by Nancy Pennick
Allie Sanders thinks life in a small town can’t get any more dull and boring. She plans to escape after graduation. After a bad break-up, she wants to sail through junior year without distraction. Then the mysterious loner sits down in front of her in AP English. He’s the guy she noticed last year desperately trying to stay invisible. She wants to know his secrets. Suddenly her much older military brother, Doug, makes a rare appearance. He takes a special interest in her life. Suspicious of his motives Allie holds back, never really trusting him. Doug wants what she wants—the boy she has come to love. No way would she let that happen. She’d go against family and friends to protect him—and his secrets—even if it ends up breaking her heart.
Our hands touched briefly and a tingle traveled up my arm and back down my spine. He quickly pulled away, handed me the folder and continued to pick up the rest of the mess. I didn’t know if I should say sorry or thank you because I couldn’t take my eyes off his gorgeous face.
As he placed the pile on my desk he looked directly at me, straight through to my soul. “You’re welcome.” His dark hair hung over his eyes and those chocolate orbs burned right through me. A slight smile crossed his face. Then it was over, and he turned back in his seat, pouring over that important book.
I brought my hand to my chest, the one he touched. It still tingled. Funny, I never felt that way with Josh. I never experienced anything when we held hands. Josh may have been a teenage crush but this felt like something more—more like danger and romance could be right around the corner.
I blinked and noticed my schedule still lay on the floor close to Heathcliff’s desk. I debated if I needed it, but didn’t want it in someone else’s hands. I leaned to the side and tried to extend my leg out into the aisle to pull the paper toward me. The schedule lay just beyond my reach. I slipped from my seat into a squatting position, praying no one watched. How embarrassing if anyone saw me. Super powers would be really great right now. Wishing for invisibility, I wiggled a few inches forward and picked up the paper.
As I scooted forward, I couldn’t help notice Loner’s sandals. I had the sudden urge to tell him he had good fashion sense. I caught my breath as I spotted something on the arch of his right foot. I couldn’t make out the whole thing. Part of the foot was covered by the sandal strap. Pen marks? Letters? A tattoo? My blood ran cold. I began to feel dizzy and steadied myself on my desk. I saw something I wished I hadn’t. Loner had a tattoo on the arch of his foot. I couldn’t make out the whole thing but what I saw was enough to send a chill down my spine—I-X.
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29² (Twenty-Nine Squared)
Nineteen-year-old Allie Sanders is a student at UCLA. She’s done everything she can to forget Lucas Montgomery and move on with her life. Her goal is to graduate early and live far from home, a place that holds painful memories.
Fate intervenes and her structured life topples. Lucas returns, or was he ever really gone? Her brother Doug still hunts them, and he’s become darker and more sinister than before.
Sometimes a girl has to resort to drastic measures to protect those she loves, and Allie feels forced to make a choice … one she hopes she won’t regret.
“Will!” I acted more shocked than I should.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. I know you have to work but wanted to stop by and see you.” He kissed the tip of my nose. “I’m not staying, you like your space and all.”
“Are you going to be around later?” I reached for his hand. “I have a break at three. We can do lunch.”
“You probably haven’t eaten anything. Can you wait till then?”
I pulled a breakfast bar from my bag. “I’ll be fine.”
Will ran his hand through my hair. “I want you to take care of yourself, Allie. Sometimes I feel like you’re going through the motions just to get through life.”
That was profound. I needed to start seeing Will for who he was, not as a distraction. He leaned in to kiss me. I backed away, the Lucas sighting still fresh in my mind. “I’ve got to get going.”
Guilt spread through me when I saw the expression on his face. I cleared my throat and shifted my bag to the other shoulder. “I’ll see you,” I said as I continued on to the library’s main desk. “Three o’clock, our usual place.” I called.
I shelved books and helped people find the section or book they needed during my shift, but my mind kept drifting elsewhere. I saw a place of hope and love and even a future. I wanted to slam the door shut on it and get back to the robotic existence I lived for almost two years. Life would be much easier. I hurt no one, and no one hurt me. But Will managed to push through that door.
Suddenly, a feeling of nausea swept over me. My legs trembled as I steadied myself against a bookshelf. I didn’t know if I could do this. I wanted to put the brakes on this new relationship, all because of Lucas—the man I could never have or see again. Darn! Why did I think I saw him at Nate’s, then here? Did I want him to secretly follow me?
