Sinful Red, page 1
Copyright © 2019 by Celia Crown
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are from the author's imagination or folklore, legends, and general myths.
The book or any portion of the book may not be reproduced or used under any circumstances, except with the written permission from the author. Public names, movies, televisions, and locales, or any references are used for atmospheric purposes. Any similarities and resemblances to alive or dead people, events, brands, and locales are all complete coincidences.
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by Celia Crown
I have a job to do; blend in, study the terrain, and finish the job.
It’s the same as any other contracted jobs, but then I met Eric.
A man with a secret of his own, eyes of a commanding survivor, and a body inked with his stories that he guards closely to his heart. Working as a construction worker, Eric is massive and terrifyingly gorgeous with rough hands and a thrilling desire in the curl of his possessive voice.
He makes me feel, and it’s scaring me; it’s too real, and I’m falling in love with a man who wants a permanent home, and I can’t give him that.
Eric looks at me as if I am his entire world, but his Nora is not real.
I’m not real.
He doesn’t care; his obsession is inevitable.
A chance encounter turned my life upside down when her pretty, sunshine smile stole my heart.
I never knew I was looking for Nora until she came into my life with her golden hair and eyes a hypnotizing shade of green.
Before Nora, I just wanted to lay low and live out the rest of my life. Every day was a constant battle for me, trying to catch up with my past for the last fifteen years.
I don’t want to run anymore. I want to face the shadows that have been haunting me. It’s the only way to protect her. She has become too important to me, and I won’t be able to give myself fully to her if I don’t have control of my life.
But, I’m not the only one hiding a secret.
The shade of her green is sinister, but it doesn’t matter.
In my eyes, she could do no wrong.
Eric is a creature of habit.
He works in the morning with a construction crew, comes in the little diner for lunch, goes back to work, and then comes for dinner.
Every day for the last three months, I have been working here under the name Nora and will keep it until I deem it is necessary to burn the identity. The first day I began working, I met Eric, and he’s quite the handsome man with rugged features; calloused hands from carrying wood, strong legs to move around all day, and thick shoulders to support stacks of bagged concrete.
I had noticed the tattoos on his arms; they are beautiful, and a part of me wanted to get my skin inked for the everlasting beauty of it.
It’s not possible. My job requires complete anonymity. Any identifiable marks on my body would lead to devastating results that will require more work to untangle the mess it would be in. I have no desire to allow my freedom to get stolen from the government, and my job depends on my ability to stay under the radar and do the job as quietly or extravagantly as my client hired me to do.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen!” I greet a bunch of men strolling through the small diner with their cargo pants and tan work boots.
“Hey, Nora!” one of them greets while the other men filter in to make a line to the diner counter.
I remember their orders; creatures of habits are the easiest to take advantage of and men their size don’t bother me if they were my targets.
“The regular?” I ask, putting down the fork that I have been cleaning.
Eric likes to sit in front of me and his obvious attraction to me is the first thing I notice, but he doesn’t do anything other than being the quietest and politest of the bunch. He keeps to himself and others like him enough, but I don’t hear him accepting their offer to hit the bar after work.
He comes to me. No matter the time or weather, he returns to the diner like a moody, little puppy that I can’t turn away. How can I when I have become fond of this older man, especially when he is protective of me when unruly travelers going through town come in.
Not everyone is as well-mannered as him.
“How’s business going, Nora?” one of the five crewmen asks from the edge as he leans his dirty elbows on the diner counter.
They all have the tendency to sit as close to me as possible. They don’t ever sit by the windows or other tables available.
I can’t blame them. Men do tend to look at me with unnecessary desire in their eyes. It’s part of my assets that I’m willing to exploit to do my job. I am not the one to flaunt what I have since they are only helpful when I need to work.
It’s a hindrance when I’m not working, and I have lost count of how many men don’t take rejection well. It’s a shame that their wealth comes partially from their intelligence, but they act like children when things don’t go their way.
I am embarrassed for the male species.
“Since you gentlemen are here, the business will flourish,” I smile at the man.
“Oh yeah?” another one chimes in with a crooked grin, “You’re saying we’re— you know.”
I laugh at his wink after his bushy brows wiggle, “Yes, you are very charming.”
Everyone but Eric laughs as I fill two glasses of water; one is for a man who is sensitive to caffeine, and the other is for Eric. I hand them the water and Eric’s hand grazes mine when he accepts it. Something flickers in his brown eyes, and I would describe the shade of melted caramel.
