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) (3 page)

BOOK: The Academy - Forgiveness and Permission (Year One, Book Four)
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Prodding him for more information felt rude. I nodded slowly, following him around the corner of the back of the house, beyond the screened in porch. Micah and Tom sat together on the trampoline talking to themselves.

Micah turned his head to us, his blond hair cut evenly around his head at his shoulders. “What?”

“What do you mean what?” Derrick said. “We want a turn.”

“I’m tired. I don’t want to move,” Micah complained, laying back on the black mat of the trampoline.

“Then get off and let us go.” Derrick climbed up on the metal bar frame, hoisting himself up until he stumbled out onto the mat. He tested the springs, bouncing low and moving across to where Micah laid. He curled up, protecting himself by covering his head with his arms as Derrick jumped, bouncing hard next to him.

“Stop,” Micah grumbled.

“You getting on?” Tom asked me. His thin, deeply tanned body shone with sweat. Short, curly locks of hair stuck against his head. He was small for his age, like Micah. I could have mistaken them for being eight or nine instead of twelve if I didn’t know better.

“I guess so,” I said, eyeballing the metal. I was wondering if it was hot to touch.

“Come on,” Derrick said. He bounce-walked back in my direction, holding a hand out. I reached out to him. Derrick used both hands to grip mine. I put a foot on the bar and he hoisted me up.

I hovered on the black mat, warmed by the morning sun. I walked unstable toward the middle, keeping my distance from the others so I wouldn’t hurt them.

Tom got up, launching his body into the air and slamming down against the mat. It was a chain reaction. I started bouncing, slowly and unstable enough that I thought I would fall. I thought the only way to stay upright was to keep bouncing on my feet. Derrick started bouncing harder.

Micah groaned, picking himself up. Soon we were moving in a circle, facing off. Bouncing around.

“Back up for a minute,” Derrick said, holding his hand up toward me but talking to all of us. “I want to try something.”

I moved to the edge of the mat, falling to my knees, putting my hands down to hold myself up. Tom fell next to me, grinning and his breath heavy. I smiled. I liked Tom.

Micah jumped in the way a few times until Derrick barked at him to stop. He fell on his butt on the other side. “Hurry up,” he said.

Derrick bounced hard in the middle a few times, getting higher. I wondered if he was just trying to test out how high he could bounce. I gripped the edge of the mat to not roll into the middle.

Derrick dropped down hard onto the trampoline, launched himself in the air and did a full frontal flip, landing on his knees.

“Yay!” I called out and my voice squeaked a little. I was fully impressed and somewhat jealous.

Tom put fingers in his mouth to whistle, and scrambled to his feet, bounding. “Let me do it.”

Derrick backed off to another side of the trampoline and Tom bounced, though he couldn’t get as high up as Derrick. Tom launched himself, started to twist but stopped halfway, landing on his side.

We all giggled at him.

“You have to keep going,” Derrick said.

“I wasn’t going to make it,” Tom said, getting back up on his feet. “I was going to land on my neck.”

“I want to try,” I said.

“You can’t do it,” Micah said. “You’ll break something.”

“Will you shut up and let her try?” Derrick asked. “It’s her trampoline.”

Micah made a face, and grumbled something I couldn’t hear.

I stepped up, unsure of how to proceed. “How did you do it?” I asked Derrick.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Just bounce really hard and do a tumble roll or something.”

I sucked in some bravery from the air, thinking of the time Silas and North and the others took turns flipping me in Nathan’s pool. It was much easier to flip when Silas was pushing on my feet to get me started.

I moved to the middle of the mat, my knees shaking thanks to the unstableness. I started bouncing, putting my weight into it to try to get higher. I wasn’t sure how high I had to be to try to flip.

“Just try to get around until you can get back on your knees,” Derrick suggested. “If you get scared, try to land on your butt.”

I bounced higher, sucked in a breath, squealed and pushed my front forward on an upward jump, curling into a ball. I broke out when I felt myself going down. I landed on my knees, skidding on the left one a little. It was a messy front flip. I bounced sideways, in a ricochet, ending up on my back.

Derrick and Tom laughed. Micah rolled his eyes.

“That’s hard,” I said, sprawled out on my back.

Micah did, too, looking up at the sky.

