The original crowd, p.13
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       The Original Crowd, p.13

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  “Way I heard it, both of them visited,” I pointed out, standing uncertainly before him.

  “And you were the reason they fought.”

  “Right. Because they’ve had such a loving relationship all their life,” I said sarcastically, starting to get pissed. “Is he in or not?”

  “What makes you think you’re welcome around here?”

  “Jace does,” I answered him honestly. Jace would never turn me away. I knew that. Jace knew that. And Ben knew that. “Look, I just gotta ask him a question. One question, that’s all.”

  Ben was unmoving. The door opened again and Grunt allowed two girls to go inside while a couple left. Moan was watching the exchange between me and Ben intently. All three of them were just massive and had tattoos scattered from their shaved heads, necks, to even their fingers. They didn’t intimidate me though. What would intimidate me is if Jace didn’t want me allowed inside.

  “I can get in another way,” I finally said. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to have to break in, but I was desperate to help Geezer.

  Ben sighed, his hand moved to the rope, and he lifted it up, clearing the way for me. Ducking underneath, I held his gaze as I walked inside, seeing the concern in them—something I’ve never seen in his eyes before. I’d never even noticed they were a chocolate brown.

  *

  Jace was just as excited to see me. Actually, I didn’t know. It’s just what I felt as I was making my way down the back hallway. Two guards were outside his room and one of them knocked briefly. Instead of Jace, his second in command, Krein, poked his head out. “What?” he asked crossly.

  The guard jerked his head towards me.

  “Oh,” Krein murmured, rubbing a hand over his bald head looking suddenly tired. Stepping out of the room, I saw he was only dressed in jeans that were unbuckled. He was a little stockier than Jace—Jace had a body that was just cut, in every sense of the word, but he was leaner than Krein—still, Krein wasn’t exactly hard on the eyes.

  “Jace here?” I asked softly.

  “Uh…”

  “Krein,”Came a moan from inside.

  I grinned, rocking back on my heels. “Another playmate of Krein’s harem?”

  “You know it!” he returned smoothly, smiling at me. “How you been, girl?”

  “I’m here on business for a friend. I’m not here to chit chat or to catch up.”

  “So things are good, huh?” he asked, not breaking a stride.

  “Is he here?”

  “Yeah. Ah…he’s in the club. Hold on. Ducking inside, he emerged a second later, pulling a shirt on and his holster. “I’ll show you.”

  “I’ve been in the club before,” I murmured, but I waited anyway.

  He bypassed me, now leading me towards the club. “I know, but tonight’s kinda more crazy than normal. Wouldn’t want you getting raped or something.”

  “Shit…” Was all I said, before Krein opened a side door and all sound was drowned out by the pounding music. I could feel the beat through the floors against my feet. Some of the glasses on the counter were vibrating from the music.

  I felt Krein grab my arm and pull me behind him.

  We both ducked simultaneously as one shirtless guy stumbled backwards, his drink spilling over in his hand.

  Krein wrapped a hand around my waist and literally lifted me out of the way and placed me in front of him, protecting me from three sides, a hand in front to ward off anyone.

  “Sorry, dude…” the shirtless guy slurred.

  Krein shrugged him off, nudging me forward.

  We shoved our way through the next tier of people and Krein pointed towards a corner where I got a brief glimpse of Jace standing in a corner, two girls pressed up against him while he was nodding to whatever some guy was telling him.

  Krein switched places with me and muscled his way over to them, two guards let us through, both giving me the once-over.

  The new guy from Monday nodded in greeting to us as he shifted aside so we could walk through.

  Hax, another of Jace’s guys, nudged Jace from behind. He nodded in our direction when Jace glanced at him.

  When he spotted me, I saw the slight widening around his eyes. The rest of the world would just see the same poker face, but they weren’t privy to the storm that was brewing in his eyes. Great. There was the same tight jaw he always got when he was really pissed.

