Authors: Scarlett Haven
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New Hope Academy, Episode Two
Copyright© 2016 Scarlett Haven
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This is episode 2 in theNew Hope Academy Series.
I highly recommend picking upFate(episode 1) before readingLuck.
What I was afraid of.
I wake up to the sound of beeping. I lift up my hand to reach for my phone, wanting to turn it on silence, but something yanks it back.
“Ouch,” I say, rubbing my hand. There is something on it. I open my eyes to see that I am attached to wires and there is an IV in my hand. And the beep is the sound of a heart monitor.
Memories of Kazimir come rushing back to me.
Oh my gosh!
I hear the beeping increase as my heart starts to race.
“Katerina,” I hear.
I look over and see Damon. My heart doesn’t slow down. “Tristan…” I manage to choke out.
“He’s fine,” Damon says.
My heart finally starts to calm down a little. “Thank God,” I say, grabbing my chest. “Did they catch Kazimir?”
“I’m sorry,” he says. “He got away.”
I sit back against the pillow, feeling deflated.
“So your dad is Mikhail Vasin,” he says.
“The Russian terrorist.”
I nod again.
“And he wants to kill me.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Do you hate me?”
“No,” he answers. “Because I also know now that your mom is Elizabeth, and she is the woman that is trying to save my life. I don’t have to meet your parents to know that you’re more like your mom than your dad.”
“Thank you,” I tell him.
“For what?” he asks.
“For believing in me. Most people wouldn’t. They would see how bad my father is and assume I’m like him,” I say. “Though, I must admit, before coming here I never thought of my dad as a bad guy. He’s not all bad, just so you know. I mean, it probably seems that way to you, because he wants to kill you.”
“Everybody has good in them, Katerina,” he says. “Just like everybody had bad in them. Which side wins defines who we are. I’m sorry that your dad hasn’t fought harder to be good. How can he look at you and not want to be good.”
“You’re pretty smart,” I tell him, thankful that he doesn’t just blindly hate my dad, even though he has every right to.
He shrugs. “I have just been around a lot of politicians.”
I laugh. “So what happened last night? Why am I in here?”
“They say you had an anxiety attack,” he answers. “All I know is that you ran into my dorm room like a mad woman, spouted some stuff about Kazimir and then passed out on my floor. I was worried sick.”
“I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“It’s not your fault. Tristan told me what happened. About that guy holding a knife to your neck. He also told me that you didn’t know your dad was a terrorist until you came here. No wonder you had a panic attack. I probably would’ve had one a lot sooner if I were you.”
“Did Tristan tell you that he saved me?” I ask him, slightly disappointed in myself. “All that training and he still had to save me.”
“Come on, Katerina. Kazimir is in his thirties. He’s had years of training. You’ve had a month. You’re just being hard on yourself,” he says. “Tristan has been here all night, waiting for you to wake up. I don’t think he will ever leave your side again.”
“Ugh,” I groan. “I guess I’ll probably know what it’s like to have somebody guarding me twenty four seven. Tristan will never let me do anything without him ever again.”
“Welcome to my world,” he says.
The door opens up, and Tristan walks inside, a energy drink in hand.
“You’re up,” he says. “Finally.”
Damon stands up. “I’m going to let you guys talk.”
He walks out into the hallway, and I’m left there with Tristan. I’m so glad he’s alive. I’m also glad that he was there to save my life. I don’t know what I would do without him. Honestly, without him, I’d probably be dead right now.
Tristan walks over to the chair where Damon was sitting and takes a seat. He leans forward, and opens his mouth like he’s going to talk, but then shuts it again. Maybe he doesn’t know how to begin.
“You saved my life,” I say.
“Yeah,” he says.
He smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “It’s kind of my job to protect you. And I almost let you die. That can’t happen again. I won’t let it. We have to train harder. I thought we’d have more time…”
“It’s not your fault,” I say. “We have been training hard and doing all we can. You didn’t know Kazimir was going to show up.”
“No, I didn’t,” he says, agreeing. “I honestly didn’t think anybody would show up. Not for a while anyway. I don’t even know how he got into the country. We’ve had people watching him. I see now that it’s not enough. Katerina, I’m sorry that I let you get in harms way.”
“Don’t apologize,” I say. “Never apologize.”
“Why?” he asks.
“Americans apologize way too much. You should save your apologies for when youreallymess up,” I answer.
“I did really mess up,” he says. “I almost let you get killed. I can’t believe I did that.”
“Not that you need forgiveness, but I forgive you,” I tell him.
“Thanks,” he says. “So, did Kazimir say anything to you before I showed up?”
“Barely,” I answer. “He asked if my dad sent me here because I’m replacing him. Like maybe he thought my dad was going to fire him. Can you even fire a terrorist? I don’t know. It was weird. Bur I don’t think he believed me when I said I wasn’t here to take his place. How could he think that? I’m a sixteen year old girl.”
“I don’t think your dad knows he’s here,” Tristan says, then frowns. “Katerina, I think it’s time you called your dad.”
“What?” I ask, my heart spiking again.
“Don’t say anything about you knowing what his real job is. Just tell him about Kazimir coming here. Tell him about him holding you at knife point. Your dad is going to figure it out anyway, and it’s better you tell him first. If he finds out later and knows you didn’t tell him, he will figure out something is up,” he says. “You need to do this to protect your mom and yourself.”
“Okay,” I say, taking a deep breath. I can do this for my mom. I’m just scared to hear his voice. “Do you know where my phone is?”
He nods, and pulls it out of his pocket. “Your dropped it on the path last night. I think I stepped on it, but it’s working fine. The screen didn’t even crack.”
“Good,” I say, taking the phone. “Can I have some privacy?”
“Yeah,” he says, getting up. “I’ll wait in the hallway. Let me know when you’re done. I’m never leaving you alone again.”
That is what I was afraid of.
He goes into the hallway, leaving me with my phone.
Knowing Tristan won’t give me a lot of time, I pull up my contacts and dial my dad’s number. It rings only a couple times before my dad picks up.
“Katerina,” he answers. “What’s wrong?”
I’ve only called my dad a few times in my life, and every time I have, something bad has been desperately wrong. My dad is at work a lot, so I usually don’t bother him.
“Dad…” my voice breaks, as I realized how much I missed him. It’s not right. How can I miss him? He’s a terrorist. I should hate him. But I don’t. “Kazimir showed up at my school, Dad. He… he held a knife to my throat. He was talking crazy.”
“What all did he say?” Dad asks.
“Not a lot. He didn’t make sense,” I tell him. “He kept accusing me of trying to steal his job. And then my friend Tristan showed up. Somehow he managed to get the knife away from Kazimir and then he took off.”
“Are you sure that it?” he asks. “He didn’t say anything else?”
“Daddy, I’m scared,” I say, to avoid answering his question.
“Don’t be, princess. I’ll take care of Kazimir. You won’t have to worry about him anymore,” he says.
“How?” I ask.
“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “I’ve got to get off here. But do me a favor and don’t tell your mum what happened.”
“I just don’t want to worry her,” he says. “She’s already went through enough with Eduard. Let’s not make it worse.”
“I love you, Katerina.”
“Love you too, Dad,” I say, as the line goes dead.
How can my dad hide so much of his life from me?
And better yet, how can I still love and miss him as much as I do, knowing who he is and what he does. I should be mad at him. I should hate him. But I don’t. More than anything, I just wish I could hug him and have him tell me everything is all right. Because that is what I need.
