Fallen fourth down, p.22
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.22
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  right before I came, he nipped at my throat, then lifted his head back and met my gaze. We watched each other, seeing the release in our eyes. There was an explosion. A guttural groan came from him—no me. It was coming from me. Mason held me still, he wouldn’t look away, as I shook in his arms. When I was done, he dropped his head back down. His lips pressed against mine, and he breathed into me. “I love you.”

  “I love you too.”

  *

  After drying off, I looked up at Mason. I didn’t want to talk. Love and so many other emotions were still with me, choking me, and he seemed to understand. He came to me, then bent and lifted me in the air. He carried me to his bed. As he reached to shut off the bathroom light, Matteo flipped over in his bed and mumbled from under the covers, “A shower, huh, brotha?”

  Mason stiffened, but flipped the switch. The room went back to darkness and he replied, “Yeah.”

  “That’s good…good for you.” His voice trailed off and a loud snore came next.

  Ducking his head to my neck, I felt him laughing and bit down on my lip so my own didn’t slip out. Mason shook his head, but crossed the room to his bed. The covers were pulled back, and he set me down. I moved to one side and felt the bed dip under his weight as he sidled up behind me. A second later, he wrapped his arms around me and I closed my eyes. A deep satisfaction resounded throughout me, replacing all the anxiety and worries from before. For that moment, for that night, I knew I wouldn’t have to be concerned about anything.

  He brushed his lips to my neck. “I love you. Thank you for coming.”

  Feeling tears threatening to spill, I squeezed his arm. “I love you too.”

  Then we went to sleep.

  When I woke up, Mason was gone and a note was left on his nightstand. Practice, then home. Coffee downstairs. Some of the other players’ girlfriends are around. They can help if you need anything. Love you. Mason

  After getting dressed, I snuck downstairs for coffee and a bottle of water, then went back up to his room. Before I went inside, I glanced over my shoulder to where she had been. The memory of Marissa came back to me and I wrinkled my nose. Mason hadn’t explained what she was doing here, but I wasn’t stupid. He thought that I was her when I first came in. The fact that he’d been prepared for that possibility, of her sneaking into his bed, didn’t sit well with me, but today was going to be a day of other confessions. I needed to tell him about Jackson.

  I wanted to groan and bang my head against his desk. I called Logan instead.

  It rang three times before he picked up, “Sam?”

  “Hi.”

  I grimaced. I had said it so stiffly, he would know something was wrong.

  “What’s wrong?”

  And he did. I let out a sigh, closed my eyes, and rubbed at the top of my nose. “She was here last night.”

  “Who was?”

  I didn’t get a second to tell him before he exploded, “Are you fucking kidding me? Marissa? He didn’t tell me that.”

  “Yeah.” I was miserable, then the rest clicked in. “Wait? You talked to Mason already?”

  “He called to ask if something had happened. We didn’t talk long, but he never said anything about Marissa.”

  “What did he say?”

  “That was it really. He called and asked, ‘Did something happen? Sam’s here.’ My response was, ‘No.’ I didn’t say anything about Jackson because you told me not to; although, he won’t care. Then someone yelled his name and he hung up. That was the conversation.”

  “Oh.”

  “Why was she there?”

  “He didn’t tell me yet. We,” my cheeks grew warm, “didn’t get too much talking done last night.”

  “Oh.” He laughed. “Gotta love that my sister called me because she was too busy banging my brother to get an explanation about his stalker. That’s my new Twitter handle.”

  “Logan,” I rolled my eyes, “you’re not helping.”

  He had been laughing, but grew serious. “Oh come on, Sam. If she was there, she did something to get there. Since you’re not calling all butt-hurt, and you already told me you and Mason were getting it on—if you’re literally butt-hurt, I don’t want to know—I’m assuming she wasn’t in his bed?”

  “No. Across the hall.” He thought that I’d been her. “Should I be worried about her?”

  “Worried that Mason will cheat on you? Do you really need my response? I’m warning you. It’ll be sarcastic, witty, and somehow referring to your ass hurting again.”

  I gripped my phone tighter. “You could’ve just said no.”

  “No.”

  “Okay.”

  “You might need to worry about her doing something crazy. The girl’s got something loose in her head. Mason never saw it. I think because she was so in love with him, but never tried to get anything from him. That’s my theory. He didn’t have a high opinion of any female at that time.”

  Hearing a beep, I glanced at the screen and saw a call from him. I said to Logan, “I have to go.”

  “Hey.”

  “Yeah?”

  “Thanks for calling me.”

  “What?”

  “You called me, right? That means you called me before Heather. Once you talk about something, you usually let it go. You’re not like other girls and talk about it over and over again.” His voice quieted. “Thank you.”

  He sounded so grateful that I felt another tear at my eye. I brushed it away and murmured, “I’ll talk to you later.”

