Home > In the Arms of the Elite (Rich Boys of Burberry Prep #4)(3)

In the Arms of the Elite (Rich Boys of Burberry Prep #4)(3)
Author: C.M. Stunich

Miranda's still peacefully passed out on the couch, snoring, and Dad's left for a doctor's appointment. I'd intended on going with him, but he didn't wake me up. Part of me wonders if he doesn't want me to know how bad things are getting.

“This better be good,” I grumble, rubbing at my sleep-crusted eyes and throwing the front door open.

My eyes widen, and a small squeak escapes my lips.


This'll teach me to check the peephole for, like, murderers and stuff. That is, murderers and tatted rock star boys.

“Whoa there, Working Girl, are you rocking duckie pj's?” Zayd asks, throwing out this devilish little grin as he pinches the shoulder of my pajamas and then leans in for a kiss.

I'm so shocked to see him, and embarrassed as all get-out, but when he steps forward and curls his inked arm around me, I forget that I'm wearing pajamas with feet.

Zayd tastes like cherry Coke and cloves, and he smells like sage and geranium. With his strong arm banded around me and his lips against mine, I can barely breathe. My heart is beating out of my chest, and I'm on my tiptoes, eyes closed, swooning away into oblivion.

“What on earth are you wearing?” a lazy voice drawls from somewhere behind Zayd. My eyes snap open, and I'm pushing back against Zayd's chest as he howls with laughter and releases me.

My footie pajamas slip on the hardwood floor, and if Zayd didn't step forward to catch me again, I would've fallen right on my ass.

Creed moves into the shadows of the house, giving me that devil-may-care smile of his as he walks over and sits down on the sofa, right on top of his sister. She barely stirs as he reaches out and pokes a finger in the center of her forehead.

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” he purrs, flicking his eyes briefly over to mine. There's a small flash of jealousy there as he licks his lips, studying me as I stand in the circle of Zayd's arms. “Did you two stay up late partying last night? That's awfully naughty of you, Marnye.”

“I, we …” I start, but then I catch sight of Zack moving down the steps of the giant silver and black bus that's parked in front of my house. I'd be in awe of the size of the thing—it takes up the length of our yard plus the driveway and then some—if I weren't so focused on the boy with the broad shoulders and the rounded biceps. Do not drool, Marnye, not cool.

“Hey,” he says, cool as a cucumber, eyes dark and narrowed but not unpleasant. No, actually, in the deep, shadowed depths of those beautiful irises, he looks pretty damn happy to see me. A smile curves the perfection of his full, lush mouth. “Didn't expect to see us here, huh?”

“Not exactly,” I admit, feeling lightheaded and happy, but also a tad concerned. They've been missing a whole week, and then they show up in a giant RV? What's going on here? “What happened to Tristan and Windsor?”

“Oh, they're here alright,” Zayd says, making sure I'm settled on my feet before he lets go, his eyes scanning my pajama-clad form with interest. Heat suffuses my cheeks, and I start to back up, intending to escape to my bedroom before Tristan or Windsor come in and see me dressed like this. I'm embarrassed enough as it is, but somehow the thought of those two seeing me wearing fuzzy baby duck pj’s … “Oh no, you don't.” Zayd grabs me by the wrist and pulls me forward, keeping me from the safety of my closed bedroom door, and a pair of tight jeans and a cute top.

Tristan comes down the steps of the bus, dressed in his fourth-year uniform and looking like a goddamn king. He's got on the black blazer with the red and white Burberry Prep logo, the black shirt, black tie, black slacks …

Windsor is right behind him, dressed far more casually in long jean shorts, and a red wifebeater. His red hair is just slightly curled, and he has this swagger to his walk that makes me smile … That is, before the two boys step out of the sunshine and into the darkness of the house.

That's when their gazes both go straight to my outfit, and my face flames up like an inferno.

Something strange passes over Tristan's gaze, an almost unbelievable warmth, maybe even a strange sort of tenderness, but then it's gone, and he's cocking a perfectly sculpted dark brow at me.

“You look ridiculous. Where on earth did you find a pair of pajamas so hideous?”

“They're a gift from my dad,” I grumble as Windsor grins and steps forward, cupping the side of my face with his hand. My heart stops briefly, and I feel faint for the smallest of moments. I missed them all so much that all of a sudden, it really hits home.

I've been essentially living with these guys for years, eating in the same place, walking the same halls, day after day. Once we graduate, that's all gone. It's all gone, and I can never get it back.

My stomach turns over, and Windsor's face tightens almost imperceptibly.

