The car ride was silent, besides the earbud I had in my ear streaming music. I didn’t do well with complete silence or complete darkness. It always made my nerves spike. Giovanni was seated in the back, but I could feel his excitement radiating in the small space of the SUV. I chose to ignore my own budding excitement and instead, smothered it with worry. I had never watched Gio without backup. This would be a new experience for us both.
Sarge was stoic as he drove, not offering any advice or intel. Of course, not. I admired the man seated next to me, even if I did everything under the sun to annoy him. He didn’t seem to let anything bother him, never shown any amount of emotion, and always followed orders. I was walking in his gigantic footsteps, but at least this way, I would be safe. I could live a completely unorthodox life. It would be boring, and lonely, but I would have purpose. Purpose without family.
Distant screams echoed over the music in my head; flames flashed across my eyes. I shook my head violently.
Rosemary Sloan. Jason Sloan. Mulberry Street. Brookline.
My eyes burned and my throat swelled. For a normal person, every milestone of their life would be celebrated with loved ones surrounding them. I had no one. I had a job. And my feelings or lack thereof didn’t matter when it came to the job. I turned my head and leaned against the window, watching the world outside blur into nothing.
I sat fully erect, panic causing my chest to hurt as Giovanni yelled. I must have fallen asleep, and my neck was sore from the position I had been in. I composed myself and looked out the window with squinted eyes.
“Yes, Gio. I see.” I rubbed my eyes, and tilted my head until my neck popped.
“I hope you exercise more self-control in the future, Miss Sloan. No sleeping on the job. I won’t be here to clean up any of your messes.” Sarge spoke for the first time.
“Understood.” I confirmed.
He pulled our vehicle up to the entrance of a building. Looked five stories tall, old, for sure. Honestly, it looked completely medieval. Old would have been a compliment. Families poured in at every different angle; some were taking family photos to remember the moment their precious child started off on their own, some were shuffling their belongings inside, and others were just dropping them off at the curb with a pile of their possessions and driving off.
Sarge put the SUV in park and looked at me. I nodded and we both exited the vehicle together. He scanned one side of the open campus and I scanned the other. Nothing seemed to be admis, and no one paid us any mind. Comfortable with my own surveillance, I opened Gio’s door and allowed him to join us. Sarge popped the trunk and started retrieving Gio’s bags.
Giovanni grabbed for his most personal bags; no doubt filled with all kinds of things his father wasn’t aware of. I wouldn’t be surprised if he would have tried to stuff car parts in there along with his underwear. I escorted them both to the front, keeping my hands free, just in case. Most people were harmless, but I wanted to be ready for the ones that are not.
We stopped just outside the elevators and Gio groaned audibly, motioning towards the red ‘out of order’ sign posted on them.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Of course, he would already start complaining. It wouldn’t be like him if he didn’t. The pampered Prince of the Underworld. Daddy’s shining star.
“Come on, we’ll make quick work of it.” I opened the door to the stairwell and stood out of the way as I let them pass me by.
Three floors later and we were standing outside of his room. Gio unlocked the door and entered the doorway, throwing his bags instantly on the ground. Sarge followed suit, but respectively set his bags down instead.
“Well, it’s a little small...-” I started.
“It’s perfect.” He interceded.
“Do you want me to help you unpack?”
“I’m not a fucking child, Jay. You can leave. Go get your own shit sorted out.” He snapped.
I stared at him. It was so hard not to lay him out sometimes. He was a brat, entirely, and he knew exactly how to get on my damn nerves. I left without another word.
Sarge kept up pace behind me, and placed a hand on my shoulder once we reached the car again.
“Jaylyn.” He spoke sternly, and it could have been mistaken for fatherly. “You will do fine.”
He reached in the back of the trunk, just as I grabbed my bags and helmet, producing an extra bag that I hadn’t even noticed. He offered it to me, and I took it.
“It contains everything you will need for your duties as depicted by Mr. Black.” He explained.