  Jace broke away from the group he had been standing with, leaving the two girls disappointed, until they latched onto someone else. One girl managed to send me a glare first. The next thing I knew, Jace had grabbed my wrist and was pulling me back the way Krein had just brought me.

  And just like Krein, at the first drunk who stumbled in our path, Jace simply lifted me up and placed me in front of him, his arms coming around both sides of me to protect from all angles.

  Ben must’ve sent Grunt, because suddenly he materialized in front of us and cleared a trail for us until we set foot in the back hallway.

  “Jace,” I started.

  “Don’t,” he said harshly, not letting go of my arm as he led me to his office. One of the guards saw us and ducked inside. A second later a scantily dressed girl darted through and ran down the hallway, away from us.

  “Greg,” Jace ordered, “I don’t want her going that way. Get her back.”

  Greg nodded and left quickly behind the girl.

  When we were inside the room, my eyes had to adjust for a moment to the dark lighting.

  Jace didn’t say anything. He brushed past me and disappeared inside his bathroom. Emerging a second later, he pulled off his shirt and grabbed another one laying on the chair. Pulling it over his head, I diverted my eyes when I saw his stomach muscles ripple from the movement.

  Jace regarded me for another moment in silence. “What are you doing here?” he asked smoothly.

  I hugged myself, feeling self-conscious all of the sudden. “I came for a friend.”

  “Oh. So this is business?” he asked coolly.

  “My friend, Geezer—”

  “You’re here about his dad.”

  “Yeah,” I breathed out.

  “And you want to know if he’s working for me?”

  “Yeah.” I willed myself to look up and hold his gaze. “Is he?”

  “And what right do you have asking that? Why should I tell you? he demanded harshly.

  “Because…”

  “Because, why, Taryn? Last I know, the only thing you’ve done in my life is walk out of it and cause more rift between my little brother and I.”

  I flinched. He was right. I’d been so focused on moving forward, finding a better place in life for me, that I’d left everyone behind. And not gave one shit about who I was hurting or how many times I hurt them.

  And Jace and Brian probably had gotten the worst of it.

  “I’m—”

  “Don’t even say it,” he interrupted uncaringly. “Don’t even think of saying it.”

  “Is he working for you or isn’t he?” I asked instead.

  Jace narrowed his eyes, frowning in my direction.

  “Is he?”

  “And what if I tell you that you have no right to even ask that? That I’ve killed for less—people wanting to know my business.”

  “Jace.” I choked out, turning away. I couldn’t handle his biting words. The hurt and anger I heard in them.

  “Because you keep walking, Taryn. You keep giving any right you have, any place you have, away. You keep throwing it away. Like it’s trash—like I’m trash.” He clipped out.

  “What do you want me to say?!” I finally snapped, “I’m sorry, alright. Alright!? I’m trying to make a better life for me. One that’s not…”

  “Jail, sex, drugs?” Jace supplied.

  “Yeah. I’d like to actually have a weekend when I wasn’t worried one of you guys would call me from the hospital, with a bullet-hole in you. Or call me from jail, asking me for a $500 bond. Or hear how some girl O.D.’d from drugs that everyone know
s you run through this town. I’d like, for once, to have a weekend where I didn’t need to worry that any of that would happen.” I breathed, “Can you blame me?”

  Jace just stood there, watching me. I couldn’t read him. Not any longer.

  “So is he working for you or isn’t he?” I asked.

  “No,” Jace said softly, walking closer to me. “I cut him loose when I realized who his son was. He went to another business in town.”

  “Another business?” I asked, alarmed. That meant Jace was at war and suddenly everything I’d been fighting for vanished. Jace was in a war.

  He shook his head. “No. That’s all you get.”

  “Jace,” I cried.

  “Go home. Go have supper with that family of yours.”

  “Jace, you can’t just… Are you in danger?”

  He grinned at that one, his white teeth almost blinding in the dark. “When am I not, Terry?”

  “Jace.”

  Rolling his eyes, he walked to me and grabbed my arm. Pulling me to the door, he pushed me outside and said sternly, “Go. Don’t break your way in here. Just…go, okay.”