“Are you okay?” he whispers, leaning in and putting his forehead up to mine. Windsor closes his beautiful hazel eyes for a moment, but not before I see a flash of fatigue in them. He's tired. Something happened this week, I know it.

“I'm just fine,” I tell him, feeling my stomach light up with butterflies. He pulls back just slightly from me, eyes opening, and then he leans in and crushes his mouth to mine. There's a fierce, quiet possession in that kiss that steals my breath away. It also feels like maybe … Windsor isn't the impermeable, unshakable force he pretends to be. It feels like he needs me in that moment, and I like it. I want to be there for him the way he was for me from the first second we met.

“The pajamas are quite nice, love. Very sexy.” He pulls back and moves over to the chair near the fireplace, sitting down like his body's just a little too heavy to carry around comfortably.

“So … how was the Club meeting?” I ask, clearing my throat as Miranda groans and stirs, mostly because Creed is yanking on her hair. Nobody but Zack is willing to look at me. “That bad, huh?”

“It was … interesting.” He looks away, toward an oil painting on the wall that Jennifer made in college. I've always hated it. It's not very good, and Jennifer isn't a very nice person, so I'm more than willing to point out the painting's flaws. She left me at a rest stop, kept my sister from me, and now she's pregnant again. Just what the world doesn't need, another baby for her to mess up. “But I guess it went better than expected. Tristan's still here, isn't he?” Zack narrows his eyes and sighs, reaching up to ruffle his short, dark hair.

Tristan simply sighs and looks out the window, his expression far away and detached. He knew he wasn't coming back to Burberry Prep next year, so he tried to set things up in such a way that I'd be safe. My heart stutters, and I let out a small sigh that draws his attention my way.

His blade-gray gaze catches mine, and I feel suddenly like I'm falling. Reaching out, I curl my arm around Zayd's to stay steady.

“Where would you be if … things didn't go the way you wanted?” I ask Tristan directly, and he sighs, tucking his hands into his pockets. Our eyes meet, and a warm shiver takes over my body.

We almost … I almost made a bad decision, and I didn't care.

My sex education is better than that. It might be a good idea for me to look into birth control though, huh?

“At a military school in eastern Maine,” Tristan says, his voice neutral but threaded with a certain sort of darkness that reflects in his fist as he clenches it tightly by his side. “My father's new mistress was going to graciously pay to ship me across the country. That, of course, was only after she talked him out of disowning his only son completely—that is, he wouldn’t have if I’d met his conditions. I did not.” He bites this last word out like a curse.

“He's that angry with you?” I ask softly as Miranda finally sits up, yawning and rubbing at her face as she mumbles curses under her breath. Pretty sure she's hungover. She drank a lot last night. Fending creepy guys off of her was a full-time job. Men can be so gross sometimes. “Over me?”

Tristan just shrugs loosely.

“Among other things. He's never liked me, not since the moment my mother decided she wanted to have me. Then he bought me off of her like he does everything else in his life.” Tristan smiles, but it's a similar expression to the one he was wearing the first day I met him. There's nothing friendly or happy about it. “I'm ranting, excuse me. Do you have a bathroom I could use?”

I give him the nicest, prettiest smile I can muster.

“No, we're peasants, so all we have is an outhouse.” Pretty sure Creed, Zayd, and Tristan all look at me like they're not a hundred percent sure whether they believe me or not. A small laugh escapes me, and I point down the hall. “First door on the right.”

He moves past me, that distinct scent of his—like cinnamon and peppermint—wafts past and I shiver. Tristan pauses suddenly, turning to me and putting his fingers beneath my jaw. The way he looks at me … there's a puzzle in his eyes that I so desperately wish I could solve.

Without saying a word, Tristan releases me and disappears into the bathroom. A moment later, I hear a door bang outside and glance over to see Lizzie climbing down the bus steps.

“What is she doing here?!” Miranda chokes out, her perfect blond hair all tangled up on top of her head in a rat's nest. Creed gives her a look and sighs, lounging back in the sea of blankets and pillows like he owns the place. His mannerisms remind me of that episode of RuPaul's Drag Race that I watched last week, when they were dressing up as wealthy heiresses. “I own everything!”

“She was with us at the Club meeting,” Zack says, giving Miranda a look. “We literally piled into the bus, left, and drove straight here.”

“Whose bus is it?” I ask, my heart pounding, my palms getting sweaty. Tristan and Lizzie were alone at the Vanderbilt Manor for an entire week; I will not spend overly long thinking about what could've happened between them. I won't.

Zayd flashes me a big, white grin and leans his forearm against the edge of the door.

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