I need my dad.
Tristan hasn’t left my side.
I was released from the hospital earlier, and since then he has stayed annoyingly by my side. He even stands outside the bathroom door, waiting for me. Which is really, really frustrating. I just want five minutes of privacy.
“I think I’m going for a run,” I say to Tristan. Maybe I can out run him. But then I think about running into Kazimir and realize that would be a bad idea. I will just have to pace him, because he can protect me.
“Nope,” he says.
“Why not? You can’t tell me what to do,” I say, even though I know he can.
“Yes I can. I’m bigger than you,” he says. “And you’re not going because you were just released from the hospital. There is no way that I am letting you do any kind of physical exertion this weekend.”
Of course he’s not.
He’s just going to make me sit here and go crazy.
“I just want to not think,” I tell him, hoping that he will cave. “When I run, I can turn off my brain. It’s wonderful.”
“Not happening,” he says.
I sit down on my bed, feeling frustrated that this is my life now.
Savannah is hanging out with Kaiden and Madox playing video games. It’s pretty much their Saturday routine. She doesn’t know what happened last night and hopefully she never will.
“I miss him.”
“Him who?” Tristan asks.
“My dad,” I answer. “And I feel bad for missing him. But he’s not the awful person you think he is. Not all the time. At home he’s kind and gentle. I just wish I could see him and talk to him.”
“You shouldn’t feel bad for missing him. You didn’t know,” he says. “But you do know now.”
“I wish I didn’t know.”
“Don’t ever wish that,” he says. “Knowledge is power. When we go to Russia for Christmas break, you will see your dad differently. There is no way you couldn’t.”
“What do you mean whenwego to Russia for Christmas break?” I ask.
“Oh, you didn’t think I’d let you go alone, did you?” he asks.
“Um, yeah,” I answer.
“Nope. I’m going with you.”
“How am I going to explain you to my family? ‘This is Tristan. He’s teaching me how to take down Dad’s terrorist group, don’t mind him,’” I say, not bothering to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.
“I’m not going as your bodyguard. I’m going as your American boyfriend,” he says.
Tristan frowns at me.
“Oh, you’re serious.”
“You’re going to pretend to be my boyfriend?” I ask.
He nods again.
“Right,” I say. “That won’t be awkward at all.”
“Oh, it will be very awkward,” he says. “But we don’t exactly have another option.”
Could this day get any worse?
I look around my dorm. I still have twelve vases full of a dozen roses each. The balloons are all still scattered across my ceiling. And the sign Damon made is hanging above my bed. At least I have one thing to look forward to—homecoming with Damon.
“That kid really likes you,” Tristan says, looking at the sign Damon made for me.
“I think he does,” I say.
“You like him too,” he says. It’s not a question.
“I do. I mean, I’ve been attracted to him since we first met at that dance, but it’s more than that. He’s a really sweet guy. And he makes me happy,” I say. “I think he might someday be my first boyfriend.”
“Your first?” Tristan asks.
“I’ve never dated anybody else before,” I tell him. “I’m only sixteen. Plus, I have three… two… big brothers. They don’t exactly make it easy to guys who like me. They’re pretty big, so all the guys in Russia were scared of them.”
“Huh,” he says.
“You scared to go to Russia now?” I ask. “My brothers will definitely give you a hard time. Because they won’t know that we’re pretend dating. They’ll think we’re for real dating.”
“I’m not scared,” Tristan says.
“You should be. I am,” I admit. “You should’ve seen how Dimitri was teased the first time he brought home Elana. Every time they got close to each other or held hands we would whistle at them. It was kind of hilarious.”
And okay, yeah, maybe I did a little teasing myself. I’m his little sister. It’s my job.
“Eduard and I used to make kissy noises every time they were over,” I say, laughing.
“Well, I don’t plan on holding your hand,” he says. “Because that would be really awkward. But let’s not talk about it now. Christmas is still over two months away.”
Obviously I hit a sore spot.
Memo to self: Tristan does not like to be teased about hand holding.
He must have had a bad breakup.
“We need to get out of this room,” Tristan tells me, standing up. “If I look at another purple flower or ballon, I may vomit.”
I laugh, but follow him.
Maybe Tristan is hating this just as much as I am.
He’s a twenty one year old man. He probablydoeshate babysitting a sixteen year old girl.
“I’m sorry,” I tell him, as we walk out of the dorm.
“You’re sorry?” he asks.
I nod. “I’ve only apologized two, now three, times in my life. But I just wanted to say sorry that you have to babysit me. I’m sure there are a million things you’d rather be doing right now.”
He stops and turns towards me. “I’m not going to count this as one of your three apologizes, because that is the most ridiculous apology I’ve ever heard. I want to keep you safe, Katerina. Always.”
“Because I’m your job. Right,” I say.
“Not because you’re my job. Because you’re you,” he says, then starts walking. “Come on. I need to leave this campus. There are way too many teenagers here, and I’m starting to get a headache.”
I laugh, but follow him to his car. I am not sure what kind of car it is, but it’s black, shiny and very new. On the inside, I see a symbol that says BMW. It’s not as flashy as I expected, consider he is a spy, but it’s still nice.
“You’re taking me with you, so I guess you’re technically not getting away from all the teenagers,” I say.
“Katerina, trust me when I say this, you’re only a teenager by age. Your maturity is far above these idiots,” he says, then shakes his head. “I shouldn’t say that. I was a teenager not that long ago. But it seems like forever. I grew up way too fast. Kind of like you.”
“Right. Because your brother died too,” I say. “When you were my age. So five years ago?”
“Yeah,” he answers, then clears his throat. “Do you want to get food?”
“Sure,” I say.
“There is a Russian restaurant in town,” he tells me, putting the car in reverse. In the center, I see the back up camera turn on and I watch it as we back up.
“That would be amazing. I miss Russian food. No offense, but American food is horrible,” I say. “I think I understand why Americans are so fat.”
He laughs. “You probably shouldn’t say that to anybody else.”
“I say it to you because you’re not fat,” I say.
“There are fat people in Russia too,” he says. “I’ve been there, you know.”
“Yeah, there are. It’s just different,” I say. “And I blame Russian’s obesity problems on the western world. Some people started adopting an American diet. My mum, even though she’s from London, adopted a very Russian style of cooking. I think it’s because this older lady that used to live next door to us. Her and my mum were always hanging out and she taught my mum how to cook.”
“That’s awesome,” he says. “My mom was an awful cook. She burnt literally everything she made. It drove my dad crazy. Growing up, I ate a lot of takeout food. I don’t know how I never got fat. We had pizza or Chinese food almost every night.”
Tristan never talks about his family. I like that he’s talking about them now.
“Your family sounds awesome,” I say.
He tenses up. “Are you cold?” he asks, clearly changing the subject.
And just like like, Tristan is done talking about anything personal.
At least I got that much out of him.
The second Tristan and I walk into the restaurant, I know it will be good.
First, because it smells like home.
Second, because the girl at the counter has a Russian accent.
Tristan and I order our food. The girl asks me where I’m from, and I tell her. I get to speak in my native tongue to somebody who isn’t a psycho killer, so I’m pretty excited about it. I hope I get to come back soon.
Tristan and I sit at a table close to the front, away from the window. He takes the chair facing the door, and I figure that is on purpose. Everything that he does is very calculated and always for a reason.
