The bandit, p.1
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       The Bandit, p.1

           B. B. Reid
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The Bandit


  The Bandit

  B.B. REID

  Copyright © 2016 B.B. Reid

  The Bandit by B.B. Reid

  All rights reserved.

  Rogena Mitchell-Jones, Literary Editor

  Ami Hadley, Proofreader

  RMJ-Manuscript Service LLC

  www.rogenamitchell.com

  Cover Design by Amanda Simpson of Pixel Mischief Design

  All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the author or publisher constitutes unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use the material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained from the author.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead, are coincidental.

  Table of Contents

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Chapter Forty-Two

  Chapter Forty-Three

  Chapter Forty-Four

  Chapter Forty-Five

  Chapter Forty-Six

  Chapter Forty-Seven

  Chapter Forty-Eight

  Chapter Forty-Nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-One

  Chapter Fifty-Two

  Chapter Fifty-Three

  Chapter Fifty-Four

  Chapter Fifty-Five

  Chapter Fifty-Six

  Chapter Fifty-Seven

  Chapter Fifty-Eight

  Chapter Fifty-Nine

  Chapter Sixty

  Chapter Sixty-One

  Author’s Note

  Acknowledgments

  Also by B.B. Reid

  Contact the Author

  About B.B. Reid

  Dedication

  To all the Daddy’s girls.

  Mian’s name is pronounced

  My-an.

  Prologue

  Once a Daddy’s girl…

  MIAN

  “I’m going to prison, Mian.”

  I can’t remember a time I ever hated my father. Not even when I grew breasts and noticed boys. But when he uttered those fateful words…

  I raged inside.

  Theo Ross was a notorious thief and playboy, but he was also my father. My fist struck the table, and I turned my glare on full force. “You cannot give up this easily. I’m not.”

  Eyes greener than the amazon stared back at me. I had my father’s eyes. Maybe that’s why I could read them so well when no one else could. I recognized remorse in the depth of his striking gaze, but I also saw pity. He thought I was naive. A clueless girl with my head stuck in the clouds.

  But I wasn’t naive.

  My father just didn’t know me anymore.

  After Mom had died, the only thing that mattered to him was the next job. He’d say it was all for me, but after so many years, I knew better.

  I couldn’t keep my mother, and now I knew I couldn’t keep my father, either.

  “I can’t be there for you anymore.” He reached across the table and enveloped my hands. I couldn’t stand to see the defeat in his eyes anymore so I fixated on the slight tremble of his large hands. It was the only sign that he was far from calm. My father was best at concealing his emotions and thoughts so he’d give nothing away. In his line of work, the ability to master it meant life or death. No one had ever been able to read him except Mom and me. “I regret that the most. I just want you to know that.”

  Should I remind him that he hasn’t been there for me since Mom died? For months at a time, he pushed me away so he could chase riches. Or maybe it was the other way around…

  “We still have a chance.”

  He shook his head in defeat, so I closed my eyes to block the sight. My father had always been a man larger than life, but I was not seeing that man today.

  The guards.

  The walls surrounding him.

  The bars that would imprison him.

  It weakened him.

  “No, baby girl. It’s over. It’s time I paid back what I’ve taken.”

  “Why are you giving up? You can’t leave me!” He hung his head, and I could see the slight tremble of his shoulders. When he finally lifted his head, he seemed to have regained himself.

  “I’m sorry I have to leave you, but I’m not sorry for what I’ve done.” His lack of remorse made me flinch, but he didn’t notice. “I’ll never be sorry for taking care of you the best way I could. I love you, Mian. Never doubt that.”

  The shield I carried cracked. “Mom loved me too, but she left, and now you’re going away, too. I’ll be alone.”

  “You won’t be alone. Your Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Ben will take care of you. They’re family.”

  I bit the inside of my cheek. He wouldn’t listen if I reminded him of the truth. He’d assume it was my emotions speaking. My aunt and uncle were evil, vicious people who hated kids, hated me and hated my dad even more. They never approved of how my father made his money. They were God-fearing church folk who stayed true to their hypocritical faith.

  Daddy may be a criminal, but he always took care of me, and he had loved Mom fiercely. “It won’t be the same,” I answered instead. I was never comfortable speaking badly about anyone—even if it were true.

  He used his thumb to wipe away a tear. “You’re going to live a better life than I did, Mian. Your mother would be so proud of the young woman you’re becoming.”

  “But who will read me a bedtime story?” I sniffled and hoped my attempt at a joke would win him over.

