Fallen crest public, p.26
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.26

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
 

  I wanted to curse. No. I did curse. “Mark.”

  “What?” He was turning onto the street again.

  “They weren’t there?”

  “Nope.”

  “What’d you say to her?”

  “That I was looking for them.” He cast me a sidelong look. “Why? Did I mess up?”

  “No,” I sighed. I knew they weren’t there either.

  “What about Nate Monson? He’s still recuperating at his house, right? Maybe they’re there.”

  I shook my head. “They wouldn’t both be there. Mason said his parents have been pretty strict about who goes over there. They’ve been allowing him over, but they’d never let Logan and him there at the same time. He explained that they called in some hotshot doctor who said Nate can only handle so much stress.” I frowned. “I think it’s more about Nate’s parents’ stress. Logan and Mason together are not parent-friendly.”

  Mark grunted. “You’re telling me.” He paused for a beat. “I’m surprised they follow the rules at Nate’s house.”

  “I doubt they do. I doubt Nate even does, but it doesn’t matter. Mason and Logan are avoiding me. Even if I go over there, he’ll cover for them.”

  “So we go to Manny’s?”

  I nodded. It was the ‘why not’ moment. They hadn’t been arrested. They weren’t at the hotel. I didn’t think they were at Helen’s. If they were, they would’ve called Mark’s phone by now to see if something was wrong with me. Nate would never tell me if he knew anything. There was no way they were at James’. I had no more places to try. Plan B: Heather. That meant Manny’s.

  When we got there, my friend wasn’t there, but Mark’s were. He headed to their table, and I headed to Heather’s house. It was another no-go for me. Brandon answered the door. He and Heather had been banned from the diner and bar for the entire weekend. Their dad didn’t want them working as much as they had been so Heather was at Channing’s. I asked where his home was, and Brandon laughed. He shook his head. “No way am I giving you those directions. It’s too close to the Broudou house. No way, Sam. My sister would skin me alive if you got hurt somehow.” He eyed my face. “And you’ve been hurt enough.”

  It was official. I had no one now. As I began to turn away, Brandon stopped me. “Hey. Wait.” He disappeared inside, and my hope flared for one second. He came back with her phone. “If you see her, here’s her phone. She left it and it keeps beeping every damn minute. It’s password protected, and I can’t get in there to turn off the alerts or the volume.”

  I had no words. Those alerts were from me. “Okay, thanks, Brandon.”

  “Yeah. I’m sorry, but I’m sure you’ll see her at the street dance tonight.”

  My heart paused. I’d been heading back down the porch, but stopped in my tracks. “What?”

  “The street dance. Aren’t you going?”

  “No.”

  Thump.

  “What is it?”

  My heart began picking up speed. Thump thump.

  He frowned at me. “It’s the District Weekend, right?”

  “Yeah …” Thumpthumpthumpthump. Whatever he was about to say, I knew they’d be there. All of them would be there. My heart was racing.

  He continued to frown at me, scratching his head. “It should be in Roussou tonight. All three towns go. You’ve never heard about it?”

  “No.” Please tell me. Please, please, please.

  “Oh. That’s weird. I thought Mason would’ve told you. He’s been going forever.”

  “It’s in Roussou.”

  His eyes lit up. “Maybe you shouldn’t go. That’s probably why no one’s said anything. Yeah, don’t go. Forget I said anything, but if you go, you didn’t hear about it from me.”

  “I know about the party last night in Frisco.”

  “You do?” A relieved grin came over him. “Oh good. Yeah, all three towns host something over the weekend, but it’s always the same thing. The first night, the party’s in Frisco. Then Saturday night, the street dance is in Roussou. They shut down one street, and a lot of people from their community go. I think it was originally meant for the town, but the District Festival kind of took over. Then Sunday, Fallen Crest has a huge bonfire in the hills behind Quickie’s.” He grinned. “It can get crazy there, too.”

  “You’ve been there?”

  “Once.”

  “Has Heather?”

  “She hasn’t in the past, but she and Channing have been tight this weekend, so I’m sure she will. He has to go. Most of his friends go so Channing makes sure no one gets hurt, or gets in a fight with the Broudou brothers.”

  A party. A street dance. A bonfire. As I waved goodbye and went to get Mark, my heart was pounding against my ribcage. I had a location for the night. I was going to the street dance. There was no way I would stay away. I couldn’t think about Mason’s or Logan’s absence. It was because of their plan. They were doing this to help me. They hadn’t left me. There was no way. I wouldn’t accept that.

