Ungifted, page 1
by Kelly Oram
Also by Kelly Oram
Being Jamie Baker
More Than Jamie Baker
V is for Virgin
The Avery Shaw Experiment
Chameleon (Supernaturals #1)
Published by Bluefields Creative
Copyright © 2013 by Kelly Oram
Edited by Jennifer Henkes (www.literallyjen.com)
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
“And that’s why Alan St. Claire is the man to vote for in this election.” Luke Williams looked down from the podium, scanning the audience until his eyes found mine. He smirked as he added, “It’s just too bad his daughter is such a disgrace to the family name.”
The principal shooed Luke off the stage with a disapproving look, but the whole auditorium still erupted into laughter.
“I knew I should have skipped school today,” I whispered to Cynthia, my best friend.
The presidential election was coming up soon, and here in Washington, D.C., high schools like to get a little caught up in the race. Atherton Prep Academy was the worst of them all, and today was the school debate. Because of my dad, I’d been given the honor of kicking off the mock election with the first vote and asked to give my own personal insight into this year’s candidates.
Unfortunately, Luke was right about me. I don’t exactly take after my father. I’m not so good with being the center of attention, and I’m even worse with having the attention of my classmates—mainly because they all despise me.
“Could be worse,” Cynthia whispered back. “The crowd could be chanting your nickname right now.”
“Give them time,” I said grimly. “I’m not on stage yet.”
“So, win the election and start dating a rock star. That’ll shut ’em up. Kyle Hamilton will be coming to D.C. on tour soon, and I hear he has a thing for sweet, young virgins.”
“Could you imagine?” I laughed at the thought of me dating a rock star and smiled at my best friend.
Cynthia was officially the only person in the world who genuinely cared about me. She stood by my side no matter how much I was tormented, even though she was popular, athletic, and beautiful. She always stuck up for me and never let the crap I had to deal with get me down. She refused to let me sulk, and I loved her for that.
I squeezed her hand. “If Dad wins, I’m so taking you for a ride on Air Force One.”
“And now,” Principal Epps announced, shooting an overly enthusiastic smile in my direction, “it will be our rare privilege to get an insider’s perspective into this election before we cast our votes. Let’s give a respectful round of applause for Grace St. Claire.”
The crowd erupted into wild cheers, making Principal Epps beam with pride. I guess he missed the sarcasm and mockery in the whistles and catcalls.
Cynthia nudged me. “I already scanned the rafters for pig blood, so just don’t trip on the stairs and you’ll be fine,” she teased as I stood up.
I took Cynthia’s advice literally and carefully made my way onto the stage since I’m not exactly good with stairs, either. I made it all the way to the podium in the center of the stage before I heard Cynthia scream my name and someone else shout “Look out!”
I was tackled and knocked aside just in time to not be squashed to death by a giant stage light that had chosen that particular moment to come crashing down from the ceiling. When I opened my eyes to see who my rescuer was, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see a pair of fierce blue eyes.
Of course it was Ethan Dunn. Who else in the entire school could I have been more humiliated in front of? In the six years I’ve been attending Atherton Prep Academy, Ethan has come to my rescue more times than Lancelot probably saved Guinevere. Whenever I fall, he’s there to help me up. If someone’s taking my stuff or calling me my wonderful nickname, he’s telling them to stop.
Once he even offered to be my partner in health class. It was that project where we had to take the eggs home as if they were our babies. No one wanted to be my fake husband because they all assumed I’d kill our child. As it turned out, I did kill our baby. Four times. I set a new school record.
“Thank you,” I said, my voice still shaking from fear.
“Just stay down for a minute,” Ethan whispered. His intensity confused me. He looked really angry for some reason. Murderous, even. “I mean it, Grace. Don’t move!”
Ethan jumped up off me and started scanning the crowd as if he expected to find an attacker in the audience. It was just my luck, too, really. Newton seemed to have written his laws with me in mind, because everything bad that can happen always does when I’m involved.
Ignoring Ethan’s warning, I picked myself up and turned to face my hysterical principal. When I saw the mess on the stage and realized that the hole in the floor had almost been me, I had to admit that Ethan had literally just saved my life. That light really would have killed me. I instinctively took a step back from the sight, and, in true Gracie St. Claire fashion, stepped right off the front of the stage, crashing backward into the orchestra pit below me.
This time when I opened my eyes, lying on my back amidst the empty chairs and music stands, I looked up into the amused face of my best friend. “Do you ever find it ironic that your name is Grace?” she asked.
“Shut up!” I scolded, but I was laughing, too. “Not all of us can be as naturally coordinated as you.”
“True, but most people can at least walk without tripping over their own feet. Or, you know, backing off a stage.”
I rolled my eyes and cocked my head to the side, listening. Sure enough, the whole student body was now, in fact, chanting my oh-so-wonderful nickname as if they were at a sporting event and I were the home team. “Dis-grace! Dis-grace! Dis-grace!”
“I told you they just needed time.”
Cynthia laughed and helped me to my feet.