  He chuckled and flashed the smile that used to make my mom sway on her feet, once upon a time. “Nice try, Mian. I haven’t read you a bedtime story since you were ten years old.”

  Just before Mom died.

  I was sixteen years old now, and des
pite his absence in my life for the last six years, my birthday was one day he refused to miss. A late breakfast visit to Tabitha’s Frozen Treats was our tradition that had remained unbroken. Until now.

  We both shared the first laugh for either of us since he was arrested. My father had lived lawlessly since he was nineteen, but this time, he’d gotten caught.

  “Daddy, can I ask you something?”

  “Anything.”

  “Why do they think you killed Uncle Art?”

  Daddy killing my godfather should never have been a possibility. They had been best friends and partners for almost twenty-four years. I’ve even heard the story of how they met.

  Daddy saved Uncle Art.

  My father may not have been perfect, but he was loyal. Killing him didn’t make sense.

  “I—I’m not sure I should answer that.”

  What?

  “Don’t you think I need to know?”

  “No, baby girl. I don’t.”

  “Why not?” I barked and drew the attention of the couple sitting at the next table. “Was it money? Is that why you killed him?”

  Normally, he would berate me for the disrespect, but he only sighed. “If anyone deserves a chance to go to college and have a better life, it’s you. Money shouldn’t stand in the way of that.”

  “Dad, I would never have wanted you to sacrifice your freedom or kill your friend for me.”

  Something in Daddy’s eyes changed, and when he spoke, I didn’t recognize him. “Art wasn’t my friend. I learned that the hard way and I dealt with it,” he claimed icily.

  “Why would you say that?”

  He shook his head. “You aren’t to blame for my decisions. I don’t regret it and neither will you.”

  “That’s not an answer.”

  “Maybe not. But it’s the only one I can offer you.”

  “Well, it’s too late. I already regret it, and I already feel responsible. What if they give you life? You won’t be there to see me graduate. You won’t walk me down the aisle. You won’t meet your grandchildren. You’re not supposed to be in here. You’re supposed to be free.” I dropped the broken shield, and for the second time since they took him away, I cried.

  He tried to offer a smile and failed, but just like the fighter he is, he tried again. This time, his full lips lifted into an easy smile.

  I only wished it had reached his eyes.

  Chapter One

  Some mistakes aren’t worth the lesson.

  MIAN

  One Year Later

  I took one last pass at my hair with the flat iron and topped my primping off with a single coating of strawberry lip-gloss. After careful inspection for my best friend’s benefit, I swapped making kissy faces at the mirror for a nice eye roll.

  “I can’t believe you’re really going to go out with him,” Erin squealed. She’s been my best friend since the sandbox and claims she’s Marilyn Monroe reincarnated.

  “What’s not to believe?” I faked being insulted since the truth was more likely to lead to an argument and an hour of “I don’t get you, Mian.”

  The truth? I was already rethinking this date.

  “Because this isn’t like you. He’s a senior…” She then emphasized, “…in college ,” as if I wasn’t already aware.

  “We’re just going to grab dinner and catch a movie. We’re not getting hitched.”

  “He’s the quarterback at Weston and his family’s loaded and powerful.” There was peaceful silence, but I didn’t bask. My count made it to five. “You should let him fuck you.” She then dramatically groaned to make her frustration obvious. “I don’t even know why you’re hanging on to your v-card.” Her face twisted, and for a second, I thought I was the one trying to sell my body for mediocre fame. “I know you’re a romantic or whatever, but the one probably won’t come around for another ten years or so. You might as well give it up now so you’re already experienced if he does.”

  I stared until she turned away to fix her already perfect hair in the mirror. I tried but couldn’t think of a response that wouldn’t end our twelve-year friendship. Erin had always been reckless and self-destructive, and sometimes, I believed corrupting me was her one true goal in life.

  “I’m not holding on to anything,” I corrected. “I’m just not willing to jump into bed with any willing guy.”

  “G uys , Mian.” And then she elaborated. “You’re hot which means they’re all willing.”

  “That doesn’t mean I have to be.”

  “Ugh. You’re so stuck up,” she whined. “So, what are you going to wear?”

  I nodded to the jeans and blouse I had thrown on top of my bed and took one last look in the mirror. I was happy to skirt that ‘stuck-up’ comment. My father always taught me to make smart choices in life despite his. Erin didn’t know my father’s hopes were all I had of what he had left behind. Making them a reality was the only way I felt close to him.

