Elite, p.20
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       Elite, p.20

         Part #1 of Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
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  Phoenix screamed.

  Everything happened in slow motion until someone else entered the room — Grandpa.

  His gaze took in the mess and me lying in Chase’s arms. Murderous rage reflected in his eyes as he slowly walked up to Nixon who had just pulled his knife from Phoenix’s hand.

  “Get a place ready,” Grandpa said to the man who had followed him in. He nodded quickly and left.

  Grandpa and Nixon were both circling Phoenix. Crumpled on the floor, he was still holding his one hand, and blood poured from the wound.

  “Your decision, Nixon.” Grandpa said, his voice cold.

  “Hammer.” Nixon didn’t flinch, didn’t even think about it.

  Grandpa nodded and looked to me and Chase. Chase pointed to one of the cupboards. Within seconds Grandpa located a hammer and brought it back to Nixon’s outstretched hand.

  “You should close your eyes,” Chase whispered into my ear, his arms so tight around my body I almost couldn’t breathe. I also couldn’t look away, even though I knew I should.

  Grandpa grabbed Phoenix’s hands and tied is wrists together. “You look at her without asking — you lose an eye. You touch her with your dirty hands?”

  A pregnant pause caused me to gasp.

  Nixon held the hammer over his head. “You lose your hands. And I promise, this is just the beginning.” The hammer came down and smashed against Phoenix fingers. The sound of bones crunching almost made me puke. I did look away then. I tucked my head into Chase’s shoulder and blacked out.

  Chapter Thirty-two

  “Trace, look at me.”

  I moaned and shook my head.

  “Trace!” The voice was frantic.

  My eyes fluttered open to see Nixon leaning over me. “Trace, I need to…” Nixon’s eyes were wide with panic. “I need to know if anything happened if he—” Nixon swore, biting down on his lip as his eyes pleaded with mine.

  “No,” I said in a scratchy voice. “You guys came just in time.” I wanted to yell and scream that even though nothing happened, that I was so traumatized, so scared that I didn’t know what to do. My entire body felt numb. I was torn between wanting Nixon to kiss me and tell me everything was okay, and wanting to cry myself into a pitiful coma in order to erase what just happened.

  I tried to calm my shaking body. But it had been close, so close to being something irrevocable.

  I gave another involuntary shudder as Nixon said something in Sicilian to Chase who apparently was still holding me.

  Grandpa stood over us. Nixon stood, spoke to Grandpa again in Sicilian. Grandpa nodded once in agreement.

  “Trace, baby girl, I—” Grandpa’s eyes welled with tears as he knelt down. “I should have done better. I don’t know what I would have done if Nixon and Chase—” He swallowed. “I can’t lose you. Do you understand? I can’t, Trace. You’re my life.”

  I gave him a shaky smile. “I’m not going anywhere, Grandpa.”

  He sighed in relief and stood. “Nixon, would you please stay with her?”

  Nixon looked as shocked as I felt. What happened to wanting to kill him? He nodded once. Grandpa looked over to Phoenix who had passed out from the pain. “I’ll have everything ready for your arrival… sir.”

  It was the first time I heard my grandpa address anyone younger than him as sir and actually put the respect behind the name. The shock must have hit Nixon too, his eyebrows rose just briefly before he gave Grandpa a curt nod and a handshake.

  “Family sticks together,” Grandpa said, shaking Nixon’s hand.

  “I’ll protect this family until I breathe my last breath, to that I swear.”

  “I know that now.” Grandpa’s nostrils flared. “Tracey, I love you, sweet girl. Please listen to Nixon in my absence, I’ll be only a phone call away, but as you can imagine, I have something to take care of.” His gaze flickered back to Phoenix. Two men were lifting his body into their arms.

  “When you’re ready.” Grandpa slapped Nixon on the back and walked off.

  “Ready?” I asked, voice still hoarse from exertion. I wasn’t even that curious. It was just that I needed something else to focus on. If not, I was pretty sure I was going to lose it.

  Nixon swallowed. “Ready to rub him out.”

