The original crowd, p.29
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       The Original Crowd, p.29
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         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  Amber ended up riding shotgun with Jasmine and Sasha in the next two seats. I rode in the back, but I was quite okay with that. I would’ve ridden in Carter’s car, but Tray grabbed my elbow at the last second and steered me his way. When we got there, the seats had already been taken, so I climbed in the back.

  I didn’t join in the conversation, but I didn’t sleep either. Instead I stared out the window, replaying everything in my head.

  The day had started out good. I’d felt good. Got into a little spat with Amber, realized I’d never like Mandy’s friends, and I had a tiny vacation with Tray at his home. Then the night had ended with my world being shattered.

  And now I was starting to realize I didn’t know what was up or down anymore. Or if I was just turned backwards because everything was coming at me from behind. At breakneck speed.

  I was stumbling. And I hated that feeling.

  I tuned back into the conversation, and realized Amber was going off about some senior girl, Aidrian Casners—the name was familiar. I think I remember Jasmine refer to her as the ‘white-trash’ that Tray had slept with at one of his parties.

  Huh.

  Okay, it bothered me…a little, but I was more focused on my past relationships.

  Apparently, according to Amber, Aidrian had dared to wear her skirt to school last Friday. Then she had the nerve to hit on Brent Garret—a senior on the basketball team. Guess Amber had staked her claim but the white trash didn’t heed it.

  Maybe she couldn’t read invisible signs.

  I tuned back out.

  Tray pulled into his driveway and everyone filed out. Amber was still chattering, with Sasha adding her two cents. Jasmine was glancing, uneasily at me. Then I saw Mandy, who was holding Devon’s hand as they traipsed inside Tray’s.

  All of the guys immediately zeroed in on the fridge. Bryce and Grant both got fresh icepacks. Carter pulled out some pizzas and Tray emerged from the basement with a twelve pack in hand. He slid a beer to each one of us. Even Amber and Sasha took theirs gratefully. I was half expecting a complaint and a whine for a margarita. But nope. Everyone took a bottle.

  I grabbed mine and wandered outside, where I curled up at a patio table.

  I felt my phone vibrating and pulled it out.

  Jace.

  I answered it and then slammed it back shut, fully aware it was a little pathetic, but it was a little something I could do to piss him off. A little something at least.

  The next call was Geezer.

  I didn’t pick up for him either. Instead, I pushed the phone away from me.

  I kept hearing his voice. His plea for his father’s life. I heard Jace’s own words. Walking away meant leaving the bad stuff behind. Go have dinner with my family. Jace seemed a lot more prepared for me to walk away than Brian had.

  I grabbed my phone and flipped it open to the contacts. I’d kept Cammy’s number because she went through a phase. She’d been determined that Jace had cheated on her with me, that he was in love with me. So she called, every fucking day and night. She’d leave threats, send text messages with the intent to harm and detail of how she was going to enjoy making me hurt.

  I kept her number so I knew when not to answer.

  If Jace made a deal that involved me, Cammy would be the one to spill.

  I dialed her number and heard her answer, a moment later.

  “Cammy,” I greeted, knowing she knew exactly who was on the other end.

  “Taryn,” she replied guardedly.

  “I have a question for you, Cam.”

  “Oh really?” she asked sarcastically. “And how may I help you?”

  “You answer me, I’ll tell you the truth about me and Jace,” I offered. She didn’t want to know, but I knew she couldn’t not know.

  She’d take the deal.

  “What’s your question?”

  I stood up and paced. “You hang around Jace. A lot more than he realizes. There’s been so many times he’s told me you weren’t there, but you always were and I’m thinking that you have your own little way to get in there—a way that Jace doesn’t know about.”

  “And your point?” she demanded hotly.

  I was pissing her off.

  “I wanna know if Jace made a deal? It would’ve been a deal made a long time ago.”

  “He’s made a lot of deals,” she said vaguely, but I heard hesitation in her voice. She knew something, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to share.

