Fallen fourth down, p.30
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.30
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  couldn’t handle it anymore and went outside to get away. Nate had seemed dazed when we came in, but he told us what happened. Hearing that Marissa had been hit instead of Mason filled me with so many different emotions. I was grateful it hadn’t been Mason. I was angry at Marissa, even though I didn’t know why. That anger turned to Nate’s fraternity. They wanted to hurt my soul mate. I breathed because of him, and they wanted to threaten that? To hurt him? I wanted to hurt them back. Then all of that faded as I pictured Marissa crumpled on the ground, then in a hospital bed. I’d been there almost a year ago.

  I was a mess.

  “I thought I would’ve found you on the phone with Jax.”

  Logan had come outside. His hands were pushed in his jeans, making them slip down an inch, accentuating his already lean body. As I stared at him, all the bullshit from the year came back to me and I admitted to myself that I could’ve loved Logan. I really could’ve, but it was Mason. It was always going to be Mason. I meant the words I had told Jackson, that all roads would’ve led to him.

  He was my life. He was my breath. He was my heart.

  I couldn’t lose my heart.

  “Sam?”

  “Oh.” A husky laugh came out of me. “No. Knowing Heather, she’d be in her car and headed here. I meant it, Logan, when I told you before that it’s the Threesome Fearsome again.”

  “Oh.” He sounded sad, but he shook his head and came to lean against the wall beside me. Keeping his hands in his pockets, he leaned forward, his head hanging down for a moment. He glanced up at me and gave me a brief smile. “That doesn’t mean you can’t have a friend. I didn’t mean it like that.”

  He was hot and deadly to others, but he could be adorable. His brown hair had grown an inch longer and some of it had slipped over his forehead. His dark eyes had a slight mischievous glint in them, and the corner of his mouth was curved up in a half-grin, half-smirk. Without thinking, I reached out and pushed some of the strands of hair back, smoothing my hand over his forehead. He closed his eyes, and I finished, tucking more strands back behind his ear. As my hand fell away, he opened his eyes. A soft smile came over him. “That felt nice.”

  My heart was heavy. I loved them both so much, but I couldn’t keep it in anymore. A whisper left me, “It’s Mason for me.”

  He closed his eyes again. “Sam,” he started in a murmur.

  “Stop.” I touched his shoulder. “I have to say this. I know you want to wait until he knows, but this is what I’m going to say to him, and you’re wrong. We don’t have to wait to talk about this before he knows. It won’t make a difference. I love him. He will always be the one for me. There might’ve been the possibility of others, but when Mason came into my life, all those possibilities left. My future’s been set ever since I met him. I told Jackson before, my path will always lead to Mason. The only way it wouldn’t have is if I had never met him.”

  “Sam.” He straightened. He sounded so tired. “Stop. Please.”

  “No. Even if it isn’t true, what Tate said, it doesn’t matter.”

  “You’re right.” He pushed off from the wall and stood facing me. “It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you kept it to yourself. You never should’ve done that. Something like that, something that big, would only have caused distance and problems. Fuck, Sam.” He lifted his hand and raked it through his hair.

  I held back a grin at his gesture. Whenever he was frustrated or nervous, his hand always went to his hair. He’d grab a handful like he did now, and he would keep his hand there, just holding onto it.

  He noticed my reaction. “What?”

  “Nothing.” But I couldn’t keep it in. A slight chuckle slipped out and I pointed to his hand. “You always grab your hair.”

  “I do?” He released his hair and laughed. “I had no idea. That’s embarrassing.”

  “It’s cute. It’s you. It’s Logan.”

  He rolled his eyes and groaned. “What was I saying? Oh yeah.” He snapped his fingers and pointed at me. “You.”

  “Me?”

  “Yeah, you. This was the reason you’ve been freaking out since Mason left, even before he left. I could tell something was wrong. You were always with him.” He cursed. “The two of you were like rabbits for a while, always going at it. Now it makes sense.”

