The original crowd, p.17
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       The Original Crowd, p.17

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  turned out to be a good party.”

  “A lot of crashers.”

  “Yeah. But what can you do?”

  “Having Pedlam and Rawley together, that means there’s going to be some fights.”

  “I know,” he shrugged, “but we’ve got our crew. We can handle ourselves.”

  “Taryn.”

  Turning around, I grinned, seeing Grayley standing just behind the patio gate.

  “Hey,” I said warmly.

  Jumping lightly over the gate, he sat in Tray’s deserted seat.

  “Pedlam student,” Carter pointed out.

  “My best friend,” I pointed right back. To Grayley, I remarked, “How you handling the loss?”

  He snorted, running a hand through his hair. “Please. As long as we can drink, we’re happy.”

  I laughed, feeling myself calm down a little. Grayley always had that effect on me.

  “Uh—” he started.

  “I haven’t gone to see him yet, but I will. First thing in the morning,” I promised.

  “Okay.” He relaxed visibly. “You weren’t at the game. I knew you had something to take care of, but I didn’t think it would—oh.”

  “Yeah.” I grinned.

  “Oh!” Understanding finally dawned on him as he sat straighter in his chair. “Holy—Taryn!”

  “Just…shut up, okay?”

  “But—holy fuck’s sake, Taryn. You—”

  “Yeah.”

  “Oh my fucking—you didn’t get caught,” he stated, sitting back a little dazed.

  I hated it. Grayley always figured everything out. It was why I’d only have to say that I needed to get in somewhere and he had everything for me. He’d think of everything. And he knew I needed to get into Pedlam, he knew I had stolen the PRS-500, and he knew Pedlam’s football field and gymnasium had been destroyed the same night. If I had to do something tonight—something that took a long time—he’d figure it out. Which he just did. He knew a job after a job meant saving your ass. And he knew the security, he knew there were videos…and he fully realized where I had just spent a good six or seven hours at.

  “Just shut up about it,” I said heatedly.

  “I will. You know I will,” he murmured. “But, fuck, Taryn. I mean—”

  “Shut up!” I said sharply, kicking his chair.

  Grayley chuckled, grabbing my foot and shoving it away.

  “Who are you?”

  Stupid me. Mandy and the rest had been watching the entire conversation. And Mandy had never met Grayley.

  Not good.

  “Uh…this is Grayley,” I murmured. “He’s one of my best friends.”

  “And I’m just hearing about him now? I knew about Brian, but seriously, Taryn.” Mandy was now shouting. People in the crowd were starting to watch.

  And of course, Tray chose that moment to return, two cups in hand. He gave Grayley one brief nod in greeting as he placed the drinks on the table and promptly pulled up a chair to sit between us.

  Mandy’s mouth fell open.

  “Tray knows him!” Mandy exclaimed. “Tray knows him and I don’t!”

  Oh, for the fucking love of all things holy. “Mandy, it’s not that big of a deal. Tray met him today at school. It’s not like—”

  “He was at school and you didn’t even think of introducing him to your sister?”

  Grayley sized up the situation and leaned closer to me. “This info doesn’t need to be broadcasted.”

  “I know,” I hissed. “I’m trying.”

  Tray stepped in and asked Carter, “You going to Italy this summer?”

  It worked like a charm because Mandy’s eyes lit up.

  As she turned back to Carter, gushing over the news, I let out a breath of relief.

  “Thanks,” I said quietly, my eyes holding Tray’s as I took a sip.

  He just nodded and drank his.

  And we sat there—Grayley, me, and Tray—silent and perfectly content with it.

  Molly and Larkins were flirting. Drunk and flirting.

  Carter and Mandy were now kissing, his hand was slipping further up her shirt.

  I liked everything else except that. I could do without seeing that.

  A few minutes later, Grayley asked,” You calm yet?”

  I loved that he knew me so well. He knew I couldn’t handle a lot, not right after a job. And he knew, from the size of the job I just pulled, that I was probably still climbing Mount Everest inside.

  “Almost,” I said back, drinking the rest of my cup.

