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Authors: Eliza Jane

In Too Deep

BOOK: In Too Deep
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In Too Deep

By
Eliza Jane

Copyright © 201
3 Eliza Jane

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes only.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.

Cover Design by Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter
1

Where the hell are my boxers? I lift my head from the pillow just enough to scan the room, careful not to wake the curvy redhead next to me. Her auburn hair is splayed across my pillow and vivid mental images replay through my head–tangling my hands in her hair, those red waves cascading down onto my chest. I smile at the hazy memory.

I have a rule about girls spending the night: they don’t. Ever. I also have a bad habit of breaking my own rules. I’d been so exhausted after last night’s extra-curricular activities, I’d passed out. I should know by now–redheads are trouble.

Our clothes are scattered across the floor, and her pink lacy panties hang from the lampshade, but I still don’t see my boxers anywhere. What the hell happened last night?

I roll off the bed, careful not to disturb her, and step into my jeans. Guess I’ll be going commando today.

“Hey you,” she says from my bed.

Fuck
. “Hey.” Our eyes meet, hers are rimmed with the remains of last night’s makeup. Her hair’s a disaster too. I’ve been in this situation before, but that doesn’t make this morning-after-charade any less awkward. I mean, Christ, I can’t even remember her name.

Her eyes travel down my chest and stop at my unzipped jeans. A grin tugs at her lips. Her smile tells me she’s not the least bit distraught about waking up next to me this morning. If she doesn’t care, then neither should I.

“Toss me my dress.”

I lift the slinky dress from the floor and hand it to her, careful not to stare as she lets the sheet fall away from her naked chest. This girl certainly isn’t shy, but I don’t have time for a repeat right now. I need coffee. Besides, I’m late for my meeting with McAllister.

“Listen, I’ve got to run.” I hear myself say before stealing one last glance at the bare skin of her shoulder before the fabric of the dress hides it away. “Last night was fun...” I stop short, unsure of her name.

She turns to face me and crosses her arms over her chest. Her bottom lip is jutting out, and I pretend not to notice and focus instead on putting on my shoes so she understands it’s time to go.

She stands and turns, waiting for me to zip up her dress, and once we’re both presentable, I walk her out to her car. She grips my arm as she carefully navigates the gravel driveway in her too-high heels. I’d forgotten her little red sports car was parked out in front of the school all night. That should give McAllister something to think about.

When Little Miss Hot-and-Ready is on her way, her little red sports car disappearing down the road, I turn towards the entrance of the school, reminding myself once again why I don’t bring girls home with me.
       

When I stroll into McAllister’s office a few minutes later, he greets me with a curt nod as I slide down into the leather chair in front of him.

“A new student started today.” He pushes the folder on his desk toward me. I make no move to take it, simply because he wants me to. “Taylor Beckett. She’s a hacker,” he adds, knowing that fact will entice me.

He’s right. I flip open the folder, unprepared for the photo staring back at me. She’s too pretty to be a computer geek. Even in the grainy yearbook photo, I can see that. She has the biggest blue eyes I’ve ever seen and dark hair that flows loose over her shoulders. Her chin is tucked down just a bit, like she’s probably shy.

I feel him watching me, and I quickly recover, flipping past the photo to the pages behind it. She’s smart too. Excellent grades –advanced placement classes –stellar test scores. I smirk. The old man’s done well. For once.

“She’ll be a good addition here,” he says.

I can’t argue with him, so instead I stand to leave.

“You’ll be working with her as soon as she gets settled,” he calls after me.

Fine. Whatever.

 

Chapter 2

I’ve been dreading this moment all month. My parents are leaning forward, captivated by phrases like, “
prestigious boarding school for gifted teens…”
and
“…each with a special talent
…”

“Taylor,” the headmistress, Vera
snaps, turning to me. “Do you have any questions?”

I shake my head
.

S
he folds her hands on top of the desk, and continues. “We are a small, elite school with only seventeen students. In Taylor’s year there are ten and in our second year, there are seven. We have talented academic professors from all over the world and an impressive list of special instructors who also teach martial arts and self-defense.”

“Hmm.”
My dad nods, impressed.

I stifle a yawn.

“There are a few things you should know about Wilbrook,” Vera says, and as if on cue, my parents lean forward in their chairs. “We’re more than just a high school, our most talented students stay on to work for the corporation when their schooling is done.”

Translation: I could be here for a very long time. This place sounds more like prison than a school, and the look of glee on my parents’ faces makes me wonder if we’re hearing the same thing. I picture myself in an orange jumpsuit, an inmate identification number stamped across my chest in large black letters that, if possible, make my boobs look even smaller than they actually are.

