Elite, p.17
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       Elite, p.17

         Part #1 of Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
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  I knew Grandpa couldn’t argue against that. He gave me a curt nod, then turned toward the door, but not before saying under his breath, “I promise not to shoot him.”

  “Good.”

  “Today,” he finished and slammed the door behind him.

  Well, that was progress. One day where Nixon’s life didn’t hang in the balance. Good things were coming, that was for sure.

  I walked over to the bed and sat down. I didn’t remember this house. It looked too big, too regal to be mine. The room they put me in looked like a girl’s room. Everything was pink and white.

  Curious, I walked over to the desk and opened a drawer. A small diary was lying on top of a few crumpled up pieces of paper. I dug around and pulled out some of the pink papers and laughed. Pictures of horribly drawn unicorns and cats stared back at me.

  I’d already cleaned up, so I had at least a few minutes to waste. Grabbing the diary I went and sat on the bed and opened it.

  The front page said, To my little Tracey girl, love Father.

  Was it weird that I didn’t remember getting the diary? I didn’t even remember writing in one.

  I turned the page and nearly fell out of my chair.

  Mrs. Abandonato. Tracy+Nixon=Love.

  And, I was going to burn the diary. Like now.

  The rest of the pages were basically the same thing. Horrible drawings of what appeared to be a cat and then a cow with no udders. Clearly, being an artist was not in my future. As I flipped the pages, one thing remained true, I was constantly misspelling my own name and Nixon’s as I tried to write our names together. I could only imagine my mom must have helped me. No way did I know how to do any of those things at almost six.

  Either that or Nixon helped me.

  I shuddered.

  Forget burning the diary. I needed to shred it, then burn the pieces of evidence.

  I flipped to the last page and a picture fell out.

  It was me and Nixon. We were holding hands. He was looking at the camera grinning from ear to ear, and my head was tucked in his arm while I clenched his hand for dear life. The little boy staring back at me was the one I always remembered. When I fell and scraped my knee, he kissed it and made it better. When I cried because my mom wouldn’t let me have a pony, he laughed and told me ponies were stupid and that I should do something cool like learn how to be a spy. When his mom stayed over. I—

  Crap. I remembered.

  It was about a week before my sixth birthday, the last time I saw Nixon. He came over to my house with a bag. His mom followed us indoors and sobbed at the kitchen table to my mom while I took Nixon into the backroom.

  He’d always been so tough, so strong, so it freaked me out that he was crying. And then I noticed he was bleeding.

  “Nixon, what happened?” I reached out to touch the cut above his eye.

  He shrugged. His shoulder slumped as he sat in the middle of my floor. His tears fell onto the carpet as he played with one of the toy cars he had brought.

  “Why are you sad?” I asked, taking a seat across from him.

  “I hate him.”

  “Who, Nixon? Who do you hate? Isn’t hate bad?”

  He shook his head. “You’re too young. You don’t understand.” He slammed the car against the floor, again and again until it broke.

  I was scared, but not because I thought he was going to hurt me, because I knew he was hurting. So I did the only thing I knew how to do.

  I hugged him.

  I reached my skinny little arms around his neck and held him while he continued to cry.

  “Don’t worry, I’ll save you, Nixon. I’ll save you.”

  “Girls can’t save boys.”

  “Can too!” I squeezed him harder. “I promise. I’ll take you away from what makes you sad.”

  “Tracey…” His sobs grew louder. “I’m so scared.”

  “If you’re scared. I’ll be scared too, Nixon. Until you feel safer. I’ll be scared with you.”

  “Promise?” He pulled away from me.

  “I promise. Because you’re my best friend in the world, Nixon. I want you to be happy.”

  He nodded and we played until we fell asleep on the floor.

  “Tracey?” It was Grandpa’s voice. “You almost ready?”

  “Yup!” I tossed the diary back into the desk and opened the door. “Sorry, I was just thinking.”

  “That’s never a good sign,” Gramps muttered.

  I looped my arm through his as we made our way down the stairs to the marble entryway.

