The Westwood Crew | Hellhurst Prep Prelude 02
Unedited, Chris Storm © 2020
1 | Caitlin
"Do you have everything you need?"
"Of course, Father Dearest." I manage not to roll my eyes, but only just. Instead, I turn to face him and reply with a sweet smile. "I double-checked everything before we left Washington."
"Oh, okay, okay. That's good. That's very good." My father gives me a weak smile, his eyes flicking away to stare blankly at the tinted security window dividing the back of the limo from the driver in front while his fingers drum along the edge of his tablet. "Fair enough. Your mother wanted me to ask. Hellhurst is so far away from civilization, after all. She just wants to make sure that you're prepared. High school is very different than middle school."
This time, I do roll my eyes. I can't help myself. Father's not the strongest willed of men, but he means well, and he keeps mother happy. "I'll be fine, Father. I've been enrolled in private schools my whole life, so it's not that big a deal." I grin as I catch him giving me the side-eye stink-eye. Wrinkling my nose, I tease, "Besides, this year, mother armed me with a Black Card, and Amazon delivers, so if I forgot something, I'll just order online. It's not like the Stone Age back when you guys were in school."
He snorts a laugh, an inelegant sound considering his elegant visage. Although he’s in his early forties, Theodore Morgan has ruthlessly maintained his long, trim build with the same unwavering determination that has made Morgan Information Technologies a regular on the Fortune 500 list. His dark hair has only just begun to silver at the temples, and his blue eyes are sharp behind the lenses of his glasses.
Reaching out, I lightly place a hand on his knee. As always, his Brooks Brothers slacks are perfectly pressed, even after a six-hour trip via the company jet from Seattle, followed by the four hours we've spent in the limo since leaving Buffalo. Despite being one of the Titans of Technology, he disdained the casual approach favored by many techies—but I think that has more to do with my father being as big a fashionista as both my mother and I combined. Alas, he's not the one who really wears the pants in the family, but that wasn’t a reflection on him—it was merely a fact of life.
With a chuckle, Father places his hand on top of mine, giving my fingers a gentle squeeze. "I know, Dearest, but Hellhurst is...something else entirely." His expression briefly flickers, a hint of concern slipping through his façade. “Wouldn’t you have preferred Grimnir? Hell, Caitlin, with your grades and my backing, you could have even gotten accepted into Silicon Heights!”
"I know, but it’s important I matriculate from here for many reasons; and if I'm going to take my place in the Westwood Firm, then I need to get started now. Otherwise, Clara is going to go uncontested, and I refuse to let that happen."
I hate using misogynistic terminology, I really do, but my cousin Clara is a Bitch with a capital B for Bitchy, and if she's chosen as the next Westwood Matriarch...I shudder at the thought!
“So, you’re committed to following your mother’s footsteps and not your dear ol’dads?” He sighed, the disappointment apparent on his handsome face, but he quickly straightened his shoulders and hardened his jaw. "Well, this is your cousin's last year at Hellhurst, then she'll be heading off to Harvard. Don't let her get to you, but don't let your guard down. She already has a head-start on her powerbase, and she'll be well entrenched at the academy." He tilted his head, staring fixedly at me from over the rim of his glasses. “She’ll know why you chose Hellhurst.”
"Don't worry, Father Dearest," I feel my grin widen. "I already have a plan in place."
My father finally smiles, and his near-manic grin is a mirror of my own as he pats my hand. "That's my girl. Remember the Hellhurst motto."
"Don't get caught."
The rest of the trip passes in relative silence, my father using his tablet to keep in touch with his business concerns, while I use my phone to touch base with my girls.
C: I'll be arriving this afternoon. Any problems?
FOXY: I got in last night and arrived this morning. Clara's already claimed her floor in the house, along with her Plastics.
SCARLET: I emailed their dossiers. I don't think they'll be too big a problem. We only need to keep an eye out for Psycho Barbie.
C: Thanks, Scarlet. Are you already at the House?
SCARLET: Yes, I arrived yesterday. I’m already unpacked. I secured you and Foxy a room, so that's taken care of. You just need to get here so we can get started.
