Eden must figure out a way to live with the fallout at Sparrowood Academy after she and the K-Boys take down their leader in the gripping second installment of this series.
Release date: June 27, 2019
Print pages: 201
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Sparrowood Academy: Book 2
Faint music pulses in the other room, the beat thumping through the wall. The wall my back is currently pressed against. I hear my heart, feel his breath, sense the rush of blood through my veins.
This is supposed to be over. We were done. There’s no reason to continue pretending we’re in this relationship. Yet here we are, in the empty bedroom on the top floor of the dormitory, hands and mouths on fire.
“There’s some poetic justice in this,” he says, taking a break from my mouth to kiss along my jaw and whisper in my ear.
“What kind of justice?” I ask. The words come out breathy and embarrassing. Get it together, Eden.
“Luke wanted you so bad, yet here you are in his former bedroom, with me.”
I should be turned off by Luke being mentioned, but I get the sentiment. The room is empty because he’d been kicked out of school for being a dirt bag rapist and abuser. He’d pursued me relentlessly, to the point that I had to get into the arrangement with the K-Boys in the first place, for my own protection.
His lips suck the sensitive skin behind my ear and then trail down to my collarbone. The result is cool, yet hot, and every inch of my body craves more.
“I’m here with you because, despite growing up on the streets of Kingston, you know how to treat a girl, something he’d never figure out.”
Bright green eyes bore into mine and the tug of a smirk pulls at his lips. “If you think this is good, Princess, wait until I show you my other skills.”
My stomach bottoms out at the idea of taking this beyond kissing and a little touching. I’m smart enough not to go any further, though. This boy with his warm hands and toe-curling kisses? He’s not mine. I’m not foolish enough to think he is, but I was dumb enough to lead him into this room away from the others, looking for a moment of tranquility. Dumb enough to put my desires before my brain.
I know we aren’t supposed to be doing this.
I know that this isn’t “real.”
I also know that Gray’s lips and mouth and hands feel really, really, good and for that reason alone, I can’t stop.
“Which curtains do you like best?”
I look up from my math homework and feign interest in the two bundles of fabric Rochelle is holding up against the windows. “Um, aren’t they both blue?”
“This one is paler than the other, and the fabric has more texture. My mother’s decorator sent them over.” She studies them closely. “Do you think I should ask for a different color?”
“No!” I say way too loudly. I adjust my voice. “I like the blue—the uh, one on the left.”
We’d been decorating the suite for days. Yep, they moved me, Ms. Eden-Kingston Park-Warren and Rochelle to the room vacated by Camille when she was expelled from Sparrowood. Honestly, they moved Rochelle as some kind of consolation for not pressing charges for the assault and bullying she’d experienced at the school. She’d invited me to be her roommate and after everything that happened, I didn’t feel like I was in the position to say no.
All this really did was provide hours of speculation and gossip among the student body at Sparrowood. Rumors spread like wildfire about the fallout after the fight between Luke and Hawk. No one saw Luke again after Hawk pummeled the shit out of him. It’d been a fight over me, which was ridiculous. Like I’d allow myself to be owned by a man.
The gossip centered around the boys, anyway. Was Luke dead or severely injured? Did Camille swallow a bottle of pills after her boyfriend was shamed by his loss? Or did someone finally find out the truth about what terrible, abusive people they were? Any and all were possible, and seeing the king and queen of the school tumble rocked the social fabric of the school.
Through it all, we kept our mouths shut. Rochelle about what she experienced. Me and the K-Boys about our role in their suspension. No one on campus knew the truth about who we are and why we’re really here. Somehow, we’ve managed to keep our pasts a secret; the fact that we’re all poor and from a shitty part of town. They haven’t figured out that we got arrested and then offered admission and an education at Sparrowood as part of a bigger deal to find out what kind of illegal activities are going on at the elite boarding school.
All of that is about to change, though. In order to get Luke Fenway removed from campus for good, the administration had to make a deal to allow his cousin, Trip Cohen, to enroll. The K-Boys and I know Trip from Kingston. He’s a Brat. A poser and a wannabe. He’s also one of the last people that saw my sister before she went missing and I want answers.
Trip’s going to know who we are, even if he doesn’t know why we’re here. I’m not afraid of Trip, but the slight grasp the guys and I have made to secure ourselves on the social ladder over the last month or so may completely unravel.