With liquid flame flickering through those light brown eyes, my fondness with him increases, and it’s going to be a pain in the ass to disappear off the face of Earth. It wouldn’t be the first time, but this is the first time that I adore someone.
This fondness seeps into a vile form of obsession.
As I’m filling three cups of coffee for the other three men, I watch the blackness fill the dark-colored cups. The color is better than white. White would have too many coffee stains, and it’s going to take too long to wash the cups when I have other things I need to tend to.
“Do you like this small town so far?” the man beside Eric asks when I put down his cup of coffee.
I nod softly, “It’s quiet. I prefer it this way.”
I finish dropping off the two other cups of coffee for the men and start to fill out the orders on the notepad; there is a lot of protein, and the men like to have more meat than greens. They need to have energy to work under the blazing July sunlight, and they all look too happy when they return to work.
They enjoy their work just as I enjoy mine.
The food comes out, and I serve it correctly to the right customer. They were impressed that I remembered their orders the second time they came in on the first day of my job. I should have let them order the list of things on their plates.
I wasn’t in much of a patient mood to let four men nitpick their food. Eric sticks to one simple meal on the menu witho
“Do you ever think about going back to the big city?”
I turn to the voice at the end of the stool, but I smile in return as a switch of tactic. “Why? Do you want to come with me?”
“Only if there are hot babes like you there,” he says as he sips his glass of water.
“There are beautiful women here,” I simply say, “Your friend Blair is quite lovely.”
The man snorts up water and coughs violently. I calmly hand him a napkin, and he wipes his mouth roughly with his hairy hands. I walk back to the center of the center diner counter where Eric sits and where the forks still need to be organized.
“H-how’d you know her?” the man clears his throat, a ting of nervousness in his voice. “She… did anything to you, right?”
“Of course not, Ms. Blair and I had a pleasant chat.”
“Pleasant?” the man screeches, “Black hair and crazy-eyed Blair? Temper shittier than hell?”
I stack the forks right beside the divider for the spoons, “I find her to be very sweet.”
“That’s someone else. I know her, I grew up with her. She’s a hellion. She wants to screw up everything in my life!” the man grumbles, jabbing his fork into a browned sausage and chewing it with more effort than needed.
“She tried to fuck with my weekend with a babe last week. I needed to get laid, or I’m going to die of blue balls,” the man crudely spats out with blistering eyes.
Over the years of travel, I have seen many men and interacted with more than I remember.
Every individual person has their own unique characteristics that rub someone the wrong way. Not one person can be liked by everyone. There will always be hate budding somewhere in the world and more likely close to home.
The man and his childhood friend are a dynamite couple if they get together, but they could also be what each other needs since they both have feelings under all that rivalry and fear of rejection.
When rejection happens, the friendship of years can get destroyed.
I’m not one to meddle in others’ affairs. The fewer connections I have, the better I can disappear without a trace.
“What did she say to you? Let me guess, she threatened you to back off and said something about my—”
I chuckle and shake my head, “I can assure you, dear customer, everything we discussed is under strict confidence.”
The man grumbles again with a playful scowl. I shake my head again, and a stray of blonde hair falls to my side. I swiftly push it behind my ear; I have been thinking of what I should do about this haircut.
It’s a very beautiful cut that has a small number of layers to form gorgeous waves when it is curled. It’s my usual hair, but the hairstyle that I had to do for one previous job was ridiculous.
My target was a bulldog, and that already didn’t sit well with me. People are not my biggest concern, but when a client hires me to kill a dog, then that is when the line is crossed. I have no feelings when my job involves people, but when it comes to animals, I make sure to do more than they asked.
The owners of the dog were an elderly, rich couple in a bitter divorce; the wife hired me to kill the dog because it was her ex-husband’s prized treasure, and she wanted to hurt him. I took the job and kidnapped the bulldog instead of killing it. I took their money and rendered them broken from lawyer fees.
Before I could have done all of that, I had to get into the life of the ex-husband. I gathered more than adequate information that his type of lady was young and hair curlier than powdered wigs from the eighteenth century.
Day one of meeting the man, I knew I had him wrapped around my fingers, and by the end of the day, I had his entire hidden assets transferred to an offshore account. I also stole his dog after another extravagant date at the end of the night.
When men are missing affection, they tend to be blind to dangers that lure in gold-digging women’s eyes. I wasn’t interested in the money, but I was interested in making the couple suffer by sticking the IRS on their asses.
