Fallen crest home, p.23
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       Fallen Crest Home, p.23

         Part #6 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  “Samantha,” James started, his posture that of a broken man.

  But I knew he wasn’t broken. That was the problem. People like him never broke. They did the breaking.

  “You broke your family. She broke my family. You guys are going to break it again.”

  “Is that what you think?” he asked.

  I nodded. “That’s what I know.”

  “Samantha.” He started to walk out from behind the desk.

  Mason was right there, blocking him, and when James looked over, Logan moved closer to me, too. Neither of them was going to let their father close to me. When he saw that, he nodded, a sad laugh coming from him.

  “This, right here.” He pointed to us. “This is how you know we won’t be breaking another family. My sons love you more than they love me. I lost their love so long ago, and I’ll never really get it back. I’ve made my peace with that. But with you, that love is solid. It’s the only beautiful thing Analise and I have done together, and we can’t take credit. You three found each other.” He looked at Mason. “I know my son will never cheat on you, and my other son will never stop being your brother. We’ll never break the three of you again.”

  He turned to sit back down. Some of the tension I felt from Mason ebbed, and Logan stepped back.

  “But you will,” I said, stopping everyone.

  “What?” James tilted his head to the side.

  “You’re asking them to love you. And even though she hasn’t verbally said anything to me, I know my mom is asking the same. You both want to be let back in, maybe not as deeply as before, but still behind our walls. That gives you the power to hurt us. Again.” I looked at Logan and Mason. “They don’t want to let you in because that’s what you’re going to do. Maybe not with my mom, but somehow, you’re going to hurt them again. That’s what you do. You hurt people.”

  “Samantha—”

  I cut him off. “If you want to do something, help us with Caldron. He’s a problem we need dealt with. Do that for us.”

  “And what do I get in return?”

  “Nothing.” I leaned forward, resting my hands on the desk to stare him in the eyes. “Because that’s what parents do. They give without asking in return. Do the right thing for your sons, for once.”

  “Holy fuck!” Logan burst out as soon as we were through the main doors. “That was amazing, Sam! I don’t care what I do; I want you to work with me. You’re a fucking closer. You can end any shit you want.”

  I grinned, but I wasn’t feeling it. I shrugged. “Once I figure out what I want to do, we can make a plan how to work together.”

  “You’ve inspired me,” he said. “Fuck communications. I want to be a lawyer. What school is Quinn going to? I’m going to go there, just to piss him off on a daily basis.” He snapped his fingers at us. “Maybe I’ll even take a quick poke at Beck—ahhh, and I just went back to single Logan for a bit. Don’t tell Taylor. She’ll ream my ass for real.” He pretended to take in the fresh air. “I was just so moved, Sam. I felt like we were back in high school, taking pieces of scum down one at a time.”

  He frowned over at Mason. “Why you so quiet? Your girlfriend kicked ass for us. Dad said he’d deal with Caldron, and we don’t owe him anything for it.”

  I knew why Mason was quiet. He’d read between the lines back there, but he only grinned. “Maybe I’m turned on and trying not to let you see? Ever thought of that?”

  “God, no.” Logan groaned, wrinkling his nose. “And now I do. Thanks for that.”

  “Do you know how many jokes you make about being dick-deep in Taylor? You think I want to hear that stuff from my little brother?” Mason squeezed my hand a bit, moving ahead.

  I knew what he was doing—distracting Logan for me.

  “Agh! Shut up, Mase.” Logan shook his head, moving toward the Escalade ahead of us. “You can’t talk about my dick any more. No more dick jokes between us.”

  Mason let go of my hand, keeping pace with Logan. “What about all the hashtags? Hashtag limp dick. Hashtag my dick is in my girlfriend. Hashtag I’m the rocket man.”

  “Shut up!”

  I had started to laugh with them when I heard a car door shut. They hadn’t seemed to hear it, but I did.

  Maybe I knew. Maybe I just felt it coming, or maybe it was finally right to face her, but when I looked over, I knew who would be standing there. I felt her there.

  My mom. And unlike the previous two times, she looked prepared to see me.

  She stepped up on the sidewalk, wearing a flowy red dress. The material whipped all around her, but her hair was pulled up under a black hat.

  “Hello, Samantha.”

  “You can talk this time.”

  A small laugh slipped from her, and she looked down to the sidewalk for a second. “I wasn’t expecting you at the grocery store, but I know Mason is interning here. I’m prepared to see you every time I come.”

