Fallen crest public, p.10
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.10

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
 

  glancing around.

  Was he checking for witnesses?

  “Um.”

  He didn’t sound like someone getting ready to attack.

  “So …”

  Yes? My heart began pounding again. Thump. Thump. Thump.

  “I was wondering,” he stopped, and looked around once more.

  Seriously. The guy was going to give me a heart attack. “I’m going to go home.”

  “No. Wait.” His hands fell down and he cupped them together; his head lowered too. “Heather doesn’t seem to like us coming to Manny’s, so I’ve stayed away, but I don’t know you. I’m figuring you don’t go to our school. I was looking for you this past week.” A self-conscious laugh came from him. “I don’t even know your name. She might’ve said it, but I was just paying attention to my brother. Budd can be a jerk sometimes … Shannon too, though she’s a girl. There’s another name for that.”

  “I know. It rhymes with ditch.”

  The corner of his mouth curved up. It started to transform his face, from what I could see in the shadows. “Yeah. So …” His nervousness was now all-too clear.

  My heart sank. I was starting to figure out where this was going.

  “I was just … um … so, do you … No, that’s not right. Uh …” He took a deep breath, pinning me with his gaze now. “Would you like to go out sometime?”

  Yep. I saw it coming. I figured it out, but it still didn’t curb the shock, and my mouth fell open. He just asked me out. A Broudou brother. Me. It all clicked with me now. He still had no idea who I was. I was just ‘that waitress’ who works at Manny’s. “Um.” I closed my mouth. I had no idea what to say.

  “Oh.” He drew away from me even further. “I see.”

  “No,” I started, but stopped. What the hell was I going to say? “Um … I have a boyfriend.”

  “Oh.” He straightened, now filled with relief. His voice came out stronger, more confident. “I see. Who?”

  “W-w-what?”

  “OH!” His head flew up, and he slapped himself in the forehead. “I’m really sorry. It ain’t any of my business. I wasn’t going to beat him up or anything. Budd does that stuff. I don’t. I mean, he gets me in trouble too sometimes, but I wouldn’t do that. I think you’re really pretty. The guy’s lucky, whoever he is, and don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I don’t want you to be scared. We have a reputation. I understand and all.”

  He was rambling. I had rejected him, and I was beginning to feel sympathy for this Broudou brother. Hell had frozen over. The world had shifted on its axis.

  “I’m going to go now.” He started to turn.

  “Wait,” I stopped him.

  He stopped.

  Now I wanted to slap myself in the forehead. Why had I done that? I lowered my hand, hadn’t realized I even lifted it. “Nothing. Sorry.”

  “Okay. Well, bye.”

  “Bye …”

  Awkward. The whole thing had been awkward, but lucky me. Brett left in the same manner he had appeared—he just disappeared. I had no idea where he’d gone.

  Brett Broudou asked me out. Me, Samantha Strattan. I nodded to myself. There was something funny about that. Then I remembered Mason—my phone. Hurrying inside my car, I grabbed it and hit the screen. The first text stopped everything.

  At the hospital. Car accident.

  The phone fell from my fingers.

  The drive to the hospital passed in a blur. I was on auto pilot and somehow found myself shoving through the doors to the emergency room without a clue how I got there. Taking two heart-stopping steps, my foot lifted for another when I spotted Logan in the corner. His head was down, his arms folded over his chest, leaning against a wall. His friends were around him—guys and girls I didn’t recognize—but no Mason.

  My chest lifted and my lungs struggled to take a breath.

  Then Logan lifted his head. It happened in slow motion, his eyes scanned the room and then he saw me. Surprise came over him before it clicked. Comprehension flared next. My foot came down hard. It was worse than I thought, but he shook his head and pushed off the wall. His movement drew attention, and everyone watched him cross to me.

  “No, no, Sam. It’s not like that.”

  I was too scared to say a word. For one split second, I considered running. If I didn’t know, I couldn’t lose him, but I had to know. “Is it bad?” Tell me he’s alive.

  “He’s fine. The brakes were cut so he got blindsided by an oncoming car. He couldn’t stop when he was leaving the lot. I would’ve driven onto the grass or something, not out into an intersection.” Logan rolled his eyes. His arm came around my shoulder and he jerked me against him. I could feel the laughter reverberating through his chest. “He’s such an idiot, but it’s a good thing he drives like a grandpa sometimes.”

  My eyes closed and I sagged under his arm. I couldn’t believe it. Mason is going to be fine. Mason is going to be fine. Mason is going to be fine. I could breathe, I tried telling myself over and over, but my brain and my body weren’t working together. My chest was still tight, stretched from fear.

