Elite, p.15
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       Elite, p.15

         Part #1 of Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
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  I was worse than a twelve-year-old Justin Bieber fan with the fever, or whatever they called it.

  My door swung open.

  “Do you have access cards to every room or something?” I jumped off my bed and fought the urge to tackle a smiling Nixon.

  “Of course.” He grinned in a way that said, I’m important, so there.

  I rolled my eyes. “I don’t see popcorn?”

  “About that.” He scratched his head. “Chase was bored so…”

  “The party is here!” Chase shouted from the doorway, loaded with enough groceries to feed a small country. “Move over, Nixon. It’s chick flick time and I’ve got the goods.”

  “Is he high?” I crossed my arms and examined Chase’s eyes.

  “No,” they said in unison.

  “I’m my normal awesome self. I have had two Red Bulls though, so my bad for the loudness. Damn, I was bored. You saved my life.” Chase winked and set the groceries on the shared desk in our dorm. I always seemed to forget how attractive he was. I almost felt sorry for whoever ended up with the guy. Next to Nixon he was the hottest guy here and probably just as much trouble to deal with. Well, maybe not just as much, but close. After all, they were family.

  Nixon slammed the door to my room shut, much to the disappointment of the waiting girls in the hall who were eyeing me like I was the harlot of the century.

  “So…” I began unpacking the groceries. I didn’t even want to know how much security detail the guy took with him in order to obtain them. “What movie did you guys bring?”

  Chase chuckled. “Well, funny that you ask that.”

  “Chase,” Nixon warned, but Chase kept talking.

  “Nixon here was pouting about your ruined date, and I thought to myself, wow, what would make him feel better? What would inspire him to be more romantic? I mean, cows, man? Really?”

  “It was romantic,” I defended Nixon and walked into his arms, unable to help myself from being near him.

  “Cows. Cows are romantic?” Chase shook his head. “I think not. And in my opinion, or that of my dear mother’s, Nicholas Sparks is the shit. Therefore, we’re going to watch… drum roll, please.”

  Nixon and I just stared while Chase bounced his hands against the desk. “The Notebook!”

  “Shoot me now.” Nixon cursed.

  I smiled. “Hey, it’s a good movie.”

  Chase smirked at Nixon. “Say it, dude. Say it.”

  “Say what?”

  “V-vampire?” Nixon guessed totally quoting Twilight. He put Chase into a headlock and cursed. “Fine, you were right to choose Nicholas Sparks. Good job. Too bad you can’t use any of that romance on finding your own girl.”

  Chase pulled away and shrugged. “I’ve already found my girl.”

  Nixon narrowed his eyes.

  Chase stalked toward me and put his arm around me. “You see. I have it worked out perfectly. The minute you screw up — and let’s be honest, you’re like a time bomb — I’m swooping in for the kill.”

  “Romantic.” I picked Chase’s arm off of my shoulder and stepped away.

  Nixon’s eyes turned icy again as he glared at Chase. “Not in this lifetime, dude.”

  “You never know,” Chase fired back.

  Wait, when did this turn into something serious? Both of them looked ready to throw punches.

  “Okay, too much testosterone!” I stepped between them. “Let’s just watch the movie, alright?”

  Chase snapped out of his funk and smiled. “Sure, let me just get the chips and dip out. Oh yeah, and popcorn. I also got some licorice and Skittles.”

  “Skittles?” I repeated.

  “He wants you to taste the rainbow.” Nixon groaned. “It's one of his lines, and then he puts the skittles in his mouth and kisses you. It’s a very tired line that he can’t seem to let go of, huh, Chase?”

  “Bastard,” Chase joked and went about putting our snacks together.

  Nixon lay on my bed and held out his hand for me to follow him. I snuggled into his side and within minutes felt my eyes droop.

  “It’s okay,” Nixon whispered into my ear. “You can sleep. I know it was a rough night.”

  “But…” I didn’t open my eyes. “We were supposed to talk about tonight and why you have guns and… Skittles.”

  “Skittles?” He chuckled. “What, you trying to taste my rainbow?”

  “I love rainbows.” I smiled.

