Chapter 1: ❝ everybody loves cool ❞
And the camera flashes,
Make it look like a dream.
You had it figured out,
Since you were in school.
Everybody loves pretty,
Everybody loves cool.
"The Lucky One" - Taylor Swift
My school was a pretty dangerous place, but not in the way you might think.
Yeah, there were attacks sometimes. Common knowledge, even if they never told us, since everyone was stopped by the gate or guards or cameras. They weren’t what really made the school dangerous, though.
The real danger was already in the school. Everyone here was special, special enough to stand out at any school but ours. Everyone, from the nerds to the rebels, was crazy rich. Blaire Academy was a prestigious private school for the kids of the wealthiest, and most powerful people in the world.
I hovered by my locker for a second before joining the flow of students walking to the cafeteria. It was easy to slip by unnoticed here. Almost everyone was starved for attention or spoiled rotten. Usually both. It was like a war. And the thing about attention here, it was guaranteed to come back to bite you. Most people wanted it anyway.
My phone buzzed in my pocket so I ducked into an empty washroom to answer it. “Hey Raine,” I said after checking the caller ID. Raine Fleming was my adopted mom, though I didn’t really think of her like that. She was more of an older sister, or friend. Right now she was overseas finishing the filming for her new movie. Kaden, her husband and my adopted dad, was with her, working on an important case.
“How’s everything?” she asked.
“Fine... Is everything okay?”
They had never called while I was at school before, even though they checked in at least once a day when they were both away. I think it was because they felt bad about leaving me alone -and something about how Kaden had grown up- but I didn’t really mind. As nice as they were, I couldn’t really think of them as my parents, despite having spent five years under their care.
“Yeah, can you just go to Devon’s for lunch for the rest of the week?”
I blinked. “Is something wrong?” Devon was Raine’s best friend. He worked as a pyschiatrist, and his office was just a block from the school. I didn’t mind Devon, but I usually didn’t leave school for lunch.
There was a pause, and I imagined Raine shaking her head, something she usually did when she was on the phone even though the person she was talking to couldn’t see her. “He just wants to see you more.”
Raine’s an actress. Which means she’s had a lot of practice faking emotions and making false lines sound true. But even with the sincerity in her tone, the lie fell a bit flat. Devon visited our house every other day when I was there alone.
I let it drop, though, since I didn’t mind going to Devon’s for lunch. At least I could talk to him. “Okay.”
“Great! We’ll be back in a week, okay?”
I blinked again and stared at the wall across from me. “I thought you were coming back on the seventeenth.” Which was a five day difference.
“Kaden’s case finished early.” There were some voices in the background on her side. “I gotta go, Lena. See you soon, okay? Love you.”
“Love you too.” I clicked the phone shut and stared at it. Usually Kaden’s cases finished late, not early. I shook my head and shoved the phone in my pocket. Not your business, Lena, I told myself. After returned to my locker to grab my jacket, I headed to the front gates. We were allowed to leave the school for lunch, but most people chose not to, since the lunchroom was fully equipped.
It looked more like an oversized lounge than a high school cafeteria, to be honest. There were soft couches and big beanbags arranged in clusters around wooden tables of all shapes and sizes. The food was kept warm all throughout the day and of course it was prepared by a staff of experienced chefs. It was luxurious to the point of insanity.
We were allowed to go out, so long as the guards hadn’t seen anyone suspicious loitering around. Today was all clear, so I had no trouble getting out. It only took a couple minutes to walk to Devon’s workplace. He worked in a fancy plaza-like building which he share with two other doctors.
“Haven’t seen you in a while, Lena. Devon’s finishing up with a patient at the moment, but you can wait in his office,” Devon’s secretary told me.
“Thanks,” I replied. I gave her a quick wave then headed down the hall. Devon’s office was the last room on the right. I sat down on his office chair, pulled a random book from his desk and started reading it. This wasn’t the office he used to meet clients, so I was safe from getting interrupted.
A couple minutes later, the door opened.
