Fallen crest home, p.5
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       Fallen Crest Home, p.5

         Part #6 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  He glanced down. “You ready?”

  I nodded and jerked my head toward Matteo. “What about him?”

  “Uh...” Mason shrugged. “I’ll have a word, but I’m pretty sure he wants to stay.”

  That was fine with me. I went over to Heather and let her know we were going.

  “You guys okay to walk back alone?” Channing asked. “We can walk with you.”

  Mason came up behind me. I could feel his heat, and one of his hands found my hip again, burrowing in under my shirt. “We can call if we run into trouble.”

  “Just watch out for Caldron. Now that you’re here, he can taste the blood in the water.”

  “I’ve been watching. He and his buddies took off for one of the band stages a few minutes ago.”

  Channing nodded, resting against Heather with his arms crossed over his chest. “They’ve been drinking all night. I had some of the guys keep an eye on them, too, but they’re only starting. Just keep an eye out. If one of them notices you leaving, they’re going to take a shot. You’re here without Logan and Nate. It’s the best chance they’ll get, and they know it.”

  “We’ll be watching.” Mason nodded at him again, starting to pull me away. “Thanks for watching Sam before, and congrats on the win.”

  Channing grinned. “I’d like to see you in the ring. Something tells me you’d hold your own.”

  Mason mirrored his smile, but didn’t say anything.

  I waved at Heather, and she waved back, but she was already melting into Channing’s side. He lifted his arm to encircle her shoulders as we stepped away from the group.

  The area outside the tent was still filled with people walking around, but since the last fight was done, the main crowd had migrated toward the other tents that had bands playing in them.

  We could hear the music while we’d stood with the group, but as we walked down the line of cars, it began to fade. It was quiet compared to the crowd we’d just left, and an almost eerie feeling came over me.

  “You okay?”

  I sighed, holding tight to Mason’s hand. “Why aren’t you madder at me?”

  He stopped, turning around to look at me. “What do you mean?”

  “This.” I indicated where we’d just been. “This place is dangerous for you.”

  He lifted a shoulder. “It is what it is. We could’ve left before. I wanted to stay, too, and you wanted to spend time with your friend. There’s nothing wrong with that. Besides, the enemies I have here are partly my fault,” he added. “We didn’t have to fight back so much with Broudou back then. We did some stupid stuff. Lighting cars on fire? Shit. Logan wanted to torch their barn even.” He paused, frowning. “I think he did light it on fire.”

  I didn’t say anything. A barn was nothing compared to the fraternity house.

  “Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a pile of shit, and you might’ve helped bring that pile of shit to my doorstep, but it’s not your pile of shit. It’s mine. You can’t look at it any other way.”

  “A pile of shit?” I teased, bumping my hip into his. “You’re sounding like Logan.”

  A faint grin lifted his top lip. “Don’t tell him that. I’ll never hear the end of it. He’ll start proclaiming that I secretly want to be him.” He grimaced, but I caught the look that passed in his eyes.

  He missed his brother.

  I murmured, “I miss him, too.”

  He looked down, and we shared a look with music and moonlight as our background.

  Then I heard, “You left without saying goodbye? Tsk, tsk, Kade.”

  Jared Caldron stood behind us, a bat in his hand.

  Three more guys filtered from the cars to stand behind Caldron, and I turned around to see another three standing behind us. We were boxed in, unless we ran through the cars, but as Mason’s hand took hold of my arm, I couldn’t gauge what he wanted to do. He moved me behind him and stood sideways, with cars behind us.

  “Whatever beef we had is over, Caldron. It went to prison with Broudou.”

  Jared came forward, his hard eyes glinting a boiling anger. “Right. Because you had nothing to do with that, and your little girlfriend there didn’t either.”

  “She didn’t.”

  “Bullshit.” The guy’s nostrils flared, and he started toward us, bouncing the bat slowly in his hand. He stopped a few yards away, lowering his head. “Kate squealed. I know you set her up so Budd would think she was your girlfriend, and this one here—” he pointed the bat at me “—had that clerk call the cops as she blew up his truck. You’re both the reason he went to prison.”

  I might’ve gotten used to how safe Cain was, and I might’ve been shocked at the reminder how unsafe Roussou was, but my nerves and fear quickly dissipated. I was adjusting on the fly, and I almost growled. My nails sank into my palm as my hand formed a fist in Mason’s grip.

  “Budd went to prison because he was going to rape her,” Mason said calmly.

  “Bullshit.”

  I surged forward. “I was there!”

