When I brought her lunch, I decided to hang out and eat with her. Just because we weren’t allowed to touch her didn’t mean we shouldn’t be spending time with her to at least make sure she was enjoying herself. That was the protocol. Besides, if it helped her grow some trust in Dante and in me and the other guys, that could only benefit everyone.

“So, tell me more about you,” Sadie said finally.

I raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Yeah. I know Dante had you look up all sorts of information on me,” Sadie said, and she wasn’t wrong. “It’s only fair that I know a little more about you.”

In a world where everyone was always concerned about the next guy over, it was nice to have her interested in me. “Well, I had a pretty normal upbringing. We didn’t have much, but we made it work. College is when things really started to change for me. I got a full-ride scholarship to Berkley on a basketball. I was being scouted from all over the place, and probably could have gone pro, but I declared a major in business and ended up loving it. I decided to forgo basketball and use my degree to become a businessman.”

“Mm, exciting,” Sadie said, sarcasm thick in her voice. I glared at her and she giggled. “I’m joking, but still, you’re security detail for Dante. I highly doubt he required a business degree for that.”

She had me there. “I applied at one of Dante’s hotels for a managerial position, but Dante decided to take me on as security instead.”

“Why’d you agree?” Sadie asked.

I’d considered that multiple times in the past few years. “Dante seemed like a man I should trust. I’m glad I did.”

“Are you trying to sell him to me?” Sadie asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No, I’m being serious. What I said, I meant. Deciding to trust Dante is one of the best decisions I ever made,” I raised my eyebrows back, “and I would highly recommend everyone else do the same.”

I could tell in the expression on her face that she was considering my words carefully. If she really did decide to trust Dante, it could be beneficial for more people than just her. Not long after that, Dante came home. I found him in his room, knowing he would want a report on the day’s goings-on.

“How was she?” he asked as soon as he felt my presence in the room.

“Perfectly pleasant,” I replied. “She’s getting more comfortable.”

Dante took off his suit jacket and tie. “That’s good. Can you send her up?”

“Yeah.” I hesitated for long enough and Dante picked up on it. He turned on his heel and his eyes bore into me. I shook my head. “No, nothing happened. Just… she wants to contact her family. Not to tell them about us or anything, just to let them know she’s okay. She said we can supervise the call. I honestly think it’ll be better for all of us.”

Dante relaxed a bit. He crossed his arms and nodded. “When you bring her up, bring her phone.”

I nodded. “Yes, boss.”

I collected Sadie, telling her it would be in her best interest to thank Dante for his grace, because it would be. She promised that she would be gracious, but even with her calming down, I still had to pull her phone out of reach a few times when she tried to snatch it. I brought Sadie into Dante’s room, gave her the phone with him present. She turned it on right away and Dante nodded at me to look over her shoulder.

I watched as the phone went crazy, with over a hundred texts and missed calls rolling in, all of them filled with concern for where she was. She opened up a text from her sister and the entire feed was non-stop texts with her sister wondering where she was, telling her she was scared, and threatening to call the police.

“Did she call?” I asked, making eye contact with Dante.

“I don’t think so,” Sadie replied. “She would have said that. I’ll text her now.”

She sent a message to her saying, ‘Hey, sorry for the scare. I just needed a couple of days to myself. I’m going to be staying with a friend for a little bit. I’ll keep in touch from now on, I promise. You didn’t call the police, did you, you spaz?’ A few moments later a text came back that said, ‘Damn near. You scared the hell out of us. You need to call your mother, immediately. What’s the word? I need to hear your voice. Call me so I can make sure it’s you.’

I was taken aback by the last phrase. “What does that mean? ‘What’s the word?’” I asked and Dante looked concerned.

“It’s a rule my mom set up for us a long time ago. She made us make a safe word, and if anyone ever came to pick us up from school and couldn’t tell us our word, we wouldn’t leave with them. As we got older, we continued to use it. Whenever one of us thought the other one was in trouble, we would say the word to assure each other that we were okay,” Sadie explained. “She wants me to call so she can make sure it’s me.”

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