Mason, p.14
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       Mason, p.14

         Part #0.5 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  Logan looked over. “What?”

  James was watching me. He saw that I saw it and he grew guarded. A warning note flashed in his gaze. He shook his head at me, telling me not to share that detail with Logan. I scoffed. Logan was going to know. Logan knew everything anyway. Then the car was pulling over and Logan asked again, “Mason? What? What’s he kidding about?”

  The car stopped then and James pointed to the door. “Go inside, Logan.”

  “But—”

  “Now.”

  Logan glanced at me. I nodded, giving my approval. He went, but he waited outside the door of the restaurant.

  “You love her.” I said it. I hated saying it. “You love her how you should’ve loved Mom. Don’t you?”

  He wasn’t even ashamed of it either. James glanced at Logan before looking back at me. “You won’t say a word about this to Logan. Do you understand?”

  “Why? You’re going to ask her to move in, aren’t you? That’s what this is all about.”

  He shook his head. “Not yet. She’s not going to move in yet, but yes, eventually. She’s not quite ready to leave her husband yet.”

  I rolled my eyes. That was ridiculous. “What game is she playing? She targeted you, Dad. I have a hard time believing she doesn’t want to leave her husband yet.” Unless…I watched him and saw how a mask fell over him. Then I knew. “It’s the daughter, isn’t it?”

  His eyes widened. “How did you—never mind. I don’t even want to know, but what I do want to say is this,” he stopped, an ominous cloud formed over him and he scowled at me, “you will stop all of this bullshit you’re doing, Mason. You lead him.” We both knew he was referring to Logan. “He will do anything you want him to do. He worships you so you will stop with your games right now. Being arrested is the last straw.”

  I laughed. “Yeah? What are you going to do—”

  “I will send him away.”

  I stopped. A chill went through me and I saw he was being serious. “You wouldn’t.”

  “I would. You are both underage. Nate’s parents called me this morning. They’re taking him away too.”

  Shit. I closed my eyes. He had warned me, but fuck, I hadn’t thought it was true.

  James added, “I will send Logan away, and it won’t be to your mother’s where you can follow him. It’ll be overseas and in a private boarding school. He’ll go and he’ll stay, and you’ll stay here, stuck with me.”

  I couldn’t lose Logan. “You can’t do that.”

  “I can and I will. I’ve already contacted three schools this morning. Everything is set up. They’re just waiting for the final paperwork. Logan will pick which school he wants, and he will have to pick one. Then he’ll go and you won’t see your brother for a long time.”

  “You’re a dick.”

  “Yeah, well, you get some of your qualities from me.” Then he opened the door. “Now, you will get out of this car, you will pretend that you love me, and you will be polite when you meet Analise. She’s important to me. And you will not say a word of this to your brother. You got it?”

  I was cursing inside. A wave of fury crashed over me, but I clamped it down and jerked my head in a nod. When we got out of the car, Logan narrowed his eyes at me, but I walked past him. This was going to be the longest meal of my life, but I would play nice. There was no chance in hell he was going to take Logan from me.

  17

  THE MEAL

  She stood up when we got to the table. Smoothing the bottom of her dress, she held out her hand. “Hello, Mason.”

  I sat, then gestured to Logan. “Shake his hand. He’s nicer than me most of the time.”

  James cursed.

  Logan scoffed, sitting next to me. “Whatever.” He said to her, “I’m not. I’m just the youngest so I’m always underestimated.” He flashed a smile at her, baring his teeth in the same gesture. “I’m the one you’ll need to look out for in a couple years. Here’s the warning right now. Don’t forget this.” A warning flared in his eyes. “We know you have a daughter.”

  Her eyes got big and she turned, gasping at the same time. “James?”

  “They’re joking.” He flashed us a similar warning as Logan’s. “Right?” He emphasized that word as he glared at me, but held his hand out. “Please, sit, Analise. They’re pranksters.” Forcing a laugh out, he sat at the same time she did. “As you’re well aware from the phone calls last night.”

  “Yeah.” A small frown appeared on her face. “Samantha’s never been in trouble. She runs a lot, and she doesn’t have the greatest friends, but I can’t complain. My daughter really doesn’t have many problems.”

  “Right now.”

  She turned to me. Anger flashed in her gaze for a second and I grinned. Got you, bitch. That was the real Analise, not this articulate and kind-spoken woman.

  She cleared her throat, the anger gone instantly. “Excuse me?”

  I opened my mouth, but Logan beat me to it. He said, “You’re married.”

  She choked on a gasp, turning to James again. The blood drained from her face.

  “Mason,” he hissed at me.

  “I know. You threatened to send Logan to a boarding school if I didn’t play nice.”

  “What?”

