Fallen fourth down, p.14
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.14
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  and try to get home as soon as possible.”

  “Okay.” My throat was raw. “Sounds good. Thank you.”

  He chuckled. “You don’t have to thank me, Sam. I’m being your parent. This is what we do.”

  Yeah. That’s what they did, and it felt good. I wanted to thank him again, but silenced the words. This was what normal parents did. This was a normal type of relationship. I was becoming normal.

  “Bye, Dad. Love you.”

  “Love you too. Safe travels home. Say hello to Mason for me.”

  “Sure.” Ending the call, I turned. Both Logan and Mason were watching me with expectant looks. As I handed the phone back to Logan, I grinned, feeling silly at the same time. “He didn’t want me to come home and not know what was going on. He was telling me his plans for today.”

  Logan narrowed his eyes.

  Mason softened, holding my bag for me.

  “What? Like he was giving you an order or something? WTF, man?”

  “No,” I told Logan, “he just didn’t want me to come home and not know where everyone was, and speaking of, you’re coming with me to the house. Malinda and David are gone so that means Cass will be there. I could use some back-up to deal with her.”

  He didn’t look happy, but murmured, “Done deal.”

  Mason glanced at his brother and rolled his eyes. “David’s just trying to be a good dad.” He nudged him with his elbow. “Stop analyzing it. The guy’s trying.”

  “I’m thinking about what this means for us.” He pointed to all of us. “We’re her family. He’s moving in on our territory. How will that change things?”

  “It won't.” I glanced to Mason. “Nothing changes for you either. You’re still sleeping in my room when you come home on breaks.”

  “Breaks.” Logan laughed as we all began moving towards the door. He clapped Mason on the shoulder. “No offense, but I hope I don’t see you for the holidays. Your team has to rock it. Keep playing. Keep winning and get to the championship game, brother.”

  “I’m a freshman.” Mason leaned over me and held the door open. As I ducked under his arm, his other hand rested on my back. It felt good having it there. As we stepped outside, he said to Logan, “I’ve got three more years after this year. I’m not too stressed about it.”

  Logan snorted. He ran a hand through his hair, held it up, and waved across the street. Kris waved back from the front seat of the car. He laughed. “I’m not thinking about you. I’m thinking of my other brotha. My SBC-er. Matteo’s heart would be broken. That cannot happen. You realize that, right? Don’t break my soul brotha’s heart, or I’ll break yours.” At the end, he extended his middle finger and poked Mason in the chest. “I have to look out for my soul brotha.”

  In a swift movement, Mason caught the finger and pretended to yank it backwards, like he would break it off.

  Logan laughed, pulled his hand free, then rolled his eyes. “Whatever.” He threw his arms around Mason, pounded him on the back, and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek.

  Mason groaned, but didn’t fight it. “Really?”

  “Love you, brother.” Logan took my bag from Mason and darted across the street. Turning back around, he pointed at us. “Say your goodbyes, again, but hurry.” Patting his stomach, he flashed a grin. “I’m starving. We need to hit up a drive-thru fast. Sam, hurry it up.”

  “Please,” I shouted at him.

  “Please,” he added, giving me a thumbs-up sign.

  Mason turned to face me squarely, tugging me close again. “Call me tonight.”

  “I will.”

  “I love you.” His thumb went to my bottom lip and rested there.

  I closed my eyes, feeling the tenderness in that small touch. It warmed me, casting so many other worries away, but I couldn’t ignore the nagging voice in my head. I couldn’t be hurt that he had withheld information from me when I was doing the same thing. I needed to tell him. I did. And I would, but not now. My stomach clenched. I couldn’t, not yet. Instead, I said, “I love you too.”

  His lips touched mine, such a soft graze, sending a tingle through me. I fell in love with him all over again. The smallest of touches from him went the farthest distance with me. A rush of love swept through me, and as I pulled away and headed across the street to Logan’s car, a tear slipped free. I let it go. Getting into the backseat, I didn’t look away from Mason, even after Logan and Kris both waved and Logan turned out of the lot.

  I moved in my seat so I could keep watching him. He had recharged me, until the next time I saw him, but damn, I knew being with him wouldn't come soon enough. After Logan turned at a stoplight and I couldn’t see Mason anymore, I moved back around and slumped down in my seat.

  I was quiet the entire ride home.

  Logan dropped Kris off first, but I overheard their plans. She was going to go to his house later to do homework. When we left and parked the car outside my house, he invited me over as well. I declined. I wanted to be alone and that meant a good long run for me. I didn’t want to think about things, not then.

  When I went inside, I heard Mark studying with Cass, so after tossing everything in my room, I changed and headed out for a run. I needed to clear my head.

  After running to Manny’s, Brandon told me that Heather was spending time with Channing; the two were on a date. Turning around, I headed back home, but I didn’t want to go inside so I stretched outside and circled the house to the porch swing on the front patio. I had taken blankets out there one night. It had become my new sitting place.

  “Samantha?”