I couldn’t stop the groan that escaped me. I’d fallen so hard this time that every part of my body hurt. I gasped when I put weight on my right foot. “Oh, man.”
“Bad. I don’t think I can walk.”
Cynthia pulled my arm over her shoulders. “Look at the bright side,” she said as she helped me hobble into a chair. “This uptight school doesn’t allow cell phones, so you won’t be the next YouTube sensation.”
Thank heaven for small miracles.
“Grace, you okay?” Ethan had finally caught up to me.
I sighed. “I’m fine.”
Pathetic. That’s what Ethan thought of me.
“Your ankle is already black and blue,” Ethan argued.
“She can’t walk on it,” Cynthia said. “It might be broken this time.”
I glared at Cynthia. Stupid traitor. She knows I hate it every time Ethan plays the white knight to my damsel in distress, but she’s got this crazy, romantic notion that he does it because he’s secretly in love with me. I’m pretty sure it’s more a case of pity.
“All right,” he said, grinning at me. “Let’s take a look.”
Ethan took my foot into his lap and gently pulled off my shoe. It hurt so badly I almost cried out. “Yup, definitely broken,” he said, examining the amount of swelling already present.
“Her ankle’s broken,” Ethan replied, causing all the blood to drain from Principal Epps’s face. “Don’t worry; I’ll get her to the nurse.” Without warning he scooped me into his arms, taking care to jostle my foot as little as possible.
“Yes, yes, thank you, Mr. Dunn. I’ll catch up as soon as I can.”
Mr. Epps apologized to me and then turned back to the faculty, spouting orders to “get students back to their classrooms” and for someone to “figure out what happened with the fallen stage light.”
“You sure you’re okay, Gracie?” Cynthia asked, her eyes sparkling with delight because of the way I was cradled in Ethan’s arms.
“She’ll be fine, Cynthia,” Ethan answered for me. “I’ll take care of her.”
Cynthia’s eyes got so big that I blushed. “I’ll text you later!” I called to Cynthia over Ethan’s shoulder as he carted me off to the nurse’s office.
. . . . .
It was a long walk from the auditorium to the nurse’s office. Atherton is this way exclusive prep school in Washington, D.C., for what they call “high profile” kids. The rich and famous, basically—kids who need a little privacy or a little extra security. I’m not sure who Ethan’s parents are to have gotten him sentenced to this hellhole, but my dad transferred me here from public school when he became the senator of Virginia.
It’s supposed to be this amazing, glamorous, ritzy school, and it is—state-of-the-art everything—but if you ask me, it’s more like a crazy combination of the scariest Catholic school you can imagine and prison. I’m not kidding; the crusty old nuns and the secret service-looking bodyguards work together to make it the least fun place in existence.
So, with that wonderful intro, you can only imagine what the student populace is like. If you’re thinking a bunch of over-privileged, self-centered snobs who put on the mask of perfection for their parents, but in truth are most likely into more bad stuff than the inner city gangs, then you’d be correct.
Ethan Dunn is probably the biggest culprit of them all, too. I’ve never been able to figure out what his deal is, but he plays the role of perfection way too well. He seems more straight-laced than the Brady Bunch, gets straight A’s, and is one of the most sought-after guys in school.
And I’m not even going to get into how freaking hot he is. Okay, that’s a lie. I can’t not talk about Ethan’s looks. I’m sorry, but nobody should be as beautiful as he is. It’s disgusting. He’s got this sort of unearthly perfection about him. He’s over six feet tall and is slender but really well defined. He has a perfect-teeth-and-killer-smile combo, big blue eyes rimmed with lashes girls would kill for, and hair so blond it practically glows in the sunlight. I’d even put money on the highlights being natural.
Add all that to him being my own personal superhero, and you’d think I’d be in love with him, right? This is the part where I should call him perfect and say that even though he is all of these amazing things, that somehow he’s miraculously still the nicest guy on the planet and totally crushworthy. Well, unfortunately my life is not a teen romance novel. Ethan Dunn is no Edward Cullen. He’s quite the arrogant prick, actually. And not in an endearing Jace Wayland kind of way.
I can’t stand the guy. Every time he comes to my rescue, I want to crawl into a hole and die. Today was no exception. Unfortunately, my time with him seemed as if it would never end. He’d managed to finagle his way into escorting me to the hospital since my dad was in New York and couldn’t make it right away. I didn’t understand his desire to come, but he’d put his foot down so strongly that the nurse called his mother and got permission.
“So, that was weird today,” I said, hoping to break the tension. “The light just falling like that. I wonder what happened.”
Ethan stiffened. When he didn’t say anything, I searched for something else to fill the silence. “How did you get up on stage so fast, anyway? Not that I’m not grateful you were there.”
Ethan seemed startled by my question, but he quickly plastered a smirk on his ridiculously beautiful face. “I was standing right by the stairs. There was just something about the idea of you and a stage in front of the whole school that didn’t seem like the best idea.”
