Fallen fourth down, p.13
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.13
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  friend.”

  “Really?” Logan grunted.

  Nate paused and turned to me since I was on the edge. I wasn’t moving. Seeing that, he guided Marissa to the other side and she scooted in beside Kris. The two girls glanced at each other again. Kris pressed her lips together and gave her a brief smile. Marissa’s hand flicked back up to her face. A strand of her hair was already behind her ear. She untucked it, then tucked it back in place as she bit her lip. Finally, she lifted her head and turned towards us.

  She was openly staring at Mason.

  Everyone was quiet. It was a matter of seconds before Logan jerked forward. The bomb was about to be detonated.

  He waved a finger between Nate and Marissa and smirked. “When’d you two start to bone?” Marissa shrunk down and Nate straightened. He opened his mouth, but Logan held his finger back up, silencing him. A wicked grin came over him and he slowly turned his finger until it was pointing right at Mason. “Because if this is the beginning of a budding romance, you’re already losing, Nate. Her doe eyes are trying to drink Mason up. If she was a dog, she’d be humping his leg by now.” He grinned at her. “No slipping under the table, Marissa.”

  “Logan!” Nate glared at him. “Shut the fuck up.” He said to Mason, “Marissa’s your friend. I thought she’d be welcomed. You going to let him bully her?”

  Mason was quiet. I felt his attention more on me, but I refused to look at him.

  Logan was, though. He laughed. “I’m serious, Nate. Are you two dating? That’d make more sense as to why she’s here. If so, I’ll shut my trap, but if you’re not, what are you thinking? No offense, Marissa,” he warned, which meant he was about to offend her, “but you’re a psycho. Mason told you to take a hike last year, and you’re still emailing him. If you’re a student here, I don’t believe for a second that’s a coincidence. I know you’re tight with Tate. She did the whole redemption tour when she left Fallen Crest. She knew. She would’ve told you.”

  “Logan.” Mason shifted forward. At his movement, Logan quieted and everyone waited. “Stop.” He said to Nate next, “This is a little awkward. You know that.”

  Nate rolled his eyes. “Like insulting one of my fraternity brothers and friends? That’s awkward too.”

  Oh—what? I reared back; everyone jerked at that. Logan let out a surprised sound. “That’s a better twist. Let’s duke this shit out.” He leaned forward, his elbows rested on the table, and he swung his head, looking from one end of the table to the other. Mason and Nate were involved in a heated stare.

  Mason’s eyes narrowed. “That’s what this is about?” His tone was soft, too soft. A shiver went down my back.

  “Yeah.”

  Nate wasn’t backing down. Mason shook his head and gestured to her. “This wasn’t the right move for that.”

  “Why?” Nate clipped out, jerking his hand at me. “Because you haven’t told Sam about Marissa? Because you should’ve by now, you know. You afraid your moment of dishonesty will affect your precious twosome?”

  Logan held up a hand. “I’d like to interject.” He gestured from Mason, me, and himself. “We’re better known as the Threesome Fearsome.”

  “Logan,” Mason said, shooting him a look.

  Logan moved his finger in a circling motion, going down, whistling as he made the motion. He grinned. “That’s the sound of the Fearsome Foursome going down the drain.”

  “Logan!”

  He held his hands up. “I’m done,” he said to Mason. “Carry on, my brotha.”

  A cry came from Marissa and she turned, trying to shove out of the booth, but Nate was blocking her. He didn’t register what she wanted, he was still glaring across the table, so another whimper left her and she began pounding on his arm harder.

  Logan cleared his throat. Nate looked over and Logan pointed to Marissa. “Heads-up.”

  “Oh.” He stood up and Marissa shot out of the booth. She took off. She didn’t wave or say anything. She didn’t look at anyone, even Mason. Pressing a sleeved hand to her face, she ran, and we watched as she went through the doors and down the sidewalk.

  “That was a good exit. I haven’t seen one like that in a while.”

  “Logan.”

  “What?” He lifted his shoulders. He said to Mason, “I was speaking the truth. I don’t like her. I’ve never liked her.”

  Nate made an exasperated sound. “You guys don’t change. Nothing changes.”

  Logan’s eyebrows raised. “What are you talking about? That was a douche move on your end and you know it. You should think about what you’re actually mad about. You’re mad at Mason because he doesn’t like someone you like? When’s that a rule for us? We don’t like people all the time, and we’ve never forced anyone down someone else’s throat. And this is Mason. You know how he is. Don’t twist that stick up your ass and name it Mason when it should be named Sebastian Dickstick.”

  Nate had quieted, but he sighed. “You didn’t have to be so aggressive with her.”

  “Maybe.” Logan rolled his eyes. “I’ll give that to you, but maybe not. She’s still weird, Nate. You can’t deny that. She always had some weird fascination with Mason, and it’s still there. It took me two seconds to see it, but why haven’t you? Or you don’t give a fuck? That’s a better question. Who are you friends with because you’re not acting like ours.”