  “He’s here.” A man approached grandpa and nodded.

  Grandpa lifted his eyes heavenward, made a cross over his chest, and then said, “Let him in.”

  The door opened revealing Nixon. To me he looked like my normal Nixon. He was wearing hip hugging jeans and a tight t-shirt that showed off his chest tattoos and the half sleeve on his left arm.

  His eyes fell to mine and he smiled. I almost lunged for him, but Grandpa held me tight so I couldn’t budge.

  Grandpa nodded to the two men beside us. They went to Nixon. He lifted his hands in the air and turned as they patted him down. Was this really necessary? They pulled a gun from behind his pants, a knife from his boot, and a set of steel knuckles from his pocket. My eyes widened. He just shrugged as if what was happening was completely and totally normal.

  Once unarmed. His hands fell to his sides. I looked to Grandpa. With a curse he released me and I ran into Nixon’s arms.

  The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Nixon politely accepted my hug but as soon as our chests touched, he let out a hiss of air and gently pushed me away, creating immediate distance between us.

  Confused, I reached for his hand but he pulled it away and shook his head.

  Hurt. I looked from him to Grandpa. Nixon looked like he wanted to shoot Grandpa, and Grandpa looked like he was about three seconds from castrating Nixon. Great. Lunch should be stellar.

  The sound of stiletto heels hitting marble interrupted their tense exchange. A lady cleared her throat. I looked in the direction it came from and was surprised to see a very pretty woman with straight black hair smile at me and announce. “Lunch is ready.”

  Grandpa turned on his heel and followed her out of the room. I guess I was supposed to go too because Nixon stepped ahead of me.

  What just happened? Why was he acting so weird? It had to be Grandpa. Right? It had nothing to do with me. Dread filled my stomach. What if he was faking it? What if… what if it really was about protecting me, about promises made when we were little? My heart clenched, because a week after those childhood claims I had broken my promise to him, leaving him and his mother with a monster of a father.

  I silently wondered how many beatings he suffered at the hand of the man that should have been protecting him instead of striking him.

  Suddenly, I wasn’t hungry anymore.

  We walked into a large medieval-looking dining room with a long wooden table. The bright flowers in the middle of the table gave the room a cheery look, which was nice considering there were paintings of gargoyles decorating the walls. Everything was in wood paneling and dark wallpaper that made me feel like at one point the dining room was a place they used to take people to kill them.

  Cold pastas were set on either side of the table along with a few pieces of salmon and Bruschetta.

  The same woman I’d seen before filled each of our glasses with water, and then our wine glasses with a red wine.

  So being in a mafia suddenly meant I could drink now? Was that it? This was the second time I’d been offered wine in one day. Funny how, under the circumstances, it seemed so natural that I would need some sort of alcohol to get through the stress.

  The silence was going to kill me.

  My eyes pleaded with Nixon as I reached for his leg. I needed to know we would talk, that we were okay. I mean, wasn’t I the one who was lied to? Shouldn’t I be the one giving him the cold shoulder?

  His nostrils flared
the minute my hand made contact with his thigh. He cleared his throat, but didn’t move my hand away.

  We ate lunch in silence. Well, if you could count Grandpa swearing in Sicilian while drinking wine silence. I swear I never realized how loud I chewed until that moment.

  Finally, everyone was finished.

  “Grandpa, may I be excused?” I asked politely.

  He nodded his head. I reached for Nixon. “I need to talk with you.”

  Nixon looked from me to Grandpa.

  Grandpa cleared his throat. “Remember the terms, Nixon.”

  “How could I forget?” He sneered and grabbed my hand. Without thinking, I led him up to my bedroom and quickly locked the door behind me.

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  “Good God, I forgot how pink this room was.” Nixon chuckled, taking one of the stuffed animals off the bed so he could lie across it.

  “I must have really liked pink.” I laughed.

  “You hated it.” Nixon put his arms behind his head and sighed. “In fact. I distinctly remember your mom putting you in a pink dress and you taking it off in front of the entire dinner party.”

