Fallen fourth down, p.16
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.16
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  “Okay.” Heather stuffed her hands in her jean pockets. The wind whipped her hair around, but she let it go. Her eyes flashed at me with irritation. “What are we doing here?” She gestured to the football field.

  I laughed. “A challenge was thrown out and Logan pounced on it. I think he’s restless because he doesn’t have Roussou to rival with. He’s turned to my old school.” I didn’t share my other theory, that a darker beast had been awakened inside him.

  She nodded, skimming an eye over the group of guys who stood in a huddle on the fifty yard line. It was Friday night. We had been there five hours earlier for an official game, but the lights were still on like Logan said they would be. Heather murmured, “This is ridiculous. There’s a reason Mason didn’t go to your school, because your team sucked. Ours dominated. They’re going to kill those guys.”

  “I know.” I watched Mark, Adam, and their friends gather together, away from the FCP group, and shook my head. Even though Mason was gone, and he had been the star player, the new group of seniors still looked primed and ready to tear into the FCA group. The guys from Fallen Crest Public School were bigger and meaner. They were tougher. That was the bottom line. The guys from my old school were leaner and nervous. “Mark’s an idiot.”

  “How did this happen again?”

  “Logan’s team ran with the cross country team yesterday. Their coach was gone so they were doing conditioning with us. Our trail went over a hill by my old school, they were having football practice, and one thing led to another.”

  Heather groaned. “This is all about the size of their dicks, which of course correlates with their precious egos. They’re all idiots.”

  “Pretty much.” Watching them, I saw the hesitation on Mark’s face. The rest of the guys kept glancing towards Logan’s group. Their wariness was evident.

  “So who’s the new guy?” Heather craned her neck to get a better view.

  I stiffened.

  She caught my reaction. “What?”

  “How’d you know about a new guy? Mark mentioned him earlier, but you…” I failed to follow the connecting dots. This was from left field.

  She grimaced. “Channing talks about him all the time. FCA doesn’t play Roussou, but he said their new guy is all anyone is talking about. He’s some big star from another school or conference or whatever football terms they use.”

  A sense of dread began to take root in me. The more she talked, the more I knew Logan might have a surprise in store for him.

  At that moment, Mark yelled to someone on the sidelines. “Cass! Where is he?”

  “I don’t know. He’s coming,” she shouted back.

  Heather turned and cursed. “How did I miss them?” Cass and her friends were in their own group, standing on the sidelines further down from us. “Those are the bitches from your old school, right?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Where’s the girlfriend?”

  “At home with her sister.”

  A few of the drill team girls from FCP were on the other side of Heather and me. A couple of them exchanged insults with Cass, which I was relieved about. They seemed focused on each other and not on me. I was getting a break. That was before Heather got there. Both groups were aware of Heather, who screamed sex just by walking. When she saw Cass watching her, Heather puffed up her chest and spread her arms out. “What?”

  Cass narrowed her eyes and her lip curled up, but she turned away. Then she felt in her pocket and pulled out her phone. “Mark! He’s here.”

  Everyone looked towards the parking lot. A car had pulled up and turned off its lights. It wasn’t long before a guy was jogging to the field.

  “This is the new super stud?”

  I shrugged. “I guess.” I turned to watch, but was distracted when Logan headed to us. When he got near, I saw the concern in his gaze. “What’s wrong?”

  “Can you hold my phone in case Kris calls? She’s been off lately, and I don’t want to miss her call.”

  Heather started laughing. “You’re on the field, ready to cream Sam’s old school, and you’re worried about your girlfriend?”

  “Yeah.” He shot her a dark look. “These posers are nothing. This is already handled, and yes, I’m worried about Kris. She’s been weird lately.”

  “Where’s your phone?”

  He gestured to his bag that was on the ground beside me. “Front pocket. Thanks, Sam.”

  I nodded.

  “KADE! LET’S GO!” Mark yelled.

  I heard how smug he sounded and glanced over at him. The new guy had joined their group, and they closed ranks, forming a tight circle. Mark waved at us. “You’re being consoled by a bunch of girls because you’re scared?” He scoffed. “I would be too!”

  Logan yelled back, “I know what drawer you keep your panties in.”

  “Come on, Kade!”

  I yelled back, “Shut it, Marcus.”

  Heather said, “Oh, whoa.”

  Mark laughed again. “Bring it, Sam! I know where you sleep.”

  “Goes both ways, buddy.”

  Logan started laughing. He shook his head and placed his hand on my shoulder. “I’m going to destroy them. The cockier they are, the more fun it is for us.” He started back to them, but said to me, “Don’t forget my phone.”

  “What is with him and this girl?” Heather’s eyebrows bunched forward together. “I’m starting to think he actually cares about her.”