“I think you’re right,” Rochelle says, holding the curtain up to the window. “The blue is perfect.”
There’s a gorgeous view of the campus behind her of green rolling hills, immaculate grounds, and a thick, woody forest off in the distance.
From the outside you’d never know that this place is filled with liars, cheats, manipulators, and bullies. You’d certainly never expect from the tranquil, peaceful environment that we’re bracing ourselves for the worst one of all to walk through the front doors.
* * *
Rochelle and I aren’t the only ones with a new room. Dorian Miller, our counselor, contact at the school, and former K-Boy, decided it would be best for the guys to also be on the upper floor of the dormitory and gave them each a room. Hawk, fittingly, took over Luke’s room, while Theo and Gray moved into Phillip and Adam’s rooms. They hadn’t been kicked out of school like Luke, but due to their involvement as perverted minions, they were moved downstairs to the regular dorms.
I stop by the K-Boys' hallway on the way to dinner.
“Hey,” I say, peeking in the open door. “Where are the other guys?”
Gray’s arranging his clothing in the closet by color and type. He’s very organized. His green eyes brighten when he sees me, and I pretend my heart doesn’t do a tiny flip-flop in return. I’ve had a hard time not thinking about his soft, supple lips since our make-out session last night.
“I was in the middle of rearranging my closet—again. They got tired of waiting for me and left for the dining hall.”
“Rochelle can’t stop obsessing over curtains, and I couldn’t take it anymore. You want to go to dinner with me?”
His grin is wicked, and he tosses his jacket on the bed, instantly forgotten. “With you? Absolutely.”
It’s a Sunday night, and we’re not required to wear our uniforms on the weekend. Gray has on a Sparrowood hoodie and jeans. He’s the smallest of the three K-boys, but only because Theo and Hawk are both disturbingly tall, with broad shoulders and thick limbs. Gray’s lean but strong. Handsome, with slightly shaggy brown hair, a gorgeous face and ridiculously charming. Those attributes served him well on the streets and he had the reputation of being a con-man and thief. That assessment has followed him here as well; he’s the first to throw money into a bet, somehow stole a master key that gives him access to the entire school, and has charmed my heart into a twisted mess.
The K-Boys and I started Sparrowood as enemies that turned allies. Out of the need for protection we upped the game, presenting a unified force of being in a more intimate relationship—me and the three guys. No one in the school blinked an eye at the arrangement.
Along the way, things got confusing. I found that I liked them more and more and the false touches and even a few kisses made our relationship complicated. I felt like I was falling hard and had no real indication that they liked me the same way in return. When Luke and Camille were expelled, it made sense for us to “break up” and just go back to being friends.
That’s only complicated things more, because during all that I got to know them. Kissed two of them. Saved the life of another. We walked in here bound only by location and lifestyle. So much more has transpired since then.
“I hope they have breakfast for dinner,” Gray says, laying his arm around my shoulder. It’s a casual, yet possessive move. Gray doesn’t do anything without intention. Unfortunately, I have no idea what this one means.
I never should have dragged him in there.
“You’d eat breakfast foods three times a day if they offered it.”
He smiles, lopsided and sexy. My heart cracks just a little bit. “I’m a bacon whore, what can I say?”
We walk into the dining hall and a few students say hello. This is new over the last few weeks. Suddenly, we’re no longer the new kids. We’re the ones that toppled the hierarchy. Hawk’s underground fight confirmed it. The K-Boys were just as powerful here as they’d been on the outside. And me? My association with them has elevated my social stature as well.
“Yes!” Gray says, spotting the buffet of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. He piles his plate with food, and I do the same before walking across the massive dining hall to sit with Theo and Hawk.
“You finally got him to stop fussing with his clothes?” Theo says, giving me a wide smile. It’s amazing to see how far he’s come in the last month. When we first got here, he was still detoxing from the opioids and other drugs that were flowing through his system. Now he’s doing better—putting some well-needed pounds back on his long, lean body. He was a swimmer until an injury, when the painkillers he took turned into a full-out addiction. He’s been putting in the work since coming to Sparrowood. Staying clean, swimming again, and even helping me with my fear of water. Every morning we’re required to meet at the pool for lessons. So far, I’ve managed to get in up to my waist without having a panic attack.
