#Nerd (The Hashtag Series Book 1)(9)

By: Cambria Hebert

It didn’t take long to get to wherever they were taking us and we were being herded out of the car and led through more cold, damp grass.

It sounded like another gate was banging open, and then I was being shoved in my back.

“Better watch your step,” a guy said with clear amusement.

My feet left the grass and met with something hard, like concrete, and the guy who sort of helped me out earlier by telling me who they were leaned in to whisper low, “Steps.”

I didn’t acknowledge that he said anything because I figured he wasn’t supposed to tell me.

My suspicions were proven when I heard what sounded like someone falling and a bunch of guys laughing. “We got a clumsy one on our hands!”

My steps slowed and I cautiously moved forward, anticipating the first step. A finger poked me in the back just as my foot met air. I stepped down and concentrated on getting down the stairs, which seemed really steep.

As I went, I counted them. There were seven. The air down here was cold, maybe colder than outside, and the floor was still made of some hard material that was rough like concrete.

About thirty steps into the room, we were ordered by a new voice to halt. I stopped and turned toward where I heard the sound.

“The past is just that,” the voice intoned. “It’s in the past; it’s now irrelevant. You’re reborn tonight, starting a whole new chapter in your life!”

Some of the guys whooped their agreement. I remained silent.

“And so you will begin this new life the way you were brought into it!” he said.

What the hell did that mean?

After a few beats of silence, he yelled, “Strip! Come on, get nekid!”

Grumbling from both sides of me filled the air, but I grinned and reached for the waistband of my boxers. Once they were off, I held them in front of my junk, almost like a shield, but stood casually.

Seconds later, the bag on my head was ripped off and I blinked, focusing on the room.

The only lighting came from what had to be at least fifty large candles lit around the room. There were about ten pledges to my right and left, all of us naked.

I looked the best.

Of course.

In front of us was the president of the Alpha Omega fraternity, and of course he was fully clothed. Some of the other frat members all stood behind us in a row, and I glanced around to see who was behind me. My eyes connected with one of the running backs on the team, and he gave me a very subtle what up gesture.

I knew it was him who had helped me with the stairs. We were teammates. Brothers. We looked out for each other. And me falling and getting injured would seriously piss off the coach.

“For some of you losers…” The guy who ordered us to get naked spoke. He was the frat president, Zach Bettinger. He was a senior here. Some said he was going to make it to the White House one day. “This is as close as you’ll get to this frat. Some of you just won’t make the cut. Don’t let it get you down, boys. Some of you just aren’t good enough.”

What a douche.

“Being here doesn’t mean you’re in.” He went on, his eyes colliding with mine. Even in the low lighting of the candles, I saw the emotion that flared when he looked at me. This guy didn’t like me.


“It means you’ve been given a chance. A prayer, if you will.” He spread his hands. “To join the most exclusive, most epic fraternity ever.”

Cheers went up behind me. I grinned.

“What you do next will determine if you have what it takes to get in.”

“What do we have to do?” the guy next to me asked.

Zach stopped and stared at him. “You think you can hack it?”

“I know I can.” He smirked.

“All right.” Zach motioned at the line of pledges. “Take a good look, boys. This here is your competition for the next month.”

A month of pledging? That was insane.

We all looked around. I noticed a couple of the lingering stares sent in my direction. I was used to it. My football background, my parents’ connections, and my looks earned me a sort of campus celebrity status. It was one of the reasons I was surprised I hadn’t been allowed to pledge last year.

“During the next few weeks, you will be sent tasks either by note or text that you will need to complete. You don’t need to tell us you completed them. We’ll know.” Zach glanced at me again. “We’re always watching.”

I stared back at him. He didn’t intimidate me, and I was pretty sure he was trying to.

He glanced away, pacing in front of the flickering candles. I glimpsed around. It seemed like we were in a cave of some sort. But it wasn’t a place that was unused. The walls were unfinished, but there were throw rugs on the floor, leather club chairs and furniture around. Behind the candles, I could make out what looked like a pool table. Maybe this was some sort of club or hangout for the frat.

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