Fallen fourth down, p.15
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.15
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  “What?”

  Another laugh ripped out of him. “Nothing.” He started for the men’s locker room, but turned around and pretended to shoot both of us with his fingers. “Catch you two later.”

  A stream of guys were moving behind him into the locker room. One of them threw his arm around Logan’s neck, bent him over, and pretended to tighten his arm in a chokehold. Logan was dragged inside, but it wasn’t long before a roar of laughter filtered from the room into the hallway.

  Kris sighed. “My boyfriend can be really weird.”

  “Yep.”

  Turning as one, we both went into our locker room.

  Once we got inside, we parted ways. She went to her locker, surrounded with her friends, and I went to mine in the back row. Coach had kept me running with the guys who were sent off first so I hurried into my running clothes, grabbed my iPod, and was heading out the door when one of the team captains came in. She was standing in the doorway and said, “Hold up, Strattan. Girls are going first today.”

  “Really?”

  She nodded. “Yeah, he wanted me to spread the word.” Cupping her hands around her mouth, she yelled, “GIRLS, GET YOUR ASSES MOVING! WE’RE RUNNING FIRST!”

  There was silence for a split second and then the room filled with shrieks. A couple girls came around to the door. “What?”

  She motioned for them to hurry up. “Come on. The guys are running with the football team so we have to take off first. We’re all doing the same trail.”

  “Shit,” one girl said. “They’re going to lap us.”

  “Exactly. Let’s go. I don’t want to hear the crap they’ll give us if they lap us.” She glanced at me. “Sorry, Sam. You’re supposed to wait fifteen minutes before going, but you could stretch with us if you want?” She didn’t wait for a response and headed back out.

  The other girl had darted back to her locker and told the rest what was going on. It wasn’t long before everyone was in a frenzy. Lockers were slammed shut as the girls got dressed in record time, and I stepped back, pressed against the wall, as the girls ran past me. Kris was one of the last. She paused before pushing through the door. “You’re running with the guy’s team and the football team?”

  “I guess.”

  “I don’t know if I should be jealous or sympathetic.” She started through the door, but tossed over her shoulder, “I’ll settle with, ‘don’t trip my boyfriend.’”

  The door shut behind her, and I muttered to myself, “Why the hell would I do that?” I shook my head and cleared my thoughts. It didn’t matter who I was running with. The guys had calmed down eventually and I had been incorporated as one of their own. I wasn’t nervous about running with them and the whole football team. That would be an adventure, one I planned on having them eat my dust. I was going to run faster than normal. I was itching to go on a long run, all by myself, and had been holding back. Coach wanted the majority of my running with the guys, so I didn’t go on the long ones by myself, as much.

  After using the bathroom and grabbing a second bottle of water, I started out. The girls should’ve taken off by now. When I went outside, the lawn was covered with guys. There must’ve been thirty of them. The entire football team was spread out, all stretching, and I saw the cross country team in one corner, looking at the players with something akin to disgust. Hayes caught my eye and waved me over, but Logan intercepted me a few feet from them.

  “Sam.” He patted the ground next to him. His knee was pulled up and his leg was over his other leg. He leaned forward, stretching his back. “Sit. We get to run together.”

  Hayes stood from the ground. “She’s running with us.”

  Logan looked up. His slight grin had faded as a dark, ominous expression replaced it. “We’re running with you too.”

  Hayes hesitated, but lifted his chin an inch. “No, you guys are running behind us. If you start off in front of us, you’re only going to impede our times. Be considerate. There’s no way you guys can keep up with us.”

  Eric Hayes was tall and thin. He had a perfect body for running, which he knew. A handful of football players filled in behind Logan, and it looked like a smaller version of Goliath being challenged by David. Logan was lean, but he was muscular. His friends and teammates behind him were bigger. They were not only built to run, but to chase down their prey. As they heard the condescending tone in Hayes’s voice, their nostrils flared, and I imagined the entire cross country guy’s team just became their prey.

  There were dark promises in Logan’s gaze, but he only smiled. “Sure.” He waved his hand in front of him. “Show us the way. We’ll let you guys go first.”

  Hayes started forward, but caught himself. His eyes narrowed and he glanced at me. Nope. I wasn’t giving him any reaction. He had dug his own grave. People knew not to cross Logan.

  Logan moved forward. “Sam’s running with us.”

  Hayes snorted. “She runs with us.”

  Good god. This was on repeat. “What route does Coach want us to go?”

  “The scenic route.”

  My shock was immediate. That was the trail that went the whole way around Fallen Crest. It even went on a ridge that looked over the back of Fallen Crest Academy and their football field. I grunted. If this was just the beginning, I didn’t want to know what drama might happen when they saw my dad’s football team practicing. I did the calculations in my head and knew we’d be hitting that hill during the middle of their practice.

  I started forward.

  “Where are you going?” Hayes asked me, his voice strained.

  I cast him a grimace. “I’m leaving. I’m starting before all of you guys.” I gave Logan a quick grin, but saw that he didn’t care. His eyes were still fixed on Hayes.

