Fallen fourth down, p.3
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.3
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  Sebastian stood there, that same frown on his face from before. The other fraternity brother nodded and grinned, waving to me. “Nice to meet you.”

  “You too.”

  As soon as we were clear from their hearing range, he muttered, “Fuck, Mason. That didn’t take long.”

  I flashed him a grin. “Yeah. Well, you know me.”

  He groaned, weaving through the crowd. “You want a drink?”

  “No, I’m training.”

  “Oh.” He shook his head. “I didn’t even think about that.”

  “The guys might have a few, but they won’t go nuts.”

  He moved his head in a nod and continued to move through the crowd until we were in the backyard. Guys and girls clapped him on the shoulder, calling out hellos and greetings. Nate said hello to each in return until he found a back table in the corner of the yard. There were a few chairs around it, but we had a private area to watch the party. I nodded. I liked it. As we sat, I noticed people were still watching us.

  “Since we’re alone right now,” Nate started as he sat across from me, “you don’t like Park, I’m assuming?”

  “He’s an asshole.”

  “You just met him.”

  “That’s all I needed. What’s going on with you? I’m not known for getting my reads wrong.”

  Nate sighed, irritation flashing across his face. Seeing some of the players coming over with their beer, he cursed. “This isn’t good.”

  “Why?”

  “Because Park wants to get to know you. His dad gave him the heads-up about you and to make friends with you because of your dad. He asked me about you. I never brought you up to him because I figured the two of you meeting face to face would go how it did.” The guys were almost on us, so he hissed, “I don’t want a war happening with my fraternity.”

  “Too late.”

  He stood, holding my gaze. The guys stopped as they saw the tension. Nate shook his head. “Really? This is for me. You’re going to do this?”

  “I’m not doing shit.” For fuck’s sake. This wasn’t Fallen Crest. An act of war didn’t have to be thrown out there, not yet, anyway. This was on Nate to handle. “I’m here for football and school. That’s it. I don’t want to get involved with any political social stuff.” And that was the problem. That was who Park Sebastian was. Every nerve in my body went on alert when I saw him. Even without Matteo’s warning, I would’ve pegged him the same way. I was surprised Nate hadn’t.

  He cursed again and stepped back from the table. The guys sat down around it, and Nate shook his head again. “I’ll have to figure something out.”

  “Yeah.”

  “Fuck, Mason.” Nate cocked his head to the side.

  I didn’t say anything. He should’ve seen this coming. “When have I ever been friends with guys like that?”

  “He knows your dad.”

  “When has that mattered to me?”

  “He knows my dad.”

  I kept silent. It wasn’t my problem. This was his problem, and Nate knew it. He rolled his eyes, raked a hand through his hair, and started to leave. “I gotta take care of this somehow.”

  He was gone, disappearing through the crowd again.

  The guys didn’t seemed fazed by our conversation. A few of them were eyeing up the girls, and Matteo grunted at me, nodding his head in approval. “That was smooth, Kade, real smooth.”

  He had no idea.

  He lifted his cup up in the air. “A toast to Kade. I’m thinking this year’s going to be epic, on and off the field.”

  “Hell yeah.”

  “Cheers!”

  “Salute to Kade.”

  I tuned them out. They raised their cups, did their toasts, and went back to drinking. As we stayed there, most of the guys took off to find girls. Matteo’s girlfriend came over with a couple friends, but I tuned their conversations out.

  I had only met the guy, but my gut was telling me Park Sebastian was going to be a problem. Nate came over later, less stressed and less sober. I knew this could be a problem with our friendship. Only time would tell. I missed Sam and Logan.

  CHAPTER FOUR

  SAMANTHA

  Heather’s eyes got big, but they quickly went back to normal. I caught it, though. She scoffed, her voice sounding strangled, “Huh.”

  That was it? “You’re not surprised?”

  “Girl,” she started, her voice hoarse. She blinked, cleared her throat, and said in a clearer tone, “I don’t think that will shock anyone.”

  I closed my eyes. This was worse than I thought. If this was her reaction—dear god—that meant it was true. At that thought, my chest grew tight and my heart began pounding. I started sweating and breathing heavy. I was having a panic attack, right here at this party.

  Heather had been watching me, and when she saw I was struggling to catch some air, she shot up from her chair. “Christ.” She went into the bathroom, and I heard the water running a second later. She came back out with wet washcloths. Wiping one over my forehead, she bent me forward and pushed my head between my knees. She knelt down, patted me on the back, and continued to press the cold washcloth to me. “Breathe, Sam. Breathe.” She began to count in a low calm voice. “One. Two. Three. Four. Five.”

  I took a breath with each number she said. When she got to sixty, I could breathe naturally again and sat back up.

  Heather shook her head and backed away, her eyes wide. As she stumbled against her seat, she plopped down with a thud and pressed the back of her hand to her face. “Holy fuck, Sam. You are pale as a ghost. Shit. The thought of Logan loving you does that to you?”

