The original crowd, p.2
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       The Original Crowd, p.2

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  “Hey,” she exclaimed, plopping down beside me.

  “Hey.”

  “So, Tray said you said no. A big fat no actually.”

  “No, Mandy.”

  “Come on…why not?” she whined with a pout, looking at me with big puppy dog eyes.

  “What’s going on?” Jasmine Kent asked, laughing as she sat on the couch opposite us. Tray, Bryce Sethlers, Grant Lancaster, and Devon Hedley trailing behind. The only person missing was Grant’s sister, Amber.

  I knew some about them—there were enough rumors swirling about every single one of them. Amber and Grant were twins. Grant had hated Tray at one point because he screwed Amber a few times—apparently, Amber had been panting after Tray for years until he finally succumbed. And Jasmine had a brief stint with him too—but it only lasted six months according to my science partner who wore microscope glasses. (I could never remember her name.)

  I had also heard that even though Mandy was hot and steady with Devon, it didn’t mean that she had snuffed out the torch she had for Tray since the sixth grade. However, Devon and Mandy were the longest running couple in the school—I think they have been together for four years now. Bryce and Jasmine merely sleep together every now and then; you could usually see them at parties panting and grinding with each other. Most people would take bets on how long it took before they’d either be found in a corner or some closet. The more I think about it, I don’t remember hearing a whole lot about Grant’s love life…maybe he just had more class.

  Yep. The social elite were in my living room. Well, Mandy’s living room.

  “Leave her alone, Mandy. The girl’s frigid. She said no,” Tray said in a low tone.

  I rounded on him. “Excuse me?”

  “You heard me.” He smirked.

  “Got your little knickers all wrapped in a bunch, huh? Rejection must really get you if you gotta resort to name-calling. Kinda superficial, don’t you think?” I taunted.

  “Oh, they’re not little.” He grinned, completely at ease.

  Bastard.

  “Says you.”

  “Says me.” Jasmine giggled.

  Mandy had fallen uncharacteristically silent.

  “And you’re pretty experienced, huh?”

  “Taryn!” Mandy hissed.

  “Whatever,” I mumbled, standing and moving towards the door.

  “Oh, come on,” Mandy called out, “Taryn, come hang out. These are my friends and you’re my sister.”

  I turned around. Tray was watching, amused by the scene. Jasmine had turned to glaring at me—guess she didn’t like what I implied. The guys were—well, guys. They were snickering, apparently they thought my comment about Jasmine was funny.

  This was a game to them, even to Jasmine as she let a smile slip out after being nudged from Grant.

  But it wasn’t a game to me. It used to be, my whole life had been just a game, but the stakes were too high now that I had a family I actually wanted to stay with.

  “I’m not doing it. Whatever you want me to take, I’m not doing it.”

  “We’re not asking anymore,” Tray remarked, sounding bored.

  “Yeah,” Mandy agreed. “We’ll figure something else out, okay? So just chill, alright?”

  They were all watching me and I knew whatever I did next would seal my position in the school. Logically I knew that my placement was firm, finalized, because Mandy was my sister, but…that’s not what I felt. I went against what my instincts were screaming at me and I slowly sat back down and resumed watching the movie.

  Mandy squeezed my arm slightly before she started chatting to Jasmine over my head.

  I was silent throughout the rest of the evening. I think they were a little cautious around me; I kept a low profile at school and I was pretty quiet every time Mandy invited them over the few months they’ve known me. It was the first time anyone had seen the confrontational side of me.

  Everyone meandered to the kitchen where Mandy put a pizza in the oven. I had followed and perched on a stool, my hands wrapped around my pop. Tray had been watching me the entire evening, and it was pissing me off. I didn’t like letting people read me—call me paranoid, but I was guarded for a reason—but I knew what he was doing. He was trying to figure me out; figure out my weaknesses and so forth. He didn’t like having someone so unpredictable in his group.

  When the phone rang, Mandy handed it over saying, “It’s for you. Dunno know who it is.”

  Frowning, I asked, “Hello?”

  “Babe.”

  Brian.

  I jumped off the stool and scooted out through the patio doors, shutting them behind me. “What are you doing calling me?”

  “Babe, come on.”

  “Brian, leave me alone.”

  “Come on,” he said silkily. “After all we’ve been through? You and me? You’re just going to write us off?”

  “There’s no us. I made that loud and clear.” But God, it was good to hear his voice. The longer I was away from him, I remembered more of the good times we had together than the bad.

