Fallen fourth down, p.17
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.17
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  nervous. I guessed it was a family trait. “Look,” I cleared my throat. I was all business. “This doesn’t have to be awkward.”

  “You’re right.”

  “We had sex. It was one time.”

  “You’re right.” He moved back a step. The nervous behavior stopped, and he raked a hand through his hair. “It’s good to see you. I think it was nice to catch up since we did run into each other. I’m not a big partier so we probably won’t run into each other at parties.”

  “I live with Mark.”

  “What?”

  “Mark Decraw. I live with him. My dad is with his mom, and I’m living with my dad, so that means that I live with Mark. Just thought you should know, in case you come over to hang out with Mark sometime.”

  “Oh.” Realization appeared in his gaze. “Yeah. Got it. Okay. Good to know, in case that ever comes up.”

  “It will. His mom likes to be a mom to everybody, so I’m sure you’ll be invited to the house sometime.”

  “Okay.” His head bobbed up and down. “And when I get that invitation, should I…” He paused, waiting for my answer. “Accept it…?”

  “I don’t care.”

  “…or don’t accept?” He nodded again. “Okay. That sounds like another plan. I’m glad that’s cleared up as well.”

  “Yeah.”

  “Yeah.”

  We stood and stared at each other.

  “Okay.” He jerked a thumb to the field. “I’ll be going back there.”

  “Okay.” I would be staying right where I was.

  Then we heard, “Screw you, Jax! What the hell is your problem with my girlfriend, and where the fuck did Sam go?!”

  This was going to be a long night.

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  MASON

  Nate and I hadn’t talked since Sam and Logan’s visit. I kept to myself and my teammates. Football. My team. School. That was my life besides my nightly phone calls with Sam and talking with Logan every few days. When I went to class, I never looked in Marissa’s direction. She was a non-factor. I meant what I had said. There was no friendship between us. The only awkwardness that happened was when we had been paired to be in a small group together. There were three others so our group presentation meetings were strictly business for me. We met in the library, and if the conversation steered towards hanging out, going for a beer, or hobbies, I brought them back to the assignment.

  We were in the library again, and it was our last meeting. Matteo and Drew were coming to meet me. All three of us were going to find a study room on the third floor and lock ourselves in to study for our exam. And, as I thought of them, I glanced to the clock on the wall. They were supposed to be here by now. Irritation grew in me. This meeting was supposed to have been done thirty minutes ago, but they were still discussing who was going to present the bibliography.

  I leaned over and grabbed the paper from the other guy. “I’ll do it.” They were quiet, and I leveled all of them with a hard look, gathering my books. “Are we done? Everything’s set to go?”

  “Uh.” The guy’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. He tugged at his collar, stretching his trendy polo from his neck, and shrugged. “I guess. Yeah?” He looked to the others, but they weren’t saying anything. Marissa’s head was down, avoiding my gaze. The two other girls in the group looked dumbfounded. The redhead recovered first. She was interested in me. I had known the second our group was formed. Her shirt was lowered, her skirt was raised, and she kept flipping her damn hair over her shoulder. Some girls did that when they were uncomfortable, but not this one. This girl barely touched her books. Now, her finger went right to her lip, and she pulled on it.

  I wasn’t an idiot, and I never engaged. Averting my eyes and not talking to her were the only tactics I used. Other times I would’ve been an asshole, telling her straight out that it wasn’t going to happen, but sometimes that backfired. The girl would come on to me harder. So again, like all the other times, I ignored her and glanced at the last girl. Unlike the redhead, this one seemed more like the old Marissa. Her brown hair was frizzy. She kept taking her glasses off and pinching the top of her nose. Her sweater was too baggy for her. When her elbows went to the table, her sleeves kept falling down and she would tug them back into place.

  She sat right next to Marissa. Comparing her to the new Marissa, who was wearing a tight pink shirt and leggings that looked like jeans, almost made me miss the old Marissa.

  The redhead asked, “Are you in a hurry to leave?”

  I turned to her. She was rubbing her lips together. “Yeah. I need to study. Are we done here?”

  Her eye twitched, and she stopped rubbing her lips together. “I don’t know.” She glanced to the guy beside me. “I was thinking of having everyone over for dinner? Are you guys interested? We can celebrate being done with our presentation?”

  The guy’s leg jerked under the table, and he immediately grabbed for his crotch. He was too excited. Under her knowing gaze, he swallowed again. His hand moved to his leg and he flattened his palm out, stopping his leg from jumping so much. “That sounds cool.”

  His voice trembled, but he caught it, cleared his throat, and covered it with a smooth, “I don’t know how long I can stay, though.” He glanced at me from the corner of his eye.

  I tried hard not to react. He was a buck thirty. My leg had more muscle than he had in his entire body, but the guy wanted to bang the redhead. Good luck, buddy. They both looked at me, and I saw everyone around the table was waiting for my response.

