The original crowd, p.21
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       The Original Crowd, p.21

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  This night was already getting interesting.

  I begged out of the next round of shots. Sasha and Amber were finishing off their—third?—I think.

  “Taryn, you aren’t done, are you?” Bryce taunted, watching me coolly. He looked smug. Narrowing my eyes, I took another long look at him and saw him wink at Tray. What the fuck?

  What the hell was going on in his head?

  “Maybe,” I said stiffly and shoved away from the group. I plopped down next to Mandy and Carter, dipping my legs in the pool.

  “Hey,” Mandy murmured, disentangling from Carter as she swam in front of me. “What’s going on up there?”

  “I don’t know. Some confusing shit.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Pretty sure Bryce is trying to get me drunk,” I hesitated and said lamely, “and that’s it.”

  “Bryce probably wants to see if he can get a piece.”

  “Huh?” I was dumbfounded. Yeah. It made sense. A guy trying to get a girl drunk sometimes would equal getting a piece. Guys always think it’s a sure thing. But me? And Bryce?

  Carter laughed. “Bryce bet Tray he could get in your pants.”

  “And Tray agreed?” Okay. Now, I was just pissed. And insulted.

  “No. Tray just said good luck, but he didn’t take the bet. Bryce probably thinks if he can get you, Tray’ll cough up the money.”

  “What do you think?”

  Carter chuckled. “Tray bet me how long before you send Bryce whimpering like a puppy dog.”

  That made me grin. I’d never admit it to myself, but I was relieved that Tray hadn’t played me.

  Bryce could come after me all he wanted. Maybe now I’d just have some fun with him.

  Suddenly the pool area was flooded with voices. Turning around, I saw a good thirteen people turn the corner. Some were already dressed in bathing suits and vaulted over us into the pool. Others took a seat at the many patio tables.

  Mandy murmured, her eyes wide, “Looks like we’re having a party.”

  I glanced over my shoulder and saw Tray was busy hooking up a keg that some guy had wheeled over to him. There were four other guys, all carrying two more kegs.

  “Looks like it’s going to be a party to remember,” I murmured, more to myself.

  Devon and Jasmine disappeared into the house, holding hands.

  This night was going to be full of drama. I could feel it in my bones.

  *

  So far, I was actually having a good time.

  This guy, I think his name was Rooters, slapped a two on the deck.

  “Fuck.”

  “You shit.”

  “Asshole.”

  Rooters just grinned and flipped his last card on the table, as he announced, “Pres-i-dente!”

  We were playing Assholes and Presidents. I was neutral, which really pissed me off.

  This other fucker, Aaron, slammed his last card on the deck and shouted, “Vice-President! Vice-President. Oh yeah! Oh Yeah!”

  I spotted my turn and slipped in my last pair of sixes.

  “Neutral!” I called out, laughing when Helms flicked me off, because I’d skipped him.

  Honey and Bits glared at me, which made me laugh even harder. That wasn’t their real names, but it was how I kept them apart. They seemed to appreciate the nicknames, since they’d been calling each other those names since I accidentally blurted them out after the last round.

  I had been recruited into the game when Bryce had grabbed me and pushed me into the empty chair beside him. It seemed that two others had recently left, after starting their make out session during the game.

  Before that, I’d stayed by the water for a while, but moved when it started getting colder out. Mandy and Carter were in the media room, making out. Tray was outside, talking with a group of guys by the kegs. And I’d gone the complete opposite direction when I caught a glimpse of Sasha and Amber, still in their bikinis, sitting on the laps of some guys at a patio table.

  “Take that, fuckers!” Bryce hollered, throwing his last card on the pile.

  Rooters rolled his eyes and drawled, “You’re neutral, dumb-ass.”

  The table immediately quieted, waiting to see what Bryce would do. Guess the elite didn’t get treated that way.

  Bryce shrugged and retorted, “Just wait. I’ll be Prez pretty soon and then you’ll be my beer bitch.”

  Honey hooted. “Beer bitch, Rooters. That’s you all the time, isn’t it?”

  Bit giggled, her eyes wistful as she skimmed over Bryce. “Yeah, beer bitch.”

  Bryce fully knew the effect he had on the girl because he winked, grinning smugly at her. Downing the rest of his drink, he turned to me. “How about it, Taryn? Another shot?”

  “Right. And give you the chance to drug my drink? I’m not an idiot,” I muttered, standing up. “I’ll get my own drink.”