Death isn’t always the best solution, and I find that other methods work just as well with fewer consequences.
A rich couple’s death would gain publicity, and I want to avoid it if I can.
I look up from the utensils and wave as the men drop their money on the counter for me to collect. The bell on the door rings as they walk out and I turn to Eric with a smile; he always stays and is the last to leave.
He pulls out a couple of bills. The silence he carries is louder than any words that I have ever heard. His body speaks for him, and he wants me to touch him; the yearning in his eyes is searing as I take the money from his hand.
Eric closes his big hand around my soft one. He rubs the back of my knuckles with his calloused fingers, and I squeeze his hand as I flash a smile up at him.
“I will see you at dinner, Eric.”
He nods and rasps with his deep baritone, “See you later.”
I take the bills and watch him walk to the door. He turns his head, and the striking side profile makes my heart thump loudly. He nods over his shoulder, and I wave at him with a chuckle under my breath. The door shuts with a final ring to the bell.
I am able to see him across the window walking down the streets to the construction site where he and his team are working on a house that the state had funded.
“Handsome boy, aye?” the chef’s voice muses behind me from the little opening on the wall from where I receive food from him.
The chef and the owner are the same person. He runs this place after his father left it to him after inheriting it from his grandfather. It’s a generational diner that has become stable and highly symbolic to the town.
“He is,” I agree as I pop the money in the cash register.
It’s a slow day. As the other waitress is handling the tables, I’m responsible for the seats on the diner counter, and it’s lunch time, so there are a little more people than at ten in the morning. However, today has fewer people than yesterday, and there isn’t any special event that is happening.
“Are you going to some city-girl thing with him?”
I roll my eyes and collect the cups to bring them back to the kitchen. The owner cocks an eyebrow with his dirty apron clinging to his waist.
“I can’t give you tips with your wife,” I gently settle the cups into the sink with other dishes for the washer to clean. “I am sure she is doing an excellent job.”
The owner crackles as he flips another meat patty, “How’d you know?”
“You’re glowing,” I mention jokingly, and he blushes.
It’s an odd look under all those facial hairs around his jaw, but he is aware of his hygiene, so he has a net with smaller cross-sections to prevent any hair falling down on the food.
“Shut up,” he sniffs and slaps the newly grilled burger on the bun.
I laugh at his childish antics and gets out to the diner to collect the other plates. I ask the new customers to give me a moment as I tend to the dishes.
This town has a population in the thousands; it’s neither too much to have a distant feeling like the cities, nor is it too close where everyone knows everyone’s business. It’s the perfect place to set up a home base of this job; I don’t need this waitress job, but I can’t have people asking me questions about how I’m supporting myself when there are welcoming neighbors when I first ‘moved’ in.
People talk in the town; it was not long until the news spread about me living here and people are very nosy when they come to the diner that I had gotten the job.
All the tips that I got from the town’s slightly richer individuals who want to impress me are given to the other waitress because she is a girl who needs it for her sick mother.
I may be on the job, but I’m not heartless. I am capable of feeling emotions when I am not turning that part of my brain off.
I asked him to pay me in cash. It’s another problem I would have to deal with if the IRS got involved. It’s highly doubtful, but it’s better safe than sorry.
Everyone in the town is kind, and I would rather not bring trouble to them; I have never been the one to leave with a trail of unfinished businesses. If they haven’t done anything to me, then I would not do anything to them until it was in my contract when I got hired.
Money is a different matter, and I will finish my job regardless of the consequences. My reputation is built on time, ability, and adherence to the contract.
I work and keep my eyes open for any suspicious activity. This diner is known for felons to roam. The town doesn’t take too kindly to criminals, and once someone gets into trouble, everyone knows.
There is a prison nearby, and those who are released go to the nearest place, and it happens to be this town. Although no one openly speaks ill about the felons, they are scared since criminals have been living in this town for decades.
The prison walls have been up for a long time, and it will continue to function as the state funds it.
Every three out of seven people are felons with some sort of prison tattoo on their body. Some like to show it off and some keep it hidden, but Eric isn’t bothered by the stares that he would get on his tattoos that take over the tanned skin on his arms.
I find them very attractive.
My type of men is strong and muscular. That’s why I feel nothing towards the thinner and sleek kind of physical forms in my line of work.
“Oh my, it’s this late already?” I smile as the bell on the door rings to signal my favorite man coming through the door.
He nods at me and sits at his usual spot, “Busy?”
I shake my head, “No, it’s the same as yesterday. How was your day?”
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