Elite, p.3
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       Elite, p.3

         Part #1 of Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
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  Nixon took off his sunglasses and examined me slowly. His eyes narrowed until I could barely see the icy blue. He snapped his head to Monroe and nodded just once. “Nice work, Monroe. She looks like she actually belongs here.”

  “She does belong here, you idiot.” Monroe moved past me and air kissed her brother on either side of his face before returning to me.

  “The way I see it…” Nixon grinned. “She won a silly contest. The same contest we put on every year so that the poor underprivileged people of the world are able to join the high society. She…” He pointed at me and smirked. “Is just a number.”

  “At least I’m not an ass,” I spat. To my utter horror and complete humiliation it fell silent all around us.

  Nixon slowly approached me. Rage was evident in his eyes but I couldn’t back down. I refused to be bullied by some privileged rich kid who thought he ruled the known universe just because he was good-looking and had money.

  “Is this on?” A guy spoke into a microphone. “Attention, everyone.”

  Nixon shook his head and backed off, making his way toward the stage.

  “Your student body president would like to welcome you all back to school!”

  Okay, so maybe he was a type of president. I clenched my teeth and waited. Monroe patted me on the arm as Nixon made his way to the stage.

  People chanted his name over and over again. Funny how his name was Nixon. I smirked to myself and noticed that Nixon’s eyes never left my face.

  “I’d like to introduce someone….” Oh no, oh hell no.

  “She’s new here…” He stared at me coldly. “And I want everyone to give her a warm, Eagle Elite welcome! Please clap your hands for… Dr. Tessa Stevens, our new history professor.”

  I blew out the breath I’d been holding and struggled to keep my hands at my sides. The only way I could smile was by imagining my hands around Nixon’s throat.

  A pretty middle-aged woman waved from the side of the stage. Nixon clapped in her direction and flashed a devastating smile.

  Suck up.

  “Now, I know all of you are eager to start the welcome party.” He winked in my direction. The bastard.

  Monroe wrapped her arm around me and whispered for me to calm down. Did I look that angry? I got my answer the minute I felt another hand on my back.

  I flipped around and saw Chase smile and touch me briefly on the shoulder, inclining his head in my direction. I seriously almost punched him in the nose. I felt manipulated when they were mean and I felt manipulated when they were nice. It was like I always had to watch my back.

  “I’m sure you’ve all noticed we have a new student. The winner of the annual Eagle Elite lottery registered this morning.” Nixon’s dimples widened right along with his smile. “Trace, why don’t you come up here and say a few words?”

  No. I shook my head and dug my heels into the ground. But Chase had a hold of my arm and tugged me toward the stage. I looked back at Monroe, but she was currently fighting her own battle with Tex. He had both of her arms firmly behind her back in a tight grip. At least he mouthed sorry to me.

  Phoenix was nowhere to be seen, but I’m sure he was around for backup just in case I decided to attempt to break Chase’s nose.

  Each step clanged in the large room. I could feel my own heartbeat as I made my way toward the stage.

  Nixon held his hand out to me, but I was afraid to take it, afraid that if I did he would jerk back or embarrass me. I couldn’t trust him, and he knew it. Yet if I didn’t grab it, I would be insulting him, which was apparently an unforgiveable sin.

  I prayed he’d take my hand.

  Shaking, I reached out to grasp his hand.

  Shock at his warm touch overwhelmed me. His eyes hooded as he looked down at our joined hands. Briefly, it looked like his face relaxed and I saw a different person. One who wasn’t in league with the devil.

  As quickly as it had happened, his face tightened and he dropped my hand. I watched as he rubbed it on his slacks and then flexed it as if I had somehow held it too tight.

  He cleared his throat. “Trace Rooks, everyone.”

  People clapped because he was clapping. They weren’t actually excited to see me up there, nor did they even care. Most of them had bored expressions on their faces. I nervously scanned the crowd for Monroe, she was beaming. Her expression gave me strength. I immediately got choked up thinking of grandma, how she told me I could do this. That nobody could tell me I wasn’t worthwhile.

