The original crowd, p.19
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       The Original Crowd, p.19

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  Grayley shrugged.

  “Could you talk, maybe?” I shot out, starting to get irritated.

  “I told you. Leave it alone.” Was all he said.

  “You’re pissing me off.”

  “I can handle it,” he said smoothly.

  “Fucker.”

  “Bitch.”

  I rolled my eyes, chuckling.

  “Go. Pacify your parents. We’ll be here.” He nudged me with his shoulder.

  “Okay. Okay. I’m going.” I started walking backwards. “But I’ll call for a report later in the week.”

  “You can stop by for a report,” Grayley pointed out. “But I’ll give you one anyway.”

  “Alright. Tell him…”

  “He knows,” Grayley finished, turning and leaning one shoulder against the wall, just watching me walk backwards.

  When I found the door behind me, I hit the button, asking for it to be unlocked. When it buzzed, I pushed through and it closed. I saw through the window that Grayley turned back and entered the room as the nurse left.

  I hit the elevator button and waited.

  And found myself staring in shock when the doors slid open, revealing Brian’s startled eyes.

  “Taryn!” he cried out, slapping the elevator door shut as he moved to follow me.

  I blinked, realizing I had instinctually taken a step backwards.

  “No,” I said, and shoved him away. “Fuck no!”

  “Taryn,” he said again.

  I slapped him, uncaring where we were or if I set him off. I slapped him again. “You put my best friend in the hospital, you asshole!”

  “Taryn,” he pleaded, trying to gram my arm.

  I slapped him a third time. “You hit Kerri.”

  “Come on…” He was starting to get pissed, but I didn’t care. Hell, I wanted him mad. I wanted to see that side of him. I wanted to remember it so I could have that picture in my mind when I hated him for the rest of my life.

  I hit the elevator again and shoved him inside.

  When the door shut, I hit the emergency button, halting the elevator and full-out punched him. The funny thing is that I decked him using the moves he’d taught me. I grabbed his head and brought my knee up.

  Now. Fighting is wrong. Assault is wrong and I could get arrested for this, but I rarely stopped to think about the consequences before I did something illegal. Right now, all I cared about was hurting Brian as much as he’d hurt me and those I loved.

  So I whirled and kicked him again. My heel neatly clipping him in the face.

  Asshole.

  “Stop, Taryn,” Brian hissed, grabbing my arms.

  I wrenched my arms up and wrapped them around his. As his eyes widened at my hold, I brought my knees up, hard. In the groin.

  Brian toppled to the ground.

  I released the emergency hatch.

  “You fucking stay away from my friends. You stay out of my life.”

  Brian groaned, “Bitch.”

  I knelt beside him and tapped him on the forehead. “You bet and this bitch can get you hauled off to prison if you keep pushing me. You touch my friends—I’ll send what I got to the cops. And trust me, if I have to, I’ll go searching. Whatever I need to get you in prison.”

  Feeling the elevator come to a halt, I brought out my taser and grinned in satisfaction as it crackled against his chest.

  Then I pocketed it and stepped out from the elevator, leaving Brian on the ground in the fetal position.

  I’m a cold bitch and Brian knew it.

  I heard gasps from behind me as I walked through the circling doors, feeling the sunlight hit me as I stepped out onto the sidewalk.

  As I strolled up the parking ramp’s stairs, I called home and heard Shelley answer.

  “Hi, Shelley. It’s Taryn.”

  “Taryn!” she gasped. “Where are you? Mandy said a friend of yours is in the hospital.”

  “Yeah. One of my friends from Pedlam. He’s got a punctured lung and a few broken ribs.”

  “Oh my gosh, Taryn. Well, you stay as long as you need to,” she rushed out.

  “Um…thanks, Shelley. I might sleep over at a friend’s tonight.””

  “That is totally okay with your father and myself. I think Mandy will be relieved. She was talking about a party with some of her friends anyway. We’ll just have a nice quiet dinner tonight.”

  “Okay,” I said, lamely.

  “Alright. I’ll tell your father what’s going on and we’ll see you tomorrow then.”

  “Okay,” I repeated, hearing the dial tone as I sat, dumbly, in my car. The keys still held in my hand.

  I put the keys in the ignition and started my car, turning down the ramp.

  An hour later, I pulled up to Tray’s house and walked around to his pool-house.