  My eyebrows furrowed in exhaustion as Nixon chuckled darkly and leaned down to the ground, his knees popping in the process. “Kill him, when I’m ready to end his life, Trace.”

  “Oh.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I mean, I knew he was bad. I knew he would have raped me and possibly killed me, but did that make killing okay? A life for a life?

  I struggled to my feet and nearly toppled over. Nixon caught me and motioned to Chase.

  Chase paused for a second.

  Nixon’s brow furrowed. “Chase, you can go.”

  “But…” Chase licked his lips, his hand reaching for my back.

  I sighed and stepped back into Chase’s arms. It was Nixon’s turn to look confused and a little pissed off.

  “Thank you, Chase.” I wrapped my arms around his neck and closed my eyes. “I love you.” Yes, Nixon had helped save me. But Chase, he had literally saved my life with his perceptive question. Tears burned at the back of my throat as Chase’s blue eyes warmed.

  “Love you too, Farm Girl.” He pulled away and held my chin in his hand. “You call me if you need me, okay?”

  I nodded as he stepped back and walked out of the room.

  The minute the door closed, my body started slumping to the ground. Nixon’s strong arms came around me. In an instant he was lifting me and carrying me to the bathroom.

  “No, please, no I just—” I fought against him as he carried me to the room and gently placed me on one of the small benches in the bathroom.

  “Trace.” Nixon cupped my face. “Look at me.”

  I squeezed my eyes shut.

  He exhaled. And finally with tears streaming down my face I opened one eye, then the other. Nixon had tears in his eyes as his thumbs rubbed my falling tears away. “Thank God, I don’t have experience in this sort of thing…” His nostrils flared for a brief second. “But I figured you’d want to take a bath or shower or something.”

  I nodded and broke down into more sobs. Everything hurt on my body, even my skin. Again, I wanted Nixon to touch me, to tell me that I was still pretty that what happened to me wasn’t my fault, that Phoenix’s ugliness hadn’t tainted what I had.

  “You’re beautiful, Trace,” Nixon murmured as he kissed my forehead. “And Phoenix is a monster. You know that, right? What he did — it’s unforgiveable, and I promise you, I will make it right.”

  “By killing him?” I asked in a small voice.

  Nixon shook his head. “It’s your call, sweetheart. I don’t want to upset you more, but believe me when I say your family and mine won’t let this slide without a severe punishment. We don’t typically turn people over to the authorities, but if you want him to rot in a hell hole all his life, just say the word. I’ll link his accounts to prostitution and a drug ring in five seconds. Hell, I’ll frame him for murdering a politician. Just say the word.”

  I chewed my lower lip and slowly lifted my arms toward Nixon. If he rejected me — I’d be broken forever. I needed him more than I needed to shower, more than I needed to deal with Phoenix. I just wanted to forget. And though I told my heart to stop loving Nixon — it never listened. He was all I wanted, all I cared about.

  My arms went around his neck. He stiffened, then hugged me back.

  “Will you help me?”

  Nixon sighed. “Whatever you need. I’m here, Trace.”

  “You aren’t going anywhere?”

  “No.”

  “You aren’t going to pretend to like me today and hate me tomorrow?”

  “Hell no.”

  “You aren’t going to say you love me and then take it back?” My voice dripped with emotion as new tears found their way down my face. What the hell was wrong with me? I knew I was stronger than that! I
looked at Nixon and waited.

  Nixon jerked away from me, and his gaze met mine. “Listen to me because I don’t want you to ever forget this.”

  My body swayed in his arms as he tightened his grip around me. “Remember what I said about making promises?”

  I nodded.

  “I promised, Trace. As a man I promised your grandfather that nothing would happen to you. He believed the longer I was with you, the sooner Phoenix would put the pieces together. He already blamed you for everything. If he saw us together…” He swore and looked down for a brief second before meeting my gaze again. “I had to make you believe me. I didn’t know what else to do. I thought the day before when we’d talked — damn, Tracey, I thought you knew me better than that. I’ll protect you until the day I die, even if it means I have to protect you from myself. Because in protecting you from me, I was protecting you from them.”

  “But you weren’t.”