He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Maybe in different ways that what most people would consider “smart”. He’s very analytical. Nothing goes unnoticed by him—ever. Tomorrow, if I were to ask him what the girl behind the counter looked like, he’d be able to describe her perfectly. That’s probably why he has the job he does.
But he’s been very quiet since the car, after he told me about his family. I hate that he’s shut me out, but I don’t know what to do. Sure, he’s my bodyguard, but he’s more than that. Over the past month, he’s became my friend. And I want him to be happy. Especially since he’s stuck babysitting me.
“Tristan, do you really think my dad sent me here so I could get an in with the kids here?” I ask. “So I could… you know…”kill them. The words die on my lips before I can say them.
He looks at me. “I don’t think that’s the only reason, no.”
“Then why?” I ask. “I can’t figure it out.”
“I figured you’d know by now,” he says. “Your cousin goes to school here.”
“My cousin?” I ask.
“Jade Bello,” he says.
“Jade. That means Dean Bello is my…” I let my voice trail off.
“Aunt. Your mother’s sister,” he says.
“That’s why Jade’s eyes looked so familiar to me. They’re so blue. Like mine and like my mum’s,” I say. “Wow. I have a cousin.”
“Your aunt got you in here on a scholarship,” he says.
“Why do I need a scholarship if my dad’s a billionaire?”
“Because you’re not supposed to know he’s a billionaire. Neither is your mom,” he says. “He’s supposed to be an engineer, remember? Not a terrorist.”
“Right,” I say, then shiver. I wonder how he got billions.
The girl from behind the counter comes and brings our drinks and then goes back behind the counter to take the order of somebody else. I just sit there, wondering how many lives my father has taken. How could he? He knows how it feels to lose—first with his mum and dad when he was a kid, and then with his son more recently.
“Katerina, I don’t want you to be mad, but I did some research on you… on your family,” he says. “It’s kind of my job. And when I was finding out stuff about you, I kind of ran across some information about the accident.”
Those words ring in my head.
“You won’t talk to me about your family,” I say, feeling defensive. The accident is thelastthing on the planet that I ever want to talk about—with him or with anybody else. “So you have no right to bring that up.”
“Sorry,” he says. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have. I won’t bring it up again unless you want to talk about it. I just wanted you to know that if you ever want to talk, I’m here.”
“I don’t,” I say.
Thankfully, the girl comes with our food and sits it in front of us. It smells amazing.
I take a few seconds to pray over my food and then start eating.
“This is amazing,” I say, stuffing a second bite into my mouth.
“It’s better than last time I was here,” he says. “It had an American touch to it last time. Now, it tastes truly authentic.”
“They probably change it up so Americans like it,” I say. “Since I’m Russian, they didn’t have to do that for me.”
“I think you’re right. I went to Japan once. Their sushi is nothing like ours,” he says. “They actually have street venders that sell these giant squid legs. And when you go to the movies, they actually sell fried squid like American theaters sell popcorn.”
“I like squid,” I say, thinking I’d fit in there.
“You know, I didn’t think I did until that trip. My older brother kept telling me how amazing it was. I finally caved and tried it,” he says. “It was so good. After that I decided that I want to try every kind of food that I can find, at least once. I could be missing out on my favorite new food, you know?”
“I’ve always been adventurous with food,” I say. “Alik, however, is not at all. One time my mum made him eat a green bean when we were kids and he actually cried. It was really funny. Dimitri, Eduard and I made fun of him for years over that one.”
I laugh, thinking about the memory.
My chest aches a bit, thinking about how much I miss my brothers.
“You miss them,” he says, it’s not a question.
“Sometimes so bad that I can hardly stand it.”
“I bet they miss you too.”
“They haven’t called me,” I say. “Nobody has. Not even my mum.”
“Maybe you should call them.”
Maybe I should.
We eat the rest of our dinner and then head back to the dorms.
Tristan finally goes back to his dorm room, but he does leave one of Damon’s bodyguards to stay with me. The older guy rolls a sleeping bag onto my floor and goes to sleep. When Savannah comes in, she gives me a questioning look, but doesn’t say anything. I just shrug.
This is my life now.
Just as I’m about to drift off to sleep, the guy snores really loud, startling me.
I put a pillow over my head and groan.
This is going to be a long night.
“You look awful,” Tristan says to me when I meet him for our early morning workout.
I ended up getting about two hours of sleep last night. Savannah didn’t seem at all effected by the snoring. That girl could sleep through anything.
“You sure know how to knock a girl off her feet,” I say. Sarcasm seems to flow out of me when I’m tired. “Do you say that to all the girls?”
I like hearing his laugh, especially after seeing how sad he was last night after bring up his family.
“You just had to give me the bodyguard who snores,” I say.
He laughs harder. “As much as I’d love to take credit for that one, it’s all on Damon.”
“Let’s hold on the training for a second,” I say, pulling out my phone.
“What are you doing?”
“Giving Damon a five a.m. wake up call,” I say, grinning mischievously.
The phone rings a few times before I hear a very sleepy, “Hello.”
“Damon Hartley,” I say, using a scolding tone. I wish I knew his middle name. “How dare you send me the bodyguard who snores.”
He starts laughing so hard that I have to pull the phone away from my ear.
Tristan, who is standing beside me, grins when he hears.
“Laugh all you want, Damon. But I will get you back,” I say, then end the call. I take off running down the path, knowing that Tristan will catch up.
Now, I just need to plot my revenge.
Tristan quickly catches up with me and we do our usual Sunday work out—running five miles and then we use a punching bag. He shows me what position to put my feet in when I go to punch somebody, and he shows me how to efficiently knock somebody off their feet with my legs. Afterwards, I’m sweaty and gross.
“I think I want to teach you how to shoot a gun,” he says.
“Are you forgetting I’m from Russia?” I ask. “I know how to use a gun. Probably better than you. I’ve been shooting since I was ten years old. My dad used to take me target practicing a a few times every year.”
“That’s good,” he says. “I want to take you to a target range. I’m going to get you a conceal and carry so you can keep a gun on you.”
“How can I get a conceal and carry? I’m not even a US resident,” I say.
“Actually, you are. You officially have a dual citizenship with Russia and the US,” he says.
“Isn’t it hard to get a dual citizenship? And doesn’t that take years?”
“I work for the government. It’s amazing what I can do just spending five minutes on the computer,” he says.
“You’re scary. In a good way. I think.”
“I like my job,” he says.
“I feel sorry for any girl you date, though. You will know her life history before you even go on your first date. Kind of ruins the romantic element of surprise,” I say.
“Or, you know, it keeps me from getting stalked when I dump her in two weeks. Some girls are crazy, and I’d rather find out before than after.”
“Besides, I don’t date. Girls are a waste of time. Like I said, I like my job. A girlfriend would complain that I work too much. And I do, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. My job is my life,” he says.
“That’s sad. Don’t you want a wife? Kids? A family?” I ask.
“Maybe when I’m older,” he says.
“Americans are so weird,” I say, as we walk out of the gym. I was warm, but when the chill of the morning air hits me, I slip on my hoodie.
“Going to church with me?” Tristan asks, right before we part ways.
“Like always,” I answer, then walk into my dorm so I can get a shower.
I wonder why he’s leaving me alone, then I realize I’m being followed by another one of Damon’s bodyguards. Joy.
You can’t turn down Prince Charming.