  “I said a shot. Not a drink. There’s a big difference,” Bryce argued back, following me.

  “Whatever.” I know. It lacked my usual energy, but really—the guy hadn’t pissed me off enough to get the full force of my attitude. I guess I was still playing with him or maybe just playing along until he crossed the line. Then he’d be filleted.

  Pushing through the crowd—it had tripled within the past hour—I half stumbled to the keg with Bryce right behind me. He put his hand on the small of my back for a moment. I don’t know why he took it away, but it was the only thing that saved him because I was already turning around, ready to kick his ass. I looked at him and saw that he wasn’t even looking at me.

  Whatever.

  I turned back around and saw Tray’s amused eyes; he’d seen the whole thing.

  I grinned at him, taking the cup that he was extending to me.

  Bryce hollered against my ear, “I need two shots. Pronto!”

  “Ah!” I yelled. “Back the fuck up, Bryce!”

  Bryce grinned, ignoring me as he reached for the two shots.

  Miraculously, I found one in my hand and frowned. Was I—never mind—I’d already shot it.

  That one was good.

  “Five bucks, right?” I knew that voice.

  I grinned dumbly, happy seeing Trent give Tray some money.”

  “Trent!” I shouted.

  He looked up, took one look at me, and shook his head, grinning. “Fuck, what are you doing here?”

  I made my way to him, pushing two people out of the way. “I’m at a party,” I announced stupidly.

  Trent sighed.

  “What are you doing here?” I asked, moving closer. The music was so loud. Did it have to be that loud?

  “That girl I hooked up with last night called. Said this was the party to be at.” Trent was frowning. Like, really, really frowning.

  “Why are you looking like that?” I asked. It was a question that I needed answering. I didn’t like frowns, did I?

  Trent shook his head again, looking resigned. “Because I brought friends with me.”

  “That’s great,” I said warmly, grinning stupidly. Wait. “Who?”

  “Not friends of yours,” he said bluntly.

  “Oh no.” I took a step back.

  “Yeah.” He sighed again.

  “Not…Gentley? I can handle Gentley.”

  “Not like this, Taryn. You can’t handle Gentley drunk.”

  “I’m not drunk.” I argued drunkenly.

  Whee.

  “Is Grayley here?” I asked weakly.

  “Yeah. He’s here too.” He didn’t sound happy about that either.

  Then it clicked. I’m drunk. Gentley’s here. Grayley’s my best friend and Grayley’s supposedly friends with Gentley now.

  Not good.

  “Oh.” I mouthed the word. Fuck. I was in a shitload of trouble.

  “Girl,” Trent held my shoulders and said seriously, “you need to get out of sight. Now.”

  “I’m not one to run, Trent,” I replied. I wasn’t. Why should I run? This was my turf now, right?

 
I know, but right now it’s what’s in your best interest,” he reasoned. Why did sober people always have to sound reasonable? Why couldn’t they be drunk like people like me? The universe would be a lot better off. Truly.

  Madly.

  Deeply.

  I always liked that song. I have no idea who sang it.

  “Trent, do you know who sang the song—” I was about to ask, but I blinked, finding myself face to face with Crispin Gentley, Tracy Hardkins and Kimberley Ringsworld right behind him, followed by three other football players from Pedlam, and a pale Grayley.

  I decided to take the offense and opened my mouth to say the first words in my head, “Why are so many goddamn fucking Pedlam people coming to Rawley parties?”

  “Oh my fucking word,” Kimberly spouted off. She really hated me. I’d heard once that she’d always had a crush on Brian. They’d gone on two dates and he’d dropped her because the next day I’d come back to Pedlam. That had been in eighth grade—she still hated me to this day because of it. Or at least…I think that’s why she hated me.

  Tracy was smiling. She looked evil. “You were one of us not long ago, Taryn.”

  “Oh no,” I said horrified, “I was never one of you! Trust me.”

  Gentley chose that moment to interject, “Heard what you did to your ex. Nice. It was a good reminder why I never dated you.”

  “That and the fact that you need to have a dick to date me. It’s one of my requirements.”

  Whoa. That was a personal best.

  Trent and a few of the other guys were desperately coughing, trying to cover up their laughs, turning away.

  Gentley glared at me, full force, as he stalked closer. “Oh, Taryn. Trust me. I’ve got more than enough dick for you.”

  I smiled sweetly. “Not really. I’ve seen pictures.”