  David was coming up the driveway carrying two take-out bags. He paused before coming up the two steps to the patio. He held the takeout up. “I forgot to get a movie, but I remembered dinner.” Putting the food on the small table next to the swing, he eased himself down to sit beside me. “Why are you out here?”

  At that moment, the light switched on inside behind us and I glanced over my shoulder. Mark and Cass had come up from the basement to the kitchen. He opened the fridge as she, holding back a grin, slid across the floor to hip check him. Mark flashed a smile and rounded on her, letting the fridge door shut. As his hands found her waist, he lifted her on the counter. A husky laugh came from her, and she rested her arms over his shoulders as her legs slid up and down the backs of his legs. Murmuring something, he bent forward and nuzzled her neck. Her eyes widened in response, and he tugged her closer, putting his mouth to hers.

  David had twisted so he could see what I was looking at. A slight frown marred his face, his eyebrows burrowed forward, and his lips pressed tight together. He turned back around. Scratching at his ear, he caught my perusal of him and lifted a helpless shoulder. “He’s not my son. I have no idea what to say in these moments. Is that okay? Should I allow him to do that?” He twisted around again and bit down on his lip. He began chewing on it as he murmured, “I mean, they’re not doing anything. They’re making out.” He pretended to shudder, giving me a small grin. “You never did that growing up. I was never concerned about Jeff. You could barely stand to let him in the house, much less your bedroom.” He shook his head. “Then all that went down with your mother, and I lost the right to say anything. You were with Mason Kade. Granted,” he gave me a sideways look, “Mason Kade is a normal parent’s worst nightmare, but that year, I was thankful for him in some ways. After seeing the two of you together and having him check me, your father, I knew he’d protect you against Analise. I was thankful for that.” He looked back once more.

  Mark had moved to the table and laid Cass down on it. She tipped her head back and arched her neck for him, as he began trailing kisses down her throat. Her hands cradled him, and she moaned when he moved further down, tugging up her shirt so her bra was exposed.

  Feeling a laugh coming up, I stuffed it down. This was entertainment. I didn’t want to interrupt it.

  “Oh, dear.” David tugged at his collar. “What should I do?”

  I couldn’t hold it in. Laughter pealed out of me
, but when they paused and glanced towards the living room window, I ducked down. David let out a small chuckle and ducked down beside me. We were both hiding, and he whispered to me, “I should interrupt them. They should stop doing that there.”

  David lifted his eyebrows at me in a silent question. I shook my head. I wasn’t the parent. Realizing what I had just thought, the amusement faded. David was the parent. His phone call earlier had reminded me of that.

  He must’ve caught the change in me because he asked, “What?”

  “Nothing.”

  David covered my hand with his. “Tell me what’s going on with you? I know you’ve been coming out here a lot lately.”

  One corner of my mouth lifted in a halfhearted grin. I let it drop, though. I didn’t want to talk about Mason, so I said, “It’s hard being in there sometimes.”

  “Why?”

  “Come on, Dad.” Giving him a wry grin, I rolled my eyes. “Our house was tense. Everyone walked around on egg shells. Mom could blow up at any second. And that was when it was peaceful.” Then the explosion would happen. It always happened. “The screaming. Things flying. The yelling. The crying. The threats of leaving and divorcing you. There were the times she actually did leave.” My throat was dry as I swallowed. “Going from that house, to the Kades where I knew nothing would last. Everything was fake with Analise. She was a ticking time bomb. I always knew she would go off, and I would wait for it. Being here,” I shrugged again, “it’s so silent, but no one’s walking around on thin ice. I haven’t heard anyone fight yet. There’s been yelling, but it’s usually Malinda yelling at Mark not to be late or to come eat, or she’s yelling at Logan for some reason. It’s so…”

  David supplied, “Healthy?”

  “…eerie.” I flashed him a grin. “But yeah, healthy. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, when everything good stops again.”

  “Oh, Samantha.” He patted my arm. “It’s not going to. Your mother was sick—”

  I gave him a dark look. “And evil.”

  “That too, but Malinda is a completely different person. She’s loving. She’s warm. She’s—”

  I patted his arm this time. “I know. I love Malinda. I really do. I’m not saying anything bad. I’m just not used to this,” gesturing inside the house and around us, “world. When’s the shit going to hit the fan?”

  “Well, I don’t think it’s going to happen how you think.” He was watching me intensely. “I’m sorry about Garrett.”

  And the other shoe just dropped. “Yeah.”

  “He called. He’d like to have dinner with you, if that’s okay with you? I know I said earlier that I wanted to discuss this.” He sighed loudly.

  I laughed shortly. “Why do I feel like running again?”

  “I think you should do it.”

  “Run?”

  “No, you know what I’m talking about. I think you should have dinner with Garrett.”

  “Why?” My voice grew louder. I looked at him as if he’d grown a second head. “You want me to have a relationship with him? He came here, made a lot of promises, and took off. For a year.” I shook my head. My voice got even louder. “I mean, hello. Look at you. What if I love him more than you? Aren’t you thinking things like that? What if I want a relationship with him, and I don’t need you anymore?”

