Fallen fourth down, p.9
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.9
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  breakfast.” He cursed. “Your dad’s at a football conference today. Now you’re gone. She planned this thing.”

  “Planned what?”

  He grimaced, glanced at Cass, but turned before she caught his look. “Mom asked me to bring her.”

  Logan pealed with laughter.

  “What are you…” It clicked. Malinda wanted to see Cass with only Mark around. I laughed. “Sucks to be you.”

  He glowered. “Crap. I should turn around before she sees me. I can make up some excuse—”

  “Mark.” Malinda had opened the front door. A towel was in her hand and she waved it at him. “I see you. No running away. Get your butt in here.” When Cass looked at her, Malinda’s smile turned sweet. “You too, Cassandra.”

  Logan choked on a laugh. “Run, Mark. Run for your lives. She just threatened to take a bite out of my ass, and she likes me.” He lifted an eyebrow, taunting him further, “Guess what she’ll do to her.” He leaned down, a smirk on his face. “And she doesn’t even like you, Cass.”

  Cass scowled, but she caught herself before she said anything. Logan was Logan Fucking Kade. She knew better.

  Logan’s smirk grew, and he stepped back from the car, leaned against his, and folded his arms over his chest. “Yeah. Malinda’s going to eat you alive.”

  Mark looked worried. He cursed again and hit the steering wheel. “Whatever. Let’s get this over with.” He jerked his head to us. “Have fun guys. I am officially envious of your road trip.” He sighed. “All right. Here we go.”

  As his car eased forward and turned into the driveway, Logan turned around and opened his door. He stopped, his gaze met mine, and we both stood for a moment. The cockiness fled and he gave me a tentative smile. “Her daughter, huh?”

  I bobbed my head up and down with a giddy smile. “She said it.” I didn’t have to tell him I liked it. He could tell.

  He murmured, “That’s good.”

  We both got inside and I looked down at my lap. It was two words—her daughter—but those were two words that would’ve sent me running for hours six months ago. “She didn’t even think about it, Logan. She just said it.”

  “She’s good for you.”

  Yeah. For my father too.

  We didn’t talk, even when Logan stopped at Quickie’s to get gas. He got out, filled the tank, and we both went inside. I wanted more coffee. Grabbing water and soda, Logan took my coffee from me to the register and paid for everything. I didn’t fight it. I’d pay the next time. Once we were back in the car, we went to pick up Kris.

  When we got to Mason’s campus, there wasn’t enough time to find him before the game. When Logan headed inside to help Kris with her bags, I stayed in the car, but heard raised voices. A battle between Logan and her sister set us back four hours. Her sister didn’t want Kris to go. Logan did and he won, of course, but we were supposed to have been there before noon. Mason said the team ate and went to the locker room a couple hours before the game. As it was, we were late getting into the game. Cain University wasn’t a small college. Their stadium was massive and just getting to our seats was a workout. A lot of people stood in the aisles and in the stairways. We sat down just as the second quarter started. After the third touchdown by the Wolves, the crowd no longer sat in their seats. Everyone remained on their feet, and the adrenalin from the team swept through the stands.

  The fans were invigorated.

  Everyone’s voice was hoarse as they cheered on the team, but not mine. Since we arrived, I had barely paid attention to the game. I was riveted by the sight of Mason. Watching him jog back to the sidelines, my throat went dry. The need for him grew and an ache started between my legs.

  I needed his touch. It had become like oxygen to me.

  “You think Logan loves me?”

  It was the question and nightmare that had been haunting me for three months. I closed my eyes. My glow from earlier had faded long ago. It wasn’t the time to think of this. Mason was within touching distance. This was about him. That question had been pushed to the back of my mind.

  “Or is it too soon?”

  “What?” I glanced over at Logan’s girlfriend. Kris. She had asked that question. It hadn’t been in my mind. Relief swept through me, but I realized her second question and looked to the seat on her other side. It was empty. “Where’d Logan go?”

  She sighed and bit down on her bottom lip before her head jerked down. She was twisting her hands together. “He went to find Nate. I guess he finally texted him, but do you think he loves me?” Her head bounced back up. A hopeful look was in her gaze. “It’s too soon. I know it is. I’m stupid for asking.”

  “Uh…” I had no idea what to say. “It’s been two months?”

  “Yeah.” Her thin shoulders lifted up and down. “We’ve been official for two months, but we hooked up a month before that.” She paused as she began biting the inside of her cheek. “When did Mason tell you?”

  My eyes got even bigger. I didn’t talk about Mason. I barely talked about him to Logan and Heather. “Um.” What did I say? Kris was pretty with wheat-blonde hair and striking green eyes, but she was nice. She was genuinely nice, which is why I knew so many guys had been after her. “We…um…”

  She let out a hurt sigh. “He should’ve said it by now. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?”

  “No, not at all.”

  She shook her head. “No, I got it. I bet you and Mason knew right away. Logan hasn’t said a word like that. He hasn’t even said he likes me. Since the beginning, it’s been about needing me, wanting me, having me. I know he feels lust for me.” She pretended to shiver. “The chemistry was amazing, but it’s died down over the last few weeks.”

