Title: Alive [Prologue + Chapter 1]
Sage Alvi’s world is turned upside-down when she loses her mother to cancer. Now living with a father she barely knows, she’s navigating her way through a new family when she meets Aidan Carrington. He’s her half-brother’s best friend and her worst nightmare. Yet there’s a connection between them she can’t deny, even if he spends most of his time bullying her in school.
They say high school is hard, but this is just ridiculous.
Aidan Carrington woke up with a start. He didn’t have to look at his cell phone to know that it was 11:15am. Thanks to his annoying internal clock, he was up at the same time every morning. Most people would be at work at this time, but he wasn’t most people.
Some mornings when he was drunk enough, he could picture her standing by the door. Sage. His Sage. She would give him a teasing smile; taunt him with one of her usual wisecracks. Often her long, beautiful dark hair would be wet, as if she’d just stepped out of the shower, and she would slowly drop the towel and beckon him to come over.
Today she wasn’t at the door but he was drunk. His head was throbbing with pain, and he was about to get up when a slender hand slid over his chest. He looked at the sharp, manicured nails resting on him and hoped they hadn’t made too many scratches on his back. He turned to look at the woman beside him. She was fast asleep, her red hair partially covering her face. He had no idea who she was.
Pushing himself off the bed, he almost threw up but managed to make it to the bathroom without retching. Lately he seemed to have horrible hangovers every time he went on a drinking binge, and today was no exception. He paid his respects to the porcelain gods for several minutes before stepping into the shower.
Later as Aidan glanced at his reflection in the mirror, he realized he had a black eye – which meant he had probably been n some sort of altercation last night. Too bad he couldn’t remember it, but thank God for the internet. He wouldn’t know what the hell he had done half the time if it weren’t for the paparazzi following him around and snapping pictures of him. By now, most of the local gossip blogs had probably already posted what happened along with pictures of him next to his infamous father. Not only would they write about their striking physical resemblance (they were both tall and possessed a rugged physique) but would also discuss their similar destructive, violent personalities ad nausem. Aidan had learned long ago to ignore the false comparisons; he was nothing like that bastard, nothing. As for his looks, he had his mother’s hazel eyes which meant he hadn’t inherited everything from his father.
Wrapping a towel around his waist, he walked out of the bathroom and over to the closet to grab some clothes. The floor creaked, waking up sleeping beauty, but he ignored the soft moan that drifted into his ears. Slipping a t-shirt over his head, he dropped the towel and pulled on a pair of boxers and jeans.
Turning around, he caught his first glimpse of her face. She was hot. Without the effects of liquor, however, she did nothing for him. His expensive sheets were wrapped around her tight body, and she blushed under his gaze as he sauntered towards her. Typical. He knew the effect his good looks had on women. She wasn’t any different.
When he knelt on the bed, she puckered her lips in expectation of a kiss. Instead he leaned over her to grab the clothes that were strewn behind her and handed them to her. From the stunned expression on her face, it was obvious she hadn’t expected that.
Shortly after, Aidan was downstairs and pouring himself a cup of coffee as the redhead came stomping down the stairs. She shot him a dirty look; he flashed a smile and tipped his cup at her.
“You’re an asshole, you know that?” she bit out, slipping into her shoes.
“I’m sorry you feel that way.” Aidan smirked at her earth-shattering deduction. “What was your name again?”
She walked to the door but not before throwing one last parting shot at him. “You really are your father’s son, aren’t you?”
His eyes turned cold; she took a prudent step back and left in a hurry. He figured she’d sell her story to some tabloid, detailing their night together. Maybe he’d give it a read, considering he couldn’t remember most of it anyway.
He was taking a bite of his toast when a blonde on the TV screen caught his attention. She was beautiful, and attempting to seduce her partner in a bathroom. His mind flashed back to a similar incident with Sage from high school. She had sent him a text earlier that day, asking him to meet her in the bathroom on the third level. It was hardly ever used, but of course the moment they started making out they were interrupted by a freshman walking in on them. He remembered barking at her to get out while Sage buried her face in his chest with embarrassment. Later, rumors of him being serviced by some mystery chick had spread like wildfire through school. His friends had begged to know who the girl was. He’d said nothing.
He traced the thin chain around his neck, rubbing the infinity pendant between his fingers. No longer a symbol of their everlasting love, it was something he touched in anger when he thought of Sage. It was the only thing of hers that still remained with him, the last possession which still connected them together as he’d burned everything else a long time ago.
When he did find Sage again, and he would no matter how long it took, he planned to destroy her along with the pendant.
Eight years earlier
Sage Alvi’s first day in Belleville Private Academy was going exactly as expected – long, horrible, and the people were as snotty as she had dreaded. Of course the one thing she never anticipated were racial slurs about her Arab ethnicity. At first she didn’t realise high school Barbie was talking to her when she whispered “terrorist”, but after the third utterance of the ever imaginative “raghead” by another one of her half-sister’s friends, Sage realised it was all for her benefit. Ah, surprises. Her mom did say life was full of them, but Sage didn’t think this was what Layal had had in mind.