  I shook my head and started off, hitting my timer to begin my run. I wanted to get a little ahead of the guys because I had a feeling the football team would be bearing down hard on the cross country team. Logan didn’t take to being insulted. Even if the distance was longer than they ran, I knew their football team did runs like ours for conditioning. I just didn’t think Hayes knew that, and as I started off on the path, I chuckled to myself. He was going to learn.

  I took it easy at first, warming up. My first intention had been to press hard today, but after seeing the show of testosterone between the guys, I was going to do the opposite. I was going to take my time. They would lap me, which they did. The cross country team was pushing harder than they ever had, but the football team wasn’t far behind. The difference between the teams was that Logan’s group could only run like this one day. Hayes and the rest would be winded from going so fast, but they’d be able to do the same route tomorrow.

  After the third mile, the football team had slowed and began to separate. Even as I began to pass them up, I knew I wouldn’t find Logan until later. He’d keep up with Hayes, just to piss him off, or he would try. It was mile five when I passed the girl’s team. I imagined they were annoyed at first, but by the time I got to them they were all smiles. I didn’t blame them. I remembered running with Mason. It was exhilarating. He was a primal specimen of hotness. Mason. Running. I fought against pushing him down on the trail at least twenty times.

  I noticed Kris ahead. She wasn’t running with her friends. Instead, she had paired off with two football players. I didn’t know their names, but I recognized them and remembered they were juniors. They weren’t friends with Logan, I assumed, as one guy kept falling back to check out Kris’ ass.

  When I passed them, I glanced over, caught Kris’ gaze, and didn’t look away. She swallowed and looked down to the ground. I moved on, but before I went over a hill and fell out of eyesight, I looked back once more. She had separated from the two guys, but they didn’t seem to mind. Their gazes were trained on her ass with smirks lingering over their faces.

  Well, shit. What was I supposed to do about that? Nothing, my inner voice piped up. Shaking my head, shoving everything out, I kicked forward with more speed than I had anticipated.
The need to push harder was back. Gritting my teeth, I let it loose. My legs lengthened their stride. I held my hands loose so those muscles wouldn’t be exerted, and my head ducked down a little bit.

  It wasn’t long before I lapped all of the football team. Skimming over the last two guys, I recognized one of Logan’s friends, Derek, and he gestured ahead. Nothing was said, but I got the drift. Logan was still ahead. I sprinted over four more hills before the trees began to change.

  Fallen Crest Academy had planted spruce, pine, and redwoods around the campus. The redwoods were still young, but they towered over the running path. I kept going ahead. I was approaching the ridge that overlooked my old school, and the closer I got, I popped my earbuds out and listened. I was right. I could hear shouts and grunts ahead. The sound of shoulder pads smashing into each other came next, along with a thudding sound. I didn’t expect to see anyone on the trail, but as I came around the last bend, some of the cross country guys were there. They had stopped and were watching the team below. Logan and another guy stood at the end.

  I had to laugh. The paradigm from Logan and his teammate versus the cross country guys was almost comical. Their shoulders were broad. Their shirts had been abandoned and tucked into their waistbands. With arms resting on their hips, their backs were covered in sweat, but their muscles looked finely sculpted. If Mason had been there, he would’ve perfected the image of male hotness.

  “Stop checking me out, Strattan.” A grin teased the corner of Logan’s mouth. “You’re practically family.” He waited a beat. “You’ll turn me on.”

  I rolled my eyes and slowed to stand beside him. Eric lifted his head. I felt the weight of his gaze for a moment, but ignored it. Nodding to the football field below us, I asked, “Are you guys ogling my old team? Or just need an excuse for a breather?”

  We weren’t too high up and, as if hearing me, they glanced up from below. Two of the players paused, then said something to another two. Those looked up and they spoke to another group. That group looked up. A ripple effect spread over the whole field until the coaches realized their players weren’t paying attention. One of the coaches left their huddle and moved to get a better view of us.

  It was my dad.

  Logan chuckled. “He must love me so much by now.”

  I sighed. “Not quite.” Lifting a hand in a wave, I called down, “Hi, Dad.”

  One hand went to his hip, holding his clipboard, and the other went to his forehead, shielding his eyes from the sun. “Sam? What are you doing?”

  The guys to my left looked over to us. Hayes kept shifting back and forth on his heels. His hand kept fidgeting with his shirt and I knew he was darting looks at us too. Logan rolled his shoulders back, propped one on my shoulder, and leaned against me. He waved down. “We’re scouting the competition. What do you think, Mr. Strattan?”

  Even from our distance, I could see my dad wasn’t happy. He pointed up to us with the clipboard. “It’s Coach Strattan to you, Logan.”

  His arm fell from my shoulder, and he straightened next to me. “Yes, sir, Coach Strattan.” His tone lost some of the amusement, and I bit down on my lip. My dad had just put Logan in his place, but I had no idea how or what place it was. I just knew Logan reacted to the bark from him.

