“For the last time, Scarlett, it’s not going to happen! Please, just drop it so we can eat in peace. I’ve had a horrible day at work, and I just want to drink this wine, eat, and slump in front of the TV.”
I clenched my fists under the table and glared at him, giving him the slight frown that I had practiced in the mirror earlier. Normally it was effective, but at the moment, he wasn’t having it.
“Don’t even try it, sweetheart. It’s just not gonna work today. I said no, and I mean no. That’s the end of it.”
I sighed but wasn’t ready to give up just yet on what had been a week-long argument. “Dad, I know you don’t like it, but I’m not a little girl anymore. All I constantly see on Instagram are pictures of my friends all over the world, and believe me, there isn’t a chaperone in sight! They’re just having fun and living life. Safely. No issues!”
Dad wistfully glanced up from his glass of wine. “You can’t see the chaperones,” he said slowly, “because they’re damn good at staying out of sight. That’s why the good ones cost so much. I’m not insisting on this just because I think you’re some special little snowflake, believe me. I have my reasons.”
And now we’ve reached the brick wall again, I thought to myself, knowing we would soon start skirting around the issue of why I needed protection, although Dad would never actually answer the question.
I decided to take the chance and engage the argument anyway. “Why do I need a bodyguard then?”
If my psychology degree had taught me anything about body language—which it had, considering that I’d graduated Summa Cum Laude—it was that my dad wouldn’t be swayed. Regardless, I refused to give anything away, despite the fact that I was nearing the end of my patience.
He sighed, tearing his eyes away from the TV for a moment and pinching the bridge of his nose. “You know I can’t explain. I’ve told you that. I’ve signed confidentiality agreements that would put me in jail if I even told you what kind of paper they were written on.” He picked up his glass of wine again and tossed back what remained.
“Look, I’ll tell you what. Let’s make a deal,” I offered.
Dad sat up and put on what I called his ‘business-mode’ face, his head slightly raised and his shoulders back with his hands crossed in front of him. “I’ll tell you what I can do, even though it’ll still get me in trouble,” he said. “I might be able to talk my way out of it, but only on the condition that you agree to my terms.” He paused for a moment. “Oh, I almost forgot—as a sweetener, I’ll cover all your travel expenses, not just the flights and accommodation.”
I sat up, my eyes widening. My dad was a very wealthy man, but the money he had put aside for me when I was younger was being held in trust in the form of shares in his company; I couldn’t spend a penny of it until the trust matured in just under two years.
The problem was—I wanted to go on vacation now. I needed to get out of Savage, Colorado. I’d been in the small town my whole life and it felt beyond stifling at this point. It’s only claim-to-fame was the well-known military base, home of the infamous Savage Soldiers.
While Savage residents always took so much pride in our town’s military history, I knew there were more interesting things to see in the world.
“What’s with the sudden generosity, Daddy?” I asked suspiciously. “Did someone slip something into your wine?”
He laughed. “No. My company’s share price has risen rather considerably in the last few days, thanks to the positive media reaction over the completion of our last contract. Front page news, you know. And following the news article, the companies are now queuing up to get us to sign more software development contracts.”
Dad still referred to the company as his even though he’d sold the majority stake to a large multinational software and hardware development conglomerate when I was young. The share price had risen sharply, making him a billionaire on paper almost overnight, and it seemed he was even richer now. Not much of that mattered to me though, at least not until my shares matured.
At the moment though, I just wanted to enjoy the last few years of my early twenties before I had to start worrying about the rest of my life. I may have been the daughter of a rich man, but that didn’t mean I wanted to take things for granted. I knew I didn’t have much longer before it was time for me to make a living on my own. By no means did I plan to just live off my dad for the rest of my life. I wanted to be my own woman, not an eternal spoiled pampered Daddy’s-girl.
But as for now, I just wanted to have a little fun first. To go traveling, partying, sightseeing…
And maybe even find a little carefree summer romance. Something I could tell my grandkids about someday when I wanted to relive my youth.
“Deal?” Dad said, bringing me out of my daydream.
I blinked. This was it—time to concede defeat on favorable terms. I nodded. “Okay, Daddy. If it really means that much to you, I’ll let you hire someone to look after me. As long as they don’t get in the way.”
“Well, here’s what I can tell you.” Dad leaned forward, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial tone. “You know I manage the software development of part of the company, right? A position I was given when I returned to work after your mom passed away. Let’s just say that I manage the development of software that either helps kill people or helps to stop people from being killed. And not just for companies, but for the Savage Soldiers and government too. There’re lots of nasty bastards out there who would do anything to get their hands on it.”
He leaned back in his chair, his gaze distant for a second. He rarely spoke about Mom. She had died after a brave but short battle with an aggressive form of cancer when I was just three years old. Dad later told me that he had sold the majority of his company at the time of her diagnosis so that he could be there to support her and look after me. I could tell that he still wasn't over her death and probably never would be. The loss had made him even more protective of me.
“Anyway,” he continued, “I’ve already told you more than I’ve ever told anyone outside of work about what I do. But hopefully you understand that I’m not just being overprotective without reason. I want you to have fun and do your own thing, but I want someone there, just in case, you know?”
“I know,” I said, no longer even fathoming arguing with him. Excitement started to build up inside of me. After almost two years of planning and re-planning, chatting over the details with friends, and a week of arguing with my father, I was finally going travelling! And with Dad covering my expenses, travel, and hotel, I’d have nothing to worry about.
It was already more than I had ever hoped for.