Chapter 1: Part 2


Two minutes later I pulled into my girlfriend’s driveway. Savannah lived in my same neighborhood. She was seated on the front steps with a sealed Tupperware container in her lap. Her beauty struck me every time I saw her. Savannah was considered average height, although she shrinks in comparison to my 6’3” frame. She had beautiful dark brown skin the color of warm almonds and big shoulder-length curly hair and warm brown eyes that reminded me of melted chocolate. Even the school uniform didn’t diminish her splendor. As I drove up the long driveway, Savannah stood up and made her way down the stairs. She slid into the passenger seat of my baby.

I leaned over, gently kissing her lips. “Thanks for making breakfast for me, babes,” I said as I took the container from her and placed it on the backseat. “Dr. Alice made another classic of peanut butter toast and apples.” I put my baby in reverse and headed down the driveway.

“I just don’t understand why you can’t tell her that you don’t want her to make you anything anymore,” Savannah said.

“I have. She never listens to me. I told her I hate peanut butter. Of course, she told me I should eat it for the protein.” I smirked.

I eased my baby down the hill to the front of the subdivision toward the entrance. “Shit,” I mumbled. I paused as we neared the gatehouse. I’d forgotten about the media stationed outside the subdivision. Four media vans showcasing the insignias of their respective news stations were parked just beyond the gate. Half a dozen reporters and photojournalists idled, carrying microphones and cameras, intensely monitoring each car that entered or exited the subdivision. Once the reporters saw my car approach through the wrought-iron gates, their attention immediately stirred. Cameramen rushed to hoist their cameras over their shoulders. Reporters lifted their microphones to their lips, anticipation etched on their faces. I clenched my hands around the steering wheel. These assholes are just as guilty as Owen Chandler for my father’s downfall. They’re always angling for a story, always stirring the pot. No wonder my dad seems stressed as hell.

I slowed down at the gatehouse to talk to the security guard. “Morning, Dougie. How long have they been out here?” I asked as I gazed into the sea of sharks swarming around the gate.

Doug, or Dougie as I called him, walked over and leaned down into the driver’s side window. “About two hours or so. Those guys are pretty persistent.” We sat in silence momentarily as we watched the press descend on the gates like vultures on a carcass. “Sorry, AJ,” Dougie said as he stood up, “there’s not much I can do.” He nodded at Savannah and me before returning to the small gatehouse.

“Well, babes. Let’s get this over with.” I slowly eased toward the gate and waited for it to open.

A few reporters positioned themselves in an effort to block my exit. “You gotta be fucking kidding me,” I mumbled. I leaned out of the window. “Excuse me, I really need to get to school.”

One overly excited reporter and his cameraman ran to the window. “Alistair Jr. Dustin Charmer, Channel 2 News. How is your father doing? Has he said anything about Owen Chandler’s trial? Will he testify at the sentencing?” He shoved the microphone through the window.

“Jesus! No comment!” I shouted as I backed away from the microphone.

“He must have said something. After all, your father’s business partner embezzled funds from Atlanta Skylights and evaded millions in taxes. Isn’t he still angry that Chandler destroyed his business?” He shoved the microphone back through the window. His cameraman followed suit, shoving his camera lens in my face.

“Fuck! I said no comment!” I shoved the camera out of the car, causing it to smash into the operator’s eye. Stumbling backward, he landed on the pavement. He held his right eye as the camera rested in his lap. The reporter rushed over to assist him. The remaining cameramen pointed their lenses to their fallen comrade. I took advantage of the distraction and raced through the gate.

Savannah looked over her left shoulder, craning her neck to get a better view of the fallen cameraman. “Oh my God, AJ! He can sue you!” Savannah shouted as she sat back in the passenger seat.

“Well, they shouldn’t be assholes! I told them I didn’t have a comment and they invaded my space!” I yelled. I glanced at Savannah and immediately felt guilty for yelling. “Shit. I’m sorry I lost my cool while you were in the car babes. I’m sure that if they show what happened on the news, they’ll zoom in on my face and edit you out of the shot.”

Savannah folded her arms across her chest. “You can’t be sure of that.”

“Sure I can!” I said flashing what I hoped was a disarming smile. “You’re not the story they’re after.”

“Sure. In any case, you need to work on your temper. It’s going to get you in trouble one day. I’m sure—” Ringing in my baby’s speakers interrupted Savannah midsentence. I checked the screen on the console. It read “Unknown.” If it’s business related, they can leave a message. I pressed the Ignore button on the steering wheel.

“Damn. Have you been talking to Dr. Alice?” I asked.

“What? No!”

“It was a joke, babes! Look, I know I have a slight temper; however, even you’d have to admit that asshole back there deserved it.”

“Still—” Ringing in the speakers interrupted Savannah again. This time the console read “Ethan Lee.” Definitely business related and definitely not answering with Savannah here. I quickly pressed the Ignore button before Savannah could read the console. But it was too late. “You’re still tutoring that Ethan dude in math?” Savannah quizzed.

“Yep. He’s got finals coming up soon.” I navigated my baby onto the school’s campus.

Savannah rolled her eyes. “Yeah right, AJ. I don’t know what you two are really doing, but I think you’re lying to me. That guy is shady. You’re always with him, and when you’re not with him, he calls you all the time.” The phone dinged, alerting me to a voice message. She nodded toward the console. “Case in point right there. Besides, why the hell would a college sophomore constantly need math tutoring from a high school senior?”

Slightly amused by her tirade, I flashed another one of my innocent-looking smiles, complete with a set of dimples. “We’ve developed a friendship, babes. I’m not such an asshole that I can’t make friends.” I parked in my assigned parking space and killed the engine.

“Whatever, AJ. Don’t forget I’m hanging out with a few friends after we get out of class.” Savannah opened the door and got out of the car. I grabbed my things from the backseat and walked over to her. Slinging the blazer over my shoulder, I grabbed her hand with my free hand. As we walked to the main building, I looked up at the sky and smiled. Thank God this is the last day I’ll ever have to spend in this hellhole.

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