Home > Honor (The Breaking Point #1)(5)

Honor (The Breaking Point #1)(5)
Author: Jay Crownover

He slowly put the menu down on the cracked tabletop and leaned back in the booth. He was strikingly out of place here and I absolutely hated how that sexy twist of his mouth, a mouth that I dreamed about almost every night, made my traitorous heart flutter and my pulse kick.

I was also strikingly out of place here, but I’d learned to fake it. He, obviously, never bothered to fake anything. He wasn’t a man with virtuous intentions and he never pretended to be.

Gone were the mile-high stilettos that I always wore. In their place I now donned work shoes that prevented me from falling on my ass as I ran food and dirty dishes to and from the kitchen. I was hiding in plain sight, knowing that the last place on earth anyone who might come looking for me would check out would be this greasy spoon. This was the opposite of me and the life I had always lived, so even though I could afford better, craved more, this was where I needed to be . . . until he showed up.

Gone was the long, flowing hair dyed the perfect shade of auburn and styled in a way meant to give men dirty ideas. In its place was a boring, brown bob that hit my chin. There was hardly enough hair left on my head to inspire men to do anything other than feel sorry for me. Gone were the short skirts that left nothing to the imagination, and the shirts cut down to my navel so that the boobs I paid a small fortune for were on obvious and prominent display. Today I wore faded skinny jeans with a hole in the knee and a plain black T-shirt that covered those spectacular boobs. I hadn’t put on a full face of makeup in over six months, and since I was no longer dancing hours upon hours a night, I had put on some weight. I would never pass for a plain Jane, but I was close. Average was probably the first thing that came to mind when strangers laid eyes on me, especially if they didn’t bother to look closely. I definitely wasn’t the same girl that had left this man, and the world he not only came from, but ruled.

Those predatory eyes rolled over me again, and his lips twitched in amusement when they landed back on my ugly footwear. “Nice shoes, Key.”

My fingers tightened instinctively on the pen I was clutching, and I heard the plastic crack under the pressure. I resisted the urge to shift in said ugly-ass shoes, and instead narrowed my eyes at him. Weakness around a killer should never be shown, and I knew this particular predator would eat me alive if he got even the slightest chance. He’d been hungry for a taste since the first day I met him, and while I had always been tempted to feed the beast, fear of losing more than my fingers to those vicious jaws always kept me from offering up myself on a platter. The only thing I ever wanted was to be my own person, to thrive and be independent, making my own rules and answering to no one. The only thing Nassir Gates wanted was for me to be his.

“What are you doing here, Nassir?”

Nassir Gates, half man and half monster. He was lethal and toxic, keeping all that sinister beauty covered up in a ridiculously expensive suit that made him look elegant and falsely civilized. To the untrained eye, Nassir was an outrageously handsome man that looked like he was on his way to a business meeting, but if you had spent any time on the streets, if you were familiar with life in the gutter, there was no missing who he really was, what he was. The top of the food chain. If you knew about what it took to make it where I came from, you could look at Nassir and see that he not only thrived in chaos, but was comfortable there. He even managed to make it look good.

I left all of that behind. I liked Denver. I liked the laid-back vibe. I liked the monotony. I liked the predictability. I liked that I could walk to my car after my shift at the diner and not have to worry about taking a knife in the ribs or getting a revolver shoved in my back. I liked that I didn’t have to shake my ass or get naked to pay my bills. I liked that here, soccer dads were just that, and weren’t secretly banging hookers in the back room or gambling the family’s grocery money away at an illegal poker game. Most importantly I liked that I didn’t have to look my biggest addiction, my worst temptation, in the eye every single day and pretend like I didn’t want him. Here I didn’t have to deny that I had been infatuated with him for years. I was foolishly obsessed with this particular devil in a designer suit and I knew he was absolutely detrimental not only to my safety but to the thing I valued above all else . . . my independence.

After a childhood spent evading the hands of my mother’s overzealous and unhinged boyfriends and barely escaping the clutches of a sick and twisted stepfather, and too many years working my ass off—literally—to make a life for myself, I could never risk letting myself care for Nassir the way I wanted to because I knew that if I did, I would become nothing more than his, and I refused to be any man’s possession or accessory.

When the opportunity arose to take off without an explanation or without looking like I was running from him and the promise and future I saw so clearly in his eyes, I grabbed it. Ran away with both my heart and my tail tucked between my legs. But now he was here in this fragile and predictable paradise and I wanted to stab him with the broken pen and jump in his lap and put my mouth on his smirking lips all at the same time.

“You’re here, Key. Where else would I be?”

His inky-black hair was longer than I remembered, touching the collar of his shirt, and his voice was even smoother and more musical than I recalled. He spoke with just the barest hint of an accent, which no one could pin down the origins of, and Nassir wasn’t the kind of guy who offered up even the tiniest sliver of personal information. He was a beautiful tawny color no matter what time of the year, so I always assumed that with his dark hair and golden complexion, he had to have come from somewhere in the Middle East. He never confirmed or denied my suspicions. All I knew was that he’d landed in the Point when I had just started stripping, and from the second he stepped into the scene, he had been at the center of all the action. He had also always been the one danger I was smart enough to steer clear of. A task that grew harder and harder the older I got, and the more aware I became of him and the pull he had over me.

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