  “Trace Rooks, if that isn’t a backcountry name, I don’t know what is. “ I joked into the microphone. “I come from a place where cows outnumber people and the local bartender knows everyone by name.” I took a deep breath. “I guess you could say I’m completely out of my element, but I’m thankful nonetheless. I’m thankful for the opportunity to expand my education and even more so, I’m thankful that while I’ve been standing here Nixon hasn’t attempted to trip me or knock me off the stage. Guess there’s hope for me yet. Moo.”

  Did I just moo?

  I cracked a smile.

  And then I noticed more smiling faces around me.

  And one clap, followed by more, and then shouting.

  I backed away and walked slowly back down the stairs. This time, Chase escorted me like a normal human being. When we reached the crowd of students, he whispered in my ear. “I knew you would be different.”

  “Different?”

  “It’s a compliment, Farm Girl. Get used to it. Because you’ve just earned half the student body’s respect.”

  “And the other half?” I asked slowly making my way back to Monroe.

  “…Follow the Elect and will stop at nothing to destroy you.” He stopped me with his hand and turned me to face him.

  “And whose side are you on, Chase?”

  His eyes examined mine for a brief second before he tucked a piece of my hair behind my ear. “I always side with the pretty girls.”

  I waited for him to say, “And that’s not you.” But instead he held up my hand and kissed it, then walked off.

  People around me began whispering. My mouth must have dropped open because suddenly my throat felt dry.

  Monroe found me within seconds. “Hell, I think my brother almost choked on his tongue. Nice work, Boots.”

  “Boots?”

  “Yeah, it’s your new nickname.”

  “Why?”

  “Because you moo’d in front of the entire student body and I can’t very well call you a cow. But when I think of farms I think of cowboy boots. So Boots, yup, Boots.”

  Nice logic. “Alright then, Boots it is.” I shrugged.

  “He’s going to shit himself.” Monroe looked all too pleased as Nixon finished making his speech. Applause erupted when he finished, and we were dismissed to the party.

  “What now?” I asked Monroe.

  “Now…” She grabbed my hand. “We dance.”

  Chapter Five

  I should have known that Elite wouldn’t do anything half ass and that a college dance and welcome party was anything but that in their eyes. It may as well been prom, or a coronation ball, or the Oscars. Seriously.

  The auditorium had holograms playing across the ceiling and dancing along the walls. The music played to the shapes on the wall and a music video of some band was playing toward the far wall where the dance floor was located.

  Everything was in black light and I half expected someone famous to pop out on stage and start a concert.

  “Cool, huh?” Monroe nudged me. “Let’s get something to drink.”

  I followed her to the food and couldn’t close my mouth even if I wanted to. Everything was in ice. And I mean everything. Tons of desserts I’d never seen before were placed on and around ice sculptures. Toward the end of the table was a type of blue waterfall with glasses lined around it.

  “Elixir of the gods,” Monroe yelled above the music. She had two plates in hand and had piled on pieces of chocolate-covered fruit and desserts in no time. We made ou
r way toward the blue stuff. She picked up two champagne glasses and filled them full.

  Maybe it was some sort of punch?

  We found a table and sat.

  “Try it.” She pointed to the punch and grinned.

  It looked harmless. I took a big swig and began coughing wildly.

  “What? They don’t have alcohol in Wyoming?” An irritating voice said from behind me.

  The four Elect were standing right next to our table. Each of them smiling at my misfortune.

  “Yes, but when you drink underage you get arrested, smart ass.” I put the glass down and grabbed a chocolate-covered strawberry. At least I knew that was safe.

  “There is no law here,” Nixon said, pulling out the chair on my other side. “And if there was a law, I’d be the sheriff, judge, and jury.”

  “Good for you.”

  I knew the rules. I patted him on the arm anyway.

  Much to Monroe’s amusement. She chuckled next to me.

  Tex held out his hand. “May I have this dance?”

  Monroe blushed and took his hand. “Don’t kill my brother, Trace.”