That night, I decide that I need to get out of my dorm room. And away from bodyguards, even though I know that isn’t going to happen. Not really. But I go to the party on the soccer fields. Maybe I can pretend they’re not following my every step.
Savannah stays in the dorm to study for a test she has tomorrow, so I just go alone. Well, as alone as I can be with somebody following me. Damon said he’s going too and will meet me there.
“I bet you think you’re so special, don’t you?” a redheaded girl, I think Camille is her name, says to me as I’m walking to join the party. “You’re dating Damon Hartley, so now you have to have bodyguards. Nobody even knows who you are. Just some random girl from Russia. You’re not even American.”
“Damon and I aren’t dating,” I tell her, not unkindly. I don’t want to pick a fight with her, even though it’s obvious that is what she’s trying to start.
“But you’re going to homecoming together,” she says.
“Yeah,” I answer. “But that’s it. We’re friends. And I don’t have a bodyguard because of him. A guy that my dad works with is…” crazy. Psycho. “Stalking me.” It’s true. “He actually followed me to America. Until he’s gone, Damon is letting me use one of his bodyguards.”
“Oh,” she says, looking deflated.
“No hard feelings,” I tell her. “But let me give you some advice. Damon might be the president’s son, but he’s a normal guy. Treat him that way and I bet you guys would be friends too.”
“Wow. Thanks. You’re not so bad. For a Russian.”
“Thanks.” I think.
“I’ve seen you running a lot with Tristan. Is he your boyfriend?” she asks.
“No,” I say, wanting to laugh, but I don’t. Dating Tristan would be like dating my brother. Kind of. Tristan is cute, but way too old for me. She can’t know that though. She thinks he’s a senior. “Tristan and I just like working out together.”
“What about those other two boys you eat with in the dining hall? The nerdy ones,” she says.
“Kaiden and Madox,” I say. “And definitely not. We’re all just friends.”
“Then who are you dating?”
“Huh,” she says. “Well, who do you want to date?”
“How old are you?” I ask the girl.
“I’m fifteen. Freshman,” she answers.
Was I that boy crazy at fifteen?
Okay, okay. So it was only a year ago, but it feels like a lot longer.
A year ago, I was following Eduard around. I guess I sort of had a crush on his best friend. I haven’t spoken to him since the accident, and I’m not sure that I want to talk to him again. It would bring up too many bad memories.
“You’re sixteen, right?” she asks.
I nod. “I’ll be seventeen in December.”
“Awesome,” she says. “I will be sixteen in March and I can’t wait. My daddy already promised he’d buy me a convertible. I’m thinking red. Do you think I’d look good in a red convertible?”
I look at the girl, wanting to tell her she’s crazy.
But she’s only fifteen. And her life is obviously a good one. She has a lot of reason to be happy.
“Red is definitely your color,” I say, noticing her red shirt.
“Thanks,” she says. “Blue is your color. But not dark blue. I saw you wearing that dark dress the other day and you totes looked like a vampire. Not that your pale skin isn’t gorgeous. But you should stick with lighter colors of blue—like your eyes color.”
Maybe I do like her.
“No problem,” she says. “Just so you know, I’ve noticed the way you look at that Tristan guy. I know he’s, like, way super gorgeous, but hello, Damon is the president’s son. You can’t turn down Prince Charming. I know Damon likes you.”
The way I look at Tristan?
“I don’t look at Tristan in any particular way.”
“Yeah you do. Good luck with your boy drama,” she says, then runs over to a group of her friends. All of them look at me, but quickly turn their attention to something behind me. I turn around to see what they’re looking at.
Or better yet,whothey’re looking at.
Damon walks towards me, his bodyguards following close behind. They’re all on high alert tonight, not that I can blame them. Yesterday was a scary day. Not to mention the fact that Kazimir got away. He’s probably out there, somewhere, watching us from the tree line.
A shiver runs through my body as I look at the darkness.
“Hey,” Damon says, walking up to me. He is a huge smile on his face, and I like to think that I’m the reason for that smile.
“I can’t believe Tristan let you come out here tonight. I figured he’d have you on lock down,” he says.
“Tristan doesn’t know I’m here,” I say. “But it’s okay. I’ve got Marcus.”
I point to the bodyguard that Damon loaned me. I wonder if he’s going to sleep on my floor tonight. If he does, I hope he doesn’t snore.
At least Tristan isn’t sleeping on my floor. That would be awkward. At least all of Damon’s bodyguards are all old enough to be my dad and I definitelydon’tfind any of them attractive. Like, at all. Yuck.
Except Camille was wrong. I don’t find Tristan attractive. Well, okay, he’s attractive. In a hot older guy kind of way.
Suddenly, I think of Dimitri and Elana. He’s twenty two and she’s eighteen. Not much difference between Tristan and me. But that doesn’t matter, because Damon is the guy that I like. I’m excited to go to the dance with him next weekend.
Also, Damon is here with me now. And he really likes me. I know that he does.
“I would get onto you for leaving your dorm and not telling Tristan, but I’m glad you’re here,” he says. “Does the fact that I’m not forcing you go back make me selfish?”
“Naw. You know I’m too stubborn to go,” I say.
“That’s true,” he says. “Plus, you could probably kick my butt. Which is sad to admit out loud. My future girlfriend is a better fighter than me.”
I grin at his future-girlfriend comment.
“Maybe we can try for three miles this week,” I say. “Then you’ll only be two miles away from training with us.”
“Maybe,” he says. “I just worry that my presence will be a distraction for you when you’re training.”
I laugh, knowing he’s joking.
“So, I noticed you didn’t roll your eyes at my future girlfriend comment,” he says. “Does that mean that maybe you’d consider making it official?”
“Damon Hartley, you haven’t even taken me out on a date,” I say, putting my hands on my hips. “I’m not going to be the girlfriend of somebody that I’ve never even been out on a date with.”
“Can I?” he asks. “Take you out on a date, I mean.”
He actually looks nervous, which makes him ten times more adorable. There is no way I could say no to him. Not that I want to.
“I would like to go out on a date with you.”
He smiles big and his grey eyes light up, like maybe he wasn’t sure if I would say yes. But how could he not see how much I like him? I’ve been attracted to him since I first laid eyes on him.
My brother Eduard always told me that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I think he said that because he knew I had a crush on his best friend. But maybe since Eduard died, I don’t express my feelings as well. Something in me changed the night I lost him and I know that I will never be the same girl I was before. I’m not sure I want to be the same girl. That Katerina was a normal sixteen year old. She giggled a lot, spent way too much time on social media, and thought boys were everything. Now I realize that life is complicated and hard. Things don’t always turn out like you expect them to, and sometimes people die unexpectedly and way too young.
But I’m not going to go back into the hole of depression that I was in for the first couple months after he died. I’m going to enjoy every second that life gives me. I will miss him, but I have to keep moving on. That is what Eduard would have wanted.
His death changed me, but I like the new me. My only wish is that Eduard could see the girl that I’ve become. I think he’d be proud.
“So when are we going on this date?” I ask him.
“Well, homecoming is this week,” he says.
“Weekend,” I correct.
“Well, it kind of lasts all week. It’s spirit week,” he says.
“Oh, right,” I say. “Savannah said something about how there should be a Star Wars day. But yeah, I was wondering about pajama day. Who wants to wear their pajamas all day?”
He looks at me, like he’s trying to figure out if I’m joking.