  “I know that now. And I’m not leaving, but Chase—”

  “—I love him too.” I shrugged. “He was there for me when you weren’t.”

  “Do you love him like you love me?” Nixon asked.

  “Who said I loved you?” I fired back.

  “You did.”

  “When?”

  “That night when—”

  I smirked.

  “Glad to see you still have your sense of humor.” Nixon rolled his eyes as he leaned his head lower. “I’ll understand if you’re not ready. Shit, I don’t even know if I’m ready, but Trace, I really want to kiss you.”

  I nodded. “First a bath, I don’t want any part of him on me when you touch me.”

  Nixon nodded and backed away as I stood in front of him. He gently helped me take off the jacket Chase had given me.

  “Son of a bitch!” He looked like he was ready to punch a wall. I looked down and noticed a bruise making itself known around my stomach. Nixon’s eyes glittered with tears as he brushed my hair away from my shoulder and examined my neck. I’m sure there were bruises there too.

  You would think standing in front of Nixon in nothing but my skirt and bra — I would feel exposed and vulnerable, but instead everything felt comfortable, normal. As if he was the only person I could stand naked with after going through such an ordeal and feel safe.

  He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Breaking his hands wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot. I’m going to cut out his tongue and—”

  “—can we not talk about him?”

  “Sorry,” Nixon muttered. He reached for the spout on the bathtub and turned on the water. He threw in bubbles, which earned an eyebrow lift from me, he just muttered not to ask and something about Chase and naked time. I made a mental note to ask Chase next time I saw him.

  My heart clenched. Thinking about Chase made me feel funny. It was weird, but I missed having that guy around. I missed his sense of humor, the easy friendship we had and his protective, crazy no bull attitude. I missed him right then, because I could have used his humor to drive away the demons that Phoenix had brought into my life.

  Confused, I shook the thoughts away and waited for the tub to fill. The water smelled heavenly.

  Nixon turned to me and rubbed the back of his neck, before gently turning me from him and unzipping my skirt. It fell to the floor.

  His hands moved around my thighs gently examining the bruises until he turned me back around. He swallowed a few times and motioned to the bath.

  “I’ll turn around while you get in, there should be enough bubbles too cover you up.”

  “And if there isn’t?”

  “Then I’ll pretend like I can’t see,” he said through clenched teeth.

  I quickly peeled off my bra and underwear and got into the tub. However, I wasn’t counting on it being slippery, with a shriek I nearly slipped into the bubbles, but strong arms caught me and of course grazed my breasts.

  Nixon, of course, always the hero, stood behind me, holding me in place while I leaned on him.

  “You okay?” he asked, voice rough.

  “Yeah, sorry, it was slippery.”

  He groaned and very gently released me as I slowly dipped into the water.

  His eyes never left mine as I sunk beneath the bubbles.

  “Damn bubbles,” he mumbled as he sat on the chair next to the tub and ran his fingers through his hair.

  “You got something against bubbles?”

  “Yeah. I do.” Nixon pointed at the tub. “They’re practically kissing every naked part of your skin while I sit here and watch.” He laughed darkly. “I had someone rip a nail from my finger once… this…” He swallowed and looked away. “Is so much worse.”

  “Because of the bubbles?” I tried not to laugh, but it felt good after the hell I’d just been through.

  “Yes, because of the damn bubbles. Are you done yet?” He twitched in his seat.

  “I just got in.”

  Nixon swore and hung his head in his hands. “Right. Well, can’t you… just… be faster?”

  “I thought you wanted me to relax? I was just attacked.”

  He moved so fast I jerked in response. Within seconds his hands were dipped into the water, he grabbed the loofa from my grip and began leisurely washing my back. His Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed slowly with each stroke.

  The whole damn bathroom could have burnt down around me and I still wouldn’t have been able to take my eyes off of his face as he dipped the loofa in the hot water and then tenderly ran it over my bare skin, washing away the soap as well as the remnants of what happened an hour ago.

  “That feels good.” I closed my eyes as his warm hands replaced the loofa and began massaging my neck and shoulders.

  “Just so you know,” he croaked with his hands kneading into my flesh. “I’ve never had to practice so much restraint in all my life.”

