Elite, p.8
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       Elite, p.8

         Part #1 of Eagle Elite series by Rachel Van Dyken
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  “Are we almost there?” I asked, adjusting my cashmere sweater so that the necklace dropped over it prettily.

  “Yup, in like ten— Holy shit.” Nixon slammed on his breaks. “What the hell, Trace?”

  “What? What’s wrong?” I looked around for the obvious danger, but Nixon wasn’t staring out the window he was staring at my chest.

  “Where the hell did you get that?” He reached for my necklace, but I smacked his hand away.

  “Stop.” He shook his head and then hit his hand against the steering wheel and then he started cursing in some sort of language that sounded vaguely familiar.

  “It’s not worth cursing over,” I snapped. “It’s just a necklace.”

  “You understood me?” he asked in whatever language he was speaking. I could only nod because honestly I had no idea how I understood what he was saying.

  A vague flicker of a memory entered into my brain. A man with dark hair pushing me on the swing and telling me in that special language how beautiful I was. That I looked just like my mother. And then some strange men came and began cursing, just like Nixon cursed.

  Suddenly I couldn’t breathe.

  “Crap,” Monroe muttered. “I think she’s having a panic attack.”

  I nodded and tried to unbuckle my seatbelt. Nixon’s hand came flying down across mine. “We’re in the middle of traffic. You’re staying here. I don’t care if you think your freaking heart is going to explode. We can’t be vulnerable, and right now, we are.”

  I nodded through the swell of tears that began pouring down my face. What was wrong with me? And why was I suddenly having flashbacks? Was that man my dad? Who were those other men?

  Nixon continued to curse until we made it to the grocery store. Finally, once we parked, he turned to Monroe and Tex. “Leave, both of you. I’ll deal with this.”

  They scattered out of the car faster than was appropriate. Geez, it wasn’t like he was going to shoot them or something.

  I waited, my chest still heaving with frustration and a little bit of confusion and fear.

  “What’s your last name?” Nixon asked quietly popping his knuckles.

  “Rooks,” I answered dumbly. “Why, what’s yours?”

  “I’m asking questions. You’re giving answers. You understand?” His eyes blazed hot. I tried to back away, but my seatbelt pinned me in place. “Now, I can ask nicely or I can use force. What is your last name?”

  “Rooks!” I all but screamed. “It’s all I know!”

  He raised his hand and leaned in. I flinched, afraid he was going to hit me. Instead he reached for the necklace and turned it over. “Damn it!”

  “What?” My lips trembled. “Look, Nixon, this was a bad idea, just take me back to the dorms. I don’t need the security detail like you guys do. I’ll just come back in a cab or something. Plus, you’re freaking me out. I’ll just find my own way home.”

  “The hell you will!” He reached across and grabbed my hand. “Let's just, let's just get this over with, okay?”

  Freaked out, I could only nod. My gaze left his face and that’s when I noticed what was on his hip. “Why are you packing a gun?”

  He closed his eyes and sighed. “Because it’s part of the rules.”

  “Of the school?” I asked, incredulous.

  “No.” He smiled sadly. “My family. Now, let’s go.”

  I guessed this part of the conversation was over.

  Begrudgingly, I got out of the car and stomped into the grocery store. Grabbing the first cart I saw, I began mindlessly wandering the aisles. At least I tried to mindlessly wander. It was hard when every time I picked up a can of something or a package, one of the creepy Men in Black suits was staring at me as if there was a bomb hidden in the tomato soup.

  Weird.

  All I knew was that the Elect were way more important than I could possibly imagine or even believe.

  I finished in the dry goods section and made my way over to the candy aisle. I needed a little boost after all the crap that went down today. I settled on Twizzlers and sighed.

  “Almost done?” Nixon asked out of nowhere.

  I screamed.

  And immediately ten men in suits were in my aisle, guns wielded.

  Awesome.

  Nixon laughed. “I scared her. Nothing’s wrong.”

  The guys nodded and disbursed.

