The original crowd, p.15
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       The Original Crowd, p.15

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  school anymore, so yeah if I have to, I’ll side with Gentley to survive. But it’s you and Geezer, you know that, Tar,” he said quietly, seemingly wounded.

  “Ah! I know. Alright. I know, I already got guilt-trip 2000. I’ve been so busy running away from—everything—that I walked out on you and Geezer.”

  “We’re not Jace and Brian.”

  “I know.”

  “We’re your best friends.”

  “I know.”

  “And as your best friend—Geezer needs you more than Brian needs to be put in his place. It’ll happen. Just not by you.”

  “Who else—” I began to argue.

  Grayley rudely interrupted, “It’ll be dealt with. But. Not. By. You.”

  “I’m the one who should do it—I’m the reason—” I argued, heatedly.

  But Grayley cut in, uncaring, “No, Taryn. Brian’s been a ticking time bomb our entire lives. You’re the only thing that reeled him in. He’s doing this, he’s gone off the deep end. It has nothing to do with you.”

  “But—”

  “Just shut up! Okay.”

  So I growled. It was the only thing I could do and I didn’t care if it was very unfeminine. I needed an outlet.

  Tray chose that moment to chuckle.

  Grayley slid a wary look towards him. He shifted away. “You’re Evans.” It wasn’t a question.

  Tray leaned against my locker, his hands in his pockets, and gave one of those too-cool half-grins. “Yeah.”

  They studied each other for a good minute—or that’s what it seemed like.

  “Okay!” I exclaimed. “Stop it.”

  Tray chuckled again.

  Grayley grinned, slightly relaxing.

  “I’ll…I have something to take care of and then I’ll go to the hospital. Promise,” I said, holding my hands in mock surrender. “Promise.”

  He studied me for a good minute, before he gave me back my keys. As I swept them from him, he said lightly, “Cops are watching Brian 24/7 so stay away. You’ll just get in trouble.”

  “Fine,” I said tightly. It killed me to say it, but I had to. I had to tell the truth. I didn’t lie—well, I did—but I tried not to lie to Grayley. And he knew that.

  It was enough because Grayley visibly relaxed. “Okay.” He sighed. He glanced at Tray and stuck out his hand. “I’m Grayley. Idiot, here, doesn’t have the social skills to do introductions.”

  “Shut up.” I flipped him off.

  “Tray.” Tray shook his hand, hip-checking me at the same time, which earned him a grin from Grayley.

  Searching my face, Grayley said, “Cool?”

  “Yeah.” I sighed in resignation.

  “Good.” He turned and walked out.

  “I like him,” Tray announced, waiting as I opened my locker. Once it was opened, he reached inside for my textbook.

  “Excuse me.”

  “I got it. Let’s go.” He sent me a blinding smile. There was that instant warmth—fucking hormones.

  He dropped me off at my fifth period class. Of course, the teacher lectured me for a good two minutes before she let me slink into the only empty chair. Which, again, was right in front of Justin Travers. Sasha Klinnleys was, luckily, not on his lap this time.

  I expected him to say something, but surprisingly, he was quiet.

  I was alarmingly disappointed. I’d hoped to be distracted this period.

  CHAPTER SIX

  Seventh period turned out to be torturous. Molly was blushing every other second, for which I was to blame. She kept glancing at Tray, who in turn was watching us. Or—watching me. But I hadn’t had the heart to tell her. How do you burst someone’s bubble in the beginning of a possible new friendship? Well, apparently it wasn’t going to work out with me and Molly.

  Maybe I could help Larkins out. Although, Molly seemed adamant about not wanting Larkins around, until she’d paired him up with me.

  Fucking drama.

  Luckily, I was saved from further awkwardness when our teacher paired each table with another one. Groups of four for small group discussion. Molly and I got paired off with Sasha Klinnleys and Devon.

  No luck on the save from awkwardness.

  Devon’s smile was so forced I’m surprised Molly missed it with her magnifying glasses.

  Even Sasha was glancing uncertainly between us. Of course that might have more to do with me dumping her to the floor.

