Authors: Trevion Burns
Copyright © Trevion Michelle Burns
All rights reserved. The reproduction, transmission or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Lila James threw the door of her apartment open violently and watched as it slammed against the wall--
flying back at her so quickly she had to jump out of the way. The door closed itself and she locked it dramatically, groaning in fury as she did. Stomping through her living room, she ripped her purse off of her shoulder and was good and ready to throw it at the nearest wall, but she stopped in mid step at the sight in her dining room.
Seventeen year old Chase Almeida was smiling up at her from his place at her dining room table, surrounded by open books and scattered pieces of paper.
The calculator that glowed with random numbers told her that he was, once again, struggling with his Calculus II homework. His green eyes were sleepy and dirty blonde hair tousled in a way that indicated he must have been tugging at it with the kind of frustration only Calculus could inspire.
e whispered, taking in the look of surprise on her face. “You look different,” he acknowledged, his gaze lingering on the expansive dip at the front of her dress. His heart immediately sped up and he forced himself to look down at the letter he held, the calluses on his hands, anything but her. He wondered if there would ever be a day that he didn’t have a strong reaction to Lila. It was like she was in his bones. The thought of her being on a date made him physically ill, and he found himself lost for a moment, frowning down at the paper.
“Bad date?” h
e asked, fighting not to smile in delight.
Lila’s heels clicked against the tile floor as she dropped the purs
e from her shoulder. “The worst,” she mumbled, poking her lip out sadly.
She wasn’t surprised to find Chase in her apartment.
He’d had a copy of her key since she’d started tutoring him five years ago. He’d only been thirteen back then, but his older brother and primary guardian, Jack Almeida, had a charming little habit of forgetting that he existed. Jack was partner at a top law firm, so the beautiful brownstone in Manhattan that he shared with his brother was almost always empty. Lila had never been able to sleep well knowing that Chase was there alone. She lived right down the street from his private school and was happy to have him over whenever he needed. Over the years she’d almost come to expect his face when she came home, even look forward to it.
Tonight was different.
She’d told Chase that she was going on a date and it was now well past midnight. Yet there he was, sitting at her dining room table, which he’d grown too long for. Over the years, he’d nearly transformed before her eyes. Once upon a time he reached just the bottom of her chin. Now he towered over her, so much so that it was a struggle sometimes just to look up at him.
“I can’t believe you waited up
for me, Chase. It’s nearly 2am. Don’t you have your Calc test in the morning?”
d to make sure you were okay,” he said into his hands, flipping the letter between his fingers expertly. “And…” he finally found the courage to gaze up at her and saw her eyes riveted to the letter. Her eyes had grown wide on her chocolate face, so big and beautifully brown. A small smile lit up his face. He fought to hide it.
Lila’s eyes scanned the words “Harvard University” written beautifully across the letter in Chase’s hand and lost her breath.
Before she knew it, she was running to the table and snatching it out of his hands.
“Oh my god,” s
he breathed, fingering the dove necklace around her neck as her gaze jumped between him and the letter. “It came.”
He nodded, the smile on his face now so wide he glowed. “I wanted to wait for you to open it with me. Or actually, for me. I don’t think I have the stomach.”
She held the letter to her chest, as if she were afraid it would vanish into thin air. “Are you sure?”
I’m opening it,” she warned.
He watched her adoringly.
He almost leapt out of his seat. “Go,” he cried.
Lila jumped, quickly composed herself and began tearing it open. Her stomach rumbled. He had to get it.
He just had to. The thought of how heartbroken she knew Chase would be if Harvard didn’t take him made her anxious in a way she could hardly understand.
“Dear Mr. Chase Almeida…”
Her eyes scanned the letter frantically and her voice rose exponentially as she continued. “We are pleased to inform you—“
“No!” He couldn’t believe it.
“Yes,” she shrieked. “Chase, you did it—“
He didn’t let her finish. With a scream that shook the walls Chase leapt from his chair and wrapped Lila in his arms.
She yelped as he lifted her feet clear off the floor, boisterous laughter escaping her lips as he spun her around. She marveled at his strength, and wondered when in the last five years he’d grown into such a man. One who could lift her big ass like it was nothing. He’d been just thirteen years old when they’d first come into each other’s lives. Lila finally understood what parents meant when they gazed at their children and marveled at how time flies. Time had certainly flown. Chase was a man now-- A brilliant man, who’d just been accepted into one of the most important institutions in the country. She’d never been more proud of anyone or anything. Eventually he lowered her back to the ground but his arms remained wrapped around her tightly, his head buried in the crook of her neck. That was when Lila realized that Chase was not only a man now, but a friend.
“I never coul
d have done this without you,” he breathed. “Not ever.” Finally, he pulled away taking a piece of her long black hair between his fingers and studying it with content.
“Let’s celebrate,” h
e declared, his eyes meeting hers.
Lila felt th
e grip he had on her waist and allowed him to tangle his fingers in her hair before stepping away from him. “I wish I could, but I’ve got a lot of paperwork to catch up on. Principal White has been down my neck all week about all the schedule change requests that are coming in. The parents are all freaking out that their kids won’t get into the AP classes.” She rolled her eyes.
em,” Chase declared.
Before he could continue, he heard the sound of a thunderously loud engine coming from outside Lila
’s apartment. Any hint of happiness in his face immediately disappeared. He walked into the living room and past her, pushing the window blinds open with two fingers and cursing under his breath when he saw his older brother’s monstrous SUV pulling into the only handicap parking spot.
e muttered, releasing the blind noisily. “Jack’s here.”
a was just as excited about his brother’s arrival as Chase was. “So I heard,” she dryly responded.