  “Eh, about that…”

  I glanced at the screen and saw that Mason had ended the call. Hearing the change from Logan, I sat up slowly. Growing concerned, I asked, “What did you do?”

  “Yeah. Mason and I talked about one other thing before. I didn’t tell you because I wanted to know why you called.”

  Why did a feeling of doom settle back on my chest? “What?”

  “Kris and I are coming up for dinner.”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  MASON

  Marissa was gone by the time I was dressed and heading out. There was no note. When I went downstairs, no one remembered seeing her leave. I didn’t question it. Marissa wasn’t my problem, but I knew Sam would worry, so when I got back from practice, we went to my room. Matteo said he would stay at his girlfriend’s again, so I knew we wouldn’t be interrupted. I needed this time with Sam. I needed to make things right.

  I glanced at my watch. We had an hour before meeting Logan and Kris at the restaurant.

  My throat was thick as I started, “I’m sorry, Sam.” I’d been so happy to see her last night that Marissa had been an afterthought, but looking at it through her point of view, I was ashamed. I should’ve taken Marissa to a hotel, not the house. “I need to explain why she was here in the first place. I will apologize profusely for it because I screwed up. She shouldn’t have been here, and I should’ve been thinking about you first the entire time.” I started with the facts. “She was wasted at the club. She had no phone, no purse. She wasn’t answering questions. We couldn’t find any of her friends, and I forgot my phone at home. I couldn’t call Nate, who would’ve known where she lived. Drew offered his room for her and that was it. A guy was all over her. If we had left her, I’m sure she would’ve been raped by him. But having said all that, she should’ve never been brought into this house. I wasn’t thinking. Drew was drunk. Matteo was twerking against everything. The car door. A street light. Our mail box. Marissa started to cry that we weren’t friends. I wasn’t thinking. I’m so sorry.”

  If I’d been her, if I had come to her house and found Quinn in the hallway, I wouldn’t have handled it like her. I would’ve wanted to hurt him and probably would’ve, regardless of the circumstances. Sam was everything to me. Any guy that tried to threaten that, threaten our relationship, and I saw red. Even thinking about his past antics sent a fierce wave of anger through me. I protected Sam. That was my job, and I had failed last night.

  “You thought I was her.”
<
br />   “I did.” Fuck. “I couldn’t tell how drunk she was, but I know she has feelings for me. It was in the back of my mind that she might’ve tried to sneak in. I’m really sorry, Sam. I really am. Then you came in, and I saw red. I was mad at her for you. If that makes any sense. I was mad that she would dare try to come in when she knows I’m with you, when she knows how much I love you.” I grimaced, remembering how rough I had been as I grabbed her arm and pushed her into the hallway. “Are you okay? I grabbed you too hard last night.”

  She nodded. “I’m fine. You didn’t. You were…” Her head hung down. “You were rough because you thought I was her. Thank you.” She looked back up, raw emotion swimming in her eyes. “Jeff never would’ve done that for me, but you do. You always take care of me.”

  But I hadn’t. Not last night.

  “She didn’t look drunk when she opened the door.” She looked up, searing me with the agony in her eyes. “She looked tired, but not drunk. Drew said you got in an hour before I got there. If she was that wasted, she wouldn’t have sobered up that quick.”

  I sighed, sitting on the bed. “I know.”

  She shook her head, blinking for a moment, and for that brief moment I couldn’t see the pain she was in. When she opened them again, it was there. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was a part of that. I had hurt Sam. Gritting my teeth, my hands curled into fists. I hated that. I hated any pain she might endure and knowing I had contributed to it, even if it hadn’t been intentional, gutted me.

  She murmured, “Am I supposed to worry about her? Is she going to try something else? Logan said she’s crazy.”

  “She was a friend to me when I didn’t like the female gender. I felt like they wanted to use me, use Logan, use my dad. Marissa was a friend that showed me not all girls want to use someone for something. I haven’t wanted to deal with her, with this crush she has on me, because I cared about her.”

  Sam frowned.

  I held my hand up, seeing she was going to say something. I said softly, “I don’t care about her now. I’m not friends with her. I hate thinking that last night was a set-up, that somehow she worked everything so she was brought here, but I can’t rule out that possibility.”

  “Have you talked to her?” She looked back down at her lap. Her hand started to pick at imaginary lint on her pants. She did that when she was nervous or couldn’t deal with the pain inside her.

  “No.” I waited a beat. “Do you want me to?” Marissa was nothing to me, but she kept popping up, and she was becoming a problem. I would do what Sam wanted. This wasn’t about me or Marissa’s feelings. This was about what Sam wanted me to do. It was all about how to make her my first priority, remember that she was my first priority. When she didn’t answer, I prodded, “Sam?”

  “I don’t know what to say. I hate that she’s here. I trust you, but I don’t trust her.” She cringed and pressed her fingers to her forehead, rubbing at a headache. “She just won’t go away. Why won’t she go away? I don’t know what to think about last night. She came to that lunch, then she’s in your hallway, and you’re apologizing for not dealing with that.”