Vera leans forward, adjusting the few items that are neatly lined up on her desk. “Now I know all of this sounds very exciting,” she continues, her mouth tugging down just a fraction, “but our teaching methods are quite unique and not for everyone. We have an extremely rigorous course load as well as physical and endurance training. We believe in exercising both the body and mind to their fullest.”

“We have no issues with that,” my dad says, a little too quickly. I turn to give him the pointed stare my mom gives him when she wants him to shut up, but he ignores me.

From the corner of my eye I see my mom shift in her chair. I’m certain she’s remembering all those times she told me to go outside and get some exercise rather than sit at my computer. I wait for her to say something, but she seals her lips and nods along. This is the first time I’ve ever second-guessed my “exercise is overrated” policy. 

“That’s good.” Vera’s words have taken on a careful, measured tone as though she’s given this same speech numerous times.  “We sometimes find adjustment to life at
Wilbrook can be difficult at first. It’s not uncommon for parents to receive frantic calls home.” She gives my parents a wink.

“We have no doubts Taylor will be able to keep up,” my dad says, and I fight the urge to kick him.  What about my average performance in public school has ever given the impression I can keep up at a private academy?

As Vera drones on and my parents nod and grin, I realize just how screwed I am. With my parents this excited over a scholarship to a private school, no amount of teary phone calls home will get me out of this situation. And Vera’s smug smile tells me she sees that too.

Good thing I’m planning to get kicked out of here as soon as possible.

“Taylor,” Vera says, as though she can sense the direction of my thoughts, “there are a few administrative matters I need to discuss with your parents. Please wait in the hall for just a moment.”

I hesitate, wondering if there’s any possible way this can get any worse in my absence, and convinced it can’t, I step out into the hall. I wander to the foyer, where the ceiling is open all the way to the fourth floor. An elegant staircase curves up to the top. Other than the sound of my footsteps that echo off the polished wood floors it’s eerily quiet. A school with only seventeen students feels a lot different from my high school’s two-thousand, and the realization that it’ll be
impossible to blend in and go unnoticed is like a punch to the stomach. Considering everyone here is no doubt wicked smart, I’ll stick out like a sore thumb. By my estimation, it shouldn’t take long to get kicked out.

“You’re new here.”

I turn, finding myself staring into the face of an older man. He’s tall and he’s wearing a suit, a few threads of silver color his otherwise dark hair. I want to scold him for sneaking up on me in the deserted hallway, but instead I nod.

“Taylor, right?”

I nod again. I guess this school is small enough that he knew I was starting today. “I was just giving Vera a minute alone with my parents,” I say.

He nods once and extends his hand. “I’m John McAllister.”

I shake his outstretched hand, recognizing his name from the brochures. He’s the founder of the school and head of the corporation.

“Come,” he commands and continues down the hall.

I follow a few steps behind him, not sure what he wants with me, but also pretty sure I can’t just refuse. 

“So,” he says over his shoulder, “how did you do it?”

I struggle to match his pace. “How’d I do what?”

“That’s never been done on the test before, you know.”

My heart quickens and my palms begin to sweat. How could he possibly know? He couldn’t. There’s no way they could know about the test. “What?” I say, playing dumb. “Getting a perfect score on a college placement exam?”

He laughs under his breath. “No, that’s been done before actually. No one has ever successfully broken through the testing system’s security before.” He pauses mid-stride to look over his shoulder at me, his eyebrows slightly
raised, waiting expectantly.

Shit.
“Listen, you obviously know I hacked into the test, so let’s just get this over with. I don’t qualify for the scholarship. I understand.”

One corner of his mouth tugs up. “Taylor, that little stunt you pulled is why you’re here.”

He continues several more feet before pausing to let himself in through a heavy wooden door.

I chew the inside of my cheek as I consider what my parents will do to me when they find out—what it will do to them when I’m expelled. Mr. McAllister pops his head back out the door.

“Taylor, come inside.”

I hurry forward, my brain racing. I have to find a way to make this right. He motions for me to sit in a chair across from his desk.

But I remain standing, trying to keep my panic at bay. “My parents—do they know?”

“No,” he answers as he sits down behind the desk, “and that will stay between us as long as you cooperate.” He looks pointedly at the chair behind me and then at me again, and I sit, the leather squeaking underneath me. “We believe someone with your talents could be quite useful.”

“Useful?” I whisper.

“How much do you know about this place?”

