Forever New Adult: Rachel Van Dyken's Elite
New Adult is one of the fastest growing genres in fiction and for good reason. Filled with late teen/early 20s angst and all of the drama that goes into becoming an adult, these books give a gritty inside look at love, loss and moving on. This week we're bringing you five of the hottest New Adult books from Forever Romance. We asked the authors to tell us about their latest title and share which characters and specific scenes are most personal to them. Today we bring you Rachel Van Dyken's Elite, the story of a girl who gets into a top tier college, where she must navigate the school's upper crust, known as The Elect, while falling for a completely inappropriate guy named Nixon.
Tell us a little about Elite.
Elite was a blast to write. I think what pulled me into the story the most was the coming-of-age idea of this innocent girl going to college for the first time. The life she thinks she's been living is a total and complete lie but she has absolutely no clue. She has no experience with guys and is immediately dropped into a world where people lie for a living, protect to the death, and will do anything to keep their secrets safe. I became obsessed with the storyline between Trace and Nixon. We all have that guy in our past that's a bit of a bad guy, he's the one you know you shouldn't take home to your dad not because you're afraid your parents won't approve but because you know he's the type of guy that could care less about anyone's approval.
In writing Elite, it was really exciting to be able to do a typical New Adult book while throwing in the theme of the mafia.
Which scene from the story is closest to your heart?
The excerpt below is one of my favorites in the book. Up until this point Nixon and Tracy have had a very rocky relationship. She's attracted to him but knows she shouldn't be. He's been pushing her away yet protecting her at the same time giving her really mixed messages. I can relate to this scene as probably every other girl in the world can, not because I had a mafia boss as a boyfriend, but because she's fighting against what she really feels for him and is dealing with the confusion that comes from first love.
Here's the excerpt:
“You okay?” I asked in a small voice.
Nixon nodded. “I’m good.” Blood was crusted across his knuckles. I wondered if it hurt. With a curse he handed me his jacket and took off his tight fitting Henley, revealing a tight black sleeveless shirt underneath.
Using the shirt he discarded he wiped off his hands and put on his jacket.
“So…” I shoved my hands in my pockets. “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say thank you or what the hell were you thinking.”
He shrugged. “They had it coming. Tim should never have listened to Phoenix, and Phoenix should have stayed the hell away from you. He had rules and he didn’t follow them.”
“There we go with the whole rules thing again,” I mumbled.
“Rules make the world go round.” Nixon laughed and then put his arm around me. “The rumors should die down now, okay?”
“Yeah, but aren’t people going to talk about this? And why was the dean so chill? I mean, he’s like twice your age.”
Nixon shrugged. “We have an understanding.”
“Right.” I nodded. “What type of understanding? He follows your rules or you shoot him in the face?”
Nixon laughed again. “Wow, thanks I needed that.” His eyes glistened in the moonlight. “Is that what people do on TV, shoot people in the face?”
“Yes, well. No. I guess. I don’t know.” I sighed. “What are you? Some sort of gangster or something?”
“Sure.” His fingers moved to the back of my neck caressing the skin just below my hairline. “Let's go with that. I’m a gangster.”
“Have you ever killed anyone?”
“Have you?” he fired back as if offended I would even ask.
Well, that shut me up. His hand moved to my cheek sending shivers down my spine. “It's not fair,” I said breathlessly.
“What?” His eyes were on my lips.
“That you can touch me, but I can’t touch you.” That you look like a god and I look like a poor farm girl. I sighed and stepped away from him.
He tilted his head to the side. “Would you rather I not touch you?”
“No!” I blurted. Then covered my face with my hands.
He chuckled and pulled me into his body so my head rested against his chest. “I just don’t understand. What’s so different? I mean we’re touching now, but…”
“I’m in control of it.” He exhaled and tilted my chin toward his. “I know it sounds crazy. I just… I don’t like it when people touch me without permission. Ever since I was a kid, after—” He swallowed. “Anyways, it doesn’t matter. It’s just this thing I have.”
“Like the rules?” I whispered.
“Yeah, like the rules.” His thumb grazed my lower lip. “You’re beautiful, you know.”
I laughed awkwardly and tried to tilt my chin down but he wouldn’t let me. Why I was letting the guy who put the fear of God into the dean touch my face, I don’t know. But… there was something about him. Something that made me want to touch him, made me crave his touch, and I hated that I responded to him, especially after the way he treated me at first.
