Fallen crest forever, p.1
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       Fallen Crest Forever, p.1
 

         Part #7 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan  



  For everyone who fell in love with Fallen Crest High and has continued to show their love and support for these guys. This book is entirely for you.

  “Will you marry me?”

  I didn’t know what to say.

  I was Samantha Strattan. I’d been a nobody for so long, until Mason and Logan came into my life. Then I was Mason Kade’s girlfriend, or Logan Kade’s stepsister. I was theirs. It took a totally fucked-up summer for me to realize I lost who Samantha Strattan was somewhere along the way, and now my soul mate—the guy who was the air for my lungs—was asking me the question I recently realized was my nightmare.

  “Mason.” No other words would come out of my throat. “I . . .”

  I couldn’t breathe.

  I couldn’t move.

  I couldn’t look at him.

  I couldn’t look away from him.

  He wasn’t the nightmare. He was the dream.

  The nightmare was my mother’s marriage. It was Mason’s parents’ marriage. It was all the cheating, lying, and bitterness. I would die if that happened to Mason and me.

  What the fuck? What the effing fuck? Oh my God. Those words were on repeat in my head. I was in a horror movie.

  I watched in slow motion as Mason’s eyebrows dipped when he realized I wasn’t saying anything. Then he realized I really wasn’t saying anything, and that said everything.

  I felt myself falling backward, like someone pushed me off a cliff I didn’t know was behind me. I was falling . . . falling . . . I reached out, trying to get ahold of something—anything to stop this fall. All I could find was air, and I was going to land soon.

  I saw the wall first.

  It slammed down behind his eyes, and he donned an unreadable mask. His jaw clenched, and he shifted backward on his knees until he could stand. Once he was up, he began turning off the tea lights that surrounded us, making the clearing twinkle. I could feel the physical and emotional distance between us.

  Smack!

  I hit rock bottom.

  “Mason.”

  “No.” He shook his head. He was so cold now. “Let’s go.” He gathered up the blanket and headed back for the Escalade. He was almost there. He reached for the door handle—

  “Yes.”

  It came out as a whisper. I shocked myself.

  Marriage: that word terrified me. But cheating wasn’t me. It wasn’t Mason. We wouldn’t be liars. The bitterness would never come. I looked at him, watched as he froze and turned back to me. His back had been so rigid. He was still tense, but his eyes locked on mine.

  I nodded, to him and for myself. Yes, I would marry him. Yes, I would love him forever. Yes, I would never let us be them.

  “Sam?”

  “Yes.” My voice was coming back to me. I nodded again. “Yes! I’ll marry you.”

  He started for me. “Are you sure?” His head dipped down, still holding my gaze.

  I nodded. I was. I really was. I lifted my arms as he met me, then swept me up in a hug.

  “Yes,” I whispered again, burying my head in his shoulder.

  He wasn’t James. I wasn’t Analise. We weren’t going to repeat what we’d seen growing up.

  I lifted my head to find his lips. “I love you.” I kissed him with everything I had. I knew my hesitation had hurt him, and I needed to erase that. “Yes, I’ll be your wife.”

  He held me tighter for a moment, then set me back on my feet. His hands fell to my waist, and he leaned back.

  “Why the pause?” he asked.

  He deserved the truth.

  “Because I’m scared shitless about what our parents did. I’m scared of marriage. A part of me thinks it’s a crock of shit, after seeing what my mom did to David and hearing what James did to your mom.”

  His face walled off again. My hands went to the tops of his arms, and I gripped tightly. I held him when he wanted to pull back. “But that’s not you and me. I’m scared—I have to be honest—but we can change the cycle. We won’t do what they did. What we will have, and do have, is already so much more sacred than what they thought they had.”

  Understanding edged out some of the guarded expression on his face. He nodded, just once, just slightly. “Are you sure, Sam? I’ve always thought we’d get married, but I wasn’t planning on asking this early. It’s just . . . seeing your mom coming down that aisle, I wanted it to be you.”

  Everything melted inside me.

  My insecurities.

  My worries.

  My heart.

  I was so humbled at that moment and wound my arms around him. What had I done to deserve this? Deserve him?

  “I love you,” I whispered, my lips pressing against his skin. “So goddamn much.”

  His hand came to the back of my head. “So goddamn much,” he repeated.