“Katerina, you are one weird girl,” he says.
“Well, you asked me out. What does that say about you?”
He grins. “It says that I like weird, but pretty, girls with Russian accents.”
“Still, I don’t understand. Why would you guys want people to see you in your pajamas?” I ask. “I would be embarrassed.”
“Why?” he asks.
“Well, I wear sweat pants to bed. I would never, ever wear them in public.”
“You know the school banned sweat pants, besides on pajama day, because the girls would wear them all the time,” he says. “No leggings, sweat pants or yoga pants allowed during school hours. Ever.”
“I wish they’d ban skinny jeans,” I say.
He laughs. “You and me both. If they did that, half of the student body would have to go buy pants because I doubt they own anything else.”
“Savannah included,” I say, thinking I haven’t seen her wear anything else.
“So, you won’t participate in pajama day?” he asks. “I mean, you don’t have to participate in anything, but it’s fun.”
“What are the other days?” I ask.
“I can’t remember. But I know there is 80’s day. We have to dress up like they did in the 80’s,” he says.
I try to remember American fashion in the 80’s, but I have no clue. “I guess I will participate for everyday except pajama day. I don’t care if everybody else wears their pajamas, there is no way I’d do that.”
“I guess our date will have to wait until after homecoming,” he says. “Don’t make plans for the weekend after homecoming. I want to take you out on a proper date.”
“And what does a proper date entail?” I ask.
I can’t wait.
Damon Hartley has managed to steal my heart.
Too bad my dad wants to kill him.
I actually Googled “how to dress like a nerd.”
The first thing I found is that you need fake glasses. I was going to skip that step, but not so surprisingly, Savannah told me she had an extra pair that I could borrow. She gave me the purple ones and she is using some neon yellow ones.
I also wear a high wasted purple, plaid skirt, I tuck in my plain white t-shirt and put on a pair of suspenders. I wear knee high argyle socks with my converse.
“Is this nerdy enough?” I ask Savannah.
“How do you look cute, even as a nerd. So not fair,” she says. “Maybe put your hair in two pigtails. Then you’ll be set.”
“Okay,” I say, then quickly fix my hair. I’m not sure I like it like this, but it’s just for one day.
Marcus, my bodyguard who thankfully doesn’t snore, says I totally look like a nerd.
And he said it just like that too.
“You totally look nerdy.”
I raise an eyebrow at him.
“I have a niece who is thirteen,” he says, like that makes the fact that he used the word “totally” less weird.
Tristan was quiet on our run this morning. I think something is bothering him, but he’s not saying what. I just hope that he’s not keeping information from me—maybe information about my father or Kazimir.
Or Dimitri. What if he found out Dimitri decided to join my dad’s ranks? I mean, he was pretty sure he’s going to, but I’m hoping he won’t. Maybe Tristan knows his decision and doesn’t want to tell me because he knows it will hurt me if Dimitri decided to join in.
When I walk into the dining hall for breakfast, Damon walks up to me.
“Wow. You’re hot even as a nerd,” he says.
Damon isn’t dressed up like a nerd.
“Why aren’t you participating?” I ask.
“I didn’t have anything to wear,” he answers.
“I’m sure there is a mall somewhere close by.”
“Yeah, I hate shopping. People are always staring and taking pictures,” he says. “I try to avoid going out in public as much as I can. That’s why I like spending so much time abroad. I don’t get recognized nearly as often when I’m in another country.”
“Oh, right. I almost forgot. President’s son,” I say. “I can’t imagine being famous. It must suck.”
“Trust me, I don’t want to be. But my dad never asked my opinion when he ran for office,” he says. “Is it bad that I didn’t want my dad to win the election? If I would’ve been old enough to vote, I would’ve voted against him.”
“That’s so mean,” I say.
He doesn’t respond. He just shrugs.
We get our food and then head to the table. Savannah, Kaiden and Madox aren’t in the cafeteria yet, so we sit at the table alone. All six of Damon’s bodyguards stand close by.
“They have a very boring job,” I say, nodding to the group.
“Yep,” he says. “I figure my dad must pay them a lot. Four of the six have kids that they hardly ever get to see because they’re here with me.”
“Your dad loves you. He’s trying to protect you.”
He snorts. “My dad doesn’t even know me.”
“What do you think your dad would say if he knew you were friends with me? You know, since it’s my dad who wants you dead,” I say.
He frowns. “I haven’t even met your parents yet and they already hate me.”
“My mom won’t hate you,” I tell him. “I don’t know if you’ll get to meet them for a while. Well, probably never my dad. But the rest of my family. I wish my family was normal. I wish that you could come to Russia with me and meet them.”
“Me too,” he says.
“I don’t even get to go home alone for Christmas.”
“Good,” he says. “Is Tristan going with you?”
I nod. “Apparently I have to pretend that he’s my boyfriend. It’s going to be so awkward.”
“Why does he have to pretend to be your boyfriend?” he asks, looking a little pale at the idea.
“Because I can’t exactly be like, ‘Hey, Dad. This is Tristan. He’s my bodyguard, making sure you don’t go psycho and kill me.’ So, it’s the only option, really,” I say. “I wish there was another way.”
“I do too,” Damon says, now frowning.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
He shrugs. “I just don’t like the idea of Tristan going home with you pretending to be your boyfriend.”
“I’m not into Tristan,” I tell him, grabbing his hand. “I’m into you. And only you.”
“Why? I mean, Tristan is all… you know… muscly. And older,” he says. “You guys spend a lot of time together. How could you not like him? And his dad isn’t the president, so you can go places with him and not be stared at.”
“Tristan spends time with me because it’s his job,” I say. “He’s getting paid. And I’m sure he’s annoyed to be spending so much time with a sixteen year old girl. He’s more like a brother to me.”
Except I don’t find my brother attractive.
But finding him attractive doesn’t mean anything.
“I’m sorry,” Damon says. “I’m just jealous.”
“Maybe you just need to spend more time with me then,” I say, feeling weird for doing so. I’m so not good at this whole flirting thing.
He smiles big at my comment. “I would be very okay with that.”
“Ugh, get a room,” I hear Tristan say, right before he sits down beside me.
“Do you see what I have to put up with?” I ask Damon.
“You just have one. I have six. So no complaining,” he says.
I can’t help but think that Damon and I made a positive step forward today. I like that he’s jealous, even though he has no reason to be.
That night, while I’m hanging out in the student lounge with Savannah, Kaiden, Madox and Damon, I spot Jade Bello. She’s sitting in a corner by herself, reading a book. I haven’t tried to talk to her since I found out she’s my cousin.
“Guys, I’ll be right back,” I say to them, and get up.
I walk over to her. She doesn’t notice that anybody has walked up. The room is full of people, all talking loudly, but she’s focused on her book. I wonder if she even hears the noise at all.
“Jade,” I say.
She jumps a little and looks up at me. Her face is a little red. “Sorry. Scary scene.”
“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” I say.
“It’s okay,” she says, pushing her dark framed glasses up her nose.
“So, we’re cousins.”
“Yeah.” She bites her lip, waiting for me to continue.
“I’m sorry I didn’t know. My mum never talks about your mum,” I say. “I didn’t even know I had a cousin.”
“Yeah. They had a falling out. They only started talking again over the summer. After my mom heard about…” her voice cuts off. “Well, your brother dying, she got ahold of her. They’ve talked almost everyday since. My mom is hoping she’ll come visit in America soon.”