  Nate had no response. He stood there as his shoulders drooped down.

  Mason asked, “You done?”

  Logan held his hands up. “I’m done. For real.” He gestured to Nate. “He’s all yours.”

  “Mason,” Nate started, but he stopped.

  Mason nudged my leg and I stood. He stood behind me and like that, Logan and Kris did the same. Those two started for the door. As they went by, Logan said, “We’ll be in the parking lot on the left.”

  I nodded and held back. Mason waited until they were out of earshot. Nate looked ready to fight, but he didn’t. Growling, he opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, and closed it once more. Lifting a fisted hand, he pressed it against his cheek, softly, before shaking his head. He turned to Mason. “I’m sorry. Fuck. Logan’s right. I’m sorry, Mase.”

  “Yeah.” His hand came to rest on my back again. “We can talk later.”

  It was time to go, and it was time for my own fireworks show. Walking in front of Mason, I glanced up over my shoulder at him. He met my look, but didn’t say anything. Neither did I, but I was going to. I wasn’t the only one with a secret.

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  “Sam, stop.”

  I was headed to the parking lot, but Mason tapped my arm and gestured to the coat room. It was abandoned and after I passed him, going in first, he shut the door behind us. He didn’t say anything for a while.

  I shook my head. I didn’t know what I felt. I wasn’t the jealous type, but he hadn’t told me about Marissa. He should’ve, and when he continued to frown at me, I figured he knew that as well.

  A headache was forming, so I lifted a hand to rub my forehead. “Are you going to talk?”

  “I have no idea what to say.”

  “Point taken.” I started past him again, but he caught my arm and swung me back around.

  “Sam, wait.” He touched the other side of my hip, gently, and continued to hold me in front of him. His eyes rolled upwards and I wanted to snort. He was looking for what to say. He said, “I should’ve told you.”

  I pulled away, but only moved back a step. “Yeah.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  Folding my arms over my chest, I waited. “Yeah?”

  He looked in pain. His eyebrows furrowed together and his mouth strained to one side. A hand lifted to scratch his chin. For once, Mason wasn’t in control. He seemed at a loss for words. He lifted his hands in a helpless motion. “I have no idea what to say. Shit. I’m a horrible boyfriend.”

  The tension began to lift inside me. He was being genuine.

  He added, “She emailed me last spring and told me she g
ot in. I meant to tell you, but I forgot. It was during the whole Kate ordeal. I was more worried about you, and it slipped my mind. I’m sorry. I should’ve remembered and I should’ve told you.”

  “You knew she was here before today?” He hadn’t looked surprised to see her when she walked in.

  His eyes closed, his nose wrinkled, and he cursed. “Yes. I did.”

  I lifted an eyebrow, waiting.

  “It’s weird. This whole thing is just weird. I don’t know how to explain it.”

  “How many times have you seen her?”

  “A few,” he admitted.

  “A few?”

  “Yeah.” He grimaced. “The first time was outside the stadium. I was going home after practice, and she was in the parking lot. It was…odd. I honestly don’t know what to say. She used to like me—”

  “She still does.”

  He nodded, running a hand over his face. “—and I was going to deal with it. Right then and there. I really was, but she beat me to it. She told me she used to like me, but she doesn’t anymore. I apologized for not helping her when we were sophomores, when the girls were picking on her, and she took off.”

  This was so confusing. Something wasn’t right and I opened my mouth to tell him.

  He beat me to it. Mason lifted a hand, halting my words. “There’s no friendship with Marissa. Honest to god. There’s not. I meant to tell her that, but she ran off. I don’t know if she could sense what I was going to tell her and didn’t want to hear it or what. I have no idea.” Okay. I started to say something again, but Mason touched my arm. “Hold on. Let me tell you all of it.”

  There was more?

  His eyes narrowed, watching me warily as he said, “She’s in one of my classes.”

  What?!

  “I’ve never once talked to her in there. She sits with her friends. I sit with mine. There’s been no interaction at all. Then,” he hesitated, raking his gaze over my face, “Friday night, the guys and I went to a birthday thing for Matteo. Nate and his fraternity came in. Marissa was with Nate. She was his date.”

  “And she came with him today.”

  “Yeah.”

  I shook my head. “What the hell is going on with Nate? Why didn’t you tell me any of this? I should’ve known.” My finger jabbed at his chest, poking him. “You should’ve told me.”

