Fallen crest public, p.25
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.25

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  Our father/daughter moment had strayed towards deeper waters, but I couldn’t pull away now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed him. I couldn’t tell him. My throat was filled with tears and emotions, it no longer allowed me to speak. All I could do was nod.

  Neither of us talked. We sat in silence. The movie had ended earlier and the credits were done. Every now and then he would wipe a hand over his face. I would do the same.

  He broke the silence when he lifted a hand towards me. “Malinda’s yours, too, if you want.” He stopped and took a deep breath. His voice cracked before he started again, “I’m not going to be like Analise and force you to do things. You’ve been through too much for me to treat you with kid gloves. You’re almost an adult and you’re going to be a great one. I can see it already, but you’ve got a room there, too.” His mouth curved up in a rueful grin, and he wiped at his eyes again. “I already know she told Mark that room was yours. It can sit empty for years and it’ll be your room. She already loves you, Samantha.” His eyes widened. “But I don’t mean that to make you feel pressured or anything. It’s there if you come or not. You can do whatever you need. I meant it about this place. This can be your home, too. I always meant to tell you, but I was a coward. I was too scared.”

  He was scared of me.

  He opened the door for that talk, but I couldn’t. Shaking my head, I got up from the couch. “I—” I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t be there. “I need to call Mason. I need to check in.” Going to the stairs, my hand reached for the rail and my head went down. I couldn’t see his pain. I was leaving him now. “And I have to go to the bathroom. I’m sorry.”

  Then I fled upstairs. I didn’t feel my physical pain anymore. The emotional overrode it.

  When morning came, I was pissed. No. I was livid.

  Mason hadn’t come over, and he hadn’t called. He hadn’t texted, and a few hours later, there was still no alerts on my phone. It was nearing nine in the morning and I knew he was awake. He didn’t sleep late. He wouldn’t forget his phone anywhere, so he was avoiding me. That could only mean one thing—it happened last night. Whatever he had planned for Kate had happened and I hadn’t known. I’d been left out.

  I called Logan. Nothing.

  I called Heather. Nothing.

  Two hours later. Still nothing. From anyone

  I sighed, and changed into real clothes. My face resembled a mix between a panda and raccoon. The little make-up I had on was enough to cover some of the bruising. When I was done, the panda had vanished, but the raccoon remained. I couldn’t perform miracles. It would have to be enough.

  I wasn’t going to get sad. I wasn’t going to crumble and ask the ‘why me?’ questions. Last night had been emotional enough for me, so I skipped over all those crappy emotions and went straight to furious. That felt better. It slipped over me like a second coat. It was keeping me warm and sheltered. That’s when I found David.

  There was breakfast still on the counter from earlier, but he moved it aside. He was taking out vegetables, dressings, and chicken.

  “Let’s go to Malinda’s for lunch.”

  His hand jerked and he cursed, whirling around to me. “Samantha!” He pounded on his chest. “You scared five years off my life.”

  I didn’t care. “Let’s go to Malinda’s.”

  “What?” He heard me this time. “Why? I thought this was father/daughter time, though I have no doubt Mason snuck in your room last night. He left already?”

  “Let’s go to Malinda’s.”

  He paused and then caught on. “Oh.”

  Exactly.

  “Is there something you want to tell me?”

  “Nope. I want to go to Malinda’s.”

  “All right … Are you sure everything’s okay?”

  “Nope. Malin—”

  He finished for me, “Malinda’s. Got it. You ready to go?”

  I was more than ready. As soon as we got there, I said hello to Malinda and bypassed her for Mark’s room. It was now nearing noon, but as soon as I pushed open his door, he flew off his bed. “Mom!” He stopped, with one leg already in his jeans and frowned. “Sam?”

  “Sam?” a feminine voice squeaked from under his covers. Then a blonde head popped out, and she didn’t look too pleased. “What are you doing here?”

  “Cassandra?” She’d been obsessed with Adam. I snorted. “Did you give up on Adam finally? Mark told me about the new girl in his life. Must suck. You got booted. Again.”

  The puzzled look on her face turned to a glare, and she threw the covers back. Wearing only a thin top, half was moved to the side so one breast was exposed. It didn’t take a genius to figure out Mark had been getting a handful before my interruption. She snapped back now, “Did you and Mason break up? Are you moving onto your next stepbrother? I’m sorry. Logan must’ve turned you down. That must suck, too.”

  A growl came from the back of my throat. I looked like shit. I felt like shit. I wasn’t ready to deal with her shit. Turning to Mark, I gestured out the doors. “We need to talk.”

  He nodded, casting a wary glance over his shoulder.

