Elite

By: Rachel Van Dyken

Prologue


Whoever told me life was easy — lied. It’s hard. It sucks. The crazy thing is — nobody has the guts to admit the truth. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a secret. Everyone has a story that needs to be told. Hurt is everywhere, as humans we practically drown in its essence, yet we all pretend like it doesn’t exist. We make believe that everything is fine, when really, everything within us screams in outrage. Our soul pleads for us to be honest at least once in our lives. It begs of us to tell one person. It forces us to become vulnerable to that one person and the very second that we do, everything seems better.

For a moment, life isn’t as hard as it seems. Effortless. It’s effortless, and then the gauntlet falls.

When I met Nixon I had no idea what life had in store for me. In my wildest dreams, I could have never imagined this.

“Everything…” He swallowed and looked away for a brief second before grabbing my hand and kissing it. “Everything is about to change.”





Chapter One


“I can feel you breathing down my neck, Trace.” Grandpa gripped the steering wheel and gave me a weak smile before he reached back and patted my hand.

Yup, patted my hand.

As if that’s going to make me feel any less nervous.

I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths trying to concentrate on the excitement of my situation, not the fear. I refused to be scared just because it was new.

I mean, sure I’d never ridden in an airplane before last night, but it wasn’t as if I was freaking out… yet.

I missed my dogs and everything about our ranch in Wyoming. When my ailing grandma suggested I enter the contest, I obeyed to make her happy — anything to distract me from her illness. Besides, it’s everyone’s dream to go to Eagle Elite, but your chances of getting in are slim to none. One company did a study and said your chances were higher than that of your body morphing into that of a whale.

Guess that made me a big, giant, fat whale, because I got in. I’m pretty sure the company did it as a joke, but still.

Out of millions of applicants, they drew my number, my name. So fear, it really wasn’t an option at this point. Going to Eagle for my freshman year of college meant that I was basically set for life. I would be placed in a career, provided for in every way possible. Given opportunities people dreamt of.

Sadly, in this world, it’s all about who you know, and my grandpa, bless his heart, all he knows is the ranch and being a good grandpa. So I’m doing this. I’m doing it for me and I’m doing it for him.

“Is that it?” Grandpa pointed, snapping me out of my pep talk. I rolled down my window and peered out.

“It… uh, it says E.E. on the gate,” I mumbled, knowing full well that I was staring at a steel gate that would have made any prison proud. A man stepped out of the small booth near the entrance and waved us down. As he leaned over the car I noticed a gun hidden under his jacket. Why did they need guns?

“Name,” he demanded.

Grandpa smiled. He would smile. I shook my head as he proceeded to give him the speech, the same one he’d been giving all our neighbors for the past few months. “You see my granddaughter, Trace.” He pointed at me. I bit my lip to keep myself from smiling. “She got into this fancy school, won the annual Elite lottery! Can you believe it? So I’m here to drop her off.” How did grandpa always stay so completely at ease all the time? Maybe it was because he was always packing a gun too, but still. He and grandma were the coolest grandparents a girl could ask for.

I swallowed the tears burning at the back of my throat. It should have been him and Grandma, but she died of cancer about six months ago, a week after I found out about the school.


They were my world, Grandpa and Grandma. Being raised by your grandparents isn’t all that bad, not when you have or had grandparents like mine. Grandpa taught me how to ride horses and milk cows, and Grandma could bake the best apple pie in the state. She won at every state fair using the exact same recipe.

My parents had died in a car crash when I was really young. I don’t remember much except that the night they died was also the night I met my grandparents for the first time. I was six. Grandpa was dressed in a suit. He knelt down and said something in Italian, and he and Grandma took me away in their black Mercedes. They moved their whole lives for me, saying it wasn’t good for a little girl to live in the city. Chicago hadn’t been that bad, at least from what I remember. Which wasn’t much.

I gave grandpa a watery smile as he reached across the console and grasped my hand within his large worn one. He’d sacrificed everything for me, so I was going to do this for him, for grandma. It may sound silly but being an only child I felt this immense need to take care of him now that grandma was gone, and the only way I could see myself doing that was getting a good job and making him proud. I wasn’t sure about his retirement, or about anything, and I wanted to be. I wanted to take care of him, like he took care of me. He was my rock, and now it was my turn to be his.

Grandpa winked and squeezed my hand again. He was always so perceptive. I could tell he knew I was thinking about grandma because he nodded his head and pointed at his own heart, and then pointed at mine as if to say, She’s in your heart. She’s in mine. We’ll be okay.

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