  “I will try to control my urges.” I saluted.

  “Oh, I wish you wouldn’t.” Chase plopped down next to me and smirked.

  “Leave!” Nixon yelled this. Both Phoenix and Chase left the table.

  “Why’d you do that?” I gave him a pointed look.

  “Because he shouldn’t be flirting with you.” Nixon shrugged and plucked a strawberry off my plate.

  I felt myself blush. “He wasn’t flirting.”

  “Yes, he was.” Nixon stole another strawberry.

  “No.” I smacked his hand sending the strawberry to the floor. “He wasn’t. He was just being nice, you should try it.”

  “Sweetheart, I can be nice to you. Believe me. I can be so nice you won’t know what hit you. But is that what you really want? For me to be nice?” His breath smelled like strawberries as it trickled across my face. I licked my lips and forced myself to look away from his piercing gaze.

  “Here.” He held out a strawberry in his hand.

  I reached for it, but he pulled back. “Tsk, tsk. Allow me.”

  He held it out again. I groaned and leaned forward.

  “Open.”

  “No.” I grit my teeth.

  “Then no strawberry.”

  “I think I’ll survive.” I jerked away from him and stood. His hand shot out and grabbed my wrist.

  “Sit.”

  I did.

  “I don’t want to make your life hell. You know that, right? I don’t want you to cry to sleep every night or curse me every morning. Know that you make your own choices. You create your own destiny. And baby, I have the keys. So either play by my rules, or don’t. The choice is yours.”

  “Why does it matter anyways? Either way I could never trust you.”

  His eyes flickered before he broke his gaze with mine. “Trust is like love. It doesn’t exist. It’s a fairytale society feed us in order to get us to conform. I don’t expect you to trust me. I expect you to follow the rules. Rules keep you safe.”

  “And if I don’t?”

  He stood and dropped the strawberry on the plate. “Then you will be forcing my hand, and the last thing I want is to hear stories from my sister about how you cry yourself to sleep every damn night just because you couldn’t follow a few simple guidelines.”

  I swallowed. “Fine.”

  He smirked and straightened his tie. “I knew we’d understand one another… eventually.”

  “I’m not agreeing with you. I just knew that would be the quickest way to get you to leave.”

  Nixon was deathly silent and then he reached up and touched my cheek. I fought against every instinct to slap him. My treacherous body was starved for touch, for attention. I missed my grandma. I missed my grandpa. I wanted someone to hug me and tell me what to do. But I was alone.

  I shuddered.

  “Dance with me,” he commanded.

  I opened my mouth to deny him, but he was already leading me toward the dance floor.

  People gaped as a slow song came on and Nixon pulled me into his arms. He didn’t say much. Neither did I. Instead, I began to shake because I knew. I knew it had already begun. I challenged him and he was going to make me pay. He was going to make my life hell. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew he would strike, and it would be where it hurt most.

  Right when I began to relax, just as the song was coming to an end, Nixon pushed me away. I stumbled but otherwise stayed on my feet.

  The music stopped.

  Great.

  “What?” Nixon yelled and then laughed. “Are you insane?”

  Clueless, I looked around me then back at him.

  “You think I would actually sleep with someone like you? What type of girl are you anyways? Do they do things different out on the farm?”

  I felt my face turn bright red.

  “Oh they must, huh?” Nixon folded his arms across his chest. “Trust me, Farm Girl. I don’t care how much makeup you put on, or how expensive your clothes may be. I don’t even give a rat’s ass that half the student body likes you right now. You are charity. I wouldn’t even screw you if you paid me. So, the answer is no. And next time you feel like showing up to one of my school’s parties, at least have the decency to wear some new shoes.”

  I broke. I lunged for him, but strong arms held me back. I didn’t want them to see me cry. I didn’t know what else to do. I was shaking so hard that I thought I would pass out.

  “Shhh…” Monroe said in my hair. “Tex, let’s get her back to the room.”

  He nodded and soon Chase fell into step with us.