Feeling the limo pull to a stop, I glance up and see that we've arrived at the front gates of the Academy. The academy grounds, all thousand-plus acres of it, are secured behind tall slate-gray walls surmounted by black steel spikes, like something out of the Dark Ages, but the security cameras and striking, modern gargoyles, it has a more modern, Contemporary Gothic chic air.
As the limo weaves along the winding roads, I half expect to see Batman fighting the Joker and Harley Quinn. We pass the main administration building, another Gothic monstrosity, complete with an enormous clocktower, that looms over the other buildings that make up the main campus, before we turn down a side road that winds behind the primary residence halls. Moments later, the limo turns left, passing between two towering statues of angels that gave me the shivers.
“Yeah, ever since Blink, I haven’t been able to handle stone angels, either,” Father chuckled, and this time patted my knee as I finally allowed myself to blink. I can’t believe I’ve been freaking programmed by a television episode that came out not long after I was born! That’ll teach me to watch British shows with my Father…okay, no it won’t. It was a guilty pleasure my Father and I shared, so I wouldn’t give it up but that blasted episode has marked me for life!
Thirteen large mansions line the long cul de sac, and each is a completely different architectural style. They border on the ridiculous, yet despite the disparate architecture, they all somehow fit together in the appropriately dubbed Legacy Row.
The driver pulls to a halt before the first mansion on the left, one of the most recent buildings added to Legacy Row. A sprawling manor in the Romanesque style, Westwood House is a timeless Grand Dame, the dove gray exterior embraced by verdant green ivy lovingly encouraged to climb along her walls. Flanked by tall, narrow spruce trees, it stands apart from the other Legacy Houses, yet its timeless design belies the fact that she’s less than twenty years old.
Before I even have a chance to send a text, the front door swings open and a tiny, curvy powerhouse flies down the steps, her ash-blonde ponytail a warning flag too few pay attention to, before it’s too late.
Without even waiting for the driver to exit the limo, Sara has her face plastered against the passenger window on my father’s side, her hand shading her eyes as she squints to try and see through the tinted safety glass.
Father arches a shaped, dark brow as he glances between Sara and I. “Friend of yours?”
“That’s Sara, Father Dearest. I told you about her.”
His response is interrupted off by a frantic tapping on the window behind him. As we both watch in utter fascination, Sara seems to be saying something, but the limo is completely soundproofed, so all we see is her lips moving frantically as she bounces in place like an adorably overexcited puppy. Even her taps against the safety glass are muffled, the bulletproofing absorbing most of the excited rap-tap-tapping.
“Ah, yes. One of your crew.” He says the last word with a hint of disdain, but before I have a chance to comment on it, he shakes his head and gives me an apologetic glance. “Sorry, Daughter Dearest. I was hoping you’d follow my side of the family, but I support your decision.”
Tucking my pink forelock back behind my ear, an automatic gesture I have not been able to break myself of yet, I shrug. “If I don’t, then we’ll have to deal with Clara, and then everything grandmother worked for would be gutted.”
Father scowls, then fixes his features back into a more neutral expression. “Quite. Well, shall we?”
I know he thinks I am too young for all of what being a Westwood will entail, but I have a feeling that he’ll always just see me as his sweet, little girl. Sadly, he doesn’t know the half of it. Mother has kept him out of the heart of Westwood interests, and far from having to deal with the Establishment. Not necessarily because she doesn’t believe he could handle himself, but because as a Westwood, as one of the only families run by women, she cannot have the other Established Families undermining her autonomy.
As my mother has repeatedly told me, ‘Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards, in a dress, high heels, and looking fierce. Embrace that and remember that garter belts make an excellent place to stash weapons. Men always underestimate a pretty face.’
Mother is my grandmother’s right hand, but Aunt Charlotte is my grandmother’s left, and she’s as sinister as her daughter is.
Pushing open my car door, without waiting for the driver to come around, I give my father a last smile before I step out. “Don’t worry, father. I’ve got a plan.”
And it was time to set it all into action.
2 | Sara
She’s here! She’s finally here! Eek!
Any pretense that I could act mature flew out the window as soon as I saw the limousine pull in front of Westwood House.
‘I’m only 14! I can start acting mature when classes start on Monday!’