  “I know.” He caught my finger and held it there, pressing my whole hand against him. I felt his heart racing. “I’m so goddamn sorry. I really am. I should’ve told you the first night. I meant to. I’ve just been,” he shook his head, “things are different. I’m scrambling. I don’t have you and Logan. This year is just…”

  “…different.” I sighed. Things were changing. I went to him and slid my arms around him, pressing against his chest. He was stiff at first, then relaxed as his arms wrapped around me in return. He tightened his hold, and it wasn’t just me hugging him for comfort. He was hugging me back. The knots were back in me, stretching wider and wider inside me, but I didn’t think they would go away for a long time. We were in a different chapter of our lives.

  “Sam?” He tilted my head up and peered down at me. His thumb brushed a tear from my cheek. “You okay? I am sorry.”

  “I know. I am.” Things were changing. “You’re my anchor and you’re not there and she’s here and I didn’t hear about it until today. It doesn’t sit well. It doesn’t make me feel good.”

  A swift curse left him and he rested his forehead on mine. His thumb rested on my cheek. “I am so sorry. I mean it.”

  I believed him. “Yeah.” But it didn't make it hurt any less.

  “Yo—oh. Sorry!”

  Twisting around, we saw the tail end of Logan as he left the room. Once the door was shut, he said from the other side, “Sam, your phone is off or you’re not answering. Your dad called me. He wants to talk to you about something.”

  Mason asked me, “What’s that about?”

  I shrugged. “If I were to guess, Garrett.”

  “We haven’t talked about him yet.”

  “I know.” I stepped back, and as soon as his hands left me, I missed his touch.

  “I am sorry, Sam. I really am.”

  I shook my head. “No. That wasn’t…never mind. I don’t know if I should be worried. I’m not. Maybe I should, but I’m not. You not telling me she was here bothers me.” Tate had. He hadn’t. That was an extra kick in the gut. “Tate told me that Marissa was coming here. I should’ve asked you about it, but I didn’t.”

  “Wait. What?”

  “Yeah.” I lifted a shoulder up and let it drop. “I should’ve asked you. I shouldn’t have waited to see if you would tell me or not.” But even as I said that, I was the liar this time. I hadn’t told him about Tate because I didn’t want him asking more questions, about what else she had said. Biting my lip, I waited to see if he would do that.

  “Tate? When did you talk to Tate?”

  “At Manny’s. You guys left to prank some of the Fallen Crest Academy people. She showed up to talk to Heather about something, and I was there.” I felt a pang of regret slice through me. “I didn’t believe her. I thought she was making it up, trying to cause problems with you and me, so I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction. I didn’t say anything.”

  “Did she say anything else?”

  That Logan is in love with me. “No.”

  “Oh.” He crushed me against his chest again. His arms wrapped tight around me once more, and his shoulders lifted with tension. “Tate’s such a bitch. I should’ve told you immediately. This is all my fault.”

  No. No, it wasn't. It’s mine too, but I can’t find the voice to tell him that, so, feeling like a coward, I pulled away. My hands rested on his chest, feeling the strength of his heartbeat underneath them. He was so warm, so strong. I just wanted to bury myself against him again. Life would be so much simpler if I never had to leave his side.

  Knock. “Sam?”

  Hearing Logan again, we pulled away. Mason skimmed a hand down my arm and slipped it into mine. We had an entire year to get through.

  “What?”

  Mason must’ve sensed my thoughts.

  “I was just thinking that we have to talk more.”

  He grinned and I saw the love in it. Lifting my hand to his mouth, he pressed a kiss there and murmured, against my knuckles, “I love you, Samantha.”

  Choking on a sob, I whispered back, “I love you too.”

  When we went to the hallway, Logan was outside the doorway, leaning against the wall, a small scowl on his face. He straightened from the wall and handed the phone to me. David’s name was on the screen. Logan shrugged. “I didn’t know what to say. He doesn’t usually call me. If it’s not an emergency, I’m really sorry. But he says it is.”

  I lifted the phone to my ear. “David?”

  “Honey.” He sounded relieved. “Oh good. I didn’t know if I would get ahold of you in time.”

  “We’re about to leave. What’s going on?”

  “Nothing too important, but I wanted to let you know that Malinda is headed out of town tonight. She and some of her friends are going to Vegas for a couple nights. I won’t be home when you get there. I have to head out of town for a football meeting so it’ll be just you and Mark. His girlfriend might be there too. I’ll head back as soon as I can. I’m really sorry, Sam. I meant to be home when you got there. I wanted to talk more about Garrett, and I was hoping to have some father/daughter time.”

  “Oh.”

  He waited a beat, then asked, “Is that okay? I can cancel. I could reschedule for another weekend, but—”

  I gripped the phone tighter, pressing it harder to my ear. “No.” I hadn’t gotten a phone call like this in so long. “That’s fine, Dad. I’ll be fine. I’ll just do homework or hang out with Logan.”

  “Okay. How’s your time with Mason? No, don’t answer that. I’ll ask later tonight. Maybe we can still get a movie in. I’ll hurry
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