Fallen fourth down, p.29
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.29
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  “I have to fly back to Boston. I had hoped to come tomorrow. I wanted to give you a present. David told me about your race, that you won, and that you will probably get a scholarship. I wanted to say congratulations.”

  “I’ve wanted you to stay away. That didn’t happen either.”

  His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Uh, yeah. Listen, Samantha, I know I messed up. I know that I was coming in at a bad time in your life. You probably wanted an escape. David’s told me more about that time, that he had stepped away from you and you felt abandoned by him, then it was like I had abandoned you too. I get it. I do, but I’d really like to talk to you about that time. I’d like to explain what I did and why.”

  “I don’t care.” I didn’t. I had. I’d been hurt. I hadn’t wanted to trust him again, but after tonight, after the possibility of losing Mason and Logan, I didn’t give two shits about anything else. “You’re my dad. Whatever. Fine. We can have a relationship, just don’t think you can pressure me to do what you want.”

  “I haven’t been—”

  I didn’t have time for this. “You have. You call every fucking night.”

  “I don’t.” He glanced to the side.

  “You’re right. You don’t. You just call the nights we have the ringer turned on. Thank you for correcting that for me.”

  He grimaced, then a grin crept over his face. “You’re just like me.”

  Rage slammed into me at those words. I shot back, “I’m not. I’m not anything like you. I’m the product of a crazy abusive mother who’s finally locked away and not able to hurt me. I am who I am because I lost my family. I got another one, and voila, you’re back and you want another shot. Well, guess what, I’m more concerned about not losing another family. I don’t care about you. That’s the truth. Maybe I will. I have no idea. I don’t really care to find out right now. All I care about is you leaving so that I can leave. I have places to be.”

  He’d been watching me. His eyes narrowed with each statement I said and as I finished, he noted, so softly, “You are like me, but it’s my job to show you that. Give me a chance. Please, Sam.”

  I cursed.

  He laughed. “Give me a shot.”

  I let out a sigh.

  “I went back to Boston to make things right with my wife. Having a daughter changed everything for me. I didn’t want to be a part of your life with Helen at my side. I needed the woman I loved, even if she cheated on me. I went back because of you. I wanted that family. Things are better. She moved here with me because of you, because I want to be a part of your life, but, Sam, the year’s almost over. Let me have some time with you. I will never hurt you. I promise.”

  I watched him warily.

  “Give me another shot.”

  Oh hell. I gave him a rueful look. “You’re lucky that I’m all about second chances tonight. Fine. We can do dinner next week.”

  A smile lit up his face and for a second, I saw myself. He was right. I was like him. For some reason, the thought sobered me. It grounded everything for me. He was begging me. I’d be begging Mason. We had both messed up.

  My throat went dry. I hated thinking I was like Garrett, but at the same time, this was blood standing before me. My other blood was gone. I didn’t even want her around me. With everyone else, I was lucky they allowed me in with them. But Garrett…maybe there was a connection with him that I had never experienced?

  He said, “Listen, I’ll call when I’m coming back. Dinner. That sounds amazing, but I want to ask you early.”

  I grew wary again. “What?”

  He laughed. “Nothing bad. I know you have your holiday break coming up and I’m going to be in Boston during it. I wanted to invite you to join me.”

  “In Boston?”

  “Yes.” He nodded. His eyes were bouncing with happiness. He looked elated. “I’ll be there to close up some loose ends with the firm. It’ll take a while. You can come. You and me. We can spend some good father/daughter time together. I can show you where I came from. You have cousins there too.”

  Cousins?

  “And my mom has been calling me every day. She’d love to meet you.”

  His mom? “I have a grandma?” I had never realized. “My mom’s estranged from her family so I just assumed…”

  “I know. You don’t have to say yes. Think about it. Please think about it, but I’d love for you to come. And hey, the championship game is already scheduled for Boston. If Mason’s team keeps winning, they could be playing there the same time you’re with me. My old firm has box seats. We could go and watch Mason play.”

  Mason. I had to go. “Yeah, uh, maybe. Look, I really have to go.”

  “I know. I’m going, but give me a call if you want to come. I’ll get a plane ticket for you. I’ll take care of everything.” He left and on the way to his car, he turned to wave. I shut the door. I needed to finish packing.

  I had just gone down the stairs to the basement, when I heard knocking again. Assuming it was Garrett, I laughed as I opened the door, “Forget about another trip you wanted to invite me on…” The words died in my throat.

  Logan was standing there instead.