  He grinned back at me. His eyes trailing over my shoulders, he spoke, “I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  And he was gone. Probably after some girl.

  “I like him,” Tray said again.

  “Me too.” I grinned, my head falling back against the back of the lounger. “He’s a like brother to me.”

  “I know.”

  “Yeah.”

  We held each other’s gaze.

  Hearing Molly shriek in laughter, I sighed.

  “Come on,” Tray murmured in my ear, standing up.

  I didn’t have to ask what he wanted, so I said instead, “What about them?”

  He pulled me behind him, through the crowd. “I gave Larkins cash for a taxi and programmed ‘cab’ in his phone. I told ‘em both they weren’t getting a ride home with me.”

  “Hey.” I dug my feet in, pulling him to a stop.

  “What?”

  “Let’s,” glancing to the front door, I suggested, “is there any way we can avoid the front lawn? Gentley’s out there and I’m not up for a fight.”

  He tugged me after him. “You’ll be fine.”

  He was right. Gentley took one look, saw I was with Tray, and turned back to his group.

  A part of me loved it. The other part of me felt my stomach form knots.

  We walked to his SUV and saw that it was blocked in by other cars.

  I climbed inside while Tray took his phone out and called someone. A little while later, three guys came out with keys and moved the cars. I had no idea how they did it, but they did. And Tray climbed in beside me and backed out onto the road.

  We drove in silence, just like before.

  Except he broke it once. “Whatever you had to do—you’re okay, right?”

  “Yeah.” I sighed, relaxing against my seat.

  And that was it until he pulled up to his palace and cut the engine. We walked side by side around the house and towards his pool-house. Tray didn’t turn on the lights, and grabbed my hand and led me towards the bedroom. Once inside, I was in his arms, his mouth on mine, pressing me against the door, his hands already in my hair. I lifted my legs around his waist, hoisting myself up, my arms around his shoulder.

  As we tumbled onto his bed, Tray above me, he moved his mouth down my throat, until it reached my stomach where he lifted my sweater. My tank top followed next. I slipped my hands underneath his shirt, and Tray promptly pulled it off. Taking his time, gazing at me, he slowly leaned down to kiss me. His lips meeting mine. I wrapped my legs around his waist, pulling him against me, as tight as I could get. Hearing him groan, I grinned, tilting my head as he moved back to my neck.

  And the night progressed like that. Each move he made, I met him, full force. The first time was slower than before. It wasn’t rough. It was slow and sensual. Throughout the night Tray reached for me again and this time I straddled him, our hands interlocked throughout.

  Just before early morning, I felt his arms tighten around me and I felt his lips skim my shoulder. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  I woke when Tray got up and padded into the bathroom. When I heard the shower turn on, I rolled over and checked my phone. Four calls from Mandy. And…holy shit…one from home. That meant Austin. And that meant—fuck—something was wrong.

  Calling Mandy, I braced myself, hearing her answer in a panicked voice, “Oh my God. Where have you been? Where’d you go last night?”

 
I’m at Tray’s,” I said, waiting for the bomb to drop.

  “Well get your ass home. Mom and Dad are showing up in an hour.”

  “Oh…fuck.”

  Mandy hung up.

  Just then the shower cut off, and a moment later, Tray strolled into the room, a towel around his lean hips.

  “What?” he asked, stopping in mid-reach for some pants.

  “My parents are heading home.” I groaned, falling back on the bed.

  “Alright.” He grabbed the rest of his clothes and dressed in front of me.

  Glancing at me, he asked, “You going to get ready? We gotta get over to Carter’s to pick up your car.”

  I’d forgotten about my car. I was still reeling, thinking of all the illegal acts I’ve been committing since my adoptive parents had been out of town. If they knew—holy shit—they’d either give me back or never let me leave the house again.

  Tray sat beside me and nudged me with his leg. “Hey, you okay?”

  Numbly, I said, “I broke into the police headquarters yesterday.”

  “What?” Tray choked, turning to me, one hand bracing himself up on the bed.