Flying down the steps, I threw myself at the rear passenger window of the limo, trying to peer through the heavily tinted glass to catch a look at my bestie—and she was my bestie, even if we’d never met in person.
Impatiently, I drummed on the window, tapping out Shave and a Haircut. “Caitlin, Caity, Cait-Cait, Cait Sidhe, come out, come out, wherever you are!”
Okay, so I was already annoying myself with my exuberance, and my Inner Adult-Type Person was screaming at me to act cool, but dagnabbit, let me have at least a few last, glorious minutes to enjoy my childhood. Things were going to start getting serious soon enough. Thankfully, Clara was out with her Plastics, so except for Tate roaming around inside the house, only Caitlin would see this side of me.
Doors opened on the other side of the limo, and I popped my head up to see who it was. Up front, the driver was stepping out, dressed in one of those stereotypical limo driver outfits, complete with the fancy cap. My eyes quickly swung back to the left, and I caught sight of a cap of raven black hair as she spoke to someone inside.
I bit back a sudden squee of excitement as I suddenly realized there was someone else in the back of the limo with her. ‘Meep!’
It had to be one of her parental units!
Straightening up, I instantly adopted a more dignified mien, straightening my skirt and running a nervous hand back along my slicked back hair, tucking any stray strands that may have escaped behind my ear.
Bright, laughing brown eyes met mine over the top of the car, and there she was! My gal pal! “Well, well, if it isn’t little Miss Scarlet. Read any good books, lately?
As she came around to meet me behind the limo, I got my first look at her in the flesh—a completely different experience than only seeing each other over video chats across the country.
Caught in a breeze, a brilliant pink lock of hair stood out shock-bright against the rest of her shiny black mane, artfully styled in a shoulder-length cut that framed her deceptively cherubic features. Browline-frame glasses accentuated her autumn-brown eyes, and combined with her Rockabilly style, it somehow managed to combine the innocence of youth while embracing her femininity, the cut of the black-and-white striped dress enhancing the fact that she possessed a curvy, hour-glass shape.
Thankfully, Caitlin had some meat on her bones, compared to Miss America’s Next Top Model Tate “Foxy” Jamieson, otherwise I’d develop a complex living in Westwood House and have to cut a bee-itch! Clara and her Plastics were all tall, blonde, runway model types, and while I could appreciate the fact women came in all shapes and sizes, including my short, busty self, being surrounded by Amazons would give any girl a complex!
“Ah, you know how it goes,” I manage to somehow pull of a nonchalant shrug and casual tone as I stop in front of her. Dagnabbit, she’s taller than I am! I think that officially makes me the shortest Westwood. FML. “Little time to read for pleasure when you’re plotting to take over the World…er, the Academy.”
As I was assessing Caitlin, she was assessing me. I knew what she sees, I see it in the mirror all the danged time, after all. Compared to her five-six or so, I was barely over five-one, and most of my hundred-cough pounds seemed to be located in my bust and derrière, which would be great if I wasn’t a freaking hobbit! I keep hoping that I’ll be a late bloomer, but try as I might, I just can’t seem to cross that five-two glass ceiling, and at the ripe old age of fourteen, I think it’s too late. Sigh.
Compared to her more casual couture Rockabilly dress, I was wearing a blouse and skirt combo that wasn’t too far off from our school uniform, particularly when combined with the patent leather Mary Janes and high stockings. I was used to wearing the combination, considering I’d been enrolled in Hellhurst since kindergarten; although moving up from the lower campus and directly into one of the Legacy Houses is as big a culture shock as moving from Timbuktu to New York City.
My mother has worked for Caitlin’s mother’s personal assistant since they left college, and although she’s not as prominent in the ranks of the Westwood Firm as Mrs. Morgan, they’re close. Sadly, as a single mother, however, she had chosen to pursue her “career” over being directly involved in her daughter’s care, which is probably why I’m more comfortable behind my computer monitor dealing with cold, hard data over having to actually deal with people face-to-face.
‘Meep! She’s hugging me! Why is she hugging me? Does not compute! Ooooh, she smells like vanilla and roses.’
