Elite, p.18
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       Elite, p.18

         Part #1 of Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
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  “What’s wrong?” I asked rubbing her back.

  “My father died.”

  Yeah. Not the time to tell her I already knew. “I’m so sorry…”

  “Don’t be.” She snorted. “I’m not crying because he died. I’m crying because the last thing the bastard said to me was that he wished I would have been born a boy.”

  “So he was a jerk.” I reacted without thinking about how that may or may not sound.

  She stopped crying, and then the tears turned into laughter. “What would I do without you, Trace?”

  Wow, loaded question that one. I shrugged. I knew that Nixon hadn’t told her who I was yet. I wasn’t sure she would remember me anyways. I didn’t remember her at all, but Grandpa had let it slip that the minute she turned six she was sent off to a boarding school, making it so I’d only seen her at Christmas once or twice before I was taken away.

  I sighed heavily and looked to my right. Mo was still sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, I tried to get ready as fast as I could.

  “Ugh, what time is it?” Monroe asked sleepily.

  “Time for class in about an hour,” I announced throwing a pillow at her.

  She looked back at me through swollen eyes. “I’m going to need a tub of cover up.”

  “Or kick ass sunglasses?” I threw her a pair of aviators.

  “I shall rock the hung-over look.” Monroe punched her fist into the air and staggered out of bed. “So how did yesterday go?”

  “Good.” I cleared my throat and pretended to still be straightening my hair, even though it was already as straight as can be.

  “That’s it. Good? Where’d you guys eat?”

  “Um…” I didn’t want to lie but I had no choice. “Grandpa’s kind of going to stay longer than we thought, so we ate at the place he’s renting while he’s in town.”

  “Hmm, isn’t that kind of weird?” Monroe brushed her teeth at the sink and then smacked on some lip gloss. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he’s here. I know how much you missed him. But he has a ranch, right?”

  “Yeah, I don’t know. Grandpa’s always wanted to hang out in the city. And one of the ranch hands needed the money, so I think it’s a win-win.”

  Monroe nodded and threw on a baseball cap. Impossible. She had tattered jeans, a rock-n-roll sweatshirt on, aviators, and a baseball cap and she still looked better than me. “No uniform?” I lifted my eyebrows.

  “Crap. There went my idea to look cool.” Monroe kept a loose shirt on, threw a cardigan over it and pulled on her skirt and knee high boots. “This, my friend, is as good as it’s going to get.”

  “Hey, still looks good to me.”

  We ate some breakfast and walked to our first class. She waved while she ran off to the science section of the building. I walked slowly to my politics class and was somewhat stunned to see an actual teacher sitting in the desk. Where was Nixon? Didn’t he have a few more days left to teach?

  I sent him a quick text. WHERE ARE YOU?

  And sat down.

  An hour went by and still no text from Nixon. I kept the phone in my hand just in case it vibrated. I didn’t want my only form of communication getting stripped from me, and for some reason it made me feel safe. The mafia was only one phone call away, literally. So if Phoenix decided to mess with me, I could run and call for one of the other families to smack him upside the head.

  Oddly enough it didn’t make me feel any better about the whole gangster thing. I mean, the mafia is the mafia. And I wasn’t one of those ignorant girls who hadn’t seen her fair share of mafia movies. Not that it was realistic, but still.

  After a few more minutes of torture, class ended. I made my way down the hall to the next class. This was always the part I hated because kids were standing around talking to one another, texting, and pointing. I still couldn’t figure out why the school gave us ten minutes between classes. It seemed extreme to say the least. You could get in a lot of trouble in seven minutes.

  I looked down at my phone and sighed. Still no text. The minute my gaze lifted to look down the hall, it was too late.

  I ran smack dab into muscle.

  Reeling back I realized it was Nixon. I sighed with relief and wrapped my arms around him for a hug.

  He froze beneath my touch. Cursing, he gripped my arms in his hands and pushed me off of him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

  “Huh?” Probably not the best response.

  “Why are you touching me?” Nixon sneered.