  “Get away from me!” I screamed at them, but instead of leaving, Tex and Chase walked on either side of me. And then I realized why.

  People were attempting to throw food at my head. But the minute the guys offered their support, people stopped and watched us leave the party.

  Nixon was going to be pissed. But I didn’t care. I was so incredibly ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I would fall for anything that guy said. And most of all, angry that he would make fun of my grandma’s shoes. The very same shoes that gave me confidence today.

  We walked in silence back to the dorm.

  The guys didn’t say anything. They didn’t joke around. And Monroe wouldn’t stop cursing her brother.

  Finally, they made it to the elevators. I panicked. I didn’t want to use my one elevator pass just because I was embarrassed and ashamed and a little bit pissed.

  Chase pulled out a shiny black card and swiped it across the elevators. I’m sure his card had all kinds of unlimited access on it. We all walked in. Even the boys.

  I had thought everyone worthwhile was at the welcome party.

  I thought wrong.

  A few doors on my floor opened. It was like the minute they opened and saw who was escorting me, a surge of estrogen hit the fan, causing giggling to break out around the entire right wing.

  Girls whispered, “That’s Chase and Tex! What are they doing here? So hot! So damn sexy! Chase, Chase!” One girl started chanting his name and I fought the urge to yell at her. Clearly I was dealing with a lot of emotions right now.

  Monroe opened the door to my room. The guys shuffled in. I sat on my bed and waited for the yelling to start.

  Monroe moved to my feet and slid off my grandma’s shoes. “He’s an ass. I know I shouldn’t defend him, but if he would have known they were your grandma’s shoes…”

  Chase looked at the shoes then at me. “I don’t get it. What’s so important about—”

  “—She’s dead, you asshole! And they’re vintage, and she left them with Trace, okay? They’re like the nicest shoes she owns!”

  Chase was silent. His piercing green gaze held mine for a while before he cursed and left the room. Tex threw his hands into the air and followed him out. Monroe locked the door behind them.

  “Guess this means war, huh?” I tried t
o smile.

  “I’ll talk to him.” Monroe didn’t look so sure about that idea. She paced in front of me. “I never thought he’d take it this far. He’s never taken it this far. People are too afraid of the Elect to do anything, or say anything.”

  “They aren’t gods.”

  Monroe laughed bitterly. “No, they’re much worse. At least Greek gods stayed up on Olympus where they belonged. Ours haunt us here at school, as if college isn’t bad enough, right?”

  “He’ll tire of me.”

  “That’s the thing.” Monroe started stripping. I would kill for that woman’s body. She grabbed a shirt that said sexy and slipped it on, along with some pajama bottoms. “He usually threatens the people who don’t conform and then that’s that. If they challenge him, they usually get kicked out of school. Only one other kid challenged him and was bullied out of here, but everyone hated him anyways. I mean, Nixon’s an ass, but he protects everyone. He’s like the godfather around these parts.”

  “And that makes me… what?”

  Monroe chewed her lip. “I don’t know.” She nodded to my suitcase. “Got any pajamas in there?”

  “Fingers crossed they weren’t stolen,” I joked.

  Monroe walked over and started helping me sort through my suitcase. “It’s okay to cry you know. I won’t tell anyone. For the record, I think you’re really brave.”

  I felt the tears then. The choking feeling you get when you try super hard to hold back all the emotion and the headache that almost always surely follows. I nodded and broke eye contact.

  “Hey, why don’t I loan you some pajamas, then you can just go to bed right away, okay? We’ll put away your clothes tomorrow after class.”

  I groaned. “Ugh, class.”

  “Look on the bright side.” Monroe threw me some shorts and a tank. “At least you won’t have to endure Nixon. He shouldn’t be in all of your classes, maybe two. If you’re lucky, one.”

  “I’ll wish on a shooting star,” I muttered.

  “Night, Boots.” Monroe laughed and turned off the light to her side of the room.

  I threw on the shorts and tank top. My eyes landed on the box from grandma. I sat cross-legged on the bed and opened it.

 
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