Fallen crest home, p.3
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       Fallen Crest Home, p.3

         Part #6 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  Sam was going to give me a damned migraine by the end of the day.

  I cursed and texted Channing. Sam’s there. Can you have someone watch over her? I’m sorry to ask, but I’m worried some fuckheads will do something to her to hurt me.

  He responded right away: Already on it. Heather gave me the heads-up she was coming. Sorry, man. If she’s still here after my fight, we’ll get everyone out asap.

  Hoping to be there long before then, I replied.

  You watch out too then. Jared Caldron was Budd’s #2, and with Brett gone, he’s stepped up. We’ve gone head to head more than I want to admit. He’s a fucking snake.

  I remembered Caldron. Thanks. I’ll be ready for him.

  “Mason.”

  I put my phone away as I saw James crossing the lounge with another man. This fucking guy…he looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him. He was dressed like my dad: custom-tailored suit and brightly colored tie.

  I shook my head. Why the ties? All the businessmen I’d met today had solid looking ties, but the colors bugged me. Pink. Hot pink. Soft pink. Purple. Green. Blue. It was like all of them thought they were making a fashion statement. Or were they just rich? No… As James approached with this guy next to him, it struck me—it was their arrogance. They were broadcasting their special place in life: at the top with a secretary sucking their dicks and a miserable, alcoholic wife at home, where she’d never leave.

  That was how it used to be for my dad. Not anymore, but I saw it again now.

  I hated that arrogant, elitist attitude. I’d just forgotten how much after being away at Cain for three years.

  “Mason,” my dad said again. He clapped the guy on the back. “This is Stephen Quinn. I don’t know if you remember, but you know his son.”

  It all clicked then.

  Adam Quinn. The dick who’d tried to take Sam from me when we first began dating.

  I scowled. “I know his name. You don’t have to say it.”

  “Mason.”

  That was my dad’s way of reprimanding me. Be good, Mason, or you’ll be kicked off this internship. I tried to mask the scowl; I really did. Maybe it was knowing that Sam was where I should be, or worrying something was wrong with her and I couldn’t find out right now, or maybe it was just the reminder that I truly hated this guy’s sniveling son, but whatever it was—I knew the scowl wasn’t leaving.

  My dad would have to deal with it.

  His eyes skirting from my dad to me, the guy cleared his throat. He held out his hand. “Uh, no offense taken. James. If I’m remembering correctly, my son had a thing for your son’s girlfriend.” He leaned toward me, offering his hand. “That was then. Adam has a wonderful girlfriend now.”

  Like that was supposed to appease me.

  I shook his hand anyway, flicking my eyes to my dad. See? I can play nice. Sometimes.

  James’ mouth was a flat line of disapproval, but he said, “Yes, well, I’m glad I introduced the two of you. Stephen, I’m assigning my son to the hotel project.” He looked at me like he was trying to convey a message.

  I frowned.

  “And your son is working with you as well, isn’t he?” he continued, gauging my reaction.

  Fuck that.

  Stephen laughed. “Oh, yes. Adam’s been with the company since high school, and I’ve been giving him more and more responsibility. He’ll be in charge of handling promotions for the hotel.”

  “You’re opening a hotel in Fallen Crest?”

  My dad turned to me, purposely keeping his features neutral, but I saw the warning lurking under the surface. He was putting me on this, and he didn’t want me to mess it up. I had a few choice words for him, but I held them back. They could wait till we were behind closed doors.

  “Yes, out on the golf course, and it’ll be connected to the country club,” James explained. “There’ll be a lot of cross-promotion going on. I was hoping to have that be your sole project this summer.”

  The subtext was: You’re working with Adam Quinn. Deal with it.

  I narrowed my eyes, but there was nothing I could say. He’d talked about a big project he wanted me to help with, but he never said anything about working with other people in the community.

  My dad and Stephen turned to go, but not before my dad said, “My office in ten minutes, Mason? We can go over the details there.”

  I went to wait for him. I needed to tell him I’d have to cut work early, but once we were inside with the door shut, he sat at his desk and started with, “Are we going to have a problem here?”

  “I hate that guy’s kid.”

  “I gathered that.” Acid dripped from his voice. He folded his hands on his desk. “What I asked is if we’re going to have a problem.”

  I held his gaze; I sensed other shit going on. “Why are you putting me on this project? What are my responsibilities going to be?” There was a reason. There had to be. I wasn’t known for getting along with people, especially when they went after those I loved. It didn’t matter how long ago it happened. Adam showed his colors then. I doubted they’d changed.

  James sighed and leaned back in his leather chair. “Adam Quinn is dating Becky Sullivan. I believe she was friends with Samantha as well.”