  “Because…” My gaze fell to all the students around us. Their faces were a mixture of amusement and horror.

  “Because?” He took a step toward me and tilted his head. “What, cat got your tongue? Or I guess in your case it would be a… cow?”

  “A cow?” I repeated. “Nixon, what the hell is wrong with you, last night…”

  Gasps resounded around the hallway. I refused to back down.

  “Was clearly a mistake if you still think I want more from you.” His eyes were steel. The tightening in my chest increased so much I thought I was going to stop breathing.

  “But you said…”

  “Are you deaf?” He shouted. “I don’t want you, Farm Girl. Not now, not last night… never.” He laughed. And with each echo of his laughter off the walls I felt my heartbeat slam into my chest like a hammer. “Let me put it into a way you understand. I will never want you. I mean, look at you. You’re nothing like us, and you won’t ever be. So do yourself a favor, leave me the hell alone.” His hands shook as he looked away, a muscle twitched in his jaw.

  I refused to move. I could only stare as tears streamed down my face.

  “Get the hell away from me.” Nixon was inches away from me. Those very same lips that promised me forever were driving the knife further into my chest. “Leave. Now.”

  Somehow I forced my legs to move past him but not before I heard him yell after me. “Moo.”

  Sobs racked my body until I couldn’t breathe or see straight for that matter. I didn’t even know which direction I was running. I just knew I had to get out of there. Away from him and away from my broken heart that had just shattered at Nixon’s feet.

  I turned to make sure nobody was following me and again slammed into someone, but this time it wasn’t Nixon, and it wasn’t anyone friendly.

  Phoenix grinned. “Nice show. Good to know he’s finally put you in your place. Maybe now that the whore’s out of the picture, we can go back to the way things were before you polluted this school.”

  “Screw you!” I spit in his face and jerked away from him, running into the first available classroom I could find.

  Unfortunately, it was occupied with a few students, but I didn’t care. I just had to get away from him… away from everything.

  I crumpled to the floor in front of everyone as I tried to keep my breathing even, but it was impossible. I was dying. I knew it. I tried to breathe. I really did. But each breath was shallower than the last until I started seeing black spots.

  Chase’s face was suddenly in front of me.

  Wordlessly, he lifted me into his arms and carried me out of the classroom, damning the mafia to hell the entire way.

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  By the time we reached the Bat Cave, aka the Elect hideout, I felt like I’d lived through a thousand lifetimes. In a word, I felt old and grumpy and bitchy. And really all I wanted to do was punch something… anything in the face.

  Why would he do that to me? And in front of everyone? My fuzzy brain tried to come up with excuses. Maybe that’s how pitiful I had become in the way I felt about him. I tried to justify his actions. By replaying everything he said to me the night before, I succeeded in only making my stomach feel sicker.

  He talked of protecting me, loving me, doing things he didn’t want to have to do. But what the hell? I mean, I get having to make rough choices. But if his plan all along was to make me look like shit in front of the student body, couldn’t he have at least warned me? A
ny girl, even if she knew the plan all along, would have been in tears.

  I was pathetic because I had almost convinced myself that Nixon did all of that on purpose. That he wasn’t actually using me like Grandpa said.

  “Damn it, Trace, listen to me!” Chase was in front of me, examining my face and swearing so much I would have blushed had I felt anything but numb from the pain. The boy had a mouth on him.

  “What?” I licked my lips and refused to make eye contact.

  He grabbed my chin with his hand and jerked my face toward his. “Do you need to go to the hospital? Lie down? Need a drink of water? Want a sedative? These are all the things I asked you on the way over, and again when I plopped you on the couch. Shit.” He released my chin and ran his hands through his hair. “What the hell was that? Are out of your freaking mind? You can’t just…” He pushed away from me and began pacing.

  “You can’t just break down at school like that. Can’t let people see weakness. You’re better than that. I don’t care if the freaking President of the United States waltzed in here and told everyone you were a terrorist. You’re an Alfero for shit’s sake, start acting like one!”