I merely shook my head, and he proceeded to drop the keys to the SUV in my hand. “You will need a vehicle to escort Mr. Giovanni around in. Your bike should be delivered tomorrow around six.”
“I’m just doing my job, kid. Now, it’s time for you to do yours.”
I nodded as another distinguished black SUV pulled to the curb, and Sarge gave me one last look before he entered the vehicle and it sped off.
For not believing in the fact that I hadn’t brought hardly many personal belongings, once I got to the stairwell, I was proved wrong. Between the bag that Sarge had handed me along with my other two and my helmet, shuffling upstairs was the last thing I wanted to do. I got somewhere between the second and third floor before my helmet slipped out from under my arm and cackled against the concrete. I sighed heavily, and just looked at it.
“Need some help?” A deep voice interrupted my internal hissy fit.
I looked up, and had to keep my mouth from dropping to the ground. So, Greek Gods attend college. Better make a mental check for that in the future. This man was beyond the men I was used to being surrounded by. He was built, his body towering over my own and about twice as wide. His muscles were defined even through his baggy shirt. He had a jawline that, I’m sure, made all the girls swoon and pure blue eyes that could pierce my soul, if I’d let them. He smiled, and it wasn’t not attractive, but I decided I liked the way his scruff covered cheekbones moved with the motion better.
“Excuse me?” I blinked.
“Would you like some help?” He asked again.
“Would you like more steroids?” I snipped.
He held up his hands in mock surrender and only chuckled. “I didn’t mean any harm. Just a question. You might be a little lost. This is the guy’s dorm. The girl’s dorm is across campus.”
The God knelt down and retrieved my lost helmet, wiping the grime of the floor off its pristine polish. I didn’t have any quirky comebacks, so I leveled with the truth. Or somewhat truth.
“Overcrowding. The administration building apparently needs new secretaries. There was nothing they could do to fix it, and I can’t afford to live off campus. So, here I am.” Lies. All lies.
“Well, in that case...-” He motioned for me to continue.
I made it up the last flight of stairs to the third floor and stepped out into the corridor. The boulder at my side made little conversation.
“I’m Ryker, Ryker Davis.” He held out a hand for handshake and I just looked at it with my hands full. Coming to the same conclusion I already had, he retracted his arm and looked a little embarrassed.
“Did your mother drop you on your head as a child?” I raised a brow.
“Well, I don’t think so. But I can’t be positive.” He grinned. “This is the part where you introduce yourself.”
“Jaylyn. Sloan. Just call me Jay.”
“Well, just Jay, what apartment are you in?”
“Uh, one-twenty-one, I believe.”
Ryker froze just as the words left my mouth and we were standing in front of my door. “Is there a problem?”
“I suppose not, but I’m in apartment one-twenty-one.” He looked a little dumbfounded. “I guess that means we’re roommates.”
He unlocked the door and pushed it open. I gathered myself and looked around the small living space. I wasn’t told that I would have a roommate. That would complicate things. Leave it to Dominik to make the job he pays me for that much harder. Ryker set my helmet down on the counter as he entered the apartment like it was the most comfortable thing in the world.
I just wanted to scan the apartment and set up, but I guess that would have to wait.
“It’s small, but I’ll respect your space and privacy if you respect mine.” He stated.
“I don’t expect I’ll be here much, so I shouldn’t get in your way.”
Ryker pointed at the door closest to him. “That’s your room. I’ve been here for the past month so I already unpacked and settled into the other room. We can switch if you would like.”
“No, it’s fine.” I opened the door and looked around. A small closet, a bed, a desk, and a nightstand. Simple. I could work with simple. I dropped my bags onto my bed and looked out the doorway. The God was watching me carefully, like I was a rabid dog that might jump out and bite him at any moment. “I guess I should unpack.”
“Oh, yeah. Right.” He stepped into action and out of my line of sight, so I closed my door and looked around. Great. Just great.
I set to work with what I could do in the privacy of my room. I grabbed for the bag Dominik had made for me and peered inside. The contents were simple; clothes I would never wear myself, monitoring equipment, my Company badge, a gun, ammo, a simple hunting knife, a cellphone, and a credit card. As promised.
