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Ordinary anything but se.., p.1

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 1


Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)

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Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)


  Anything But #1

  Lindy Zart

  Published 2013 by Lindy Zart

  Copyright 2013 Lindy Zart

  Cover Design Copyright © 2014 by Lindy Zart

  Formatting by Inkstain Interior Book Designing

  Author Photography by Kelley C. Hanson Photography

  This book is a work of fiction.

  Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy.

  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is dedicated to Tiffany—

  With lots of love. I wouldn’t be sharing my work with the world if you hadn’t given me a little push. I’m glad you did.

  Something’s wrong with Christian.

  Honor Rochester stared across the classroom at the dark-haired boy. A fine sheen of sweat covered his neck and his head was turned away from everyone, but she could still see his skin was pale and his hands were fisted in his lap. He didn’t look so good. She surveyed the room, wondering if anyone else noticed the obvious discomfort their classmate was in. No one glanced his way.

  The classroom smelled of chalk and bubblegum, though the latter wasn’t allowed. Four haphazard rows of desks filled the majority of the room, students occupying all twenty-eight seats. The History teacher, Mrs. Logan, lectured in her monotone voice that was soft, timid, and easy to tune out. She was thin and plain-faced with light brown hair, habitually wearing drab clothing. Today she hadn’t disappointed with her red dress that hung on her slim frame and black nondescript shoes.

  Christian’s head jerked back with his teeth clenched. Honor jumped, her heart rate escalating. Why isn’t anyone doing anything? As she watched, his hands gripped the desk and his back contorted. Honor’s eyes darted to Mrs. Logan, to her classmates. No one even seemed to be aware of what was going on—except Natasha. She watched Christian with an almost disinterested look on her face, like she was bored.

  “Christian,” Honor whispered urgently, leaning partially out of her desk. “Christian, are you okay?” He didn’t respond and when Christian lurched to his feet and stumbled toward the door, Honor unthinkingly shot to hers as well.

  “Christian?” the teacher called. She blinked at Honor. “Miss Rochester, what’s going on?”

  Honor looked at Mrs. Logan, then at the doorway Christian passed through. “I think he was sick. And, I, um…I have to go to the bathroom.” Her face reddened as snickers erupted in the room.

  “Then, by all means, go.” The teacher handed Honor a stick that read Hall Pass on it and motioned to the door.

  Her hurried footsteps led her from the room and she pulled up short outside the classroom door. The corridor was long and dim—empty. Gray lockers lined either side of the walls. It smelled faintly of body odor and that day’s lunch of chili and cinnamon rolls.

  She hesitated outside the boys’ restroom. Why am I doing this? I don’t even really know him. She cracked the door open and called, “Christian?” The only sound was that of water dripping from a faucet. “Christian? Are you in here?”

  She pushed the door open the rest of the way and walked inside, wrinkling her nose at the strong scent of urine and disinfectant, setting the hall pass on the sink counter. The garbage can was almost empty, but that wasn’t surprising. How often did teenage guys really wash their hands? There were four urinals, all thankfully not in use. That would be embarrassing if any were.

  She bent down and eyed under the five stalls, seeing no shoes. Honor straightened, frowning. Where did he go? He couldn’t have left the school that quickly.

  A shrill buzz sounded, announcing school was out for the day. She started at the unexpected noise. The muted sounds of loud voices and shoes stampeding down the hallway reached her ears and she decided it was a good time to split. She placed her hand on the cool handle of the door and pulled as someone pushed, causing her to stumble back.

  That someone was Ryder Delagrave.

  Barely able to hold in a moan, she met his intimidating gaze. He was the last person Honor wanted to see, so of course he would be the first. Ryder smiled that mocking smile of his that never quite reached his eyes, sliding past Honor.

  His dark blond hair was always styled into an artful mess that Honor was sure he spent more time on than she did her own hair. His nose was long and straight, his cheekbones sharp, and Ryder’s eyes were an unusual shade of green, like murky swamp water. He was tall, close to six feet in height, leanly muscled, and always dressed in expensive clothes like Diesel, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein. Today he had on a dark blue buttoned-down shirt, faded jeans, and black boots she’d bet cost more than her entire wardrobe.

  His palm went up to hold the door shut. Honor’s pulse quickened and she inhaled sharply, eyes locked on the barricade that was his hand. “Hello, Honor. Were you waiting for me?”

  All she could say on the subject of Ryder was that she was glad it was the middle of May and they were both seniors. Two long years she’d had to deal with his ridicule and torment; since he’d moved to Anderson Junction their sophomore year. Luckily, Honor wouldn’t have to put up with him anymore after school was out—ever, in fact. She would go off to college, become a physical therapist, and start her career helping people.

  And Ryder…hopefully Ryder went somewhere far, far away.

  “Yes. I was waiting for you, in the boys’ bathroom, hoping you’d show. I know it’s your most favorite place to be. Glad I got to see you. Now, please move,” she said, hating the way her voice shook.

  She caught the scent of Ryder’s expensive cologne when he shifted, his smile widening. It was pleasantly sweet-smelling, which annoyed her. “You know you want me. Don’t deny it. I’d want me too if I was a girl.”