The bell rang, signaling the beginning of lunch, just in time to distract her from dwelling on memories of her mom. Sage followed the rest of the students out of the algebra class and headed to her locker. Shortly after, she was standing outside, holding a lunch tray in her hands. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and she had to admit there was something to be said for the California weather after all. Eating outdoors in the middle of January was not really an option in Chicago, unless she wanted to freeze her ass off. Then again, she would happily sit through the most frigid of winters if it meant she could have her old life back – her home, her friends, hermom.
Sage realised the tall, blonde jock-type was talking to her when he gestured her to come closer. She’d seen him around the house this past week, hanging out with Theo, her half-brother, and snickering whenever she passed by them. Aidan. That was his name. She’d actually wondered if there was something going on between the two because he’d been staying in Theo’s room for a few days and had only left to come to school this morning.
She knew it would be smarter to ignore them, especially since Cat was sitting next to him. If anyone hated their current situation more than Sage, it was her half-sister, and Cat had expressed her displeasure thus far by being a complete bitch to her. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they were surrounded by other students including the brunette who had called her terrorist that first time. Ignoring her instincts to stay put (she wasn’t a coward!), she steeled herself and walked towards them.
“So you’re the charity case the Woods adopted,” Aidan said, sneering, while the group around him snickered.
“Are you pissed you didn’t make the cut?”
“I’m not the one mooching off of strangers.”
“Says the loser who hasn’t gone home in three days.”
“Aidan has more of a right to be there than you,” Cat piped up.
“Really? You sure about that?” Sage knew Cat wouldn’t dare say anything else lest Sage were to “accidentally” let the truth slip about their biological relationship. Their father, Thomas Woods, had asked Sage not to reveal to anyone outside their immediate family that she was his illegitimate child, at least not yet. He said he needed more time to process her sudden appearance in his life before it was made public, but in the last week Sage realised Thomas had aspirations for a political career, which meant an illegitimate daughter with an Arab partner who had been significantly younger than him wouldn’t exactly be great for his campaign. Frankly, she didn’t really care if he claimed her as his own; she had been perfectly fine without a father for sixteen years.
Aidan snapped his fingers to capture Sage’s attention, and she leveled him with a cold stare. This guy was starting to irritate her, and that didn’t bode well for either of them.
“Don’t talk to Cat. Talk to me.”
“But neither of you seem very interesting.”
“You should be kissing her ass for allowing you stay with her.”
“Oh, is that what you do? Kiss Theo’s ass?”
An awkward silence fell over the group. They weren’t expecting her to fight back, and now most of them appeared uncomfortable. Except for Aidan who was smirking and seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Jealous?” he taunted.
“Curiosity killed the cat. Haven’t you heard?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Good thing I’m a dog person.”
“Makes sense. Bitches love other bitches.”
“That must be why you’re trying to impress me.”
“Oh, is that what you think I’m doing?”
He leaned forward, his hazel eyes focused intently on her, and she sensed the anger simmering underneath the insincere smile. “You’re not my type. You’re too chunky for my taste.”
“And you’re too much of an asshole for mine.”
“Your mom, on the other hand. Man, she was a hot piece of ass.”
She froze, finding it difficult to breathe through the sea of rage that washed over her. How dare he talk about her mom like that?
“Cat showed me a picture of hers and I’ve been jerking off-”
“Shut the fuck up.”
The gleam in his eyes sharpened now that he’d finally found her weakness. It was a mistake on her part to reveal it, but she didn’t care.
“I am sorry that she’s dead. Especially since I didn’t get a chance to fuck her.”
Her anger was red-hot and blinding, allowing her instincts to take over, and she hurled her tray at Aidan. Her sandwich went flying past him but the bottle of orange juice hit him just above the eye before crashing down on the bench and breaking into pieces, the juice dripping all over his pants.
The choruses of “what is going on here?”, “that psychotic bitch”, and the hysterical screaming blended into a huge blur for her. The only thing she was focused on was Aidan and the fucking smirk on his face as he rubbed his bruise.
Sage sat outside Principal Smith’s office, waiting for Thomas Woods to show up. After the altercation at lunch, Smith had phoned her father right away as the “three of them needed to have a discussion about her disruptive behaviour if she was going to continue to attend Belleville Academy”. Considering how disastrous her morning had been, she was hoping they would simply expel her. Maybe then Thomas would allow her to return to Chicago. She could stay with a friend temporarily or maybe even rent a small apartment near her old high school. Her father was apparently wealthy (ironic considering how much she and her mom had always struggled with money), and she hoped he wouldn’t mind supporting her until she was able to fend for herself. She didn’t really care where she went, as long as it was far away from here. She hated everything about this place, from the new family that seemed to hold her personally responsible for her father’s extramarital affair, to this pretentious hellhole of a school where people hid their scorn and prejudices behind a veneer of politeness.
