Badd to the bone, p.22
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       Badd to the Bone, p.22

         Part #3 of Badd Brothers series by Jasinda Wilder
 
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  He did not care that I hated politics, did not care that I loved art and that I was a talented sketch artist and oil painter. He was unmoved by the fact that the portfolio of art I'd put together on my own over the years had been good enough that the head of Yale's art department had arranged a private study program for me...up to that point I'd been self-taught.

  Now it was my senior year, and I was technically majoring in poli-sci. But I was only barely scraping by in those classes, and I'd convinced the art department head to let me continue with the private study program, making me a double major. It had been my best political moment, honestly, when I'd outmaneuvered my father.

  I gave him what he wanted, sort of, and more importantly, I got what I wanted. The win was that I half-assed the poli-sci classes, blowing them off as much as I dared in favor of time in the studio, painting. I passed the classes, maintained a C-average, but I was primarily focused on my art. And there wasn't a single thing Father could do, because I was giving him the poli-sci major, but he couldn't make me love it, couldn't make me want it, couldn't make me study harder, or attend class when I didn't want to.

  It became obvious that my poli-sci skills were not what the Boston firm wanted and they quietly suggested to my father that I "take a break." Which was another win in my column, as far as I was concerned, since it freed up a large block of my time.

  Then there was this vacation to Mallorca. It was a big deal, a yearly trip our two families had been making together for twenty-five years, alternating stays at our estate and the Havertons'. I knew that this year's trip would mean that Thomas would renew his efforts to convince me to marry him, and I would have no part of it.

  After Father stormed away from our perennial argument, I returned to scrolling idly through my social media feeds, passing the time in stony silence as the jet traversed from Connecticut to Los Angeles, where Mother would meet us--she had been hosting a big fundraiser in San Francisco, and the Havertons' had been visiting a family friend on the West coast. Father arranged that we would fly out to LA, overnight there, refuel and restock the G6, then Richard and Elaine Haverton and Mother would join us, and we would all make the transatlantic flight together.

  Mother and Father and the Havertons would visit and eat dinner and watch movies and drink way too much, and Thomas would make thinly veiled insinuations and drink champagne and try to get his hands under my skirt.

  I had other plans, of course, but had no intention of sharing them with anyone. I just had to bide my time and wait for the best moment to make a break for it. I knew Father wasn't above essentially kidnapping me, if he had to. He would have Lance, Freddy, and Hassan firmly but gently prevent me from getting away. Which meant I had to be sneaky. I would need a distraction, if possible. It would mean making my escape without my luggage, since I couldn't see any way of retrieving it once it had been removed from the cargo hold.

  I had my carry-on, of course, in which I had a full change of clothes and a pair black flats, but one outfit wasn't anywhere near enough. I had my credit cards, and the debit card, which drew off my personal account.

  Years ago, I'd foreseen Father would try to manipulate me via money, so I'd forged his signature on some key documents, which had allowed me to transfer the sizable monthly cash allowance Father provided me with from the account he controlled to a private, secret one I controlled. I never transferred all the allowance, obviously, in case he ever looked at my spending habits. I'd learned to live fairly frugally, considering the fact that my allowance was six figures a year.

  The frugal--for me--lifestyle meant I'd saved up a nice nest egg of money in an account Father knew nothing about, and couldn't touch even if he did, since it was at a totally different offshore bank in my name alone. It meant tiresome wire transfers every month, which meant secret visits to Father's bank, but it was all worth it.

  The point was I could buy my own clothing, and anything else, when I got away from Father and Thomas.

  The G6 was now making its final approach to LAX, and once we'd taxied to the private hangar, there would a limo waiting to take us to the condo in LA where we'd stay the night and wait for Mother and the Havertons to arrive.

  I collected my things once I felt the wheels touch down, unbuckling, and trying to figure out how I would get away. I'd just have to play it by ear, I decided.

  Fifteen minutes of taxiing, and then the jet halted, and I heard the bump of the stairs and the hissing of the cabin depressurizing as the door opened. From my window I could see the limo with the temporary driver, and the airport staff unloading our baggage into the trunk of the G-Wagen, which would transport it all to the condo and back again tomorrow. Not only did one not carry one's own luggage, one didn't even travel in the same vehicle as one's luggage.

