“You took your time!”
“Just making sure I was ready. Whitehaven doesn't like to be kept waiting.” Cinching the belt tighter, she secured the two sides of her coat together, inadvertently giving her driver a brief flash of black lace. Driver Carl was the one they always assigned to her and they'd quickly settled into an uneasy alliance; with him taking care of escorting her to Ben's more privileged clientèle and with her doing her best to have as little direct physical contact with him as possible. Fortunately, the car was a manual shift, but Carl drove erratically, keeping his right hand on the gear selector, making sure it was always close to her thigh.
“What time ya due there? Two thirty?” Driver Carl had a wad of gum in his mouth as usual, allegedly having kept the same piece going for over three years now, leaving it soaking in an undrunk shot-glass of espresso every night to refresh its flavour. He swore it worked better than any energy drink and never left him needing to visit one of the few local rest-rooms, but it left his breath reeking of stale coffee, making him even more repellent than he would have been otherwise.
“Two o'clock, sharp. And I'm finished after that. You can take me straight back to Ben's. I have my day-clothes and some other stuff to pick up and after that I'll be making my own way home. I need to do some shopping, so I'll not be wanting a ride. You can take someone else out if Ben needs you to.”
“'Sa pity. How is it you're always shopping, darling? I've never gotten to take ya home. Anyone would think...”
“...I'm a busy woman with a daughter at pre-school who needs to clothed and fed. Yes, that.”
The car bumped along the road a while longer, stopping at traffic signals every few hundred yards, causing Carl's hand to stray toward the folds of her coat she'd arranged to act as a barrier between them. She knew she could tell Ben about it later but Carl was his only driver. She'd still have to ride with him again and who knew how he'd act after 'Gentle' Ben had had another of his staff discipline him while he watched. She'd as little to do Carl as possible but the stories he'd told her between his masticating and his cursing left her with no illusions as to his character. He was a tough-for-hire, that was what his trade was, his driving just a way to ensure he was close to hand if ever a client got too rough with her. If she pissed him off – who knows if he'd ever respond to her call for help – maybe he'd even join in, saying he was too slow to get to her and making sure she wasn't able to contradict him.
She was never gonna let him take her home.