  “No, you are not wearing that. That’s not even sexy!” The red was about as racy and sexy as I was willing to go. I wasn’t committed to this date, but I was willing to play the part to get her off my back.

  “I’m not planning to jump into bed with him.”

  “But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to play the part,” she argued. Erin and I may not stay on the same page, but we somehow read each other well.

  “What part is that, Erin?” I couldn’t keep the bite out of my tone if I tried. We were polar opposites. Our friendship didn’t make sense, but it held on.

  “The part that says, ‘I’m not a total bore.’ You used to be spontaneous and sexy. Ever since your father got knocked, it’s like you lost your sense of humor. Life is still worth living, you know?” I watched her pick up the snow globe my father gave me on the first anniversary of my mother’s death when I was too afraid to admit how much I missed her. She carelessly shook it and then turned her nose up at it as if it wasn’t the most important something to me.

  “Are you saying I’m suicidal?”

  Her tone lacked contrition as she twisted her lips and asked, “Are you?”

  I tried to keep my emotions detached, but it was hard pretending Erin wasn’t right. I was different. My mother’s death and my father’s arrest had stripped away pieces of me until only the necessities remained.

  I was walking and talking, breath and flesh. Nothing more.

  “You know, I think my aunt and uncle will be back soon.” I wanted her gone, and it seemed she couldn’t care less what her words did to me as she unbuttoned her blouse until her breasts were nearly popping out of her shirt. I could swear her nipples were playing peek-a-boo with her collar.

  “Suit yourself.” She shrugged. “But at least take my advice and sex it up a little. You want him to come back for more, not over the hills looking for better. You never know how many other girls are waiting and willing to take your spot.” With a wink and a flounce, she was gone.

  I unlocked my jaw and blew out a breath to calm down, and then spent the next half hour pissed off at her anyway. My mother’s death and my father’s incarceration may have fucked me up, but I was far from dead.

  I still wasn’t dressed when the doorbell interrupted my brooding. I quickly dug around in my closet and pulled out the skimpiest dress I could find, and thanks to my aunt and uncle’s rules, still happened to be dinner and movie appropriate. Their religious views prohibited me from wearing anything that didn’t pass the fingertips. I was just grateful I didn’t get stoned for flashing an ankle. I shrugged into the dress and took one last look at myself in the mirror. The dress was made of dark brown and navy sweater material that hugged my petite frame, emphasizing the little roundabouts I passed off as curves.

  Okay, not curves.

  What I had was more like an angle.

  I tried not to stress too much over my physical app
earance. I was more fond of the perception of beauty rather than the way things really are. I could make the world whatever I wanted it to be on a piece of paper. It was the art of my own mind that inspired and drove me.

  Who needed looks when you have that kind of power?

  When the doorbell rang again, I rushed downstairs and snatched open the front door. My heart was pounding while my date, Aaron Staten, son of Senator Henry Staten, appeared collected on the other side of the threshold.

  “For a second, I thought I was being stood up,” he greeted and laughed nervously.

  “Sorry. I didn’t hear the bell,” I lied. I didn’t want to give the impression I was trying too hard. He already had the upper hand being older and popular.

  His gaze trailed over my body, and he took his time appraising me. It made me even more anxious to get this night over with—I couldn’t care less if he appreciated how I looked.

  “You look beautiful.”

  I nodded and offered a polite smile. It was more than what I expected, but maybe he felt obligated to compliment me. It would have been awkward not to after blatantly checking me out. I took in his blue collared shirt and freshly laundered jeans and said, “You look even cleaner yourself.”

  “Thanks. I shaved,” he said. I tried not to look surprised since I hadn’t even noticed. I didn’t really think he had facial hair to begin with to make shaving necessary, but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless. “Shall we go?”

  “Yes. I’m starving.” I stepped out and locked up.

  “Actually, I was thinking we could hit up my frat brother’s party tonight. He’s turning the big two-one.”

  My brain was screaming abort while he smiled obliviously. Partying with a bunch of college kids with someone I barely knew wasn’t smart, but I didn’t know how to decline without appearing lame. Erin would have jumped at the chance.

  I nodded and followed him to his car.

  This was my chance to prove Erin wrong, blow some steam, and forget that today was exactly one year since my father told me goodbye. I hadn’t seen him in a year since he was found guilty. He forbade me to visit, and I couldn’t find it in me to disobey him after the unexpected rejection.

 
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