  “No.” I scowled.

  Marissa bit out a laugh. “Why am I not surprised?”

  I lifted an eyebrow. This was new.

  She waited, then shook her head as another laugh came out. “You don’t even give a shit, do you? You aren’t even going to ask me what that means.”

  “I already know.” Where was this going? “I’m an asshole. You know that.”

  The redhead’s eyes got big. “You know each other?”

  “No.” Marissa kept shaking her head. She sounded sad. “We really don’t.”

  My eyes narrowed. I’d been patient with her, but that was gone. I didn’t like dealing with head games, and I was starting to think that was Marissa’s new forte. “What do you want, Marissa?”

  She stiffened, but her eyes went to mine. A small glimmer of fear appeared there. “What do you mean?”

  “You waited for me outside the stadium for what? To tell me you didn’t like me, then you’re in my class and there’s no conversation between us. You go out with Nate and his fraternity and then show up for lunch with my brother and my girlfriend. Now we’re in a group together, there’s no small talk from you, and this? You’re throwing attitude at me? Why? Have I summed this up enough for you, or do you want me to keep going?” I leveled her with a hard stare. “I don’t like chicks who are passive aggressive and I really don’t like chicks who try to mind-fuck someone. Be straight, tell me what you want, and I’ll give you a straight up answer.”

  I already knew she wouldn't like being put on the spot like that.

  “Whoa,” the redhead murmured, leaning back in her chair. The others seemed like they wanted to disappear, but Marissa kept staring back at me.

  “Forget this.” Shoving back her chair, she grabbed her books and left. Storming off seemed too dramatic for her. She just, left.

  No one said a word for a moment, but I didn’t care. I started gathering my books together as well. Taking it as a cue, yellow polo dude took off and the junior Marissa look-alike wasn’t far behind him. I lingered; Matteo and Drew should be coming soon. I saw the redhead was still standing by the table. I glanced up. “Yeah?”

  “You’re an asshole.”

  “I said that.”

  “But you’re right. From the sounds of it, she doesn’t want to hear ‘no’ from you, and that’s all you’re going to give her.” Pressing her lips together, she pushed them out like she was going to kiss something, and tilted her head to the side. She
grinned. “Girlfriend, huh? How faithful are you?”

  I didn’t bat an eye before answering, “I made out with one other girl while I was with my girlfriend.”

  Excitement filled her eyes.

  “I was setting her up to take the fall for my girlfriend. Some other asshole wanted to hurt someone I cared about.” Seeing Matteo and Drew come through the doors, I stood. “I gave him someone else that I gave no shits about.”

  The excitement vanished immediately. Her shoulders dropped, and she gave me a cold look instead. “Wow. You really are an ass.”

  I shrugged. I’d own it. I walked past her.

  *

  SAMANTHA

  Logan wanted to fight. I could tell.

  The football challenge was scrapped. Heather’s tactic had been so successful the two declared an all-out war. She was carted off the field, giving him the middle finger, yelling that he was too controlling over me while Logan looked a mix of confused and enraged. The drill team hadn’t wanted to leave. They hated Heather, so of course they wanted to hear her demise happen. Anyone who went against Logan would see that end, but it’d be different this time. As soon as Heather was carried past me, she gave me a small wave and called out, “Please do damage control. I love you.”

  I sighed, nodded, and pressed my hands to my temple. It wasn’t long until Logan tore off the field, after her. Unlike Heather, none of his friends were holding him back, so I swung my arm out and caught him around the chest. Logan kept going, but so did I. I used his momentum and let my body follow through. I was lifted up and latched onto his back.

  “Sam!” he growled, but stopped walking.

  When he glanced up and tried to dislodge me, I waited, holding onto him tight until I saw Heather get into her car. When her headlights turned on, I let go. My body slid down his.

  “Stop, Logan.”

  He wasn’t moving, but I put my hands on his shoulders and stood in front of him. As I did, he continued to glower at me and crossed his arms over his chest. Then he said, “I’m getting sick of Jax’s problem with Kris. My relationship is none of her business. What’s her problem? I’m not boning her. We joke about it, but, man, I like Channing. I’d never do that to him.”

  “Or to Kris.”

  “That’s a given.” He rolled his eyes.

  It was at that moment when everyone else decided to leave. A few of the drill team said their goodbyes to Logan. A couple touched his arm and gave him seductive grins, but he just jerked his head in a nod to them. I caught their disappointment before they moved forward. The words party and drunk were tossed around before they climbed into their cars and zoomed off. By this time, most of the Fallen Crest Academy crowd had left as well, but I stiffened. Mark and Jackson were still there, so was Cass, draped all over Mark. Some of Logan’s friends lingered as well, and they stopped beside us. Everyone was waiting for what Logan had to say next.