  And he just gave a whole new meaning to tough love. My mouth gaped open. I was too shocked to be hurt anymore. Did he just reprimand me for getting my heart broken?

  I felt the sting of tears but I refused to let any more fall. Instead, I flipped him the bird and may or may not have dropped a really inappropriate word.

  His stone face broke into a small smile. “Better, Trace. You can do better than flipping me off and telling me to go screw myself. I know this blows. Believe me, I know. But it’s the only way.”

  “The only way?”

  Chase nodded. “You and Nixon. You can’t happen. There’s too much history — too much drama, and with Phoenix lurking around campus, you can’t be the catalyst that brings this entire operation down. Believe me, you don’t want that and you don’t want Nixon to be tempted to do that.”

  “Nixon.” I spat. “He can do whatever the hell he wants.”

  “Good to know,” came the familiar voice.

  My head jerked up to see Nixon in the doorway. His eyes uncertain as they flickered from me to Chase and then back to me.

  Concern laced his eyes as he began walking toward me. “Are you okay?”

  Rage boiled within me. Before I knew what I was doing I jumped from the couch and tackled him, banging my fists into his chest as anger and hurt coursed through me. Chase had to pull me off him and even then all I could do was crumple into Chase’s arms while the hot tears poured out of my eyes.

  “I—” Nixon’s voice cracked.

  “You’re making it worse, man,” Chase whispered. “Just go. She doesn’t want to see you. Hell, I don’t even know if I want to see you. I know why… I just think… This can’t be fixed by your bad ass mafia mojo.”

  “But—” Nixon cleared his throat. “Trace?” It was a question.

  “Just go to hell.” My voice was muffled in Chase’s shirt.

  Chase swore. “Nixon, you had to choose. And I think you made it pretty clear to everyone within a fifty mile radius who you chose.”

  “I just don’t know if I want to live with the consequences,” Nixon said.

  “I guess we’ll see what this family really is made of.”

  “Chase.” Nixon’s voice was hoarse. “Take care of her, please. Just—”

  “Go!” I yelled, interrupting them.

  Chase held me tighter and nodded his head once. I heard the door open and close, and I squeezed my eyes shut.

  Exhausted, I didn’t protest when Chase lifted me, for the second time that day, into his arms and carried me back to the couch. I tucked my hands under my chin and closed my eyes. Within seconds the lights in the room were off. I heard a door lock and then I felt a warm body next to mine.

  The couch was big enough for two people, so I scooted over while Chase lay down behind me and tucked me into his body. He pulled a blanket over the both of us and sighed.

  “Chase?” I sniffled.

  “Hmm?”

  “Why are you helping me?”

  “Because you’re hot.” He rubbed my arm and let out a laugh. “Trace, I’m kidding. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m here because there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Because I hate to see chicks cry, and although popular opinion states I don’t possess a heart, I actually do. So color me weird, but when I see a friend — and don’t scowl I can hear it from here. When I see a friend, a good friend, upset, I would freaking bleed myself out before letting them go through shit alone.”

  “That was a nice speech. Did you practice it?” I found myself smiling even though my heart was still breaking and thumping in my chest as if it had permanently lost its rhythm.

  “Very funny.” Chase pulled me tighter.

  “Chase?”

  “Yeah?”

  “Why can you help me but Nixon can’t?”

  “Loaded question, Farm Girl.” His hand moved back to my arm and he rubbed up and down in slow strokes. “He’s the mob boss. I’m the cousin. It’s different. I’m not even next in line. I’ve always done my own thing. I mean, yeah, I work for the family. I guess you could say I’m lower on the totem pole, so I don’t really matter as much. If anything, you’re better off with me than Nixon anyways. At least with me you won’t be a target for murder.”

  “How… reassuring.”

  Chase’s warm chuckle relaxed me. “Hey, you asked. Now, please try to get some sleep.”

  “Will you be here when I wake up?”

  “Always.”

