A million thoughts were flooding my mind.
I had wanted Neil to kiss me, but not like this.
I struggled to get free. A cruel smile spread over his face as his grip around my neck got tighter.
“Please stop,” I choked.
He released his hand, letting me gasp for air. But he didn’t let me go.
Instead, he bit me hard on the neck and forced me down onto the damp grass.
“You’ve been giving me eyes all night,” he purred. “Now stop being so coy.”
He was a big guy, and he was now on top of me, holding me down, forcing my legs apart.
I heard him unzip his pants.
This is it. He’s going to rape me.
I screamed as loud as I could.
His hand was quickly over my mouth, but the noise must have spooked the horses. The Thoroughbred started neighing loudly.
Neil glanced over at the commotion, and in a sudden fight-or-flight moment, I managed to bend my knee enough to make contact with his groin.
He was temporarily stunned, which gave me just enough time to wriggle out from under him.
Man, did I run. I tried to get as far away from him as possible, my face streaked in tears.
I was in panic mode, just wanting to be safe.
I saw a cop car pulled up outside the house, keeping watch over the party’s prestigious guests.
I ran up to it, my mascara running, and banged on the window.
“Help!” I cried to the surprised-looking officers inside. “I’ve been assaulted!”
An hour later, I was sitting opposite Officer Hardy and Detective Michaels at the police station.
I couldn’t say that we were getting along.
“Can you tell me again, what you were doing outside with Senator Bowry?” Michaels asked me.
“I was outside with him talking. He kissed me.”
“And you kissed him back?”
“At first, yeah.”
“And you have been drinking,” Michaels continued.
“So how can you be sure he assaulted you?” Hardy then asked, as if he’d just outfoxed me.
“Because I asked him to stop, and instead he forced me onto the ground and unzipped his fucking pants,” I snapped.
We’d been going around in circles, and it was becoming clear that they weren’t going to take my word for it.
“We can’t help you if you’re going to take that tone,” Officer Hardy growled.
I want to smack him in his dumb face.
I was beginning to regret asking for help.
I should have just gotten a taxi home.
The officers outside the party had taken me to the station, but instead of trying to gather any useful evidence, the police seemed hell-bent on discrediting me.
“I’ve just been assaulted and you’re treating me like a fucking criminal!” I snapped.
“Keep cussing and you can spend the night in the cell,” Detective Michaels said smugly.
“That’s not a thing,” I snarled. It was all I could do to keep from screaming.
Then I said something dumb. “If you guys want to treat me like this, go ahead. I’ll tell my father, Eric Davenport, all about the officers who refused to help me,” I stated with forced calm, folding my arms defensively.
They exchanged glances.
I hoped that would be the end of it, and they would start doing their goddamned job.
But instead, they called my bluff.
“Fine.” Detective Michaels pushed my confiscated phone back toward me. “Call him.”
The next day, I woke up feeling fresh and positive.
The fundraiser had been a huge success. Not only were Neil’s campaign coffers full, the polls were very positive.
That was good news for us Davenports.
After my morning Pilates routine, I wandered up to the kitchen to make myself a post-workout smoothie.
That was when my day took a very un-zen turn.
Father marched into the kitchen, his face filled with quiet fury.
“Your sister is at the police station,” he said grimly. “We need to go pick her up.”
“What’d she do?” I asked instinctively. By the anger in his eyes, I knew it was something bad.
“She was apparently wasted,” he growled. I nodded and grabbed my coat from a hanger.
That did sound like Riley.
“Is that why they booked her?” I asked, mentally preparing myself for the PR firestorm.
“They haven’t booked her. She was banging on some cop-car window claiming some guy assaulted her,” Dad said coldly.
“Wait, she was attacked?” I said, my voice rising in panic. “By who?”
“Come on. It never happened. As per usual, she’s drunk and desperate for attention. And the last thing we need right now is her getting any.”
It stung to hear him talk about Riley that way.
I knew she’d been a pain in his ass, but he could be downright callous.
Still, I followed him out to his car of choice, a Mercedes SUV with tinted windows, and we made our way to the station.
Surprise, surprise, the two officers did not suddenly get all woke once I proved who my father was.
It didn’t help that the second Dad picked up he’d asked over the speakerphone: “What is it now?”
They knew then that they were dealing with a guy who would be happy to believe whatever they told him about me.
He barely said a word to me when he arrived with Casey through the back door of the station.
As much as I tried to hide it, it stung so badly.
He had a quiet word with the officers while I sat with my sister in the waiting room.
She looked irritatingly fresh this morning in her fancy yoga pants and Max Mara coat.
And here I was, makeup still smeared around my eyes, and a bruise developing on my upper arm from where Neil had pinned me down.
I kept looking at it and wanting to cry.