Somehow, while I was distracted, Caitlin had managed to wrap her arms around me, and my face had ended up planted into her cleavage. She’s all warm and cuddly, and I finally manage to get my brain to stop misfiring long enough that I can return the hug. If I was even remotely attracted to women, I would totally wife her right now. Well, her and Tate, both, since she’s a sweetheart, even if she is a freaking Victoria’s Secret Model in training—although not a training bra, her girls are too grown up for that!
“Ladies, if you’d be so kind to show Monroe your rooms, he’ll bring your luggage in.” The deep, authoritative voice behind me had me instinctively jerking to attention. Spinning around, I blink up at the tall, distinguished looking gentleman who’s watching us with an amused expression on his handsome face. He’s got that whole Black Irish thing going on, with dark hair and bright blue eyes, and the silver streaking his temples and laugh lines around his eyes, has me seriously reevaluating my Daddy Issues.
“Um, yes sir,” I stutter out, blushing furiously as I scramble out of the way and quickly drag my mind out of the gutter. ‘Baby Jesus, Mama Mary, and Daddy Joseph!’ Grabbing Caitlin’s hand, I pull her towards the house. “Come on, let me show you your room and let’s get you settled in.”
‘Note to self, crushing on your besties’ father is not kosher!’
I’m going to need to create a Dating List, stat.
Caitlin laughs, and like her voice, it’s a surprisingly rich contralto tone that gives me the warm-fuzzies. “What’s the hurry, Scarlet?”
‘Oh, I’ve got to get away from your father before I develop an inappropriate crush that will have you hate me? Maybe that’s why? Hunh? Ya think? OMG, I’m talking to myself now!’
Thank the Fraganator, we’re drawn up short before my mouth decides to put voice to my runaway thoughts, by the sound of another voice, this one with a frigging cool accent. Normally, I’m cool, calm, and unattached, your typical introvert, but suddenly I’ve turned into some scatterbrained idiot, and that’s just not right!
Frag my life, if I didn’t adore Tate to death, I’d have to hate her on general principle. Tall and svelte, with just enough curves to reinforce the fact she’s all woman—even at fifteen—with long golden blonde hair with the perfect amount of wave, and the purest blue eyes imaginable, she also has a kick arse Kiwi accent! If she wasn’t my other bestie, it’d be too unjust for words.
Tate swoops down the stairs, wearing an oversized cashmere sweater in a pale ivory, tan slacks that hug her gloriously long legs, and her even more gloriously long mane of molten gold hair flowing over an exposed, pale shoulder. She sweeps Caitlin into a bone-crushing hug, complete with one of those European kiss-kisses to both cheeks. “You made it!”
“Foxy Lady!” Caitlin laughs, returning the hug. “Of course, I made it, I wouldn’t miss this year for the world.”
“No, of course you wouldn’t.” Tate pulls back, grinning down conspiratorially as she glances between Caitlin and I. “Are you ready to see your room?”
Caitlin squints, something about the tone of Tate’s voice, or perhaps my sudden interest in the architectural details of the carved wooden balustrade, cluing her into something amiss. “Should I be afraid?” She suddenly grins, all impish, girlish delight, as she giggles dramatically, “Is it in orgy? Tell me Sara’s already picked out our harems and mine’s waiting for me upstairs!”
“Was I supposed to do that?” I tap my chin thoughtfully, before reaching into my skirt pocket and pulling out my iPhone. Quickly using my thumb to unlock the device, I start making some quick notes. “I did start putting together dossiers on all the eligible bachelors coming in this year, but I only have the returning students so far, none of the new transfers.”
What can I say? I’m a planner. It’s what I live for, my raison d'être, and now I’m on a mission.
Operation: Bobbing for Bobbies has begun!
3 | Tate
“And she’s off!” I giggle as Sara buries her face in her phone, her thumbs rapidly flying across the screen as she flips through her notes. Leaning in, I elbow Caitlin with a shake of my head, “That’s our girl. Give her a mission, and she reigns supreme.”
Without looking up, Sara holds up a warning finger, pointing it unerringly in my direction. “Don’t be a Dick. That’s my job.”
