Chapter 9: Nexis

Kaitlyn Jarred

I quirk an eyebrow even though I know he is trying to act serious, “You’re an alien?”
“What?” He turns to me, a shocked look on his face. “No, of course not!”
“Sorry, I just thought that’s what you meant,” I shrug and smile, getting a small smile in return.
“As I was saying,” he shoves my shoulder and continues. “I’m not ordinary.” I nod at him to continue, and he takes a deep breath. “I’m not actually from Holland, I’m from Luxemburg. And I’m a Duke.”
Both of my eyebrows raise at hearing this, “A Duke? Are you kidding?”
He sighs, “I wish I was. My house was attacked earlier and we got away but—” his voice catches, but he swallows and continues shakily. “They killed my butler and guardian, Carleton.”
“Oh my, I am so sorry,” I place a hand on his arm and his eyes shone with unshed tears.
“He found out that I had snuck out,” he says, wiping his eyes. “He yelled at me, and I went to bed. That’s the last thing we talked about.”
I squeeze his arm, offering comfort, but silence. There isn’t anything you can say to make it better, other than to be there when it hurts.
“Anyway,” he coughs and continues. “I fled from Luxemburg because my family stumbled upon information that a group called Nexis had been planning to kill us for reasons unknown.”
“I saw something in the news about that,” I say and Nick nods.
“It was a huge incident. My parents are hiding away in another country, but since I have assumed the role of Duke, I am the one more at risk.”
“Is that why you were at the gala?”
“Yes,” he runs his fingers through his hair. “I had some business to attend to, in hopes of keeping my family’s business growing.”
“What are you going to do now?” I ask, leaning my head on his shoulder.
“Not sure,” he whispers, leaning his head on top of mine. “I’m staying a safe house, but I won’t be returning to Whittaker anytime soon.”
“My dad warned me to stay away from you,” I mention and I feel his shift.
“It’s probably a good idea,” he moves to stand as Jonathon and Lucas walk towards us. “I just didn’t want any more secrets between us, Kaitlyn.”
“Thank you for telling me,” I pull him into a hug, listening to his increased heartbeat.
“You’re welcome,” he answers, and we pull away. Jonathon and Nick put their hoods back up on their heads, and with a wave, they walk away.
“What did he want to tell you?” Lucas asks curiously as we start running again.
“A secret,” is my vague answer and Lucas rolls his eyes, but doesn’t push.

Nickolas Parkingsons

We are almost to the car when Jonathon opens his mouth, “You like her, don’t you?”
“She’s a friend, Jon. Friends don’t keep secrets.”
“You do if you want them protected,” Jonathon says as we pull open the doors to the car.
I sigh, “She’ll be alright.”
“She better be,” Jonathon says, pulling from the parking lot. “Or her dad will have your head.”
“Much more than that, I believe.”
The rest of the car ride is full of silence. My heart pounds as I think of Kaitlyn’s head on my shoulder. I am still surprised at how calmly she took in the information about Nexis and myself as a Duke. My phone vibrates and I instinctively smile as it’s from Kaitlyn.
Take care of yourself, cuff-links.
I type back a message telling her not to worry as we pull off the main road to a dirt one. We take it a few miles inward, bouncing along, before reaching the secluded cabin we’re staying in for the time being.
“Hey, you’re back,” Sheridan says, looking up from the card game he’s playing with Marco. “How’s the lover?”
“She’s not my ‘lover’,” I roll my eyes and they murmur a chorus of sure’s. I plop down on the cot that’s serving as my bed and turn to face my three bodyguards. “What now?”
“My contact is trying to find out how Nexis located you so quickly,” Marco says, tossing a card on the discard pile. Jonathon takes a swig from the beer bottle he opens and Sheridan groans at the card.
“When will you be in contact again?” Jonathon asks.
“Soon.”
“What will we do after the fact?” I ask, worried about being on the run for the rest of my life.
Jonathon shrugs, leaning back in his chair, “We might need to leave the country again.”
“The kid doesn’t want to leave, Jon,” Sheridan whispers, not so quietly. “He’s got something here he likes. Miss Kaitlyn,” he teases and I throw a pillow at him. He returns it quickly without missing a beat in the game. “It’s true though, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I admit with a sigh.
“They’ll use her against him,” Marco comments, before turning to stare into my eyes. “Do you want to be responsible for her kidnapping or death?”
I sit up straight, “Of course not! She’s Senator Jarred’s daughter—everyone around her will keep her safe.”
Marco turns back to his card game, “You know Nexis, Nickolas. They won’t stop until they get what they want. No matter the cost.”
I lay back down, staring at the ceiling as I think. Sheridan whines when he loses the card game, and they clean up, getting into bed as well. The light is turned off, but I lie awake, listening to the snores and forest life around me.
My phone vibrates repeatedly and I pick it up to see UNKNOWN flashing across the caller ID. I answer quietly, “Hello?”
“Nick-ie! Where have you been? I missed you at school,” Amanda’s voice comes across the phone.
“How did you get this number?” I ask, my head spinning. If she has such easy access to it, no wonder I’ve been getting those anonymous messages.
“You gave it to me, don’t you remember? The night of the gala?” she says sweetly, and I give in.
“Sure. What are you calling me for?”
“Well, I didn’t see you at school today, but I wanted to ask you if we could go on a date on Sunday night?”
I blink my eyes slowly, “A date?”
“You know, the thing people do when they’re trying to learn more about each other?” she giggles.
I sigh, “Sorry, Amanda, I can’t. I have other plans.”
I can hear her pout, “Alright. Will I see you Monday?”
“Sure,” I answer simply, knowing that I wouldn’t.
“Great! See you then, babe,” she made a kissy noise into the phone and hung up before I could respond.
“Such a weird girl,” I mutter to myself as I lay back down. My phone vibrates again and I go to roll my eyes, thinking it’s Amanda, but the anonymous messenger is at it again.
We didn’t get you this time, but it won’t be long now, Nickolas.
My phone vibrates as an image comes through my phone and I clutch my phone tightly as I stare at the picture.
It’s a picture of Kaitlyn and I dancing at the gala, focused on her face as she smiles up at me.

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