  I didn’t want to look in the mirror. Seeing Heather waiting, with concern in her eyes, I opened my mouth. I needed to say something, but I couldn’t talk. The lump in my throat constricted all sound from leaving. I closed my mouth and hung my head. What the hell was I going to do?

  “You don’t…” She started and stopped. “You don’t love him back?”

  A jolt of pain flashed through me. I raised my tortured eyes to her. I couldn’t answer that. No, I didn’t want to answer that because I hadn’t looked within myself yet.

  She watched me, studied me. Whatever she saw in me answered her question, and she nodded. “Okay. I will help you with whatever you need from me. If you need me to play distraction, to use force, to blackmail someone, to burn a house down, I’m down for all that. I’m here for you, for whatever’s going to happen.” She stopped, hearing herself, and the blood drained from her face. “You have any idea what would happen if this came out? Shit. The world would end. Mason and Logan would want to kill each other.”

  Renewed pain went through me, but it doubled. It had already felt like a thousand knives were in my stomach, but at that statement, they began slicing through me.

  She saw my misery and nodded. “I guess you do.”

  Exactly.

  “Okay. Well,” she looked around, fanning herself, “first thing first, you need to get out of here. Logan can’t see you like that or he’ll be like a dog after a bone. He won’t let up until you make up some passable lie to him.”

  We were headed for the door when she stopped me and turned me to face her. She scanned over my face and cursed. “You need color. We can’t even leave without someone seeing you. They’ll report to Logan right away.” As she was talking, her hands reached up and slapped my cheeks softly. Then pinched them. Still frowning, she bit her lip and continued to talk around it, “They all just want an excuse to run to Logan and this would be a good one.” She stopped and asked, “You trust me?”

  My eyes widened, but without giving me a moment to brace myself, she reached for the top of my head and pulled me down. I bent over, and she pulled me back up. Feeling blood rush through me, I shook my head to clear some of the hazy spots in my eyes. Heather ran her hands through my hair and fluffed it up, before rubbing my cheeks again. When she stepped back, I felt slightly normal. She nodded. “You look better. I think you’ll pass.”


  She opened the door. We stood beside each other, paused for a moment, and started forward. The hallway was empty. Heather led the way, but when she was going back towards the party, I touched her arm. I pointed the opposite way. “There’s a door down there we can slip through.”

  “Okay.” Her voice dropped to a whisper and she paused. She laughed with a half-grin. “Why am I whispering?”

  I laughed, and my own normal sound seemed to grate against my ears. “Because we’re trying to sneak out, even though we shouldn’t feel guilty about doing that.”

  “You’re right.” She rolled her shoulders back and lifted her head. “Let’s do this, Strattan. We can sneak out like proud ninjas.”

  I started to laugh, but as we went further down the hallway, a door opened and the laugh died abruptly. Logan was coming out of his room.

  Heather saw him at the same time and a savage curse left her.

  Hearing her, he glanced up. His eyes narrowed, took us in, and he headed towards us. Shoving his hands in his pockets, his gaze lingered the longest on me before he asked, “What were you guys doing?”

  “We had a female chat,” Heather spoke up. “What were you doing?”

  “Kris passed out. I put her to bed.”

  “Is your door locked?”

  He nodded. “Yeah, I got the same lock that Mason did.” His eyebrows bunched forward as he continued to study me. I could feel his suspicion growing and forced myself to keep a mask on my face. Logan couldn’t press me. I might not spill what Tate said, what I now knew, but I wouldn’t be able to hold back that there was something wrong. He’d be relentless, and it couldn’t come out. No matter what. He asked, in a soft voice, “You okay?”

  Heather spoke first again, “She’s fine. She’s missing Mason, her boyfriend, that’s all.”

  He turned his dark look to her. “I know who my brother is, and why are you speaking for her?”

  “Because I want to. Because I’m spoiling for a fight, Kade, and if you don’t want it to be you, you better stand aside.”

  He didn’t move.

  She barked, “Now.”

  He still didn’t move. He only lowered his head and narrowed his eyes at her. Glancing at me again, I felt the weight of his gaze. It didn’t matter. He knew something was up, and he knew it had nothing to do with the lies Heather had been throwing at him. Logan was like Mason. He could sense through bullshit. Turning so he was facing me directly, he asked, “What’s going on? No shit story, tell me what’s up.”

  I closed my eyes; I was caught. I shook my head. “I can’t.”

  “Sam?”

  “Logan,” there was no way this could happen, “let this go.”

  He heard the warning in my tone and seemed to reassess me. I never talked to him like this, but this was different terrain for both of us. Mason was always there. Mason was the go-between. Mason was the one we confided in, and now he was gone. Concern and doubt clouded over him and he jerked his head in a nod. Stepping aside, he said in a hurt tone, “Okay. I will.”