Just then, Caitlin’s father and his chauffeur enter the house, carrying her trunks. “Oh, follow me!” Taking Cailtin’s hand, I lead her and her entourage up the winding staircase to the second floor. Westwood House is a bit of a wonder, and in typical Tate Mode, I begin to ramble, “So, there are eleven bedrooms, divided among the three upper floors. Our rooms are on the second floor, Sara chose the three adjoining rooms near the toilet and bathing room.” I waved my hands to encompass the hallway. “There are two other rooms on this floor, as yet unclaimed. The next floor has three bedrooms, empty, while the top floor has two bedrooms. Clara, of course, claimed the sole bedroom in the tower.”
I point to the left, “Sara’s room,” then to the right, “My room.” When we reached the end of the hall, I grasped the handle and turned my back to rest against the door, grinning at my captive audience. “And, for the pièce de résistance…” I pause, dramatically, then swing open the door, “We have Caitlin’s Lair!”
Caitlin stands frozen in the doorway, staring in astonishment at her room. Her father just blinks slowly, stoic as he takes in the scene before him, while Mr. Chauffeur stands there stone-faced. Sara, of course, is studiously looking at her phone, completely missing the big reveal. Me? I’m covering my mouth with one hand, while the other clutches my stomach, as I try desperately to keep the laughter trapped within.
Caitlin’s room is the Alice Room, and from wall-to-wall, from ceiling-to-floor, the decorator took the Wonderland theme to extremes. It’s actually quite stunning, surprisingly not the slightest bit juvenile, whether it’s the MC Esher styled floor of black and white tiles, or the Hearts-Clubs-Spades-Diamonds wallpaper, or the claw-footed standing mirror that looks like an oversized playing card. Even the paintings on the wall are prints taken from the original edition Alice in Wonderland.
Don’t even get me started on the Queen-sized circular bed draped in gauzy, misty blue fabric that’d look more appropriate in an actual harem. Please, don’t, or I’ll never stop.
“Sara hired a decorator once she knew you’d be attending this year,” I finally manage to squeak out once I regain some semblance of control.
“Well, she’s been going by Queen of Hearts online for awhile now, so thought she’d appreciate the gesture.” Finally looking up, Sara’s all angelic smiles and sweet innocence. How the Hell does she do that? ‘No poker with that one, she’d break the bank!’
Slowly, Caitlin stepped into the room, spinning in a slow, silent circle as she took it all in. And it was a lot to take in.
“Ha!” Sara crowed, thrusting out her hand. “That’s fifty, pay up!”
“Fuck me dead!” I cried, before slapping a hand over my mouth and giving Caitlin’s father an apologetic look before turning a glower on the smirking little wench. “You hustled me!”
“Duh! This is Hellhurst Prep, woman. What were you expecting?”
I pause and let my shoulders slump. “I almost forgot about that for a moment.”
For a few, glorious moments, I was a normal teenage girl. We were normal teenage girls.
Caitlin wasn’t a Westwood Scion. Sara wasn’t a Westwood Sponsored Student. I wasn’t a Westwood Legacy on Probation. And we weren’t students at Hellhurst Preparatory Academy, where thirteen, strike that, eleven of the most powerful criminal families in the United States, if not the world, send their children to prepare them for the Really-Real World.
Sadly, we aren’t normal girls. We never were, and never will be.
I’m only distantly related to the Westwoods, dating back generations to when New South Wales was a British penal colony, but my branch of the family had been brought back into the fold during the 1980s, when Victoria Westwood secured her family’s position within the Establishment. The Westwood Firm, officially The Westwood Foundation, became a worldwide multimedia conglomerate, and she’d welcomed the Jamieson branch of the family with open arms—and a stern hand.
Victoria Westwood is living proof that a steel fist wearing a velvet glove can hold the reins over both a media empire and an international cartel of smugglers, particularly since no one ever looks twice at the travel itinerary of fashion models, photographers, and social media influencers.
Unfortunately, what Victoria Westwood wants, the Westwood Firm provides. Since a Westwood Scion is attending Hellhurst, she needs appropriate attachés, and I fit the bill. Thankfully, Caitlin, Sara, and I have had years of virtual correspondence to get to know one another, but we can never forget that each one of us is a pawn in Victoria Westwood’s, and the Establishment’s, grand game. Hard to believe the woman is in her eighties!
