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She crossed her arms, looking hard at him. “What is this place? I thought you said it was a beauty pageant! For special people like me!”
He glanced around nervously and took her by the arm. “This isn’t the place to talk. We can discuss it later, once we’re home.” At the sound of the audience clapping, he frowned. “They’re too narrow-minded. Kitchen shelves! Idiots.” He pulled her over towards the coat rack where several shiny metallic coats hung, including his own.
They were leaving before the show even ended? Baby tore her hand away, glaring at him. “I want to hear about the other models. I want to hear what they say.” More than that, she wanted answers to the mystery of what this place was really about.
His bushy brows drew together. Father was older, with gray hair and glasses. They looked nothing alike, and yet he had said that she was born of his genetic materials. “Don’t speak back to me. When I say it’s time to go, you obey.” He grabbed her arm again.
The other models watched them with concerned looks on their faces. Baby tried to break free of his hold. “When do I have a say in what I do? Didn’t you just say I’m an adult now? When can I meet people, see places?”
Father opened his mouth to reply, then shut it. “I’ll explain everything later. Once we’re home.” He glanced at the muscled security standing nearby. “I need assistance. Help me get her into the car.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Baby saw Moo returning from the stage. Their eyes met, and he frowned, seeing her struggle.
Fear churned in her gut. She’d argued once with Father when he’d told her it was time to get in the cage. He’d struck her across the cheek. The mark had only lasted a day or two, but she never forgot the shame of disappointing him, the anger in his eyes.
Moo was walking away. She might not ever get to see him again, or talk to him. Baby squared her shoulders and glared at her father. “Let go of me. You can’t make me go with you. I’m a legal adult now.” She hadn’t ever read an actual law, but she’d read enough to know that adults had rights under the Constitution. It occurred to her that Father might be breaking a law or two with how he was keeping her, now that she was eighteen.
“Baby,” he pleaded, looking angry and hurt at the same time. “What’s gotten into you?”