  “Let me come over. Let’s talk about this.”

  “No.”

  “Babe.”

  “Brian, no. Go and screw Liza, I know she’s probably panting right behind you.”

  “She’s not you, Tar. There’s no one like you, that’s what’s fucked up. I want you. I miss you.” He sighed.

  I couldn’t say anything that I hadn’t already said and I wasn’t about to tell him the truth—that I missed him. He’d be relentless.

  “Babe, you can’t tell me you don’t miss me. I’m your family, Tar. I’ve been your family for the last XX years. You can’t just dismiss me. You know that. I know you know that.”

  “Yeah, well…” What I said next was harsh, but I had to, “I have a new family now.” I hung up. Breathing heavily, I leaned against the wall, hidden from inside where I knew there were at least a few pairs of eyes on me, I tried to pull myself together.

  Mandy came to the patio door and opened it a crack as she stuck her head outside. “You okay?”

  “Yeah,” I said shakily, trying to paste a grin on my face.

  “You don’t look okay. Who was that?”

  “Just…someone from my past.”

  “An old boyfriend?”

  “Guess you could call him that.”

  “He sounded hot over the phone. Is he hot?”

  “Oh yeah, and he knows it.” I chuckled. He was different from Tray. Tray’s looks could mesmerize people. Brian’s almost scared people away—he has the cliché bad boy look and everyone saw that when they looked at him. They’d be correct in stereotyping him; he is a bad boy—he’s spent more than his fair share of time in juvie.

  The phone rang in my hands. I saw Mandy reach for it, ready to do my dirty work, but I shook my head. “No. I have to do this.” Clicking the button, I murmured, “What?”

  “Babe.”

  Yep, he was relentless.

  “You call me again and I’ll get a restraining order on your ass. You know I’ll do it,” I snapped as I turned away from Mandy.

  “You don’t mean that. You don’t really want me out of your life.”

  That pissed me off. I’d lived my life not letting anyone tell me what I wanted or didn’t want, and Brian knew that—he just screwed up. “Just watch me.”

  “Babe, you don’t really want to do that.”

  “Oh really? Why? You think I don’t know all about your shit you got going on? About your little deal with Carmen Rizzo or about the drugs you always keep at Christian’s house? Oh wait, no…here’s the best one—how about the videos of that bank you robbed. I have those, I know where they are.”

  Maybe I’d gone too far because Brian was quiet on his end. I couldn’t let it get to me though, I had to be a stone cold bitch to get him to let go of me.

  “You mean the robbery you were an accomplice in? The vids you’re on too?” he countered.

  I laughed. “Oh please. I’m the professional.
You think I’d be reckless enough to get caught on video? Oh no, those vids have you and you alone on them. I was nowhere near those cameras; not even my shadow came close to being videoed. Remember who taught who.”

  “You threatening me, Taryn?”

  “It’s Taryn now? Not Tar? Not babe? Is Liza crawling all over your lap?”

  “You’re pushing me,” he warned.

  “Then stay away from me, Brian. I mean it or else I’ll get my hands on that shit and hang you out to dry. Don’t think I won’t and don’t you dare think I can’t, because you know more than anyone exactly what I’m capable of doing.”

  He knew I was right. Brian had watched in amazement as I could slip through any crack, and make my way under any security program. By the time I was reunited with Brian, I was already at a professional level.

  “Fine. I’d forgotten how much of a bitch you are,” he bit out.

  “Oh no, baby. I was your equal. That makes you a bitch just as much as me,” I said smoothly and hung up.

  Oh my God. I’d burned one of the sturdiest bridges I had ever had in my life and I didn’t know if it was worth it. I was still gambling with how this new family would work out.

  “Holy hell,” Jasmine breathed out.

  Whirling, I paled seeing the entire gang on the patio. Amber had shown up at some point and looked shocked.

  Tray was staring at me with an unnamed emotion, one (I shivered) I didn’t know if I wanted to identify.

  Mandy looked like she wasn’t breathing.

  “Mandy,” I said, faltering self-consciously. “I—”

  “Mom and Dad told me some stuff, but they don’t know about any of that. That’s some…that’s like some serious stuff.”

  “It wasn’t me. Most of it was…Brian.”

  “Yeah, I remember hearing Mom talking about him to a parole officer.”

  “Look,” I let the parole officer slide by, I wasn’t really surprised at her lack of knowledge, “it’s why I don’t want to steal whatever it is you want for you. This life, with you guys, is a fresh start for me. Yeah, I’m good at stealing stuff, but I don’t want to do that anymore.”

