The Elites - Elizabeth Knox

Prologue

Dex

Weeks Ago . . .

“What do you think?” Ashley, my stepmom, asks. Though, she’s more than a stepmom if you ask me. She’s the only mother I’ve ever had, and I’m damn lucky.

In my arms is my newest sibling, Rory, with her dark chocolate hair the same shade as mine and our father’s. Her eyes are a dark blue, and Ashley tells me the doctor thinks they’ll turn brown. She muttered something about how a baby’s eye color can change, but I wasn’t paying too much attention. Instead, I was focused on the little one blinking her big eyes up at me while she’s holding onto my index finger.

“She’s gorgeous,” I say with a smile, looking up at Ashley.

“Yeah. I’ve told your father we’re done after this. I’m exhausted.” She giggles, sitting down beside me on the couch. My parents’ house overlooks a small lake in their backyard. The sun is just beginning to set and they just came home this afternoon from the hospital. I was on baby duty, watching my sister, Noelle, who’s about eight now, and our brother, Fist, who’s one and a half.

“What’s one more?” Dad chuckles from behind us.

“You try pushing one more of these out and then ask me that,” she grumbles, turning to glare at him.

“But our eldest is leaving the nest, and we’re gonna get even lonelier.” Dad tries to plead his case, but Ashley isn’t having any bit of it.

“Robert, we’re not having another baby. The baby-making factory is closed for business. The going out of business sale has already happened. We’re done.” Shit, she never calls him by his real name, only by his road name.

“Ash, you can’t seriously mean that. The second Dex leaves, you’re gonna be a damn mess and we both know it,” Dad tells her.

I watch as she cocks a brow. “We have three other kids under the age of nine. You can’t be serious.”

“I like a full house. What can I say?” Dad goes on, and as he continues rambling, Rory starts to fuss.

“Shh, little one. I’ve got you.” I rock her slowly back and forth in my arms, but her screams grow louder by the minute.

“I’ll take her and give you some time with Ash. You leave tomorrow around six in the morning, right?” Dad asks while he scoops Rory from my arms.

I nod, trying to speak to Ashley and Dad. “Yeah, I’m gonna get an early start on the drive. Figure it’ll probably take me two days to get over there.”

“Are you sure you want to take your bike that far? I mean, Dex, it’s New York. You know it’ll be snowing in a few months. It would make more sense for you to take the truck.” Ashley only wants me to be safe, and while I understand that, being without my bike would cripple me.

“I promise I’ll be safe, and I know what I’m doing. I learned from the best.” I glance over to my dad, who smiles at the small compliment I’ve given him while he shuffles down the hallway to Rory’s nursery.

Ashley’s smile fades away and she gnaws on the corner of her lip. “I suppose I might be having a bit of a hard time. I never thought this day would actually get here. You know?” Before I know it, she’s wiping the back of her hand under her eyes. Shit. She’s already crying.

I shut my eyes for a moment and instinctively wrap my arms around her, pulling her into the tightest hug I think I’ve ever given her. “I’m gonna fuckin’ miss you. I know I don’t say it enough, Ash, but you’re my mom and I love you. When you and Dad got together, my whole life changed for the better.” I pull her in closer, and she settles her chin on my shoulder, hanging on tight.

“I know you’re only going off to college, but it feels so terrifying to be losing my sidekick. It was you and me against the world, always.” She chuckles, crying through it.

Snaking my hand up her back, I hold the back of her head. “Nothing will be any different. We’re still the best duo. I’ll just be in Albany, and you’ll be here in Billings. You know I’ll come back here for winter break and anytime I can.”

Ashley pulls away and I release her, but she grazes her hands over my shoulders and grabs me by the collar of my t-shirt. “You’d better, ‘cause I pack a mean punch. Your dad can