  “It builds character,” I mumbled, my eyes flickering open.

  Nixon’s hands froze as his gaze fell to below my chest.

  Note to self, bubbles tend to disappear when you’ve been in the bath for too long. His grip tightened on my body just slightly before he closed his eyes and pressed his lips together, a tiny whistle of air escaped his mouth.

  “Sorry.” I moved to cover myself up but the bubbles were quickly disappearing.

  His eyes flashed open. “Don’t be.” Nixon swallowed slowly. “Don’t you ever apologize for being beautiful — for being perfect. You are…” He moved one of his hands to cup my chin. “Exquisite.”

  Maybe it was the stress of the day, or the fact that I felt anything but exquisite. I felt dirty, ugly, used. All in all I felt like the whore everyone had been calling me, as if what Phoenix did was somehow my fault. At any rate, I began to sob all over again, this time without shame as I looked into the eyes of the one person who made me feel like I was whole when inside I felt a bit broken and beaten up.

  “Trace.” Nixon wrapped his muscled arms around me, not caring that I was getting him drenched, and lifted me out of the tub.

  Without a word, he grabbed the nearest towel and wrapped it around my shivering body and again lifted me into the air like a little kid and brought me into another room.

  A bed was in the corner and a tiny desk, my guess was that the guys took naps here whenever they could get around it — either that or the Bat Cave really was his secret hideout. I mean, the man was perfect. He probably had superpowers or something.

  I didn’t have to ask Nixon for anything. It’s as if he knew exactly what I needed and when I needed it. He brought me a t-shirt and a pair of sweats that smelled like him.

  When I moved to put on the t-shirt, he closed his eyes like a gentleman even though I didn’t force him to.

  Once I was done putting on the sweats I kissed him on the cheek. My way of telling him thank you and that I was done dressing.

  He dropped the towel to the floor and scooped me into his arms. With a grunt he had me on the bed tucked into his body.

  I didn’t realiz
e I was still crying until he wiped away a few stray tears.

  “I won’t let anything happen to you — I swear on my life, I’ll protect you until the day I die,” Nixon whispered hoarsely.

  “That’s a pretty big promise.”

  “Well, you’re a pretty important person. Important people deserve big promises, and you, Trace. You deserve the world.”

  I shook my head. Why was I suddenly feeling so insecure? Did having Phoenix’s hands on me really mess me up that much? I wasn’t used to this feeling, as if I didn’t deserve anything anymore.

  With a curse Nixon tugged me closer. “You deserve the white dress, Trace. And the flowers and the music. You deserve that first dance with your husband. The stars in his eyes when he sees you walking down the aisle. You deserve the castle and the prince. A man who adores you, a family who sacrifices for you, friends who take care of you. Trace — you deserve it, but you have to believe it.”

  I sniffled. “What if I just want you? What if I just want that one thing?”

  “Damn it, Trace, I’m the one that doesn’t deserve you. The messed up part is I know it, but I want you anyways.”

  “Want?”

  “Need.” He croaked. “I need you like I need my heart to pump blood through my body, like I need air to breathe, like we need gravity. Hell, Trace, you are my gravity. Being with you makes me feel centered and whole, and I’m too screwed up to convince you to want any different. I’m too selfish to push you into someone else’s arms when I know mine may be the worst ones for you to be in.”

  “But I want…” My lower lip trembled. I bit down hard so I could finish my sentence. Taking a soothing breath I started again. “I want you.”

  His breath hitched and then his lips were on my neck. Warmth exploded at his touch. I leaned into him. Nixon murmured something in Sicilian and gently turned me on my back. He didn’t get on top of me, even though I wanted him to. Instead he stayed right by my side and continued kissing my neck, and then my chin, and finally my eyes.

  “Where did he touch you?”

  “Huh?”

  “Where?” Nixon prodded gently.

  I pointed to my neck where Phoenix had held me. Nixon kissed the exact spot where I’m sure a bruise was going to start showing as well. I pointed to my arm. Nixon’s lips met the place where Phoenix gripped me, and so went the next ten minutes as Nixon erased every single place that Phoenix had corrupted.

 
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