  Everyone was quietly processing what they’d heard; when I looked at their faces I saw their emotions range from disgust, fear, and awe. When I looked into Tray’s eyes, I saw condemnation.

  He knew I was lying.

  CHAPTER TWO

  At school the next day, all of them gave me a wide berth—not that that was different from before, but even Mandy held back when she normally would invade my space time and time again. I caught Tray watching me when I glanced over my shoulder in lit class. As I walked out to my car, I glanced to the side and saw him walking beside me, eyeing me but he passed by swiftly, not saying a word to me as he got into Grant’s car, the passenger door already open with Bryce and Jasmine in the back.

  The rest of the week passed that way and the rest of the school took notice. Apparently any social graces I had been given because Mandy was my sister had been stripped away. Even some of the nerdy girls looked at me sympathetically.

  Friday I found myself walking, alone (what a surprise), to my car when I felt someone fall in line beside me.

  Tray.

  “Oh, you guys are actually speaking to me now? Not like you used to before.” I couldn’t help myself, but sarcasm seemed to have returned to my voice. It had always been there, I just stuffed it down in an attempt to be the new me.

  “It’s not like that. Come on.”

  “So what? This a pity talk? Pick me up, make sure people see you talking to me?” I had had enough with this bullshit. I didn’t need anyone’s help, or their pity.

  “It’s not—God—you’re a bitch.”

  “And we both know it makes you hot.”

  Tray narrowed his eyes at that, not in shock, but lust…his eyes were amber. Raking his eyes over my body, he murmured softly, “So what are you going to do about it?”

  I sucked in a sharp breath. I hadn’t fully expected that, but he leaned closer and whispered, “Because I know it makes you hot too.”

  “Get off.”

  “I’d love too.”

  I shrugged him away. “You know what I mean.”

  He must have had enough because he grabbed my arm and yanked me into a hidden alcove at the corner of the parking lot.

  “What are you doing?” I made it sound like I was bored. I was anything but.

  Crowding me towards the back, until I couldn’t go any further without falling inside the foliage surrounding us, he said smoothly, “You lied.”

  “What are you talking about?” I already knew, I had seen the condemnation in his eyes that night on the patio.

  He stood so close that I could feel the heat radiating off his body. Oh, God. I noticed I was holding my breath.

  “You said you don’t want to steal anymore, but you lied. You get an adrenalin rush every time you take something—you’re addicted to it. It’s like a dare…isn’t it? And you always win.”

  “So?” I shoved him back. “I’m not a criminal anymore; I don’t want that life anymore.”

  “I’m not asking you to.”

  “Right.”

  “I’m not…I’m asking you to take one thing. One thing, Taryn.”

  “What is it? What is so goddamn righteous that it’ll screw Pedlam?”

  “They have some tight security. We need you to get the master. All the codes and everything are kept on this device, it’s called a PRS-500. It’s top of the line. You get that for us, and you don’t have to do anything else, swear to God.”

  “You just want me to hand over the keys to the school, and probably the security codes for all the other schools and buildings in Pedlam?”

  “We only want to get in and do some damage the night before our game. That’s all.”

  And I was pure and innocent.

  I snorted in disbelief. “I’m not stupid.”

  I was blinded by Tray’s smile. Oh, whoa. I was suddenly burning up and, judging from the look in his eyes, he noticed my reaction because the amber was back in his eyes. Oh God…

  “Oh…no, I know you’re not,” he said huskily, moving closer to wrap a hand around my neck. He bent forward slightly, his mouth just to the side of mine. I could feel his breath kissing my skin. Without thinking, I closed my eyes and leaned into him, bringing our bodies in contact. His other hand slid from my arm and down my back, ending just on the small of my back as he applied just enough pressure, tipping my hips against his.

  Without realizing it, I had slipped my arm around his shoulder, curving it around his neck as I moved my head towards his, our lips touching tenderly; just resting against each other’s. Neither of us moved, we were at a standstill. Both of were breathing deeply now. I slipped a finger inside the front loop of his pants and pulled, then Tray’s mouth opened roughly over mine.

  Opening my mouth, I dipped my head back, granting him better access. As his tongue swept inside, I moved mine against his, my hands now clenched in fists on the front of his shirt. Groaning, I slid my foot around his leg and he immediately grasped it, raising it and pulling my body almost on top of his.

  Whipping away, both of us were silent, breathing heavily for a moment. I shook my head, clearing the cloud of lust.

 
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