  “Prepared?”

  “Excited.” Her eyebrows pinched together and she amended, “Hopeful. I’m hopeful every time I come here.” She held a hand out, indicating me. “You look lovely.”

  “Not like you.” I smiled. “You’re always beautiful.”

  “So are you.”

  “Spoken like a true mother would normally say.”

  She heard my biting tone, and her smile lessened. “And we both know this is not normal, is it? You and me. Our relationship never was.”

  My anger was rising, rolling into a massive cloud. I couldn’t hold it in. “Because you were never a mother, were you?”

  Her eyes went flat, and she didn’t respond. She drew in a deep breath, closing her eyes for a beat. “You have years of anger built up toward me.”

  She was damned right, I did.

  “And you have every right to feel that anger,” she added, her voice soft. “You have every right to have your say, to express that anger, and to have a mother who will finally listen to you.”

  Because I was feeling petty, I said, “Don’t worry. I have a mother now.”

  The blood drained from her face.

  I could see Mason and Logan coming back for me. “And unlike with you, I have no reason to be angry at her, so everything worked out in the end. Now, I have to go because if they see you here and think you’re the reason I’m upset, you’ll be dealing with all three of us.” I stepped past her off the sidewalk, but I turned back around. I had one last thing to say. “I’m not scared of you any more.”

  She frowned. “You weren’t before.”

  “I know. I just wanted to say that because this time, you should be scared of me.”

  “Hey.” Mason was coming. Two steps and he’d clear the last SUV that blocked his view of Analise.

  I waved him back, hurrying my pace. “I’m coming.”

  “What’s wrong?”

  Of course he’d know. I only shook my head, though. “Just thinking. I’m fine now.” I moved past him and took his hand, pulling him behind me. “Let’s go home.”

  Two weeks went by.

  No drama.

  No fights.

  No nothing.

  It was an eerie calm, and it wasn’t that nothing at all happened, just no bad stuff. There were parties. Heather and Channing came over, and we hung out at Manny’s. There’d been no more sightings of Caldron, so Mason and Adam went back to working at the country club. The hotel was nearing its opening, and they’d been doing more and more events for it—radio interviews, newspaper interviews, ads, even a couple videos for Facebook. And somehow, during those three weeks, I got roped into helping with a bridal shower for Becky.

  Heather brought in a package of silk flowers and dumped them on Malinda’s table. “What are we doing here? We’re not bridal shower friends. We’re Vegas and bachelorette party friends.”

  Cass came over and picked up some of the flowers. “You’re supporting friends, and Sam promised to support Becky.”

  Heather glared at her. “I hate you.”

  Cass narrowed her eyes.


  “Go away,” Heather added.

  I smothered a laugh.

  “You’re still just as hateful as you were in high school.” Cass sniffed.

  “Like you would know,” Heather countered. “You went to the rich, preppy school.”

  I was content to let this go on as long as necessary. Mark’s girlfriend was a longtime enemy of mine. We’d come to a strained truce because of Becky, but nothing had been spoken between us. I was waiting for her attack. It’d come. It always did.

  I had a lot of fires in my life. They were all simmering and contained, but at any moment, there could be an explosion.

  Malinda came to watch the exchange from the kitchen, and my excitement died a slow death inside of me. I had to stop Heather from completely annihilating Cass, though it would’ve been so much fun to watch.

  Clearing my throat, I grabbed a pile of papers that still needed to be folded and sat down. “I’m seconding Heather’s request. Go away, Cass. We’re busy folding these little suckers. We don’t need you to boss us around.”

  Heather sat beside me, taking half the pile. “Yeah. Get stomping…” She waited until Cass had left with a huff before adding under her breath, “you prissy bitch.”

  I had to stifle another laugh. Today was not the day.

  She looked at the paper as she started to fold and paused. “Wait. The Love Game?” She read one of the questions. “Who said I love you first?” She looked to me. “Are you serious? This is the type of game people play at bridal showers?”

  I shrugged, starting on my pile. The questions were on the front of the page and the answers were on the back. No one was supposed to look, but Malinda had them printed this way on purpose. Everyone was going to cheat, but Becky would feel like everyone actually knew her that well.

  “From what I Googled, this is common stuff,” I told her.

  She snorted, starting on her pile. “Too bad it’s not Logan’s bridal shower. This game would have questions like Who offered to do anal first?”

