“Why would you want to harm me?” I ask, and there’s a slight tremor in my voice. Despite the fact that he just saved me, I can’t help feeling a fresh thrill of fear trickle through my veins. Is he the good guy or a bad one in disguise? “You don’t even know me.”
“No,” he admits, tilting his head. Studying me. Drinking me in. “But I’m acquainted with your father,” he says, and that’s when I really shiver.
He must notice the way my eyes widen. He surely feels the tremble in my hand, still holding his. He chuckles again, louder this time. “Yes, Miss Badiary. I’m well aware of all the terrible deeds your father has signed onto. Either committed himself or ordered to have done. All the ways he’s terrorized and lorded his power over other people. The innocent bystanders he’s trampled in his mad dash for power.” The man shakes his head, his gaze turning wistful, almost regretful, for a moment. “He needs to be careful, your father. Because eventually the day will come when he won’t be able to dodge his comeuppance anymore.”
He leans in close to me, his lips a breath away. So close I could tilt my chin up and meet them. But everything in me is trembling, scared, breathless.
Is it just fear? Even now, I feel something else curling below the surface. Something suspiciously like desire.
“One day, even a powerful man like Calvin Badiary will pay the price for ruining the lives of others.” His hot breath ghosts across my cheeks as he says this. His gaze is locked on mine, his smirk gone, his mouth returned to that thin, hard line. He lets go of my hand, but trails his fingers up the back of my wrist, tracing up my arm to my elbow. Slowly, but I can feel every inch burn through me like flames.
I don’t understand this feeling. Why I am terrified and excited in equal measure. Why I want to run and also to lean forward and catch him the way he’s catching me.
“You’re too sweet for your own good, Pamona,” he murmurs, and I tense, startled at the sound of my name on his lips. He really does know me. Not just as Calvin’s daughter, but my name, my face. Has he been following me?
“You’re a little innocent doll.” His fingertips reach my cheek and cup it gently. “And dolls like you can end up broken.”
With that, he drops his fingers from my face and turns around. Strides up the alley, leaving me breathless, leaning against the wall, my whole body shaking.
Only when he’s gone do I let myself slide down the wall to sit, running my hands through my hair.
What the hell just happened? I wonder.
One day, even a powerful man like Calvin Badiary will pay the price, he said. I wonder what kind of price he means, exactly…
I toss the last dress into my trunk, grinning. Tonight is finally the night. It’s been a long and crazy lead-up—first convincing Dad that I’d be fine going to college in California, so far away from him, and then managing all the details from here. He only let me visit once last year, to scope out the campus before I made my final decision. It was an awesome time, especially to hang out with Cece in her native territory. Normally, I only see her and Mom when they come to visit New York since Dad doesn’t like me traveling alone, and he doesn’t like leaving town himself.
Cece’s still wilder than I am, though once I hung out with her in person, I realized that a lot of the photos she sends me bragging about her crazy adventures are exaggerated. Even though I’m 21 and she’s only 19, she already drinks more than I do, but that’s just 2-3 drinks per party, and then she’s back home by one or two in the morning. I’d been a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her, but we had fun. Heck, I think a few guys were even flirting with me.
I wonder if any of the guys who attended the open campus weekend decided to enroll there, and if so, whether any of them will be in my classes. Maybe I’ll run into them at orientation tomorrow—tomorrow, I think, still stunned by how quickly my life is changing.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the princess that Dad kept locked in his tower. Stuck on this sprawling estate, only allowed out to go to school or school-sponsored events. I want to stretch my wings, travel, and now that I’m finally off to college, it’s about time to do that.