Mason, p.16
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       Mason, p.16
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         Part #0.5 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  I couldn’t stop watching her. What was she going to do? She knew we were talking about her, but then her jaw hardened. She jerked her head back up and there was that same loathing, but it had doubled. She stared right at me. Her shoulders squared as she faced me and then her chin lowered. Whether she realized it or not, her stance was challenging me.

  I fought against smiling at her. She was hot. I knew Logan was going to think so too, but damn, I didn’t know if I could pass this one up.

  Logan and Ethan came back. My brother said my name, but I didn’t hear him. He said something else to me, but I wasn’t paying him attention. All of it was directed on her.

  “Who is she?” Strauss asked as she went inside to pay. “You know her, don’t you?”

  I wasn’t sure what to say. He’d say something and I didn’t want the guys to dissect her like they normally did. I shrugged and said, “I’m going to pay.” As I did, she was coming back. The challenge was back in her gaze. I couldn’t help myself. Veering towards her, I purposefully walked right at her. At the last second, I moved away an inch so my jacket brushed against her. I wanted to brush against her. Shit. I wanted to do more than that to her already, but I glanced back, watching her the entire time as I passed by.

  She never wavered. She held her ground and stared right back.

  She had balls, whether they were real or not, the girl had balls. After I paid, I was itching to test her some more. I wanted to see what she’d say, but when I went back outside, I could hear her friends giggling behind me. I didn’t want to deal with them, but still… I paused by her car. She straightened, expecting me now. I started turning towards her without thinking, but the sound of screeching brakes pushed everything out of my head.

  “What the hell?” It was the Broudous. Two cars had pulled into the lot and one of their buddies jumped out with a smoke bomb.

  Everything else was forgotten. I rushed past her. I knew Logan and the guys were behind me, but I didn’t care. I grabbed the first guy to pound. After that, it was game on. Logan took the smoke bomb from the guy and handed it to me. I launched it. If they wanted to fight, they were going to pay for it. A second car emptied and we were all fighting.

  “Mason!” Logan shouted from somewhere, but I lifted my fist for another hit. I kept ramming it at the guy and then moved onto another when he couldn’t fight back.

  It was later, after the guys were tugging on me that I realized the cops were coming. As we headed for my car, I remembered her. Our eyes caught and held for a second, but then Logan pounded on the car again and we peeled out of there.

  We never went to Molly’s that night so Ethan could get laid. We went somewhere else, but I couldn’t lie to myself. James had asked us to help move Analise and her kid in the next day. We both refused and we already had other plans, but I changed my mind. I found myself wanting to help them move in. I wanted to be around this one. I wanted to study her. She was different. I wanted to know how different.

  “Mason.” Logan distracted me and I stopped thinking about it. He tossed me a beer. “Time to get lit, big brother.”

  I flashed him a grin. “Sounds good to me.”

  He never asked why the change of heart and I didn’t know if I wanted to tell him or not, but there was a shift in the air. My gut felt it and I knew something was going to happen. I could feel that change was going to happen.

  I was looking forward to it.

  To continue, Fallen Crest High is free on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.

  Other books in the series:

  Fallen Crest Family (second)

  Fallen Crest Public (third)

  Fallen Fourth Down coming soon.

  For more information, go to Tijan’s Books on Facebook.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  I have so many. Whoa boy. I’m just going to dive in, first to my readers. I love, love, love you guys. You have no idea. Thank you for all of your support!! Next, to the ladies in the fan group. It’s a great group in there. You guys make me laugh and every time I need a break, I love going in there to find a new funny post or banner from a Tijanette! Third, to the Tijan Admin Crew. Cami, Eileen, Kerri, Stacey, Amanda B., Mari, Amanda W., Kim, and Heather. You guys help more than you may think. You guys keep the fan group running. You set the tone so it’s respectful, caring, and fun. Readers might come into that group for information about my books or hoping to talk about my books, but you guys have created friendships and a family-sense in there and I think a lot of them are active because of that. I think I can say on behalf of all the Tijanettes in there, THANK YOU!

  I have to thank Lisa Jordan, my cover designer. She puts up with me and my frantic messaging. I give her an idea for a cover and she always makes it beautiful. She’s amazingly talented. Next, my editor. Ami, you’re just so patient and fabulous. You do a great job and you are so extremely dedicated. I am so happy that I’ve found you and our working relationship! I’m thankful.

  There’s a special group of friends that I was lucky enough to be included with a few months ago. I have grown to love those ladies and I am so proud that I can call them my friends. I’m pretty sure they know who they are.

  Now, I have to thank Jason and Bailey. Jason puts up with me when I disappear for hours needing to write. He never reads these acknowledgements, which I think is funny, but he loves to hear that his name was included. And Bailey, we got a puppy. He’s crazy, mischievous, and cute as hell. He’s now my companion, always playing in the office behind me or sleeping at my feet (if he’s not trying to get in my lap or eating the chair from out beneath me.) I love him.