  “Please tell me you weren’t—”

  “I was nine!” Nixon laughed. “Trust me, I was horrified. I thought girls had cooties. I closed my eyes and pointed though.”

  “Rude. You should have saved me.” I lay down next to him, my breath hitched when I realized what I just said.

  “I’m always saving you. Even when you didn’t know I was there, I was saving you.”

  “Did you ever visit Wyoming?” I asked in a small voice, scooting closer to his body until my head rested on his chest.

  He sighed. “Trace, you’re putting me in a hard spot. I can’t tell you everything, because it will just make you sad. I can’t be completely honest and it kills me. It makes me want to scream, but I have responsibilities — not just to you — to my family, to your grandpa…” He cursed. “Everything is pretty screwed up right now. I didn’t know you were going to find out this way. Believe me, if I did I would have…”

  “What?”

  He licked his lips. “I would have kissed you harder. I would have fought for you more. I don’t know. I would have stolen you away, taken your virtue, made myself so permanently etched on your person that every time you took a breath it was my scent that was permeating the air.”

  Well, what was I supposed to do with that? Rip his shirt off? I’m not gonna lie, that’s exactly what was racing through my mind when he pressed a kiss to the top of my head.

  “I never visited Wyoming. My father wouldn’t let me and at that time I wasn’t in charge of anything so I couldn’t bully my way into it.”

  “When you came to be in charge, you were eighteen?” I asked.

  “Yup. Father wasn’t doing well. He wasn’t able to make good decisions. He developed pneumonia and was never the same after that. Always out of breath and what not. So I took over some of the operations and then more and more until I was running everything while he stayed at home and drank whiskey.”

  I winced.

  “At any rate. That’s done with now.” His hand clenched on my arm and he seemed to realize how tense he was. His fingers relaxed. “I’m sorry, Trace.”

  “For what?”

  “Not telling you the truth. I knew the day we went shopping, and then when you took out all that money. Damn, I knew for sure then. I had Anthony do a background check on you. Apparently Tracey Rooks doesn’t exist. So I went through all the Tracey’s in our school and there you were, Tracey Alfero, eighteen years old, granddaughter of the second most powerful mafia boss in all of Chicago. The same mafia boss that still blames us for his son’s death.”

  “You forget. Technically I have De Lange blood in me too,” I muttered.

  “Right. Which means I really should have killed Phoenix.” He scowled and pulled his arm away from me. With a curse he sat on the bed and rubbed his hands over his face. “He can’t ever find out who you are. If he does…Trace, he’s dangerous, seriously. We’ve been keeping tabs on him. He’s lost his freaking mind. He’s next in line after his father dies, and his father’s too much of a coward to tell Phoenix when he’s out of line. I have no doubt that family is into some shady business.”

  “Do I want to know what shady business is?”

  Nixon took a deep breath. “Probably the sex trade, cocaine, money laundering, typical things you’d see on TV, but definitely not what this family is about that’s for sure.”

  I don’t know why I felt so relieved. It’s not as if I could help who I loved, even if he was involved with terrible things. I couldn’t just pull away from family.

  “What do you do?”

  “A little of this and a little of that.” He smirked. “Nothing too illegal. We aren’t desperate for money unlike some people.”

  “I’m sorry.” I huffed, feeling tears start to burn the back of my eyes. “For leaving you. I’m so damn sorry, Nixon. I remember. I saw a picture of us when we were little and… I left you! I promised I would keep you safe and I left you!”

  Full on sobs were escaping my throat now as I hunched over and hugged myself.

  “Trace, sweetheart.” Nixon lifted me closer to him and pulled me onto his lap. “Those were pretty big promises coming from a six year old. There was no way you could have protected me from him… or Monroe.”

  “But I promised—”

  “—and I promised I’d find the people who killed your parents. So I guess we both failed, Trace.”

  “You’ll find them,” I said through my tears. “You won’t give up?”

