Page 36

Our first stop was at a tiny well-kept home with white siding. Preppy put the car in park. “Stay here,” he ordered, before getting out and slamming the door.

I leaned back in the seat, preparing to wait for him when he startled me by suddenly appearing at my window.

“I want to be your friend, kid,” he told me. “I feel real fucking sorry for what you’ve been through. I know what it’s like to go through shit and end up on the other side of it. I’m a nice guy, for the most part. But just because I’m nice doesn’t mean you should take advantage. You did that once, and I let that shit go. I just hope you’re not fucking stupid enough to do it again. So, this shouldn’t need to be said, but I feel like I need to say it anyway. Don’t go anywhere, ok? Don’t try and run away. Cause it doesn’t matter that you’re my friend. I’ll slit your fucking throat and leave you to rot somewhere no one would ever find you, mmmmkay?”

He tapped the tip of my nose and jogged up the driveway. Leaving me stunned in the passenger seat.

The front door partially opened as Preppy stepped up onto the porch, like the person on the other side had been waiting for him. Preppy shuffled sideways and disappeared into the house.

I sat back against the cushy leather seat. Thankfully, he’d left the car running and the AC blasting. Although there was a breeze on top of the causeway, here on flat land the air was stagnant, the humidity so thick I could see it rising from the grass.

I rolled my jeans up to above the knee in order to keep cool.

Preppy’s warning, although freaky as shit, wasn’t necessary. There was nowhere for me to go.

I’ll protect you, King had said.

And sometime over Preppy’s pancakes, I’d resolved to stay. King said he wouldn’t force himself on me, so all I had to do was enjoy the free room and board and not give into King.

You’re going to beg for it.

Yeah, right. He could keep on believing that while I kept on eating pancakes.

It was forty-five minutes before the front door opened. An older woman walked out onto the porch with Preppy and brought him in for an extended hug. She held his face in her hands and spoke to him intimately, her forehead almost touching his. Preppy gave her a kiss on the cheek and waved to her as he got back in the car.

“You okay?” he asked, turning the car back onto the road.

“Yeah. Why? Are you surprised I’m still here?”

“Nah, but there is just no cloud cover today. The sun is fucking BRUTAL even with the AC on high, and that took a lot longer than usual. Gladys, she’s a talker.” He gestured to my rolled up jeans. “But it looks like you worked it out.”

“I’m fine. Is Gladys your grandmother?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” Preppy said with a devious grin on his face. “She’s business.”

“Business? What kind of business do you have that includes spending forty-five minutes in an older woman’s home?”

Then, it hit me. Preppy must have seen the recognition cross my face.

“What?” he asked.

“Did you have sex with her?”

“Oh my god, you think I’m a hooker!” Preppy pounded his fist against the steering wheel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wiped the tears from his eyes as he laughed himself into an uncontrollable fit.

“It’s not that funny,” I muttered, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Yes, yes it is, kid. What exactly did King tell you about me? Did he somehow mention I got a thing for old ladies? Because if he did, I’m gonna kick his fucking ass, cause it ain’t true.”

“No, he didn’t say that, but you were in there for a while, and she seemed to like you. A lot. If she wasn’t your grandmother, then I just thought…”

“Go ahead and say it. You thought I was a hooker, pleasuring her with my man meat and getting paid for it.” He turned toward me and leaned back against the driver’s side door.

“Well, yeah, but now that you say it that way, it sounds ridiculous.”

“That’s because it is ridiculous,” Preppy said, plucking a pack of cigarettes from the center console. He cranked down his window and lit one, turning his head from me to blow the smoke outside the car. He put the car back in drive and pulled onto the road. “I think I’ll like being your babysitter after all.”

I felt my face redden, “You don’t have to make fun of me. I may not have much of a memory, but I do have feelings, so can we please just pretend like this never happened?”

“Yes ma’am, I’ll forget all about it,” Preppy said, although the amused look on his face said that was never going to happen. Preppy pulled up in front of another house that looked almost identical to the first one, except this one was blue instead of white. “I’ll tell you what, kid. Why don’t you come inside and see for yourself what it is that I do?”

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