  “Logan.”

  Ignoring me, he kept going, “It hurt when you pulled away from me this year. We were already separated. You moved in with David and my mom moved back. Mason left me too. It wasn’t just you. I needed you this year. I don’t let people in, Sam, but I let you in. We both let you in. It fucking hurt. That’s all I’m saying.”

  A lump sat on the bottom of my throat. It rested right there, blocking me from talking, from breathing. I struggled around it. My god, I could see the damage I had done. I choked out, “I’m sorry.”

  I was. God, I was.

  “Yeah.” He looked at me with dead eyes. “It’s over and done with. Do you realize how much time it’s going to take to for me get over this?”

  “That I held this back or…” My heart rate picked up, thumping harder and harder. He had never confirmed or denied it. Was that what he meant…I was still too afraid to ask.

  “Yes, that you held back.” He gestured from himself to me. “Mason has to be told. I know it came from Tate, but this is a guy’s worst nightmare, that his girl and his brother fall for each other. I’m hurting, but I’m pissed too. I’m pissed that this wasn’t snuffed out right way. I think about my brother and what’s going to go through his head. I mean…” He turned away sharply, then placed both his hands on the side of his head. Bending over, he let out a yell. When he looked back up, the deadness was there, but it was mixed with anger and just plain misery.

  I wanted to look away. I couldn’t, though.

  Logan’s chest lifted, and I heard him take a shuddering breath. “The girl I loved wanted my brother. I knew what he did for me, what he kept doing for me afterwards. Mason took care of me. He protected me, but I didn’t love Tate like he loves you. You guys are epic. You guys are going to last forever and knowing that a wedge is between you, that the wedge is me, will haunt me.”

  He still hadn’t denied or confirmed. I bit down on my lip. I didn’t want to know, then it would be worse. I just knew it.

  “Sam,” he dropped his voice to a whisper.

  I turned away.

  His hand came to my shoulder and I held still. I kept biting down on my lip and my hands curled into themselves. I felt the first stabbing pain from my nails cutting into my skin, but it went numb. Flashbacks of my junior year, before Mason and Logan loved me, went through my mind. I had been so alone. I had been ostracized. I had no one. I was laughed at, jeered at. People wanted to hurt me.

  I had nothing to lose then. I had everything to lose now.

  “Stop.” I was gritting my teeth. Everything had tensed inside me, but he didn’t remove his hand. “Stop, Logan.”

  “Sam—”

  “I said stop it!” I whirled around. It felt as if I had a never-ending stampede in my chest that would never slow down.

  “Sam—”

  “STOP! YOU DON’T LOVE ME!” I snapped.

  In the back of my mind, I was telling myself to calm down. I should’ve been quieter. I needed to be quieter. We were outside, the front lobby just a few feet away. The only thing separating us and that room was a wall of windows. They could hear and someone could come outside.

  Logan stepped back, his eyes wide. He looked taken aback.

  I shook my head again. “You can’t. I won’t let you. You can’t love me.”

  If he did, what then? What would happen? Would Mason still choose me? No. And that was the root of my fear. If Logan loved me, Mason wouldn’t choose me. He had said over and again that he wouldn’t ever let a girl get between them.

  He would leave me.

  “Sam,” Logan hesitated. “I—”

  “Shut up.”

  His eyes trailed past me and agony filled
them.

  I didn’t recognize it in time. I should’ve, but I didn’t. Instead, I whispered, “You can’t love me. I won’t let you.”

  I heard from behind me, “Sam.”

  Oh god. My stomach dropped to my feet.

  Mason was there and I knew, from the soft tone of voice, from the small note of wariness, that he had heard.

  I tried to prepare myself, but when I turned, I couldn’t have. He wore a mask to me now. His green eyes were cold, staring through me, and it was like he was seeing behind me, not me anymore. He was so gorgeous. Even though my heart was breaking, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling a surge of love just at the sight of him.

