Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1) read online by J. Daniels
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Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1)
Author: J. Daniels

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Thank you to my family for your unwavering love and support. For understanding when I was shut away writing and for not judging me when I would finally resurface hours later, still in my pajamas. I know how I looked, so again, thank you. Also, Mom, Dad, please skip over the sex scenes as usual. Let’s keep Christmas as comfortable as possible.

To Beth Cranford, thank you for keeping me sane. For encouraging me and telling me I could do this, and for your help with all of the “little things” that aren’t quite so little. Along with Beth, thank you to Kellie Richardson, Lisa Jayne, and Lana Kart for reading this book in its rough stages and, like always, giving me your honesty, enthusiasm, and voice messages. I was nervous, and you made me less nervous. To Lisa Wilson, Tiffany Ly, Yvette Trujillo, and Kellie, of course, thank you for your amazing teasers and the promoting you did for this baby. You girls are the BEST.

To my wonderful agent, Kimberly Brower. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. How many times have you talked me off the ledge? I’ve lost count. Peanut butter cup sundaes on me.

To Megha and the Forever team, thank you for picking up this story and for supporting my vision in it. To the amazing book bloggers who have been on this journey with me from the beginning, I can’t list you all here, but please know how grateful I am for each and every one of you. Special thanks to Give Me Books, Kinky Girls Book Obsessions, Rock Stars of Romance, and The Literary Gossip.

To the author friends I’ve made along the way, you know who you are. And to my readers, for your love and warm hugs, thank you most of all.

 

 

Chapter One


SYDNEY


I had been sitting in the same spot for an hour.

Well, at least it felt like an hour. I honestly had no idea what time it was. I couldn’t look at the clock to verify how long I’d been immobile. I couldn’t look at anything besides the hand resting in my lap.

No, not resting. It shook violently, no matter how hard I pressed it flat against my jean-covered thigh.

My skin all over was clammy and frigid at the same time. Sweat tickled my palms, pooled at the base of my neck and in the hollow dip of my throat. It was quite possible I was running a fever.

I should feel sick. This was sickening.

The house felt eerily quiet, desolate, though I knew Marcus was in the other room. I hadn’t heard the evidence of his departure—the front door closing or the low rumble of his truck starting up.

He hadn’t left. And why would he? Why would he be the one leaving in this scenario?

You should be leaving, Sydney. Get up. Run. Grab your stuff and get the hell out of here.

I exhaled a trembling breath. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t stop shaking. I could barely remember how important oxygen intake was in the matter of staying alive. Long seconds stretched out before I would inhale in a panic, allow my lungs to taste the air in the room I shouldn’t still be sitting in, then expel that breath all too quickly.

I needed to go. I needed to react somehow, because I hadn’t thus far.

I felt numb. And this … this felt like a dream.

A paralyzing dream.

The kind you didn’t wake up from.

My phone rang from my bag on the floor somewhere, but it sounded miles away. I couldn’t lift my head to the noise. I couldn’t even remember where I had tossed it after I endured the one-sided conversation with Marcus.

Endured. Not participated in.

Him, doing all the talking, all the explaining, and none of it sounding the least bit apologetic, his voice cold and distant, detached, final … having made the decision, his decision, while I stood there frozen.

Frozen.

Marcus turned on his heel and swiftly left the room. I collapsed into a pile of heavy limbs on the floor, where I’d remained, and where I had every intention of remaining.

That was my reaction. It was the only reaction I was capable of.

Until the phone rang …again.

Something felt off. It was a miracle I felt it, whatever it was, considering my deadened state.

Like a whispered warning against my ear.

My spine stiffened in an instant. I turned my head in the direction of my muffled ringtone, scanning with what felt like new eyes.

Fresh and alert.

I was up to count six of Taylor Swift singing about being young and reckless. I knew who was calling, and I contemplated ignoring my best friend again, slouching over and righting myself to my previous position, until I realized …

Shit.

Shit.

My already tight chest grew tighter.

Tori never called me that many times in a row. If I didn’t answer her, I was usually in the middle of a shift at work, and she’d leave her standard “call me when you get a sec” message.

She never rang me up like this. Urgently.

Was something wrong?

I found my bag halfway under the bed and tugged it out by one of the straps. Palming my phone, I answered the call just before the last words of the verse sounded.

“H-hey, what’s up?” I asked, voice strained and anxious, stumbling brokenly through my greeting.

My head hit the side of the mattress as I resumed my location on the floor with my knees pulled in close against my chest.

“Syd.” Tori’s voice cracked with a whimper. “Hon …hey, hey, are you busy right now? Do you have a minute to talk? I need to talk.”

I blinked rapidly at her distressful tone.

I suddenly couldn’t remember the last hour, or however long I had been in this room. I couldn’t remember the bomb Marcus dropped in my lap before he dismissed me with a curt nod and went about his business doing God knows what.

My hands no longer shook. My breathing was even. Focused.

I had never heard my best friend cry. Never. Not once in the twelve years we’d known each other. And we’d been through some shit, let me tell you.

But she was crying now.

I was right. Something was off.

Worry consumed me. My blood ran warmer as I began to pace along the length of the bed, pressing the phone to my ear as I quickly collected myself.

“I have as much time as you need, sweetie. What’s going on? Why are you upset?”

“Wes,” she hiccupped.

Wes.

Tori’s boyfriend of six months and serious enough he was obviously worth shedding tears over.

I hadn’t had a chance to meet the guy yet, due to my busy work schedule and the three-hour drive time between Tori and myself. But I felt like I knew him. Ninety percent of Tori’s and my conversations revolved around what amazingly sweet thing Wes did for her that week.

He seemed perfect.

My attention snapped back to the phone at my ear when I heard a crash, the sound of glass breaking, followed immediately by my best friend’s livid but still distraught high-pitched voice.

“Married. He’s fucking married, Syd! Can you believe that? That son of a bitch has a wife!”

I stopped pacing and stared openmouthed at the wall.

Married?

Oh, God …

Tori took in a shuddering breath and I started pacing again, needing to either move or hit someone. And I wasn’t jumping at the chance to confront Marcus just yet, so option two was out.

Tori’s voice shrank to a more vulnerable decibel when she finally continued.

“God, Sydney, how stupid am I? How did I not see this? His weeknight rule with being too busy to see me Monday through Friday, always sending my calls to voice mail only to return them minutes later, which I’m imagining now was enough time for him to make up some bullshit story to appease his wife so he could sneak out and call me back. Asshole. God …that stupid fucking asshole. How? How did that not set off alarms in my head? Was it that obvious? Was I that blind, Syd?”

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