  I tried not to let his promise affect me. After all, Nixon had promised a lot of things too. I hated that my distrust and confusion of what Nixon did, totally spoiled any relationship I had with my friends, but I was still terrified that Chase would leave me just like Nixon, and in the end I’d be stuck with nobody. Because one thing was always certain in my life… everyone left. My parents, Grandma, even me… It was only a matter of time before those I loved left me too.

  Chapter Thirty

  I woke up in Chase’s arms. Not exactly the way I had planned my Wednesday going.

  His oven of a body was seriously overheating me, add that to the vicelike grip he had on my person, and I was feeling slightly claustrophobic. With one hard tug I fell to the floor. And Chase, of course, fell on top of me.

  “What the hell, Trace?” His eyes opened as he braced his body over mine looking from the couch to me in confusion. “You could have at least told me before you tried to kill me!”

  “Kill you?” I lifted an eyebrow. “Right, because if the one foot fall wouldn’t have done it, what? Your tiny heart would have burst?”

  His eyes narrowed. “Look, I know you’re heart-broken and you’re upset, blah, blah, blah, but do you have to be mean to the guy who helped you when you were having a nervous breakdown in front of the entire student body?”

  “Valid point,” I ground out.

  He grinned. “Knew you’d see it my way. Now, no attacking. I’m going to get off of you, help you to your feet, and attempt not to stare at your ass as you bend over to grab your bag.”

  “Such a gentleman,” I grumbled as I took his hand and he helped me to my feet.

  Chase whistled the minute I went to retrieve my bag. “Sorry, Trace. I lied, no wonder Nixon was—”

  “Can we just… not talk about him.” I threw my bag over my shoulder and crossed my arms.

  Chase nodded and put his hands in the air in surrender. “Good deal. Let me just grab my key card and I’ll walk you to your dorm.”

  “You don’t have to do that. You already let me hide out in here for most the morning and—”

  “I insist. Besides, it’s kind of my job.”

  “Your job?”

  “Chase Winter at your service. Get used to it babe, I’m your official body guard.”

  “Says who?” I yelled.

  “Um, Nixon? Your grandfather? Mo? Just about everyo
ne who loves you…”

  “Nixon doesn’t love me.”

  Chase sighed. “I refuse to get into that with you right now. Believe what you want, but that boy would flipping cut his own arm off before he let someone harm a hair on your head.”

  Tears threatened again. “Sometimes, Chase… it’s the emotional wounds that hurt the most.” I pushed back the anger and sighed. “I’d rather he beat me. Cuts heal, bruises fade — but broken hearts? They carry scars for a lifetime.”

  With a heavy sigh Chase stuffed his key card into his pocket and pulled me into his side, kissing my head. “I don’t think any guy can promise not to break your heart. But I do promise that the next jackass that tries it will be on the other end of my fist.”

  I nodded.

  “Come on, Trace…” His blue eyes danced. “One smile. Give me one smile before we walk the plank.”

  I rolled my eyes.

  “Please?” Chase jutted out his lower lip.

  My pathetic attempt at a smile probably looked more like a grimace, but it was enough for Chase to nod his head in approval and walk me out the door.

  Once we stepped outside, I took a soothing breath of fresh air. People were walking around campus and nobody seemed to be the wiser that I was coming out of hiding.

  “See?” Chase whispered in my hair. “Smooth sailing.”

  He really shouldn’t have said that, because the next few minutes became what I would like to refer to as hell on earth.

  People began whispering and pointing, which really wasn’t all that bad, until some girl yelled skank and another guy started to chant whore. Naturally, because boredom promotes stupidity, the rest of the kids joined in until Chase and I were literally walking in beat to the chants.

  He squeezed my shoulder, told everyone to F off, which to be honest made me cringe more, and kept a straight face.

  Once we reached my dorm, he swiped his card. And that very same she-devil from the bathroom walked out the door.

  “Told you.” She smirked. Her eyes fell to Chase. “Nice of you to take over Nixon’s sloppy seconds.”

 
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