--- BABY DOLL ---
The covers shift and my eyes fly open. He’s leaving again, and this time I’m ready to escape. Cloaked in darkness, I steel myself for what comes next.
Feather-light fingertips graze along my skin, trailing up my spine to the small birthmark between my shoulders. Warm breath sets my hair on end as he whispers, “Beautiful...” and plants his signature kiss on the back of my neck. His way of claiming me before he goes. I used to crave his touch. Now, I loathe the small parts of me that yearn for these moments. Moments when he makes me feel cherished. Pretending to sleep, I close my eyes and breathe deeply.
I’ve gotten good at faking it.
Seconds later, the warmth from his body vanishes, the bed lightens and patiently, I wait as he exits the room and walks down the main staircase. His footsteps echo in the foyer followed by the familiar, metallic jingle of car keys. The front door opens and closes.
Throwing off the covers, I sprint to the window and watch as his SUV disappears down the drive. He’ll be at the club for hours - fucking some new stripper he hired. I should know... it’s where he found me. The wealthy and handsome Kole Hunter, The King of Miami, and for whatever reason he picked an orphaned, cocktail waitress to be by his side.
I was so naive, so blinded by love. No, blinded by his promise of love. Kole took every part of me that mattered. Then, he went looking for gratification in someone else’s arms... and there were so many. Like an old toy he cast me aside. Locked me away in a palace of loneliness wishing for his return while he went in search of one conquest after another. Each time he cheated was another dissection - another stab to my heart.
One heart can only stand so much pain.
At first, I tried to console myself with the fact that I shared his bed and his home, but - c’mon - that’s a tough pill to swallow when he’s never actually here. Then, I decided to get even. Fucking around on him would only get me killed. You don’t share the King’s property. The only way you beat a King is to take what belongs to him, and I was going to take my life back. Kole believed once he had me that I would always be his. He assumed a few whispered words of devotion would be enough to keep me tethered, but clearly, he underestimated my feeling of self-worth. Thanks to his frequent absence, I had time to gather supplies - time to prepare.
Quietly, I pull on my clothes, sneakers, and hoodie. Retrieving the small package from my nightstand, I scribble a quick note and shove it inside the manila envelope. After depositing my little surprise in Kole’s safe, I leave it exposed and the door slightly ajar to ensure discovery. Crossing to the French doors that lead to the bedroom terrace, I turn my back on the place I’ve called home for the better part of a year.
Outside, one of the low-level thugs Kole paid to keep an eye on me is sleeping propped up on a stone bench.
Poor guy will pay dearly for his mistake.
Skirting his unconscious form, I trot down the exterior steps and veer right toward the gardens, careful to stick to the shadows. The farther I move from the main building the more my steps lighten with anticipation. Making my exodus through the expansive grounds is a piece of cake. I’ve walked this route so many times, I could do it blindfolded.
Continue past the hedge maze.
Take a left at the roses.
From there, follow the yellow brick wall to Oz.
If you hit the apple orchard, you’ve gone too far.
At last, I reach the gap at the edge of the property hidden by overgrown foliage. A discovery made on one of my many solo expeditions. Ignoring the nicks and cuts from the dried shrubbery, I squeeze to the other side. Yesterday, I stashed a duffle in the bushes along with a motorcycle I’d purchased for myself... with Kole’s generous allowance, of course.
I should feel guilty... but then, so should he.
Opening the bag, I inventory the key items: one-hundred thousand in cash - care of Kole’s personal reserve, a couple of changes of clothes, a burner phone, and the care package I put together for my contact. Noting the time - a little after midnight - I realize I’m ahead of schedule and the seeds of excitement take root. Excitement for my freedom; excitement for my future; excitement for my new fucking life. I only wish I could see his face when he finds me missing. His precious Baby Doll.
The name makes me sick.
Straddling the bike, I pull on the helmet and kick on the engine. A sweet little Kawasaki, it isn’t much but it’s fucking fast. Without a single glance back, I take off towards Miami International ready to embrace my newfound independence.
The decoy I spoke to yesterday is waiting for me at a gas station by the airport. She fidgets with uncertainty and it’s obvious she doubted whether I would show. Parking, I wave for her to join me and she crosses the lot to my bike.
A couple weeks ago, I spotted her eating lunch in a small café during an afternoon trip to secure provisions and after a twenty-minute debate, I worked up the courage to approach her. Aside from a few minor, physical differences, she could be my doppelganger - same height and facial features, a slight build, even the same haircut.
It was the hair I noticed first. It’s crucial. He’ll be looking for that specifically. Like his farewell kiss, the dark, chin-length bob is my signature... and the first thing I’ll change when I have the chance.
Shockingly, it took little convincing to get her to go along. Turns out, she, too, had been looking for a way to escape her current relationship and the prospect of fleeing the country for a few months was too tempting to pass up. After a lengthy discussion and several glasses of wine, we traded phone numbers and parted with the understanding that I would get in touch with further instructions. To my surprise, she answered on the first ring when I called to give her the flight information. It seems I wasn’t the only one eager for a new beginning.
As she nears, she smiles shyly and waves, “Hey. I wasn’t sure if you’d come.”
Removing my helmet, “Wouldn’t miss it for the world...” I hand her a tote containing her cut of the hundred grand, a ticket to Paris, France, and a fake passport - something I acquired through an old friend. “Congrats. In two short hours you’ll be on your way to the City of Light.”
“Where will you go?”
“Don’t know, yet.” Assuming Kole taps Dade to check for my name on recent flight manifests, I expect his private jet will be wheels up by tomorrow night. Which should buy me enough time to find somewhere small to start over. Someplace far away from the King and his castle. Handing the double my sweatshirt, “Here. Wear this for the cameras...” I ask, “Are you good with everything we discussed?”
She nods in affirmation, “Yep. One hundred percent.”
“Great.” Pointing to the sack, I instruct, “It’s all in the bag.” Curious, she opens it, inspecting the contents. Her eyes bulge with excitement and I warn, “He will come for me, which means he’ll come for you. It’s only a matter of time.”
Her gaze lifts and I detect the flicker of apprehension, “...and when he does?”
I shrug, “He’s some crazy person who picked up the wrong girl.”
She inclines her head in understanding, “Good luck.”