  Huh? I must have been dreaming, because I could have sworn I heard Nixon say. “I’ve always loved you.”

  “You too,” I said back, because you know, I was dreaming and it was totally okay to say that back in your dream.

  Nixon’s warm lips were on my neck. “I’m glad you’re safe, Trace. Now sleep.”

  He felt so good. I snuggled as close as I could and tucked my head into the crook of his arm. It was an amazing dream, being in his arms, being at peace.

  ****

  The sound of my alarm jolted me awake. Almost falling off my bed, I stared at my phone. Who plugged it in?

  I had a text from Nixon. Wait, Nixon? Where was he?

  SET YOUR ALARM FOR SEVEN JUST IN CASE YOUR OLD MAN WAS COMING EARLY. CLEANED UP SNACKS BUT CHASE WANTED TO LEAVE YOU THE SKITTLES. USE THEM WISELY! HAVE FUN TODAY PLEASE BE SAFE.

  My grin was so huge I’m surprised my face didn’t hurt. I quickly texted him back.

  THANKS FOR NOT TASTING MY RAINBOW WHILE I WAS SLEEPING. PROMISE TO BE SAFE. PLUS NOBODY WOULD ATTACK ME WITHOUT YOU AROUND. YOU’RE THE GUN MAGNET! SEE YOU TONIGHT?

  I anxiously wrung my hands together while I waited for him to respond.

  LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON J

  With a happy sigh, I sent him a smiley text back and looked at the time. It was just after seven. I had plenty of time to shower and make myself presentable.

  I grabbed my shower tote and threw on my flip flops and bathrobe.

  The bathroom was pretty busy. Luckily, one of the showers was open. I snatched it before anyone else did and washed my hair. The hot water was therapeutic against my sore back. Why would my neck be sore? I rolled my head around and gasped. Nixon. I’d fallen asleep against his arm. No wonder my neck hurt.

  I was still smiling when I toweled off and gathered my stuff to go back into my room. Making my way to the bathroom door I pulled it open and nearly ran into one of my dorm-mates.

  “Skank.” She pushed past me.

  “Excuse me?”

  “You heard me.” She sneered. “You’re a skank. Two guys in your room last night? Really? You know Nixon and Chase are just messing with you, right? They’re Elect and you’re a nobody. A charity case. Besides… word around school is that you’d give it to anyone.”

  “Hmm.” I put my free hand on my hip. “I wonder what Nixon would say about that.”

  Fear flashed in her eyes for a brief moment before she shrugged. “Tell him whatever you want. Because in a few days it won’t even matter anymore. He’ll get bored. They always do. You’re like the shiny new toy, and believe me when I say, Nixon really loves to play. Good luck finding any guy who will talk to you after he breaks you and puts you back on the shelf.”

  Stunned I stared as she stomped off. Girls shoved past me. But I couldn’t move. Dread filled my stomach. What if she was right? I hadn’t known him very long, and wasn’t it kind of weird how close we had gotten? It wasn’t normal. Even I wasn’t backwoods enough to think anything about our relationship was normal. It was odd, but it worked, right?

  I chewed my lower lip and walked back to my room.

  Monroe was sitting on her bed looking like she’d been thoroughly kissed the night before.

  “I take it Tex was attentive?” I decided not to tell anyone about my run in with the chick in the bathroom and put my stuff away while I waited for Mo to answer.

  “He’s so…” She sighed happily. “Perfect.”

  “Tex?” I laughed. “We are talking about Tex, right?”

  “Shut up!” She threw a pillow at my hea
d and giggled. Oh gosh, she had it bad. Right, like I could talk. I did in fact just sigh while reading a text not even a half hour ago. “He’s just so sweet and my family totally approves, which is a huge deal!”

  My hands froze over my bathrobe. “Your family kind of strict?”

  “Kind of?” She snorted. “The last guy I dated ran away screaming, and I’m not joking. My family is all about appearances and connections. Luckily, Tex is everything my dad actually likes.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Well, for starters, his parents just bought out a multi-million dollar software company, and Tex is supposed to take over the family business in a few years. I mean, not like Nixon. I guess things happen faster than you realize, but Tex is next and—”

  “Wait.” I put my hand up. “Nixon runs your family’s business?”