  She continued, “He’s amazing. I’ve heard all the girls talking, you know. They all want him, and I know I’ve been so lucky. I was talking to some of the girls from the team. They said Logan’s never had a girlfriend, except for that one girl. Candy said Tate was trash anyway. He only had one-night stands, but they think he loves me.” She paused and added, “Jessica and Lydia said the same thing too.”

  “Jessica and Lydia?” I hadn’t known she was friends with my two ex-best friends.

  “Yeah. I went to Cass’ party last week. I talked with them for a bit. I’ve heard nasty things about Jessica, but she’s been nice to me.”

  “You went with Logan?”

  How had I not known about this? If Logan had gone to an Elite party, especially hers, I would’ve heard about it.

  “No.” She grinned. “Not at all. I didn’t even bring it up to him, but I heard he dated Miranda too.”

  “That was only for a month.”

  “I thought Cass would be jealous of me, but she seems happy with your brother.”

  My eyes got big and I stiffened. My brother? A low growl started in the bottom of my throat. Mark wasn’t my brother, not yet.

  “Those two were meant for each other.” She sighed, sounding wistful. “Sometimes I think I might have that with Logan. He can be so loving and thoughtful at times, but at other times, it’s like I’m not even in the room.”

  I pressed my hands to my forehead. A headache was forming, and I could tell it wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.

  She sighed again. “I just don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m losing him. Hearing all the stories about him, I guess I should’ve been prepared for this. Cass told me—”

  “Who aren’t you friends with?” I snapped.

  She stopped as her eyes got big. “Uh, we’re not super tight. I mean, Adam’s friends with her and we hung out a bunch last year so…”

  I saw the fear in her eyes and reined myself in. She was listing off so many ghosts from my past. Transferring to Fallen Crest Public should’ve put a stop to her connections to them, but I realized that it hadn’t. They were friends with Mark, and they were friends with her. I wanted to groan. They were still so close to me.

  “Should I not be friends with her?”

  It took me an
other moment to comprehend who Kris was talking about. Cass. “No, no. I’m sorry for reacting. I don’t have good memories from that place.”

  “Oh.” She frowned. “I’m sorry.”

  “It doesn’t matter.” I gave her a smile. “Really. I’m sorry how I reacted.”

  She went back to twisting her hands together. “No one talks about you over there.”

  Really?

  She added in a rush, as if she were confessing something, “I was really confused when I saw you at the party last year. I was with Jeff and he told me that you guys dated, but I had no idea that Adam Quinn wanted to date you, and I had been hanging out with him too. I found out you were close to Mason and Logan Kade. I mean, I heard about them my first day at FCA, but no one mentioned you.” She lifted her head up and down as she said that word, “I found out your dad was the football coach at FCA aaaand you’re living with Mark Decraw.” A nervous giggle slipped from her. “For someone that I had never heard about, you’re connected to a ton of people.” She snuck a timid look at me. “I’ve been scared to talk to you about that. I’m glad I did.”

  I wanted to curse. “You’re saying that Miranda and her friends never talked about me?”

  “Well,” she hesitated, “they have said some things, but nothing good and I didn’t put two and two together until Adam and I went to Mark’s and all of you guys were there too. I don’t really listen to the bad stuff. That’s been done to me at my old school. A lot of the girls were jealous because some of the guys liked me.”

  “Give it time. I’m sure the same thing will happen at Fallen Crest Public too.”

  She flinched as if I slapped her.

  I grimaced. “Sorry. You’re friendly. Maybe it won’t happen to you.”

  A relieved look came over her, and her shoulders dropped. “I’m very careful, especially since dating Logan. I’ve noticed a big difference. People are more cautious around me and some of them are fake. Some kiss my ass. You can just tell, you know?”

  She was giving me a look as if we were friends, as if we were allies.

  It was then that I saw why Adam, Jeff, and Logan liked her, and why even Jessica and Lydia were being nice to her. She was new. She hadn’t been stabbed in the back by anyone—yet—and she didn’t know how vicious people could be.

  She was refreshing, for them. Not me. I glanced around. Was Logan coming back?

  “It’s fourth and fifty-seven,” the announcer said over the stadium.

  Glancing at the field, I saw Mason on the sidelines. He was ready to go back in for the next play and I waited. The team was setting up to punt, and he was flagged in. I looked at the scoreboard; it was the fourth quarter, and there were two minutes left in the game. The score was twenty-eight to three, a sure win for the Wolves.

  “Where did you say Logan went?”

  She shrugged. “I think he went to find Nate. I guess he sent him a text or something, saying he was in the stands somewhere. He’ll be back before the game is over. So, can I ask you a question?”

  I tensed. What did that mean?

  “Why isn’t Nate on the team? From what everyone’s been saying about him, Mason, and Logan, I thought he’d be playing with Mason. He’s not.”