Jack’s car made more noise than she was aware a car could legally make, so his presence was always known before he was actually present.
She figured it was one of the many lawyer tactics he’d picked up in the five years he’d been working at one of the most prestigious firms in Manhattan.
Chase continued to look out of her blinds, frowning. “Have you ever noticed that random blue truck parked on the other side of the street?
With the weird guy?”
“No, what truck?”
“It’s been there for the last few days. And that guy is always in there. I don’t know…” He shrugged. “Just seems weird.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing.” Seconds later they heard feet stomping up the stairs of her apartment building heavily, nearly shaking the walls.
Here we go, Lila thought quietly. “Why don’t you go gather your things, Chase.” She wanted to be sure that Jack was leaving her house just as soon as he got what he wanted… his little brother.
Chase reluctantly made his way towards his book bag just as Jack started banging on the door like the place was on fire.
As Lila made her way to the door she saw Chase hesitate, as if he wanted to get in line behind her to battle his big brother, but she shot him a look that had him back to packing his bags in seconds. At the sight of this, she turned back to the door. She’d been dealing with Jack just as long as she had Chase, and she knew how to handle him.
Swinging the door open she planted a hand on her hip and attempted to smile at him. There he stood, just as devastatingly tall and long as his younger brother.
Unlike Chase, Jack’s hair was dark brown, almost black, and made his deep set brown eyes leap right from his face. Lila had seen first-hand just how many prisoners those eyes of his had taken, and she had no plans of adding her name to the list of women who’d fallen hard for that face of his. Handsome bastard. She knew him too well. Add in the athletic body and the flawless Armani suit tailored to fit it just right and he was an absolute picture. She couldn’t deny he was gorgeous.
“Good evening, Jack.”
“I think you mean good morning,” Jack said in that smooth, angry voice of his. He dismissed her smile, her greeting, her in general, and glanced past her into the house. “I believe you have something of mine.”
“I believe I do,” s
he agreed. “He’s just packing his bags.”
Jack studied her for only a moment.
He knew how angry his younger brother became when anyone rose their voice to Lila, so he whispered his next sentence, a frown covering his face. “What the hell is he doing here, Lila? It’s 2am.”
Her heart rate began to pick up
, the way it always did when Jack arrived. “I went on a date tonight. He was here when I got back.”
“He has a home.”
“Apparently he feels differently,” she countered.
“Okay.” Jack sucked on his teeth and stepped away from the door, nodding his head towards the parking lot.
“Outside.” He turned his back to her and when he didn’t hear the sound of her front door closing he turned back to face her, eyebrows raised and primed for battle. “Now.” His brown eyes widened, gleaming a brilliant anger under her porch light.
She didn’t budge. “You must have forgotten where you are. I’m not one of your lemmings back at the law office, Jack.
You can’t come to my home and order me around like you own the place. Who the hell do you think you are?”
Same old Lila. The cringe that took over his face was lethal. “I’m the man who pays your bills.”
“And I’m doing exactly what you pay me for, keeping an eye on Chase while you work yourself stupid at that silly law firm of yours.”
He held up a finger. “No, I don’t pay you to watch over him, I pay you to tutor him! I
to pay you to watch over him. You know… back when he was twelve years old? He’s seventeen now, eighteen this weekend. He could run a half marathon with you strapped to his back. Call me crazy, but I don’t recon he needs a whole lot of watching over anymore.” When she didn’t respond, he charged on, zeroing in on her until her back was pressed against her front door, which she’d eased quietly shut.
Jack watched her eyes fall to her feet as he leaned into her, not missing the slight hint of that shampoo she always used.
The delightful scent only egged him on. “I think we both know that the relationship you have with him passed the inappropriate turnpike a long time ago, but if I do anything about it he’ll have my head. Don’t play the fool with me.” He didn’t know when he’d begun to raise his voice and had to take a step away from her to calm himself down.
Lila sputtered as she stared down at her feet, unable to argue.
As usual, Jack was right. The lawyer in him wouldn’t have it any other way. Her relationship with Chase
inappropriate, especially considering that she was his guidance counselor at school. The fact that he was even in her apartment right now would be gravely frowned upon by the administration and the parents at the school, all of whom loved to gossip. She just couldn’t shake Chase. She couldn’t deny him when he showed up at her apartment door with his backpack on his arm just needing a friend. An ear. So she’d let him in, time and time, again. At the end of the day he was nearly ten years her junior, a student, and she would never cross that line with him. Not ever. She had a distinct urge to tell Jack all of this, but bit her tongue.
Jack hated that she wasn’t responding to him.
His heart was racing now, ready for battle, and the fact that she seemed to be surrendering so easily only riled him up more. It wasn’t like her, at all, to back down from a fight. The fact that she was backing down from this one made his blood pressure rise.
Was he right about Lila and Chase? Was their relationship more than just student/counselor? Jack had no way of knowing for sure, with all the time the law firm took from his life they could have been taking mini vacations to Hawaii bi-annually and he would have never had a clue.
He loved his brother, he worked hard for him, and at the end of the day he ached to please him, but he just couldn’t do both. He couldn’t be a lawyer and show his brother the attention he needed all at the same time. Attention didn’t put food on the table--it certainly wouldn’t pay for any of the prestigious universities he knew Chase had applied to, so Jack was doing what he had to do.