Fallen crest public, p.23
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.23

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

  “You’re still sure?”

  We were in the back seat, separated from the rest of the team. The guys knew a plan was in motion and I was grateful for the space. I needed to go over all the risks and calculations.

  I nodded now. “I am. You?”

  Logan flashed me a grin. “I’m down for anything.”

  “If she leaves, she’s leaving you, too.”

  “I know.” His grin vanished. “It’ll be worth it.”

  “Okay.” I nodded again as the bus pulled into the parking lot and rolled to a stop. “Let’s go to that party then.”

  Logan got up first, and I followed him. We knew what to do next.

  Kate was lying to herself. When I called her Sunday night, I heard the hope in her voice. I said all the right things: I apologized; I wanted a clean slate; I missed our friendship.

  She lapped it up. Then I said what I needed to cinch it for her: I’d forgotten that she was my equal in every way. As soon as I said that, she was sobbing on other end. It’d been what she wanted to hear all along. She assured me we could move forward. She would reign in the other girls. They could all be friends again, and it’d be like nothing ever happened.

  Stupid girl.

  I warned her. She chose to believe my lies. That was her mistake. I didn’t change my mind. I never changed my mind.

  The plan had been in motion for a while, but tonight was the beginning of the end.

  Logan and I drove to the party. It was spread over a large grassy field surrounded by trees. Trucks were parked so their tailgates could be lowered. People were either leaning, sitting, or standing around them. A few had their own supply of liquor. Pony kegs and coolers were spread out and barrels were in the middle section. Each barrel had been lit so the fire heated the area. This party wasn’t like normal Public parties. No Academites were allowed. No one cared about coke and champagne at this party. This was a District party, held on Frisco land. As soon as I got out, people headed over and the divide was immediate. Fallen Crest people stepped toward us, and the rest of Roussou remained on the other side of the barrels with Budd Broudou.

  “Mason, my man.”

  A tall guy came towards us. He was lean and lanky, with a build that resembled a professional basketball player.

  “Pailor, how’s it going?”

  “It’s going, man.” His mouth curved in an easygoing manner, but his eyes didn’t miss a thing. They were clear and alert. As Logan came around his Escalade, he held his hand out. “Logan, my dude.”

  “Frankie.”

  “Oh.” He drew back and reassessed both of them. “What are you two up to?” His hand ran over his bald head.

  I threw Logan a sidelong look. “Nothing. What are you talking about?”

  Frankie moved back another step, studying us before he shook his head. “See. This look you both gave me. Intense as hell. With you,” he gestured to me, “I expect it, but with this one,” he punched Logan in the stomach, “he’s never showed up without a cocky smirk. He sure never sticks around long. It takes you five minutes to get a girl—two to pick the girl, one to grab her, and the last two to take her somewhere private. Now you show up and there’s no grin, there’s no quick wit,” he pointed at the crowd behind them, “and you haven’t even looked at the girls yet. So that’s how I know you two aren’t here to party.”

  Frankie Pailor ran Frisco how we ran Fallen Crest. We played sports against each other, but that was our only rivalry with them. Since Frisco territory touched on both sides of Roussou and Fallen Crest, much like a triangle, we understood Frankie’s dilemma. He kept a friendly alliance with the Broudous as well.

  “And my night just got weirder,” Frankie noted as he watched another person break free from the Roussou side. “Should I run interference already?”

  Channing Monroe was headed towards us. His jeans rode low on his hips, the top button loose, and his shirt hung open without another one underneath. As he drew closer, he lifted a hand to run through his hair. His other hand held a beer with four bottles stuck inside his pockets. He fished them out and handed one to me and Logan. “Boys.”

  Frankie moved back. His eyes skirted from Monroe to me, then Logan before his hands lifted in the air. “I give up. I thought I’d have to come over here and keep the peace. Maybe not.”

  Channing flashed him a grin before extending a bottle to him. “I don’t want you to feel left out, Frankie.”

  Logan chuckled. He indicated Channing’s chest. “Does that work? Showing off the pecs and shit?”

  Channing shrugged. His shirt opened another inch as he lifted his arm, taking a long pull from his beer. “Like you need help with the ladies, Kade.”

  “Okay.” Frankie had been studying all of them. “What’s going on? You guys are friendly now?” He jerked a thumb towards the Roussou side. “Budd and Brett know this too?”

  “We have a few friends in common.” Everyone was silent after I said that.

  Channing shifted so he stood closer to me and Frankie caught the slight movement. “Let me guess, Budd and Brett have no clue?”

  I gestured to Channing. “I suppose that’s up to him to answer.”

  The good-natured glint in his eyes sobered. He glanced somewhere in the crowd before turning back. “They have no clue.”