  The fury rose in him; I watched as it filled his gaze. He reached forward, but he grabbed onto his fork and held it tightly. His knuckles turned white from his hold. He said through clenched teeth, “You will play nice now.”

  “Or what, Dad? I thought about it in the two seconds from the front door to here and I’m calling your bluff. You’re not sending Logan away. You have shared custody with Mom and there’s no way she’d agree to that.”

  “Dad was going to send me away?” Logan was mystified. “Dad?”

  He ignored Logan. “Mason, do not test me on this.”

  “Or what?” I leaned forward again, staring right at him. I never looked away. I never blinked. I wasn’t backing down. “I’m not even being mean right now. I’m just saying it how it is. She’s choosing to be ignorant if she thinks her daughter won’t have problems.” I turned to her now. She froze at my words, but she blinked, catching up with the conversation. “You’re married. What’s your end goal here?” I pointed to my dad. “To marry him? You’re going to have to leave your husband. What then? You’re going to uproot your daughter? Take her from her father? If you think she’s going to handle that well, you either want to act delusional or you don’t give a shit. If that’s the case, I pity your daughter. Take it from me, coming from a destroyed family, it’s one of the hardest goddamn things I’ve gone through, and with our family, it was probably the best ending we could hope for.” I fixed her with a cold stare. “Walk away from him. Find a way to love your husband again and don’t fuck up your daughter’s life. Take my advice. Please.”

  She held my gaze. No doubt. No regret. No emotion. She stared right back at me and she never wavered. My gut had been right. I laughed, shaking my head. “I wanted to be wrong. I’m not, though. That is your goal, isn’t it? You want to marry him.”

  “Or she wants his money,” Logan joined in. His tone was bitter. He turned to our dad again. “You were going to send me away?”

  “Logan,” James started. “That’s not how it was said.”

  “Bullshit.” I stopped him. He wasn’t going to do this.

  “Mason doesn’t lie and he wouldn’t make that up.” Logan shook his head, leaning back in his chair. As he did, he looked down at his lap, a frown appearing. “I can’t believe you, Dad. I’m always with Mason, but man, to threaten that? That’s just cold. And you did it to control him. You were trying to control both of us.”

  “Because you’re both so goddamn out of control,” James burst out. He began drawing attention from the other diners and Analise leaned forward. She hissed, “Keep your voice down, James.” He didn’t. He was shaking his head and his voice rose. “Why do you two do this? Why? What have I done so wrong to have both of my sons turn against me?”

&n
bsp; “James.” She touched his arm, looking around. “Lower your voice. We’re drawing too much attention.”

  “Yeah,” Logan spoke up, disdain dripping from his tone. “You wouldn’t want this to get back to your husband, would you?”

  I threw him a grin. I was proud of my brother in that moment.

  As he sat up and his shoulders rolled back, he added, “Your daughter’s in my grade, isn’t she?”

  The air changed. It had been hostile, but it dropped to a more intense level. Everyone was silent for a moment. Then she clipped out, “What does that mean?”

  Logan was holding her gaze steadily. He lifted a shoulder. “Nothing. I’m just checking my facts. She’s my age. She’s a year younger than Mason.” He paused, drawing out his message. “We might know people in common. She might even start to hang out with us, be our friends.” He gestured to me. “All the girls are crazy about Mason. Who knows? Maybe living with us could help her reputation? Is she popular in her school?”

  Logan wasn’t offering to help her social standing. Everyone read the threat correctly.

  Her face grew pale again. “You had better stay away from my daughter. You hear me?”

  Logan threw me a triumphant grin. I nodded. There she was. The real her came back out again. She had come out earlier, but pulled back in. Her mask shielded her, but he got it to fall away. I leaned forward, signaling to Logan that I would take over. He leaned back in response and she turned to me, reacting to the undercurrents between us. I narrowed my eyes and spoke clearly, “We’re not threatening anything against your daughter. We’re reminding you what we could do if we choose.”

  “Mason.” James looked at Logan. “You too. Stop this. Both of you. This is ridiculous.”

  “Maybe, Dad.” Logan shook his head. “Or maybe you should listen to us.” He pointed at Analise. “She’s not a good person. We both know that. Why can’t you see it?”

  Because he loved her. Our dad glanced at me, and we both remembered what I had said in the car. He loved her and if Logan knew the extent of it, I shook my head. I wasn’t sure how my brother would react. Clearing my throat, I stood up. So did Logan. I said to our dad, “We’ll get home by ourselves.” I glanced at her. When she held my gaze, I knew she wasn’t going anywhere. She’d been one of the women to help destroy our family, and she had every intention of trying to become the new Mrs. James Kade.

  She was crazy, cunning, and ruthless.

