Fallen crest home, p.15
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       Fallen Crest Home, p.15

         Part #6 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  “You’re going golfing?”

  He nodded.

  “Were you drinking last night?”

  “It’s not really the actual act of golfing that’s of interest. It’s more about who else is going to be there.” His eyes locked on mine, waiting for me to figure it out.

  Mason had two enemies, at least that we were dealing with right now. One was not the golfing type, but the other…

  “Ah. I got it.” Adam or his father was going to be on that golf course. “And that reminds me, Malinda is throwing a BBQ at the country club today. She reserved the pool and everything.”

  Nate and Matteo groaned.

  Even Mason grimaced. “You’re going to make me go to that?”

  “If I have to go, my posse has to go.”

  “We’re your posse?” Nate was grinning at me, or trying. The pallor of his skin made him look like the Joker.

  “Mason is, and you’re his, so same thing. I need backup.”

  Nate glanced to Mason. “Quinn will be at the party. That’s different than what we have planned for today. That’s socializing.” He said it like that was a bad word.

  “I think Quinn senior, too.” Wait. I didn’t know that. “Well, maybe not. I don’t know, but it’s at the country club. It’s Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up.”

  Matteo sat up, clutching his stomach, and asked, “Why do we care about Adam’s dad?”

  Mason, Nate, and I shared a look before Nate coughed. “Uh…We don’t. Why would you think that?”

  Matteo lifted his head in confusion. “What? But you guys just said—”

  Mason moved forward, reaching behind me for the filled coffee pot. “He was an ass to Sam one time in school. That’s all.”

  “Oh.” Matteo looked to me. “Sorry, Sam. I’m sure he won’t be anymore. He’s probably ecstatic about his son’s engagement.” He smiled, and a dimple showed in his cheek. “It’s kind of sweet, if you think about it. One rich family falling in love with another rich family. They can make babies who are even richer. It’s like you guys all know how to seek each other out, really stick it to the poor folk. Don’t want them contaminating the breeding well.”

  This wasn’t normal Matteo, and I glanced at Mason. I wasn’t sure how to respond.

  “Becky and Adam met in high school,” Mason said. “It was a private school, but I didn’t go there. Sam transferred out for her last year and a half of school. And you ain’t poor anymore, Matteo. You’ve got NFL teams eyeing you. Your parents might not have a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean they would contaminate anything. They made the best fucking lineman I’ll always want running next to me. No money, no breeding, no private schools could produce someone like you, and I’m thankful.”

  Matteo couldn’t speak at first. His Adam’s apple bobbed. “Thank you, Mason,” he croaked out, blinking rapidly. “You didn’t go to a rich private school?”

  Mason smirked. “Fuck, no. Can you imagine that? We probably would’ve burned the building down.”

  Nate’s head snapped toward Mason at the mention of burning.

  Matteo laughed, his massive shoulders bouncing. “That’s true. Man, I really miss your little brother. When’s he getting back?”

  “A few weeks.” Mason clapped a hand to Matteo’s shoulder. “I think we’re all missing him.”

  After that, a solemn feeling lingered over the group. I felt it even as they left to go golfing, and I couldn’t shake it away as I headed across the street to Malinda’s house. She called while the guys were getting ready to leave and offered me a ride to the country club.

  I was dressed in a running outfit, but the tank top could pass for a social event. That was the hope anyway. I had running shorts on underneath a flowy skirt, and my shoes were cute enough that they still went with the outfit. My running music and earbuds were tucked away in one of my pockets, along with my phone.

  I knocked on Malinda’s door. “Hello?” I called, going inside.

  “Sam, honey.” Malinda moved across the hallway from the kitchen to the dining room, packages in hand.

  I followed and saw twenty gift bags sitting on her table. “What’s going on?”

  “It’s an impromptu wedding shower for Becky and Adam.” She stuffed the packages in her hands into the gift bags. She motioned to a pile of them on the counter behind me. “Can you help me out? Each bag gets one of those.”

  “What are they?” I could see long, rectangular boxes wrapped in white tissue paper.

  “Bracelets. Each bag gets a set of jewelry. I’ve got the earrings and necklaces in all of them. I just need to get the bracelets in the rest.”

  I went to work, and when I got to the end I saw another row of smaller bags placed on the table, too. “Who are these for?”

  “Those are done. Those are for the guys.”

  I counted another twenty and began feeling sick to my stomach. “Who all is going to be at this party?”

  She stopped, straightening from one of the bags, and frowned at me. “I thought Mark told you?”

  “He said you reserved the pool for his birthday party at the country club.”

  “Was that it?”

  “And that his friends were going to be there.”