  Honor paused and shook her head, her long black hair sweeping her shoulders. “Do you know how disturbing that sounds?”

  His warm cinnamon breath fanned her neck and blew tendrils of her hair upward as he leaned forward, saying quietly into her ear, “I’m a disturbing kind of guy.”

  Jerking away from the dizzying heat and scent of him, her back hit the wall behind them and jarred some gumption back into her. “That’s the first thing you’ve ever said to me that is actually true.”

  “Ah, come on, Honor, I say all kinds of factual stuff, most obvious the line about you wanting me.”

  “You have a problem.”

  He cocked his head. “I do? What’s that?”

  “You’re egotistical and rude and conceited. You think everyone wants you.” Her words built steam as she lashed out, “You think you’re perfect.”

  “That’s a problem?”

  Flustered, a common occurrence in Ryder’s presence, Honor shot back, “Only you would think it isn’t.”

  “I’m hurt.” He did this fake pouting thing that made her stomach dip. Why did he have to be so good-looking? Physical beauty totally wasted on an ugly soul. “And here I thought we were friends. You mean all those times you smiled at me were a hoax? I kept those smiles close to my heart. You didn’t mean any of them? I am literally crying on the inside.” He flicked an imaginary tear from the corner of his eye.

  Face burning, she said through clenched teeth, “I will never be your frie
nd and I don’t smile at you.”

  Closing the distance between them until her back was flat to the wall, Ryder placed his palms on either side of her head. He leaned down so his mouth was close to hers, the intensity of his eyes holding her gaze. “Oh, Honor, you so smile at me.”

  Her breath stuttered as tingles crawled down her arms and legs. Ryder moved away with a bow and a hand gesture that said, After you. She looked at him, wondering if it was a trick. When he merely inclined his head, she grabbed the door handle and yanked it open, relief slamming into her so strong her knees went weak. Honor felt like she’d been holding her breath the whole time in the bathroom and she was just now able to suck air into her lungs.

  “Be seeing you, Honor,” he called after her.

  She rushed down the hall and burst through the doors that led to sunshine and escape. Why did he pick on her all the time? Why did she feel the way she did around him when most of the time she loathed him? Ryder looked one way at her, but his actions said something else. His words said one thing and his tone said another. He was confusing—irritating.

  The heat outside was instantaneous as the sun found her pale skin and began to roast it, making her hair damp with sweat. Her pink tee shirt stuck to her skin and Honor’s jean shorts felt uncomfortably loose with moisture. She sucked in a lungful of humid air and turned toward the parking lot. The pale purple and white lilac bushes were in bloom and their heady scent surrounded her. She shielded her blue eyes with a hand and scanned the school grounds, looking for Christian.

  A few kids sat in the green grass, some hovered by the trees across the lawn, but most everyone was fast leaving the red-bricked place of education. She didn’t blame them.

  A sick feeling swooped through her stomach at the sight of two rough-looking men escorting Christian into the back of a silver Chevrolet Tahoe. He was trying to shake them off, but he wasn’t getting far. As Honor watched, his head drooped and his shoulders slumped at the same time his knees buckled. They tossed him inside the vehicle and slammed the door shut, casting furtive glances about. The taller one made eye contact with her and Honor’s heart tripped in its beat.

  She averted her gaze, going completely still; sure they could hear her heart racing if they listened really hard. A thought, childish and of course untrue, feathered through her mind: If I can’t see them, maybe they can’t see me.

  The sound of a motor starting and tires squealing announced their departure. She glanced to where the vehicle had been seconds ago. Honor realized her hands were clenched so tightly at her sides her nails were digging into her flesh. She relaxed her hands only to find they were shaking.

  “What just happened?” came out a choked whisper. A warm breeze caught her thick hair and blew it up and around her face. Honor pushed it out of her eyes. The school lawn was empty now. That scene could easily have been imagined—except it hadn’t been.

  Honor remembered she had to work that night and started to walk, her thoughts a jumbled mess divided between Christian and what those men wanted with him and the enigma that was Ryder. She was almost halfway home when she remembered she’d left her homework that was due the next day at the school. With a deep sigh, she backtracked to the school and got what she needed.

  Shifting her eyes from Mrs. Logan’s curious look as she set the retrieved hall pass on her desk, Honor quickly turned away.

  “Honor? Something you want to talk about?”

  She hesitated at the classroom door, wondering if she should say something to the teacher. Only she didn’t know what to tell her, so Honor shook her head and left without a word.

  Anderson Junction, Wisconsin had a population somewhere around two thousand that didn’t rise or lower too significantly over the years. It got its name from the railways that crisscrossed through town, once a hotspot for transportation of people and goods, now only occasionally used. Trains traveled through the town just enough for the residents of Anderson Junction to remember they were still around. Only a couple bars were in town and both served food. There was a nice library and a bowling alley and a movie rental store.

  Nothing too exciting ever really happened in Anderson Junction.