  “Sam?” Logan jostled me a little, hugging me tighter into his side. “You okay?”

  Mason was going to be fine.

  I opened my mouth to fill my lungs. Nothing.

  “Sam?”

  I heard him and my eyes flew open. Mason was at the end of a hallway, frowning at us, and a rush of relief came over me. My mouth dropped, but then he was heading towards me. As he drew near, he asked, “You okay?”

  A buzzing sound was in my head. I shook it so I could hear him, but then his hand was on my arm, and he tugged me from Logan. Oh my god. My arms were numb, but I wrapped them around him and tried to hold tight.

  He moved us and somehow we were in a private room. Looking around, I saw a small room with some clothes lying on a cot. There was also a computer and a small TV. It looked like we were in a room where the doctors slept when they were on-call. I closed my eyes when his head bent and I felt his breath on my neck. It felt good. It felt reassuring. I tried to hold him even tighter, but he asked, “What’s wrong? Nate’s going to be fine.”

  Wait.

  I leaned back. “Nate?” My voice was shaking.

  He frowned at me. “Yeah.”

  “Nate? Nate was in the car accident?”

  “Yeah.”

  He was still looking at me, frowning as his eyes roamed over my face. Then it all hit me and I shoved him away. “I thought it was you! I thought you’d been hurt and that I was going to lose you.” I threw my arm up, gesturing to the lobby. “Logan’s talking about what an idiot you are, but I thought someone had crashed into your car!”

  “No.” He tugged me back into his arms. “You’re shouting.”

  I didn’t care. “I thought it was you!”

  “It wasn’t!” he yelled over me. “Calm down. I’m sorry—”

  Shoving my hand into my pocket, I pulled my phone out and checked the number. It was Logan’s number. I put it in his face. “Logan texted me. Not you. I thought it was you. Why else would Logan be the one to text me? And he texted! He should’ve called—no!—you should’ve called! And why didn’t you even tell me about your basketball game? I had no idea. I’m new, remember? I don’t know these things, and no one talks to me—”

  “I’m sorry.” Mason was fighting back a grin as he pulled me against his chest and wrapped both arms around me. He took the phone from my hand and pushed it back into my pocket. The intense anger kept me stiff in his embrace, and I lifted a fist to his stomach. He said, “I knew you had to work tonight. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want you to feel bad about missing the game. I’m sorry … again … I’m sorry, Sam. I am. I was the one driving. I told Logan to call you, but we were right behind the ambulance so he texted instead. I’m sorry. Next time I’ll be the one to call you.”

  Oh shit. Next time. There better not be a next time. “Mason …” The anger left me then, and a void took its place. There was a bi
g gaping hole left in me. I thought I had lost him.

  “I’m sorry.”

  Mason …

  I couldn’t even finish that thought. I was just so relieved it hadn’t been him. My knees sagged in relief. “Is Nate okay?”

  He nodded, looking down at me, searching inside of me. “Yeah, he’s fine.”

  “Logan said his brakes were cut?”

  “Yeah.” His jaw went rigid. “My guess is that it was Budd and Brett Broudou.”

  My eyes got wide. Oh holy shit. “Can you prove that?”

  “Who cares about proving? We already know.”

  Oh. My heart started beating fast. Now would be a good time for that second confession … I took a deep breath and stepped away from him. “Mason?”

  “Yeah?”

  Three …

  Two …

  “Yo.” The door burst open, and Logan popped his head inside. “The doc wants to see you. He’s waiting for you by the nurse’s station.”

  Mason moved around him and took off. He disappeared around the corner. There went one …

  “You okay?”

  I nodded. “Never better.”

  “I heard you shouting.” He propped his shoulder against the doorframe and kept studying me. “I’m sorry about the mishap. I should’ve told you we were fine; I just didn’t think about it.”

  “Yeah.”

  “Sam?”

  There was a giant ball of guilt and worry in my stomach. I had to tell them about Budd and Brett. It’d been too long ago, but with Brett asking me out, Mason and Logan needed to know first. “Logan?”

  “Yeah?”

  “What are you guys going to do?”

  He frowned, but moved inside so the door shut behind him. Same room, different Kade. “What do you mean?”

  “I mean, you guys are going to do something to get even.” It wasn’t a question. That was a fact. Everyone knew it. “What are you going to do?”

  He lifted one shoulder. “I don’t know. Nate will probably make the decision. They did this to him. Of course, I’m guessing they did it because he clipped Budd with his car.” His eyes turned feral. “Now I wish he’d gotten hit harder, would’ve put him in the hospital first.”