  “Oh.” She turned to the bags again. “Well, yeah. It’s partly a birthday party for Mark and also a wedding shower for Adam and Becky. I’m surprised he didn’t tell you that part. Aren’t you good with her again? I thought Mark said something about that.”

  “I guess I am…” But all of those people from high school? I was back at the beginning of my junior year again. Analise had just left my dad. Jessica and Lydia had turned on me. The Academy Elite only wanted to use me to get to Mason and Logan. All those old feelings twisted and churned inside me, like a thunderstorm trying to strike its way out.

  “What?” Malinda’s voice suddenly sounded panicky. She rushed to my side. “Samantha, are you okay?” She felt my forehead. “You don’t feel feverish. What’s wrong?” She held my shoulders and peered into my eyes. “Are you really not okay with this? Mark assured me you would be. I won’t make you go if it’s a situation you aren’t comfortable with.”

  I heard the caring in her tone.

  I heard the love.

  I heard the warmth.

  Relief had me swaying on my feet. She wasn’t Analise. She wasn’t Lydia or Jessica. She wasn’t turning on me like they had.

  I nodded, my neck feeling loose and my head unusually heavy. “I’m fine. Mason, Nate, and Matteo are going to be there. I’m fine.”

  “Are you sure?”

  “I really am fine.” Feeling a little steadier, I put my hands over hers on my shoulders and squeezed. “I’ve just been feeling old anxiety that I thought I’d left a long time ago. That’s all.” I grinned, trying to reassure her. “Apparently, I still have some baggage to work through.”

  “Oh, honey.” She pulled me in for a hug, rubbing my back. “You’ll get there. You have people who love you and support you. No matter what. If you need anything, you tell me. I’ll drop anything I’m doing for you. Okay?” Malinda leaned back, holding my shoulders again.

  I nodded. “I know.”

  And I did, which is why I helped her carry all the gift bags out to the SUV. We were just finishing up, and Malinda ran inside to make sure she’d gotten everything out, when I noticed someone standing at the end of the driveway.

  I looked up, and froze.

  Analise stood there, looking like I did without the flowing skirt. She wore leggings with earbuds in her ears. She seemed frozen in place, too, except one hand reached up to take out one of her earbuds. She let it go and slowly looked to face me squarely.

  “Okay! Everything’s ready. Are you?”

  I heard my stepmom’s voice. Bright. Cheery. Then the door closed, and her footsteps came across the pavement.

  She stopped. “Oh.”

  I couldn’t look away from Analise, who still hadn’t moved.

  “Okay!” Malinda c
lapped her hands together. I heard the forced note in her voice. She came up behind me, touching my arm and guiding me to the vehicle. “You get in here, Sam. And—” She shut the door, moving around to the driver’s side. There was no misstep, no hesitation. She didn’t look down the driveway as she climbed inside and started the engine. “Ready to go? It’ll be a fun event.”

  She reversed down the driveway, having enough room to turn around before driving out onto the street. As we turned the front of the SUV to face out, my heart felt like it was crawling out of me, but there was no Analise anymore.

  We drove out, paused at the street, and as Malinda turned left she grabbed my hand and squeezed it.

  “She was out for a walk, sweetheart. That’s going to happen. We’ll just, uh—we’ll have to start getting used to it.”

  The sentiment sounded sane.

  My mom lived on the same block as we did. Of course I’d run into her, but… As we drove down the street, I couldn’t stop myself from looking for her. The gate to the Kade mansion was closed. She wasn’t behind us on the sidewalk, or on any sidewalk I could see as we left our little community.

  She was gone.

  There was laughing, squealing, and hugging. Way too much hugging.

  Once I helped Malinda unload everything to the pool’s veranda, I had to make an escape. I went to hide in a far corner of the country club’s lobby, waiting for Mason, Nate, and Matteo to show. Mason’s text said they had one hole to finish, but shouldn’t be too long. As far as I was concerned, any more time was too long.

  Where I was sitting, people had to walk past me to the pool area, but there were a bunch of bushes and potted trees hiding me. So I could see them; they couldn’t see me.

  It seemed to be a Fallen Crest Academy reunion, but only for those who hated me. Miranda arrived, actually hanging on to Peter’s arm. Then Amelia arrived, along with more members of the Elite squad, the nickname their group acquired at school. They’d been the top of the social system. After that came a lot who I couldn’t remember, and then I thought I’d die because Jessica and Lydia came in, too.

  I shrank in my seat as I watched my two ex-best friends waltz past like they came here every weekend. Though maybe they did. I had no idea.

  “What are you doing?”

  I turned and looked, but I couldn’t believe it. “Jeff?”

  My first boyfriend—the guy who’d cheated on me with one of the ex-best friends who’d just walked past—now stood at my side, his face twisted in confusion. His hair was spiked up, and he wore shades with a trendy T-shirt and ripped skinny jeans. I got over my initial shock and just took the sight of him in.