  Mason caught me, keeping me in place with a cement arm around my waist.

  Caldron laughed. “You’ve got spunk—more than what I remember from high school.”

  “Don’t talk to her.” Mason sent him a glare, adding under his breath, “Sam, stop.”

  “Don’t talk to her?”

  I stilled, hearing Caldron’s mocking tone.

  “Who the fuck do you think you are? I can’t talk to your woman?” He snarled. “Boy, I’ll do anything I want to your woman.”

  Two more steps. He was within arm’s reach now.

  Mason tucked me behind him again. His hand gripped mine, and I realized he was guiding it somewhere. Down. Down. To my pocket. He pressed my hand around my phone. I was so stupid. Cursing softly under my breath, I turned and hunched my shoulders, trying to hide the phone as I sent a text to both Brandon and Heather. I hoped one of them wasn’t too drunk already to notice their phone blowing up. I sent another text to Matteo. I didn’t have Channing’s number, or I would’ve sent him one, too. After that, I said a quick prayer and moved my hand away. I was hyperaware of the phone, and when it didn’t buzz back, a feeling of helplessness hit me hard.

  I blinked back tears.

  Mason was outnumbered. He hadn’t had to fight in so long. This wasn’t good.

  “Look.” Caldron threw his arms out, swinging his bat wide as he gestured to his friends. “This talking thing we’ve got going was just a stall tactic. I needed time to make sure the rest of my friends got into position.”

  The rest of… I looked around again. The six friends now had another four added to their numbers. So it was eleven to Mason. No. Eleven to two. I was fighting, too.

  “Now that’s all done.” He flashed us a smile. “Let’s get to dancing.” He hadn’t finished his last word before he was swinging the bat, but Mason ducked. The bat cleared his head, and he twisted, catching Caldron’s arm with both hands. He shifted, pulling Caldron to lie across his back. His toes were just grazing the ground. Caldron’s eyes went wide. Panic flared for a second, but then a murderous rage came to the forefront, and he started to struggle.

  Mason adjusted his hold, ramming his elbow into Caldron’s face before wrenching his wrist to the side.

  Three things happened then:

  The bat fell to the ground.

  I heard a snapping sound as Mason broke Caldron’s wrist.

  And the ten friends rushed in.

  What followed was a blur. I was terrified, desperate, irrational, and scared. But I surged forward, my hands already in fists. I was going to help, and I didn’t care what I had to do to keep him safe. My vision tunneled. I could only see Mason and feel the impending assault when he knelt down and scooped up the bat.

  He tossed it to me.

  I caught it, surprised.

  He grunted before turning and hitting Caldron with one last good punch. “Aim for their knees.” And then, as Caldron’s body hit the ground, unconscious, Mason began exchanging
punches with the others.

  I blinked once, tasted the salt from my tears, and felt someone’s hand on my shoulder. I stopped thinking then and fell to the ground in a kneeling stance, sweeping out with the bat. I swung it with all of my might and heard a crunching sound as it made contact. Someone yelled and fell next to me. That was my first victory. I enjoyed it for a split second before I was plucked up in the air.

  There was no strategy after that.

  I fought. I fought hard. I swung with everything I had. I kicked. I bit. I scratched. I made my body go limp on more than one occasion to get out of someone’s hold. They didn’t punch me, but I was slapped and knocked to the ground. I saw stars, but I jerked upright, aiming for the groin and receiving an ear-splitting sound as my reward. I didn’t know if it was a squeal or a gasp, or even a scream. I could only hear the thumping of my heart. It drowned everything out, and I was back on my feet again. I had no time to stop and think.

  I had to fight.

  I had to hurt.

  I had to protect.

  Feeling someone behind me, I let loose with the bat, a scream erupting from my throat. Someone caught the bat and wrapped an arm around my waist. I tried kicking out. He dodged my feet and said hurriedly in my ear, “Damn, Strattan. It’s me, Channing. Stop!”

  Channing.

  He was friendly.

  Stop.

  I sagged in his arms, looking for Mason. Where was he? He was circling a guy, still fighting.

  I started forward, but Channing caught my arm. “Whoa. Chill.”

  I growled as I yanked my hand free and started forward again, but Channing grabbed my arm once more.

  He got in front of me, holding his other hand up. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Look. He’s fine. We’re here. He’s got that. Look. Look, Sam.”

  My senses began to calm. The black around my eyesight faded. I could see more normally, and the buzzing in my ears subsided. I gulped for breath, tasting salt and dust in my mouth.

