Chapter One Sneak Peek: Titan in Chains (Broken Heroes 1)
I was going to post this on Monday, but I got waylaid with revisions. Therefore, it's a little late, but at least it's here! Also, hooray for marriage equality throughout the US!!! ^_^
And I found this:
And I found this:
Dick brings all the boys to the yard. Hehe. Can you blame them? I sort of do ship Dick/Slade, but not Dick/Bruce. Too many 'daddy' issues with the latter for me.
Here's the first chapter of Titan in Chains! In order to get a look at the second chapter, you can join my mailing list here. Enjoy!
Calder King fought the grimace that threatened his lips as he watched the young woman at the housing desk smack her gum. It was nearly deafening, but he realized it was probably his problem since no one else in the vicinity seemed to notice.
Instead, he put on his charming smile, the one that got girls weak-kneed and annoyingly clingy, and leaned forward. “I’m here about my housing form. There seems to be a mistake. I requested a private dorm and it looks like I got stuck with a roommate instead.”
As the words came out of Calder’s mouth he hated himself a little bit. Complaining about a roommate when he got into Vale University, the most prestigious university in Darkvale City. Yeah, talk about a first world problem. And it’s not like he didn’t have roommates before. Well, sort of. Adele (mom – he needed to think of her as ‘mom’) wasn’t really a roommate since she was family. And Jordan and Arkley didn’t live at the brownstone full time.
It wasn’t really the living situation that bothered Calder; it was his extra-curricular activities. The secret kind that most college freshmen wouldn’t understand. The kind that could get Calder locked away in some lab because he could do things that weren’t exactly normal like punching a whole through a brick wall or how he healed much faster than anyone he knew. Keeping that hidden from a normal non-freak roommate? Not easy.
The young woman gave him the once over and shrugged. “If the request was denied it was denied. Nothing we can do at this point since the semester starts next week.”
She looked like a student, and Calder hoped all the girls at Vale weren’t as . . . Arkley would say vapid, but the guys on the football team would give Calder shit if he talked like that. He went with dull.
“Look, I get that this is kinda last minute, sweetheart. I’m not asking for any special favors, but I put in the request right after I got accepted and it wasn’t denied. I had a room at the Harrison dorm, but then I get this letter saying that freshmen don’t get their own rooms and now I have to move to Fisher. That’s not fair, is it?”
He didn’t mention that Adele King donated a cool hundred thousand to the university or ask to speak to a supervisor, both which she would’ve done if she weren’t too busy being the CEO of King Inc. He’d have thanked every star in the galaxy if he could. Being pegged as a mama’s boy before he even started college? Not cool.
The girl tapped at her computer for several minutes, though her eyes kept darting back to Calder and his biceps.
Calder smiled pleasantly and balled his hands into fists. He didn’t dare grip onto the counter. It might break under his hold, and he’d have no rational way to explain that.
“I have the form and all, but it doesn’t look like you were ever accepted for the Harrison dorm. Maybe that was a mistake. You do look familiar though. Have we met somewhere before?” she asked and threw him a smile.
Calder sighed. If she saw a picture of him in the paper with Adele, well, embarrassing didn’t cover it. He went with the obvious. “You like sports?”
“I like boys who play sports,” she said and blew a bubble. It popped and pink goop covered her mouth. She swept it away with her tongue.
“I was the quarterback for Metro Academy. We had a few away games in Darkvale. Maybe you saw me play,” he said and kept his voice light, though he bristled with irritation under the surface. He just wanted his damn room; he didn’t want to flirt with some airhead to get it.
“Oh, are you here on a scholarship?” she asked and scooted forward in her chair.
“Yep. I can throw a ball, so they threw money at me. Now, how about my room?” Calder said and winked. That might work, but it felt cheap.
She giggled. “I might be able to talk to my supervisor if you give me your number. Wait. You’re eighteen, right?”
Now he was being blackmailed, and there was no way this girl could actually give him what he wanted. Before he had the chance to say anything (rude or not, he wasn’t sure yet), he noticed the young man who stood behind him and watched their exchange with an amused smile on his face.
