You sit in the assigned seat next to Patrick, your eyes flick over to the tag on the seat to the other side you..
Oh crap.. You are about to spend the entire luncheon seated in between the man you kissed and let stay in your bed last night, the man who makes your heart race.. And your ex-husband, a man who makes you sick to your stomach and who you're pretty sure trashed your car last night - or at the very least, paid somebody to..
You squirm around nervously in your seat knowing any second your father is going to return with the senator and his vile son in tow.. You're gazing around the room when Patrick leans over and whispers in your ear.. The low rumble sending delightful shivers across your skin.. "It's gunna' be alrite' princess, jus' relax.. Trust me.."
You turn back to face him and see he is wearing his usual confident grin.. The tension in your neck unwinds little by little.. For some reason you believe him.. You know he will make sure nothing happens to you. At least at this luncheon.. For how long after that, you have no idea..
A thought that sends a plummeting sensation straight through your heart.. "I trust you Patrick.. I do.. I'm just nervous.. I didn't tell you this, but.. Zach has been sending me some threatening texts from a blocked number.. So I guess now, I am a little more on edge than usual.." You don't mean to blurt it out like that, but there it is..
Patrick looks surprised, but he takes it in stride and gives you his kind reassuring smile.. "O..kay.. Would've been good to know that sooner, but it's alrite'.. I will need to look at yer phone later though.." That seems a little odd, but honestly if he's offering to help you are not beyond letting him.. You need all the help you can get because your best plan fell apart the second the judge announced the acquittal..
"Sure.. You can have it.."
... 'And anything else you want' - adds the little voice in your head..
"Anythin' else I should know about, Yevie?" His eyes search yours hopefully.. As if he knows you still hold hundreds of secrets, and he can't wait to hear them all..
"Probably lots...Just.." You steady yourself, now is not the time to fall apart.. Not in front of this room full of piranha who will eat you alive at the first sign of weakness.. "Please don't leave me alone with them.."
Just then you spy them..your father, the senator and Zach, stalking towards the table in their dark Italian finest.. A beefy guy in a dark suit follows behind the senator, who you recognise as his bodyguard, Carlos Ramirez..
"Wouldn't dream of it darling.." Patrick surprises you again with his flawless accent.. You'll never get used to him speaking without his merry Irish inflections, so for a second you gape at him as he rises to his feet with a neutral expression, before you numbly follow, standing just as the others reach the table..
The new arrivals eyes sweep over you and then to Patrick.. Your father is the first to speak.. "Michael, this is Patrick O'connor, Marine and Yevette's guest here today.."
You try not to cringe at the way he says the word guest.. As if Patrick doesn't belong here and you have committed some terrible crime by bringing him..
"Mr O'connor, I always appreciate the company of fine servicemen such as yourself. We're glad to have you join us.." A well rehearsed tone and demeanour encompasses Senator Michael Ryan..
You know it is fake, because you have seen that man lose his temper.. And all the finest suits and expensive leather can't hide the truth from you.. He's a monster..
Patrick reaches out and shakes the Senators hand firmly. Meanwhile Zach stands casually beside his father, his wicked eyes trained on you.. You do your best to ignore him and focus on the Senator..
"Thank you Senator Ryan, I couldn't pass up an invitation to support such a great cause.." The man knows exactly what he's doing, you have to give it to him.. You bite your bottom lip to stave off a smirk since Patrick doesn't even know which charity this ridiculous luncheon is for.. He didn't ask.. Because he doesn't care.. He is here for one reason only.. You.. Ans the way he looks at you, you couldn't be more sure of that fact..
"An excellent cause indeed.. This is my son, Zachary.."
Zach doesn't move to shake Patrick's hand. Instead he gives him a curt nod before turning his attention back to you.. "Yevie, it's so good to see you again, babe.. You're looking beautiful today.." He steps in, leaning down to peck your cheek.
Your whole body freezes, the smell of his aftershave makes you want to throw up.. It's the same scent you remember lingering in the air of your apartment, mingled with the metallic notes of your blood.. "Thank you, Zach. You're looking well.."