My mum didn’t tell me that.
“Your eyes are the same color as mine,” I tell her.
“Yeah,” she says. “Everybody always tells me my eyes are freaky—because they’re such a light color of blue. They look better on you since you have blonde hair. They look paler with my dark hair.”
“Don’t worry. People get nicer when you get older,” I say, remembering what it was like to be a freshman. “And I think your eyes are beautiful with your hair.”
“Thanks,” she says, grinning big at the compliment.
“Do I have any more cousins?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “No. Neither do I. I mean, besides you and your brothers. My dad bailed before I was born. I never even met him. So maybe I have some cousins on his side, but I suppose I’ll never know.”
“I’m sorry,” I tell her. I wonder what is worse—knowing your father is a liar, or never knowing him.
“It’s okay,” she says. “My mom is awesome. She’s all I need.”
I can tell what she said is well rehearsed. But it’s not the truth.
“There is nothing wrong with being curious,” I tell her. “About your dad I mean.”
She looks down at her hands. “I don’t want to hurt my mom.”
“Okay. If you ever want to talk about things, let me know. I know a guy who can help you find your dad and your mom would never have to know,” I say, thinking of Tristan.
“Thanks,” she says, looking hopeful. “I’ll think about it.”
“You’re okay, Katerina.”
“You too, Jade.”
I think I am going to like having a cousin.
She’s kind of awesome.
Americans are so weird.
More so in the 1980’s.
Big hair. Mismatching clothes. Scrunchies. And don’t even get me started on the awful music they listened to. Not that American music is much better now days. I much prefer Russian music.
“You dressing up for 80’s day?” Tristan asks, and I swing punches at him. He blocks each one with precision. Just once I’d like him not to block. Not that I’d really punch him. I’d stop before I did that. But I’d like to beat him.
“I don’t know,” I say, taking deep, even breaths, like Tristan taught me. “Americans back then were so weird. Not that you guys still aren’t weird.”
He laughs, blocking another punch. “That hurts. You think I’m weird?”
“Very,” I say, swinging my arm at his stomach.
He blocks it.
“I resent that,” he says. “Maybe Russians are the weird ones.”
“Maybe, but I doubt it,” I say, swinging another punch.
I decide to try something different. I use my leg.
I watch in slow motion as Tristan falls to the floor.
Oops. I thought he was going to block me.
“My bad,” I say, using a saying I’ve heard a few people on campus using. It’s kind of like an apology, but you’re not actually saying sorry. I like it. I hold out a hand to help him up. He grabs it, but instead of letting me help him up, he pulls me down. I hit the floor beside him.
“Ouch,” I say, rubbing my hip. “That was so cruel, Tristan Thomas.”
“You did it first. Katerina Mikhailovna Vasin.”
“You said my middle name right,” I say, sitting up.
He sits up beside me. “I’m learning Russian.”
“Learning? I thought you were fluent.”
“Nope. I just started learning in July,” he says.
“But you understood Kazimir when he had a knife to my throat,” I say, feeling confused.
“I’m taking advanced night classes,” he tells me. “I Skype with my teacher for three hours every single night. It’s supposed to be a four month program. And I did understand him. I didn’t understand every word, but enough to fill in the gaps.”
“Oh,” I say. “I was wondering why you didn’t understand what I was saying when I spoke Russian to you when we first met, but then you understood Kazimir. It makes sense now. It must be hard to learn a second language.”
“Very,” he says.
“I’m lucky I was raised speaking both,” I say.
He gets up off the floor and holds out a hand to help me up. He pulls me up, and we get back to training.
I think about what Damon said—about him being a distraction while I’m training. I wonder if he’s right. When I train, I’ll probably end up paying too much attention to him. Maybe we should train separately.
“Damon is up to two and a half miles,” I tell Tristan, taking swings at him.
“That’s good,” he says.
“I was thinking about the whole training him thing,” I say. “Maybe you should train him separate, because I think he would be distracting to me. I mean, I like him. You know?”
“Yeah, okay,” he says. “I agree. You really need to focus on training and I really don’t want to watch the two of you drool over each other when I’m trying to help you. You’re my priority though. I can’t spend as much time with him.”
“Yeah, okay,” I say.
“You want to block now?” he asks. “I’ll try to hit you.”
I sigh, hating this part.
He’s so much better than I am.
“Sure,” I say, knowing that I not only need to know how to fight, but also how to defend myself in said fight.
We start out slow at first. Him throwing punches. Me blocking. Out of ten punches, I’m able to block nine of them, which is a huge improvement from when we first started training.
“I’m impressed,” he says, swinging at me.
“Thanks,” I say, grinning at the compliment.
Tristan never compliments anybody. Ever. So I know I must be good.
He swings another punch, this time at my face.
I move my arm to block it, but I’m too slow.
His fist connects with my nose.
“Agh!” I scream, cover my nose. I feel something warm drip down.
“Oh my… I’m sorry, Katerina. Let me see,” he says, taking my hands away.
I feel the blood dripping down from my nose and my chin, staining the shirt I’m wearing. He grabs a nearby towel and puts it under my nose.
I’m not crying, but tears fill my eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Tristan says again, as the tears run down my cheek.
“It’s okay,” I say. “It’s so not your fault.”
He wipes the tears from under my eyes. “I made you cry.”
“I’m not crying,” I say.
He frowns. “We should probably go to the doctor and get your nose checked out.”
He touches my nose, making me wince from the pain.
“Come on, Katerina. I’m taking you to the doctor,” he says.
I pull the towel away from my nose and blood starts dripping down again.
I look at the blood stained towel and feel sick to my stomach.
“Are you okay?” Tristan asks. “You look sick.”
“Blood,” I say, everything going fuzzy around the edges.
“You don’t like blood?”
The words don’t get out of my mouth before everything goes black.
I wake up in a hospital bed.
Except this time, it’s not because I was nearly killed. This time, it’s because I fainted at the side of blood. In front of Tristan. Which I am sure he is going to tease me for the rest of my life. I’m positive he will find the whole thing very hilarious.
I reach up to my nose, and wince at the pain when I touch it.
Yep, it still hurts.
“It’s not broken,” Tristan says.
“That’s good,” I say. “But that means you were holding back.”
“Maybe a little,” he says.
“You can’t do that.”
“You couldn’t take me on if I gave it my all,” Tristan says. “I’m trying to train you. And I really didn’t mean to punch you.”
“How am I supposed to learn to fight good if you’re holding back? Kazimir won’t hold back,” I say.
“Yeah, I know,” he says, looking down.
This thing… my life… is a mess. And I’m not sure what to do about it. And the one person in my life that I could trust with anything is dead. More than anything, I wish I had Eduard back. If I could talk to him, he would know what to do.
“I want to go home,” I tell Tristan.
“Christmas,” he says, knowing that I don’t mean back to the school. I mean my real home—Russia.
I don’t want to wait until Christmas.
“So…” he says, his voice trailing off. He has a huge smile on his face. “You faint at the sight of blood.”
I groan. “It’s not my fault.”
“Yeah and if you tell anybody else, I will hurt you,” I say, threatening him. “And trust me, there are a lot of ways to hurt somebody without spilling blood.”
Okay, so maybe I couldn’t hurt him. Not even if I tried. But I still don’t want him to tell anybody. It’s embarrassing.