  Catching my reaction, Logan cursed and rolled his eyes. “Why’s your dad all puss and shoes at home and Mr. Hardass on the field?”

  “He’s a coach.” I flashed him a grin. “Which he just reminded you of.”

  “Shut up.” But Logan couldn’t hide his half-grin. “I think I got a chubby for your dad. Don’t tell Mason. He’ll think I’m cheating on him.”

  “Hey, Logan.” His friend suddenly shifted to the side, his back turning towards us, facing the path coming from the right.

  The cross country guys moved to see down the path and a few of them cursed. They looked to Hayes, “What do we do?”

  Hayes looked to us. I didn’t move, but Logan rounded the side to stand next to his friend. As he moved, I got a glimpse ahead. A few of the Fallen Crest Academy players were coming up the side hill, heading our way. They were dressed in shirts, shorts, and their shoulder pads, but a few had black streaks on their face, giving them an intimidating air.

  Logan said, “Okay. That’s far enough. Stop, drop your pads, because it’s hammer time.”

  Someone snorted. “Fuck off.”

  The team stiffened, but a wide grin escaped me. That was Mark. Moving so I could see better, I noticed that Adam had remained on the field, and I was glad. Only a handful had come with Mark to see us. I circled out to stand on Logan’s free side. As I did, I asked, “What are you doing up here?”

  Logan added, “Mark, I was introduced to a Soul Brotha this past weekend. Do you know what that is?”

  “Say what?”

  “A Soul Brotha. It’s a connection. I have a fellow SBC-er and,” Logan gestured to him, “I think you are one too.”

  “Oh no.” I groaned.

  Logan laughed. “Don’t hate, my little Sammy cupcake.”

  “Your what?”

  Pointing to Mark, he continued, “You can’t deny the love between your future stepbrother and your other future stepbrother.” He pointed to himself. “We’re all one big happy family. Soul Brotha Connection. It makes sense.”

  The corners of Hayes’s mouth were turned downwards. I could imagine he thought Logan had grown two heads. I rolled my eyes. “You’re so weird lately.”

  Mark laughed. “Did he get laid right before practice?”

  I started to say no, then realized I had no idea. “Did you?”

  “Logan’s Arena of Awesomeness has no closing time. It’s open twenty four seven.”

  I said to Mark, “He got his dose of Mason. I think he missed him more than he realized.”

  Logan opened his mouth, but I elbowed him. “Don’t even go there.” His mouth closed.

  Mark grinned. “Your dad sent us up here.” He scanned the rest of the group. “We were thinking that since our best guy was out of the game the other week, and if the rest of your team was up here, we could scrimmage.” He nodded towards Logan. “We think you guys got lucky before.”

  “Today?” Logan scratched his head and glanced behind us. The other guys hadn’t appeared yet. “We’re still spanking these guys’ asses here.”

  Hayes snorted, puffing out his chest. “Speak for yourself. You’re holding on by a thread.”

  Logan shot him a look, his eyes glittering in the sunlight. Or evil mirth. “Whatever. Once I get a hold of a thread, I don’t let go. Ask Quinn down there. I like to make people pay if they hurt someone I love.”

  Gone was the joker and hello to the fighter. Mark shot me a questioning look, but I shook my head. I didn’t want to get into it. Clearing my throat, I asked, “Would you do a challenge somewhere else? Or maybe another time? These guys are doing a conditioning run today.”

  “Sure—” Mark started to say.

  Logan interrupted, “Tomorrow night. We have a game, but they leave the lights on. We can scrimmage then.”

  “Wait. With everyone? Full uniform?”

  “Just the guys. A friendly thing.” Logan’s tone did not indicate friendliness.

  Mark glanced at me and his teammates. None of them said a word, and Mark shrugged. “Sure, but I have to warn you, like I said before, our best player couldn’t play last time. We might be like a whole new team with him.”

  Logan’s eyes lit up. A slow grin spread over his face. “I’ll look forward to that.”

  Mark and his teammates left, and it wasn’t long before Hayes took off with the rest of the cross country guys. Logan’s friend remained behind, but he stood at a distance from us, waiting for Logan to start running again.

  Logan looked at me.

  I looked at him.

  He liked to fight. He liked to cause havoc and that side of him had been dormant for a while. I saw it in him again. It was like it had been awakened, a prowling tiger that was getting tired of its cage. T
hat’s when I realized the Roussou pranks had served a purpose for him, an outlet, and he needed a new outlet.

  I sighed. “Don’t hurt Mark.”

  A flash of irritation heated up his eyes, but he smirked at me. “Not Mark, but there are others on that team who have hurt me.” He paused a beat. “Hurt you.”

  “That’s over.”

  He shook his head. “Not true. Those beasts always linger. They’re always there, waiting to get out.” Then he turned and started off. When he saw I wasn’t running with him, he paused and glanced back at me, running in place.

  I didn’t move.

  He shrugged and took off down the trail alone.

  I was starting to wonder what beast was inside Logan, and why hadn’t I realized it was there until now.

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 
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