“Don’t,” he whispered against my cheek as he bent his lips to my ear. “Don’t pull away from me, please.”
“Okay.” My voice was shaky and wobbly and my heart sounded like I’d just run a marathon. Breathe. I just needed to breathe.
His lips found my neck and I let out an involuntary gasp.
“So sensitive,” he murmured as his tongue wet his lips and then drew a design just below my ear. “So damn sensitive. Your skin’s so soft right here.”
I shivered as his mouth met my jaw. His hands moved to clench my hair, forcing me closer. “Nixon.” My voice was weak. “What are you doing?”
His lips met mine. The kiss was brief. He sighed. “I wish I knew.”
“You can’t just…” I swallowed. “You can’t just go around kissing people you hate.”
“Who said I hate you?” He released my head and stepped back.
“Well, you weren’t exactly shaking my hand and shouting my name a few days ago.”
Nixon licked his lips. His hooded eyes blazed a hot trail across my body until I thought I might die from wanting him right then and there. “So you want me to shout your name? Is that what this is about?”
Laughing, I pushed him away. “Stop being such a guy. I’m serious.”
“Oh, believe me…” He ran his hand along my shoulder and down my collarbone until his fingers brushed the first few buttons of my shirt. I had no doubt in my mind that the guy probably had an A+ in stripping women of their clothes with one hand. “I’m dead serious.”
I swallowed the nervous laughter bubbling up within me and stepped out of his reach. “So gangster, you gonna tell me why you’ve taken personal interest in running this school?”
Taking the hint, he shoved his hands in his pockets and fell into step beside me. “I like things to be fair.”
“Wow, then you’re at the wrong school for that.”
“You know what I mean. I do what I can when I can. Besides, it’s kind of one of my jobs, to keep the peace around here, keep the secrets, keep everyone happy. It’s exhausting actually.”
“I have a hard time imagining anyone making you do anything.”
He laughed bitterly. “Then clearly you haven’t met my dad.”
I stopped walking and pulled his hand. “What do you mean? Is he… is he bad?”
Nixon sighed. “Well, he’s no Mickey Mouse or Santa Claus if that’s what you’re asking.” He bit his lip and opened his mouth as if he was going to say more. Instead he grunted and grabbed my hand. “Doesn’t matter. Anyways, I was going to ask you earlier but then I got distracted by all your drug money…”
I rolled my eyes.
“Does the name Alfero mean anything to you?”
“Alfero?” I repeated. “Hmm…as in Alfredo without the D?”
“Yes. As in the food.” He glanced at my necklace and sighed. “It’s on the back of your necklace.”
“So…” He nodded his head. “You know it’s okay for you to tell me. I won’t say anything. I mean, I know I’m an Abandonato, but it’s not like, you know, I’ll set Jimmy on your or anything.”
I burst out laughing. “Are you high?”
His eyes narrowed. “No.”
“Wow, then you have to know I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Good.” He sighed, and kicked the ground. “That’s, wow… that’s really, really good.”
“I think you must have lost more blood than you realize in that fight.” I nudged him with my elbow.
He laughed. “At least I can say I’d freaking bleed for you, if that’s what it took.”
He stopped and reached out to touch my chin, lifting my face toward his. “To keep you safe.”
“So you’d die for me?” I joked trying to break the awkwardness.
“Don’t you get it?”
My breathing became erratic as he leaned close enough to kiss me again. “I’d give my life for yours."
Can you elaborate on how this scene ties into your own past?
I remember my first year in college — thinking I had everything figured out, especially guys. I was so horribly wrong and definitely suffered because of it. I think the minute, we, as girls, try to pull the pieces away from our relationships in hopes to figure things out — that's when the relationship gets more complicated. As women we like to tell ourselves that if we can just put the puzzle pieces together, then we'll see the full picture. But usually we end up spending so much time on the puzzle, we don't realize until months into it, that we've been looking at the wrong box the entire time. In this scene Trace is trying to figure things out, but by trying, she's almost making it harder on Nixon because what he's keeping from her, isn't just deep — it's life threatening.
Do you have a memorable college romance? Let us know in the comments. And make sure to pick up a copy of Elite, available digitally now. And visit the RT Daily Blog all week for more from Forever's New Adult authors.