Fallen crest public, p.20
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.20

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
slower 1  faster

  “That’s not what the scoreboard says inside.”

  The smirk vanished from Budd’s face. He brought the bat up and began tapping it against his free hand.

  I was done with this. I heard what Budd said, they weren’t going away. They would keep coming back. It was the same sentiment from Kate. I had a plan too, but right now I didn’t want to wait for it to happen. He brought the bat, but I was going to use it on him and with that in mind, I stepped forward. The movement wasn’t to close Logan out, it was to seal our ranks. Our backs would go against each other. It was the same system since our first fight in elementary.

  The rest of them registered the movement and they dropped their stance, ready to start fighting.

  “Mason!” someone called. It was the same voice from before.

  Brett threw his brother a sidelong glance. “There weren’t supposed to be any others around.”

  “Shut up,” he snapped back. “I’m aware, you idiot.”

  Someone darted across the parking lot. It was a girl but not someone I recognized. Dressed all in black, her clothing looked like it was trying to devour her. She stopped before us and held a hand up as she caught her breath. Then she swallowed before she said, “Kate beat Sam up. She’s in the hospital.”

  I went cold.

  Sam was hurt.

  Sam was in the hospital.

  Kate did it. She put Sam in the hospital. My hand jerked at my side. It ached to find her neck, wrap around it, and squeeze.

  Logan snapped his head around. “What?”

  “Sam?” Brett echoed.

  No. I changed my mind. I was going to take her friends away first and then I was going to destroy her for good.

  “Was it just Kate?”

  Everyone went still. The threat of violence had already been in me. That was where it was going with Broudou, but this was different. Everyone sensed it. A dark need rose now. The tension in the atmosphere doubled.

  Someone I loved was hurt.

  The girl flinched from my savagery, but she caught herself. She didn’t cower as she replied, “It was all four of them. I found her and got help. I found the first person I thought was a teacher. They called an ambulance and shipped her out.” She gasped again as a sudden wind rocked against her. Some hair slipped to cover her face, but she ignored it. “She was hurt real bad. She wanted me to tell you.”

  “Wait,” Budd ground out. “You mean—”

  “Let’s go, brother,” Brett stopped him. He stepped forward and urged his brother away. “She’s not part of this. Let’s go.”

  “Yeah, but—”

  “LET’S GO,” he barked at him now. “They’ve got school problems. It’s not the right time for this.” With that last word, he shoved Budd ahead. He was a few inches in front of me now.

  Budd opened his mouth to argue, but it only took one punch.

  He was right there. I reacted. I didn’t want to hear any more from him, so I punched him. I hit him across the face—one hit—and he dropped. He was out cold. I turned to Brett, waiting to see what he was going to do.

  The other Broudou stepped back and murmured, “I ain’t here to fight any more. You need to go take care of your woman.”

  It was in the back of my mind to question him. He said we had school problems, but I could see from the other goliath-sized Broudou that he knew better. I didn’t care. Not then. I needed to get to Sam. That was my first priority.

  I jerked my head towards my car and said to the girl in black, “Get in my car. You’re going with us.”

  Her eyes popped out, but she scrambled around the unconscious Broudou and climbed into the passenger side. Logan was already in his and didn’t wait. He peeled out of the parking lot. I sat there and waited, clenching and unclenching my fingers around the steering wheel while they moved Budd from behind my car.

  One second.

  Two.

  They had one more second before I was going to run over him.

  Brett dragged his brother clear on the last second, and I reversed, spinning around on the fourth second.

  Mark was alone, waiting for us in the lobby at the front of the hospital. He stood as we rushed through the door. Nothing was asked, nothing needed to be asked. He gestured down the hallway. “I was waiting for you. They’re in a different waiting room. The doctor’s with her right now.”

  Logan frowned. “What are you doing here?”

  He gestured to the girl who had followed behind me. “She got my mom.”

  Logan and I turned to regard her.

  “Uh …” She wavered at our attention. “Um …” Clamping her mouth shut, her cheeks got red, and she began pulling at one hand with the other. “I just found the first adult who looked …” She shrugged. “I don’t know why I picked her. I didn’t know her.”

  I didn’t care. I turned back to Mark. “Where’s Sam?”

  She finished, “She looked capable. That’s why I picked her.”

  Logan grunted. “No one cares anymore.”

  “And she was standing next to the principal,” she added. “That was another reason why I picked her.”

  “Mason.”

  We whipped around. David Strattan was coming towards us. His hair was sticking up, there were bags under his eyes and his Fallen Crest Academy athletic jacket was wrinkled. Blood was smeared all over it.