  I nodded. Those two together? How did that work?

  “I’m telling you this because Stephen Quinn has maneuvered himself into a close and personal friendship with the commissioner and the mayor of our community—two people I want on my side. I need on my side.”

  “Then making me work with his son is stupid. I hate the piece of shit. I’ll probably punch him at some point.”

  “You’re going to have to refrain, but that’s not why I’m putting you on the project. There’ve been rumors that Stephen is doing something illegal, and I think the other two are involved as well. He’s got a tight group that’s locked out the rest of us in the community. Except…”

  “Except maybe his own son,” I finished.

  “You’re the only one in my camp who has ties to his son. Yes, you were enemies, but that kid is going to take over his father’s empire. You won’t be playing football forever, Mason. I’m aware this is your backup, but it’s here should you want it. And I need you to do this for me.”

  I was wary, but he had some points. I’d have to work with people like them eventually.

  “What do you want me to do? Find out what the illegal shit is?”

  “You could’ve used better language, but yes—find out what the illegal shit is. Do you think you can do that?”

  “Were you hoping to use Sam for this, too? Because she’s out. I’m not letting you use her like that.”

  He held his hands up. “I know. Sam’s out. I agree. It’s too tricky, especially with Analise. I’ve been away, Mason. And losing the inside track with some key people in our town was one of the consequences. I need to get back in there, and information is always power.”

  He had a point there for sure. Fuuuuuuck. I’d have to be cordial to Adam. I might even have to be nice.

  “Seriously? Adam Quinn? It had to be him?”

  “I didn’t pick the players.” My dad gave me a faint grin. “If I had, it wouldn’t be you.”

  I rolled my eyes. “Well, be glad Logan’s not around. That’s one thing in your favor.”

  He paled. “I never thought about that. You’re right. He would’ve blown it up within one day.” His hands flattened on the desk. “So you’ll do it?”

  I nodded. “Any way to stick it to the Quinns, I’m in.”

  “Thank you, Mason. Really.”

  “When does this project start?”

  “Now.”

  I shook my head. “Nope. It’s gotta be tomorrow. I have to go do something.”

  “You’re leaving? Are you—”

  He caught my warning look and decided on a nod. He pointed to the door. “Fine. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. There’s a seven o’clock meeting at the country club anyway. Go straight there. You’ll be working there
most of the time anyway since it’s the closest to the hotel.”

  I stood to leave.

  “Mason,” he called after me.

  “Yeah?”

  “It’s nice to have you on board.”

  That was unexpected. I held up a hand. “Don’t thank me yet. I’ve not done anything.”

  “That’s not what I meant.”

  I knew what he meant. I just ignored it. I wasn’t working here for a better father/son relationship. I was here to fulfill a requirement, and that was it. But first, I had to deal with a different problem: the woman I loved.

  SAMANTHA

  The crowd doubled since my call with Mason. I assumed something came up at his internship because it’d been a while since we talked. I texted him once asking if he was still coming, and he replied that he had to make a small detour. That was two hours ago, and since then the sun was beginning to set, so a dusky feeling came over the air, mingling with the smells of beer, sweat, and greasy food. The music from a nearby stage pounded my ears, but I enjoyed it, leaning back on the bed of the truck where Heather and I sat.

  Channing and his friends were talking and laughing. A couple sat in lawn chairs, holding drinks and watching the girls walk past. A few of those girls stopped to talk, then skimmed their eyes over to Heather and me. It was amusing to watch, because I could tell which girls were interested in Channing. When they saw Heather, they kept right on going.

  We were set up at the corner of the parking lot with the fight tent a few yards away and a stage on the other side of that, so people were coming and going from the parking lot and checking out whoever was fighting inside the tent. As groups of guys passed, some stopped and greeted the guys with Channing. Most either nodded, pounded each other on the shoulder, or fist bumped. Some others stopped and raked Channing up and down, sneered, and kept walking.

  A guy was doing that exact thing now. He had a group of seven or eight around him, but unlike the others who’d looked at Channing’s friends—and had been ignored or joked about—this guy got a different reception. Everyone lowered their drinks, and Channing stepped out in front of his friends. They came to attention behind him, ready and waiting to see what would happen. A couple had girls trying to talk to them, but when they saw the guy, the women immediately quieted, stepping away.

  Heather nudged my arm, leaning close. “That’s Jared Caldron. You need to watch out for him.”