  “Who are you?” I swallowed as Nixon’s breath fanned my face. Oh gosh, I was going to faint if he kept getting this close to me.

  “I could ask you the same thing.” His eyes narrowed as he cupped my face and examined my eyes. “Brown. Interesting.”

  “Brown?”

  “Your eyes.”

  “They’re plain.” I tried to pull my head free from his grip, but he tightened it.

  “They are beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you any different, Bella.”

  His eyes searched mine and then he leaned in more. Our lips were inches away. My heart was going crazy. I leaned in.

  “Hey, Nixon, the guys are getting antsy,” came Monroe’s voice. I wanted to tell her to leave.

  Nixon jerked back immediately and shook his head as if he had been the one under the spell, when he very well knew he was the bastard who cast it.

  “You done?” He pointed to the cart.

  “Um, yeah, I’ll just go checkout.” I pushed my car to the checkout stand. Nixon walked behind me, patiently waiting.

  “Glad to see you’re buying enough food so you don’t starve in between classes.” He smirked.

  “It’s your fault I have to buy food,” I snapped, a bit irritated and still obsessing over the almost-kiss.

  “What do you mean?”

  “My key card, you asshole!”

  He rolled his eyes. “Stop being difficult. You have two key cards.”

  “Huh? Are you high?” I threw a bag of potato chips at his head. “Phoenix stole my card the night you made him set me up! That same night you were off-campus doing who knows what! I only have the red card that you gave me the other day!”

  The color drained from Nixon’s face. “What the hell are you talking about?”

  Okay, he was high. I mean, he was there! “In the hall when you said that was the best you could do, and you handed me the card to the Red Cafeteria!”

  “Because Phoenix said you were uncomfortable eating with us. The Red Cafeteria is better than the commons—”

  He gripped the shopping cart, and I could tell a battle was waging in his mind. Finally, he shook his head. “Bastard. I’ll deal with it. Do you still need this food then? If you’re going to be eating with us now?”

  “Yes.” I swallowed, because who knew when I was going to make him or one of the other guys angry and lose my rights to eat meat?

  “That will be one hundred dollars and seventy-two cents.” The checker announced, sounding bored out of his mind.

  I pulled the roll of bills out of my hand and tugged off the rubber band. The wad of hundreds fell to the ground. This is what Nixon’s stupid presence did to me. It made me nervous and a bit crazy.

  I swiped the bills off the floor and froze.

  Impossible.

  “Something wrong?” Nixon asked in an irritated tone.

  “Uh, no, yeah, umm…” I didn’t really know what else to do, so I handed him the stack of bills. The same stack that was wrapped in a one hundred dollar bill, in order to cover the ten one-thousand dollar bills.

  “Shit,” he muttered, then pulled out his own wallet. He swiped his card in the ATM and punched in his code, then placed the card on the little table while he pulled out his cell. “No, you ass. I didn’t have cash on me. Yes, I know I can be traced. Who pays you, dipshit? Who? That’s what I thought. Now deal with it.”

  “Abandonato,” I whispered under my breath reading the card while simultaneously trying not to eavesdrop. “Is that your last name?”

  He didn’t answer me. Instead he was firing off instructions to someone on the other end of the phone and gr
abbing the receipt.

  Well, at least the checker didn’t look bored anymore. Nope, he looked like he was about five seconds away from shitting his pants.

  And then things got weird. As in, weirder than they already were.

  The men in suits formed a circle around us as we walked back to the car, and that’s when I saw a glimpse of something I’d only seen in movies.

  A group of expensive cars in the parking lot and even more expensive-looking men and old men getting out of the cars.

  Nixon said nothing as we got into our waiting SUV. Neither did I. I wasn’t sure if I should be freaked out that so many men in suits were surrounding us or what.

  “Are we, um… are we safe here?” I asked in a small voice.

  Monroe was already sitting in the SUV and put her hand on my shoulder. “Of course, why wouldn’t we be?”

  “Oh you know, because of that.” I pointed as a man that looked as old as Grandpa pulled out a gun I’d only seen in action movies, and walked into the store.