I quietly put the clothes on the hangers provided in the closet, stashed my new cellphone in the nightstand, the credit card in my back pocket, and decided to shove the rest in the top of my closet to deal with later.
When I got to my own personal bags, I pulled my clothes out and shoved them next to the name brand designers of Black’s choosing. It looked like two completely different sets of people owned this closet. I cracked a rare smile.
I pulled out my toiletries and set them aside, stashing the one bottle of concealer I had to cover my tattoos in the nightstand as well. I had decided that covering them would be the best option. They would just raise too many questions, and I really didn’t need anyone trying to get into my business. At the bottom of the bag, I paused. My fingers drifted along the wooden frame, aged over time. I lifted it carefully out and turned it over.
I didn’t breathe. I didn’t move. It was the only way I would not breakdown.
Two kids looked up in the picture. A boy and girl. Obviously, siblings. They clung to each other with innocent smiles and gazes that had yet to be tainted by the world. They could have been anything, anything at all. But favor had turned them into nothing.
I stared down at the only picture I had left of my family. Even though my parents were dead, for a short while, I still had my brother. Niklaus had been a lot stronger than I, less noisy, less headstrong. Probably the reason he had been permanently adopted, but I did not. Apparently, not everyone believes that twins shouldn’t be separated.
My heart ached, but lingering on the past was something I couldn’t afford. No distractions. No excuses. I set the frame down on the nightstand, turning and tossing my empty bags into the bottom of the closet. I would need more equipment. A laptop, definitely. Bedding and other meaningless things, as well. I didn’t really have much time to plan. At least, Black left me the SUV to use. I’m not sure my bike would appreciate tying bags to it.
I swooped up my bag of toiletries and stepped out of my room. Ryker stood in the doorway of the apartment talking with someone, but I chose to mind my business. I glided behind him and into the bathroom. Unloading my crap seemed a lot easier when you realized you had close to nothing to begin with.
Finished, I kept hold of the empty parcel and turned, almost bumping right into the God and a mousey blonde standing next to him.
“Can I help you?” My glare dodged between them both.
The female smiled and held out her hand. “I’m Elsie. It’s so nice to meet you.”
“Jaylyn. Jay. Same.” I shook her hand; she had a firm grip.
“I’m on the cheerleading team, and our Captain wanted me to bring this to you.” She handed me a box with a bow on top. A card was slipped underneath.
Welcome to the team.
-Sarah Carter, Squad Captain
I looked awkwardly up at both of them, before sliding past them. I sat down on the couch and opened the box. It had a fresh cheer uniform, shoes, poms, and just about everything I would need for the season.
“Oh, uh, thanks.”
“Oh, no biggie! It will be so nice to have a couple fresh new faces on the field with us this year. And I really hope that you’ll like being a part of the team. Practice starts at three today, so just wear something comfortable.” Elsie poured it all out. It was kind of refreshing. You could tell she was being genuine, not fake like most of the people I had the pleasure of encountering.
“Sure. I’ll be there.”
“Okay. Well, I’ll see you later then. Bye, guys!”
When our door clicked closed, I sighed.
“You’ll get used to her. Elsie is one of the nicest girls you’ll ever meet. And probably has the most energy of anyone I’ve ever known.” Ryker laughed a little. It was the husky type of laugh that made you want to hear it again. “So, you’re on the skirt squad?”
“Skirt squad? Is that supposed to be an insult?” I deadpanned.
“No, just what the football team calls them. You don’t seem like the type.”
“I’m going to pretend like I have no idea what you’re talking about.” This man would definitely end up getting on my nerves, but he strangely smelt good.
I couldn’t place my finger on it, but the whole apartment reeked of him, but it wasn’t a bad thing. It was a dark smell, but sweet undertones. Like burnt cinnamon. But not. I looked up at Ryker and he looked at me, and for some reason, I knew I was in trouble.