  Ridiculous.

  I'd grown up with it, but it was still ridiculous. On my own at Yale, I cooked my own food, carried my own books, walked to class, studied in sweatpants, painted in ratty thirdhand clothes purchased from a resale shop. I did my best to make sure people didn't even suspect the kind of money and political clout I came from. Other students in the poli-sci program would absolutely murder to have the advantages being my father's daughter came with, but I had absolutely ZERO interest in a political career.

  Thomas tried to take my carry-on from me. "Let me carry that, Evangeline."

  I kept it out of his grip. "It's fine, Thomas, I can manage, thank you."

  He took it from me anyway. "I'm attempting to be a gentleman. The least you could do is let me be nice."

  "I appreciate the gesture," I said, "but it's not necessary. May I have my bag back, please?"

  Thomas ignored me, keeping hold of my bag, tucking an arm around my waist with unwelcome familiarity. "I have reservations for us tonight at Abrakadabra Vinoteca. You brought some eveningwear, I assume?"

  Typical Thomas, making assumptions. I reached over, snatched my bag from him, and put a foot of space between us as we walked across the tarmac to the waiting limo.

  "Actually, Thomas, I have other plans."

  "Oh." He frowned, dug out his phone and consulted his calendar. "I can move it to Saturday. We've dined there on numerous occasion, so I'm certain they'll accommodate us."

  "You're forgetting that we are leaving tomorrow for Europe." I paused for effect. "You must know by now that I'm busy every day. Forever."

  Thomas stopped, eyeing me in irritation. "Now really, Evangeline. Don't be ridiculous." He moved toward me. "You're dining with me. It's tradition."

  I lifted an eyebrow. "Is that a command, Thomas?"

  He narrowed his eyes at me. "If you like."

  I snorted. "How well has issuing commands worked for my father, Thomas?"

  He struggled to remain calm. "It's dinner, Evangeline. Why be difficult about it?"

  "Thomas." I stood nose to nose with him, staring him down. "I do not wish to spend time with you. You can issue all the commands you wish, but I'm not going anywhere with you."

  "We'll see about that," he huffed, and stalked angrily toward the limo.

  "Yes, we shall," I said, more to myself, since he was now out of earshot.

  If it weren't so enraging, the sense of entitlement Thomas felt toward me would have been comical. He thought if I didn't do what he wanted, he could just beseech my father, who would then force me to do what Thomas wanted.

  The joke was on them, however; I wasn't about to be forced into anything, let alone a ridiculous vacation I wanted no part of, or dinners with Thomas Haverton, or days on end at a stifling, overly lavish estate sipping tea and munching on finger sandwiches and making banal small talk with people I didn't like.

  I waited until Thomas and then Father were in the limo and then slid in and took a spot far from both of them, pretending to be absorbed in my phone, although all I was really doing was scrolling through my Instagram, looking at posts I'd already looked at a dozen times. Father and Thomas were discussing some client account, since Thomas worked directly under Father, was his pr
otege, and the son he'd always wished he had. Thus the pressure to marry Thomas--because once that happened he would truly be family and take over when Father decided to retire.

  The limo took us to the condo, a forty-five-minute drive. Thomas and Father got out, and I followed them, and then stopped at the front doors of the condo building. "Oh, I've forgotten my phone in the limo," I said. "You guys go on in, I'll be right up."

  Father frowned at me, as it was inconceivable that he'd ever forget his phone, since it was all but surgically attached to his hand. "Teddy, stay with her, please."

  Make sure she doesn't escape, is what he meant.

  I got back in the limo, retrieved the phone I had intentionally left behind. The driver had lowered the partition so he could lounge in the front seat. I slid across the seats to sit directly beneath the partition.

  "Can you please take me somewhere?" I asked.

  The driver, a middle-aged black man I'd never met before, eyed me suspiciously. "Ma'am?"

  "I have a few errands to run. Can you take me, please?"

