Read The Academy - Forgiveness and Permission (Year One, Book Four) Online

Authors: C. L. Stone

Tags: #The Academy, #spies, #spy, #terrorist, #secret agent, #new adult, #coming of age, #menage, #love, #romantic, #spies, #Espionage, #love triangle, #billionaire, #rich, #millionaire, #wealthy

The Academy - Forgiveness and Permission (Year One, Book Four) (29 page)

BOOK: The Academy - Forgiveness and Permission (Year One, Book Four)
11.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I couldn’t imagine when he found the time. It felt like he was always around me and it was impossible that he could have done this. Then when I thought about it, I realized for the past week, the only place I’d seen him was at school. It struck me again at how they never seemed to slow down. Always moving forward.

There was another set of double doors near the end of the hallway on the right. Nathan got to it this time, holding it open and allowing Kota and I to pass through before following.

The inside of the old chapel, or what I remembered of it, was impossible to depict now. More of the mural hung around the walls of what used to be the chapel. There were carved wood booths along the walls. A half wall cut through the center, allowing for more booth tables and splitting the room up so it didn’t feel quite as overwhelming. Tables were lined up between the rows of booths.

Each table held a single glass vase with a rose. The room smelled like the mixture of spices and sweetness of the food, but there was an underlying rose scent in the air as well.

The stage was nearly empty except for a jukebox, currently playing something by Elvis but I couldn’t remember the name of the song. There were a couple of occupied tables but otherwise it was quiet.

A counter ran through the far side of the room, with a set of doors behind it that I knew led to another hallway and the kitchen. At the register was Luke, wearing a white button up shirt, the sleeves rolled up his forearms. His hair was twisted up and in a clip I was positive was mine. He was focused on pushing buttons on the register for the customer standing in front of him.

Kota and Nathan were checking out the continued mural along the wall. I zeroed in on Luke. It felt like a lifetime since the last time I saw him. It was only yesterday at school. It felt longer, still, since he’d kissed my fingers in the attic.

Watching him work without him knowing I was there, it was like peeking into his life. His smile was still as handsome as ever, and his mussed blond locks shifted with a slight breeze from the overhead fans. His strong hands snapped a stapler to piece together receipts, and he passed back a credit card he’d just swiped. His dark eyes sparked as something caught his attention and his gaze fell on me.

I smiled quietly back, unsure what to do and how to approach. I knew him. I knew Luke. This was different, a new place and there were other people around, complete strangers.

Would you be offended if I told you I didn’t want you to come to the diner?

Would he be mad I was here? A finger flitted up to hover over my lower lip and I waited. Would he tell me to leave?

His smile brightened and his dark eyes lit up. “Sang?”

“Hi, Luke,” I said quickly, stepping forward.

He lifted a hand up, motioning around him. “What do you think? Is it like you pictured?”

I smiled, feeling the release of worries that had tarnished my mind a moment ago. I remembered the first time we met and he had me imagining what the diner would be like. “It’s better,” I said, being honest. It wasn’t exactly how I pictured, but how could I have ever imagined this? It was cozy and perfect.

He beamed. He held out his open palm to me over the counter. “Come on,” he said, curling his fingers at me.

He led me down to where there were stools along the counter for customers and paused at one, nodding to it. I understood what he was indicating, and crawled onto the stool, climbing onto it on my knees, and putting my elbows on the counter to hover over it. Luke hovered over the other side, and he beeped my nose with a finger.

Kota and Nathan had followed, sitting on either side of me. Kota drummed his fingers on the counter. “How’s the first day going?”

“Not bad, but it’s just the soft open anyway,” Luke said. “They’re working out the kinks in the kitchen system.”

“Who have you got working?” Nathan asked, glancing around.

“Silas, North and I right now since it’s slow,” Luke said. “And Uncle, of course. The others came in for lunch and some more will start tonight for dinner. They’ll fall into regular shifts tomorrow.”

“When do we start?” Nathan asked.

“Anytime you want,” Luke replied. “You can start now. We’re setting up for tonight.”

I turned to Kota. “Can we?” It stunned me after I’d said it that I’d asked at all. It was as if he was the one that could give me permission to work, and I had to check in with him to do it.

Kota laughed. “You want to work here?”

“Luke said I could.”

