Green (The Safeword Series: Book Three)

By: Ava Claire

(An Alpha Billionaire Romance)

Chapter One: Sophia

I should have known.

The command in those eyes held the same intensity as the glare that gave me goosebumps every time I walked to The Dish office every morning. There was a larger than life display on the side of a building on 10th Street, each window of the skyscraper creating a fearsome tribute to Desmond O’Connell’s likeness. Below his powerful stance was ‘America's Chef’, emblazoned with the time and date one could tune in and watch him rip people apart, in living color.

I knew those eyes, the piercing green eyes that I could only stand for a few seconds before I backed down and looked away. The dusting of dark brown hair that was just the right amount of tailored, yet effortlessly swept across his forehead. That strong, almost noble jawline, set, powerful, and intensified by his scowl. The flash of his muscular forearms, the broad shoulders, and now that I’d seen him, all of him, I knew that beneath the white chef's jacket there was even more perfection.

I was intimately familiar with his glistening abs, every firm square solid and stutter inducing. ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ inducing. Especially now that I knew that this larger than life man who had a reputation for chewing people up and spitting them out was, in fact, larger than freaking life. He was the profanity spewing, two piece suit wearing host of America's Chef and a handful of shows with the same premise: take untrained, bare bones cooks, put them in a room, and let them duke it out.

Desmond O’Connell was also the only man that I let hurt me, because somehow, I felt safe with him.

I could tell from the way he was staring at me, slack jawed and worried, he wasn't feeling very safe.

My knee sang, throbbing where I'd connected with the edge of the coffee table. Reminding me of my recent dive away from the truth. He's just given me the story that would make me a household name. With a quick tug of his mask, he reminded me why I’m here in the first place—and everything I could lose.

If I didn't write this story, I'd miss the opportunity to be known for anything other than captions and stories about which celebrity wore that dazzling, crazy expensive dress best. If I wrote it, I would lose Desmond, along with any chance at exploring what this thing, this magic was between us.

Neither of the options mattered at the moment, because I couldn't think, couldn't do much else besides repeat his name.

"You're Desmond O'Connell," I said hoarsely, blinking at him in disbelief.

The first time I said his name, he'd locked his jaw like he was hoping that I lived under some rock and wouldn't recognize him. This time, he folded his arms against his chest in a silent gesture that spoke louder than any words would.

This man would destroy me without hesitation. Without care of anything that happened between us.

And our future? far as he was concerned, the question would be, ‘what future?’.

My hair was loose and all over the place, the dark brown strands intent on doing the job my mask used to be responsible for. Spilling into my eyes. Hiding what was beneath.

"I used to watch your show, but you can be a bit..." I held onto the final syllable, cautiously slipping my fingers through my stubborn locks. I needed something to do with my hands, some way to channel the nervous energy that was making me shake like I was coming down from some massive high. He wasn't offering me any lifelines, his face as stoic and unmoving as if he had pulled his mask back on.

If we were a couple, I'd go to him. Shake him, try and ply him with charm; something, anything to get a reaction. But I kept my distance. The past ten minutes had shown me just how little we knew about each other outside of this room. Sure, the Internet could spit out his birthday, where he grew up, the first job he had before he began the journey to stardom, maybe even an ex girlfriend or two. But those were just facts. A census report. No amount of Googling would help me determine if the look on his face, or the absence of a look on his face, meant that he was angry, hurting, or in the throes of any other emotion. It wouldn't tell me if I should just cut my losses and leave because the odds of salvaging this, whatever it was, were slim to none.

I scraped my teeth along my bottom lip, fighting the urge to go to him like I had before he matched my gift of openness. I wanted to go to him like I had before, when I stopped him before he picked up the familiar weight of guilt about what happened with his ex fiancé. I wanted to be close to him, skim my fingers through his brown strands and look him deep in the eyes. Tell him the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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