  "I'm supposed to wait here, in case your father or Mr. Haverton need to go somewhere."

  "They've got a meeting right now that will keep them busy for at least an hour and I won't need more time than that. Besides, where would they need to go?"

  He shrugged. "Not my place to know."

  I glanced at Teddy, who was standing by the door, waiting for me. I had a few more seconds before he'd come over to the limo to get me. I turned back to the driver. "What's your name, sir?"

  "Shawn, ma'am."

  "Shawn. Please. I've been stuck on a plane with them for hours. I just need to get some air. Please. An hour or less. Please?"

  "I won't get in any trouble?"

  "I'll tell them it was my idea."

  "One hour."

  I grabbed his arm and squeezed. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Shawn! You have no idea what you're doing for me."

  He turned around and put the car into gear. "Better not be nothin' illegal." He glanced back. "Close that door."

  I slid across the seats again, met Teddy's eyes as I closed the door, and hit the lock button. Shawn pulled out into traffic, and I watched Teddy trotting after us, hands in his hair, realizing what I'd done. He was going to get it for sure, but he'd worked for Father for thirty years, and wasn't likely to be fired over this, since Father knew it was me being rebellious, not him being slack about his job.

  I liked Teddy, but I needed my freedom.

  Shawn drove away from the condo into downtown LA, and I realized that if I stayed in the city, Father and Thomas would find me. He had the power and the resources, and LA was a city he knew as well as he did DC and New York. He could have city detectives sniffing me out within hours. There was no doubt about that.

  I had to get away, somewhere far. Remote. Unlikely.

  "Shawn?" I asked.

  He lowered the partition again. "Ma'am?"

  "Can you take me to LAX, please?"

  "Uh, I don't know if I can do that."

  Cabs passed by, swerved around us, some stood parked on the curb. "Pull over, then."

  "Ma'am?"

  "If you won't take me, I'll take a cab."

  He sighed, a low, discreet sound of irritation. "That ain't safe. Those bozos can't drive for shit." He sighed again. "Fine, but I'm gonna get fired for this for sure."

  "I'll make sure Father knows it was all me, that you were just doing what I asked."

  "Where you gonna go?"

  I stared out the window as he made the necessary adjustments to get us on course for LAX. "I don't know. Somewhere far, far, far from here."

  A few minutes of silence. "I went on a cruise once, with my wife and kids," Shawn said, apropos of nothing. "One of them Alaskan cruises. It stopped in this really great little place called Ketchikan. Quaint place, really beautiful. Has a deep harbor, so the big old ships can dock there, but it's a pretty remote spot."

  "Are there flights there from LAX?"

  "Not direct I don't think, but you can get there with a connection or two."

  "That sounds nice."

  "Like I said, it was a nice spot." He glanced at me in the rearview mirror. "It ain't fancy, though."

  I laughed. "That's perfect, actually. I'm discovering I like things rather more simple than my father does."

  "Ketchikan's your spot, then."

  "Perfect. Thank you, Shawn."

  My phone rang, and I silenced it. It rang again, and again, and again, and I ignored them all. Then text messages started pouring in from Father and Thomas.

  Where are you?

  Where did you go?

  This is unacceptable, Evangeline Du Maurier!! That was from Father, of course. He'd used my full name, which was meant to indicate how mad he was, adding the two exclamation points for emphasis.

  I shut off my phone.

  I heard another phone ring, a standard imitation old school ringer; Shawn picked it up, and I reached through the divider to catch at his arm. "If it's my father don't tell him anything, Shawn. Please."

  He eyed me in the mirror and then shut the phone off. "Who you running from, ma'am?"

  "My father. And Thomas."

  "Thomas?"

  I sighed. "It's complicated." I waved a hand. "It's not, actually. My father wants me to marry him, and I despise him. Neither of them know the meaning of the word no. I'm not running away forever, I just...I need space. I need freedom. They suffocate me."

  Shawn nodded. "You're not in trouble, though?"

  I shook my head. "Nothing like that. They just want things from me that I don't want for myself, and they have no intention of ever letting me do what I want. I want to live life on my own terms, and they don't appreciate that."