  I faltered. There was not much that scared me, but I was scared now. I couldn’t look away from the blood on Sam’s dad’s shirt. That was her blood. It had to be. I was gutted at what they had done to her.

  “Where is she?” My voice came out hoarse. No way could I be weak. Not now, that’s for damn sure. “Where is she?”

  “The doctor is with her, but I’ve been told that it’s not as bad as it looks.”

  I growled. That didn’t make it better.

  “They think,” David moved to stand between us and the hallway. His hand lifted in the air in a calming motion. “They think she’ll have a few fractured ribs, but most of the damage is superficial.”

  “What’s that mean?” Logan demanded.

  “It means she looks awful, but it’s mostly bruising. Her face is swollen. She couldn’t open one of her eyes when I was with her, but they’re sure it’ll heal on its own.”

  “Where is she?” The need to see her was too powerful. I could barely hold it in, and I looked down the hallway. I’d go from one room to the next to find her. “Where is she?!”

  “She’s with the doctor, Mason.” Mark moved forward.

  I jerked my head to him. “Who’ve you told about this? If that fuckhead Adam walks through here, I’m laying him out. I won’t tolerate him coming in here and acting all buddy-buddy with her. Not now.”

  “Mason—”

  “Not now, Mark,” I interrupted him.

  Mark lifted both hands in the air and took a step back. “I didn’t call anyone. I swear. I wouldn’t do that to Sam.”

  “Fuck this,” Logan bit out before he shoved past the older Strattan. He started down the hallway and I went right after him. We weren’t getting answers, not the ones we wanted. We’d find her ourselves.

  “Boys,” David called after them. “Mason, I really need to discuss something with you before seeing Sam.”

  I shoved open a door. “I really need to see Sam first.” She wasn’t in that one. I moved to the next.

  “Mark, maybe you can take the girl to the waiting room?”

  “Are you sure?”

  “Yes. I’ll show them to her room and then I have some things to discuss with them after. Go. I’ll send your mother in a moment as well.” I heard the exhaustion in David’s voice.

  Logan was further down the hallway. He’d open a door, poke his head in and leave. A few people came to the hallway and watched as he repeated the process, but I stopped. I twisted around and saw David at the end of the hallway. He was waiting for us and he was too patient about it. I sighed as I went back to him. “She’s not in this hallway, is she?”

  Logan was at the
end of the hallway now. He circled and started opening doors on the side I had stopped.

  “As soon as the doctors will let us see her, you’ll be the first one in.” David frowned as he rubbed a hand over his face. His eyes opened and closed, as if trying to focus on me. Then he began rubbing them with the palm of his hand. “I never thought I’d be here again.”

  “Again?” I went cold. “Again? You mean without Analise being in the equation.”

  David hesitated before saying, “Mason, son—”

  “I’m not your fucking son. If you’re going to throw the father term around, start acting like it with the one person who’s still hurting because you left her.”

  “I didn’t …” His face paled.

  I watched as the blood drained from Sam’s father’s face. I didn’t care. I was being kept from seeing her. It was driving me nuts. David knew it. Noticing a sign for the emergency room further down an adjourning hallway, I knew where she’d be. “Screw it. She came in on an ambulance. She’d go there first.”

  “Mason.”

  I hauled ass down the hallway.

  David jogged to keep up. “Mason, I really do need to talk to you before you go in there.”

  He could talk all he wanted. I wasn’t slowing down.

  “Because you need to be on board before you go in there.”

  “Be on board with what?” I got into the emergency room section. This floor was different from the one we were just in. The walls were painted an off-white color. I headed towards the main desk, but began glancing into each room I passed.

  “That’s what I’m trying to talk to you about.” He stopped then, but his voice lifted, “I’ve already talked to Samantha about it and she agreed. It would be best if you heard about it from me first and not her. She’s already worried about how you’ll react and this is the best decision for her well-being. You cannot go in there and make her feel guilty about this decision. I won’t allow it, not after what she’s been through tonight.”

  I had no choice. The urge to do physical damage had been with me since the Broudous showed up. It had increased since then, and David Strattan wasn’t helping. “If you don’t start talking, I’m going to start not giving a shit whose father you are. The two things I know right now is that Sam is hurt, and I have to get to her. Logan’s still over there. He hasn’t figured out that she’s not in that part of the hospital. You’re doing a lot of talking, but you aren’t saying shit. Start talking or I’ll let him loose on this department.”

  David didn’t wait another second. “Sam’s coming home with me.”

  “Like hell she is.”

  “She is, Mason.”

  “No.”