“Too late. I told Damon. Who wants to kill me now because I accidentally punched you,” he says.
“Where is Damon?” I ask.
“His bodyguards kept him at school,” he answers.
“They don’t want to take Damon off campus right now. It’s for his protection.”
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to scare you,” Tristan says. “But there have been… sightings. Kids around campus keep reporting seeing a strange man on campus. The description they give always matches Kazimir.”
“That’s not all,” he says. “There have been reports of another man too.”
He’s in America.
And really close to me.
Maybe I should be scared, but I can’t help but hope that I see him. I miss my dad.
“He won’t hurt me,” I tell Tristan, fully believing it. “My dad. He’s here to get rid of Kazimir. I know he is. My dad loves me.”
“I know you think that, Katerina. But everything you’ve believed of your dad is a lie,” he says. “If you knew the things he’s done…”
My heart beats faster at his words, and I hear the heart monitor.
“I’m sorry. I’m upsetting you,” he says. “I just need you to stick around me the next few days. No offense to Damon’s bodyguards, but I’d rather keep an eye on you myself. I’ll take a break from my Russian language lessons.”
“Hello, Russian girl sitting right here,” I say, trying to think of anything but my dad. “I can help you. Since apparently you’re going to be stuck with me anyways.”
“Okay,” he says.
“But you can’t tell anybody else about the whole fainting at the sight of blood thing. It’s embarrassing,” I say, then scratch my hand. “Ugh, they had to put an IV in?”
“Yeah. Sorry,” he says.
“Can I get out of here?” I ask.
“I’ll get the nurse. I think they said you could leave once you woke up.”
Tristan walks out in the hall to get a nurse. I sit there, waiting. Wishing that I would stop getting into these kind of situations.
The door opens up again, and I look up, expecting to see Tristan walking in with a nurse.
Instead I see Kazimir. My heart races again, but this time out of fear.
“Well, well. Look what we have here,” he says, speaking Russian. “I never thought that boy would leave your side. You come to America and get not one, but two boyfriends.”
“You need to leave,” I say back. I yank the IV’s out of my hand and wince at the pain. I jump up. The machine starts making a loud noise. But I stand up, ready to defend myself.
Kazimir curses and runs out the door just a couple nurses run in. Tristan runs in a few seconds later.
“What’s going on?” one of the nurses ask.
“Sorry,” I say. “I couldn’t stay in the bed.”
The nurses mumble something under their breath, turn off the monitor, inform me that I’m free to go and leave the room.
“What’s going on?” Tristan asks me.
“Kazimir was here, Tristan,” I say.
Tristan grabs my hand, and pulls me close to him. We walk over to the door and he looks down the hallway, I guess trying to see if he can spot him.
“Which way did he go?” he asks.
“I think he went that way,” I answer, pointing the way I saw him run.
I expect Tristan to go after him, but instead he starts pulling me in the opposite direction.
“Why aren’t you going after him?” I ask, as we walk quickly towards the stairs.
He doesn’t slow down as we run down.
“Because, Katerina, you’re my number one priority. I have to protect you at all cost,” he says.
“Why?” I ask, pulling Tristan to a stop. “Why am I so important? I’m nobody. I’m not even American. I’m the daughter of a Russian terrorist.”
“Because we can’t do this without you,” he answer. “Katerina,youare the key. You have to stop him.”
“Stop him?” I ask.
“Your dad. He’s not just after the president’s son,” Tristan says. “This is about so much more than that.”
“What are you talking about?”
“This is why your mom wanted you in America,” he says. “Nobody knows. But I can’t keep it from you anymore. Your dad’s group is wanting to attack on American soil in a big way. If he does, it will start a war between Russia and America. A very long, very bloody war. We can’t let that happen. As long as you’re here, he won’t attack. We have to find a ways to bring down your dad’s group without causing a war.”
I feel dizzy at his words, but he pulls me forward. We run down the last set of stairs and out the exit. In the parking garage, I see Tristan’s car. He opens the passenger door for me, I sit and he shuts the door. Before I can even blink, he’s in the driver’s seat and we are leaving the hospital.
As I reach over to put my seatbelt on, Tristan slams on the brakes and I hit my head against the side of the window.
“Augh!” I grab my head, a knot already started to form.
“Sorry,” he says, then takes off. I’m pushed back against the seat. I quickly put on my seatbelt, not wanting to get injured anymore.
Tristan weaves in and out of traffic, running red lights, and eventually we get on the interstate to head back to campus. He relaxes once we’re on the interstate, but he doesn’t slow down. At one point, we passed a cop. I thought for sure he would pull us over, but he didn’t. I guess you get to drive fast when you’re a spy.
“Can you slow down?” I ask, holding onto my seat.
“No,” he answers.
My mind starts racing, thinking about the night Eduard died.
I can still hear his screams, echoing in my head.
I pull my knees up to my chest and tell myself it’ll be okay. Tristan is a good driver. We’re not going to die. I’m safe. We’re safe.
“Are you okay?” Tristan asks.
I focus on my breathing. “Fine.”
He slows down. “I’m sorry, Katerina. I forgot about your brother…”
He reaches a hand over and takes one of mine. I realize how big of a deal it is for him to touch me. It also makes me feel about one hundred times better.
“Thank you,” I say.
“For what?” he asks.
“Knowing how to handle me. How to calm me down,” I answer. “For taking care of me.”
He looks uncomfortable. “Don’t worry about it, Katerina. It’s my job.”
I am his job.
I pull my hand away from his and hide my face in my knees.
Tristan is complicated and I’m not sure I will ever understand him. Yet, something about him makes me want to try.
“What happened?” Damon asks, rubbing his thumb gently over the bump on my head. His soft touch makes me shiver.
When I don’t answer, he looks at Tristan.
“She hit her head on the car window,” Tristan tells him.
“How did she do that?”
“We kind of took off in a hurry. I didn’t exactly give her time to buckle her seatbelt,” he explains. “I braked a little too hard and…”
“Why didn’t you let her put on her seatbelt?” Damon asks, raising his voice.
“I’m sorry,” Tristan says, sarcastically. “I was a little busy making sure a Russian terrorist wasn’t going tokillher to worry about a stupid seatbelt.”
Damon, who looks like he’s about to blow a gasket, turns to me. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I tell him, hoping that they two of them stop fighting. Then I look at what Damon is wearing. “What the heck are you wearing?”
Damon, who looks slightly embarrassed, rubs the back of his neck. “I… ugh… it’s 80’s day. Remember?”
I laugh. Then wince at the pain in my nose.
Damon went all out for 80’s day. He’s wearing a pair of bright colored red jeans. They’re tight, but not skinny jean tight. Which is good, because I despise those jeans. He’s wearing a pair of green Converse, which are normal enough on their own. But he’s got on a purple shirt and a jean jacket. The jean jacket has the sleeves cut off.
And his hair.
He’s got it parted weird, and poofed up really tall.
“Did people really dress like this?” I ask Tristan.
“Why are you looking at me?” he asks. “I’m only four years older than you. I wasn’t alive in the 80’s.”
“Oh, right,” I say, realizing how stupid it was to ask him. Most of the time, I feel like Tristan is my own age. But for some reason, right now, he seems a lot older.
Out of curiosity, I reach up to touch Damon’s hair. He’s so much taller than me that he has to bend down. When he bends down, I’m surprised that his hair stays up. When I touch it, I feel it’s hard as a board.