  I assessed. His hair was in a blond Mohawk, and he was a little shorter than Channing, so he’d be an inch or two below Mason’s height, too. His face was round, but weathered with a deep tan. He had some scars around his mouth and at the corners of his eyes. I didn’t want to think about where those had come from. He reminded me a bit of a troll I’d read about, but with a badass attitude. Sharp grey eyes smirked back at Channing. He held a 32-ouncer in his hand and wore a sleeveless and already dirtied T-shirt. It was baggy enough that as the wind moved past, it lifted the fabric and two pierced nipples peeked out. Ripped jeans completed the ensemble. Most of his friends wore something similar, and most of them were taller than this guy. A few were more muscled, but a couple were just heftier—with beer bellies. They had some girls with them, but I wasn’t paying attention to them.

  “Why do I need to watch out?” I asked Heather. “Who is he?”

  She was already close, but as the guy’s eyes moved to us, she leaned even closer. She lowered her voice as he watched us. “He was Budd’s best friend in high school.”

  Channing spoke up, distracting Heather from whatever else she’d been about to add. “Move along, Caldron.” Channing shifted so he blocked the guy’s view of Heather and me. “Unless you want to start the fight early.”

  “Get off it, Monroe.” The guy had a light voice, which surprised me, but he was definitely cocky and the leader of his group. “That’s Kade’s woman, isn’t it?”

  I gulped. This is what Mason had warned me about.

  “She’s with us, and it’s none of your business.”

  Caldron snorted. “Yeah. Right. But good to know.”

  “Move along. Now.”

  The command came out softly. I shouldn’t have been able to hear it since Channing was a few feet in front of us with his back turned, but somehow the entire group heard. Channing’s friends seemed to become even more alert, as if it were a warning signal and the next word spoken might be their command to attack.

  I found myself holding my breath. Maybe I should’ve left instead of waiting for Mason to come here.

  “Yeah, yeah.” He moved forward a couple of steps, and his eyes found us again. He spoke to Channing. “But this ain’t high school any more. There’s no Brett to keep us in line, remember? You remember that, too.”

  For a second time, Channing shielded us from the guy’s view. His arms hung loose by his sides, but he gripped the beer in his hand harder, starting to crumple the can into a ball. Then he stopped, like he was waiting for something else to happen.

  Time seemed to stand still, though it was only a few seconds until Caldron grunted once and then moved away, still glancing over his shoulder at us. His friends followed, as well as the girls who were with them, laughing and almost tripping on their heels.

  Heather shook her head. “Beth Clovers. She’s an idiot. Who wears hooker heels to walk around on grass, dirt, and mud?”

  I didn’t answer. I was still watching Caldron and his friends. I followed until they were swallowed up by another group. I glanced to Channing. He had looked back at me, and I half expected some comment about how I shouldn’t have been there. Nothing came. His eyes flicked to Heather’s before one of his buddies said something. An easy smile came to his face, and he turned, punching his friend on the arm. Then all was forgotten.

  The tense moment was gone.

  “You need to stick like glue to me tonight,” Heather instructed.

  I nodded. After seeing that, there was no way I’d risk even a trip to the bathroom alone. “Got it.”

  “When’s your boy coming?”

  That question came from one of Channing’s friends. I didn’t remember his name, but he was bald with two large flame tattoos that circled his head. I’d stared at the back of him before when we were moving through the crowd. The entire group seemed to be waiting for my response.

  “I’m not sure, actually. He mentioned a meeting after work, but he was going to ditch out of it.”

  “Well, give us a head’s-up, yeah? We’ll go meet him.”

  “Word’s out now,” Channing added. “People know you’re here, so they’re going to be expecting him, too. Logan and Nate are both gone, right?”

  I nodded. The phrase bad timing didn’t cover this. Fucked-up timing was more accurate. “He said he would try to find some others to come with him, but…” This was Mason. More than likely, he’d come alone because he wanted to be at my side.

  Channing seemed to be on the same wavelength. “Text him. Tell him you want to know when he’s arriving.”

  I nodded and took out my phone, but then I heard Mason’s voice next to me, coming up the side of the truck. “I’m here.”

  And he wasn’t alone.

  My mouth dropped. “Matteo?!”

  Mason’s football teammate grinned back, running a hand over his shaved head. He was dressed almost the same as Caldron, with a white, sleeveless shirt over jeans, but that was where the similarities ended—no nipple rings and instead of looking like he’d been mudding all day, Matteo was clean and trimmer than the last time I saw him.

  He grunted, slapping a hand on Mason’s back. “This one called me with perfect timing. I was about to board the plane for home, but he talked me into hanging out in the infamous Fallen Crest for a few weeks.” His dark eyes lingered on Heather, and he held his hand out. “Don’t know if we’ve met yet. I save this one’s life on the field.”

 
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