  “Oh. No. Nate’s not good enough.” I hesitated. The truth was that Logan wasn’t even good enough. Division One football was too competitive. It was a stepping stone before the National Football League.

  The ball was punted and the punt returner caught it. He started forward; two guys from the opposing team were coming at him, but were blocked by Mason. He rammed into one guy, sending him to the ground, pivoted on his heel and wrapped both arms around the second guy. He threw him onto the ground, falling on top of him as his teammate soared past him.

  “Shit, what a tackle. That’s a freshman?” someone from behind us muttered.

  His friend commented, “Roster says Mason Kade.”

  “Where’d he come from?”

  “School’s few hours away, but his stats are good.”

  Pride swelled through me, but it wasn’t anything new.

  Kris’ phone buzzed at that moment. A soft grin came to her as she read the text, then she showed it to me. It was from Logan. With Nate in the back. By the 23rd door. Tell Sam. Staying back here with Nate and his friends.

  “Come on.” I wasn’t waiting any longer. “Let’s go find them.”

  It didn’t take long to spot them. Nate and his friends stood out. They had congregated against a wall, but were garnering a bunch of attention. The girls in front of the concession stand across from them giggled together and whispered behind their hands as I passed them. There were other groups of girls to the side, also eyeing the guys. A sense of déjà vu came over me. It felt like my first week at Fallen Crest Public all over again, but it was Nate getting all the attention this time.

  I scanned the group. “Where’s Logan?”

  Nate jerked his head to the side. “Pissing.” He broke out in a big grin after that and pulled me in for a hug. “Good seeing you. It’s been too long.”

  I laughed, but I had to admit it felt good.

  “Hi, Nate.”

  Remembering Kris, I stepped back. Nate gave her a brief grin and waved, and I saw the hurt settle in her gaze.

  “Hey. Kris, right?”

  I caught the wink he sent me. Oh, yes. Nate pretended to forget her name. He was subtly putting her back in her place. She wasn’t in the Fearsome Foursome, or whatever we were when it was just Logan, Nate, Mason, and myself. A wave of gratitude came over me. I saw Logan heading our way at that moment.

  “Yes, hi.” Her voice had dipped down, but Logan wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her tight into his side. He scanned the group. “So, we won?”

  The buzzer went off inside the arena, and I grinned. “Guess so.”

  “Nate.” One of his friends stepped forward, a broad grin on his face. He was tall, over six feet by a few inches, with sandy-brown hair and crystal blue eyes. He looked like he had stepped from the brochure for an Ivy League school. “Are you going to introduce us to your friends?”

  Nate was silent for a moment and paused, giving me a questioning look. I glanced to Logan and knew he noticed the change. The air shifted. We both studied Nate, who forced out a polite laugh. “Uh, yeah. Logan, Sam, this is Park. He lives in my fraternity house with me.”

  “Hi.” I knew Mason didn’t like this guy so I assumed Nate wouldn’t have brought him to the game. Sharing another look with Logan, I saw he was thinking the same thing.

  Nate’s head moved down an inch. His entire demeanor shifted so he came across as more self-conscious. “Mason said the plan was to come to our party tonight?”

  Logan slowly nodded. “Yeah. That’s the plan.” He was studying Nate’s friends more, his eyes lingering on Park longer than it was polite.

  “Well, we’ll see you guys there.” Nate moved forward. His friends took the cue and began to leave. Park flashed us a smile and lifted his hand. He started to say something, but Nate clapped him on the shoulder and shook his head. His friend frowned, but heeded the warning. He turned and followed behind the rest of the fraternity brothers. Nate was the only one who lingered behind.

  He shot a meaningful look at Kris, and Logan got the message. He turned to her, “Hey, babe?”

  “Yeah?” Her head jerked to his.

  “Maybe you should go to the bathroom? The drive to the restaurant might take a long time with traffic after the game.”

  “I should be fine. We have to wait for Mason, right? I can go then.”

  “You and Logan are going to the restaurant. I’m the only one who’s going to be waiting for Mason.”

  “Oh.”

  Logan shook his head at me, but patted her on the arm. “Why don’t you go now? Nate needs to talk about something private anyway.”

  “Oh.” Her eyes widened as she snuck a look at Nate, who gave her a tight-lipped grin. “Okay. I’ll wait over there when I get back.”

  A
s she hurried away, there was a brief moment of silence between us. Nate glanced from Logan to me. We were waiting to see what Logan’s reaction was going to be, but Logan turned to me and narrowed his eyes. I tensed, was it coming? But he only shook his head and said to Nate, “So what’s going on? Mason told us you wanted to network, but with that douchebag? Why are you in a fart house?”

  “Not that it’s any of your business, but Mason lives in the football house. All his roommates are on the team and that means all his friends are going to be his teammates. I’m not on the team. Branching out isn’t a bad idea for me.”

  Logan grunted. “It’s a piss poor idea, and you know it.”

  Nate sighed, shaking his head. “Look. Whatever. Mason said you guys are going to dinner and then coming to my fart’s,” he grimaced, “frat’s party? Is that the plan?”

 
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