Wow. That’s a lot of hairspray.
I raise an eyebrow, questioning him.
He shrugs. “One of my bodyguards did it. Apparently he was really into rock music.”
I giggle again, and wince at the pain in my nose. I’ve really got to stop laughing.
“So, you punched Katerina,” Damon says to Tristan, frowning at my discomfort.
“On accident,” I say, defending Tristan.
Damon doesn’t look convinced.
“You can punch me if it would make you feel better,” Tristan says.
“No way,” I say. “If anybody gets to punch you, it’s me.”
He smiles. “I’d love to see you try.”
“You think I can’t?” I ask.
Tristan, with his smug smile, shakes his head. “Maybe youthinkyou could.”
I put my hands on my hips, getting a little angry with him. “Excuse me, but if I’m not mistake I did put you on the ground today. I can do it again.”
“My Russian isn’t that advanced. Either slow down when you speak or switch to English, please,” he says.
“I wasn’t aware that I switched languages,” I say, calming down a bit.
Damon laughs behind me. “You’re kind of hot when you get angry.” Then he looks at Tristan. “She knocked you down?”
Tristan grins, like he’s actually proud of me for doing it. “Yeah, she did. I still have no idea how she got one over on me.”
“I didn’t mean to do it,” I say.
“I think our training sessions are getting too rough,” he says. “I really didn’t mean to punch you.”
“Maybe you could not punch her next time,” Damon says. “That would be great.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Tristan says. “She’s getting really good. And I wasn’t paying attention like I should have been. I usually know if she’s going to block the punch or not. And this time, she didn’t.”
“We should probably get to class,” I tell Damon, who looks like he’s about ready to punch Tristan again.
“Schools out. It’s two,” he says, looking at the time on his phone. “Maybe we can hang out though.”
“What did you have in mind?” I ask.
Damon puts his arm around my shoulders and starts walking away from Tristan and his bodyguards. We both know they’ll follow, but for a moment it’s nice to pretend like we’re normal teenagers.
“I was thinking we could watch the best movie made in the 80’s,” he says.
“And what would that be?” I ask.
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” he answers, like it should be obvious.
“I’ve never see it,” I say.
He stops in his tracks. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“I’m not much for American entertainment. I had a friend who was really into this show called Jersey Shore. It made me want to never watch any American TV show or movie ever again,” I say.
“Ugh that show is awful. I can’t believe they made six season of it,” he says. “But don’t let it scare you off. Aside from reality shows, Hollywood has done some great things.”
“Whatever you say.”
I follow him to his dorm room. I’ve never been inside it before, but his room is bigger than mine. And he doesn’t have a roommate.
But then again, I don’t have six bodyguards either. Just one.
Tristan says something to the other bodyguard and he, along with four of the guys, leave. The other two stand by the door.
I look at Damon, feeling a little awkward.
“Are they going to come with us on our first date?” I ask, even though I already know the answer.
“Unfortunately,” he says. “But trust me, Katerina, we will be having so much fun that you will forget they’re there.”
I don’t think I could ever forget that there are seven people watching us almost at all times.
“Do you ever get tired of never having privacy?” I ask.
“Yeah. But my dad won’t always be president,” he says. “Once he’s done with all this, I’m going to try and live a semi-normal life.”
“But won’t people recognize you?” I ask.
He shrugs. “Maybe I’ll live somewhere else. I doubt anybody in Russia would know me.”
“I don’t think Russia is a good idea. Or are you forgetting about my dad?”
“Right. No Russia. I guess I could always move to France,” he says. “I speak French really well. Or maybe I’ll learn Korean. I hear South Korea is a very nice place to live. I love their food.”
“I haven’t thought about where I want to live after this is all over. Russia won’t be the same,” I say. “Did you know that I am now an American citizen? Tristan did some magic and I’ve got a dual citizenship.”
“That’s awesome,” he says. “I’d live in America. If you were here.”
“I was considering London. Where my grandparents are,” I say. “Or here, where my aunt is. I still haven’t talked to her.”
It’s the first time I’ve ever talked to Damon about my aunt, who also happens to be the dean ofNew Hope Academy. But I know he knows about it. I’m pretty sure after the incident with Kazimir, Tristan told him everything.
“But you talked to your cousin Jade last night,” he says.
“I did. I like her. She reminds me so much of myself at her age. Except her hair is dark,” I say.
“I bet you were a cute freshman,” Damon says, turning on his TV.
“I was skinny and little,” I say. “Not like a good skinny, either. I was scrawny. And not at all cute.”
“I doubt that,” he says, as he scrolls through his movie collection on the TV. He has a lot of movies. Too many.
“What were you like as a freshman?” I ask.
I hear one of his bodyguards laugh. It quickly changes to a cough when Damon shoots him a look.
“I was scrawny too,” he says, grinning.
In my head, I can’t picture Damon ever being scrawny.
Sure, he’s not buff like Tristan, but he’s also five years younger than him.
“You’ll have to show me a picture sometime,” I say.
“Yeah, probably not,” he says.
“Come on. How am I supposed to know what our children are going to look like if I don’t know what you looked like when you were younger.”
It’s a joke, but that doesn’t stop Damon from smiling like a maniac.
“Our children?” he asks. “You plan on having children with me?”
I open my mouth, then close it, suddenly feeling very self conscience.
“Let’s get through our first date before we start naming our future children,” I say.
He pulls me closer to him. “I bet our children will be beautiful.”
Okay, just when I think I couldn’t possibly like him more, he goes and says something like that. How could I not fall in love with a guy as sweet as him? It’s inevitable.
Savannah looks ridiculous.
She’s literally leaving her hair as it was when she woke up. It was messy before bed, but now it’s sticking up all over and her bun that once sat on top of head head has fallen to the side. She’s got on a pair of Darth Vadar pajama bottoms, a storm trooper t-shirt, and wookiee slippers.
And to think, I had already trained with Tristan, showered, fixed my hair, and dressed before her alarm went off.
Why anybody would want to go out in public in their pajamas is beyond me. I don’t even leave my pajamas on around the house. I get dressed and fix my hair every single morning, because you never know when somebody might stop by the house.
As we walk to the dining hall for breakfast, I see that Savannah isn’t alone. Pretty much every single person we meet is in their pajamas. Most of them have at least combed their hair.
“Where is your school spirit?” Tristan asks me, as he walks with us towards the dining hall.
“What is school spirit?” I ask.
“You realize this whole week is about school spirit, right?” Savannah asks me. “I mean, it’s called spirit week for a reason.”
“I don’t get it, though. Why dress up and do all this ridiculous stuff?”
“Because it’s part of your high school experience,” Tristan answers. “One day, you’ll wake up and be working a full time job, wishing you were back in high school.”
I laugh at the irony of his statement.
“Where is your pajamas?” Savannah asks Tristan, as if just noticing he too is in normal clothing.
“I don’t wear pajamas,” he says.
Savannah’s face turns red at his comment.
“Then what do you wear to…” I let my voice trail off, realizingwhySavannah’s face is now red. My own face warms. “Never mind.”
We walk into the dining hall, grab breakfast, and sit at the table.
“What happened to your face?” Kaiden asks.
My nose is still swollen, both of my eyes are black, and I still have a huge knot on my forehead.
“Tristan happened,” Damon answers, frowning when he sees me. “You look terrible.”
“Hey,” I say, trying to sound offended.