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Constant (The Confidence Game #1)
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Fifteen years ago I met Sayer Wesley. I fell in love with him. I promised I would never leave him. I swore nothing could break us apart.
Five years ago I broke my promise. I ran away. I took the one secret that could destroy us both and disappeared.
Five days ago I thought I saw him.
I knew it was impossible. Sayer was locked away, serving a deserved sentence in federal prison. He couldn’t find me.
He wouldn’t find me. I was too good at hiding. Too good at surviving.
Because if Sayer ever found me, there would be hell to pay for a plethora of sins. The worst of which, he didn’t even know about.
Five hours ago, I told myself I was crazy.
Five minutes ago, I saw him again.
Five seconds ago, I was too late.
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Long or short, we’re talking about the same thing—the confidence game.
A petty criminal doesn’t understand the nuances that go into creating the flawless con. Conning isn’t a last-minute misdemeanor or the consequence of a faulty moral compass. No. A true confidence game takes skill, finesse, hours of planning and plotting and finally, when your team has been assembled and the stars align and the wind blows just right, it takes perfect execution.
The morally upright, law-abiding citizens of the world look down their noses. They assume the worst, believing that con artists are nothing more than depraved and corrupt. Social outcasts that can’t keep real jobs. But by assuming the worst, they’re ignoring the most important trait this type of person possesses—they are artists.
A true confidence game isn’t haphazard or carried out thanks to a penchant for laziness. A real con is carefully pieced together over months. Tireless preparation and cautious consideration form the bedrock of every game. But even the most prudent con can’t plan everything. The fates throw their hand in too. Kindly or maliciously, the artist depends on them for grace.
And in the end, the game must be played perfectly. Everything must go according to plan. Everything must fall into place and happen exactly right. The stakes are high. The risks are great.
Yet the consequences are not enough to turn us away.
We’ve heard the siren’s song and responded to her deathly lure. We’re not criminals. We’re artists.
At least I was once upon a time. Before different realities surfaced, forcing me to reprioritize. Maybe that’s the difference between criminals and good people—what they have to lose and how desperately they’re willing to gamble with it.
I had been willing to gamble before. I had chanced everything often and won every single time. Until one day, the reward wasn’t worth the risk. Until I knew I had to leave the darkness behind, even if it meant giving up the game.
Not that the game had been all that great. It was a tangled web that left me empty and shallow, wrapped up in the chains of my own making. The game was greedy, all-consuming, demanding blood for payment and my soul for insurance.
There had been moments during that time I thought I wouldn’t survive. I stood at the precipice of death and peered over the edge. One misstep or ill-timed gust of wind and I would have tipped over, fallen down the black abyss and never resurfaced.
Sometimes when I looked back at those moments, those infinitely dark and twisted times, I couldn’t breathe. I would feel my heart shatter all over. I would experience the tearing, crushing, ripping apart of my limbs and muscles, my tendons and veins, my heart and my mind. I would forget how to breathe.
I would forget how to be.
Until I remembered him.
He was the one constant in my life that had pushed me through the darkness. He was the one constant in my life that loved me beyond everything else, beyond what I was or had been or could ever be. He wanted me to be better. He wanted to be better for me.
The problem was he was as tangled in the madness as I was.
I didn’t live that life anymore. I had broken free and found something safe to build a new foundation for myself. But I couldn’t remember the past without imagining his smile or his eyes, his touch. I couldn’t think about where I had been without thinking of where we were supposed to go.
Where he was supposed to take me.
Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you plan. Sometimes circumstances change and sometimes they’re for the better.
But he was my constant then and he is the constant ghost that haunts me now.
I might not be with him, but he will always be with me.
Fifteen Years Ago
Awesome. Another back alley.
There were only a handful of activities that regularly occurred in the darkened backstreets of downtown DC and none of them were appropriate for a ten-year-old girl.
I knew that well, since I had witnessed my fair share of seedy behavior from this city. But that had never stopped my pops from dragging me along with him to all of his work dealings.
“Keep up, Caro,” he snapped when his crew came into sight.
The morning sun didn’t reach this alley, and the cool air pulled the hair to standing on my bare arms. “I should be in school, Dad. I have a science test today.”
He glanced quickly over his shoulder at me, his expression only marginally apologetic. “I called them this morning. Told them you had strep.”
Anger burned beneath my skin, turning my face red with frustrated emotion. I ducked my head and let my short bob fall over my cheeks.
“Relax. It’s a free day off school. You should be thanking me. When I was a kid I would have killed for my old man to call in for me. The test’ll be there tomorrow.”