  “You can’t…not like this.”

  Reaching up to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear, his eyes held mine as he said softly, “This is what it’s like when you try to make a better life. You gotta leave the bad stuff behind.”

  Then he disappeared inside, locking the door behind him.

  None of the guards tried to usher me out. They knew I could slip from their grasp and just find my own way back in.

  So I stood there, staring at the door for a while longer until I turned and walked down the hallway.

  My footsteps a deafening echo.

  CHAPTER FIVE

  Parking my car across the street, I glanced up at my school and knew it was going to be a shitty day.

  Why you ask? Because it’s homecoming, of course.

  Duh.

  Who else would be capable of making this universe pause mid-rotation?

  Cheerleaders. That’s who.

  Crawling out of my car, I threw my bag over my shoulder and marched across the lawn, a scowl etched on my face.

  No sign of Garrett.

  I was more relieved than I wanted to give the guy credit for. One less headache to deal with.

  However, the second I got inside, the headaches came rushing at me at full speed.

  Mandy gasped as she saw me and darted over first.

  Grabbing my hand, she hissed, “Did you hear?”

  “Uh—”

  “Pedlam’s coming here to play. Their football field got tilled last night. Can you believe it?”

  Oh. Holy. Fuck.

  “What did you just say?”

  “Yeah. Their football field was tilled. Freaking tilled. Can you believe that? I heard that their gymnasium got tarred, too. Seriously. Who’s crazy enough to do that shit?”

  “Excuse me,” I murmured, my entire body going numb. I pushed past her, past my locker and went right through the hallways, back out to the parking lot.

  There. In the back corner, he was just getting out of his SUV, looking freshly showered and tired.

  Well. Hell. Was he going to be even more tired after I got through with him.

  Marching over to him, unheeding the whispers that followed me, I walked up to him.

  “Hey—” Tray murmured, watching me, confused as I reached around him and opened his door. I pushed him inside, closed the door, and then walked around to the passenger seat.

  “Drive,” I said shortly, folding my arms across my chest to keep myself from lunging at him. If I didn’t keep them in place, they’d more than likely be around his throat. “Now!”

  Tray closed his mouth and started the car. A little while later, I saw we were parked at a nearby park.

  I counted. Breathing in and out. One to twenty. Then I was out the door.

  “How could you do that?! Are you insane?” I shouted. I knew full well how enraged I was, but I was past caring.

  I didn’t give a shit. Not anymore.

  “How could you? Or are you just that stupid? Huh?” I cried, knowing full well he saw how enraged I was.

  “What are you talking about?”

  “Last night. Pedlam. You tilled their football field. You tarred their gymnasium,” I clipped out.

  “Yeah,” he said, looking at me like I’d gone crazy.

  “Are you stupid?!”

  “What are you so pissed at? You knew we were going in there to do some damage.”

  “Not this. Not damage that’ll launch an entire investigation.”

  “What are you—”

  “I’m on their cameras!” I cried out.

  Taken aback, Tray abruptly shut his mouth.

  “I’m on their cameras. I mean they didn’t get my face, but they might recognize my handiwork.”

  “You’re on their cameras?” he whispered in disbelief.

  “Yeah.”

  “Why didn’t you get to those?”

  “There was no way. I couldn’t take on three guards.”

  “We destroyed the video surveillance.”

  “Did you destroy it during the time I was there?”

  Tray frowned, thinking.

  “No,” I cut in, “because you probably didn’t think about it. I’m guessing you cut the surveillance that just showed you guys entering the building. Am I right?”

  “Yeah,” he said reluctantly.

  “Yeah.”

  “Oh…fuck.”

  “Yeah,” I said tightly.

  “Taryn,” he began.

  “Don’t.” I shot my hand up. “Just don’t. Anything you say right now won’t help.”

  “We fucked up.”

  “We?” I glared up at him.

  “I fucked up.”

 

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