  David was shaking his head as he stood. His hand was held out, as if to calm me. I realized with a jerk that I was standing. When had that happened? Then he said, “Of course I’m thinking those things, but that’s selfish of me. Yes, I just got you back, and yes, I’m trying to mend things with you too, but he’s your father. He left to make things right with his wife and he’s back. He’s trying with his daughter. Analise kept you from him. You can’t fault him for that.”

  I turned. I wanted to run, but I gritted my teeth. Balling my hands into fists, I looked back to him.

  When he saw I wasn’t going, he lowered his hand. “Samantha, you have more family on his side. Have you thought about that?”

  What?

  “Yeah. I didn’t think you had.” His voice was so soft, like his heart was breaking. “He has an entire family that wants to meet you. Cousins. Grandparents. Analise had no one. Her parents, who knows who her parents were. They abandoned her at an early age, and she never grew healthy attachments with anyone else. You may never know what relatives you have on her side, but you can with Garrett.”

  “I don’t care.” But I did.

  “You’ve met my family, but, because of your mother, that relationship is strained too. Garrett’s family is your blood.” His voice dipped to a firm level, “I’m not saying welcome him back with open arms, but you can set the boundaries for what you’re comfortable with.”

  “Like what?”

  “Like,” he glanced around and gestured to the house, “have him and his wife come here. We’ll have a big dinner, all of us.” He gritted his teeth. “Logan too. That’ll be interesting, but yeah. Have him come here. Get to know him on your territory, and you ask him questions instead of him getting to ask you questions. We’ll be there to enforce the rules if you want.” An abrupt laugh ripped from him. “I have no doubt Logan will enjoy enforcing any rule, just by himself.”

  “Yeah.” Was I really going to do this? I heard myself saying, “Okay. Yeah. That’s a good idea.”

  “Do you want me to make the plans?”

  I nodded. “You call him.” When he stood and grabbed the take-out bags, I stopped him. “But I pick the night.”

  “That’s fair enough.” He gave me a reassuring look. “I don’t think anything bad is going to happen anymore. I really don’t, Samantha.”

  As he went inside, I felt my phone buzzing and pulled it out. Mason was calling. Realizing the irony from my father’s parting words, I answered and headed down the street. I didn’t want to walk past Cass and Mark, and I didn’t want David overhearing our conversation.

  “Hey,” I answered.

  “Hey yourself.”

  At the sound of his voice, the world righted again, and the knot that was always there started to loosen.

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  Closing my locker, I was heading to cross country practice Thursday when Logan came up behind me and threw his arm around my shoulder. He hooked it around my neck and pulled me so I was walking sideways as he kept going straight. He flashed me a smile. “Hey there, sister dear.”

  I rolled my eyes, but grinned back. Hitting him in the chest, I asked, “What are you doing?”

  “Did you hear the news?”

  “That you’re awesome? That’s old. Duh.”

  He stopped and people streamed around us. No one complained about our abrupt stop, but this was Logan. No one complained about anything that had to do with him. If they did, they made sure he couldn’t hear it. Since we had come back from seeing Mason, the old joking side of him had returned. Everyone took notice. He’d been serious before the trip, more serious than people expected from him, but when someone yelled out from behind us, “Coming up, Kade!” he raised his hand, palm upwards, by his head and one of his friends slapped it with his own, moving past us without breaking stride. Logan never broke eye contact with me. His only reaction was when his smile turned into a cocky smirk. He raised an eyebrow. “You’re being funny, Strattan? I’m pretty sure you need to take a class before coming into my arena of awesomeness.”

  He winked and held his hand out to me.

  I glanced at it. “What’s that?” As soon as the words left me, I knew I didn’t want to know.

  He looked at it, back at me, and raised his hand higher. “It’s for you to pay the fee. No one enters Logan’s Arena of Awesomeness without paying my interest rate. Don’t worry. It’s only sex percent.” He paused and waited.

  I got it, grunted, and began moving down the hallway for the lockers. “Seriously, Logan.”

  He hurried back to my side and threw his arm around my shoulder again. “Get it? Sex percent?”

  I didn’t look at him, b
ut I could imagine the wide smile on his face, waiting for some reaction from me. My reaction was an elbow to his gut. He grunted, but laughed at the same time. “You think Mason would kick my ass if I enforced that? Huh, huh?” Wiggling his eyebrows, he grabbed my elbow and pulled me to a halt before I disappeared into the women’s locker room. “Our coach is going to be late. I’ve got time.”

  Placing a hand to his chest, I moved him back a step. “Sure.”

  His eyes got wide. “Are you serious?”

  I grinned at the person coming up behind him. “Your boyfriend just threatened to make me have sex with him.”

  He barked out a laugh and he smiled at Kris. Holding onto her bag, she narrowed her eyes, as she studied both of us with her lips pursed together.

  “Hey there, girlfriend. You have time to step into Logan’s Arena of Awesomeness for five minutes?”

 
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