  “Are you kidding me?” she seethed at him.

  As she sat there with the blankets drowning her thin frame, Cassandra straightened her shirt with one jerk and glowered at me. “Why’d you have to come back? Things were perfect with you gone.”

  “Cass. Stop it.”

  “What?” She rolled her eyes. “They were.”

  She wasn’t my problem, but I bared my teeth. “You really want to start a battle with me knowing that I’m probably going to be Mark’s new stepsister?”

  She cursed at me.

  “Right back at you, Cass,” I threw over my shoulder as I headed out to the media room.

  She yelled back, “Miranda still hates you and Logan. Just wait. Karma’s a bitch, Sam. Looks like you got one dose, but you got more comi—” Mark slammed the door shut on her. She paused and then yelled through the wall, “And screw you, too, Mark.”

  I closed my eyes. The slam was right there. It was on the tip of my tongue.

  Mark opened the door and smirked at her. “You already did. Three times. Now get out.” The door was shut once again, and he glanced down the hall. “We need to hide. She’s going to be a bitch when she comes out of there.”

  As soon as we got into the room Logan used and shut the door, his opened. We could hear her cursing under her breath as she walked past us towards the stairs. The upstairs door slammed again before either of us said a word.

  “You slept with Cass?”

  He grimaced, raking a hand through his dark hair. It stuck up when his hand fell back down. “I was drunk.” He shrugged. “And she’s hot.”

  “Are you going to sleep with her again?”

  “If I get the chance.” He flashed me a rakish grin. “I’m a guy and she’s good in bed.”

  “I thought you were dating Amelia?”

  He snorted. “Hell no. She’s crazy and my mom hates her. She’s dating a college guy anyways.”

  “A lot’s changed over there.”

  “Yeah.” He shivered and touched his bare chest. “You mind if I grab a shirt? Not that I don’t mind showing off the goods, but it’s cold down here and you’re taken taken.”

  “Yeah, that’s fine.”

  He flashed a grin and hurried off. This time I followed and waited in the media room. Dropping onto one of the couches, I sat where I’d been with Mason a week ago. He held me while we watched movies that night. I’d been in so much pain, but he helped. He pushed the pain away. Being with him always pushed the pain away.

  “Sam?”

  I jerked back to reality. Mark was standing there, one of his athletic shirts on and his jeans zipped up. He sat on the opposite couch and bent over to pull on his socks. “You okay?”

  “No.”

  He stopped and glanced up.

  I wasn’t going to lie about it. “I need your help.”

  “Wi
th what?”

  “I can’t drive and that’s where you come in. I need a driver for the day.”

  “Okay.” His shoulders loosened up, and he finished putting his socks on. As he reached for his shoes, he asked, “Where are we going?”

  “To find Mason and Logan.”

  That made him stop and he sat back up. A blank mask came over him. “Huh?”

  “They’re not answering my calls and I’m not going to sit around and wait. So you’re going to help me find them.”

  “Sam,” he started as we both stood up.

  “Don’t. I don’t want to hear it. You offered to help me before. I’m cashing in on it now. Let’s go.”

  I led the way. David and Malinda were at the table, but I veered to the door instead. Mark stopped to talk to them, so I waited at the front entrance. A quiet conversation carried between the two. David didn’t join in. I was listening for him, but when he remained silent I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. Then Mark came around the corner and tossed his keys in the air. He caught them in a swift hand motion and flashed me a smile. “Where’s the first stop?”

  “Jail.”

  “Whoa. What?”

  Too late. I was already outside. The door swung closed on him, and I heard, “Ouch,” before he followed me out. “We’re going to the jail?”

  Going to his car, I got inside before answering him. I was on a mission, and I wasn’t slowing down for it. My ribs were better after a week of rest, but they weren’t a hundred percent better. They were going to be angry with me, and I’d feel their wrath tomorrow, but that was tomorrow. Everything could wait until tomorrow. For today, nothing mattered except finding Mason and Logan. I would not let myself entertain the option that they left me. I couldn’t.

  Gritting my teeth, Mark had barely slid behind the wheel before I asked, “Can we get going? Please.”

  He clipped his seat belt on and started his car. “Jail, huh?”

  “I need to make sure they weren’t arrested last night.”

  “Jail it is.” He wheeled around and took off down the street. As we passed the Kade mansion, I wanted to see if their cars were there, but they weren’t. I wasn’t surprised. My mom’s wasn’t either and that did surprise me. She always had her car parked out front. She liked showing off the new car James bought her for an engagement present. What further surprised me? James’ car was gone as well.