  Thank you to everyone who has supported me. Every book is a journey, from gathering ideas, bouncing them back and forth with my friends, to those secret readers who give me feedback, the ones who reassure me, and the entire writing/editing/formatting. This is the last section I always put in these books and it’s the section that usually brings me to tears as I think about everyone who has helped me along the way. Thank you.

  SNEAK PEEK FROM FALLEN FOURTH DOWN

  DO NOT READ IF YOU’VE NOT READ THE OTHERS IN THE SERIES

  I started to laugh, but as we went further down the hallway, a door opened and the laugh died abruptly. Logan was coming out of his room.

  Heather saw him at the same time and a savage curse left her.

  Hearing her, he glanced up. His eyes narrowed, taking us in, and he headed towards us. Shoving his hands in his pockets, his gaze lingered the longest on me before he asked, “What are you guys doing?”

  “We had a female chat,” Heather spoke up. “What were you doing?”

  “Kris passed out. I put her to bed.”

  I frowned. “Is your door locked?”

  He nodded. “Yeah, I got the same key code that Mason did.” His eyebrows bunched forward and he continued to study me. I could feel his suspicion growing and forced myself to keep a mask on my face. Logan couldn’t press me. I might not spill what Tate said, what I knew now, but I wouldn’t be able to hold back that there was something wrong. He’d be relentless and it couldn’t come out. No matter what. Then he asked, in a soft voice, “You okay?”

  Heather spoke first again, “She’s fine. She’s missing Mason, that’s all. Her boyfriend.”

  He turned his frown to her. “I know who my brother is and why are you talking for her again?”

  “Because I want to. Because I’m spoiling for a fight, Kade, and if you don’t want it to be you, you better stand aside.”

  He didn’t move.

  She barked, “Now.”

  He still didn’t move. He only lowered his head and narrowed his eyes at her. Glancing at me again, I felt the weight of his gaze. It didn’t matter. He knew something was up and he knew it had nothing to do with the lies Heather had been throwing at him. Logan was like Mason. He could sense through bullshit. Turning so he was facing me directly, he asked, “What’s going on? No shit storm, tell me what’s up.”

  I closed my eyes. I was caught,
but I shook my head. “I can’t.”

  “Sam?”

  “Logan.” This could not happen. There was no way. “Let this go.”

  He heard the warning in my tone and seemed to reassess me. I never talked to him like this, but this was different terrain for both of us. Mason was always there. Mason was the go-between. Mason was the one we confided in and now he was gone. Concern and doubt clouded over him and he jerked his head in a nod. Stepping aside, he said in a hurt tone, “Okay. I will.”

  A pang went through me. I ignored it and told myself this was for the best. “Thank you.”

  “You don’t have to leave, though. Or do you? Is,” he hesitated, still watching me intently, “that the reason you’re leaving, whatever is wrong?”

  “I…” I turned to Heather. It had been, but now—she shrugged. “I guess not.”

  “Well, in that case, you want to play me and Mark in a game of beer pong?” Logan flashed me a smirk. “Losers lose their shirts.”

  Heather laughed. “That’s not an equal loss. If you lose, you’re my beer bitch for the next weekend.” She elbowed me. “Mark’s her bitch at home.”

  “And if you guys lose?”

  She glanced at me, but I shrugged. She said, “What’s our punishment?”

  I felt his gaze again. Without looking, I knew he wanted to say that I would have to tell him what was wrong, but I glanced up. A warning flashed in my eyes and he saw it. Then he shrugged. “You’re my beer bitch instead, Jax. How about that?”

  “And Sam’s Mark’s bitch at home?”

  “Sounds like a good trade.”

  They were both pretending to be having lighthearted banter, but it was camouflage on both ends. I had a problem. Heather knew it. Logan wanted to know it. I forced out a laugh. “Since we got those terms decided, let’s do this.” I headed off, leading the way downstairs. The entire conversation had been awkward and I knew the game would be too.

  When we went downstairs and headed for the pong table, it was a surreal moment for me. The room was filled with people from my past. Natalie and Jasmine were in one corner, drinking and talking with some guys. They both paused when we came into the room, but went back to doing their thing. Then, across from them was Cass and her group. They were glaring across the room at the two girls, but I saw the fear lurking in Cass’ gaze. She was holding an ice bag to her eye and her lip looked swollen. Her friends were rallied around her as well. Adam was in the background, leaning against the wall with Mark beside him. The two were talking and laughing together. Then my gaze trailed right in front of Adam and I saw Becky. She was watching me. There was a hidden emotion in the depths of her eyes, but I didn’t want to decipher it. We had sort of made-up. She had been invited to my birthday party, but she’d been absent from my life since then. That was fine. I had made a decision to let her and Adam both go. There was always drama involved and those two kept hurting me, in some manner. When she looked at Heather, I saw the hurt and jealousy there.