I didn’t bother looking up, instead just continued reading something about hypnosis. “I found another scandalous secret,” I told Devon cheerfully, putting an unnecessary and somewhat mocking emphasis on ‘scandalous’.
“Did you?” A darkly amused voice asked. Definitely not Devon. I froze and looked up. A familiar looking guy stood at the door. He was my age, tall, with dark hair and what many magazines called a ′smoldering stare’. I recognized him immediately. Pretty much everyone in my school worshipped the ground he, and his friends, walked on.
What the hell is he doing in Devon’s office?
He was part of The Elite, which was the closest thing we had to royalty. It was made up of six people- Ashton and Nathan Sinclair, Keira and Jace Winston, Skylar Blaire and Vanessa Merrick . They had started out as a close group of friends, but since their families owned some of the biggest companies in the world, everyone had started obsessing over them.
Ashton and Nathan Sinclair, sons of Sebastian Sinclair, the most powerful figure in international business and finance.
The Blaires owned over a hundred private schools all around the world, as well as a technology company with Liam Winston.
Keira and Jacen Winston’s family dominated in both technology and textiles.
And lastly, the Merricks. One of the richest families in the world. They did almost everything-supermarkets, hotels, coffee shops, restaurants.
Between the four families, they had an influence in almost everything. This, of course, had drawn the attention of the media and they had dubbed the group ‘the Elite’. Countless articles had featured them, which had caused everyone here to take notice and start kissing up.
Before I could reply to Ashton’s question, Devon appeared. “Ashton,” he greeted, not sounded at all surprise by his appearance. Devon glanced at me, then back at Ashton. “What can I help you with?” He asked this quietly, almost too quiet for me to hear.
Like Devon, Ashton’s eyes flickered to me before answering. “Kaden told me to drop anything I found here while he’s away.” Kaden? Did he mean, like, Kaden, my dad? Ashton pulled out a large, brown envelope. It was half-full, with no markings on top. Okay, definitely not business then. They’d use more elegant, fancy stuff. Unless Ashton was giving Kaden information about his father’s company or something. Except Kaden wouldn’t do that.
Devon glanced at me again. “Thank you, Ashton. I’ll walk you out.” He set the envelope on a table by the door and steered Ashton down the hall. I glanced at the envelope. Should I look? Did I even have time to? I gingerly set the book down, then stood up and tiptoed towards the door. The sound of soft talking came from down the hall, which explained why Devon was taking so long.
It stopped before I could reach for the envelope, and I could -just barely- hear the sound of soft footsteps approaching. Crap. I raced back across the room and just leaped onto the chair when Devon appeared in the door way.
“What was Ashton Sinclair doing here?” I asked, attempting a casual tone as I spun around in his chair.
“You know him?” he said, dodging the question.
I nodded. “He goes to my school,” I replied. This caused Devon to raise an eyebrow. I often told Devon about the people at Blaire Academy, but never mentioned names.
“Do you have a secret on him?” He looked, and sounded amused. I usually told Devon about the little things I guessed about people through observing. Devon had been the one to teach me about how to watch people’s reactions and body language and use them to learn things, after all.
I shook my head. I didn’t know much about the Elite other than what I had heard from people. All of them were good at hiding things. They were a very private group, despite almost always being the center of attention. Nothing about them slipped unless they wanted it to. I switched back to what we had been talking about -or rather, what I had been asking him- before Devon distracted me. “When he said Kaden... Did he mean, like, my dad?”
“It’s just business Lennie, don’t worry about it.” The bad things about Devon knowing body language was that he could lie. Very, very well. I watched him closely, but he kept a straight and sincere face, so I couldn’t tell whether or not he was telling the truth.
I decided to let it drop. “I found another secret.”
Devon sighed. ’You know I didn’t teach you so you could invade everyone at your school’s privacy.” He had taught me because when I had first come to live with Raine and Kaden, I hadn’t been sure how to adjust to their high profile lifestyle. They weren’t crazy public or anything, not like some of the families of the people at Blaire Academy, but it had still been more eyes watching than I was used to. Devon had worked with Raine to teach me how to watch other people so I would know what to say, and how to get out of uncomfortable situations without offending anyone.