  “Um, are we witnessing a murder?”

  Tex and Monroe laughed while Nixon shook his head and offered a smile. “No sweetheart, just business. That’s all.”

  He handed me my wad of cash and looked back at Monroe and Tex. “You guys need to go. We have some more shopping to do, and it—”

  Monroe rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I can imagine how it will be.” She smiled in my direction. “See ya later!”

  They hopped out of the car and walked to the other waiting SUV in front of us.

  “What was that about?” I asked, shoving the money back into my purse.

  “It’s going to be a long afternoon.” Nixon whistled.

  “Why?”

  “Because we are freaking living our own Romeo and Juliet.” He smirked and hit his steering wheel. “Alright, new bag right?”

  “Yeah, oh, and I need to pay you for the groceries too. I feel so stupid. I had no idea I had big bills, or that they even existed, or that Grandpa…” My voice trailed off. Why would Grandpa give me such big bills? Was that why he wanted me to hide it?

  “Those bills went out of circulation in the fifties. You know that right?” Nixon asked.

  I shrugged and started playing with the radio. “Sorry, I’ll figure out a way to cash them out so I can pay you.”

  “You don’t understand.” He laughed humorously. “I would never accept your money. Ever.”

  “What? Why?”

  “It’s no good to me!” He snapped. “Just drop it.”

  Was it because I was beneath him? Because I was from a farm and poor? I crossed my arms over my chest and looked out the window. We were silent the entire way to the mall.

  Chapter Twelve

  Two of the SUV’s followed us to the mall and two more were waiting for us when we got there. The minute I jumped out of the Range Rover, Nixon grabbed my hand and didn’t let go.

  I wish I could say that I didn’t feel the warmth of his touch spreading all throughout my body. But I did. And it was amazing. He smiled as we made our way through the front doors, and I could almost imagine that this was normal. That we were just hanging out and shopping like two normal people.

  Instead, we were being followed by a security detail that would irritate President Obama and stared at as if we were going to bomb the Food Court.

  I hated to admit that I had no experience shopping. I wasn’t really sure what to do, but I didn’t want Nixon’s charity or anything. “Do they have a second hand store or something here?”

  He looked horrified as if I just asked if there were any puppies to kick.

  “Hell, no. Second hand store? Are you—” He cursed and shook his head. “Second hand? A freaking used clothing store?”

  “Okay, you can stop repeating it already,” I snapped, trying to jerk my hand free from his vice-like grip.

  “Girls like you don’t shop there.”

  And there it was again. Girls like me. Girls who didn’t belong in Elite, who shouldn’t be salivating over their student body president. I felt my face heat and dropped my gaze to the ground. “Um, what about a Ross? Or Wal-Mart or something?” I was so embarrassed I couldn’t even look at him.

  He stopped walking, making me almost trip as he released my hand and cupped my chin. “Trace, did you not hear anything I just said?”

  Tears blurred my vision. See, that was the problem. I heard everything, and I was so tired of being told I wasn’t good enough! So exhausted pretending to be something I wasn’t when I had only been at their damn school for less than a week.

  I tried to pull free.

  Of course Nixon wouldn’t have any of that.

  Instead, he wrapped his arms around my body and sighed into my hair, kissing my head. “You are… impossible.”

  I didn’t really know what to say to that.

  “Mason, don’t follow so close, alright?” Nixon said over my head to one of the security guys.

  “Of course, sir.”

  “Sir?” I repeated, though it was muffled from his muscled chest. He pulled back and again grabbed my hand.

  “It’s a respect thing.”

  “You're like twenty,” I pointed out, glad that we weren’t focusing on me and my short-comings anymore.

  Nixon’s face tensed, then his face flashed with humor. “Right, twenty.” He looked away and mumbled, “Age doesn’t really matter in my world.”

  “Your world?”

  He didn’t look at me. He seemed to be on a mission. And then we stopped walking. Well, he stopped walking. I would have kept going, because there was no way I was going into that store.

  “Prada?” I said aloud. “Are you insane?”

