Witness to Passion

By: Naima Simone



Should. If she only had a pair of boots for every “should” in her life.

Pressure pushed against her sternum like a fist, tears burning her eyes. But lowering her hands, she blinked like an Oklahoma dust storm had suddenly rolled across the sidewalk. The hell if she’d let one drop fall for that jerk.

“Oh damn,” she muttered, glaring at her keys, which seemed to mock her from the sidewalk where they’d tumbled from her nerveless fingers. Groaning, she bent down and curled her fingers around the metal key ring, nails scraping the pavement.

Pop. Pop.

Gunshots.

OhGodohGodohGod.

Her purse hit the ground. Her ass quickly followed suit. Asphalt bit into her skin through her skirt, but she couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.

Growing up in the quiet town of Weston, she’d never heard that heart-stopping percussion of a bullet leaving a barrel. But she’d spent many hours in Addy’s Dorchester apartment and had heard her fair share of gunshots over the years. And after nine seasons of Criminal Minds, she could identify the cracks of bullets…and the thump of metal meeting flesh.

Especially when it blasted not two feet away from her.

Everything slowed until the world moved through a thick wall of molasses.

The jerk of a tall, black man’s body before he slumped boneless to the ground.

The grimace of agony and shock twisting the face turned toward her as if in a silent plea for help.

The dull, flat gleam of sunlight bouncing off a gun before it was tucked inside a coat.

Her heart raced to her throat. Lodged there and throbbed. Oh Jesus. She scooted closer to the tire, her palms scraping the ground.

Close your eyes, a voice screamed inside her head. Close your eyes. If she did, maybe she could disappear like in her dreams. Could convince herself none of this was happening. Could pretend her alarm would go off any minute, and this would be a terrible product of eating a family-size bag of M&Ms right before going to bed.

But no amount of denial could erase the image branded into her brain. Probably for the first time in Boston’s history, the sidewalk was clear of morning pedestrian traffic.

Clear except for the body on the ground.

And the man standing in the mouth of the alley—with a gun in his hand.

Caucasian. Average height. Surprisingly young. Mid-to-late twenties. Closely cut light hair. Square jaw with a large, vicious, sickle-shaped scar carved into the skin.

Flat brown eyes. That stared directly at her. And then he turned and dashed away.

Stunned, horrified cries split the air as people poured out of the coffee shop and other businesses, swarming and running over like cockroaches with the light suddenly thrown on. Frozen, she gaped at them, unable to process what she’d just witnessed. Unwilling to process it.

“Let me help you, sweetheart.”

The gentle, but firm grip on her arm registered before the words did. One moment she’d been cowering on the ground, and the next, some Good Samaritan guided her to her feet. Shock robbed her knees of strength, and she leaned against her rescuer, grateful.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his other hand bracing her back.

“Y-yes,” she stammered, though the answer was far from the truth. Tilting her head back, she glanced up at her Samaritan. “Thank y—”

A shard of ice the size of a glacier pierced her chest, numbing her limbs, encasing her lungs in a deep freeze so she couldn’t breathe.

Hard jaw. Brutal scar. Dead eyes.

He’d circled back around. Discarded his sweatshirt and slapped on a black baseball cap. But she recognized him, even though no one else in the accumulating crowd of people did.

She tried to scream. But, as if caught in a nightmare, the cry was snarled in her throat, trapped.

Cruel fingers dug into the flesh of her arm.

“Shh,” he soothed, a warm smile that failed to reach his eyes, curled his mouth, flashing a perfect, white smile except for a slightly crooked front tooth. On anyone else it would’ve been charming. Him, too, if she hadn’t just seen him blow a man away. “Don’t even think about screaming,” he murmured, bowing his head over hers, his lips grazing her ear.

To an onlooker he would appear to be comforting her, not terrorizing her.

“You didn’t see anything. You don’t know anything. You missed everything because that tight little ass of yours was turned away, you understand me? Nod if you understand.” His voice lowered, hardened, and the hold on her arm tightening to the point of pain. She whimpered. And nodded. “Good girl,” he praised, then leaned closer and noisily sniffed her hair. He chuckled. “I almost wish you would open your mouth. I would enjoy coming for you. Would love catching you before I slit that pretty throat.”

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