“Practically nothing,” I say, shaking my head slowly. “The website and information packet were generic and vague.” I know the school was founded by the Wil-Tech Corporation as a training center for the gifted. What exactly they do…I have no idea.

He forces a fake smile and nods once. “I suppose they were.” He clears his throat and folds his hands in front of him on the desk. “I run an airtight operation here, one we take very
seriously. Everything Vera told your parents is true, but make no mistake, this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”

I keep my face composed like none of this surprises me, but my mind races right back to my original question: what kind of school is this?    

“I can promise you there’ll be things about our training methods you won’t like. They are designed to make you uncomfortable, to test your limits.” He pauses to look me over. I shiver. Something about the way he’s overly confident and just assumes he can use me for my skills gives me the creeps. “Once you are ready, I will assign you to field work and you will assist our more experienced agents in solving cases. And once you get out in the field, believe me, you’ll be glad you had that rigorous training.” He raises a hand to stop himself. “I’m getting ahead of myself here. I should tell you that many of those who enter the program don’t last three months. In fact, we have a seventy percent fail rate.”

The way he’s looking at me, I can’t tell if he thinks I’ll be part of the thirty percent that makes it or the majority that doesn’t.

“Go say goodbye to your parents,” he dismisses me with a wave of his hand.

***

 

I find Vera and my parents just finishing up inside her office. If it’s possible, they are even more excited than when I left them. I can practically see my dad mentally shopping at the academy’s spirit shop,
Wilbrook sweatshirt, coffee mug and bumper sticker—the whole nine. They will be hugely disappointed if I get kicked out, even worse than the time I stole a bottle of rum and my best friend Piper and I got drunk in the basement.

The burning of anxiety in my stomach that has become so familiar in the last month returns at the thought
of not seeing Piper every day. Its extinguished only by the relief of not having to see Wes every day. Dealing with self-defense classes and Vera suddenly seems like a small price for not having to see him with another girl at his side where I used to be or watching him laugh with his friends while I struggle to hold my head up high enough to keep from drowning in my misery. I release a heavy exhale and push the heartbreak away. I’m done with all that. If nothing else, a new school couldn’t have come at a better time.

Vera walks us to the door and I hug my
parents goodbye. I fight back the tightness spreading through my chest, unable to look at my mother’s face. She gives me one last kiss on the cheek, oblivious to my silent pleas for her not to leave. As she turns to go, I latch onto her arm in a last-ditch attempt at a
please-don’t-leave-me-here
-hug.

She squeezes my shoulders. “I know it’s not ideal being eight hours from home, honey, but we can’t pass up this opportunity. This will be good for you. Give it a chance, okay?”

I nod, knowing I have little choice in the matter. This was a done deal the moment Wilbrook sent me a letter congratulating me on my test scores. I curse myself again for tampering with the test results.

They head out the door and wave. I stare in disbelief as they walk hand in hand down the stone steps. The door closes behind them with an ominous thud. 

“I have your schedule,” Vera says, handing a single sheet to me. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to the girls’ dorm room.”

I inspect the schedule as we head upstairs.

 

8:00 A.M. – 9:00 A.M.
                            PHYSICAL EDUCATION (GIRLS)

9:00 A.M. – 11:00 A.M.
                            DEFENSE TECHNIQUES I

11:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M.
                            LUNCH             

1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M.
                                          GLOBAL STUDIES I

3:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.
                            INDEPENDENT STUDY

 

“Independent Study?” I ask.

“Yes, Mr. McAllister says yours will be computer programming.”

“Okay,” I say, in shock of how different my new life is from my previous one. Before I had Algebra II, Spanish, English Lit, World History –Now my one academic class is something called Global Studies.

“A two-hour lunch?”
I look up and meet her eyes.

“Most use the time to eat, shower, and catch up on assignments.”

In my old school I had exactly thirteen minutes to stuff my face after the time it took to walk from my Spanish class to the other end of the school, wait in the cafeteria line, and find a seat. Then again, I also never went to classes until five. My old school got out at three in the afternoon.

We climb the stairs to the third floor towards the dorms. I expect to finally meet the other students, but the hallway is empty.

Vera pauses at a long and narrow room occupied by eight beds. “This is the girls’ dormitory,” she says as I step up next to her. I recognize my two black suitcases lying on top of the twin-size bed closest to us.  Each of the other beds in the room sport blankets and quilts in various colors and patterns, but the white iron headboards give everything a uniform feel. There are floor to ceiling windows along one wall, and the window in the center opens onto a tiny balcony with a decorative wrought iron railing.

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