  We looked at each other and said at the same time, “Logan.”

  I laughed. “That’s a no-brainer.”

  Heather sighed. “I’m going to die of boredom at this thing. What did you blackmail me with to make me do this?”

  I thought about it. “I threatened to tell Logan that Channing wants to marry you.”

  “Oh yeah.” She shuddered. “I don’t want to think about what he’d say if he knew that. He’d be on my ass all day long.”

  “If he didn’t have Taylor, he’d be begging to be your maid of honor.”

  Heather barked out a laugh. “He would. He’d be stabbing you in the back, trying to get that position from you.”

  “He could have it. I hate weddings.”

  I cringed, realizing what I’d just said. The words slipped out before I knew I was even going to say them.

  Heather paused mid-fold. “Are you serious?”

  I looked around, making sure no one else had heard my flub. Then I shrugged, leaning forward. “Maybe.”

  “This is the wrong summer for you to be saying that. You know that, right?”

  I nodded. “I’m not proclaiming it or anything.”

  “Becky got engaged. Channing’s been bringing it up more and more with me, and your mom is actually getting married very soon.”

  “I’m aware. It’s all around me.”

  She lowered her voice. “Has Mason mentioned the M-word to you?”

  I shook my head, feeling some relief. “No. I think it’s just overkill. That’s all.”

  “Bullshit.” Heather continued to watch me steadily. She wasn’t giving me any room to breathe. “The whole wedding thing is usually contagious for girls. If you’re around it, you suddenly want to do it, too.” She studied me. “You look ready to bolt just having this conversation. You really hate weddings, or you hate your own wedding?”

  I hated this conversation. “I’m not engaged, so this is a conversation I don’t need to bother with.”

  “But he will ask you.”

  My heart jumped to my throat. “You know something I should know?”

  She shook her head. “No, but it’s Mason. He loves you—like, really loves you. He’s going to want a ring on your finger.”

  I knew that, but the thought of marriage sent ice through my veins.

  “I’ll deal with it,” I told her.

  The look in her eye said bullshit.

  “It’s not a big deal.”

  She snorted. Again. “You need to talk to Mason about that. For real, Sam. It’s a big deal. It’s on the same level as when a partner doesn’t want to have kids and the other does. It’s a deal breaker.”

  She wasn’t helping. I felt a headache forming. “I know. I’ll talk to him.”

  “Promise?”

  I nodded.

  “No, you have to say the word. I know you, and you’ll try to get out of it somehow. Promise me, Sam.”

  I didn’t understand the problem. Mason never brought up marriage or weddings. We hadn’t talked about it, and he came from the same background as me. He’d understand. Right? But I remembered the fear I felt when I first realized how much I didn’t want marriage.

  I didn’t want to promise, but Heather was waiting, watching me like a hawk. “I’ll talk to him,” I heard myself say.

  She let out a sigh of relief. “Good.” She squeezed my hand. “It’ll be fine. I know it. That guy worships the ground you walk on. There’s nothing he wouldn’t deal with for you.”

  Yeah…I hoped so.

  Heather went back to reading the questions and groaned. “Honestly? ‘What’s your idea of a perfect weekend?’ Please. Hers is probably when there’s a slight breeze in the air, walks on the beach, and cuddling in front of the fireplace. His is probably a blow job to wake up, a blow job at lunch, a backdoor rally in the afternoon, and a good scotch after dinner.” She rolled her eyes. “I can’t stand when couples like them get married.”

  I laughed, wondering just how far off her answers were from Becky and Adam’s truth.

  Then Becky walked in with Adam right behind her. They were holding hands and smiling, but the terror in her eyes and forced lines around his mouth were what caught my attention.

  “Wait, wait, wait,” Heather said. “Since when does the groom come to these things? This completely blows all of my white trash stereotypes about what rich folks do.”

  Malinda went over to greet them. As Adam hugged her, Becky glanced at me, and I stood.

  “Something’s not right,” I told Heather.

  “What?”

  I was across the room before Malinda had finished gushing over the couple. She had an arm around Becky’s waist and beamed at me.

  “One of these days, this will be you and Mason, Sam. I can’t wait.”

  “Yeah.” My cheeks were hurting, my smile was so forced. I reached for Becky’s hand. “Can I have a minute?”

  An emotion flickered in Malinda’s eyes, and she glanced down. I know she saw how tightly Becky held onto my hand, but she continued
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