  He smirked and pulled me toward the store.

  I dug my heels into the ground, or at least I tried. But who I was kidding? Nixon was a god among men, he simply pulled my arm and I followed him into the beautifully-lit store. It was like my eyes couldn’t absorb everything I was seeing around me. So many purses and bags and colors and… A girl could die happy this way.

  “May I help you?” A skinny woman in a black suit smiled in our direction. Her gaze lingered longer on Nixon than should be proper, considering he was still in college. Though to be fair, he didn’t look it. I stole another look out of the corner of my eye. Seriously, was he eighteen? He looked so much older, more mature.

  “Messenger bags, do you guys carry messenger bags?” Nixon asked this as his eyes took in the walls of the brightly-lit store. “Something classy.”

  The woman beamed. “Right this way.”

  Within a few minutes I had five different types of bags displayed in front of me. One was a men’s leather bag which was kinda cute. The others were nylon which I guess was fine. I mean, it was Prada.

  My fingers itched to check the price tags. Honestly, I didn’t even want to touch them, I mean what if the oil and germs from my hand somehow went onto the bag and—

  “Trace, pick a bag.” Nixon urged me forward almost forcing me to touch the pretty objects. I reached down and then for some reason, probably my nervousness, I looked to the right. Near the counter on a display was a beautiful royal blue bag. I probably should have looked away, but I couldn’t.

  My eyes widened just slightly. I cleared my throat and looked back at the bags in front of me.

  I felt rather than saw Nixon walk away. Shivers ran up and down my arms at his absence.

  “This one.” Nixon returned and handed the blue bag to the woman.

  I didn’t want to look at her, but I couldn’t help it. Her face was impassive, but I could see a muscle twitch in her jaw. “This is a special edition—”

  “For a special girl.” Nixon put an arm around me. “Then it’s perfect.”

  Shaking her head, the woman walked to the counter and rang up the purchase. “That will be one-thousand seventy-five dollars and eighty-nine cents.”

  I coughed. I swear it was involuntary. Was Nixon insane? All of this? For a bag? I opened my mouth to say something, but he very purp
osefully elbowed me while he took out his wallet and flashed her a black credit card.

  The minute he handed it over she checked the name. “Can I see some ID, Mr. —”

  The card dropped out of her hands. Shaking, she licked her lips and shook her head. “Nevermind.”

  “What?” Nixon leaned forward. “You don’t need my ID?”

  “No, Mr. Abandonato, th-this-this will be fine.” With trembling fingers she handed over the receipt and the bag. “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

  Nixon flashed a smile. “No, I think we’ve had enough. Thank you for your… help.”

  Good God, the woman was going to pass out. She nodded and pinched the bridge of her nose as we turned around and walked out.

  “What the hell, Nixon? You like the godfather or something?” I laughed nervously. He joined in but his laugh was hollow.

  “So, frozen yogurt?”

  “Why?”

  He shrugged. “Because I’m hungry?”

  I sighed. “Fine, but this isn’t a date and this isn’t babysitting detail. You know I can take care of myself, right? You can just take me back to the dorms. I’ve got a paper to write anyways and…” My voice trailed off the minute his hand touched mine. Confused, I looked down at our grasped hands. I didn’t even realize we had stepped onto an escalator until we hit the top floor. He didn’t release my hand. I was torn between wanting him to release it and wanting to smack him upside the head. He couldn’t just toy with my emotions like that. Make me feel important for no reason other than his own entertainment. Growing angrier by the second, I tried to pry my hand free, but his grip tightened.

  “It isn’t safe, Trace,” he said in hushed tones. “Just trust me, okay?”

  “Then why are we getting frozen yogurt?”

  At that he smiled, but still refused to answer. I called false to his whole I’m hungry statement. Right, he’s hungry. He wasn’t the one going on a no-cow diet for the past week.

  The food court was decent. Not many people were scattered around either, which I was thankful for. Our security detail basically circled us as we went into the small frozen yogurt shop and grabbed our cups.

 
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