  As I pushed through the side door and inside Manny’s, I collected Mark. He was laughing with his friends, more people from Fallen Crest Academy that I didn’t want to be around. I wasn’t laughing. Gritting my teeth, I ignored all their looks. I pretended I didn’t notice their stares or the mouths hanging open when they got a better look at my face.

  Yes, everyone. I had been attacked and beaten. The bruises were still with me, but I wasn’t getting any more. None from them and none from anyone else. It was why I needed answers from Mason. There was a reason for their absence. There had to be.

  I went to the street dance alone.

  I never told Mark about it and when he dropped me off at home, I reassured him that everything was fine. Everything was fine. I was going to make sure of it. Getting ready for the street dance was painful in the literal sense, but I chose a white camisole underneath a black sweater and black pants with little black ballet flats. All of it was easy to get into and that had been my main objective. My next goal was make-up. More was applied than I normally wore, and I was proud of myself; almost all of the bruises were hidden by the time I was finished. Then I swept my hair up into a high pony-tail. My hair had grown longer, so it was past my shoulders now. If Heather had been there, she would’ve told me it looked sleek. I didn’t care. I just needed to blend in. I was going into Roussou territory.

  I wanted to find Heather first, but as I parked my car and got out, my heart sank. Brandon said one street was blocked off. That was true, but he never said it was the entire main street blocked off. She could be anywhere.

  I sighed and started off on my mission.

  Going through the first block was easy. It was during the second that people started to look at me. A group of girls jerked together and started whispering. A few pointed at me. My heart sank again. It was already starting, so I veered into the first bathroom I could find. Checking my make-up in the mirror, I didn’t see anything wrong. I looked fine. Normal even. The evening had grown dark so my face looked flawless with none of my bruises showing, but when I went back out, they were still there. There were more behind them and they were watching me now.

  Frowning at them, I turned to slip away, but came to an abrupt stop.

  Budd Broudou was in front of me, a leer on his face as he looked me up and down. I hardened inside. The longer his gaze lingered on me, the dirtier I felt. As they were transfixed below my waist, I shifted on my feet and snapped, “What do you want?”

  He grinned and lifted his hand. A forty ounce bottle touched his lips, and he took a long pull from it before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Then he licked his lips and tugged at his jeans. They hung low on his waist, already baggy, but the top button was loose so they sagged even more.

  I narrowed my eyes.

  He chuckled as he caught my reaction. Lifting a hand to his chest, he rubbed it through his white wife-beater. His flannel shirt hung open, the ends of it were frayed and ripped with holes in them. As his hand fell back down to his pa
nts, his finger caught on the end and tore it some more. He seemed unaware that he ripped his shirt, or he just didn’t care.

  My guess was both. I was getting tired of his silent leering. “What do you want?”

  Another deep chuckle came from him, and he pointed his beer at me. “You already said that.”

  “Then answer the question.”

  There was a collective gasp behind me, but I couldn’t take my words back. I said it. It was done. Now I waited for the consequences.

  He started laughing. It was slight at first, but grew. As he kept going, he bent over and slapped at his knee. His beer jostled from the movement and he cursed, but shook his head as more laughter escaped. It took another moment before his chuckles ceased enough so his hand had stopped shaking. As soon as he could, he finished the rest of his beer. When it was empty, he tossed it to the ground. His hand went back out and someone put a new one there. When he went to open it, he kept shaking his head, watching me at the same time. His shoulders jerked up as he started laughing again.

  I looked for a quick escape route, but there wasn’t one. Everyone around us was watching. They had taken a step towards us and closed ranks. I had to wait.

  After another sip from his new beer, he burped. “You got a spine to you. I can see why he likes you.”

  I stiffened.

  His gaze travelled over me again, stopping on my breasts. “You got a nice rack, too. Not too much. You’re damn skinny, but you got enough for a good bounce.” His tongue darted out and ran over his bottom lip before moving to the top one.

  It was in slow motion. I began to feel sick.

  “Hmm mmm.” He nodded, then took another long swallow. “You’re tight.” His eyes went to below my waist. “I bet you’re real tight there, too. He’s a lucky guy.”

  I frowned. Feeling disgusted aside, he thought Mason was a lucky guy?

  “Too bad my brother caught you first.”

  His brother?

  “Budd.”

  I turned around. Brett Broudou was behind me. He wore the same baggy jeans and ripped flannel shirt, but there was no leering. He was glowering, but not at me. He said again, “Budd. Back off.”

  Budd snorted. He lifted his beer again, but he stumbled to the side. The beer fell from his hand to the ground, and it sprayed everywhere, most of it on me. I jumped out of the way and slammed into Brett, but I didn’t care at that moment. My ribs protested, and a searing pain sliced through me. “Shit,” I whispered to myself, but then I bounced off of Brett and began to fall to the side.