  “No.” He kissed my cheek and then my lips, gently licking the salt from my bottom lip before pulling back. “I just… Trace, I have to keep order between all the families here. The three families have been just fine for the past ninety years. If something happens… if the balance is thrown off, or God forbid, if any of the originals hear about the happenings with Phoenix…” He trembled against me. “Believe me, you do not want any of the Sicilians traveling to the states.”

  “They won’t.” I kissed his mouth. “Phoenix hasn’t done anything yet and when he does… you’ll be there.”

  Nixon’s eyes closed briefly. When he opened them they were full of sadness. “Yes, but so will you.”

  “By your side,” I confirmed.

  Nixon didn’t say anything. His mouth found mine and I fell against the bed as his body hovered over me. His lips saying what his words couldn’t. I wrapped my arms around his neck and coaxed him toward me. With a grunt and then a masculine groan he swept his arms around me and under my shirt.

  “Damn.” He growled the minute his hands came into contact with my bra.

  “What?” I kissed his neck.

  “Your grandpa’s going to shoot me if he finds out I’m doing this right now… I promised…”

  He didn’t finish the sentence because my hands had already found his lean muscled stomach. I was drawing circles with my fingers across his hip bones. He closed his eyes. “I need you to remember something, Trace.”

  “What?”

  He kissed me softly across the lips and stared directly into my eyes. “When I make a promise I keep it. Regardless of whom it hurts, even if it means it hurts me or someone I care about the most. Sometimes… sometimes in life we’re asked to sacrifice something for the greater good.”

  “Okay, you’re making me nervous. Can’t we just make out?”

  Nixon’s smile was sad. “I love you, Trace. I always have. Just remember that, okay? Hold on to it. No matter what I say or what I do… and trust me, I’ll do some terrible things. Just know. I love you. With every fiber of my being.”

  Tears clouded my vision as I nodded and brought him in for another kiss. “I love you too,” I said across his lips.

  “I have to go.”

  “Don’t!” I didn’t mean to yell.

  Laughing, he lay back down on top of me, careful to keep his weight off so I could still breathe. “Trace
… your grandfather’s not a patient man. Let’s not give him a heart attack.”

  “Seeing us make out would not give him a heart attack,” I argued. “You taking me up on my whole virginity offer? Yeah, that would do it.”

  Nixon froze above me. His eyes wild. “Please. Just please don’t ever. Trace, you have to promise — shit, you have to promise that no matter what happens, you wait, okay? You wait until it’s with someone you love.”

  My smile widened. Because I knew he was talking about him. After all we’d basically just declared ourselves. I nodded just once and kissed him on the cheek. “I promise.”

  His chest rose and fell as if he’d just run a marathon. He nodded once, his eyes welling with tears. Had I said something wrong? I pulled his face to mine and kissed him, this time slowly memorizing the way his lips slid past mine, creating the perfect amount of friction as they teased and taunted. His tongue. Good Lord that tongue could make a girl throw caution to the wind.

  Nixon didn’t kiss as if it was something to pass the time. He kissed as if there was nothing in the world he’d rather be doing. He kissed like I was his oxygen, and I knew in that moment there was no way I was ever letting him go for the second time.

  A knock sounded on the door. Nixon jerked away from me so fast I thought he was going to fall to the floor.

  After a staggering breath, I went to the door and unlocked it.

  Grandpa stood, arms crossed and glared at Nixon. “It’s time to say goodbye.”

  I rolled my eyes and turned to Nixon. I latched on to his arm as we walked slowly down the stairs to the front door. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow, Nixon.”

  His eyes still looked teary as if he was going to lose it at any minute. Nixon collected his gun, knife, and brass knuckles, and gave me a quick hug. “Remember what I said, Trace. Remember.”

  With that he left.

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  I slept like crap. Visions of a scary-looking Phoenix chasing after me made it so that I literally got two hours of sleep and that was on the optimistic side.

  When Grandpa dropped me off at the dorm that night, Monroe was crying on her bed. I hoped to God it had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t sure I could handle any more drama.

 
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