EVIL QUEEN - Rebel Hart Page 0,1

if I tried that now, I’d oversleep and miss the first day back. I wasn’t being forced to study business, practice my languages, or listen to lectures about being a man.

What did normal students do in the four hours before school?

I got dressed at as slow a pace as I could justify and then walked back into my bedroom. With a slump, I dropped down onto my bed and stared at the wall. Part of me told myself to go to sleep, part of me told myself to grab my laptop and work on business matters, and part of me told myself to just leave and drive until I got somewhere interesting. Nothing sounded good, and nothing had for a while, but only one of the options I came up with made any real sense, so I stood up, grabbed my backpack, slung it over my back, snagged my coffee, and made my way back downstairs.

I stepped down into the sunken living room couch and fished my laptop out of my backpack. It whirred to life as soon as I lifted the lid, but then I was met with the infamous updates screen. A sigh blew out of me, but it wasn’t all bad. I set the computer down on the couch, stepped back onto the main level, and walked into the kitchen. I wasn’t a chef, so I kept my fridge stocked with quick-grab items that I could eat without any preparation. When my parents were still around, they used to have a world-class chef prepare me breakfast every day, but about a week after they were gone, I caught him celebrating their absence and fired him. I grabbed a banana and topped off my coffee before walking back into the living room and sitting down next to my computer to eat while I waited.

Eventually, the updates finished, so I opened up my emails and let out a hiss of frustration. “Shit.”

The inbox was jam-packed with people contacting me from my father’s company, wondering what they should do next with my dad MIA. He was the president, sure, but weren’t Fortune 500 companies supposed to have an entire hierarchy so that they could continue to function if the head got lobbed off? Hell, knowing my dad, there had to be more than one person waiting for him to keel over one day so that they could rise up and take his spot.

Were they really so useless without him?

It wasn’t like medical supplies needed active selling. All hospitals, prisons, and schools were in the market for them, not to mention the department stores and insurance companies with whom we had multi-billion-dollar contracts to be their go-to supplier. All they had to do was keep showing up and doing things as they always had been. How hard was that?

I started to type a thorough, extravagant email to the president of the board of directors, who was the main person contacting me, but after about six paragraphs, I just picked up my phone and called. It was still early in the morning, but I didn’t care. If a group of grown adults was going to bug a high-school student non-stop about how to run a business, they were going to get advice on my schedule.

“Mr. Loche?” Arden Taft, the president of the board, greeted. His voice was groggy as if he was just waking up, and I could hear a second voice grumbling in the background. “Good morning.”

“Good morning. Also, call me Nathan.”

“Yes, sir.” There was some shifting, and then I could hear Arden moving, likely climbing out of bed. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“Arden, I realize my dad is MIA, but I cannot wake up to fifty emails from you guys. I’m still in high school. I start school again today. Why is it so difficult to continue operations with just one man missing?” I was snippier than I wanted to be, but I was also irritated.

“Sir, you have to understand, your father didn’t allow anyone other than himself to make decisions. He doesn’t have any protocol for what to do if he isn’t around, only to defer to you. Now, we can both imagine that he assumed that wouldn’t come into play as early in your life as it has, but it’s where we are.”

My neck cracked as I twisted my head to the left and then the right. Nikita’s voice skated across my mind, telling me not to crack my bones, but what else was I supposed