sunk down to her eye level. Her frightened bloodshot eyes scanned me before settling on her knees. She nodded quickly as she chewed on her lip. It made me think of Lily, only there was nothing sensual about the way Holly did it. She was scared; she was blaming herself.

“We need to go. If your father keeps up his end of the deal you will be eating ice cream and watching reality television by the end of the hour.”