Calder shook his head. “Just turned fifteen last month. I said I can throw, didn’t I?”
It was a lie. Calder turned nineteen the week before, but this girl didn’t know that.
The young woman’s smile fell, and she leaned back. “Sorry. Like I said, there’s nothing I can do. Your dorm is room 357 in Fisher’s north wing. You can check it out if you want since they’re open for walkthroughs right now. No moving in until the day before classes start.”
“Right. Guess I don’t have a choice,” Calder said and nodded. He winked again and watched the girl blush before he turned to leave.
The young man behind him chuckled, and Calder’s stomach knotted. It’s not as if amusing anyone mattered when he was stuck with a roommate who would either hate him for being a King or fawn over him for the same reason. Either way it sucked. Plus, it meant Calder had to be extra careful at all times. And man, it was a big ass secret to keep under wraps. Still, he’d been doing this for five years. He could do it another four.
When he woke up in that hospital bed with Adele (mom) leaning over him, her hazel eyes bright and lips pursed into a frown, he didn’t even know who she was. Hell, he didn’t know who he was until she told him the truth and the doctors confirmed it. Calder King. Fourteen years old. Accident. Amnesia. No matter how hard he tried, nothing about his life before resurfaced. He didn’t remember being a kid or Adele mothering him. Or who his dad was since Adele never mentioned that part of their life.
Calder left the housing office behind and headed across campus to the dorms. Sure, Vale was better than most colleges, even if it happened to be in Darkvale. The city hadn’t always been as dangerous as it was now, and the university was a shining example of that past glory. If the pictures on the website were right, sharing a room here wasn’t nearly as bad as sharing one at some state school.
Still. Who the hell would his roommate be?
“Hey! Room 357, right?”
Calder stopped as the young man from the office caught up with him. The guy had been running, but he hardly panted and only a hint of moisture touched his brow.
“Yeah,” Calder said slowly and let his eyes graze over this new guy.
He was handsome, or maybe he was more of a pretty boy. Everyone told Calder he was handsome, but it’s not like he spent hours in front of the mirror primping. It took ten minutes to shave and gel his hair.
He stood shorter than Calder by several inches, but that didn’t mean much when Calder was a good six three and build like a football player (appropriate, considering he did play football). His hair was black and mussed, but it looked like he styled it that way on purpose. He wore black wire-framed glasses, and the eyes behind them were a startling shade of blue. He dressed like most guys their age – or most well-to-do guys their age – in fitted jeans and a T-shirt that clung to his waist enough to let Calder know this guy was slender but not skinny. Also, he smiled like he knew something Calder didn’t.
“I guess we’re headed in the same direction,” he said and started walking.
Calder followed. “Uh, guess so. You in Fisher too?”
“Yep. Patrick Black. And you are?”
“Calder King,” Calder said and shoved his hands into his pockets.
A late summer breeze rustled the trees over their head. Unlike most of Darkvale, which was beset with gothic architecture, crumbling tenements, and metal skyscrapers, there were trees here, fully-grown and lush. They shaded the cement walking paths that connected the buildings and cooled the late summer air. The grass wasn’t stunted and dead this time of year, though the heat of the summer had baked some of it yellow brown. Flowers bloomed, and the path they currently walked down twisted past the old brick buildings, covered in ivy, that had been there for two hundred years.
“You’re not really fifteen, are you?” Patrick asked and his eyes sparkled.
“No. I, uh, said that to get her to leave me alone since she couldn’t do anything about my room to begin with. Do I know you?”
“Nope. Why? Do I look familiar, Mr. Football?”
Calder frowned. Yeah. Patrick did look familiar and the name sounded familiar too, but he couldn’t place it. If Patrick was attending Vale maybe Calder had seen him at some gala that Adele dragged him to. He wasn’t about to ask. “No, you’re just pretty friendly for a guy from the city.”
“I’m originally from Hope Harbor, but I’ve been in the city for a long time. Why? You think I’m gonna mug you?”