  “Good,” Logan bit out.

  Budd Broudou had been trying to find out who my girlfriend was since he heard about her existence. They asked at Quickie’s and had been back one other time. I didn’t think Sam’s identity had leaked, but I couldn’t wait any longer. The situation needed to be dealt with before it was.

  There weren’t many from my school that were friendly with Roussou. The fact that Samantha had friendly connections through Heather hadn’t escaped me. It was ironic, but I was going to use that connection now. Channing Monroe had power over there. He wasn’t friendly with Budd and Brett Broudou, but he wasn’t their enemy either. If Sam got hurt, that would hurt Heather and I recognized another guy in love. Monroe would do what needed to be done to keep Heather from being hurt, and that meant siding with us.

  “Is Jax here tonight?”

  Channing hesitated.

  Logan cursed a moment later. “She’s here, Mase.”

  “This has nothing to do with her,” Channing murmured.

  He was mistaken and he knew it. I said, “What do you think they’ll do to her if they find out about Sam? Heather knew who she was and she never told them.”

  “Oh, whoa.” Frankie shot his hands between us. “You two aren’t friendly? I thought you were. My mind is being blown right now. You guys are enemies? Monroe, I didn’t think you had enemies.”

  “We’re not,” he snapped at him, but said to me next, “I’m aware of what will happen. Are you aware that she knows them?”

  He wasn’t referring to Heather. Logan and I got the implication. We shared another look.

  “Jax?” Frankie asked.

  Logan narrowed his eyes. “What are you talking about? She’s never met them.”

  “She has, actually. They went to Manny’s one night looking for you. There was a confrontation. Heather had to kick them out.”

  “Fuck.”

  Channing glanced at Logan. “Exactly.”

  “Wait.” I shook my head. “They don’t know. They were still clueless last week.”

  “Budd’s clueless …” Channing waited.

  Brett wasn’t. I knew what he was leaving unsaid and I glanced at Frankie. He needed to be gone. With that thought, I nudged Logan and jerked my gaze to Pailor. Logan nodded. He understood and transformed. The cocky smirk came over him. His shoulders rolled back, his head went up, and he threw an arm around Frankie’s shoulders.

  “Frankie, my man. My appetite came back and I’m thinking you might have some recommendations? I don’t think I’ve tasted too many Frisco girls.”

  “Oh geez.” Frankie shook his head, but he couldn’t hold back his smile. As Logan started to lead him away, I heard him continue, “There’s too
many, Logan, too many. You need to share the love. Anyone from Fallen Crest …” His voice faded as they moved to the Frisco side of the party.

  I jerked my head backwards. We had parked near the edge of the party. The grass lot was surrounded by woods, which meant privacy for us. Once we were far enough away, I didn’t waste time. “Sam met them?”

  Channing nodded. He grimaced, but finished the rest of his beer and tossed the bottle. “At Manny’s like I said. They were there hoping to run into you guys. Heather tossed them out. Brett’s got a soft spot for her, and he promised they wouldn’t come back to start a fight.”

  “They don’t know about Sam?”

  “No, but they talked to her. Heather admitted that she didn’t make the situation better. She almost let it slip who Sam was, but Sam stopped her. She shoved Budd or something. Brett got him cooled down. It blew over after that. She sent Sam packing and kicked them out, but there’s something else.”

  The idea of them being with her, talking to her, scaring her … My hands curled into fists. A litany of curses flashed through my mind. I wanted to find Budd and Brett. I wanted to finish this entire thing, right now, between them and me. Fuck it. Logan could help if he wanted, but I had enough rage pumping through me. I wanted both of them.

  They talked to her. They scared her.

  I didn’t want to know the rest, but dammit, I had to. Sam had lied to me. “What is it?”

  “Brett asked her out.”

  “What?”

  “He asked her out.” Channing raised his hands in the air, backing away.

  I wasn’t going to attack him. I had enough control. “Spill the rest, Monroe. Stop wasting my time.”

  He dropped his hands. “I don’t know how it happened or when, but Brett asked Sam on a date. Budd figured it out. He’s been teasing Brett all week, asking if he’s going to visit her in the hospital or not.”

  Everything changed then. Brett Broudou liked Sam and knew she was in the hospital. Budd knew she was in the hospital. They knew about Sam. I was going to have to—

  “They were waiting by the door where Sam was loaded into the ambulance. Budd keeps calling her Brett’s weakling.”

  I stopped thinking. Everything kicked into slow motion as I heard those words in my head. They were at Manny’s. Brett asked her out. He was with her AGAIN when they saw her by the ambulance.

  They saw her at her weakest moment.

  It was enough. I had to end them.