  Channing was right. Mason’s eyes were deadly, but alert, his mouth set in a flat line. His shoulders were tense, but he looked in control. His opponent was a heavier-set guy. He probably outweighed Mason by fifty pounds, but as he threw a punch, Mason evaded it easily and slammed back with one of his own. The guy faltered, falling to his knees. Mason reared back, his hand coming down hard, and a moment later, the guy collapsed to the ground.

  Mason knocked him out.

  “Shit.”

  I glanced at Channing, who’d spoken beside me. I heard the awe before he broke out in a grin, heading toward Mason.

  “Fuck, Kade. If football doesn’t do it for you, and if you’re not going to become a millionaire businessman like your daddy, you’ve always got fighting as a backup.” He laughed again, shaking his head. “You and your girl took on ten of Caldron’s crew.” He swung around. “Heather, you should be taking lessons from Sam here.”

  I looked and sure enough, Heather was right next to me, her hands holding her elbows. She gave me a shaky smile. I saw the fear in her eyes then, and another moment of reality hit me like a slap across the face. The adrenaline had been a nice blanket surrounding me, but it was gone now, and I gasped, feeling aches and pains all over my body.

  I doubled over. “Fuck.”

  “Sam!”

  Mason was there, his hands gentle on me as he helped me stand back up. “You okay?” He inspected me all over, brushing back my hair, feeling over my arms, legs, and stomach. When he was certain nothing major was wrong, he pulled me to his chest.

  “Are you okay?” He buried his head in my hair, at the crook of my neck.

  His hug was gentle, but I crushed him to me. He wasn’t the only one who needed reassurance.

  Holy. Fuck.

  Eleven to two.

  I felt him peppering soft kisses to my neck. “Who knew you were such a badass with a bat, huh?”

  A slight laugh slipped out, causing a new burst of pain through my chest. But it felt good. Damned good. I leaned back so I could see him. “You okay?”

  His eyes roamed over me, his love and concern evident there. “I’m fine. Worried about you.”

  “I’m good.”

  Those two words didn’t feel right, but I wasn’t capable of speaking further at that moment.

  “I don’t think Caldron will seek you out for a rematch.”

  We had all regrouped at Heather’s house, which was now overrun with Channing’s crew. Some of the guys had migrated to the front porch, where their girlfriends were now hanging all over them. Channing leaned against one of the kitchen counters, his arms crossed over his chest as he spoke to Mason.

  He turned to watch as Heather wet a washcloth before bringing it to me where I sat on Mason’s lap at the table. Since the fight, we’d barely separated. I needed to keep reminding myself he was okay.

  She handed it over, and I pressed it to a cut on my face. I winced, but Heather’s painkiller was already working. The pain was considerably less than it’d been at the event.

  Mason watched me as he replied to Channing. “I know, but he got his ass kicked. Budd was going to go after Sam no matter what. I can’t put it past Caldron now.”

  Heather sat next to me, eyeing my bruised hand. “You sure you don’t want to get that checked out?”

  I nodded. “It looks worse than it is. It’s not broken. I can tell.”

  “Okay.” But she didn’t seem convinced. “I can’t believe you took down three of those guys.”

  Mason smiled. “Apparently, she’s deadly with a bat.”

  I grinned, my chest feeling lighter with his teasing. “You said to aim for the knees. That worked with the first one. The rest I had to improvise.”

  “I’m pretty sure I saw you head-butt a guy’s junk.” Heather got up for another washcloth.

  Channing laughed, tugging Heather into his arms as she passed him. He took the washcloth from her hand and tossed it into the sink. “She’s fine. You’ve given her ten different washcloths. Your friend is okay.”

  She bit her lip, eyeing me from the shelter of his arms.

  “I’m fine. Really.”

  Her eyebrows furrowed together. “I saw one of those guys kick you in the ribs. I think you should get that checked.”

  “Ribs?” Mason turned to me.

  I didn’t remember that, but I touched my side and found she was right. I hissed as I touched a swollen spot. I could move around okay, though.

  “I’m sure I’m fine. I didn’t even notice till now.”

  “Maybe we should go in,” Mason countered.

  I looked at him and was about to protest, but then I saw some of his bruising. If I looked as bad as he did, I understood why Heather was so worried.

  I sighed. “Maybe we should both go get checked?”

  He nodded.

  As we stood to go, Channing gestured to one of his friends. “Congo can drive you guys there.”

  Congo?

  A short, bald guy came over. He clipped his head at us, flashing blinding white teeth. He was so tanned, even the whites of
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