“Is it wrong to want to live in a clean, orderly environment?” Gray says, digging into his dinner. “I lived in suitcases for too fucking long. I like being able to unpack and spread out a little.”
Hawk swallows a gulp of orange juice. “Not me. I moved around so much as a kid from foster home to group homes back to foster homes that I prefer to keep all my stuff in my suitcase. Less to pack when I get kicked out.”
“You haven’t unpacked anything?” I ask.
“Nope. I mean, even here, we’ve already moved rooms in the last month.” He pushes his dark hair out of his eyes and focuses on his plate. “I’ve learned it’s best not to get settled.”
Even with my mom sick all the time, we stayed in the same apartment after moving to Kingston. I can’t imagine the chaos of moving around all the time like Gray and Hawk.
After dinner, I take my tray to the return slot and meet up with Morgan and Stella, two girls from my old hall.
“Looks like you and the guys are still getting along,” Morgan says, gesturing to the boys walking out of the dining hall. “What’s going on there?”
I’d never explained much about our relationship. I’m sure some people understood why we linked up—for protection—but I know they wanted to know what kind of price I paid. They’d be shocked to find I didn’t owe them anything.
“Yeah, after all the drama that went on we decided to just kind of cool it. Things aren’t as intense right now, you know?”
Stella nods, everyone is relieved Luke and Camille are gone. “How’s life in the suites?”
“Apparently it requires a decorator,” I reply, “but it’s nice having my own bathroom.”
“I bet. How’s Rochelle?”
“She’s doing okay, I guess.” Rochelle had suffered pretty intense abuse from Luke over the past few months, including a violent attack the night of his fight with Hawk. “I know Mr. Miller and Mrs. Baker asked if she needed to take time off for the rest of the year, but she didn’t want to take it. I guess she feels better here at school?”
Morgan shakes her head. “At least that asshole is gone and can’t hurt anyone anymore.”
I don’t want to tell her about Luke’s cousin Trip arriving tomorrow, but I doubt our worries are over.
“If you guys need to have a suite-warming party, make sure we’re invited.”
“Definitely,” I say, feeling strange that this is even an option. Are we now the ones that throw the parties?
When I step into the hallway, I see Dorian standing off to the side with the guys. I slow my gait when I see him. Other than dealing with Luke and Camille, I haven’t had much interaction with him since the fundraiser. That night we’d danced and shared a few nice moments together, and I’ve been trying to piece that together since.. He’s older—but not much, just enough to push him into the realm of man where the other guys are still boys. He’s handsome with dark hair, warm brown skin, and soulful eyes. He grew up in Kingston and was sent to reform school after getting in a lot of trouble. Now he’s giving back, or so he says, and has taken the position at Sparrowood to assist in stopping some dangerous behavior at the school. Some behavior that seems like it has ties back to Kingston Park, like Trip.
I do know that I feel the tug of attraction to this man—an authority figure at the school. Beyond that, he’s a K-Boy. It’s a position you don’t get to retire from. I see the way even Hawk defers to him. They have their own system of hierarchy and no matter how much I resist, that power draws me in.
Like the others, I need to keep those feelings to myself. It’s one thing to have a crush on guys my age. It’s another thing entirely to crush on the counselor at my school. I could blow this for all of us.
“Eden,” Dorian calls me over the instant he sees me. I feel my skin burn under his gaze and when the others look over at me, it’s almost like I light on fire. “Just checking in with everyone on the move. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s gone smoothly. New curtains and all.”
He holds my eye a beat longer than necessary and I glance away first.
“I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that Trip will be here tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry,” Hawk says, arms crossed over his chest, “we know.”
“One of the reasons we moved you all to the suites is because Trip will try to subvert you and assert dominance the instant he arrives, especially since he knows where you’re from,” Dorian says. “You’ve had some time to establish yourself here. You’ve fought back and won. I suspect you’ve gained more loyalty from the current student body than you realize.”
“Why do we care about that?” Theo asks.
“Because you’re still here for a reason.”
“Tattling on our classmates,” Gray says. “What’s the point if they basically have to go to extreme lengths before you guys do anything. Half the Brats we caught doing shady stuff are still here.”
“We want the big fish, Gray,” Dorian replies. “Use the little ones as bait.”
“And Trip?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
Dorian knows I do but he responds anyway. “He’s a big fish.”