His smile was playful, but I don’t think he was kidding. “I guess it’s a good thing I’m so predictable,” I said, gritting my teeth.
The worst thing about this torture was that I couldn’t stop myself from blushing. I had a whole mouthful of things I wanted to say to him, but another thing I’m not very good at? Confrontation. Besides, he was technically right—even if he was being a jerk. How could I defend myself?
“You saved my life today, Ethan. Thank you for that.”
“You’re welcome.” Ethan paused a moment, and then said, “Hey, Grace, you ever wonder how you managed to survive the first ten years of your life without me?” He laughed at the mortified expression on my face. “I’m serious. Rescuing you is practically a full-time gig. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you did it on purpose in order to get my attention.”
He would assume that—the arrogant jerk. His comment pissed me off, but unfortunately I still blushed, so all the denying it in the world wouldn’t make him believe me. I think he could tell I wanted to say something—and the look he gave me was practically daring me to do so—but of course I couldn’t.
I shrugged and put the homework I’d finished back in my backpack. When I pulled out a book to read, Ethan realized how long we’d been there and got antsy. The doctors had long since finished with me. My dad wasn’t here yet, so we were still sitting in the waiting room.
Ethan put his books away, too. He looked at the time on his phone and huffed in annoyance. “A flight from New York doesn’t take this long. Where is your dad?”
I looked up at the TV screen in the corner of the room where the debate was playing. “You’re kidding, right?”
Ethan followed my gaze to where my dad’s face lit up the screen. “The debate’s live?” I nodded. “So your dad’s still in New York?”
When I nodded again, Ethan glared at me as if it were my fault he was stuck there. As if I’d even asked him to come in the first place! “You don’t have to stay with me. If you don’t have a ride, I can call Cynthia. She’ll come get you and take you back to the school to get your car.”
“And just leave you here alone?”
I didn’t understand why he was so worried about that. It’s not like I’d never been alone before. “I don’t mind. My dad’s a busy guy. I’m sort of used to it.”
“I mind. I’m not leaving you here by yourself.”
I looked back up at the TV and tried not to sound annoyed as I said, “Well, it’s going to be a few more hours at least.”
Ethan frowned, but then sighed in defeat and pulled out his phone. I thought he was going to call someone to come get him, but instead he slumped down in his chair and started playing a game. Apparently he wasn’t going anywhere.
“Definitely broken,” I told Cynthia when she finally called me later that evening. “They had to cast it up to my knee.”
“At least they let me keep the cast white. They didn’t make it pink or neon yellow or something obnoxious like that.”
“But you have to use crutches?”
“For at least six weeks,” I moaned. “I can’t even walk under normal circumstances. Do you know how disastrous crutches are going to be?”
“Look on the bright side: you’ll get a boyfriend out of the deal.”
“How do you figure?”
“Ethan will have to help you around so much there’s no way he’ll be able to hide his feelings for you any longer.”
When I didn’t laugh, Cynthia gasped. “What? I missed something juic
I cast a nervous glance at Ethan, who was sitting in the chair next to me flipping through a magazine. “Uh, Cyn?” I whispered quietly, turning away from him as best I could without being too obvious. “Ethan came with me today.”
After an embarrassingly loud squeal that Ethan probably heard through the phone, Cynthia screamed, “Holy crap, he came to the hospital with you? That’s so romantic!”
“Cynthia!” I hissed. I looked up and several people, including Ethan—who I’m sure just heard every word of that—were looking at me. “Shut up! You’re drawing attention to me. If someone recognizes me, my dad will be pissed.”
That made Cynthia forget about Ethan. “Why?” she asked suspiciously. “Where are you?”
“In the emergency room waiting area.”
“Still? You went to the hospital hours ago.”
“I’m a minor. They won’t release me until a parent shows up to sign me out.”
Cynthia broke into a string of four-letter words and I had to pull the phone away from my ear again. “Cynthia, seriously, tone it down. I’m not kidding. If the media finds out my dad didn’t come to the hospital when I broke my ankle, he’ll be blasted. He might even drop a few points. Guess who he’ll blame for that.”
“He should be blasted! We have a dead-beat dad running for office. I’m sorry, Gracie, but I’m not voting for the jerk.”
“You’re not old enough to vote anyway.”
“Yeah, well, if I could, I totally wouldn’t. I can’t believe he didn’t come to get you from the hospital. What if they didn’t agree to treat you without your parent there? Would he have come then?”
“They called him when I showed up. He faxed over some consent-to-treat form. They just can’t let me leave on my own.”
“It’s ten P.M.! You’ve been there since, like, eleven o’clock this morning!”
“It was the last debate before the election. I’d have to be on my deathbed for him to cancel that.”
“Bastard,” Cynthia grumbled.
Other author's books:
- The Ghost of You and MeThe Libby Garrett Intervention (Science Squad #2)The Avery Shaw ExperimentSerial HottieUngiftedChameleon (Supernaturals)ScionHappily Ever After: (A Cinder & Ella Novel)
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