  His phone rang, and Mason groaned against my skin.

  “Fucking hell,” he cursed as he slipped his hand into his pocket.

  When the phone appeared, we both glanced down. It was Logan, and we shared a look. He’d already called about the footage of the fight being leaked to Mason’s football coach. If he was calling again so soon, it wasn’t good news.

  Mason hit the Accept button and put the phone to his ear. “Yeah?”

  I started to untangle myself, but his arm just tightened around my back. He didn’t want to let go and, falling a little more in love (if that was even possible), I relaxed against him. My head rested on his chest.

  “Are you coming back to Cain tonight?” Logan asked through the phone. He sounded tense.

  I frowned, but didn’t lift my head. It felt too right to move.

  “Uh . . .”

  I looked up.

  Mason lifted an eyebrow, wanting to know what I wanted to do.

  We just got engaged. Time alone would be nice, though there was a huge crisis hanging over us. I wanted to stay in Fallen Crest, but I said, “We should go back. We won’t relax otherwise.”

  He nodded, saying into the phone, “We’re coming back.”

  “Good.” Logan sounded relieved. “I know you’re in deep shit because of the fighting, but I might need help with these guys that roughed up Taylor’s friend.”

  “The same guy that we had to deal with a crime lord about?” Mason rolled his eyes.

  “They beat the shit out of him because he’s gay. They deserve something worse happening to them,” Logan clipped out. “We can be inventive if you don’t want to do a beatdown with me.”

  Mason’s voice was strained. “Start brainstorming, because I can’t do anything violent unless it’s on the football field. They’re going to watch me like a damned hawk, and that’s if I’m still allowed to play.”

  “You’ll be fine, but yeah, Nate and I will put our thinking hats on. See you when you get here.”

  “Yeah.”

  Logan suddenly called out, “Hi, Sam!”

  I moved closer to the phone. “Don’t get Mason in trouble, please.”

  He groaned. “I might start trouble, but he always delivers the knockout punch. There’s a reason we work as brothers.”

  Anger glinted in Mason’s eyes. His lips pressed together. “Okay. Be there in a few hours.”

  He hung up and looked down at me. “You didn’t say anything.”

  “Neither did you.”

  “I was letting you make the decision.”

  I pressed a hand against his chest, feeling his heart beat just on the other side. “I know. Let’s keep our engagement between us for a minute. Once we tell, it’s no longer ours. It’s everyone’s to talk about—and give their opinions about everything.” I tilted back to look up at him. “You know what I mean?”

  His eyes darkened. I saw the love there. “I do.” He cup
ped the back of my neck. “I love you.” His lips found mine.

  I closed my eyes, savoring this.

  My man.

  My other half.

  My future husband.

  So much lies ahead of us, but he was mine, completely mine, in this moment. My lips moved against his, deepening the kiss, and he tightened his hold on me.

  Mason was driving, and I couldn’t stop from looking over and studying him. He wasn’t a boy anymore, not that he’d ever seemed like one. He was a man, and he was going to be my husband. It left me in awe. Forever. Though when had that word not been used to describe Mason and me? Never. But there was still a little voice in the back of my head that worried about repeating our parents’ actions.

  “What’s wrong?” Mason asked.

  “What?”

  He gave me a half-grin, one hand on the steering wheel. “You seem like something’s wrong. Is it the engagement stuff?”

  “Yeah.” I pressed a hand to my stomach. There were butterflies in there. “Does that bother you?”

  “What? That my dad was a piss-poor husband or that your mom was psycho before?”

  “Both.” I turned in my seat, pulling up one of my legs so I could sit sideways with the seatbelt still in place. I rested my head against the seat, watching him fully now.

  His lips were perfect. I loved brushing mine against his, feeling his body tighten under my touch. His jawline—oh holy fuck, his jawline. It was strong, and it had made me weak in the knees too many times to count. His eyes, beautiful green that could look right into me. He would turn, see my eyes, and slide inside where he could read my soul. It had been like that in the beginning. It still was.

  I never wanted him to stop seeing me.

  And his black hair, it was newly trimmed back into a crew cut, but there was just the smallest amount for me to grab hold of it. That only made me salivate more for him. When he held himself above me, his eyes darkening in lust, his shoulders rippling from my touch, I loved how every part of him was defined and cut like a sculpture. He did it for football, training so many hours each day, and the thought of that made my heart hurt.