  I shook my head, but made sure to grab his phone. Stuffing it in my pocket, I shrugged. “He does care about her. What makes you think he doesn’t?”

  She gave me a pointed look.

  Oh yeah. I’d forgotten for a brief moment.

  I gave her a tight smile, feeling a weight settle back on my shoulders. “Let’s just cheer them on.”

  “Yeah, yeah.” She rolled her eyes and turned back to the football field. They didn’t have their full teams and no one was wearing uniforms, but as they lined up across from each other and as Adam began the count, I was surprised at the fierceness rippling from both sides.

  “This is all in good fun, right?”

  Heather barked out a laugh. “Nothing’s friendly when it comes to guys and their egos. Besides, Mason’s gone and everyone’s going to challenge Logan to see if he can hold the throne by himself.”

  The ball was snapped and Adam fell back, ready to throw. There was no one open so he looked to run. I looked down the field and saw Logan. He was running alongside a blocker. Both of them were going towards Adam. His blocker took out an FCA lineman. Logan ducked around the stretched arm and sprinted for Adam. It was only those two.

  This was supposed to be friendly, but Logan squared down, tucking his shoulder in place. Adam didn’t see him until the last second. He tried to evade him, but it was too late. Logan got him square in the front. He wrapped his arms around him and threw him down. It was a fair tackle, but it was so quick. Everyone was silent for a moment.

  Logan was the quarterback. Tackling had been Mason’s forte, but no one could deny it; it was an outstanding move. Even Adam was startled by it. When everyone remained silent, Logan smirked, turned, and pointed at Mark. He said, “That’s one. I’m going to be counting these all night, Decraw.” His shoulders rolled back and he raised his chin in a cocky challenge before heading back to his group. “All fucking night, Decraw.”

  “I thought Logan hated Adam? What’s with him and Mark?”

  “Nothing.” I was still stunned by Logan’s swiftness. “This is what they do at home. They love riling each other up, but that tackle was meant for Adam for a reason. Logan still hates him.”

  “There are others on that team who have hurt me, hurt you.” Logan’s words floated in my memory, almost haunting me, and a dark shiver went through me.

  Heather grunted and gestured to the field. “Okay. I thought it was weird before, but that guy won’t stop staring at you.”

  “What guy?”

  “The new guy. When you yelled at Mark before, he whipped
around. Right after he saw you, he looked like he’d seen a ghost. I thought it was weird, but whatever. He’s new, but he’s still staring at you. You know him?”

  Looking for the new guy, I started to say, “I’ve never met him…” My gaze collided with dark eyes, dark tousled hair, square jaw, and the start of a smile on his face. My voice trailed off. My mouth hung open. I did know him. I knew him too well. “Shit.”

  Heather glanced at me. “Who is he?”

  Someone I never wanted to see again. I shook my head. “I have to go.”

  “What?” She whipped around and followed me as I hurried from the field. Logan’s phone was clutched in my hand, but Heather grabbed my arm and pulled me to a stop once we were closer to the parking lot. “Wait.” She pressed Logan’s bag against my chest. “What the hell is going on? For real. You have to tell me.”

  No. I couldn’t.

  She sighed and her hands rested on her hips. “Sam, come on. This is you and me. You told me about Logan. Tell me about this guy, whoever he is. I can tell he is someone to you.”

  “Oh my god.” I pressed my fingers to my forehead and tried to rub the headache away. “This is a nightmare.”

  “Apparently.” She took my hands, pulled them down, and got in my face. “Spill it, woman.”

  I couldn’t believe I was going to say this. “His name is Jackson Sallaway. He’s my ex’s cousin.”

  “Okay.” She scratched her head. “That’s not the dramatic answer I was expecting, but okay. I guess?”

  “No, you don’t get it.”

  “Yeah, following you on that one.”

  “I lost my virginity to him.”

  “OH.” She moved back a step, both eyebrows arched high. “For real?”

  I nodded.

  “Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that answer.”

  “And Mark’s right. He’s an amazing player.”

  “Logan just kicked his ass.”

  I shook my head. “Jackson was on the other side of the line, but I know him. He watches and studies the players. He looks for all the weaknesses and once he has everything figured out, he exploits those weaknesses.”

  “Is he as good as Mason?”

  “No.” I was being honest. “But he’s been watched by scouts for years. That’s how I met him. I went to a football tournament with Jeff to watch his ‘superstar’ cousin one weekend.”

  “And how did this de-virginizing occur?”

  I hated even thinking about it. “Jeff was being an ass. I caught him hitting on a bunch of girls. We were at a party so I went the other way and got drunk. Jackson showed up. He was nice. He was good-looking—”

  “He’s still good-looking. Quinn’s got competition for the golden boy of FCA, by the way.”