  Football had made him leaner. He was an athlete, and he moved with a silent litheness, like a predator. I had never heard him, but even if I had, I didn’t know if I could’ve stopped myself.

  It was going to come out, no matter what. I just wish he hadn’t heard it that way.

  “Mason.” I had no idea what to say, but I had to try. I wet my suddenly dry lips.

  He shook his head in a savage motion. “Don’t. Marissa wants to talk to you. Go do your duty, Sam.”

  “Mason.”

  “She wants to see you. Go and listen to her.” Then he turned away from me and went back inside.

  I watched him go. I watched my heart walk away from me.

  *

  I had no idea what Marissa would want to say to me, and I had no idea what to say to her either. I didn’t know why she’d been in that parking lot with Mason. He said he would handle it, she would go away, but she hadn’t and now this. She’d been hit instead of him, should I be thankful to her?

  When I got to her room, I stayed in the hallway for a moment. I could see her through the window in the door. She was so tiny. Her hair was had been brushed to the side, resting over her shoulder, but it was in clumps. It looked like she had tried raking her fingers through it, but it hadn’t worked. Her skin was pale. She had her eyes closed and the bed sheet was folded perfectly over her chest. I wondered if she was cold. She wore the hospital gown, but it looked so thin. I caught sight of the goosebumps on her arms and knew she was.

  I knocked once, saw her eyes open, and went in.

  I had no idea what to do, what to say, so I stood there. The door shut behind me, and we continued to stare at each other. She looked even tinier now that I was in the same room as her. She didn’t move, not a bit. She looked like a little statue. I watched her chest to make sure it was rising and falling. I know. Stupid of me, but there was an eerie stillness in the room. It was making me feel weird, like I had stepped into a different time zone. But that wasn’t me. I knew whatever was in the air was coming from Marissa. I realized I wouldn’t ever understand her. I wasn’t going to try. I was going to listen to what she had to say and I was going to say whatever she wanted to hear from me, then I was leaving.

  The bottom line was that she was still at school with Mason. She still had—

  “I love him.”

  She interrupted my thoughts, but I was grateful for the break in silence. I ran my hand down the front of my jeans. I didn’t know what to do with them, so I put them in my pockets. “Okay.”

  One of her eyelids twitched. “Okay?”

  I shrugged. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. I’m sorry that truck hit you.”

  “I’m not.”

  I’d been looking everywhere but at her, and hearing that word, spoken from her calm tone of voice, my eyes flicked to hers. “What do you mean?”

  Her lips pressed together, grimacing, and she gestured to the chair beside her bed. “Do you want to sit? I have a lot to tell you.”

  There was a chair immediately next to her and another positioned at the foot of her bed, angled so it was facing her. I took that chair. I still needed distance from her. When I sat and perched on the edge, my back straight in the air, a soft laugh slipped from her. She said, “I make you really uncomfortable, don’t I?”

  I didn’t bat an eyelash. “Yes.”

  “I can’t say I’m surprised.”

  She sounded normal. She sounded like someone I could be friends with.

  She let out a sigh and sat up. The gown was strung together by a small string, tied into a knot behind her neck. As she leaned forward, the back of her gown fell forward. It exposed her back, and from the angle I was sitting, I could see bruising on the side and at the top of her shoulders. She seemed impervious, staring at me. She started to pick at the blanket in front of her as she spoke, “I hated you. Mason was still emailing me when you moved in, and he told me about you. He didn’t say much, but I could tell that he liked you.” She laughed and shrugged to herself. “It wasn’t hard to figure out. Mason doesn’t talk about anyone except Logan, and he had mentioned you more than a few times. Then I met you at the cabin and you punched Tate for me.”

