I wanted to fight for him. I wanted to be the one to give him his daughter back. I wanted to give him everything in my power, but all I could do was watch the horrible scene that unfolded in front of me, paralyzed in the arms of the senator as they carted King away. My insides felt like they were being squeezed to death as King was shoved into the detective’s car and carted back to a windowless cell somewhere.
I meant it when I’d told the senator that King had saved me. And I didn’t mean the times he’d saved me from Ed or even from Isaac.
I meant when he’d saved me from myself.
I never expected to fall in love with King. My captor, my tormentor, my lover, my friend, my world.
But I did.
The boy on my lap stirred, his little breaths warmed my skin through my shirt where his nose was pressed tightly against my stomach.
I had questions. So many questions that my head was ringing worse than when Nikki had shot me. I wanted to shout them out rapidly like rounds from a machine gun, but I didn’t want to scare the chubby cheeked boy whose eyelashes touched his cheeks while he slept. I ran my fingers through his soft curly hair and he sighed with sleepy contentment.
“I can’t believe it’s you, Ray. I thought I would never see you again and here you are sitting next to me. Do you remember me yet? Or him? Or anything?” Tanner asked tentatively. My eyes darted up to meet the only thing I remembered from my past life; the beautiful chestnut colored eyes from my dream.
I shook my head. “Just your eyes. I dreamt about them. Once,” I admitted.
“So you dreamt about me huh?” Tanner wagged his eyebrows suggestively. He nudged my shoulder with his elbow and I shifted away from the unfamiliar contact. “Sorry,” he said when he saw me stiffen. “Habit.”
“It’s okay,” I offered, although I wasn’t sure if it really was okay. “I need to ask you about him though.”
Tanner looked lovingly down at the boy. “Ask away.”
“I mean, how old is he? You said I’m eighteen. When did all this happen? How?”
“How?” Tanner laughed nervously. “Well, Ray, when a man and woman love each other…” He paused when he saw I wasn’t smiling. “Sorry. I’m so used to joking around with you. You’re kind of the only one who gets my jokes, or at least you used to.” Tanner ran his hand through his curls and sighed. He pulled at the stitching on the leather seat.
The car pulled to a stop in front large of a three-story house, with bright pink stucco. Tall twisting columns lined the front porch which was full of pink plastic flamingos and garden gnomes in various sizes. The long driveway was cut into lines that mimicked fans and was also painted the same garish shade of pink. The lawn was littered with more plastic flamingos. Concrete fountains, at least thirty, all in different styles were scattered around the yard.
“This is me,” Tanner said, opening the door. He picked the little boy off my lap and my heart constricted.
“Wait, where are you going?” I asked, suddenly feeling panicked.
“He’s had a long day. He used to spend most nights at your place but he’s been staying with me since you’ve been gone.” Tanner said. And although I didn’t’ remember the little boy I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that he wasn’t coming with me. Tanner must have sensed my disappointment, because he added, “But I promise, I will come by soon. Go and get settled in, then we’ll talk more.”
The senator emerged from the passenger seat.
“Wait!” I called out. Tanner turned back around. “What’s his name?” I pointed to the boy whose cheek was pressed up against Tanner’s shoulder, and although he had been jostled around quite a bit, he remained sound asleep.
Tanner smiled. “Samuel.”
My heart fell out of my chest.
Preppy’s name was Samuel.
“But we call him Sammy,” Tanner said.
“Tanner,” the senator said, dismissively. He took the seat next to me in the back. Instantly the contempt that had been temporarily put on the back burner for the sake of Sammy was back with a vengeance, and as we pulled back out onto the road, I launched my questions. “Why did you have King arrested?” I asked, unable to hide the bitterness in my voice. “He took me in. Gave me a place to stay. Before him, I was living on the streets, struggling to find protection, or food. My only friend was a homeless hooker who thought I was the pitiful one!”
The senator didn’t flinch hearing my tale of woe, nor did he seem affected in any way, for that matter. Instead, he adjusted a cufflink and clicked away on his phone. “Brantley King is a felon, a con man, and a murderer,” he stated, without looking up. “Whatever relationship you seem to think the two of you had was a farce. A barely legal one at that. I really was hoping that when he indicated that the two of you had been…intimate, that he was just baiting me, but I see now that he was indeed speaking the truth. That man came to me with the sole purpose of using you as a pawn to get what he wanted. Nothing more. He took advantage of you, a teenager, and tried to con me. Now he’s going where he belongs, and getting what he deserves, and that is the last I want to hear about that, young lady.”