  Mark grinned. “Didn’t take you for a sore loser, Kade.” His head lifted and he rolled his shoulders back, a smirk appearing over his mouth. “Not that I’m surprised.” He clasped a hand on Jackson’s shoulder and pulled him forward. “You’ve met our secret weapon. You’re lucky you guys aren’t playing us again this year.”

  Adam joined the group. A bag was thrown over his shoulder, and he paused, glancing at me first, before skimming over Logan and Mark. Logan tensed, but his jaw only clenched shut. Adam said to Mark, “Is there a party in the plan for tonight?”

  “Logan,” Derek spoke up behind us.

  Logan nodded. “Derek’s throwing a party. You guys can come.”

  Adam stiffened. His eyes jerked back to mine, and I knew he was thinking about the past. He had steered clear of me for so long, and there was still tension between us; it filled the air. I saw Jackson looking from Adam to me. His eyes fell to the hand Logan had placed on my side. I hadn’t realized he was touching me, but I let it go. There was so much bad blood between Logan and Adam. A thought occurred to me: Was that the real reason Kris wasn’t there? Because Logan had stolen Kris from Adam?

  Adam never replied to Logan’s invitation.

  Logan laughed. “She won’t be there, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

  His hand tightened on my side, and Adam saw that motion too. The problem wasn’t Kris. It was me. Adam had stopped pursuing me, and I had ended our friendship long ago. That history needed to be left alone, but this was Logan. He was protecting me. Still.

  “You’re such an ass, Kade.” Adam’s words were quiet, but they were clearly spoken.

  “I’m the ass? You think I don’t know about your phone calls and text messages?”

  Oh. Not me. This was all about Kris. Relief flooded me, and my shoulder sagged from the sudden release of tension. A small grin appeared on Jackson’s face as he noticed it. A warm feeling went through me, and I remembered why I used to like him so much. He’d been kind when I needed it.

  Adam scoffed, distracting me. “Kris and I are still friends. You need to deal with that.”

  “Right. Friends. That’s what you said you wanted from Sam too.”

  No, no, no. I didn’t want to get pulled into this.

  Adam glanced at me, but clenched his jaw again. “Sam and I are no longer friends, thanks to you and your brother.”

  Oh shit. I closed my eyes. Logan was going to blast him, and I shot Mark a pointed look. He could step in. Anytime now.

  Seeing my look, Mark narrowed his eyes, and I gestured between Logan and Adam. His eyes got big as understanding dawned. He cleared his throat. “Uh, hey guys. The party sounds awesome. We’ll spread the word. Derek, you’re on 54th, right?”

  “Yeah. Two blocks from your house.”

  “Sounds good.” Mark grabbed Adam and turned him towards the parking lot. He began pushing him forward and waved at us over his shoulder. “We’ll see you guys there.”

  Derek said, “Bring beer. I don’t know if I can score a keg tonight.”

  “Will do.” Mark kept directing Adam ahead. Cass trailed behind them, but she paused, turned half way back to us, and narrowed her eyes at me.

  What’d I do?

  Then she glanced at Jackson, and a cold feeling spread through me. She must’ve caught our shared look. Oh hell. I had no doubt that she’d twist that somehow, but I rolled my eyes. She could try. The only person who needed to know about Jackson was Mason. I’d have to tell him as soon as possible.

  “Cass doesn’t like you much, huh?”

  I bit down on my lip, hearing Jackson’s question.

  Logan turned to him. “You’re the new kid?”

  “Yeah. We didn’t formally meet.” Jackson held his hand out. “Jackson Sallaway.”

  Logan glanced at me. “Sallaway?”

  “He’s Jeff’s cousin.”

  “Your ex?”

  I nodded. “Yeah.”

  He gestured between Jackson and myself. “So you two know each other?”

  Jackson glanced at me, and I braced myself. Logan couldn’t know. I wasn’t ready to tell him who Jackson was and, as if he could read my thoughts, Jackson said, “Just a tiny bit. My cousin brought her to a game a long time ago.” He nodded to me. “It was nice meeting you. I don’t know if I ever told you that. I thought you were a good person for putting up with my cousin.”

  He had covered for me. I snorted, my knees suddenly shaky. “Yeah. Jeff’s a good friend, but a horrible boyfriend.”

  Jackson grinned, laughing. The sound was so genuine.

  Logan’s eyes narrowed at him and asked, “Are you coming to the party tonight?”

  His laughter stopped, and his eyes flicked to mine. “Um…” He looked towards the parking lot. “Everyone left, huh? I’m not a big partier. Who usually shows up to those?”

  “Everyone.”

  I stepped back as Derek moved forward.

  Jackson lifted a hand, rested it against the side of his face, and shrugged. “Sure.” His finger indicated Logan, Derek, and their other friend. “You three are your team’s
captains?”

  Derek started to answer him, but Logan urged me forward. Apparently, we were leaving. As we did, Logan tossed over his shoulder, “We’ll see you guys there. I have to try and sneak my
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