“Come on, Peanut.” Nathan slid off of the stool and hooked an arm around my waist to pull me down to the floor with him. “Let’s check out the kitchen.”

Luke showed us the way around the counter and through the swinging double doors that led to the second hallway. This one was painted the same blue as the outside, with white trim and the old carpet had been replaced with dark tile. There were rolling trays and other supplies on shelving along the way.

Silas was standing in front of the shelves, unloading boxes of supplies. He was grunting, mumbling under his breath. When we got close, he looked up, recognition settling into his face and he stopped mumbling. When he spotted me behind Nathan, he smiled down at me. “Hi,
aggele mou

“Hi, Silas.”

“Come to help?”

I nodded.

“We’re showing her the kitchen,” Luke said.

“Probably don’t want to go in there,” he said. “North’s not exactly Prince Charming today.”

Kota curled his fingers over my shoulder, walking with me past Silas. “Sounds like we brought her just in time then.”

Why was he always throwing me at North when he’s grumpy?

When we got to the kitchen, the door had been taken out completely, and the remaining archway widened so three people could pass through without trouble. The sound of pots banging and running water didn’t mask the shouting voices. I couldn’t tell what was being said, because it echoed, but I recognized one of them as North.

I fell behind Nathan, Luke and Kota, letting them enter first and nearly hiding behind them. They stopped in the kitchen’s opening, glancing around. I peeked over Luke’s shoulder.

The kitchen had been completely redone. There was a silver door to the left, and shortly after a row of flat grill stoves. A couple stacks of ovens were at the far side of the room. A huge silver table had been positioned in the middle, with overhanging racks of spatulas and spoons. Opposite the stoves against the far walls were two double sinks beside each other, along with piles of dishes. The tile at our feet had been replaced with the same dark tile that was in the entryway and then covered with black rubber mats.

North stood closer to the window, bent over and mixing something in an extra-large bowl with his bare hands. His dark hair was hidden under a black bandana he’d tied around his forehead. He looked up at us, focusing on Luke, Kota and Nathan so he might not have seen me yet. “What do you all want?” he barked. “Luke get back to work. You can’t leave the dining room.”

“Well, if it isn’t Kota and Nathan,” a voice said from behind the silver table. The boys were in the way and I couldn’t see over them to tell who it was. I caught the outline of a bald head, shaved clean, shining under the lights. “Good. We could use extra hands.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Kota said, stepping forward. “Where do you want us?”

Kota and Nathan moved further into the room, exposing my position. I cowered a little behind Luke, pushing a finger to my lip.

Behind the counter stood a wiry man who may have only been a couple of inches taller than me. His face was heavily lined with age, with a white goatee, the beard long and pointed. His eyebrows were thick, dark, and his eyes matched Luke’s and North’s dark pools. He held a chopping knife in one hand, hovering over a stack of chicken on top of a large wood cutting board. One of his eyebrows arched up, and his thin lips lifted in the corners. “And who, might I ask, is this lovely little bird?”

“Uncle,” Luke said, stepping aside to present me. “This is Sang Sorenson.”

“Ah,” he said, his face sparking with recognition. “You’re Sang. Call me Uncle. All the kids call me that.”

I’d been talked about. I blushed, bowing my head slightly in greeting. “It’s nice to meet you.”

He leaned on the silver table, and started waving his big knife to point at North and Luke and back again. “Tell me something. Which one of my unworthy nephews are you going to end up going out with? Because if they don’t make a move, they’re complete idiots. You’re stunning.”

My mouth fell open, and my cheeks felt like they were on fire. Did he expect an answer or was he joking? My eyes swung from North and Luke, like his knife, silently pleading for help.

North chuffed. “She’s dating Luke,” he said, rolling his eyes at the bowl in front of him. He glanced up at me, his face like granite.

My eyes flared at him. How could he say that? Was he angry with me about last night? Was he so mad that he would make it sound like he was shoving me off on Luke? Not that I disliked Luke, but it was completely awkward and I wondered if he meant it.

Luke dropped an arm around my shoulders. “Yeah, she’s with me.”

I took a quick glance at Kota and Nathan, unsure. They seemed to have expected this, standing aside quietly and curious but not intervening.

The uncle lifted a brow at me expectantly, awaiting confirmation.

Another quick glance at Kota, and he gave an inkling of a nod.