  “You know Mason and Logan went to a District party last night?”

  Distracted from those thoughts, I turned back to my mission. “District party?”

  He nodded, taking a left out of the neighborhood. “Yeah, you know those parties.”

  “I don’t.” This was Mark. He was easygoing Mark, laidback Mark. Right now he was being too much of that, and I needed him to catch on. The urge to snap at him was too much. “Enlighten me.”

  “Oh, sure.” He chuckled to himself. “It’s the three town school. You know.”

  “I don’t.” My voice rose on the last word. Anger and more anger was roiling together inside of me. “Please. Explain further.”

  Another chuckle came from him as he moved onto the main freeway. “I think last night’s party was at Frisco. Only the public schools can go: Frisco, Roussou, and Fallen Crest. No private schools are allowed. If they catch you there, they trash your car—slash your tires, put scratches in your car, throw eggs on the window. It’s not worth it to us so no one’s gone for a long time.”

  My stomach dropped. “Roussou?” The arrested theory was gaining merit.

  “Yep, but Frisco’s a good town. We play them in football and basketball. They aren’t at FCP’s standards, which is why we play them, but they’re decent.”

  “Did you hear if anything happened at the party?”

  He laughed some more. “Like what? Everything happens at those parties. They find some place in the woods, and the cops are told not to go out there. Anything could’ve happened. No one talks about it afterwards. If you’re caught running your mouth, you get the crap beat out of you. So no one talks.”

  People talked. The right questions needed to be asked, but people talked. When we got to the police station, I found out that they weren’t there. So we went to the hotel next. That was when I found out that they weren’t there either. My key card didn’t work, and they wouldn’t give me a new one. Mason and Logan had checked out last Sunday.

  That was news to me, and it was not welcomed news.

  As we went back to his car, Mark asked, “You didn’t know they left?”

  “They joked the first day about their mom moving closer to your house, but they haven’t said a word. I assumed it hadn’t happened and I haven’t thought about it since.”

  “Their stuff must be somewhere. Both of them didn’t keep that much at my house.”

  He was stating the obvious. Thank you, Sherlock Holmes.

  Taking a deep breath, I pushed the inner rage away and sighed. “So let’s try out that theory.”

  “What theory?”

  “That their mom is living in that house.”

  “The For Sale sign is still on the lawn.”

  “Mason said that she would probably rent it.”

  “Okay.” He turned the car back to his home. It wasn’t long until we were passing his house and slowing down to see what cars were parked at Nate’s old home.

  None.

  Mark pulled the car over and parked in front. He leaned over, inspecting the house. “There are curtains hung. I don’t remember those. Someone’s in there.”

  I hit his shoulder. “You go up there.”

  “Me? Why?” Cradling his shoulder, he scowled at me. “Stop hurting me. First the door, now your fist. What’s next?”

  “Your car if you don’t go up there.”

  “No way. I’ve heard about Helen Malbourne, and she sounds scary as hell. My mom hates her.”

  Malinda went up a few more notches in my book. “You go. If they’re in there, then they’re avoiding me. They’re not avoiding you and she won’t lie to you. She’d thrive on lying to me.”

  He grumbled, but got out of the car. As he rounded to my side, he hissed at me before heading up the sidewalk, “You so owe me for this.”

  “Yeah, yeah. Go.” I waved him off.

  He sent me one last glare before the transformation came over him. It was the same with Logan. The head went up. The shoulders rolled back. A confident aura emanated from him, but Mark’s strut wasn’t as cocky. He was also nicer than Logan. As he knocked on the door, he didn’t have to wait long. The door opened, and he went inside.

  While he was in there, the knot in my stomach reproduced and birthed triplets. They were like rabbits. Those produced even more and there were too many inside of me. I couldn’t handle it. He was gone for a minute, but my hand was reaching for the door handle. Screw it. Helen and I could go another round. I was forcing my way in there and I was going to demand some answers. Even if Mason and Logan weren’t there, she’d know where they were. They were nice like that. They tried to keep their mom in the loop. Mason said one time that she hadn’t fucked them over. She didn’t deserve the freeze-out that James often got.

  My hand tightened around the door handle and I pulled on it. It opened. Taking a deep breath, I made the decision. I was going in.

  Mark came out.

  I wasn’t going in.

  The door clicked shut and I waited as he jogged to the car, his trademark carefree grin on his face.

  As he got inside, I said, “You’re perpetually happy.”

  He paused, but shrugged and got inside. Shutting the door, he started the engine and wiggled his eyebrows at me. “She suggested Manny’s. She said they like to eat there since their girlfriend works there.”

 
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