Straightening my shoulders, I school my features back into a mask of smiling, vacuous serenity. “Once you’re settled, please, join me for tea in the library downstairs.”
Without waiting for a response, I turn on my heel and head back downstairs.
Tea always settles my nerves, and since I couldn’t grab a cold one, it would do in a pinch.
4 | Caitlin
After Tate and Sara both drift off, Father Dearest and Monroe finish bringing in my luggage—because despite the Westwood’s being the very image of a pro-feminist family, my father refused to let his baby girl carry more than her backpack.
I kiss my father goodbye before he leaves, then I stand there looking at my room—and all the crap I still need to unpack.
Drifting over to the bed, I shake my head and laugh. There, neatly arranged, are my school uniforms, neatly pressed and still in their Armani garment bags. That’s right, that’s the type of wealth and power this school possesses, all our uniforms are custom Giorgio Armani designs, handmade in a small boutique in Milan, just for the students here.
Unzipping one of the bags, I pull out the High School Freshman uniform. Black double-breasted blazer, woman’s cut, with a black-white-crimson plaid skirt, both in wool fine enough to feel like velvet, a pristine white silk blouse, and the red scarf of a Freshman. The buttons are all solid gold, embossed with the school crest, and on the right side of the blazer panel is a solid, 24k gold brooch, inlaid with an ebony shield embossed with a cursive L in gold. A single ruby glitters above the shield.
“Ugh, no hiding who we really are from one another, is there?”
Letting the uniform fall back to the mattress, I shake my head and start getting my room in order. One would think I’d be upset at the juvenile Alice in Wonderland theme, and even a year ago, I might have been too sensitive about becoming an adult that I’d have thrown a tantrum worthy of a five-year old. Now? Well, I may have sacrificed my last vestiges of innocence to be recognized as a Scion, but in my private little retreat from the world, I plan on clinging to some of that childlike wonder and sweet innocence for as long as I can.
After awhile, growing bored with putting away my things, I wonder downstairs to find the library. Passing through the door, I amend that to a capital-L Library, when I see that the walls are covered with bookshelves, filled to overflowing with leather-bound beauties that had to number in the thousands!
I admit, for a glorious moment, I reveled in that feeling that Belle must have experienced when the Beast gave her his gift.
Tate and Sara were already there, waiting and quietly talking to one another. Tate sat on one of the velvet settees, and I shit you not, she drank her tea out of a delicate porcelain cup, complete with saucer, and even had her pinky sticking out; not that she noticed it, since she was teasing poor Sara to death.
“Come on, if you’re putting together a Meat Market Shopping List, the least you could do is tell me which one’s you’ve marked for yourself? I wouldn’t want to cross our beams or step on any toes, after all. That would totally violate the Sis Accords!”
“The Sis Accords?” Sara scoffed, refusing to look up from her laptop as she sat cross-legged on one of the oversized leather chairs. “I don’t recall signing any accords?”
“Yes, the Sis Accords,” Tate replied in all seriousness, even putting her teacup back unto the saucer and placing it gently on the table beside her. “It’s like the Bro Code, only without all the ball scratching, back slapping, and spitting. So, better and more meaningful!”
Snort. “Instead, we have Shark Week Watch Parties, make sure we carry the correct tampons for any emergencies, and agree to shun the unbelievers.” Taking a seat on the other end of the couch, beside Tate, I make myself comfortable as she pours me a cuppa.
Accepting the steaming cup of jasmine and honey scented tea, I carefully grasp the delicate cup as I inhale the delicate aroma with a happy sigh. Gently blowing over the rim to cool it down, I glance between my friends. “So, what’s the plan then?”
“Simple, Pinky,” Sara smirks, “We try to take over the world!”
Ugh, that girl and her late-night cartoons!
Suddenly, there came a banging! A bang, BANG, BANGING! A banging at the front door?!
Looking at one another wide-eyed, I focus on Sara. “Uh, were we expecting anyone else?”
Sara looks as lost as both Tate and I as she shakes her head. “No? I mean, Clara and the Plastics were all here yesterday, and they all have keys. Maybe one of them is expecting a delivery?”