“Yes,” I said, turning back fully to face Uncle. With a shaking hand, I wrapped an arm around Luke’s side. “With Luke.” Internally, I groaned. This was expected, preplanned. So it might not have been North being mad, but something he was forced to say. How could they do this without asking me? So I was supposed to pretend to be Luke’s girlfriend around his uncle?

Uncle nodded his head, grinning. He pointed the tip of the knife toward Luke’s face. “You treat her right, Luke. You let this one slip away, you’ll hear it from me.”

Luke tugged me close by the shoulder, pressing a cheek to my forehead. “She’s not going anywhere,” he said.

I clutched at Luke’s side, still blushing from the attention.

“She wants to get started working here,” Luke said. “Where do we want her?”

Uncle beamed. “What can she do?”

“She can cook,” Luke said.

“She’s not cooking,” North said, snatching up a container and shaking out salt into his mixture.

“We could let her run the counter,” Uncle said. “Or serve tables. She’ll rake in the tips.”

“I think she’d rather work back here,” Luke said in a quiet voice.

My nerves rattled. Luke didn’t want me meeting other Academy members, so he wanted me in the back where I’d avoid meeting people. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to hide me, but I thought maybe I could satisfy him by working in the back for now and building up to work in the front. Besides, I was nervous around new people, too, and I wasn’t sure I could handle serving tables. “I could wash dishes,” I offered. That seemed safe enough.

Uncle shook his head. “Maybe a little bit, but I wouldn’t want to ruin those fingers, and you will if you start washing dishes all the time.” He picked up a piece of chicken, and started chopping it into pieces. “You can be my prep cook. We need to get started on piecing desserts together. Banana strawberry pie, apple cobbler and chocolate cake. Plain and simple. Luke, set her up with chopping fruit and start working on crusts and fillings. Kota run the counter for now. Nathan find some tables to clear and do the dishes.”

The way Uncle relayed orders reminded me a lot of Mr. Blackbourne and Kota. Luke had mentioned other Academy folks might show up. Did that mean Mr. Taylor was part of the Academy? It hadn’t occurred to me before, but now that I was here, it really did make sense. If he was the owner, and he was in the Academy, he’d completely understand if North or the others had to disappear. He’d hire Academy members without question.

Luke had said he wanted to keep me a secret from the Academy. Was Mr. Taylor not a problem?

Nathan and Kota didn’t miss a beat. They were off together back the way we had come from. Luke nudged me toward the big silver door. He opened it to reveal the walk in freezer. “Let’s get what we need.”

The front of the freezer wasn’t as cold as I thought. There were collections of fruit and milk and other supplies that chilled on a shelf. Further in the back and around the side, there were cardboard boxes, but I couldn’t tell what was inside.

Luke found a box of strawberries, bananas and apples. He handed me a few of the boxes and collected some other supplies. When he was done, he nudged me out, kicking the door to the freezer shut behind us.

We put the boxes of fruit down on the silver table. Luke found a knife and a chopping board. He placed them on the silver table. He placed me opposite of where North was stuffing his mixture into a several baking dishes. I finally recognized it as some type of meatloaf.

Luke picked up a strawberry, and chopped off the green bit. “We need them this thin, Sang,” he said, slicing the strawberry. “Bananas, too. The apples, do like half this thin and half into chunks. Do the apples last, though. Start with strawberries.”

I nodded and Luke stepped out of the way. He hovered over me, making me nervous as I picked up a strawberry, cut off the green and started slicing.

When he was satisfied that I was doing it right, he clutched my hip, bringing his lips to my ear. “Perfect,” he whispered. He backed off, winking at me and started sorting the other ingredients he needed on the table next to me.

Uncle caught my eye, letting me know he’d seen Luke getting close. He winked at me, grinning suggestively. He approved, and slightly encouraged this relationship. I felt he hardly knew me, but I remembered he also heard of me before he met me. I wondered how much the guys had told him. Did he know my parents were gone?

I was doing fine with the strawberries, grateful for something to do and excited at the same time. I was working with them! Would I do this all the time? I thought it would be incredible. Luke was there. North, as grumpy as he was, was in front of me and focused. I was thinking once he wasn’t so tired and maybe calmed a little, this would be the best job ever.

BOOK: The Academy - Forgiveness and Permission (Year One, Book Four)
11.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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