Accepted: VIP College #1 – Bonus Scene
The uproar and energy of the trial showed no signs of slowing, even after the dean had motioned to adjourn. The victory had been won, for now, and there was no quelling the renewed pride of the authors or the excitement of the readers that had all been rounded up for the petition, even though the ultimate future remained uncertain.
Everyone was buzzing, not only about possibly getting more chapters of the romance story they’d all been pulled in by, but the prospect of getting even more unique genre fiction, or anything else that would change up the formula for the VIP Lit Club.
Provided the dean saw reason and let the publication continue.
The three who should have been celebrating the most were huddled in low discussion at the head of the auditorium.
“I’m still having a difficult time believing that this went our way,” Luka said, loosening his tie and unbuttoning his collar. “This is everything we wanted.”
“For now, anyway,” Jaeson chimed in. “This is a stay of execution.”
“I will take that as a victory for now,” Luka replied. “They unequivocally possess the power to shut us down based on their own charter. The fact that they’re extending the proceedings in this fashion means they’re determining their options, and the damage control each of those options might entail.”
He looked at Jaeson for a reply but found him with his brow furrowed. “You’re preoccupied, Jaeson — would you care to let us in on the secret?”
Riot flicked his eyes over to Jaeson. “What’s going on?”
Jaeson shook his head. “Our girl is in trouble.”
“Perhaps we could keep our voices down when discussing ‘our girl’?” Luka said sharply, his eyes scanning the room appraisingly.
Riot scowled. “Jaeson’s right. She could be expelled because of this. She took a huge bullet for all of us.”
Luka nodded soberly. “I’m aware, I assure you. If you ask me, however, I believe the optics of an elite private university callously expelling an outsider, to whom they granted a full scholarship, will prevent them from doing anything rash.”
“Maybe,” Riot said. “I’ll wait and see.”
“That’s not all there is to it,” Jaeson finally said.
Both Luka and Riot turned to look at him.
“If you know something we don’t, now’s the time to spill,” Riot said, insistent.
“I agree, Jaeson,” Luka added. “We’ve been open with each other about Aubrey this far. Now is not the time to hold back new information.”
“Now who needs to lower their voice?” Riot chided Luka mockingly.
“She’s being blackmailed,” Jaeson spat, the anger clear in his voice.
“I beg your pardon?” Luka said, eyes wide.
“Who’s doing it?” Riot said immediately. “I want a name.”
“What on earth are they blackmailing her with?” Luka jumped in.
“Take it easy,” Jaeson said. “Lower your voices.”
Luka looked around again. He stopped his gaze in one spot. “Perhaps don’t look all at once, but our girl is looking this way.”
Immediately, Jaeson and Riot both looked in the direction Luka indicated, noticing Aubrey looking back at them. Luka nodded in her direction and smiled.
A sly grin slipped onto Jaeson’s face. “Too late for that, your highness.”
Despite his usual reticence, Riot couldn’t help but give a bare hint of a smile. His concern for her filled him with worry.
Aubrey smiled back at them but was clearly also concerned. She turned away and disappeared in a circle of other girls who closed around her like a personal security detail and shuttled her out of the auditorium.
“We can’t allow anything else to happen to her,” Luka said under his breath, turning back to the other two.
“Tell us more about the blackmail,” Riot said, staring at Jaeson.
Jaeson’s sly grin faded almost as quickly as it had appeared. “Piece of shit is texting her a bunch of garbage, apparently.”
“Like what?” Riot asked.
“I can’t remember exactly,” Jaeson said. “Something like, you think you’re safe? You couldn’t be more wrong.”
“The fuck?” Riot fumed.
“How was her state of mind?” Luka asked, concerned.
“She looked like her heart was racing a mile a minute,” Jaeson replied. “I thought it was because I had snuck up and surprised her, but turns out it was this shit.” He paused for a beat. “I might also have overreacted and said I’d kill them.”
“If there’s one thing Aubrey needs right now,” Luka said in a scolding tone. “it’s to avoid additional stress. All of us need to be cognizant of that right now, more than ever, especially if we plan to keep this up.”
“You’re not wrong,” Jaeson said. “I’ve just seen things like this before, more than I care for, and it’s never anything but ugly. Nobody makes it out of a situation like this clean. I couldn’t help it, once I felt how afraid she was.”
“I don’t think I would have reacted much different,” Riot growled. “Was that the only one?”
Jaeson shook his head. “There was one before, but she didn’t tell me when. She said she’d fill me in on what she knew later.”
“And did they say what they wanted, or what this was all about?” Luka asked insistently.
“She didn’t say,” Jaeson replied. “I’m guessing that’s what she’ll fill me in about.”
Luka looked up to the ceiling, sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose. “This doesn’t bode well.”
“Do you think that we ought to consider backing off a little until this all blows over?” Jaeson asked.
“No,” Riot said immediately.
“Easy,” Jaeson replied, holding his hands up to his chest. “I don’t like it any more than you do, I promise.”
“You don’t abandon the ones you care about when they need you the most,” Riot said. “No matter what the three of us go through, we always fall back on that, don’t we?”
“I just want to make sure we have her best interests in mind,” Jaeson said. “If it were up to me, I’d already have her rolled up in bubble wrap, head to toes. I don’t wanna go off half-cocked here.”
“I think we’ve all come to a point where each of us feels something special for her,” Luka said. “For now, our first priority is Aubrey, her safety and her wellbeing. We continue on as we all agreed — wooing our favorite literary prodigy in the fashion that she’s become accustomed to. We can provide her with a sense of normalcy.”
“Normalcy?” Jaeson chuckled. “She’s dating all three of us.”
“It is a bit… unorthodox,” Luka conceded, smiling.
“As long as it makes her happy,” Riot said. “I don’t care about anything else.” He pinned the other two with his fierce gaze. “I’ll be there for her, as long as she wants me to be. Will you?”
The three men shared a solemn nod.
They would all be there for Aubrey, for as long as she wanted.
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