29° (Twenty-Nine Degrees)
After a wonderful celebration in Hawaii, Allie returns to the Niner community in Montana and learns her brother Doug plans to run for a seat in the U.S. Congress. As he is already head of the private security team, the STF, Allie is unsure of his motive, but is determined he must be stopped. She plans to go back to Virginia to sabotage the campaign, no matter the reason he’s running for office. This is just the beginning of another battle between brother and sister, but by the time this ends, it will affect more than just the Niners and Allie. It may change the world.
Nate and Lucas stood in front with the minister. They both looked so handsome in their white linen shirts and khaki pants, but in contrasting ways. Lucas’ dark, good looks caught my eye but I was sure Ashley only noticed Nate’s reddish-blonde hair giving off a golden cast in the setting sun. His tall, lean body had a relaxed stance, not a sign of nervousness. Ashley let out a breath of air, and I smiled knowingly.
Staff members inconspicuously moved around the venue to make sure everything ran smoothly. When they spotted us, soft strands of Hawaiian Wedding Song began to play. On cue, Mr. Donovan rose from his seat and met us under the floral arch. He nodded at me as he slipped by to get in place next to his daughter. “It’s a wonderful day,” he whispered.
I fought back the feeling of dread that I took everywhere these days. Wonderful day? Would I truly ever have one again? My eyes searched the grounds for Doug. He’d always be with me, no matter where I went or what I did. I’d come to terms with that. But for today, I had to set that aside.
I placed my foot on the white runner and locked eyes with Lucas. A smile crept across his face. I felt like we were the only two people on the beach. Tears filled my eyes as I replayed our history in my head. Nate and Ashley had been a part of it all. We were a team, and nothing, or no one, would break us apart again.
29∞ (Twenty-Nine Forever)
Allie has done all she can to protect her family and the Niner community from her brother, but it never seems like enough. Her brother’s dream of creating a new America happened at lightning speed. Doug Sanders, now President of New America, took the country and his sister by surprise. That won’t stop Allie from sabotaging his strategy of expose, divide and conquer. She plans to defeat her brother regardless of the odds against her. Who will be the winner in their greatest battle yet?
Parker waited at the door and stepped through when he saw me. “Come on.” He gestured for me to follow.
Once outside, we hugged for what seemed like forever. “I thought I’d never see you again!” I cried.
“And I thought the same!” Parker lifted his glasses and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. The heat was oppressive, and it made a person begin to sweat within seconds. “You didn’t get breakfast, did you? Although you were never fond of it, if I remember correctly. I know a great place to get coffee.”
As we walked along, I caught Parker up on my life. He seemed to know more about me than he let on. Maybe he’d become close with Carol. I tilted my head. “What’s going on?”
“Well,” he whispered. “Greg isn’t really sick. I called him in sick and volunteered to take his place. I needed to talk to you.”
Shocked or surprised, I couldn’t figure out which I felt. Dear, sweet Parker had to see me? “About?”
“Where the subways are?” I wrinkled my brow.
“No, silly, the movement,” he whispered. “Will assured me he’d told you about it.”
“No-o-o.” I shook my head. My mind flashed back to yesterday. I’d slipped unseen out of Doug’s SUV and into the art museum. Carol had whisked me to her office to clean up and change clothes. Will, my old college boyfriend, who was now living in New York working as a model and Carol’s new guy, was also there. He had mentioned some people didn’t believe in Doug and weren’t going to blindly follow him just because he said there was a threat, but had said nothing about an Underground.
Parker glanced at me. “Are you sure?”
“He said something like, ‘There are a lot of us who don’t agree with being herded into big cities for our safety.’ And he made air quotes when he said safety, like he didn’t believe in the threat.”
“Well, there you go.” Parker threw out his hands. “He was practically telling you he was in charge of the movement.”
“What?” I came to a dead stop. “There’s a movement, and Will’s in charge of it? Why am I just finding out about it?”
“We had to see where your loyalties lie, Allie. Remember the Art Gala? Carol was given the task.”
My whole world spun around me. From the outside looking in, I was Doug’s sister. Why wouldn’t I be loyal to him?
After a great career in teaching, Nancy found a second calling as a writer. Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, she currently resides in Mentor, OH. Ohio is her home, but she loves to travel the U.S. Now Scotland is on her bucket list as a place she’d like to visit. Nancy is married and has one son.
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