  I started past Channing, but he darted in front of me. “Whoa. Where are you going?”

  “Move.”

  “No way.”

  “MOVE.”

  “No,” Channing shot back at me. “You need to think, man. I don’t know you, but I know your reputation, and you don’t react like this. You’re cold and calculated.”

  “They saw her when she was hurting.” My tone was like ice, but my blood was pumping. I needed to do damage and I needed to do it now. Brett Broudou would be the first. “Move, Monroe or I will move you.”

  “We’re not buds.”

  “I know.” My tone turned lethal. I didn’t want to hurt Jax’s on-again-off-again whatever, but I would.

  One second.

  Two.

  Channing’s eyes flashed back at me. “I care about Heather and she cares about Sam. You mess with me, and that comes back to you. You know that, and I’m trying to help you.” Gone was the easygoing voice. Channing straightened and the threat of violence was there. “I understand. I do. I’d feel the same way. We both know the damage Budd can do to someone. He doesn’t give a shit who the person is, but you need to hear me when I say that Brett could be an asset to us.”

  “He went to her.”

  “I know.”

  “He was alone with her.” He could’ve hurt her.

  “Everyone at school is teasing Brett about the hospital chick. They’ve all heard about the girl that got jumped at the basketball game. Half of them think it’s because Brett liked her. That psychotic bitch crew at your school jumped her for you. They think it’s an entire Roussou/Fallen Crest thing, and they’re waiting to see what Budd’s going to do now.”

  “I don’t care about any of that.”

  “I know. I know.” Channing pointed to his head. “Think about it. Brett knows who Sam is, he asked Heather if her friend was okay.”

  The rage in me stalled.

  He asked if she was okay … after he knew who she was.

  It settled me, enough to slip back into my old skin. I began picking up the pieces. I saw where Channing was leading me. “He covered for her that night. Budd was starting to figure it out, but he stopped him. He said we had school problems.”

  “Because that makes sense to Budd. Someone got hurt in your school. He knows you’d want to know about it.”

  I frowned. “We’re not that controlling.”

  “But Budd is, or he tries. Brett covered for you.”

  “I’m getting that now.” It’d been something I had kept in the back of my mind, but I hadn’t given it enough time. “Brett’s continued to lie for her?”

  She lied to me. I flinched at that reminder. It stung.

  “He has.” The tension left Channing, his shoulders dropped, and he nodded. “Heather was at my place earlier. He wanted to know how Sam was doing. He told her that he’d keep the secret, too. He promised that Budd wouldn’t know. In fact,” he took a deep breath, “that brings me to the next part of business.”

  I knew where this was going.

  “She said that Kate’s back in power. She’s acting like your girlfriend and the rest of her friends too, like everything’s back to normal. This isn’t any of my business, but it’s making her lose sleep. I care about Heather and I don’t like seeing her suffer. She doesn’t know if she should tell Sam you’re back with the Bitch Crew or wait till you do. Either way Sam is going to find out.” He touched his chest. “And that’s where I’m coming in. I’m thinking you’re doing that for a reason. Am I right?”

  “It’s none of your business.”

  I kept my calm. My voice was cool, but it was the truth. I didn’t care what Heather Jax was worried about. She could say all the things she wanted. My relationship with Sam was my relationship with Sam. No one else got in there.

  Channing sighed. “I was afraid you would say that.”

  “MASON!”

  Kate had arrived. The bottom of my gut dropped, and I fought against the disgust of being near her. I had two assholes to deal with, Kate and Budd Broudou.

  “MASON, WHERE ARE YOUUU?” She hiccupped at the end before shrieking with her friends. All of them began calling my name.

  Kate was drunk. Now was the perfect time.

  I downed my beer. I emptied the entire bottle before handing it to Channing. Without a word, another beer was handed to me. I cursed before downing that one, too.

  “I know what you’re going to do,” Channing said.

  I waited. The judgment would come. I was already preparing myself for Sam’s reaction.

  “He’s going to hurt her.”

  That was the point. “She hurt Sam.”

  Channing nodded. He didn’t say anything more, but he understood. He’d do something similar if it’d been him and his girl. When I went back, Kate was in the center of the area, dancing around the barrels. Her shirt was off and she was only wearing a bra with her tight jeans. When she swung around, I saw the bottoms were ripped to show the bottom of her underwear.

  Giggling some more, she tipped her head back and drank out of a Jack Daniels bottle. Her friends danced with her. Everyone was watching her. Then they saw me. They were waiting now. A group of people moved back for me. A girl lifted her beer to drink from, and as I went past, I swiped the bottle from her.

  “Hey. Oh …”

  She was ignored, but before Kate saw me, I glanced over my
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