Home > Ember (Eagle Elite #5)

Ember (Eagle Elite #5)
Author: Rachel Van Dyken

PROLOGUE

Phoenix

“DO IT,” MY FATHER spat. “Or I will.”

I looked at the girl at my feet and back at my father. “No.”

He lifted his hand above my head; I knew what was coming, knew it would hurt like hell but had no way to fight back — he’d already starved me of my food for the past three days for arguing, for trying to save the girl and her cousin.

His fist hit my temple so hard that I fell to the ground with a cry. The click of his boots against the cement gave me the only warning I’d have as he reared back and kicked me in the ribs; over and over again he kicked. The girl screamed, but I stayed silent. Screaming didn’t help; nothing did.

I waited until he was done — I prayed that he would kill me this time. I prayed so hard that I was convinced God was finally going to hear me and take me away from my hell. Anything was better than living. Anything.

“You worthless—” Another kick to the head. “—piece of shit!” A kick to my gut. “You will never be boss, not if you cry every time you must do the hard thing!” Finally, blessed darkness enveloped my line of vision.

I woke up from the nightmare screaming, not even realizing that I was safe, in my own bed. With a curse I checked the clock.

Three a.m.

Well, at least I’d only had one nightmare — that I’d remembered. I’d been living with Sergio for the past week; his house was so big that I’d basically taken the east wing, and he’d taken the West, said he’d hated living alone anyway. I wasn’t stupid; I knew the guy wasn’t exactly a big fan, but it worked. I needed to stay in the States while I figured shit out.

And I wasn’t ready to leave. Not when I needed to learn all I could from Nixon. Not when I had responsibility.

And not when I had those black folders freaking burning a hole in my mind.

Luca hadn’t just left me an empire; he’d left me secrets. I wasn’t sure what was worse, knowing everything there was to know about those I was supposed to be protecting or knowing that at any minute one of them could turn on us.

“Hey!” Bee barged into my room.

“Damn it!” I pulled the blankets over my naked body, my heart picking up speed at her tousled hair and bedroom eyes. Tex’s sister, Tex’s sister. My body wasn’t accepting that — physically it wasn’t accepting any information other than she was beautiful.

And it was dark.

I looked away, scowling.

“I heard screaming.” Bee took a step forward, her perfume floating off her body like an aphrodisiac or drug, making me calm, making me want something I had no business wanting.

“Yeah, well…” I gave her a cold glance. “…clearly I’m fine, so you should go. Actually, why are you here? You know you live with Tex, right?”

She shrugged and sat on my bed. I clenched my fists around the blankets to keep from reaching out to her. It was getting harder and harder to ignore her warmth — when I lived in a constant state of near-death cold.

“He’s with Mo, and they need privacy. I’m not stupid. So I asked Sergio if I could move in for a while.”

“You did what?” I asked in a deadly tone, one I was sure would probably give her nightmares later.

She grinned. “I’m your new roomie!” Bee bounced on the bed and sent me a shy look from beneath her dark lashes. “Admit it, you miss our slumber parties.”

Forget the nightmare — I was looking at it.

CHAPTER ONE

Bested by a turtle

Phoenix

IF THAT GIRL TEXTED me one more picture of herself, I was going to lose my damn mind.

I drove like an insane asylum escapee back to Sergio’s then screeched to a stop right in front of the gate, waited impatiently for it to open while tapping my fingers harshly against the leather steering wheel of my Mercedes C class coupe. Another gift from Luca. I would rather have had his life than the new car every guy on the planet was salivating over.

I wanted a lot of things.

But want didn’t really belong in my vocabulary anymore.

The gate opened slower than I would have liked since I was pissed off. I sped through the minute I saw an opening, not caring that I could possibly scratch the ridiculously expensive car, and pulled to a stop right before hitting Bee.

“Damn it!” I threw open the door and slammed it as hard as I could. “What the hell are you doing?”

“You curse more now.” Bee’s eyebrows furrowed. “You know that?”

Yeah, I was picking up bad habits where she was concerned; really, freaking awful bad habits. “What do you want, Bee? And didn’t we talk about the pictures? I don’t have time to respond to pictures of goats and sheep and ugly dogs. I have a business to run, a family to protect…” My voice trailed as her face scrunched up with hurt.

“I just…” She shrugged. “…thought they would cheer you up.”

“How is a turtle making it through traffic and causing a ten-car pileup cheerful?” I challenged.

She smiled wide, hitting me square in the chest. “Because the turtle made it!” She danced around in front of me and clapped, then paused and arched her eyebrows in my direction.

“I’m not clapping.”

“It’s worth clapping for.”

“Turtle power,” I said through clenched teeth. “Now, was there anything else? You said something about an emergency?”

“Oh…” She waved me off. “…I need help picking out my first-day-of-school outfit.”

   
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