  I had so many friends. How could Mandy think I didn’t have friends? Cue the sarcasm.

  “Hey, Taryn,” Devon muttered, scooting closer to the table.

  “Hi!” Molly exclaimed, “Are you guys going to Carter Sethler’s party tonight? I heard it’s going to be so great! Really.”

  Kill me now.

  “Uh—” Devon started hesitantly, watching me.

  But Sasha interjected harshly, “No way in hell.”

  “Oh. I’m sorry.” Molly misunderstood.

  Sasha smirked cruelly. “Uh huh. You don’t get it. I meant no way in hell are you going.”

  Molly frowned, glancing at me. “Uh…”

  Well, hell. I could take care of two birds with one stone.

  I grinned. Devon sighed in resignation. He must be learning my looks already. I leaned forward. “Back off, platinum bitch. She’s going because I was invited—,” oh this is good—three birds, “by his girlfriend, Mandy.” I was watching for a reaction, and there it was. Devon completely understood me. “And Tray is helping me out. While I need to take care of a little chore for him, he’s giving Molly here a ride to the party.” I turned my gaze to Molly to see if she got the message—which she did. I saw a flash of hurt then disappointment in her eyes. I tried to send a silent ‘sorry’ to her, but I don’t know if she got it.

  Sasha had shut her mouth. Freaking hallelujah.

  “Uh,” Devon cleared his throat, “we’re supposed to talk about Erickson and his stages of development.”

  “Let’s start with isolation versus intimacy,” I interjected. “I’m on the edge between them. How about you?”

  Devon held my gaze, both of us trying to read the other. And he sighed, leaning back in his chair, “I was in intimacy—”

  “Till you screwed that up,” I said lightly, leaning back in my own chair, my gaze challenging him.

  He didn’t accept the challenge. He muttered, “Trust me. I’m firmly in isolation now.”

  “I’m not in isolation,” Sasha put her two cents in. “I mean, I have a ton of friends. Plus, Justin. Hello.”

  “Trust me. I don’t think what you have with Travers can be qualified as intimacy,” I drawled.

  “Like you’d know.”

  “I would, actually,” I shot back. “I just got out of a five year relationship.” I counted fourth grade. It didn’t really count, but I counted it anyway. Sue me.

  Sasha grinned. “God. Tray never fails. He screws ‘em when they’re vulnerable and on the rebound. The guy’s a skilled player.”

  “Sasha,” Devon said in surprise.

  “What?”

  “It’s fine, Devon, platinum Hooters girl here seems to think Tray screwed me. Trust me, honey, it was the other way around,” I said soothingly.

  “Right,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes.

  “He keeps coming back for more.” I grinned. He really hadn’t, but the girl had to be put in her place.

  She rolled her eyes again and then completely surprised me. “Who was that guy you were talking to before?”

  “Who do you mean?”

  “That guy. He doesn’t go here. I’d know if he went here—he’s too hot to miss. I think I’ve seen him at Rickets’ House.”

  Grayley.

  “Why?” I asked tightly.

  “Because he’s hot.”

  “And he’s unavailable. To you.”

  “I’ve got a friend.”

  “Set her up with someone else.”

  Sasha smiled, almost maliciously. “So,” she leaned forward, “this must be someone you care
about. I mean, you won’t even tell me his name.”

  “And you’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell with him.”

  “Please. He checked me out. I think this snowball might have a chance.”

  “I’m thinking your chair is a little wobbly. Don’t you?” I returned sweetly. Fuck. I wasn’t sweet so I said, “If you really want to try, he hangs out at the Seven8.”

  “Taryn,” Tray murmured in my ear, a warning. Glancing over my shoulder, I realized he must’ve been listening in the whole time, and looking over his entire table, realized that they all had been listening. Including the two tables on our other sides.

  Great.

  Apparently Tray didn’t like the idea of sending one of his ‘kind’ to the Seven8.

  I sighed. “Just kidding. He doesn’t go there.”

  “What’s his name?” Sasha tried again.