But what hurt more than the terrifying few minutes of my attack was the way I was treated by police.
And worse, far worse than that, was the cold way my father looked at me as he dragged me out of the station.
All I wanted was to curl up, sleep, and forget about the traumatic evening I’d had.
But Dad wasn’t having it.
He demanded that I join the family for lunch. Mom greeted me as if everything was normal and great. “Hope you’re in the mood for kale Caesar salad,” she said perkily.
Casey said nothing, as usual. My dad’s favorite lackey.
We sat down. Everyone ate in silence. I wasn’t hungry.
“You are not going to eat?” Mom asked. It occurred to me that she might not know about last night.
“No. I feel sick.”
“That’s your own damn fault,” Dad snapped.
“It’s not,” I growled. Dad’s eyes met mine, blazing.
“I need to tell you something,” I said, my voice dripping with rage. “Last night, in the gardens, Neil assaulted me.” I looked around the table for a sign of shock from Mom and Casey.
I was hoping they hadn’t been briefed. That they would care enough to tell Dad to take my claims seriously.
But I saw neither shock nor sympathy in their faces.
“I spoke to Neil today. He said you were wasted, and he was trying to help you throw up outside and you tried to kiss him, and when he rejected you, you ran off,” Dad growled, voice shaking in anger.
For a while, I said nothing. I just stared at him in shock.
“You don’t seriously believe that?” I replied.
“Who would you believe? The guy polling at sixty-four percent, or the twenty-two-year-old dropout with a drinking problem?”
“I’d believe the person who has the least to gain by telling the truth,” I snapped.
“You’re hysterical,” Dad hollered back.
“And you’re a monster,” I yelled. “Are you seriously going to believe him over your own daughter?”
“I’ll believe you when you earn my trust. And considering your recent behavior, the way you gave up on your future, that will take some time.”
I couldn’t believe he was blaming me for my own assault, all because I’d dropped out of college. It was so heartless.
“You know that no matter what I’ve done, however many mistakes I’ve made, I didn’t deserve what happened to me last night. You know that it wouldn’t have stopped it?”
My mom and sister were both looking at their plates, avoiding my gaze.
“Are you seriously going to say nothing?” I exclaimed.
“Darling, let’s just change the subject, shall we?” Mom offered.
“Casey?” I pleaded.
“You can be a bit dramatic, Riley. Maybe it was a misunderstanding.”
Is she actually taking his side here?
Man, I knew we’d grown apart, but right now I straight up did not recognize this doormat as my sister.
“Oh, I wish it was,” I snapped. “I wish I could erase everything, but it’s burned into my brain.”
“It never happened,” my dad said, banging the table aggressively.
That only made me madder.
“Tell yourself that if it makes it easier for you, Daddy.”
“You think this is easy? You think any of the last twenty-two years having to raise you-no, drag you up has been easy?” Dad raged.
“I get it, you wish I wasn’t here. You wish you just had the one perfect daughter. Well, guess what? I wish I had a father who supported me when I’ve been assaulted rather than treated me as an embarrassment and donated millions to my attacker.”
It was physically painful to get those words out. My throat was tight.
“You can believe what you want. Tell people I was drunk for all I care. That guy is a monster, and I want to press charges.”
At that, my dad slammed his fist onto the table again, this time causing a water glass to fall and smash over the marble floor.
“You will do no such thing.”
“I’m an adult. You can’t do anything about it. I don’t care if you cut me off.”
“Cut you off? If you breathe a word of this, I’ll get you sent to a psychiatric ward. Indefinitely. Like I should have done years ago.”
I didn’t think too hard about it. It was like I had tunnel vision.
Sure, I was an adult, but my dad was one of America’s richest, most powerful men. And as long as he controlled my finances, I was under his control.
And I didn’t doubt for a moment that he would follow through on his threat.
After our horror show of lunch, I slipped up to my room, where I spent the rest of the day.
The more I thought about my situation, the more I realized something was really broken between me and my family.
I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I had to get out.
I couldn’t live here anymore.
I couldn’t forgive them for taking the side of someone who’d hurt me.
I wasn’t one of them. I belonged somewhere else.
Where, I wasn’t sure yet.
But I’d have to go and find out.
I slowly went through my things, trying to pack.
It was therapeutic, cutting down my possessions to the core of what I needed. A sleeping bag. A flashlight. A toothbrush. A few days’ worth of spare panties and socks.
My new life was soon contained in a backpack and a duffel bag.
I wrote a quick, emotionless note before putting on the small backpack and slinging the duffel over my shoulder.
I grabbed a pillow off my bed for the journey and scrambled from the windowsill to the tree outside before shimmying down the trunk.
It was an exit I had used a hundred times before, though admittedly never with luggage.
And it will be the last.
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