Derrick and Tom started bouncing softer around us.

“What do we do now?” Tom asked.

Tom was making me nervous as he was jumping too close to the edge where the springs were. “Tom,” I called to him. “Be careful.”

He grunted, jumping harder as if to show me he could handle it, but a colliding ripple sent him flying backward into Derrick. Derrick crashed hard against the rim of the trampoline, and spilled over the edge, landing on the ground.

“Crap,” Tom called out, turning around and leaning over the edge. “Sorry.”

I scrambled to the edge of the trampoline. Derrick was sprawled on his back on the ground, with his hand on his forehead, his eyes squinted shut, and he laughing.

“Derrick?” I asked in a quiet voice. “Are you okay?”

“I think I broke my head.” He moved his hand to reveal a cut close to his hairline. It didn’t look deep but his blood dripped against his forehead.

I leapt off of the trampoline, kneeling next to him. My heart raced in panic. What was I supposed to do? “Did you hit it hard?” I didn’t know what to ask. Should I call for help? I wondered if I could call Dr. Green.

Derrick laughed, sitting up. “No. I just grazed it.”

“Let’s go inside. We can bandage it up.” I stood, backing away. I thought about offering him a hand to stand up but my body wasn’t willing to do this. With the guys, I was only starting to get used to touching. Other people were still off limits to me.

I was shocked that Derrick was hurt and it felt like partially my fault. I owned the trampoline so I was responsible.

Derrick followed me to the house, with Tom and Micah trailing behind. I led the way through the back door and into the family room. My stomach twisted when I realized I was inviting more guys into the house. I felt myself blushing, gazing at the red-orange sofa, the single small television on top of a coffee table, and a desk and computer in the corner. Spartan was how the Sorenson house functioned.

“Redecorating?” Micah asked.

I raised an eyebrow at him, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Shut up, Micah,” Derrick said. He turned to me. “Can we sit on the couch?”

“Yeah, of course,” I said. Hardly anyone did. I couldn’t remember the last time I vacuumed the thing and was hoping it wasn’t too stale.

I flicked the switch to start up the ceiling fans and disappeared into the kitchen.

Marie, my sister, looked groggy still from just waking up. Her brown hair was tied back into a messy bun and the shorts and t-shirt she wore were a little wrinkled. She’d been sleeping in until well into the afternoon lately and I was surprised to see her up.

She looked longingly into the pantry. “We need more food,” she said. She closed the door and turned to me. “You should call him.”

“His number’s over there,” I motioned to the house phone. There was an index card with phone numbers jotted down sitting next to it. “Just call.”

“You call,” she said.

I rolled my eyes. Maybe this was why our father wanted me to stay. Marie would rather starve than talk to him right now. I really couldn’t blame her. I’d been reluctant to call, too. I didn’t want to hear his voice. I was still too angry.

And I was afraid to hear any news about my stepmother. I was afraid to learn if she’d come home soon.

I found the medical kit and tucked it under my arm. I opened the fridge to collect bottles of water and carried them with me back to the family room. Derrick was on his back on the floor. Tom was on the couch next to Micah. Tom found the remote and surfed through channels. I handed off bottles of water to them.

“You don’t have an Xbox?” Tom asked, and opened the water.

“Girls don’t play Xbox,” Micah said.

Derrick shot him a look. “Will you cut it out? You’re in her house.” He touched his forehead, covering the area that was bleeding.

I knelt next to him. The blood trickled across his scalp.

“What’s wrong with him?” Marie asked from the kitchen. She half hid herself behind the archway wall, looking in after us.

“Cut his head,” I said. I took out the peroxide and started the process of cleaning and covering.

Derrick’s eyes flitted to Marie curiously. His cheeks tinted. I wondered if he was embarrassed that he’d gotten hurt in front of a couple of girls. He didn’t seem this embarrassed when I first saw his cut.

Marie exposed more of herself, putting her arms over her stomach and watching. It caught me off guard. She hadn’t come out much when the other guys were around.

I touched a cotton ball to Derrick’s head and he seethed. “Ouch. I’ll do it.”

I relinquished the materials to him, but I helped apply the bandage since he couldn’t see his own cut. “Why were you laughing when you got hurt?” I asked.

“Would rather laugh than cry,” he said.