  He grimaced, raked a hand through his hair, and grabbed a fistful before letting his hand drop back to his side. He jerked his head behind him. “Come on. Mason called. He wants us up there tonight.”

  Mason called him? Shock punched me in the chest. “But…I thought you were going to let me talk to him first?”

  “I am. This is something different. Come on.” His grimace deepened into a scowl.

  “Logan, tell me what’s going on.”

  He looked past me, saw the notes on the counter, and gestured to them. “That’s you leaving a note, right? You’re going to see Mason?”

  “Yes.”

  “Let’s go. Whatever Mason wants comes first.”

  “You want me to ride with you?”

  A litany of curses left him and he held his arms out. “What do you want, Sam? I am pissed at you. No, I am goddamn furious at you. We’re family and you being told that I love you, that’s a huge thing to hold back from me. You should’ve talked to me. Trust me, I am brimming up to here,” he lifted his hand to his head, “with anger. I want to talk this out and tell you a few things, but I can’t. Mason has to know first. He should’ve been told long before I found out. You two are dating. You guys have to talk first and bring me in. To be fair to my brother, to have his back, I can’t say a fucking word. I want to.” His eyes were almost bulging out. “Trust me, I have a lot that I want to say. So do me a favor, grab your bag, get in the Escalade, and keep fucking quiet the whole way there.”

  He didn’t wait for me, just turned and went back to the vehicle.

  I didn’t think. I didn’t let myself. I did as he told me. It was the longest three hour drive that I would ever endure.

  *

  MASON

  I’d been at the hospital for three hours when Nate came through the front door. He saw me right away and held his hands up in surrender. Across the lobby, he said, “I’m here for Marissa. That’s all.”

  I snorted and rolled my eyes. As he came to sit beside me, I said, “Think again, buddy.”

  “Okay.”

  He sat across from me. There were people around us, but when he took his seat, the ones closest to us moved away. I didn’t blame them. I’d been pacing for three hours, and this was the first time I sat, then he walked in. They’d already been leery of me, watching me like I was a caged animal. I’m sure they were wondering if he would be the spark to set the bomb off. To be honest, as I watched him warily, I was wondering the same thing. I wasn’t sure what was going to set me off.

  We were both silent for a moment, just waiting for the other. Nate ran his hands down his pants, folded his hands together, and rested his elbows on his knees. He asked, “Have you heard anything?”

  “No. She was unconscious and I think she’s in surgery.” I didn’t know anything. They wanted to speak to her famil
y. I had no clue who they were. They wanted friends. I couldn’t give them names. They finally asked what I could give them. Nate. He was the only one I knew who would have information on her. I asked, “You gave them information on her?”

  He nodded, running his hands together. “I had her cell number, but one of my frat brothers hooked up with her roommate. She lives in a house two blocks off campus. I think the hospital got ahold of her roommate and were going to have her parents called.”

  “One of your frat brothers, huh?”

  “Yeah.” He paused. “Why?”

  “Don’t fucking play dumb with me.”

  “What?”

  “Nate. I mean it.”

  He’d been my best friend most my life. He’d been a sanctuary during my parent’s divorce, putting up with me when I was a dumb shit, causing fights, wanting to destroy everything. Nate had my back. He was always at my side. He did whatever I wanted him to do, but looking at him, the last few years came back to me.

  He continued to sleep with Parker even during the freeze-out.

  They wanted him to drug Sam.

  Logan stopped trusting him. I knew Sam never really had. And this year, with trying to shove Park Sebastian down my throat, then the final straw, bringing Marissa to that lunch.

  He was watching me back, holding my gaze, but something flashed in his eyes. Something heated. He shot back, “What?”

  “Playing dumb’s been your forte the last few years.”

  “Fuck you, Mase.”

  “Fuck you, Mason.”

  “What?”

  “Fuck you, Mason. I’m not Mase. We’re not friends. You don’t get to call me that.”

  The nerve in his jaw twitched and his eyes cooled, but other than that there was no reaction. A second later, he leaned back in his seat, shaking his head. “Man, you’re messed up.”

  “Am I?” He had no clue, or he was faking it. “I thought you cared about Marissa.”

  “I do.”

  “You don’t look it.”

  “Yes, I’m concerned. You said she was hit—”

  “—by one of your guys.”

  Nate stopped. He heard me and judged me for a moment. I could feel him dissecting everything, those words, my tone of voice, how steady my gaze was, everything, even how I was sitting. Then he shook his head. His hand went to his jaw, and he started to rub his face. “No way, man. No way.”