“Oi! The House! Oi!”
We blink at each other, then scramble towards the front door. There’s not a lot of decorum in a mad rush, but curiosity is a cruel, cruel mistress. We don’t exactly run, but we power walk as a group towards the front of the house, where that infernal banging continues unabated.
“Shouldn’t we let the House Mother get that? I mean, what if it’s some sort of…” Tate’s voice stops as she shakes her head, “What am I talking about?” She raises the pitch of her voice, flattening her accent in an attempt to sound like an American as she repeats Sara’s earlier words, “This is Hellhurst Prep, after all.” Her voice returns to her natural accent, “Welcome to America, Tate, land of the free, home of the crazy, gun-toting psychopaths.”
“Oh! You’re one to talk, Crocodile Dundeedee!” Sara hisses. “You Aussies are all just cowboys with sexier accents and funnier hats!”
“Would you two stop it? Let’s try and act like adults, okay?”
By the time we reach the front foyer, we’re huddled together and all just staring at the door like brainless teenagers straight out of a horror movie. It’s the middle of the freaking day and we’re in one of the most heavily guarded private academies in the United States.
The banging on the door has morphed into an all-out drum solo now. Squinting, I try and place the rhythm, but although it’s familiar, I just can’t place it until suddenly, Tate squeaks, “Oh my God! That’s the drum solo from The Faebitches’ Fuck Me Gently! Whomever it is, they at least have great taste in music!”
“Should that be whoever or whomever?” Sara ponders aloud, and for a moment, we all stare at each other as we try and remember which one is correct in that instance.
Ovarying up, I step forward, drawing myself up and donning my haughtiest expression—one I stole from my mother and practiced religiously in the mirror for months to perfect—I throw open the door; and gape in astonishment.
Standing there nonchalantly is a young man. He’s probably our age, but he’s easily over six feet tall, and all lanky, wiry strength. I know this, because he’s wearing an oversized black muscle shirt that hangs loosely off his sculpted torso, revealing long, muscular arms and a chiseled chest. His right arm is covered with a tribal tattoo, the black ink stark against his pale golden skin.
On the front of the muscle shirt, in virulently bright rainbow glitter, is the silhouette a rampant unicorn being ridden like a bucking bronco by a butterfly winged man throwing devil’s horns with both hands, while underneath the word FAEBITCHES is scrawled in a punk-graffiti typography. Hey, what can I say? That is what is at eye level when I open the door! It’s not like you could miss it!
The muscle shirt is tucked into a black and gray plaid utilikilt, complete with knee-high biker boots. Combined with the leather bracelets wrapped around his wrists, and the heavy, silvr rings adorning every finger, his outfit almost screams that he’s put way too much effort into looking this punk, but somehow, he manages to pull it off.
Glancing up, I’m met by a pair of shockingly bright blue eyes, like that electric kind of blue that you swear is unnatural and has to be a pair of contacts, but no one makes contacts of that can actually replicate that color. His short, white-blonde hair is carelessly spiked on top, and he’s got the first hints of a five o’clock shadow, despite the fact that he’s otherwise got a baby face that he must absolutely hate, going by the heavy black eyeliner and the piercings decorating his ears, eyebrows, and lower lip; lips that are currently twisting into a smug, knowing smirk.
“Well, cheers, luv. Sorry for the noise, but the driver just dropped me off with my bags and took off like he’d tossed the bird at the Queen Mother.”
“Oh, Mylanta!” Sara whimpered. “He’s Scottish!”
Glancing over my head, the tall limey bastard flashes his smirk behind me. “Aye, lass,” it’s subtle, but his brogue seems to smooth out, going from a more rapid-fire patter to a slow, sweet drawl, “That I am, as Scottish as haggis, William Wallace, and Sean Connery himself.”
Thankfully, one of us wasn’t completely bowled over by a sexy Scottish brogue. Stepping up beside me, Tate met our Scottish brigand nearly eye-to-eye. Crossing her arms over her chest, setting her feet apart like she was getting ready for a brawl, she sneered, “And just who might you be, Mister Outlander?”