I thought it was a good point. I wondered if I could manage to get myself to laugh next time I was hurt. Was it possible? It didn’t seem like a natural reaction.

“It’s just like last week,” Tom said. “He almost broke his arm trying to climb on top of that barn in the middle of the woods. He was lucky I was nearby and heard him signal.”

“Signal?” I asked. “What’s the signal?”

Tom opened his mouth to reply but Micah punched him in the arm. “Don’t tell her. She’ll tell those freaks and then they’ll know, too.”

Derrick rolled his eyes. “She’s not really with them. I mean, she’s not ...” he looked at me.

I understood what he meant, but at the same time I blanched and tilted my head back in surprise that he said it. I wasn’t part of the secret Academy, so he was trying to say because of that reason, I could be trusted to know their secret signal. What hurt was that he noticed something about me that I worried about. I was friends with the Academy guys, but I really wasn’t a part of it. Outsider.

“We’re just friends,” I said “But I mean, we’re friends too, aren’t we? But if you don’t want me to tell them the signal, then I won’t. What’s it for?”

“It’s just an emergency call,” Derrick said. “We made it so if one of us got lost in the back woods or ended up hurt somewhere, you could call and we would hear it. You know, without the others knowing and calling in Kota or Nathan. They’d ride us about going off alone or treat us like we’re idiots.”

“They probably don’t mean to do that,” I said.

“They still do it,” Micah said. “So don’t tell them we have one. And we’ll know who it is if you tell because we haven’t told anyone for a couple of years now.”

“Well tell me,” I said. “If I hear it, I’ll come for you.”

Micah twisted his lips, unsure.

“It sounds like this,” Tom said. He put a hand to his mouth as if using it as a megaphone and made a call that sounded like a mix between a pig’s squeal and a crow. “Suuweeee!”

I tried to duplicate the sound. Derrick repeated it, and I mimicked again.

“Good,” Derrick said. “You’ve got it. Now don’t tell the other guys.”

A secret from the Academy? It made some sense. Not all emergencies required Academy students running to the rescue. I also liked the idea of having my own secret that wasn’t so important. I was kind of glad Derrick and the others thought they could trust me with it. They didn’t even question the idea of me possibly helping. Not that I knew my way around the woods, but I could at least follow a signal and my sense of direction was pretty good.

“So it’s only for emergencies?” I asked.

Derrick shrugged. “Sometimes it’s because I’ve been looking for these two and don’t want to walk all over the place to find them.”

“You need cell phones.” I grinned. A tickling in the back of my brain caught me. “Speaking of which, I should grab mine before the Academy cavalry comes back after me for not answering.”

Derrick laughed.

Micah groaned. “See? She is mixed with them.”

I ran up the stairs for my cell phone, which was in the bed. I loitered in the doorway of my bedroom. I could almost smell the boys’ scents still lingering in the air. It was tempting to disappear into the attic space, where the secret platform held a bean bag chair and their pictures. For the moment, I was really alone, the first time in a week.

A rush of questions threatened to overwhelm me. They were all the questions I kept in the back of my mind when the boys were around and distracting. What would happen if my mother returned? Would she demand my dad take me then? Would my dad say no? If my parents didn’t want me, and Kota didn’t want me to join the Academy, where else could I go?

I’d have to find my own way, with or without the Academy.

BACK TO WORK

––––––––

A
t four a.m. the next Monday, I was jolted awake by another nightmare. I sat up with my heart thundering, feeling Nathan shifting beside me. He half moaned and turned away, drawing up the covers and falling into a deeper sleep.

I eased myself out of the bed, trying not to wake him. I rubbed my hands over my face, to get rid of the images that still haunted my brain. I stifled a groan, realizing North had asked me to call him whenever I had dreams like this. I found my phone in the dark and tiptoed out of the bedroom.

I slipped downstairs in order to be quiet. I parked myself in the family room, sitting on the orange couch. My heart rattled still at the images flashing across my mind. My fingers hovered over the phone, hesitating. It was so early. I wondered about simply waiting until later in the morning or at school.

Part of me knew if I waited, North would be hurt since I’d promised to call when it happened. I sucked in some bravery and pushed North’s app, finding the black button to call him.

BOOK: The Academy - Forgiveness and Permission (Year One, Book Four)
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