Royal(96)

By: Winter Renshaw


“Get off my car.”

Pandora laughs and slides down. “Yes, sir. Whatever you say.”

She drags a finger down the buttons of my work shirt and circles behind me as I slip the key into the driver’s door.

“This thing looks good, by the way,” she says. “Never had a chance to tell you that.”

I climb in and start her up, but I’m met with resistance when I attempt to pull the door closed.

“Let go, Pandora,” I growl.

“Are you still mad about last week?” Her lips wiggle into a closed-mouth smirk. “God, get over it.”

“You’re asking if I’m mad that you told my girlfriend that I was a sex offender?” My view of her narrows as my eyes squint into the noonday sun. “Are you that fucking mental, Pandora?”

“I assumed she knew.” The innocence in her tone mocks my question. “I mean, don’t you have to tell people that before you fuck ‘em?”

Legally. Yeah. Which is how Pandora knew. But it was different with Demi. I needed her to hear me out. To not completely hate me before I dropped the bomb.

“Yeah, well, I’m not an offender anymore.” I have to clear my name, regardless of the fact that I could give two shits what Pandora thinks of me.

“Oh, you’re off paper now?”

“The record is being expunged. My accuser finally admitted that she lied about the entire thing.”

“Let me guess—your rich bitch girlfriend paid her off?”

“Stop calling her a goddamn bitch, Pandora. You don’t know her.”

“I know enough about her to know she’s too good for you.”

“You’re pathetic.” I shake my head and rev my engine, popping it into reverse. She takes a step back, which his probably smart because I’m feeling like I could very easily run her over and probably feel very little remorse for it.

“What does she have that I don’t?” Pandora yells over the growl of the motor.

“Everything,” I huff. “Class. Grace. Dignity. A beautiful heart.”

Pandora rolls her eyes and pretends to stick a finger down her throat.

“You’ll get tired of her white bread, vanilla, boring ass eventually, and then you’ll come crawling back.” Pandora folds her arms across her chest.

“Ha. Never.” I offer a haughty laugh. “Don’t hold your breath.”

“Yeah, well, maybe it’s time I tell my father about all the freaky things you did to me in the back of the shop. You know, bending me over bumpers and fucking me with all these dirty, phallic tools lying around the shop . . .”

My stomach churns.

Sex with Pandora tops the list of stupid things I’ve done in the last few years. She had very particular tastes and a very abundant appetite. Pandora’s motto was the dirtier the sex, the better. And I always aimed to please.

Can’t take it back now.

“So you’re blackmailing me?” I slip a pair of aviator sunglasses over my nose and stare straight ahead, because looking at her does nothing but turn my blood into molten lava.

I think it’s time.

“Yeah, well, the joke’s on you,” I say. “Because I’m leaving, and I’m not coming back.”

“Where the hell are you gonna go, huh?”

“Anywhere I want.”

I’ve been saving money and living on the cheap for years now. And to tell the truth, I don’t even know what I’ve been saving for all this time. I just never needed a whole lot, and I never had anything worth wasting it on.

“You’re just staying that,” she says. “You’ll be back. You wouldn’t leave Daddy hanging like that. You know the shop’s three weeks behind.”

“Tell Rod I’m sorry. I’ll call him and explain later.” I take my foot off the brake and roll backward, glancing over my shoulder.

The soft crunching and pinging of gravel beneath my tires feels like freedom.

“Where are you going?” she calls out, like it’s any of her damn business.

I ignore Pandora for the last time, stopping for a second to unbutton my personalized shop shirt and toss it out the window, and then I drive away from South Fork for the last time.

With no destination in mind, I drive for an hour or two. Mostly down country roads and mostly so I can do some deep thinking. After a while, I call Demi and tell her I’m on my way to see her. She sounds surprised, but she doesn’t ask questions.

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