  Honor’s steps slowed. She felt cold in the balmy heat. Vehicles drove up and down the street. Kids played in their front yards, their high-pitched voices gleeful and giggly. The sun continued its unrelenting attack on her fair skin. The air smelled of freshly mowed grass and blooming flowers. None of it registered.

  Who were those men? What were they doing with Christian? What was wrong with Christian? What did it all mean?

  The questions bombarded her, but Honor had no answers.

  She and Christian Turner had lived in the same town and gone to the same school since forever. They were polite to one another, but had never been friends. So why was she so concerned? She barely knew him.

  Because he’d seemed so…helpless.

  He was the last person she would describe as such on a normal day. The boy was taller and more muscled than any other student at school. Christian wasn’t exactly handsome, but there was something about him that had always caused Honor’s eyes to turn his way. His most noteworthy features were his intense gray eyes and sharp cheekbones. His was an intriguing face, more striking than anything. It was a face that demanded notice, warranted a second glance, and even a closer look.

  Honor paused and looked up from the sidewalk. She’d walked past her house. Frazzled didn’t begin to explain how she was presently feeling. She backtracked to the white two-story house with black trim and a porch. The roof shingles were peeling up, as was the exterior paint. Red and pink flowers surrounded the front of the house in an attempt to distract the eye from the slow decline of the structure. A swing was at the far end of the porch.

  Had circumstances been different, the house would be so unlike what it was. Everything would be different. Honor remembered what it used to be like; some days she wished she didn’t. Then it wouldn’t be so hard to see her world falling apart around her, one small piece at a time.

  The screen door creaked as she opened it, the scent of chili hitting her. Honor sighed. She was chilied out for the day. And really, who would want to make chili when it was so hot out? The school and her mother would, apparently.

  The foyer had white walls and wood floors and was habitually littered with shoes, coats, and books. Today was no different. Honor let her backpack drop from her arms, the relief from the heavy weight instant. Framed family photos lined the walls in an embarrassing journey through Honor’s adolescence. She paused at one and lightly touched her father’s smiling face. Her eyes burned and Honor turned away.

  She could make out the sound of her mother’s and sister’s voices in the kitchen, but not their words. Scarlet always made it home before her, the middle school being closer to their home than the high school. The television blared in the living room and Honor walked into the tan-walled room with old brown carpet and brown furniture. She found the remote on the coffee table and turned the TV off.

  “Honor? Is that you? We’re in the kitchen.”

  She rolled her eyes at the unnecessary proclamation of her mother’s location. And who else would it be?

  Honor walked into the room with pale yellow walls and grabbed an apple from a bowl on the counter. The kitchen was small and decorated with lemon and apple décor and red-checked curtains. It was Honor’s favorite place in the whole house, aside from her bedroom. She loved the smells of her mother’s cooking and the hominess of the room. Some days, when she was quietly sitting at the table, it was like she could hear her father’s booming laughter, like she could feel his presence in the room along with her mom’s and sister’s. It was silly, but on those days there was completeness to her life not normally there anymore.

  “Hey, Mom. Brat.”

  Scarlet stuck her tongue out at her and Honor retaliated by crossing her eyes.

  Her sister laughed and went back to drawing at the round wood table situated under a set of windows. The sunshine
streamed in through the glass, casting a glow to her. Honor cocked her head, thinking her sibling was stunning when the sunlight caught her golden head and profile just right.

  Scarlet was ten, blonde, and brown-eyed. She took after their father in looks. She hadn’t lost her baby chubs yet, but Honor was certain she would merge into a great beauty the older she got. Her sister was infatuated with all animals, but lately her favorite was horses. Honor wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up being a veterinarian.

  She took a bite of the sweetly tart fruit and swallowed, leaning against the counter, simply observing. Her mother stood nearby at the stove, stirring a pot of what had to be chili. Peacefulness settled over her. Moments like this, they were some of the best—so simple, yet so needed.

  “What are you drawing?” Honor asked her sister.

  Scarlet smiled in that sweet, shy way of hers. “A horse.”

  Of course it was a horse. She leaned toward her. “Can I see?”

  Her sister slid the sketchpad to her chest and shook her head. “Not yet.”

  She shrugged and took another bite of her apple. Honor wouldn’t push her sister; she understood how important one’s privacy was.

  “How was school?” her mom asked, glancing at her.

  Cassie Rochester was a mature version of her oldest daughter with her ebony hair, pale skin, and blue eyes. She always smelled like cinnamon and sugar, and was taller than Honor at five feet five inches but not as thin, although at her daughter’s age she had been. Hands perpetually red and cracked from all the manual labor she did between her two jobs that no amount of lotion could change—Honor was always buying different kinds for her to try, but nothing had been able to heal her mother’s hands yet.

  There was weariness to her mother she tried to camouflage behind bright smiles and animated chatter. The smiles didn’t quite reach her eyes and the exuberance in her voice was a little flat. Cassie was a housekeeper at the nursing home in town and she worked in the bakery at the local grocery store. She worked seven days a week, but she always made sure she was home at night for her girls. There was a warm meal for them every day at supper time, clothes laundered, and her mother’s presence when they got home from school. She tried so hard to make up for the loss of a parent by doing twice the work she should.

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