  I’d already figured some of it out. “I punched you. You were out. The bro code says I have to be hurt too, but worse. Am I right? Isn’t that what your fraternity is about?”

  “No fucking way, Mase...Mason. Stop spitting this shit. There’s no way.” His voice rose on his last statement, but I heard an inflection of doubt in there too. He was remembering things. He was going over past conversations he might have heard or maybe even moments when he walked into a room and they stopped talking? There was something that triggered the doubt in his voice, because I saw the disbelief start to creep up on him. Then he shoved to his feet. He started pacing, his head caught in his hands, and his shoulders hunched over. “No way. No way.”

  I leaned back. I had him hooked. It was time to reel him in. “They were there for me. I was at my Escalade and Park called me over. I had to walk across to him. He said it was about you, and I was heading over there.”

  “But...no way. I mean, FUCK. Marissa? How’d she get hurt?”

  “She ran out in front of me. I’m guessing the truck saw someone coming and went for her.”

  “But—”

  “Her body flew ten feet. It did an entire flip in the air and they had to reverse out of there or they would’ve hit her again. And your buddy, Park, that truck was his getaway car. He was the bait. They hit the fucking wrong person.”

  “But that means,” new horror filled his features, “they wanted to hurt you.”

  “Yeah.” I shook my head, impatience clawing at me. “Come on, Nate. What’d you hear? You’re not surprised. That means you heard something. What was it?”

  “Nothing. I swear, except…” he trailed off. “No. I mean, no way. But…”

  I wanted to stand, but kept myself down. “Either help me or help them. You can’t be neutral.”

  “I know, but—” He stopped pacing, and his eyes closed tight. He pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes and shook his head back and forth. “I just can’t believe this. I mean, yes, you hit me, but you’re my friend. I was coming to apologize. Park knew that…”

  Park knew that. I shot to my feet. “When?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “When did he know this?”

  “This afternoon. They’d been waiting for me to decide what to do. He came to my room and I told him. I told him the fight was about him, that you didn’t want to be friends with him, but he seemed chill about it. He was happy that I was going to work on our friendship. I swear, Mason. He didn’t seem mad at all.”

  “Because you’re the epitome of being perceptive.”

  Nate stepped to the side. “What do you mean?”

  “A guy like that, what do you think he’s going to do? He thinks he’s the top of the food chain around here and some lowly freshman rejects him? Someone who could be a threat to him later on? Sebastian’s not dumb and he’s not nice. I’m sure he wanted to take out the threat—me—and do it early on.”

  “But hurting you would hurt the team. Park loves the team.”

  Nate was so dumb. “Right. He loves the team that has hated him since last year. He loves the team when it’s well-known among us how big of a douche Sebastian is. He doesn’t love the team. He tried to get in. He tried to see if he could use me, and it didn’t work. I don’t think he wanted to lose you, but if I’m in your ear, shedding light on how big of an ass he is, you’re probably not going to be the devoted little pledge he wants you to be.”

  “But why?”

  “Nate, your parents work in the movie business, they produce or whatever. You have more potential power to give him in the future than I do.”

  “Oh.”

  I sighed and patted him on the back. “Don’t worry. Your brain will catch up. You’ll see. I’m pretty sure I’m right.”

  “You usually are.”

  Two things happened at that moment. Sam and Logan came through the doors. Both looked fatigued and stressed. Then I heard my name from the hospital hallway.

  “Mason Kade?”

  I turned. A doctor stood there, dressed in dark blue scrubs, a mask hanging around his neck. He looked the same as my family, tired and stressed. His dark hair had been combed to the side, but parts were sticking up by his ears. As he waited for me, he ran a hand over his face and blinked a few times.

  I went to him. “Yes?”

  “You’re Mason Kade?”

  I nodded. “I am.” Please don’t tell me she’s dead. I didn’t want to hear those words. She would’ve been hurt again because of me.

  “She’s awake, and she’s asking for you.”

  I closed my eyes and hung my head. Christ. I almost fell to the floor, but caught myself. I nodded. The doctor had been waiting for me. He gestured down the hallway. “If you follow me, I’ll take you to her.”

  I turned. Logan and Sam had come closer. Logan shot a confused look at Nate and folded his arms over his chest. Sam never looked away from me. A wave of tenderness came over me. I just wanted to hold her, tell her everything was going to be fine, but I couldn’t. I turned, without saying a word to my family, and followed the doctor. I had a different girl to comfort right now.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

  SAMANTHA

  We were waiting in that lobby for what seemed like forever. I
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