“You don’t look squirrely enough for that,” Calder said and shrugged.
Patrick laughed. “How long have you been in Darkvale?”
They passed a few students lounging in the grass and others tossing a football. Most of the activity was centered around the dorm buildings, which looked like the pre-war apartments in the upper side of the city. That meant they didn’t have elevators. Well, Calder could live with that.
“I just moved here, actually. Well, we have a house in the city, but I grew up in Metro.”
Patrick snorted. “Metro? Why’d you come to school in Darkvale? You couldn’t get into Metro U?”
It wasn’t a bad question considering Darkvale’s well-deserved bad reputation. And Patrick was right; Calder had scouts from all over the country begging him to join their team and school – in that order, but he wouldn’t have gone anyplace but Vale because the city needed someone like him. Someone with his freakish abilities. Arkley called them talents, but Calder wasn’t certain he saw things that way just yet. The only way to put them to good use was to help people. And the best way to do that was through the VS, but Adele ran the team, and she wouldn’t let Calder join while he was still in high school.
“I wanted to try something different. How about you? If you got in here why not someplace else?”
Patrick pulled the door of Fisher dorm open and smiled. “The city’s my home.”
They ascended the stairs in silence, and Calder took in the modern details and the clean hardwood floors. It was like being back at the brownstone – he felt like he couldn’t touch anything without breaking it. He expected Patrick to wander off at some point or say ‘this is me,’ and point to a different floor or room, but he didn’t. They walked up to 357 together, and Patrick pulled out a key.
Calder stared at him. “You’re my roommate? Why didn’t you say something?”
Patrick shrugged and pushed open the door. “I said we were headed in the same direction. I thought it was heavily implied. Oh, look a window seat. I call dibs for my coffee.”
Calder gritted his teeth and glanced around the dorm. Two desks. Two beds, doubles over singles, at least. A tiny kitchenette with a fridge and stovetop and a shared bathroom with the dorm next door. “What? Are you forty?”
“What would you use the window seat for?” Patrick said as he moved around the room. He slipped from one side to the other, his eyes darting over everything, and Calder practically saw his brain working as he took it all in. Who was this guy anyway? It reminded him of Arkley or Adele.
“Laundry,” Calder said honestly and tried one of the beds. It’d need a mattress topper, but he could live with it.
“So you’re a messy jock,” Patrick said and opened the closet.
Calder shrugged. “What are you? A neat nerd?”
Patrick laughed, and his voice had a slight edge to it. A shiver shot up Calder’s spine at the sound. “You could say that, but are you judging me by my glasses or something else?”
“Glasses,” Calder admitted and felt his cheeks flush. It was a dumb stereotype, but Patrick sort of looked like the kind of guy who had all the answers in math class and joined the science club for fun. “So what’s your major?”
“Business and computer science. Is yours throwing stuff?”
He even had a nerd major. Calder shook his head. “Business too.” He didn’t mention that he was slated to take over King Inc. or how the idea of attending board meetings made his gut clench and his eyes glaze over. “I’m not going to play professionally, you know.”
Patrick stopped moving and glanced at him. His lashes should not be that long. It looked like he had on those fake ones that girls wore, only Calder doubted that. “Oh? Why not?”
Calder shrugged again. Because his real calling wasn’t business or football, it was something better. Something that would actually help people. Help Darkvale. “It’s fun, but it’s not my life.”
“I get it,” Patrick said and grinned. Then his expression sobered. “Look, there’s something I think I should tell you just so you don’t get uncomfortable about it later. I’m gay.”
Calder shifted in his place on the bed, and his skin felt hotter than it had a moment before. He almost said ‘that explains it,’ but he didn’t even know what that meant. It explained why Patrick’s clothes were so neat or why he was so pretty? Not really. Instead, he said. “Oh. That’s cool. Arkley’s gay so I don’t care.”
Patrick’s stance eased. “Who’s Arkley?”
“A friend,” Calder said quickly and crossed his arms. “You shouldn’t just assume people are straight.”