  The ground was coming at me. My eyes went wide. The pain was going to be paralyzing, so I readied myself for the impact.

  It never came.

  I had stopped halfway there and looked up. Brett caught me. His one hand held a twin forty ounce beer, but his other hand was wrapped around my arm. Our eyes caught and an apology flashed in his as he lifted me back to my feet.

  “Thanks.” I had no idea what else to say.

  He nodded, his gaze was lidded, but he looked over at his brother. “You remember our talk?”

  Budd rolled his eyes and waved him away. “Yeah, yeah.”

  Brett frowned. “Tink?”

  Another goliath-sized guy spoke from behind the counter. “Yeah?”

  “Give Budd another beer. He dropped his.”

  “Already?”

  Budd growled. “Fuck you both. I’m fine. I can get my own damn beer.” He swung around, but almost clipped a girl in the head as he did. Taking a few extra steps, he regained his balance and shoved through the crowd.

  My heart was racing. It wasn’t until he left that I gasped for breath.

  Brett touched my hand, stopping it from trembling. “Come on.”

  I followed him through the crowd and concentrated on slowing my heart. It was nearing combustion; it wanted to explode out of my chest. It wasn’t until it had slowed a little when I realized that Brett was taking me somewhere away from the street dance. We turned down an alley and ducked into a side door where there was another party. There were people everywhere and most clapped him on the shoulder as he went past. Girls called out hellos, but it was different than when I walked with Mason or Logan. The attention they got from girls was sexual. This was genuine. These people actually liked Brett Broudou.

  He went to a back hallway. Only a few others were there, and he moved around them.

  “Hey, man.”

  Another said, “Buddy.”

  Brett gave each a nod, but pressed forward until he got to the last door.

  Where the hell was he taking me?

  Then I found out. The last door opened to a back room. Couches were pushed against the walls, lining the whole room. A bar was set-up against the side and a couple small tables were in the middle. A few people were around them, playing a card game. A large pile of money was in the middle, and everyone looked up as we entered.

  Brett jerked his hand to the door. “Move the game somewhere else.”

  I expected protests, but there were none. The room was silent as everyone got up and collected their cards. The dealer took the money and the rest of the chips. They filed past us, taking their chairs with them.

  “They literally moved their game somewhere else,” I noted. Holy hell. Was I supposed to be scared? Was he going to hurt me?

  “Yeah.”

  “Yeah …?”

  There were green couches. There was a blue one. The bar had mosaic tiles on the bottom. The stools were encased in metal—

  “You’re scared of me, aren’t you?”

  Oh, dear god. I tore my gaze from the stools to him and gulped. I wasn’t expecting that from him. It sounded like raw honesty. “Um …” I stopped beating around the bush. “Can you blame me?”

  “I’m not going to hurt you.” He went behind the bar and reached for two glasses. “I asked you out, remember?”

  As he began filling the two shot glasses with rum, I moved closer. “Do you know who I am?”

  He finished pouring and put the bottle to the side, then lifted his hooded eyes back to me. “I know you were dating Mason Kade. That was a nice surprise when I put it together.” He paused, frowning at me. “Are you still dating him?”

  “I—” had no idea what to say.

  He added, “Because he’s been having another girl all over him. Did you know about that?”

  The air left me, and I sagged forward. My heart dropped to the bottom of my feet and new pain sliced through me. Hearing Mason’s plan and knowing Kate would think she was his girlfriend was different from hearing it was happening, and hearing it from Mason’s enemy. I couldn’t answer him. I felt rubbed raw from the inside out.

  His tone didn’t soften. It hardened. “I asked around. It’s that same bitch that beat you up.”

  “Yeah.”

  “And he’s letting her crawl all over him? He tossed you aside? For her?” The threat of violence was swimming in his depths. He tossed the shot down his throat and refilled it again. Nudging mine towards me, he waited for me this time.

  I took it. I didn’t feel a thing.

  “More?” He lifted the rum again.

  I nodded. I needed all I could get.

  We took two more shots before I moved my glass to the side. No more for me, but he still downed two more. Then he leaned against the far wall behind the bar, and I slid onto a stool. The alcohol was beginning to work. I was beginning to feel warm again.

  “You never answered my question. Are you still with the guy?”

  “I don’t know.”

  Disappointment flared over him, followed by pity. “That’s too bad.”

  “You’re not going to tell your brother?”

  Pushing away from the wall, he reached for the rum again. He
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