  The older man sighed. “It’s really not your call. I’m trying to do my ‘fatherly’ duties as you enjoy throwing in my face. I’m standing here and blocking you because this is the best thing for her.”

  “Fuck that and fuck you.”

  “Mason.”

  “No, she’s living with us. We’ll take care of her.”

  “You haven’t—”

  “Better than you,” I threw back. My hands jerked up, but I stopped and stepped back. “I’ve taken care of her when you let her go with that crazy psycho. We protected her from Analise. Me and Logan. What’d you do? You stood back and let her go with her. You’re stepping up now? The crazy bitch isn’t here anymore. You’re protecting her from me?”

  David’s jaw tightened. His shoulders lifted as his chest rose. He drew in a deep breath before he bit out, “You are getting on my last nerve, boy.”

  “Boy?” I chuckled, but I wasn’t amused. “Don’t stand and puff up your chest to me. We both know where this is going. I should respect you? Because you’re Sam’s dad? Because you’re older than me?” My eyes narrowed to slits. The same lethal intent was there that’d been since I saw Budd Broudou. It was pumping through me and it was growing the longer he kept me from her. “I’ve been around enough screwed-up adults to know that they don’t deserve any respect unless it’s earned. I’ve not seen a damn thing from you except now. I’m the wrong person you need to be protecting from her.”

  “Right now, you’re exactly the person I need to protect her from. She’s hurt, Mason.” David’s jaw was still clamped tight, but he gentled his tone. “She’s going to need help all day. Are you going to be there for her? You’re going to skip school? Quit the basketball team? Not graduate? I know you have a full scholarship already, but it’s contingent on graduating first. You can’t be there for her, neither can Logan.”

  “And you can?”

  “Better than you. Malinda doesn’t work—”

  “You’re going to have your girlfriend take care of her?”

  “No. I’m going to be there, but I have to work during the day. During that time, Malinda will come to the house and be there. She doesn’t work, Mason. Would you rather have someone else?”

  “Me.”

  “You can’t,” David snapped at me. “Get that through your head. Do you have a better choice? Your mother? I’m not putting Samantha through that. I’m aware of the disdain Helen has for Sam. Analise? Is that a better choice?”

  I closed my eyes for a second, pressing my hands against them. A headache was raging in me. Fuck. I was always the cold one. I remained calm when everyone else panicked, but not now. I couldn’t get a grasp on that old Mason, but David was right and it was killing me. I relented, I had no choice. “I get to see her at night.”

  “No deal.”

  “That’s the only deal. I sleep over.”

  “She’s my daughter.”

  “She’s the love of my life.” My heart was pumping so damn fast. I needed to see her.

  David was searching my eyes.

  I let him see the truth. I needed her. That was the only way.

  “Fine, but only you. Logan can’t start sleeping over, too.”

  “He’ll try.”

  David groaned. “You two, you just storm your way in—”

  “We’re family to her. We took her in when you let her go. We protected her from that woman.” I was relentless. I knew it was hurting him, but I kept throwing it in his face because it was true. I forced myself to think rationally and I knew what David Strattan was saying was the best thing for Sam. Logan and I couldn’t skip school to take care of her, and I didn’t want her close to either mothers. I didn’t know Mark’s mom, but Mark was an okay guy. If Sam wasn’t okay around that woman, I would stop everything. I’d hire someone, or hell, I’d take her to Nate’s house. She could heal next to Nate. His mom would love Samantha.

  David looked away.

  I saw it was hard for him to accept. Then he nodded. “Fine. You and Logan can both stay the night—”

  “Where is she?”

  He lifted his defeated eyes to mine. “Follow me.”

  After being admitted to the hospital, they gave me pain medication that put me to sleep. It was later that night when I woke. No one was there except Mason, who was sleeping in the lounge chair beside my bed. An opened pizza box was on my tray table along with a plastic water pitcher and a bunch of plastic cups. It hurt to talk, but after reaching for his hand, I didn’t need to. He woke up and offered me a smile. The worry and love in his gaze made my stomach jump into my chest. I’d never get used to it. Never. When he realized I couldn’t talk, he did most of it for me.

  Logan had been there earlier and refused to leave, but Mason made him go. He wanted alone time with me when I woke. He said he pulled Boyfriend Rank. It would’ve been nice to see Logan, but I understood. The pain medication was wonderful, but there was an ache inside of me. I felt hollow, and it had nothing to do with my physical pain. Mason was the only one that could fill that emotional void, and I needed him. I needed him badly. When I patted my bed, he hesitated. I patted it again and scooted as far to the
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