“They’re just guesses,” I said with a slight shrug and innocent expression.
“Pretty accurate guesses,” he interrupted. It wasn’t a compliment, but I smiled anyway.
“It’s not like I’ll tell anyone.” I didn’t have any friends at Blaire Academy. I was there because of the teachers. It was lonely, I guess, but I had to keep my guard up. I didn’t want to get involved with all the drama. It was all scandals, and fakes.
Devon said that I was like Kaden. That I didn’t trust easily. Which was probably true, especially when it came to the people at Blaire Academy. I didn’t want to depend on anyone who wouldn’t even so much as to blink at stabbing me in the back. I mean, people who didn’t want to hurt you, could do so very easily. It would be so much more severe if someone who wanted to hurt you, did.
Keeping to myself kept me safe.
When I got back to Blaire Academy, the halls were pretty empty. As I walked to class, I replayed what had happened at Devon’s office with Ashton Sinclair.
Why had Ashton been dropping stuff off at Devon’s for Kaden? It could’ve been business, I guess, but why would Ashton be doing it instead of his father? As far as I knew, Kaden didn’t even really talk to the Sinclairs. At least not in the fancy parties and mutual kissing-up way. Not that we had a lot of fancy parties. Raine and Kaden tried to avoid them as much as possible.
I shook my head and sped up a little so I wouldn’t be late. I had English now, with Mr. Sullivan, the one teacher whose class no one skipped. Not because he was strict or anything, it was more of the opposite, actually. Mr. Sullivan was the youngest teacher at our school, in his early twenties. Everyone loved him because he was laid-back and pretty funny. His good looks helped a bit as well.
I was the last one to arrive in class, but the bell hadn’t rang so I wasn’t really late. Mr. Sullivan shot me a weird look, but didn’t say anything. I took my usual seat in the back corner of the room.
It was easy this period, just copying the notes Mr. Sullivan put on the blackboard. It was pretty awkward for me when we had to do group work.
Fifteen minutes into class, there was a quiet knock before the door opened, which made me wonder why the person at the door had bothered to knock in the first place if they weren’t going to wait for an answer. I got my answer when I looked up to see Jacen Winston. He hadn’t really needed to knock, being part of the Elite. He could’ve slammed open the door and set off a fire alarm and he wouldn’t have gotten in any trouble. And he knew it.
I glanced around and rolled my eyes before turning back to my work. It was the typical reactions the Elite provoked. Admiration, envy, infatuation, longing, a little bit of thinly-veiled contempt, the works. I guess it wasn’t strange to get starry-eyed around the Elite, they were beautiful, and rich, and famous, and oh-so-exclusive, but you would think that everyone would get used to it after three years.
Jacen, or Jace, as most people called him, was the youngest of the Elite. He was a year below us, a junior, and supposedly only in the group because his sister was. “I’m looking for Elena,” he said quietly, almost like he didn’t want to interrupt. I doubt that was true, though. Every eye was glued to him.
The sound of my pencil lead snapping broke through the silence. I calmly let out a silent breath through gritted teeth and continued copying notes down from the board. Very few people, other than the teachers knew who I was. Sure, they might wonder who the girl in the corner is; ignoring the closest thing we had to royalty at Blaire Academy. But no one had ever asked, or, as far as I knew, gone to any other extremes to find out my name.
It was laughable that Jacen Winston, that the Elite, was looking for me. He probably meant the other Elena at our school. The loud, bubbly girl in his grade. I had gone out of my way to avoid the Elite. I had never come in contact with any of them. Until an hour ago, I realized. That had only been a couple minutes, though. But I had told Ashton Sinclair that ‘I had found another secret’ because I had thought he was Devon.
Finally, Mr. Sullivan spoke. “I believe you have the wrong classroom.” His eye flickered to me for a fraction of a second, then he looked back at Jacen. The teachers knew who I was, of course, but they also knew that I wasn’t exactly social. Jacen Winston shook his head, a small smirk curling up his mouth as he watched me deliberately avoid his gaze.