I, Porn Star (I #1)(10)

By: Zara Cox


My skin prickles with thoughts of discovery, thoughts of flight. I force myself to remain calm, not give away the fact that the name he’s calling me by is as familiar as it is alien to me. “Yes?”

He laughs. “You didn’t hear me? You spaced out there for a sec, huh?”

I slowly slide the phone into my pocket. “Did you want something, Miguel?”

“Not me, no. But the boss wants you.”

My heart skips several beats. “Why?”

He shrugs. “Hell if I know. But he wants to see you, pronto.”

I manage a nod and keep a sensible distance between us as I leave the alley.

“Uh…Elly?”

My back stiffens, the name a reminder of why I’m here in this cold, noisy city awaiting a gruesome fate that looks exactly like death. I look over my shoulder.

“Is everything okay with you?” Miguel asks.

“We don’t know each other well enough for you to ask me that.”

He shrugs. “Maybe not. But I’m asking all the same.”

I think of all the answers I can give. Then settle on the only option available. “I’m fine.” I dispose of my Styrofoam cup and hurry inside before he can stick his nose further into my business.

The man I work for, Sully Manning, overheard me enquiring about a short term job in the shop where I bought my phone in Queens. His shrewd pale grey eyes assessed me throughout my conversation with the shop owner. He followed me outside, scaring the shit out of me before he said he might be able to help. It took two tries before I conquered my fear long enough to call the number he gave me.

Now, as I approach his office, I wonder if that fear wasn’t justified. Have I been too trusting? Hunger and terror have a way of messing with your mind. By letting one overrule the other, have I walked into a trap?

My feet falter. Fight or flight spikes adrenaline into my veins.

Sully sees me through his window and beckons me with a beefy hand. I look behind me. Should I make a run for it? How far will I get?

“Elly! I haven’t got all day.”

I press clammy palms against my pants and present myself in his office doorway.

“Umm, you wanted to see me?”

“Yes,” he snaps. He’s Irish-Italian with a brusque manner that keeps everyone in the catering support team in line. He moves a few papers around on his desk before his head snaps up. “You wanna earn some extra money?”

“I…yes?”

He head-tilts. “You don’t sound sure.”

I swallow hard, wonder if this is another acid-trip offer without the actual acid high. “I’m sure.”

He nods a grey head. “Good. Good. Two of my servers have called in sick. Some bullshit stomach bug or other. I need you to step in.”

My alarm escalates. I push it down and manage to nod. “Okay. What…what do you need?”

“Go see Meg in the uniform department. She’ll find one of the girl’s outfits for you. You need to be upstairs in fifteen minutes.”

I’m glad I don’t have to answer because sheer terror has overtaken my vocal cords. I belong in the basement, in the bowels of the earth where no one can see me. I don’t belong upstairs doing…whatever Sully wants me to do. But I need this job or starvation will claim me long before Clayton does. Ninety-nine percent of my cash goes into paying for my shitty, but extortionate, motel room. The owner chose to overlook my no-name-or-address status in return for a thirty-dollar a week hike up on normal prices. Right now, I have twenty-two dollars to my name.

So I force my feet to move.

“Oh, and Elly?”

I stop. Sully stares back at me.

“Remember how you got here. We all have pasts we don’t want held up to the light. I’m not going to peek at yours. Return the favor by not letting me down. Deal?”

I nod. “Deal.”

He waves me away.

As I leave to go in search of Meg, relief punches through me.

I’ve been rightly wary about Sully’s motives. He knows I’m hiding something. But unlike Miguel, he’s chosen to leave well enough alone. For that, I’m glad. Because tossing my particular closet open will reveal putrefying skeletons.

The first of which would explain why I don’t respond well to Elly. Before arriving in New York no one called me by that name.

My real name is Elyse Gilbert, nicknamed ‘Lucky’ by my father, because according to him, I'm the unluckiest person alive, and I'll die the same way I came into the world: naked, screaming, and dirt poor.

So far, he’s been right about the unlucky part. Also dead right about the dirt-poor part.

But what he didn’t predict was that at twenty-two, I’d be on the run for arson and murder. Or that one of my hunters would possess the single goal of trying to pry my secret from me before he puts me in the ground.

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