  A pang of guilt went through me. I ignored it and told myself this was for the best. “Thank you.”

  “You don’t have to leave, though. Or do you? Is,” he hesitated, still watching me intently, “that the reason you’re leaving, whatever is wrong?”

  “I…” I turned to Heather. It had been, but now… She shrugged at me. “I guess not.”

  “Well, in that case, you want to play me and Mark in a game of beer pong?” Logan flashed me a smirk. “Losers lose their shirts.”

  Heather laughed. “That’s not an equal loss. If you lose, you’re my beer bitch next weekend.” She elbowed me. “Mark’ll have to be her bitch at home.”

  “And if you guys lose?”

  She glanced at me, but I shrugged. She said, “What’s our punishment?”

  I felt his gaze again. Without looking, I knew he wanted to say that I would have to tell him what was wrong, but I glanced up. He saw the warning that flashed in my eyes and said, “You’re my beer bitch instead, Jax. How about that?”

  “And Sam’ll be Mark’s bitch at home?”

  “Sounds like a good trade.”

  They were both pretending with their lighthearted banter, but it was camouflage on both ends. I had a problem. Heather knew what it was. Logan wanted to know it. I forced out a laugh. “Since we got those terms decided, let’s do this.” I headed off, leading the way downstairs. The entire conversation had been awkward, and I knew the game would be too.

  When we got downstairs and headed for the ping-pong table, it was a surreal moment for me. The room was filled with people from my past. Natalie and Jasmine were in one corner, drinking and talking with some guys. They both paused when we came into the room, but went back to doing their own thing. Across from them was Cass and her group. They were glaring across the room at the two girls, but I saw fear lurking in Cass’ gaze. She was holding an ice bag to her eye, and her lip looked swollen. Her friends were rallied around her as well. Adam was in the background, leaning against the wall with Mark beside him. The two were talking and laughing together. My gaze trailed right in front of Adam, and I saw Becky. She was watching me. There was a hidden emotion in the depths of her eyes, but I didn’t want to decipher it. We had sort of made-up. She had been invited to my birthday party, but she’d been absent from my life since. That was fine. I had made a decision to let her and Adam both go. There was always drama involved with the two of them and they kept hurting me, in some manner. When she looked to Heather, I saw the hurt and jealousy on her face.

  She thought she had been replaced, but the truth was that Heather had been a true friend. Becky never really had.

  Logan stood behind one side of the table and hollered, “Decraw, get your ass over here. Jax and Sam are challenging us.”

  “WHAT?” Mark pretended to roar back, a wicked grin on his face. He acted insulted, pressing a hand to his chest. “How could this be? This is blasphemy. We are the unconquered gods of beer pong. They dare to threaten our throne?” He left his group of friends in a dramatic flair, as if Logan had hooked him with a fishing line and reeled him in.

  “Seriously?” Heather took up position next to me. She shifted on her feet, sticking a hip out and curling her lip up at them. “Can you be more dramatic? Kade challenged us. It wasn’t the other way around.”

  I grinned. Mark had gotten funnier over the summer. He’d been an easygoing guy before, going with the flow, but since Logan decided that Mark would be his new best bud because Mason was gone, the two had become a comedy duo.

  Ignoring Heather, Mark jumped and landed with a thud in front of Logan. They pretended to do some type of handshake before sticking their groins out at us. The crowd around us started laughing.

  “Anyone else and they would get roasted for being dorks, but since Logan Kade did it, it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen.” Heather shook her head. She glanced to the sidelines and poked me. “Aren’t those two your old BFFs?”

  I looked over. Jessica and Lydia were standing by a wall, sipping on their drinks. Two guys were with them, both had their arms around the girls’ waists. When they saw I was looking their way, both sucked in their stomachs and stretched their heads, as if trying to look long and sleek.

  Heather started laughing. I couldn’t hold back my own grin. The old hostility was in their gazes. Lydia turned away after a moment, but Jessica held my stare. She lowered her drink and glared right back. I sighed and murmured, “Yeah, they used to be. That seems so long ago now.”

  “They’re bitches. You’re better off.”

  I hadn’t seen Jeff at the party. Scanning the crowd, I ignored the envy from the girls and the interest from some of the guys. A year ago, I’d been an outcast and had to fight for my place at Mason and Logan’s school the semester after that. For once, there was no one planning my demise. Remembering Natalie’s veiled threat, I wasn’t worried. This year was going to be different. I felt it in my gut. Since Mason was gone, the target wasn’t so b
ig on my back. It was still there because of my closeness with Logan, but not as big. It was freeing and that sucked because I knew it was mostly because Mason wasn’t there.

  “You okay?” Heather had been waiting, watching me.

  I nodded. “Yeah.”

  “Strattan,” Logan barked from across the table. He held a ping-pong ball in his hand and gestured to the cups of beer in front of us. “You ready to be our bitches next weekend?”

 
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