Thomas appeared at the office door, dressed in a designer suit that probably cost more than her entire wardrobe. Up until six weeks ago she had believed her father was dead but here he was, with the same features she possessed and had alwayswondered about. This whole thing still felt strange to her, like she was caught up in a nightmare that refused to end. Unfortunately it wasn’t a dream, not at all. It was a horrible reality in which she had lost her mother to pancreatic cancer and had gained a stranger as a father. She still hadn’t come to terms with his presence in her life or the fact he was Caucasian. Although more fair-skinned than her mother, she’d inherited Layal’s silky dark hair and brown eyes and had always identified herself as an Arab-American. Layal had taught her to speak Arabic from an early age, and it was how they often communicated with each other. Thanks to conservative grandparents who had condemned and rejected her mom for becoming pregnant while unwed, Sage had never known any family other than Layal. They had always shared a close bond with each other.
Now she was gone, and Sage had no one left in this world she loved.
“Is it true? Did you attack another student at lunch?” Thomas asked, his eyebrows furrowing with disapproval as he interrogated her.
“He said some horrible things about mom. I wasn’t going to let him get away with it.”
For a second his features softened, and she wondered if there was an actual personality hidden underneath that cold exterior. Her mom had been an amazing, vibrant, loving person but Sage couldn’t understand what had attracted Layal to the man in front of her. Yes, he was rich and some would call him handsome, but he seemed so blank and lifeless to her.
“Maybe you misunderstood.”
“I doubt it.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. Just because he made you upset doesn’t mean you resort to violent retaliation. That’s not how we do things here, Sage. Maybe all of us can sit down and talk it out.”
She rolled her eyes, amazed at his gullible nature. Did he really think a discussion was going to solve this? “I think you’re giving that jackass too much credit.”
“Please don’t be vulgar.”
The secretary must have informed Principal Smith when Thomas came in because a second later he strode out of his office and extended his hand to shake Thomas’.
“Mr. Woods, I’m sorry we had to meet again under these circumstances but as you are Ms. Alvi’s legal guardian-“
“Cut the dog and pony show and tell me how we can fix things.”
“Alright, why don’t the three of us go into my office?”
“I’d rather not involve Sage. She can wait here for us.”
She watched as the two men disappeared into the office and shut the door behind them. It amazed her how Thomas could be this condescending and still have the principal eating out of his hand. Did money and status really yield this much power? It was frightening, really.
Being expelled from this hellhole was obviously not going to happen if Thomas had anything to do with it. Which meant she was stuck here, in this ignorant place where she’d encountered more prejudices than she had in her entire time in McKinnon High. Her previous high school did not have the best reputation – it was the only school in a neighbourhood mostly known for crime and violence – but at least everyone was tolerant of each other’s differences. Unlike here.
Exhaling a resigned sigh, she leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes.
The image of her mom popped into her head, and Sage had to force herself to think of Layal during happier times, before the cancer had destroyed her. Her mom had been exotically gorgeous, and had always garnered a lot of attention from others. Sage remembered often wishing that she looked like her mom and complaining to her about it. Layal would simply smile and assure Sage she was beautiful. Sage knew it had been a lie, after all that was what moms were supposed to say, but she didn’t care. It made her feel great anyway.
Losing her mom had left a deep, hollow ache in her heart which refused to subside, yet Sage couldn’t bring herself to cry. She hadn’t shed any tears when she discovered Layal would be taken from her thanks to the cancer that had been diagnosed too late, or when her mother had lain in her deathbed in hospice care and made Sage promise to accept her father into her life. She hadn’t even cried during the funeral service that Sage had had to plan after Layal passed away. She felt nothing but an emptiness and she didn’t know why.
The office door opened and Thomas strode out, looking less frustrated than he had going in.
“Mr. Smith and I discussed it and I explained to him your side of things. He understands you’re going through a difficult phase right now and today’s incident was an isolated one.”
“Yeah well, I can’t promise to control my temper if that jackass insults mom again.”
“You don’t need to worry. I’ll speak to Aidan myself. Why don’t you grab your things and I’ll drive you home?”
The thought of being alone was a lot more appealing than spending it here amongst these horrible people, and she readily agreed.
Shortly after, in the privacy of the pool house that Thomas and his wife, Stacey, had designated as her space, she collapsed back onto the bed and pondered her current situation. Stacey clearly despised her and while Sage understood how difficult this must have been for her, she didn’t appreciate that both Stacey and Cat seemed to hold her responsible for Thomas’s infidelity. At first, Sage had worried she would be forced to deal with them every day during dinner, but after moving in two weeks ago she realised the Woods family didn’t really spend any time with each other. That in itself was strange to her. While Layal hadn’t always had her evenings off on account of the two jobs she held down, her mom ensured they spent a lot of quality time together.
Things were very different here, and despite her pessimistic attitude, Sage still had to give this living arrangement a shot. After all, it’s what she had promised her mom.
To be continued…
Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.
A/N – If all goes according to plan, this will be the second novel I publish 🙂 I wrote this five years ago and I think a lot of the problems Sage faces, unfortunately, is very relevant today. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to drop me a comment.