“Are you?” Patrick asked and leaned against the wall. He crossed his feet at the ankles, and he looked as relaxed as a cat in a sunbeam.
“Yeah, but that’s beside the point,” Calder said and smiled. Not one of his ‘for the sake of making everyone happy’ smiles either. This one was genuine.
“Hey. I don’t judge. Just don’t have sex on my bed or when I’m in the room. I’ll happily go to the library if you want to invite a female guest over,” Patrick said and a sly smile slipped over his lips.
“Same here,” Calder said, too quickly. “A female guest?”
“Lady?” Patrick offered with an easy shrug.
Calder opened his mouth to respond, but Patrick’s phone chimed, and he smiled sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he mouthed before he answered. “Yeah, I’m at the dorm now. It’s great. Plenty of room and marginal privacy. If I need anything else I can just come home and get it. No, you don’t have to come over and check it out. I know you’re busy. See you later.”
Calder heard the muffled voice of a man and frowned at the bare mattress. Adele wouldn’t bother calling him to ask about the dorm.
“Dad?” Calder asked after Patrick hung up.
Patrick shook his head. “Hell no. Not my dad. Uh, he’s my guardian. I—my parents died when I was young, and he’s a friend of theirs. Long story. And you don’t have to tiptoe around me on Mother’s day or anything.”
Calder bit the inside of his cheek and nodded. What did Patrick say his last name was? Black? “Wait. Who’s your guardian?”
Patrick pushed up his glasses. “If I tell you, you have to promise not to judge me.”
The room felt too stuffy, and Calder got off the bed and moved to the window. He shoved it open and took a deep breath of fresh air. “Why would I judge you?”
“Because you’re Adele King’s son, and my guardian is Deacon Bishop.”
As soon as Patrick said it, Calder felt a ball of iron formed in his gut.
Deacon Bishop wasn’t friends with Adele – far from it. They’d been business rivals for years. One of Calder’s earliest memories involved Adele fuming over Bishop. Any time King Inc. tried to make headway in Darkvale, BishopCorp got in the way. In fact, Adele was busy that day with a meeting that had to do with BishopCorp. While he didn’t pay attention to the details, he knew Adele wore her red war suit today, the business suit she only wore when she expected resistance, and that wasn't often.
Deacon Bishop was everything Adele despised. She built her company from scratch while he was rich through no means of his own. He was always in the papers with some model on his arm, though Calder didn’t pay attention to that stuff either. She even thought Deacon had something to do with his business partner’s tragic death. Calder didn’t remember that since it happened before his accident, but he did realize why the name Patrick Black sounded so familiar.
Black was the name of the business partner – the kid whose parents may have been murdered by Deacon Bishop. And Calder stared right at that kid, now a young man, and felt his mouth turn into the Sahara.
Bishop also seemed intent to buy up all the most powerful labs around the country. BishopCorp snatched up any lab with cutting edge research, and that made Adele nervous. Calder too, when he really thought about it. Because Bishop’s acquisitions hadn’t gone unnoticed, and the rumors swirled around why he did it. They all came to the same conclusion – Bishop was interested in studying people like Calder. Putting them in a lab and poking and prodding them until the truth behind their talents were laid bare.
Calder swallowed. “We aren’t our parents, right?”
Patrick let out a long breath of air. “No. And he’s my guardian not my dad. That’s just . . . weird. He’s hardly thirty-five, so it’s practically impossible.”
Calder nodded. “So, uh, when are you moving in?”
“Next week. You?”
“Same,” Calder said and looked at Patrick’s shoes. They were normal tennis shoes. Converse. Black.
He didn’t look a damn thing like the scion to a multi-billion dollar corporation run by a sociopath.
Still, Calder didn’t look like a freak under all the layers of normal, but he was. How the hell could he judge someone for that? However, it meant he’d have to keep that particular side of himself hidden away as deeply as possible. If someone like Deacon Bishop found out what Calder could do, who knew what might happen?