  “Businesses.” She chewed her fingernail. “He kind of oversees everything. Like the CEO to the CEO you know what I mean? Or I guess just the owner-operator. Whatever. Anyways, Tex—”

  “Wait, one more question. Why is Nixon even in school?”

  Monroe laughed. “I thought you’d been hanging out with my brother for the past couple weeks. You know just as well as I do that he doesn’t actually go to school.”

  Oh my gosh. My boyfriend was a dropout. “He quit?”

  She gave me a confused look. “Um, he technically already graduated. He was so many credits ahead that this year he decided to take enough credits to be Student Body President, but that’s it. Why do you think it seems like he’s always roaming the halls and has all the access cards to everything? They wouldn’t just give that to a student.”

  “But…” Confused, I began to pace. “Why hasn’t he told me?”

  “Chill.” Monroe jumped up from the bed and pulled me into a hug. “It’s not like it’s a secret. Everyone knows about it. I’m sure he just assumed someone already told you.”

  “Right.” I smiled, even though it felt forced, and hurried through my morning routine. It bothered me that Nixon hadn’t said anything. But what bothered me more was the fact that I had been blindly trusting him for the past few days without ever forcing him to answer any of my questions.

  The main one being… Who the hell was he?

  Chapter Twenty-three

  As promised, Grandpa was waiting outside my dorm at eight o’clock sharp. “Looking good,” I shouted at him once I stepped outside.

  The minute he turned around I froze.

  All his white facial hair was gone. He was wearing a really nice suit, like the type you see on Armani ads, and his smile seemed… worried.

  Was nothing real in my life anymore? My grandpa was a farmer! A farmer! What would he need with a suit?

  I approached him and the same black Mercedes I saw him driving last night. “What’s going on?”

  “Trace.” He licked his lips. “Let’s just spend the day together and we’ll talk, okay? But not here, honey.”

  I nodded. I mean, I really didn’t have any other choice. The car smelt like Grandpa, which was weird considering it was a rental.

  The doors were heavy, too heavy to be a normal car, and the glass seemed thicker than normal. Not to mention that the windows were so darkly tinted it would be impossible to see in. I had no idea you could rent cars like this.

  “Good news first or bad news?” Grandpa asked once he started the car.

  “Bad. Always the bad first.”

  Grandpa coughed. “Let me start with the good.”

  “Why ask if you were already going to start with the good?”

  He chuckled and shrugged. “The good news is that I’m going to be in town for a few months.”

  “What!” I shrieked. “Grandpa, what about the cows! You know Wilbur won’t like being left without anyone familiar, and Matilda is—”

  “I still regret letting you name some of the animals,” Grandpa grumbled. “And Wilbur and Matilda will be fine. They’ve got Scott. He’s going to watch over operations for a while.”

  “Scott. As in, our cousin Scott?”

  “Yes, Scott.” We joined the main road traffic. “He’s a good man and wanted some extra money, so I’m going to pay him to watch over things while I’m here.”

  And then it hit me. Grandpa was sick. He had to be. Why else would he move? “Are you dying?”

  Grandpa shook his head and sputtered. “Why would you think that? Do I look that awful clean-shaven?”

  “No.” My breathing returned to normal. “I just… Well, why would you move here for a while?”

  “Now, for the bad news.” Grandpa looked pasty white as he got on the freeway.

  “What?”

  “Everything you’ve ever known… is about to change.”

  ****

  For some reason his words didn’t really hit me as hard as they should have. After all, everything had been slowly changing since Grandma’s death. I just didn’t know how or why.

  Things were too weird not to change.

  Maybe that’s why I didn’t ask any more questions. Instead, I tried to concentrate on what Nixon and I would do later. I had to. Because if I thought about the fact that Grandpa was driving me outside the city in an expensive car, wearing a suit, I would freak out.

  I closed my eyes for a few minutes in order to conjure up Nixon’s smile, his face. When I opened them, Grandpa seemed to be immersed in his driving.

  I snuck out my phone and sent Nixon a quick text.

  I’M KIND OF FREAKED.