Laughing, he lifts his tattooed hand right hand up and presents it to us. “Pardon, luvs, I seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot. I’m Robert Lyons, but my mates call me Kisser.” He tilts his head, like a puppy, as he flashes an adorable smile, “Well, my enemies call me Kisser, too. Just don’t call me Bobby.”
Sara, for some odd reason, starts giggling hysterically, like a crazy person. Concerned, I turn towards her, but she waves me off with a shake of her head. Tate, however, is not disarmed by Robert “Kisser” Lyon’s charm.
“And why are you here, Mister Lyons?”
That actually seems to draw him up short. Canting his head to the other side, he glances between us, searching our faces for something, before he sighs and shakes his head.
“It figures the old bat didn’t call ahead. Which one of you is Caitlin?”
“Why?” Tate doesn’t give an inch. As a matter of fact, she takes a step forward, not-so-subtly placing herself between Kisser and myself.
Holding up his hands placatingly, Kisser takes a step back. “Victoria Westwood is my gran on my mother’s side. Sadly, my mother chose to forsake the family name and married herself a Scotsman, like anyone with good sense. A few years back, my parents were killed in a car accident…”
“Oh, that’s terrible!” Sara and Tate chorus, but Kisser shrugs and continues, “Enh, ca va, ya ken? Anyways, gran whisked me back to her estates since she it was either her or my da’s kin and got me some tutors. When she heard Caitlin was enrolling here, she decided that I needed to broaden my education, so she sent me here. I’m a bonafide Westwood, but since I’ve got a dick, I’m just the muscle.”
“Or the contract husband,” Sara pipes up, earning her a loud guffaw from Kisser.
“Nah, Gran and I have an understanding. She won’t try and marry me off to some woman she wants under her control, I don’t reveal to the fashion industry that she’s secretly a homophobe.”
“You’re gay!” Tate gasps, clutching her chest and looking like she’s won the lottery. Reaching out, she grasps Kisser’s hands and all but drags him inside, yanking the poor boy around as she studies him from head-to-toe.
“Er, yeah, I’m totally bent? I mean,
“Who’s your favorite RuPaul Queen?” Now Sara’s involved, grabbing his other hand, leaving him pulled between her and Tate, and I have a brief, terrifying vision of Kisser being a wishbone; that said, I’m dying to know! I’m totally Team Sasha, naturally.
“Who’s RuPaul?” He looks totally lost. The poor boy’s totally clueless about his own culture! Oh, this is a travesty! An utter travesty!
“Girls,” I clap my hands, drawing everyone’s attention. “Start your engines! Class is in session!”
Classes start on Monday, but today? Today, we are going to open the library, binge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, gorge on ice cream, and drink (spill) some tea! We can start taking over the world tomorrow!
The End…for Now!
Want more of The Westwood Crew? Well, come September 1st, you’ll get plenty more – when they return in Fallen from Grace: Hellhurst Preparatory Academy Year One!
The preorder is available now!
Fallen from Grace
Hellhurst Preparatory Academy | Book 1
I have my reasons for enrolling at Hellhurst Preparatory Academy. Good reasons, personal reasons, reasons that drive everything that I do.
That’s why I cannot let them chase me away.
Since the first day of school, they decided I did not belong. They swore they would do whatever it took to get rid of me, the unwanted orphan on a scholarship to one of the nation’s most elite private schools. Gorgeous, intelligent, wealthy, and ruthless, the Scions will let their minions do the dirty work of getting rid of the trash while they watch from their thrones.
They don’t think I’m good enough, savvy enough, or tough enough to survive Hellhurst. They think that I don't know the Academy's greatest secret--that many of its alumni are the undisputed kings and queens of the underworld, scions of the most infamous crime families in the world.
But they don’t know who I really am. No one does.
They’ll never see me coming, until it’s too late. I’ll have my revenge, and anyone who gets in my way will be destroyed.
To begin, all I have to do is avoid the Scions and survive my Freshman year at Hellhurst.
I may have fallen from grace, but in the end, it's better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven!
Fallen from Grace is a Dark Contemporary, enemies-to-lovers, bully RH romance. It contains mature language, themes, and situations, recommended for mature readers only.