  I had no idea how to handle her so I didn’t say anything and left. Logan followed me. We never went home that weekend. We drove to see our mom in L.A. and didn’t come back until late Sunday night. We never did tell her about Analise or getting arrested.

  18

  THE HEADS-UP

  There was a knock on my door, but I already knew who it was. Logan always yelled my name on his way inside. He wasn’t home and there was only one other person who lived with us. “Yeah?”

  My dad came inside. I saw the tension on his face and knew what he was there for. It’d been six months since we were arrested, since Nate’s parents shipped him off, and the disastrous meeting with Analise. At first there’d been nothing. It was like my dad’s girlfriend went away and I had hoped she was gone for good, but when he didn’t bring any other women home, I knew Analise wasn’t out of the picture. That stopped three months ago and she was over more and more lately. I sighed, shaking my head. “I suppose I should just be happy you haven’t force-fed her down our throats.”

  He stopped, the grim look doubled, and he sat on my couch. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on his knees. Still dressed in his business suit, the top three buttons were undone and he reached up now, tugging at the collar. My dad looked in pain, but I doubted it had anything to do with the shirt. He cupped his hands together. “I don’t know where to start.”

  I tossed my pen on the desk. “I’ll do it for you. She’s moving in, isn’t she?”

  He opened his mouth, ready to say something and then closed it. He nodded slowly.

  Fuck. “I don’t like her.”

  He held my gaze, flinching a bit, but let out a sigh. “I’m aware.”

  “Logan won’t be happy.”

  “Logan hasn’t been happy for a while.”

  We shared a look. We were thinking the same thing. It’d been a year ago when Logan’s girlfriend came in here. My lips pressed tight at the memory. Logan was still working through those issues. He had loved Tate.

  I said, “She’s just like her.”

  “No.” He shook his head.

  I leaned forward on my chair. “Yes.”

  “No, Mason. You have this irrational anger at women—”

  “They’re both cheaters,” I stopped him. “They’re both manipulators. They’re both liars. They both don’t care who they hurt.”

  “That’s not fair.”

  “Does she cry when she thinks of leaving her husband?” I didn’t need to wait to hear the answer. I knew she didn’t. “Or is she the one pressuring you to let her move in? Because she’ll be so happy to be with you? I’ve met her husband, Dad. He’s not that bad of a guy. He’s a good coach too.” I paused a beat. He looked away. “He could’ve been my coach.”

  “Stop.”

  I was getting to him, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. I shook my head. “Why this woman?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “She has you wrapped around her finger. Why her? Does she have magical lube or something?” I channeled Logan. “Is her vagina some fairyland for your prick?”

  “Stop it. My god. You and Logan. You’re both so crude sometimes.”

  I shrugged. “I say it how I see it. Sometimes.”

  He shot me a look, tugging at his collar again. “I’m aware. You’ve been barely tolerable since the divorce.”

  I snorted. “You mean since you started cheating. Wait, that’d be your entire marriage, wouldn’t it?” Even thinking about it was making me angrier. “Why’d you marry her? It’s obvious you didn’t love Mom. Did you think you did at some point?”

  He closed his eyes and hung his head. His shoulders slumped downwards. “I tried. I really did, Mason. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

  “You didn’t even try.”

  “I did too. You have no idea. You don’t remember the beginning, dealing with her family, dealing with her father’s threats.”

  “Right. Because Grandpa’s such a controlling asshole.”

  “He was.” The intensity in his eyes made me pause. He softened his tone and ran a hand through his hair. “He was before he died. Your mother never listened to me. It was their way before us. We were doomed from the start.” He grew bitter. “You don’t put someone else’s wishes before your partner’s. You don’t do that. When you marry, that’s your first priority. It should’ve been. I tried, but your mother didn’t see her loyalties like I did.”

  “You thought you loved her?”

  He grimaced. “I tried to love her.”

  I grunted. He never answered the question.

  Then he said, softly, “She got pregnant, Mason. That’s why we got married.”

  She had been just another one of his women. A hollow laugh ripped from me. Fuck. I’d been the doom of them. I’d been the reason for all the pain for everyone. A lump formed in my throat and I swallowed it down. “That’s a hard pill to swallow. Shit.”

  He shook his head. “I tried. I really did, Mason. Your mother wouldn’t take my side in things. She wouldn’t listen to me. It was about what her family wanted. To give Helen some credit, she’s the oldest daughter and they’re old money. They have a lot of expectations for her to live up to. I know that’s part of the reason she held onto our marriage as long as she did.” A soft curse slipped from him. “She’d still be here if I hadn’t ended it. I am sorry for how things worked out.”

  “You gave up.”

  “Mason,” he sighed.

  “Were you ever faithful to her?”

  He pressed his lips together and glanced away.

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