  He didn’t respond right away, but when he did, I pretended not to hear the vibration. Grandpa was clueless. I pulled out the phone and looked at the screen.

  U R SAFE AND U HAVE NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF.

  I smiled and texted back.

  WHY? U FOLLOWING ME?

  My phone went off again.

  GOTTA RUN!

  I glanced in the rear view mirror just in case I was right. But I didn’t see Nixon’s SUV. Clearly I was reading too much into things.

  Grandpa took the next exit. We were on the outskirts of town in some sort of subdivision I’d never been to before.

  “Where are we?” I asked as we passed some large houses and land. I could still see Lake Michigan, so I knew we couldn’t be that far out of Chicago.

  “Lake Forest,” he answered.

  Something about Lake Forest seemed familiar. I just didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was just because I’d seen lots of signs for it? Wait, hadn’t Nixon taken me out in this direction for our date? Granted, we hadn’t gone this far. Or had we? Gosh, it felt like it took forever to get back, but I could have sworn it was only a twenty minute drive. Or was it?

  I wracked my brain. “This kind of looks like where Nixon took me for our date.”

  “Date,” Grandpa repeated. “With what, pastures?”

  I looked around at some of the pretty farmland. “Yeah, kind of.”

  Grandpa didn’t say anything for a while as we headed down a paved road into what looked like private property. “He was probably trying to get you to remember. I should shoot him for doing that to you.”

  “He’d probably pull his gun on you too, Grandpa.” Whoops, that slipped.

  Grandpa slammed on the brakes. “You saw his gun?”

  “Kind of hard not to with people chasing us.” I shrugged.

  Grandpa cursed in the same language Nixon often cursed in, and I couldn’t help it. I started laughing. This was too strange. Like something out of a movie. Clearly I was losing my mind.

  “What’s so funny?” Grandpa smiled.

  “You sound like Nixon. What language is that anyways?”

  Grandpa was silent again as we drove to the gate of the property. Across the railing it said. “Alfero.”

  “That’s on Grandma’s necklace.” I pointed at the sign as the gates opened, revealing a gorgeous expanse of grass and water fountains with trees lining the driveway. As we neared the end of the driveway, a three-story house came into view. It was a freaking mansion. My mouth drop
ped open as Grandpa pulled the car to a stop.

  With a sigh he pulled the key from the ignition and looked at me, sadness dancing across his face. “Welcome home, Trace.”

  Chapter Twenty-four

  “Home?” I repeated in a small voice.

  Suddenly a man with an ear-piece pulled open my door. “Miss Alfero, an honor. Just this way.”

  I gawked at the man and looked back at my grandpa. He was getting out of the car and walking toward us.

  The guy with the earpiece gave a curt nod to Grandpa. “Mr. Alfero, welcome home, sir.”

  Grandpa gave the man a swift nod in return and put his hand on my lower back as he led me up the stairs to the giant entryway of the house.

  Nothing anyone said could have prepared me for what was behind those doors. Nothing. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be happy or sad or pissed or shattered… I could only stare as Nixon stood in the entryway in my supposed house, with at least fifteen armed men. Chase and Anthony by his side.

  “Ready?” Nixon asked, not once looking in my direction but over my shoulder to Grandpa.

  Grandpa answered a gruff yes and continued pushing me through the giant hall.

  Heartbroken and so totally betrayed, I didn’t know what to do. All I knew is the one person I wanted to trust had lied to me, big time.

  My legs almost gave out on me before I could sit on the couch. Nixon sat directly across from me. All of his armed men behind him, and then I turned around and noticed that we had twice as many men behind us in that large entryway.

  Everyone had guns.

  And every single gun from Nixon’s group was trained on Grandpa. Every single gun from Grandpa’s group was trained on Nixon.

  It was like a bad mafia movie.

  Only every time I blinked it just became more real.

  “You broke the rules,” Grandpa said, leaning back in his seat.

  Nixon smirked. “What? You think I actually knew right away?”

  “You grew up with her!” Grandpa yelled.

  “She was six!” Nixon all but shouted.

  “You may as well have pulled that trigger. Your father…”

  “—Is dead.” Nixon smirked. “Cold and lifeless, lying right next to my mother.”

 
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