You take a step backwards, your back bumping into Patrick's solid shoulder. His arm winding around your waist, his hand settling on your hip.. Zachs eyes go to Patrick's familiar hand placement and his nostrils flare as an angry red flush creeps up his neck..
"Ah see, Zachary.. I told you there would be no trouble from Yevette.." Your father's scrutinous eyes narrow on you before the Senator speaks drawing his attention back.. "Young Zachary never needed any convincing of that my good man. Yevette has always been an exemplary young lady, Hasn't she, son?.. Come, let's sit.." His hollow words mean very little to you..
You all know what really happened.. What his pig of a son did to you, what they have all done.. The three men who have controlled your life for as long as you can remember..
But in reality Michael Ryan is just as evil as the bastard he produced..
He gestures towards the table and everybody takes their places..
Though Carlos remains standing, taking up most of the space behind the senators chair.. As soon as your butt hits the velvet covered seat, Zachs clammy groping hand slides over your thigh.. Pressing towards the apex of your thighs..
You spring back up to your feet, both Zach and Patrick quickly follow.. While the two older men watch curiously.. You turn to Patrick.. "I..um.." Your mouth feels dry and your throat tight..
"Everything alright darling?" He asks gently, reaching out to take your hand..
"Yes, excuse me.. I um.." You try to smile but fear it comes across as more of a grimace..
Patrick notices this, he lifts your hand and kisses the back of it.. "Take your time sweetheart.."
Right then a gorgeous auburn haired, curvaceous woman appears at your table side, in a tight bright yellow bandage dress that you could never pull off, but she wears like it was made for her.. Her makeup is natural bar her plump lips which are painted in a bright red to maych jer firey locks and her lashes which are thick and dark.. She looks straight into your eyes with a wide smile.. "Yevie Daley!? Is that you!?"
If you'd met this woman before, surely you would remember her.. She is like a neon bombshell and you're a little gobsmacked by her mere presence.. "Yes.. Hi!" You manage to squeak out..
"It's me, Ellerie St James, we were sorority sisters! Kappa Kappa Gamma!" The woman exudes the bubbly personality of a KKG gal, for sure. But you have absolutely no memory of her..
Not that your sorority days are ones you want to remember.. You had wasted them dating Zach.. While your sorority sisters had been out partying and living their carefree youths, you'd been studying overtime for an MBA you didn't even want because he'd been too jealous to allow you to go out, have friends or do anything remotely fun...
Still, you don't want to be rude.. "Oh!..Of course, Ellerie! It's so wonderful to see you again, how have you been?"
She flashes her Hollywood smile at the table of men.. "So great! Excuse us gentlemen.. I simply must steal Yevie away, it's been too many years since we've seen each other.." They nod amongst themselves, but Zach looks absolutely livid about the turn of events..
"Of course ladies. Enjoy the luncheon!" The Senators words are kind but his evil eyes watch you with a hatred you can feel..
You look at Patrick, but he simply smiles and nods as Ellerie takes your arm and pulls you over towards the bar area where only a few people stand.. Whoever this woman is, you couldn't be more grateful for her rescuing you, but you don't want to lie to her which would start your friendship off all wrong.. You've learned that at least.. "Ellerie, I can't thank you enough for getting me out of there.. But.. I'm sorry, I don't remember you at all.."
She laughs and lifts a hand signaling to the barman, who upon seeing her immediately begins to make his way over..
"Yeah, I kind of made that up.. I saw that guy trying to grope you under the table and thought you could use an escape.."
"Oh.. Thanks.." The bar tender reaches her and Immediately his eyes go to her full cleavage peeking from the v-line cut of her dress..
"Two G&T's, no ice.." She ordered for you.. He nods and sets to work filling two glasses with a flourish, setting them on the bar garnished with lemon wedges..
You don't quite understand how she could be so intuitive.. Its like she knows you.. Actually knows you.. "Wait.. If you made that up.. How did you know I was Kappa Kappa Gamma?"
She sips her drink and turns back to you smiling brightly.. "Oh, that's easy.. Patrick told me.."
You nearly choke on your gin..