  I started to ramble, “I broke in and I destroyed evidence. I broke into their high school and stole their controller for all their security. My ex-boyfriend put my best friend in the hospital. I’ve got another best friend who’s pretending to be friends with a guy like Gentley, so he can make it through high school. God, he’s just faking it. Everyone thinks he’s this happy, carefree, likeable guy who’s just interested in a piece of ass—and he is—but that’s not all he is, and no one over there knows. Except me and Geezer. And Geezer’s got a punctured lung and three broken ribs. From my ex-boyfriend who I thought I loved and would always love. Me and Bri. That’s how it was supposed to be and now…” I took a deep breath, biting my lip, the tears just there, teasing my eyes. “Oh fuck. Let’s go.”

  “Wait.” Tray turned and neatly trapped me on the bed, between his arms as he peered down at me.

  I fell back against the bed, watching him above me.

  “What?” I asked. He was just staring at me.

  “I don’t know,” he said lamely. “You broke into a cop shop?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Holy hell, Taryn. I can’t believe you.” He shifted and fell beside me, he rubbed one hand over his face. “Wow.”

  “Yeah,” I said dryly. “Sorry I laid all that on you like that.”

  “No. It’s…wow. I’m just…I just slept with a chick that broke into a police station.”

  I let a laugh escape. Couldn’t help it. But when it’s put like that—yeah, it was funny. And I slept with a guy who had tarred a high school’s gymnasium and tilled their football field. All to get revenge because they had their game book stolen. At least he wasn’t in the drug trade.

  Wait.

  “How frequent is your steroid business?” I asked.

  “Uh…” he mused. “It’s not really something I talk about.”

  “I just told you I broke into the police station. You can humor me,” I said shortly.

  “It’s…it maintains itself, mostly.”

  “Jace warned me about you.”

  Tray didn’t say anything, but I could feel his body stiffen.

  “He said you were the lesser of two evils.”

  “Between him and me?”

  “You and Brian.”

  “Fuck, Taryn, we’re just messing around. It’s not like we’re in some relationship,” he cursed, shoving off the bed.

  I stood up, uncaring that I was naked. “Hey,” I stopped him, grabbing one of his arms, and swinging him back to me, “that’s not even where I’m going with this.”

  He took in the fierceness in my eyes and then slowly slid down my body, a faint grin coming to his mouth. Those lips—I tore my lustful thoughts away. “I’m just saying, we both have some shit on each other. That’s all it has to go—nowhere else. Alright?”

  Slipping one arm around me and pulling me against him, he murmured, “I seem to remember a few of your threats to Gentley.”

  “You’re not immune,” I shot back, melting into him as one of his hands came to my neck, already tipping my head back as his mouth descended, slowly to mine. “You leak anything I just spilled—we’re at war.”

  He kissed me and murmured against my lips, “I don’t really want to piss off a girl who can break into a police station.”

  When you put it like that, I could see his point.

  I deepened the kiss and then pushed him away. “I should probably be at the house when my parents show up.” Bending over, I grabbed my clothes and quickly dressed.

  Tray ran a hand through his hair. “You want to shower?”

  “We don’t have time.”

  He chuckled. “I’ll stay out. Just thought you might want to be all fresh and clean when you see the parents.”

  “I’ll open my windows in the car,” I said dryly, snagging my purse and already heading out the door. “Come on.”

  As Tray drove, I called Pedlam Hospital.

  “Charles Josephson’s room, please.”

  The phone rang twice before I heard a female’s voice answer, “Geezer’s room.”

  “I’m a friend of his. Can I talk to him?”

  “Sure.” The phone was transferred and I heard Geezer croak, “What’s up?”

  “Hey, Geeze,” I said softly.

  “Tartar!”

  “You hangin’ in there?”

  “Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. I’m not high, so it’s total suck-age, but other than that, hospitals are awesome for picking up chicks.”

  “You getting frisky with your nurses?”

  “Some of ‘em. Some of ‘em.” I could hear the laughter in his voice, but I heard him hiss in pain the next second.

  “How long you going to be in the hospital?”

  “Oh. Not sure. They want to keep me for observation, something about my lung.”

  “My parents showed up today so I gotta go play ‘nice daughter,’ but then I’m all yours, okay.”

 
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