  What the hell was I doing here?

  But I kept walking.

  I heard music and laughter coming from the main house so I steered that way. Opening the back door, I followed the noise, finding myself going down to the basement and—whoa—saw the largest media room in my life.

  The screen looked like it belonged in a movie theater.

  Grant, Bryce, Carter, and Tray were lounging on the couch, beer bottles opened in front of them, the Spurs game on the screen.

  Grant saw me first. “Hey, Taryn.”

  Everyone else looked over at me.

  “Hi,” I said awkwardly, feeling out of place.

  Tray stood up and approached me. “Hey.”

  “Sorry,” I said softly. “I…don’t know why I’m here, really.”

  He frowned, studying me and then grabbed my hand and pulled me upstairs. Leading me into the kitchen, he opened the fridge. “Want something to drink?”

  “I’m sorry. I...I shouldn’t be here.” I moved to leave, but Tray was there, pressing me against the counter.

  “Hey,” he said quietly, tipping my head back to meet his eyes, “you want a pop?”

  “Uh…” I faltered, feeling my cellphone buzzing, I pulled it out and saw Grayley’s name flash on the screen. When I didn’t answer it, Tray’s eyes shot to my face, seeing the hesitation. I don’t know what else he saw because he steered me to a stool and took my phone out of my hands. Watching me, he pocketed my phone and then grabbed a Diet Coke from the fridge and poured it into a glass.

  Grabbing my hand, he led me downstairs. He let go when we reached the media room and wandered over to the couch. I followed uncertainly and curled up on the couch beside him, a little space between the guys and me. Tray put my Diet Coke on the table in front of me and grinned, grabbing his beer as Bryce cursed at the screen.

  I watched the game with the guys.

  Devon showed up an hour after I did and he paused, only for a few seconds when he saw me, then sat on the other couch after helping himself to some mysterious supply of beer bottles in another room.

  The guys didn’t talk about girls. It was kind of nice. When I hung out with Geezer, Grayley, and whoever else chose to show up, they always talked about girls. They treated me as one of the guys half the time. Notice how I said half the time.

  These guys watched the game, drank, and laughed about who got into what fight at Carter’s party.

  It was a nice…break.

  I didn’t partake in the conversation. For one, I didn’t watch the Spurs enough to have any form of opinion. And two, I was content to curl up quietly beside Tray. When Tray didn’t press me, the rest followed suit. Listening to their conversation, I could hear how Tray was the leader. Of course, I’d always known that. But…there was this steel respect each of them had for him.

  Sometimes Tray didn’t even speak up in the conversation, but the other guys were constantly asking what he thought about so and so. What he’d do, etc. If someone ventured onto a conversation Tray didn’t want covered, he’d look over and the topic would instantly be dropped.

  It was nice. Brian would’ve growled, cursed, threatened and finally the topic would’ve been changed. Hell, som
etimes he would’ve just hauled off and thrown the person into the wall or off their chair.

  Tray respected the guys back.

  Another hour later I finally realized what I was hearing. It wasn’t just respect. But loyalty.

  These guys were loyal to each other. To Tray, first and foremost.

  Brian hadn’t been stable enough to even demand loyalty. Well, he’d demanded it, but he’d forced it. It hadn’t been given out of free will.

  Tray did that. He got loyalty because it was freely given away. He was loyal back.

  Brian was anything, but loyal.

  I must’ve dozed off or stopped listening because I blinked, startled when Tray spoke up, “It’s Mandy, Taryn.”

  Looking up, I saw Tray regarding me, waiting for my decision. The rest of the guys were watching too, with questions in their eyes as they saw Tray holding my phone.

  “Uh—”

  I saw Carter and Devon glance at each other, but neither spoke.

  Then again, apparently it was the rule for these guys. No talk about girls—too much drama. I don’t know if that was really the case, but I could see it being the reason.

  I shook my head and stood up, wandering upstairs and into the pool-house. I curled up in Tray’s bed and closed my eyes, falling asleep within seconds.

  I woke up sometime later when I felt Tray slip in beside me and wrap his arms around me, pulling me against his chest.

  I didn’t say anything, but he knew I was awake. I felt his hand rub against my stomach, slowly, and I closed my eyes, feeling the warmth spread at his touch. Falling to my back, I felt his hand wander down, slipping underneath my pants and inside my underwear.