  I shrugged and hugged myself, warding off the bad memories. “Anyway, one thing led to another.”

  “You were drunk and slept with him?”

  I nodded. “I know. I’m an idiot.”

  “Was he drunk?”

  “I think so, but it wasn’t like that. It was just…it was a mistake. I cheated on Jeff. I was wracked with guilt for the longest time, well, until my mom left David and we moved in with Mason and Logan. Once that happened, I didn’t think about him anymore.” I swallowed, pushing down the regret that surged up again. “I know Jeff is an ass or was an ass, but I expected better of myself. I didn't think I would ever cheat and I did.”

  “Did you ever talk to him about it?”

  “No. He fell asleep and I left. I called my dad and made him come and pick me up. Jeff never said anything about it. I remember thinking he was being nice about me ditching him, but he probably cheated on me that weekend anyway. God,” I groaned, “what a mess.”

  She stuck out her bottom lip and pulled me in for a hug. “Oh, Sam.” She began to rock me back and forth in a soothing motion. “You’re human. You make mistakes and you probably cheated because your ex was an asshole. I doubt he made you feel loved.”

  “Sam.”

  I tensed, hearing him, but I didn’t look right away. Heather kept me in her hug. She asked, “What do you want me to do?”

  This wasn’t something I wanted to deal with, but I knew Mason would say to deal with it. Nip it in the bud and get it moving. I tried to calm my nerves, and told her, “Stall Logan. I don’t want him to know about this.”

  “He will.” She pulled back, but her hands lingered on my shoulders. “You know that.”

  I did. “Just stall that from happening.”

  “On it.” She moved her head in a nod. Her hands fell from my shoulders, and she saluted me with two fingers, a smirk already appearing. “I’ll probably get in a fight with him. It’s the best stall tactic I got right now.” She started backpedaling. “Just be ready for the fireworks. It’s not going to be pretty.” As she went past Jackson, she gave him a swift pat on the back. “You have no idea what you’re about to step into, but I have to admire your balls. You must have a cement pair.”

  When she turned and walked the rest of the way back to the football field, an impish grin appeared on his face. He ran his hand through his hair, messing it up again. I had to laugh. Putting up with Jeff for years, Jackson had seemed like a god to me. He had a leaner build back then, and with his dark eyes, friendly grin, and high cheekbones, he had a soft look to him. It appealed to me, and I saw that he still had that same look. He was pretty.

  I noted, “You’ve put on some muscle.”

  “Yeah.” He shrugged and stretched his arms across his chest. “My coach said I had to when he switched my position last year. It worked for me.” Biting his lip, he moved closer to me and stopped a few feet away. He gestured to the field behind him. “I told the guys I was going to call Jeff and see if he wanted to play.”

  “Are you?”

  He laughed. “No. Jeff wouldn’t play anyway. He quit the team. I don’t know if you knew that.”

  I didn’t, and I didn’t care. I couldn’t stop looking at him. The memories from that night came back to me; how his hand rested on my knee and I turned into him. How he placed his other hand on my shoulder, drawing me closer for a hug. That was all we did, at first. I pushed the memories away. “Why are you here, Jackson?”

  His eyes widened an inch, then he laughed. “My parents are going through a divorce. My mom wanted to move close to her sister, and so we’re here.”

  “But the football program? Jeff told me that you were scouted.”

  “I was. I already committed to a school. It’s a soft commitment, but yeah. I know FCA doesn’t have that great of a program. Still. I like your dad. I have a lot of respect for him, and my last coach speaks highly of him. He says your dad has been turning the program around, so this year might not be too bad.”

  So he was staying. That meant he was going to be popular. He had the looks. He was friendly, nice, and it was only a matter of time before he started coming to Mark’s house.

  I murmured, “I see.”

  His eyes scanned over my face, and he laughed softly. “You’re not happy about the move?”

  “It doesn’t matter.”

  “You know,” I tensed, hearing his tone turn serious, “this doesn’t have to be awkward. I can see that you’ve got a whole new life. Jeff said you transferred last year and something about a new boyfriend.” He pointed to the field again. “Is it Logan Kade back there? I’ve heard of him, just didn’t know you were attached to him.”

  I shook my head. “No. I'm dating Logan’s brother.”

  “Ah. Gotcha. I’ve heard of him, you know.” His head moved up and down in a slow nod. “Mason Kade. He’s a big deal.”

  “Yeah, he is.” My tone hardened. “He’s better than you.”

  A short laugh came from him. “You’re more honest than you were before.” He grinned. “I approve. I always thought my cousin was an ass to you.”

  “He was.”

  “Yeah…” He glanced to the ground and bit his lip again.

  I almost rolled my eyes. Jeff did the same
thing when he was
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