  That pissed him off. Even drunk, I took a step back in self-preservation.

  “Maybe I should give you another view,” Gentley whispered, suddenly in my face. “Maybe you can get up close and personal to reconsider.”

  That didn’t sound like a good thing to do.

  Suddenly, Gentley was wrenched away. Grayley and Trent were both standing between us.

  “She’s drunk, Crisp. Leave her alone,” Grayley was saying, pushing Gentley back another step.

  “Are you kidding me?” Gentley laughed, more perplexed. “Are you and Gardner actually protecting that bitch?”

  “It’s not right, dude,” Trent said. “Taryn’s not up to par. Anything less cheapens the triumph. We all know that.”

  “Please,” Gentley scoffed, shoving both of them back. “Get off me, Gray. You’ve been in love with her since the eighth grade. But you, Gardner, I’m surprised.”

  I narrowed my eyes. Grayley was not in love with me. No fucking way. I was about to say that too when I felt familiar hands grab my arm and pull me backwards.

  Tray.

  And Bryce. Then, blinking, I saw Devon, Carter, Grant, and about four other guys materialize out of nowhere.

  “Out,” Tray ordered. “We don’t need a brawl right now.”

  “Excuse me? What the fuck did you just say?”

  “I said,” Tray said icily, “you can leave. Now.”

  “Whatever, fucker, we all know it was you who messed up our field and gym,” Gentley growled.

  Without another word, Tray stepped up and neatly clipped Gentley on the jaw. Crispin fell. Just like that.

  Tray stepped in and kicked him. “This is my town and if you go against one of mine, you go against me. Now get the fuck out.”

  Gentley shoved him back and stood up. “Taryn may have been one of your bitches in bed, but trust me—she’s just like any other slut.”

  That was it.

  The fucker was going down. Once and for all. Drunk or not, I could still talk and words were my second favorite weapon.

  I shoved through the crowd and shot back, acid dripping from my voice, “Please. Crispin. How long are you going to hold this grudge against me? I rejected you in the ninth grade. Two. Fucking. Years. Ago. I’d figured that Kimberly had been comforting you. I mean, you and her got so much in common since both of you wanted to break Brian and me up.” I looked at Kimberly. “You’re more than welcome to him, now by the way. He’s probably at home since I landed him in the E.R. today. I’m sure he’s got to nurse those wounds.”

  “Shut the fuck up.”

  I blinked. More in surprise because it hadn’t come from Kimberly. Or Gentley.

  It came from Grayley.

  “Grayley…” I stammered.

  “You don’t fucking think, Taryn!” he yelled. I could see his rage now. “Yeah. Big fucking deal. You beat Brian up. Guess what? He’s not going against you. He never would—he knows you can bury him. No, he’s going to go after me or Geezer or Kerri—or anyone else. Maybe even Jace. You ever think of that?”

  I paled at his words. Fuck. He was right.

  “You and Jace. Bri’s known about the two of you since it happened, he just never had proof. Now he does. All he needs is some courage from some fucking empty Jack Daniels bottle and he might actually go after his brother with a 9mm. How’d you like that? Would you just love it if I took you to Jace’s funeral? Or Brian’s funeral?”

  “Grayley…” I tried.

  “No,” he cut me off, “you just…you never fucking think.”

  Suddenly, I was sober and was really looking at Grayley. It was plain as day, he was exhausted. Exhausted from fighting on three different sides—mine, Brian’s and Gentley’s.

  “Grayley,” I murmured softly, “I’m—”

  “You’re sorry. You’re always sorry, Taryn,” he cut off bitterly. “You’re so fucking sorry that you don’t ever think about what you do. I’m tired of worrying about you. God…what you do sometimes, Taryn. If you ever get caught, do you know what could happen to you? Where you could end up?”

  “I stopped.”

  “No,” Grayley shook his head, “you didn’t stop. My God, where were you just yesterday? You weren’t at the game. Where were you?”

  I paled.

  “Shut up,” I said quickly. “That was…”

  “That was stupid. And suicidal. And you better fucking not ever do it again,” Grayley finished roughly.

  I couldn’t say anything. He was right and we both knew it.

  “Grayley,” Tracy spoke up, moving to stand beside him, curling one hand around his arm, “come on. We’re all leaving.”

  I never would’ve thought those two would hook up.

  That was the last stupid thought in my head when Grayley shot me one more exasperated glare, before he turned and followed everyone else who had left without us realizing.

 
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