  This had been fun and all, but enough was enough. I fixed her with a piercing glare. “If you want to try and go against me on this, go ahead. You won’t be the one standing at the end.”

  The smug grin had been wiped clean from her face.

  I added, “He’s family and I’ll do anything to protect what’s mine.”

  “Okay, class!” the teacher exclaimed, calling us back to attention. “Let’s hear what your groups each had to say.”

  Devon and Sasha turned back to their table while Molly busied herself with her book. I sighed. I actually hadn’t wanted to hurt her, but better it’s better she find out now, rather than later.

  The rest of class passed uneventfully. Devon made up a bunch of shit for our group. It was almost as if he didn’t want me to speak. Huh. Wonder why.

  As the bell rang, I stood up and moved out the door.

  At least I’d been distracted from my legal worries for a while.

  But not anymore. Now, I had to save my ass.

  I dumped my books in my locker and grabbed my purse.

  “Hey,” Molly spoke up hesitantly, shifting on her feet.

  “Hi.”

  “Listen—”

  “I didn’t mean for you to take it that way. I’m sorry.”

  “No. No. I am. I mean, seriously, like Tray Evans would be remotely interested in me. Really.”

  “He would be if he were a great guy,” I said sincerely.

  “Please.” She laughed. “We both know what kind of guy goes for me.”

  “I asked Larkins to come because he chewed my ass for you, when I told you about Travers.”

  “Really,” she murmured, blinking in surprise.

  “Yeah. The guy’s got backbone. Not many do. Those are the ones worth grabbing.”

  “So. Tonight…?”

  “Be ready by ten. I’ll have Tray call you for directions. He really is taking you and Larkins. He owes me.”

  “Wow.”

  “What?”

  “I mean…still…Tray Evans. The hottest guy in school—he rules this school—and he’s going to be picking me up.”

  I grinned. “Make sure your mom is watching out the windows. Not only are you going to a sin-infested party, but the devil, himself, is picking you up. Think of all the worries that’ll go in her head.”

  “Why aren’t you coming with us?”

  “I’ll show, but I’ve got something else I need to deal with first,” I promised.

  “Ok,” giving me a piece of paper, she said, “that’s my number.”

  “I’ll give it to Tray.”

  “Put it in your phone too.” Molly smiled, suddenly flushing as she turned and darted down the hallway.

  Maybe I’ll get to keep her as a friend after all.

  Crossing the lawn, I stopped and just waited. I saw Garrett break from his hackey-sack (that was the sport!) and jog over to me.

  “Ice Bitch,” he called out warmly.

  I chuckled, I couldn’t help it.

  “Give me your number,” I greeted him, getting straight to business.

  He flicked out a business card.

  “Nice,” I murmured.

  “Just tell me when to be ready, baby.”

  “Be ready at ten. You’ll get a call.”

  “Ready and waiting. Ready and waiting,” he taunted, grinning knowingly at me.

  Turning my back to him, I smiled widely, anticipating his reaction when he realized who exactly his ride was.

  Tray was leaning against my car.

  “What do you want?” I called out crossly, reaching around him and unlocking my door. Tray didn’t move, so I shoved him aside.

  Instead of budging, even a little bit, Tray grabbed my hand and twisted my arm around me, pulling my body fully against his.

  Holding my head away from him, the rest of me pressed tightly against him, I asked, “What? I have to go and save my ass, remember?”

  Tray studied me intently and I averted my eyes. I didn’t need him trying to read me right now.

  “Hey,” he said firmly, tipping my chin to meet his gaze.

  “What?” I snarled.

  “You’re terrified,” he stated, surprised at his realization.

  “No, I’m not.”

  “You’ve been hot and cold all day. That’s how you deal, isn’t it. You react and you’re scared to death of what you’re going to do. What are you going to do?”

  “It’s a one-woman job.”

  “Taryn.”

  “No.”

  “Taryn.”

  “I said no,” I cried out, trying to get away, but he only pulled me tighter—if that was possible.

  But he reasoned again, “Taryn.”

 
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