“Don’t worry,” Hawk says, “I’ve been wanting to take that asshole down for a long time. It will be a pleasure to deliver him to you.”
The guys start to walk off, but Dorian reaches for my arm, holding me back. In an instant, I recall what it was like to be in his arms on the dancefloor. Safe.
“I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
I frown. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“It’s been a few crazy weeks. The hazing, the fight, finding Rochelle like that.”
I hold his eye. I know that the heat that burns between us is one-sided, but it’s there all the same. “I think you forget where I’m from, Miller. I can handle myself.”
His lips quirk slightly. “I know you can, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to check in on you.”
“I’m good,” I tell him, not wanting to admit that I’m really not. Seeing Trip will bring back a lot of emotions—ones I’ve been fighting to push aside.
“If you need anything, you know how to find me.”
“Do I?” I ask. I know where his office is, but his residence? That’s unclear.
He gives me a long look—one that carries a weight I don’t exactly understand. One I’m desperate to know more about. When he speaks, it’s low and firm. “Good night, Ms. Warren.”
Ah. Ms. Warren. The walls are back up.
“Good night, Mr. Miller.”
With that, I follow the boys back up the stairs to prepare myself for tomorrow.
“Think you may be ready to come all the way in the water with me today?”
Eden sits on the steps, water barely covering her hips, and gives me a skeptical look. “You’re just trying to trick me into going deeper.”
I laugh. “I don’t think it’s a trick, Princess. Our instructions are pretty clear. Dawson told me to teach you how to swim and you can’t do that from the steps.”
She grimaces. “Okay, I’ll get in if you promise to stay over there.”
“I can do that,” I tell her. “But I’m not sure why that would make you feel better.”
She eases in slowly and I pretend not to be completely focused on the way her full-coverage, black school bathing suit still manages to reveals so much skin. Eden has nice skin. Smooth. Soft-looking. Pale. The material is tight but covering—not a hint of anything like cleavage showing at all. For some crazy reason, it’s hotter than if she was in a bikini.
I’m thankful that no matter where I stand in the water it goes up to my waist. Cool or not, I’m pretty sure I’d embarrass the both of us.
“That’s not so bad, right?” I ask as she dips her body beneath the surface.
“I wasn’t always afraid of the water,” she declares, in a soft voice.
“No?” I haven’t been able to put my finger on her fear. Is it just from the hazing night, when Camille dropped her in the pool, bound and gagged? That would be enough to do it, but I get the sense it’s more.
“I was in elementary school the last time I went to the beach with my parents and Hope. I remember the sticky white-gray sand and the dark water. My dad walked in with us, holding each of our hands. We jumped over the waves.”
“That sounds nice. I’ve only been to the ocean a few times, back when things were good with my grandfather.” I tilt my head and look at her. “What happened?”
She skims her finger tips over the surface of the water, making slow ripples that coast across the pool. She shivers but I don’t think it’s because she’s cold. “My dad loved the ocean. We weren’t strong enough swimmers to get in and he left us by the side to go deeper. He’d float with the waves, going under and over as they rolled into the shore. My mom was there—up by the towels, lounging in in a bright blue chair. We had bucket and shovels—all the stuff.” Her voice slips. It trembles, and I frown, wondering where this is going. “We stood there forever—watching as he waved back to us until one minute he was there, and the next he was gone.”
“Where did he go?” I ask, afraid of the answer.
Her eyes shine in the early morning light. “Just gone.”
“Sort of. The coroner said he had a heart attack and couldn’t get back to the shore. So yeah, he drowned.”
“That’s…wow, I’m sorry to hear that. It must have been terrible.” I’m shocked to hear what she’s saying and although she’s told me to keep my distance, it’s the exact opposite of what seems right. I move toward her, but her eyes snap to mine, and her expression darkens.
She shrugs. “That’s all it takes for someone to go missing. One blink.”
I fight for something to say—anything—but the anguish on her face is too much. She doesn’t seem to care, moving out of reach and back to the stairs. “You told me your back story. That’s mine. Tit for tat. We’re even.”
I watch stunned as she climbs the steps, water rushing down her limbs. She grabs her towel and wraps it around her waist, heading for the exit.
“Eden,” I call, wondering what’d just happened. She doesn’t turn though, leaving me in the pool alone.
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