  I sucked in a breath. “Are you guys going to hurt them?” Did I want that? Didn’t that mean they’d retaliate? Mason or Logan could get hurt. That couldn’t happen. Maybe I could talk to Brett … no. I’d make it worse then. “They’ll hurt you guys back.”

  “Oh.” Understanding flashed in his eyes and he lifted a hand. It went to my arm, meant to comfort me, but I bolted into him. Bumping against his chest, I wrapped my arms and hugged tight. Logan was family. Mason was more. I couldn’t lose either of them.

  I mumbled against him, “Don’t hurt them. They’ll hurt you back. I can’t handle that.”

  “Oh, Sam.”

  “Logan, promise me.”

  He stiffened under my arms and moved me back. “I can’t promise you that.”

  I knew it.

  It felt as if a hand reached inside of me and was gripping my heart.

  Logan added, “I’m sorry, but they’re going to do it anyway. They’re looking for you. Why do you think that is?”

  “For running lessons?” My voice came out high-pitched and shrill. The panic was full blown. “Why wouldn’t they?”

  He sighed and shook his head. As he bit down on the corner of his lip, I turned away. I couldn’t see the pity there. They were going to do it anyways, no matter the consequences. One of them was already hurt. When would they be next? I knew it was only a matter of time.

  I had to try again. “Please, Logan. Go to the police. This is going to end badly.”

  “They’re hoping to hurt you. You’re Mason’s girlfriend. Everyone knows how protective we are of you. You’re our weakness, Sam. We have to finish this before they do something to you.”

  I gritted my teeth. Mason and Logan would not get hurt, not if I had anything to do with it …

  “Logan,” Mason called from down the hall.

  “Gotta go.” Logan cupped the back of my head and pressed a chaste kiss to my forehead. “You okay?”

  I nodded. The numbing sensation had left, but it was coming back. As he broke away and headed off, I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling. I was given a glimpse into the future. One where it was one of them, not Nate, in that hospital bed, but it was worse.

  “Um,” a voice broke through my reverie. I jerked my head sideways and saw a girl standing in the doorway. Her top lip was curled up in a sneer, and she was eyeing me up and down. Dressed in an oversized sweatshirt and jeans that clung to her tiny form, I figured she was cheerleader. The glitter was still on her cheeks. Tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear, she pointed at me with her other hand. “Your leg is ringing.”

  My leg is ringing … Oh. My phone.

  It was James. I closed my eyes for a second and heaved a big sigh. I could only take so much, but I answered as I left the room and headed back outside. “Hello?”

  “Sam.” His relief was clear. “Thank you for answering. I can’t get Mason or Logan on the phone.”

  “They’re busy right now.”

  “I know. Is Nate okay?”

  I frowned. “How do you know?”

  “About the accident? His parents were called, but they’re in New Zealand so they called me right away.”

  His parents? Sometimes I forgot he had them. “Uh, I’m not sure. I think he’s fine. Mason and Logan are with the doctor right now.”

  “Yes. His parents told the doctor to release information to them. Are they okay?”

  I shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m sure they’re worried.”

  He was silent. Then, he added, “No, not Nate’s parents. I meant my sons. Are they all right?”

  “Oh. Yeah, they’re fine.”

  “Good.” I could picture him, nodding with the phone pressed to his ear. “That’s good. Do you think I should come down there?”

  Oh dear god. “NO! I mean, no.” There was no way I could handle Analise right now.

  He gentled his voice. “I wouldn’t bring her, Sam. Not to this. I know Helen was called as well. I’m sure she’s heading there now.”

  My heart started to race again. I couldn’t handle her either. “She is?” My fingers gripped the phone tight.

  “Yeah, that’s why I’m trying to get ahold of my sons. Could you ask them if they want me to come down? Neither have responded to my earlier text about them moving back in and dinner.”

  “Um …”

  “I’d imagine Helen will want them to stay with her,” he commented without waiting, then continued, “and I’m sure they won’t want to stay at Nate’s house since his parents are coming.”

  They are? That was not in the conversation. Had I missed that?

  “Do you need a place to stay? I couldn’t imagine Helen being okay with you being at the hotel with them.”

  “What?” I squeaked into the phone. Was it possible to have a heart attack at my age? It was pounding in my chest. A rush of heat came over me as chills went down my spine at the same time.

  “Sam?”

  Hearing Mason’s voice, I jumped, and turned in the air. His eyes widened when he saw my face, and he took two steps to reach
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