* * *
The brownstone was quiet when Calder got home, and his brain buzzed from his run-in with Patrick Black and the fact that he was Calder’s roommate – what kind of crazy world let that happen? He retreated past the front section of the house and into the back rooms – the secret rooms that only the members of the VS knew about.
It stood for Victory Squad.
The name needed some work, but Calder wasn’t going to bring that up. If he made a snide comment Adele might change her mind about letting him join, and no way was he going to be cut out of his own mother’s pet project any longer.
It’s the only reason he applied to Vale and pushed to move to Darkvale. The only reason he had to slum it in a city beset with crime – a city that needed him more than a relatively calm place like Metro ever could.
Because Calder might be a freak, but at least he could put his weird abilities to better use than throwing a ball and running down a field in a mock battle. His nerves bristled with restless energy, and he shed his shirt and shoes as he stepped into the large underground training room. He didn’t bother with the punching bags – one hit and they’d burst. He moved on to the titanium wall right away.
Jordan always said Calder needed to pace himself, but what the hell did he know? Jordan had some enhanced strength, but his biggest talent was shifting into animals. They called him Dire because his form of choice was the long extinct dire wolf – a huge pre-historic beast that dwarfed modern wolves.
Not even Adele was like Calder. She was a regular human. She couldn’t dent pure titanium with one punch.
His fist met the grey metal and a satisfying ring vibrated through his bones. His gut clenched and his heart raced. Each impact with the wall let him focus on something else besides the look in Patrick Black’s eyes.
Or the way he moved like a cat.
Or the fact that he was supposed to be Calder’s sworn enemy.
And Calder liked him in a ‘hey, let’s be friends/roommates’ kind of way. And now that he knew who Patrick really was, it actually made it better. He finally met someone who knew what it was like to be thrust into the spotlight because of your mom (or guardian) and how boring galas were, even if they raised money for good causes.
The best part? He couldn’t judge Calder for being a King.
“Hey, Cal. You in the gym?” Jordan asked over the intercom.
Calder stopped mid-punch and looked at his hands. They were mildly bruised, and he’d dislocated a few knuckles, but as he watched they knitted themselves together. The bruises faded from purple to yellow to nothing.
“Yeah. Is dinner ready?”
“Sure is, and Adele needs to talk to you.”
Calder wiped his brow and frowned.
He trudged out of the gym and up the stairs to the main floor. Past the perfectly designed parlor and living room, that no one actually lived in. Most of the paintings on the wall were priceless originals—Adele had a thing for the romantic period. His feet padded hollowly on the hardwood floor as he entered the informal dining room.
Adele sat at the head of the table with a glass of red wine in her hand. Dinner was set out, steak and potatoes. The cook had already retreated, and not even Jordan was there to take the pressure off. He probably decided to eat in the kitchen, the bastard.
Calder nodded and sat. His hair stuck to his head. Maybe he should’ve taken a shower before he came up, but the idea of keeping her waiting was worse than smelling himself.
“How was the meeting?” he asked and cut into his steak.
Adele smiled. They had the same coloring, olive skin and dark hair. Her eyes were liquid hazel, however, while Calder’s were gray-green. “It went better than expected.”
He let out a breath. “Great.”
“Did you get the housing sorted?” she asked around a sip of wine.
“Yeah. I did get stuck with a roommate, some computer science geek, but he’s low key. Shouldn’t be a problem,” Calder said carefully. His voice didn’t falter, though a slight twinge of guilt filled his gut for lying to her. It was for everyone’s wellbeing.
Adele nodded. At least she didn’t offer to call the damn school. “Good. Do you think you can handle college and the duties of a full-fledged member of the VS?”
Calder’s heart caught in his throat. He didn’t trust himself to speak or touch anything without breaking it. The knife in his hand bent, and he dropped it on the plate with a clang. “You mean it? Fulltime?”
“We need your skills, Calder, and so does Darkvale. Or should I call you by your new name: Titan?” Adele asked and a smile slipped over her red lips.
Calder couldn’t help but smile back.
Yeah. That’s who he really was.