  Hearing the misery in her voice sealed it for me. Marissa was done. Sam would never be exposed to her again, and it was my job to make sure it didn’t happen. If I had to, I would make Marissa hate me. Maybe then she’d stay away.

  I knelt in front of her. My hands went to her legs, felt how stiff they were, and I cursed inside. “Hey.”

  She gazed down at me. Raw hurt was in there. I helped put it there. I couldn’t talk for a moment, but said, “I’m sorry. I’ll make sure she goes away. I promise.”

  The relief was evident. Her head bobbed up and down in a weak nod. A different look came across her features, and she stiffened. Her shoulders lifted, staying there. “I have to tell you something.”

  Logan told me about the douchebag. He gave me warning that another guy was sniffing around Sam, but that was it. As soon as Logan said that to me, I knew it was the real reason Sam was here. She hated keeping secrets, so this must’ve been eating away at her. I nodded. “Go ahead.”

  “It’s about that guy I told you about, the guy who took my virginity.”

  My insides tensed. Even her saying that, made me want to hunt him down and punch him. I didn't know much about the guy she had lost her virginity to, but I wasn’t dumb. I knew she regretted it. A part of me relaxed at the same time, though. The usual condemnation that she had whenever she had spoken about him wasn’t there. I still heard the nervousness, and that made me even more wary.

  Trying to sound casual, I murmured, “Yeah?”

  “He’s here. I mean, he’s in Fallen Crest.”

  Fucker.

  Looking back to her lap, she rushed out, “His name is Jackson; he’s Jeff’s cousin. I cheated on Jeff with him, once, a few months before we broke up. I never talked to him after that, but he recently moved to Fallen Crest. His parents are going through a divorce. He’s going to school at FCA. He’s,” her tone softened, more hesitant, “he’s a big football star.”

  “Jackson?” What was her ex’s last name?

  “Jackson Sallaway.”

  The name registered. “He plays tight-end? He was at Cequate High School?” Shit. He was good.

  “There’s nothing there.”

  I felt her eyes on me, and for once, I was the one not looking at her. Yeah, she was right. There wasn’t anything there because if there had been, that guy would be fucked. I shook my head, cursing to myself. Even if I wanted to kick his ass, I wouldn’t have. Sallaway’s reputation was a good one. He was a decent guy. He didn’t mess with other guys’ girls, and he wasn’t cocky.

  I gritted my teeth. “He’s good-looking? His nickname is Pretty.”

  She laughed, but it stopped immediately on a high-pitched tone. “Yeah.”

  I groaned. “That makes it worse.”

  “He’s not you.”

  A hollow laugh came from me. “I’m aware. He’s there and I’m here.”

  She stood, a determined glint in her eyes as she approached me. Her chin was set. I had to laugh. Sam was going to make me feel better. She was going to reassure me, whisper how much she loved me, and tell me how great of a guy I was. I already knew these things. I didn’t need her to remind me because in the end, she’d still be leaving. He’d be there and I’d remain here. My stomach was already in knots, but I lifted my head and waited for her to stand in front of me. As she did, my hands went to her hips. Hers cupped my face and she whispered, her eyes so goddamn loving, “No one will ever be you. All roads lead to you, Mason. No one else matters because I’m always going towards you.”

  I nodded, feeling the graze from her fingers over my skin. “I know.” I tugged her onto my lap, and as she was going to sit sideways, I lifted her and pulled her legs so she was straddling me instead. I could feel her heart racing and the tension in her body. She was trying to reassure me, but I could tell this was scaring the shit out of her.

  Running my hand up her back, slipping it under her shirt, I watched her. This was one of my favorite moments, when I would touch her and could watch her reaction. Her eyelids dropped, and she relaxed. I slid my hand further up her back, slipping it under her bra, and pulling it towards her front, under her arm. Feeling her breast, it was warm and solid. I cupped it, my thumb rubbing over the nipple. As I did, Sam squirmed like she always does. Her legs surged against mine, pushing into me, and she leaned forward into my hand. Her neck tilted to the side, as if granting me access there.

  I leaned forward and kissed her neck. We had thirty minutes. I was going to enjoy every minute of it and make sure Jackson Sallaway was a very distant memory for her.

  *

  SAMANTHA

  “I don’t think Mason likes me.”

  We were in the women’s bathroom when Kris shared that with me.

  Mason had made love to me before we left for the restaurant. He’d been possessive and a little rough, but I enjoyed it. Even thinking about it brought
back a rush of memories. I was growing heated and ducked my head, hoping Kris hadn’t witnessed my red face.

  She sighed. “Oh my god. It’s true, isn’t it?”

  I looked up. She stopped fixing her hair and turned, biting her lip and wringing her hands together. Her puppy dog-like eyes were fixed on mine, and it was obvious that her feelings were hurt. She
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