  Football.

  Everything would work out.

  The league would let him play. He was Mason Fucking Kade. He was a star wide receiver on Cain University’s team, and he was mentioned on ESPN regularly. His draft was this year. Someone would take him. They’d be stupid if they didn’t.

  I reached over and placed my hand on his where it rested on his leg. “It’ll get sorted out. You know it.”

  He didn’t comment, just turned his palm upward and laced his fingers with mine.

  I remembered what he’d said just before he proposed: that he was fucked. That the NFL doesn’t do scandals, and a video of Mason Kade beating the shit out of someone was one of those. It wouldn’t matter to them if he’d been protecting me, not once they opened up his record and started digging. There was a lot there. Mason and Logan had been fighting and setting cars on fire long before I came into their lives. They never bullied, but if they were hurt, they would hurt back. That was their rule. They reacted, rather than incited.

  I knew they’d continue to do so, but there had to be a change. Mason tried before, and he learned to be smarter when he was defending himself. He slipped this summer and returned to the violence, but that was done.

  They’d be smarter. They had to . . .

  “Stop worrying,” he said.

  “Hmmm?” I’d been staring at him, lost in my own head.

  “You’re worrying. I can feel it.” His hand squeezed mine. “I believe you.”

  My head lifted from the seat. “You do?”

  “Yeah.” He glanced sideways at me, grinning again.

  God—that mouth.

  “You said everything will get sorted,” he added. “You’re usually right. I believe you.”

  My heart pounded against my chest. “Good.” My voice was breathless. I don’t know why it affected me so much to have Mason believe in me. Mason always believed in me.

  Whatever the reason, I was going to follow through. I knew Mason and Logan—even their father—would do anything necessary to ensure Mason’s future in football, but so would I.

  My throat was full so I could only whisper, “I love you.” The feeling swept over me, leaving me renewed and invigorated.

  He winked, his grin morphing into a smirk. “I know.”

  I pretended to hit his arm, and the smirk turned serious. “I love you too,” he said.

  Logan sent a couple text messages as we traveled, with the last one telling us to go right to Taylor’s house. We passed the exit that would’ve taken us to our house, and it wasn’t long before we pulled up at the large home where Taylor had grown up, but it wasn’t Logan or Taylor who met us at the door.

  Taylor’s father, who was in his early forties, opened the door. He was a good-looking man with sandy brown hair. He kept himself trim, which made sense because he was also one of Mason’s coaches.

  The two regarded each other.

  Mason readied himself, adopting an unreadable mask and lifting himself to his fullest height. He never cowered for anyone. He wasn’t going to start now, but I knew he was tense. He respected Taylor’s father, Coach Bruce, nicknamed Coach Broozer. And Coach Broozer wasn’t looking very happy.

  Finally, the coach moved back, and Mason and I stepped inside. He nodded to me as I passed, following Mason.

  “Let’s go to the kitchen.” Coach Broozer led the way.

  We walked through the small front entrance hallway and past the living room and stairs before turning in to the kitchen. I got the distinct impression no one else was home.

  Broozer indicated the chairs in the dining room. “Take a seat.”

  “I thought my brother was here,” Mason said.

  “No.” He gestured to the kitchen. “Either of you want water or something else to drink? I can make a pot of coffee, or we have Gatorade. Mason?”

  Mason sat at the far end of the table. I sat next to him.

  “Nothing for me,” he said.

  “Sam?”

  I shook my head. I had a feeling we wouldn’t be here long.

  “Why’d Logan tell me to come here first?”

  Taylor’s father poured himself a glass of water and took his time settling into his chair. He took the far end, closest to the kitchen and opposite Mason and me. He leaned forward, resting his arms on the table, and paused another few seconds before taking a deep breath. His hands cupped his water glass, and he looked down, almost like he was going to talk to the table.

  “It’s not the greatest, Kade.”

  Mason’s jaw clenched.

  “Logan said your case was thrown out, and I called the FCPD,” he continued. “They confirmed what he said, so I talked to the head coach, and he agreed. The whole department agreed. You’re back in time to start practicing with the team, so you won’t be suspended. Your case was dropped. There’s no reason to punish you further, but
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