  Feeling his hand down there, I gasped when his lips found my neck.

  Arching into his hand, I reached for him and met his lips.

  As he brought me to the edge, I groaned against his mouth, feeling his tongue sweep inside and then I spilled over, gasping.

  Tray laughed softly against my mouth when he rolled me underneath him, both of us still fully clothed.

  I wrapped my legs around his waist and let my head fall against the pillow. Tray laid there, his mouth now moving to my neck, one hand resting underneath my shirt entwined under my arm, by my shoulder. The other resting on one of my legs, caressing it lazily.

  Tray let his full weight rest on me, which I liked and swept a hand down his back, and we stayed like that, neither pushing to go any further.

  After a little while, Tray lifted his head and moved to the side, half his body resting on top of mine.

  He murmured, “I get a distinct impression that you’re hiding out here.”

  “Your distinct impression would be correct.”

  He chuckled softly. “Because I actually came in to tell you that Mandy’s here.”

  “What?” I cried out, sitting up.

  “Relax. The door’s locked.”

  “I don’t want to talk to her. Not yet. She thinks I’m staying at a friend’s in Pedlam tonight.”

  “You told her that?”

  “No. I told our mother that.”

  Tray chuckled, sitting up. “Mandy’s not one to narc.”

  “Is it awkward in there?” I couldn’t help asking, biting my lip as I met his sardonic gaze.

  “Between her, Dev, and Carter?” He chuckled again. “It’s a roll in the fucking hay.”

  “Fuck.” I sighed, as Tray got up from the bed and moved into the bathroom. A moment later, he came back out and murmured, “Come on. Otherwise Mandy’s gonna come in here and I don’t want Mandy in my bedroom.”

  I laughed, couldn’t help it. But I let him grab my hand and hoist me out of the bed. The guy was strong, holy hell.

  When Tray cut down into the basement, I grabbed a Diet Coke out of his fridge before reluctantly wandering down the stairs.

  I gritted my teeth, prepared for whatever Mandy was going to throw my way when I entered the room.

  But all she said was, sitting on the farthest corner from Devon’s couch, “Your friend Grayley’s called the house, like three times.”

  “I figured he would,” I remarked, sitting on a lounger and placing the Diet Coke on the stand beside it.

  “You’re avoiding his calls?” she asked in surprise. “Way you guys acted last night, it was as if he was your brother or something.”

  I sighed. “Leave it alone, Mandy.”

  “Why?” she asked sharply. God. She was pissed and probably not because of me, but she’d chosen me as her whipping lamb.

  “Because some shit’s going on that you have no idea about and I don’t want to deal with it right now,” I snapped, running a hand over my face.

  “Like what?” she asked, pouting.

  Anything I would’ve shot back at her was interrupted when Jasmine and Amber called out, from the top of the stairs, “Hey, hey. We’re coming down.”

  I sat back, unable to suppress a grimace as their giggling got louder.

  “Oh!” They blinked in surprise, seeing that everyone was already there. “Hey, guys,” Amber murmured, sitting down hesitantly, between Mandy and Devon. Jasmine wavered, not saying anything, as she looked around for a place to sit. She finally chose the floor, in front of Grant.

  And they hadn’t been alone. I suppressed another grimace when Sasha popped her head out from the doorway, a Coke in hand.

  Sasha called out, sickeningly sweet, “Hey ya’ll.” She perched on the corner of the couch by Bryce’s arm.

  Carter let out a laugh, the sound breaking the frozen silence that had taken hold of the room.

  I glanced at Tray and saw him watching the game, my phone was beside him and flashing. I must’ve had a dozen calls by now.

  “Tray, I didn’t see you at Carter’s last night,” Amber spoke up nervously.

  “I was there,” Tray murmured lazily.

  “He left early,” Mandy said flatly.

  Carter laughed again.

  “So,” Grant spoke up, “Sasha, I heard you and Travers broke up last night.”

  “Hmm mmm.” She giggled, taking a sip of her Coke.

  “Ask Sasha who she hooked up with last night.” Amber giggled, as if it were hysterical.

  No one asked, but Sasha piped in, “This guy from Pedlam who’s freaking hot!”

  “Who?” Devon asked, probably just to be polite. And probably grateful the attention wasn’t on him.

  “Uh…Trent…Standley?”

 

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