  She’d been replaced. That’s what she was thinking, I saw it in her face. But the truth was that Heather had been a true friend. Becky had never really been a true friend.

  As Logan took position by the table, he hollered, “Decraw, get your ass over here. Jax and Sam are challenging us.”

  “WHAT?” Mark pretended to roar back. A wicked grin was on his face, but he acted insulted, pressing a hand to his chest. “How could this be? This is blasphemy. We are the unconquered gods of beer pong. They are threatening our throne?” He left his group of friends in a dramatic flair, as if Logan had hooked him with a fishing line and reeled him in.

  “Seriously?” Heather took up position next to me. She shifted on her feet, sticking a hip out, curling her lip up at them. “Can you be more dramatic? Kade challenged us. It wasn’t the other way around.”

  I grinned. Mark had gotten funnier over the summer. He’d been an easygoing guy before, going with the flow, but since Logan decided that Mark would be his new best bud because Mason was gone, the two had become some form of a comedy duo.

  Ignoring Heather, Mark jumped and landed with a thud in front of Logan. They pretended to do some form of handshake before sticking out their groins at us. The crowd around us started laughing.

  “Anyone else and they would get roasted for being a dork, but since Logan Kade did that, it’s the funniest thing they’ve seen.” Heather shook her head, then glanced to the sidelines and poked me. “Are those two your old bffs?”

  I looked over. Jessica and Lydia were standing by a wall, sipping on their drinks. Two guys were with them, both had their arms around their waists. When they saw I was looking their way, both sucked in their stomachs and stretched their heads, as if trying to look long and sleek.

  Heather started laughing. I couldn’t hold back my own grin, but the old hostility was there. Lydia turned away after a moment, but Jessica held my stare. She lowered her drink and glared right back. I sighed and murmured, “Yeah, they used to be. That seems so long ago now.”

  “They’re bitches. You’re better off.”

  Then I frowned. I hadn’t seen Jeff at the party at all. Scanning the crowd, I ignored the envy from the girls and the interest from the guys. A year ago, I’d been out casted and I had to fight for my place at Mason and Logan’s school the semester after that. For once, there was no one planning my demise. Even now, remembering Natalie’s veiled threat, I wasn’t worried. I felt it in my gut. This year was going to be different. Since Mason was gone, the target wasn’t so big on my back. It was still there because of my closeness with Logan, but not as much. I took a breath in. It was freeing in that moment and that sucked because I knew it was mostly because Mason wasn’t there.

  “You okay?” Heather had been waiting, watching me.

  I nodded. “Yeah.”

  “Strattan,” Logan barked from across the table. He held a ping pong ball in his hand and gestured to the cups of beer in front of us. “You ready to be our bitches next weekend?”

  He was grinning. He looked like the usual carefree Logan that most knew, but I knew part of it was an act. He wouldn’t let go, knowing that something was wrong. It was only a matter of time before he’d get it out of me. I just wasn’t ready for that day because when it came out, when I told him that I knew, everything would change. No matter what was the truth, I was scared of losing him and Mason. At that thought, sudden tears came to me and I blinked them away.

  He saw my emotion and lowered his hand. The grin faded to a small frown. Concern flashed across his face.

  Then I shook it off. I couldn’t lose them, either one of them. They were my family since I had lost my last one. I gave him a reassuring grin and vowed that the truth wouldn’t come out. It couldn’t. I would be destroyed the day it did.

  He lifted his hand again, but the dark concern was still there. As I watched, he masked it with his trademark smirk and threw the first toss. It landed in the cup right in front of me and without a moment’s hesitation, I downed the beer. He could win. I wouldn’t care. I was ready to drink that night.

  “Well, then.” Heather grinned at me. “Looks like Sam’s ready to party this year.”

  I gave her a half-grin, but hung my head at the same time. Mason should’ve been there. When I looked back up, Logan was studying me. Our gazes collided and he saw the pain in mine. Somehow I knew that he understood. He nodded, growing serious again. In that one second, we were on the same page. We both missed Mason.

  That made everything worse. A burden like I had never felt before was placed on my shoulders. No one could get hurt. It was on me. Tate told me the secret, whether Logan’s feelings were true or not, I would shoulder it myself.

  I didn’t wait for them to throw again. I grabbed another cup and downed it.

  Mark’s mouth fell open, but he lifted his arms up in victory. “Keep going, Sam. Mom won’t do my laundry anymore so guess what you’ll get to do?” He dropped his arms and rubbed his hands together in an evil motion.

  I didn’t car
e. My chest and throat were burning. I was willing to do anything to make that sensation go away.

 
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