Con-Artist

By: Alexa Riley

Chapter 1





James





I roll over in bed and look at my watch. It’s sitting on the charging station and looking at me like I’m supposed to be up already. Bradford doesn’t care for being tardy, even if the jobs for him aren’t exactly legal. I’m pretty sure I’m his favorite girl right now and I need to keep it that way. Well, I’m his only girl, but there’s no reason to focus on that.

I’ve never felt the wrath of Bradford, but I’ve seen others on the receiving end of it. For an old guy he can still pack a punch. That’s why I do what I’m told and walk a fine line between petty theft and odd jobs to make my cut. It’s nothing that could land me in the state prison for the rest of my life because I’d never make it on the inside. My best quality has always been that I’m small and quick, but in a prison there isn’t anywhere to go. Inside, a person is trapped and that thought has always made me panic. I don’t care where I am or what I’m doing. I always have an exit plan.

If anyone knows what prison is like, it’s me. Both of my parents have been locked up since I was fifteen. Mom was in and out, but after the last time it looks like she won’t be coming out anytime soon. I think it might be for the best, at least for my sake. She was always trying to get me to do shit for her. Shit that would have landed me right next to her. I don’t touch drugs after I watched them destroy my parents. It was the most important thing to them, and I realized at a young age to stay far away from them. Before I ever worked for Bradford he told me to stay away from them, too, and it’s one of the reasons I work for him. He respects the lines someone draws for themselves as long as you respect his. Bradford was always around when I was growing up. He let me start doing small errands for him when I was around ten and back then it was just to get groceries for his mom or running errands.

I grab my phone and swing my legs over the side of my twin-size bed. Like every morning I check my bank account and stare at the number. It’s slowly grown over time, but I need to get more ballsy and take on bigger jobs. It will get me out of here sooner rather than later, though I’m not sure what kind of job Bradford would give me if I asked for it. Sometimes it feels as if he treats me differently than some of the other people my age that work for him. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and I don’t know if I should be thankful or pissed.

I think it over as I look at the money, and I don’t know what the number in my bank account should be before I make a fresh start. I want to go somewhere new where I’m not the girl with two messed up parents and who is good at picking pockets. It’s the one skill that my dad taught me that actually helped me in life. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

An uneasy feeling settles over me. Something feels off today and I have a tingling at the base of my spine. I stand and stretch, thinking that maybe I need to go for a run, but I don’t have the time. I glance out the window of my tiny studio apartment, if you can even call it that. It’s maybe three hundred square feet and the window faces a brick wall. I think its original intent was meant to be a small office that sits over the bar, but Bradford helped me get the place and I get to pay my rent in cash weekly. It’s cheap and I feel somewhat safe since Bradford knows the owners. Plus, I don't let anyone know where I live.

I put on tight black pants and sneakers and a simple black T-shirt before pulling on a hoodie over it. It’s the same thing I wear almost every day. I put my watch on and grab my phone then make my way out the door and down that stairs to the empty bar. I walk out the back and slip into the morning crowd. I pull my hood over my head before double-checking to make sure I have my phone tucked away. I know all too well how easy it is to lift one.

Not paying attention, I slam into a hard body and gasp just as I start to fall backwards. Strong hands grip my shoulders and keep me from falling on my side. Fear races up my spine as I stare at a very expensive suit—one that is out of place on this side of town.

My eyes travel up to see two bright piercing blue eyes staring down at me. He looks pissed off and he’s probably thinking I ruined his outfit that cost more than a car, but I’m sure he can afford another. My hood falls off as I lean back to look up at him and my hair comes tumbling out around me.

His eyes widen for a moment and his nose flares, his jaw clenching. Then the hands on my shoulders tighten as he grips me harder.

“Let go,” I snap in the most commanding voice I can. I say it loud enough that I know others will turn to look at a man holding on to a girl who is about half his size.

He doesn’t let go, though, and instead a cocky half smile forms on his handsome face. I inwardly cringe at thinking he’s handsome.

“Do I need to repeat myself?” I try again. I don’t attempt and get out of his hold…yet. A small tug wouldn’t work if he didn’t want to let me go and I’d need surprise on my side.

“You are a feisty little thing, aren’t you?” He pulls me into him and presses my body against his. For a moment I’m shocked as his eyes roam my face. “Or maybe not so feisty.”

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