  She looked up. Her eyes were sad, but there was regret in them too. She murmured, “It’s ironic. Maybe not, but Tate was being mean and you defended me. You punched her. You were drunk and kept shaking your fists in a weird motion, saying something about being a survivor and being fifty. You were funny and came to my defense when no one else had. You didn’t even know me and you marched right in and got in Tate’s face. I liked you instantly, but that made me hate you even more.” A small tear came to her eye. “I knew why Mason liked you. I should’ve left that room liking you too. You stood up for me, but instead I hated you and became friends with Tate. That’s messed up, right?” The regret in her eyes was heard in her laugh as well. “I don’t even know how to tell you the rest. I’m ashamed.”

  I asked the only real question I had for her, “What do you want from me?”

  She bit down on her lip and her eyes widened. My question was direct and strong. She reacted; she shrank back in the bed but determination flashed over her face, and she straightened back up, sitting tall. “Nothing.”

  “Why am I here? I know you love Mason, but he’s mine. I won’t give him up without a damn good fight.”

  “No, I know.” She rolled her eyes to the ceiling and muttered to herself, “This is so hard.”

  A bitter laugh wrung from me. She stiffened, looking back to me. I leaned forward in my seat. “This is hard for you? This is hard for me. Here you are, beaten up because you literally got hit by a car so my boyfriend didn’t. Whether that was by accident or not, it doesn’t matter. I should be grateful to you. You should be my best friend, but it’s you. You’ve been in my life for over a year, but I don’t know you. I know of you. Mason’s told me about you, and about how he regrets not helping you. Then you go to that lunch and just stare at him. Then at his house? I mean, was that by accident? I don’t believe you were that drunk. I think you manipulated that whole thing and were going to try and sleep with him. Now I’m summoned by you and what? I’m being put in a place where I should like you, I should be kissing your ass, and giving you hugs or balloons. But all I want is for you to say what the hell you need to get off your chest so I can leave and you can stay out of Mason’s life.” The word flashed in my mind, and I snapped my fingers at her. “You’re being passive aggressive. You’re controlling this whole thing. I should be yelling at you, but I’m not, well, I kinda am, but I’m just frustrated. Don’t spin a pretty story, just spit it out.”

  She didn’t shirk from me. She didn’t look away. She held my gaze the entire time I spoke, and when I was done, she said, without blinking, “Tate lied to you.”

  I sat there for a second. I heard her say those words. For one split second, I wondered what she was talking about, but it clicked. Surging to my feet, I exploded. I yelled, “WHAT?!”

  Again, she didn’t cower from me. Marissa just watched me. “Tate made it all up. She laughed about it, said it could actually be true, but she doubted it. She was going to try anyway.”

  Oh my god.

  Tate had lied. Tate had lied. Those words were repeating in my head, laughing at me. I couldn’t stand still so I started to pace. As I did, she
kept going, “Logan doesn’t love you like that. Well, he might, but as for Tate knowing about it, that was a lie. She said that was her graduation gift to me.”

  This had to be a joke. It had to be.

  “Tate knows how I feel about Mason. She’s always known. It’s why she bullied me in the first place, but she said she wanted to make it up to me somehow. I told her that I got into Cain University, and that I was excited. I didn’t go to Cain U on purpose, because of Mason. I applied to a lot of schools, but when I got in, in my mind, it was like my fairytale was coming true. I always thought Mason was going to be my husband. We were going to be together, and I was no longer going to be that invisible girl that I had always been.” She broke off and looked away. When she started again, the pain that came from her struck deep in me. It mirrored pain that I had gone through myself. She continued, so quietly, “She said the lie was going to eat you up inside. She told me that you wouldn’t tell them, that you’d be too scared of losing them, so it would send you into a tailspin where you’d destroy yourself.”

  Each word she said was a blow to me. Tate had assumed right. I’d been manipulated and the end result was just pain, all around pain. All because of one lie.

  “I didn’t ask her to do that, but I didn’t stop her either. I’m sorry. I realized this whole thing was wrong when I was standing in the rain, professing my love to Mason, and all he seemed was irritated. I don’t know why, but I had this grand idea in my head that it would work. I would proclaim my love. We would have this
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