  "I s'pose they wouldn't."

  He lapsed into silence the rest of the way to the airport. "Which airline, ma'am?"

  I stared blankly. "Um. I don't know. I've...I've never flown commercial before."

  This got me an amused stare in the mirror from Shawn. "They all the same, I guess. But if you're going to Alaska, you might as well take Alaskan Airlines. Probably got the best deals and the most flights."

  "Alaska?"

  Shawn laughed, then. "Well yeah. Ketchikan? It's in Alaska."

  "Oh. Of course."

  He laughed again. "It ain't Siberia, ma'am."

  "It's not...like...a hunting camp or something? I don't mind simple, but I draw the line at rustic."

  Another laugh, a deep guffaw as he pulled to a stop outside the appropriate terminal. "It's a regular old American city. Bars, restaurants, a movie theater, shops, B-and-B's, Wi-Fi, tourists. Nothing to be scared of. It's just...in Alaska."

  I inhaled deeply. "Thank you, Shawn. Thank you so much, for everything."

  He shrugged. "All I did was drive you around."

  "True," I said, "but you drove me away from Father and Thomas."

  Another chuckle. "Guess I did." He nodded at the terminal. "Follow the signs to the Alaskan Airlines counter. Ask directions if you need to. They'll help you."

  I thanked him again, exited the limo with my purse, overnight bag, and phone. It was easy to find the right counter, and I was in luck as there was a fight leaving in a little over than an hour. I had just enough time to get to the gate. There was a several hour layover in Seattle, but I could wait in the airport. It was already after ten at night, and the flight was at eleven-thirty and would arrive in Seattle at a quarter after two in the morning, and then another flight left for Ketchikan at seven-forty that same morning.

  The flight was uneventful, if less comfortable than I was used to, and certainly lacked the privacy I was used to. I'd booked first class of course, but even that couldn't touch the comfort of a private jet. I was doing this on my own, though, and that was the important thing. On my own, for myself.

  I had no idea what was in store for me, but it would be an adventure. My adventure.

  My adventure started when I fell asleep at the gate in Seattle
and missed the flight, which meant another six and half hours in Seattle, so I took an Uber to the city and spent the day seeing the sights on foot, browsing Pike Place and getting coffee from the original Starbucks. Another Uber back to the airport in time for the flight, and I got to Ketchikan at three in the afternoon.

  I'd spent some time Googling places to stay, and had actually managed to book a room at a little bed and breakfast. I got a cab from the airport to the B-and-B, checked in, and promptly passed out. I didn't wake up until after midnight, and when I did wake up, I was wide-awake and knew I wouldn't be going back to sleep again anytime soon. So I set out on foot, hunting for somewhere to get a drink and something to eat.

  Turns out there wasn't much, at that hour.

  I wandered for over an hour up and down glistening, rain-wet streets, quiet and abandoned, the cute little shops all closed, restaurants darkened. As I walked, I Googled "late night food in Ketchikan" which brought up only a few results, a cafe which seemed like it was on the opposite end of the city from where I was, a couple all-night fast-food places, and a place called Badd's Bar and Grill. There wasn't much info or any pictures of the interior, but it had great reviews and seemed close to where I was. I opened up directions in Google Maps and followed them toward Badd's.

  On the way, I saw light coming from an open door and streaming through a couple of windows, and heard the deep thud of bass and the cheer of a crowd, so I ducked in, indulging my curiosity.

  It was wall-to-wall humanity, a seething mass of bodies, all yelling and jumping and screaming; at first I'd thought it was a concert of some kind, but as I got into the crowd I realized the music was more just background, and that the crowd was centered around something happening in the center.

  I got shoved a few times, and some elbows in my side, and I realized most of the crowd were men, with only a few women here and there.

  I was dressed in casual clothes, nice slacks and a silk blouse, with my favorite flats--it was my backup clothing, easy to stuff into even a smallish bag and wouldn't hold wrinkles, but it was still nice enough that I stood out.

  And I was getting a lot of looks.

 
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