This is War (The Checkmate Duet #1)(3)


by Kennedy Fox

“You’re an arrogant dick, King.” He shakes his head as he aims for the door, but a small smile pulls at his lips.

“Arrogance is the key to success, James!” I holler back, but he’s already walking away and shaking his head at me.

Oh well...you can’t win everyone over.

VIOLA

You have got to be freaking kidding me!

I want to yell and flail my arms at the jaw-clenching task my brother has asked me to do.

Can you bring Travis a sandwich at work? He didn’t have time to eat during his break.

I roll my eyes at the message he sends me. A lame attempt to cover Travis’ ass. ‘Didn’t have time’...really? I wasn’t born yesterday.

However, Drew does so much for me that I have a hard time refusing him. As kids we weren’t super close, but as we grew older, he became much more than just my brother. He’s my best friend. As much as I want to tell him to tell Travis to fuck off, I don’t. Instead I reply back, Fine. But I’m putting rat poison in his mayo.

Whatever gives it flavor. I smile as I read his message. Drew knows I hate Travis. Not like, har-har-I-hate-you kind of hate, but like loathing, I’d-rather-eat-my-arm-off-than-be-near-you kind of hate.

But Travis is his best friend, so when he needs a favor, I usually get roped into helping somehow.

After throwing his lunch on his desk, I storm out of his office with a humph. I was three seconds away from slapping his stupid, I’m-so-hot grin right off his face.

He’s not hot, for the record.

He’s a fucking devil and gorgeous god all in one, and he knows it, too. With his sculpted six-pack, sleeve tattoos and stunning brown eyes, he’s the type that never has to work for anything.

He works out religiously and reminds me every time when he walks around the house shirtless. Aside from working out, his extracurricular activities include being naked and in between some bimbo’s legs. If only he cared about the girls he brings home the way he cared about his body, we’d be having a much different conversation.

For the record, I only know this because he lives with my older brother.

I drive out of the parking lot and head back to school. Although this is my last year, I still live on campus. I received a full scholarship based off my grades and SAT scores, so spending the extra money to be off campus didn’t make sense. Luckily, last year I was able to choose courtyard housing, which means I get my own bedroom and bathroom and only have to share the a living room and kitchen with my three other roommates. For extra money, I tutor jocks. Never a short supply of academically questionable athletes on campus.

“Hey, Viola!” Ashley calls out as soon as I walk through the door.

“Hey! You’re back early.” I set my stuff down on the table and rummage through it.

“Class got dismissed as soon as we finished the quiz,” she says in between bites of chewing her lunch.

“What a waste of a class.” I love school. Yes, I’m one of those students that absolutely loves studying, doing homework, and participating in class lectures. I even devote an entire weekend for school supplies shopping and organizing it all by color and subject.

I’m smart, so sue me.

Actually, don’t. I can’t afford a lawyer.

“Doesn’t bother me!” She stands up from the couch and stalks over. “Jesus, Viola. What is all this shit?”

I furrow my brows at her. “This shit is called textbooks, notebooks, and reading material. You might’ve heard of it?” I tease.

“I swear to God, Viola. You are way too focused on school. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without a book in your hands.”

“Plenty of times, actually. But you see this building we live in?” I dramatically twirl a finger around in the air. “And all the larger buildings that surround us? That’s called a campus...it’s where people come to learn.”

“It’s also where people come to party and get laid, but I never see you do any of those things,” she says with a grin.

I scoff. “I get laid plenty of times.” No, I don’t.

She snorts, laughs, and nearly chokes at my words. “That’s the biggest line of bullshit I’ve ever heard.”

I sigh. “I’m leaving now. BYE.” I pile my stuff back in my bag and head back out toward the door.

“Love you!” she calls out, but I just flip her my middle finger over my shoulder and slam the door behind me.

I’m really not the buzzkill she’s portraying I am, but it’s safe to say I’m school-focused. More importantly, I’m future-focused. I’m two hours away from home, and to stay away from that little town after graduation, I’ll have to continue my education or find a job that pays well. I am trying to keep my options open because there really isn’t a home for me to go back to. After our parents’ nasty divorce was finalized, the house I grew up in was put on the market and sold. Mom moved on, fell in love with a nice guy named Larry. They’d let me move in without a doubt, but I could never do that. It would just be too weird to live with a man who’s virtually a stranger to me. Dad is still happily married to his job at the law firm, which isn’t surprising. Most days it feels as if Drew and I only have each other.

Majoring in International Business makes me happy. It keeps my mind busy and I’ve always loved how other cultures conduct business. I geek out over micro and macroeconomics and just the mention of foreign trade polices gets me hot and bothered.

Earlier in the semester, Dr. Johnson pulled me aside after class and asked if I’d consider an apprenticeship after graduation. I had already started applying for graduate schools, but I wasn’t against the suggestion. If she thought it would benefit my future, I’d definitely consider it.

She handed me a stack of papers with a smile and gave me several handwritten recommendations for each corporation. After looking them over, I decided to send my application in to a few of them. I’ve been on edge waiting for their replies, but so far nothing yet. After doing further research into these corporations and weighing the benefits of what these experiences could mean for a future career, I’ve become obsessed with planning out every possible path I could take. Those offers will single-handedly decide my future after graduation.

It’s something I’ve kept from Drew, which I feel bad about, but I know if I tell him, he’ll either try to talk me out of moving away, or he’ll ask me on a daily basis if I’ve heard anything yet. The pressure and disappointment is something I want to avoid, so until I know for sure, I’m not telling him anything. As far as he knows, I’ve only applied to graduate schools within the state.