  “You still look like a preppy rocker wannabe,” I said. “What are you doing here? You weren’t friends with this group in school.”

  “And you were?” He paused. “Wait. You kinda were, then you weren’t. I’ve not been enemies with them. You were. I should be asking you that question.” He winked, smirking. “But are you kidding me? The invite got posted on social media. Hell yes, I’m coming.” He plopped down next to me and hunched his shoulders, slumping down in his seat, too. “Who you hiding from?”

  I hit him. “Not funny. You’re going to give me away.”

  He took his sunglasses off to look at me. “Sam, you’re clear as day when you first walk into the lobby. Every person who’s come this way has seen you.”

  I felt the blood drain from my face. “Are you serious?”

  He nodded, looking like he was trying not to laugh. “Really, though…” He leaned close, lowering his voice. “Who are you hiding from?”

  “You!” I thrust a hand out, then pointed to the pool area. “All of them. They’re all FCA people.”

  “So?” He shrugged, getting comfortable and throwing a leg up over his arm rest. “The invite said it’s Becky and Adam’s first wedding shower. Which, by the way, their parents are pissed that your stepmom is throwing the party.”

  I scrunched up my nose. “It’s also for Mark’s birthday.”

  “When’s his birthday?”

  “Uh…” I had no clue. I lied, “This weekend.” I should’ve known.

  He rolled his eyes, putting his sunglasses back on. “You’re lying. I can still tell.”

  I hit him again. “I’m not.”

  “Ouch!” He rubbed his arm. “You hit Mason like that?”

  “He doesn’t deserve it.”

  “Hey. Is it true? You guys are warring with Roussou again?” He whistled under his breath. “Blast from the past. I feel like we’re back in high school again. What are they planning? Car bombs? They going to burn down a bar or something this time?”

  Why all the references to burning? I winced. “No. Nothing like that.”

  “What?” Jeff narrowed his eyes. I could just see through the darkened lenses. “Oh, shit. Mason’s going the grown-up route now? What? He’s going to pay for them to go away or something?” He groaned. “That’s so lame.”

  I narrowed my eyes right back. “You’re lame. You never answered me before. What are you doing here?”

  “I’m friends with Becky.”

  I gave him a look.

  “I was kind of friends with her,” he amended. He dropped his leg and leaned across the break between the chairs. “Look, the invite went out on Adam’s Instagram. He said anyone could come, so if you’re thinking only their actual friends are going to be here, you need to get a clue. Anyone still in Fallen Crest this summer is heading here. It’s the perfect excuse to scope out the country club. Plus, it might be everyone’s last attempt to get in good with Adam Quinn.” He glanced back to where everyone was congregating.

  Get in good with—I hadn’t heard that right, had I?

  “What are you talking about?”

  His eyes slid back to mine. “You haven’t heard?”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “Quinn’s going into politics. He made the announcement at graduation. Weren’t you there? Everyone’s been watching him. He went pre-law, now he’s gotten into Harvard Law, and after that he’s going political. I thought you knew.”

  I had no clue. But I wasn’t completely shocked. “Becky’s going to be a political wife?”

  Jeff laughed. “Yep. I’ve no doubt she’s got dreams of being a first lady one day.”

  Jeff’s revelations punched me in the chest, but even so, I had to admit it felt right. Of course Adam would go into politics.

  I shook my head. “All that power. All that control.”

  “All that pussy,” Jeff added. “Becky’s in for a rude awakening, but that’s on her. Like she doesn’t know what Quinn is really like.”

  “Things are different,” I told him. “Adam’s happy with Becky.”

  Jeff started laughing.

  I shot him a warning look. “I mean it.”

  “Okay.” He patted my knee before he stood up. “You keep thinking that. I’m going to head in there to get the free food before it’s all gone.”

  He’d been gone less than thirty seconds before I heard Mason ask from behind me, “Was that your ex-shit bag I just saw talking to you?”

  I ignored Mason’s question. He knew Jeff and I were fine. He wasn’t pissed about him anyway. Instead, I stood and said, “Adam’s going into politics. Did you know that?”

  Nate and Matteo had come with Mason, and both had different reactions. A proud smile bloomed on Matteo’s face while Nate just started laughing.

  And laughing.

  And laughing some more.

  Mason nudged him. “Shut up.”

  “It’s just…” He shook his head, trying to stop. “Of course he’s going into politics. Fuck. That makes so much sense.”

  “That’s what I thought, too.” I nodded.

  “Why is that a bad thing?” Matteo asked.

  “You’re seeing him be a good guy right now,” Mason explained.

  “He’s not always been a good guy,” Nate added.

 
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