  “It would’ve been with Galverson.”

  Cammy was quiet, but I could almost hear her thinking.

  “Taryn,” she sounded weary, “you shouldn’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

  What the hell?

  “Are you trying to be smart?” I asked, harshly. “Just tell me the deal.”

  Then she spilled the beans.

  “Galverson’s from the east coast. He brought a crew into town.”

  “What are they doing here?”

  “They’re doing shipments. I heard Jace say something about the new storage building, they needed more guards or something. I guess it got broken into.”

  “What are they storing?”

  “I don’t know, but do you really have to guess?” she murmured scathingly.

  Drugs. But where’d the bracelet come from?

  “When did this get set up?” I mused, more to myself than her.

  “Galverson showed up four months ago.”

  A month after I left.

  Cammy continued, “But I remember Jace talking to him on the phone last year.”

  Last year.

  I waited for the golden question till the end. I asked, “You hear any deals my name was slipped into?”

  Complete silence.

  “Cammy,” I urged.

  “Taryn, seriously, I don’t think you know what you’re doing.”

  “You wanna know the truth or not?” I shot back swiftly.

  It worked.

  Cammy snapped, “Fine. Yes. Last year, Jace said he was making arrangements for you. I don’t know what he was talking about or what those arrangements were, but those were his words. It’s your turn. You and Jace. What’s the truth?”

  I lied, “We were telling the truth the whole time, Cammy. We never were together.”

  “But Brian—”

  “I lied. Brian needed something to keep him away, but it was never true.”

  She sighed, a long sigh of relief.

  “Thanks, Taryn,” she murmured before hanging up.

  I sat down, mentally and physically exhausted, and downed the rest of my beer. I could hear laughter from inside, but I wasn’t in the mood to be around anyone. Especially those people.

  Then again, who am I to judge? All my friends turned out to be liars and back-stabbers.

  I heard Mandy laugh. I hadn’t heard her laugh in a long time.

  So I stood and went inside, pausing in the doorway, seeing Mandy glowing, wrapped in Devon’s arms. Again.

  They were all standing around eating pizza. Sasha was off to the side, standing by Amber and Jasmine.

  “Taryn, want some pizza?” Carter asked, holding up a slice.

  Sasha’s eyes darkened in irritation.

  I’d been accepted, but she hadn’t

  “Sure.” I grinned back, moving to grab a piece, squeezing in beside Tray. I was surprised when he gave way and instead pulled me against his chest, with me standing right in front of him. He leaned back against the counter, with one hand on his pizza, and the other splayed on my stomach, anchoring me against him.

  I was more shocked to see Jasmine give me a small smile before she turned towards Bryce, eating her tiny piece of pizza.

  Mandy was laughing again, her arms wrapped around Devon’s neck. He was trying to eat, but she wouldn’t let him. Both were smiling at the stupid game.

  “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m thinking I might skip tomorrow,” Grant announced, hoisting himself up on a counter.

  “I’m right there wi
th you, buddy,” Bryce mumbled, raising an icepack to his bruised face.

  “Taryn,” Jasmine spoke up, a slight tremble in her voice, like she was scared to talk to me, “is it true that you might talk to Coach Greenly?”

  “Who’s Coach Greenly?”

  “The swim coach,” she shrugged self-consciously, “at least that’s what Mandy said.”

  I shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

  “You swim?” Grant asked curiously.

  “Yeah.”

  “She made junior varsity at Earlington when she was in the seventh grade,” Mandy proclaimed proudly, with a smile.

  “They trounce us every year,” Bryce mumbled around his swollen cheeks. “They’re state champs—I have to hear about it every holiday. My cousin goes there, she swims too.”

  “Mom says that Taryn’s good enough. She could maybe even get a scholarship somewhere,” Mandy gushed, while I wanted to kill her.

  I finished my pizza and leaned fully back, feeling Tray’s arm tighten around me, resting on my thigh.

  Mandy cleared her throat and asked, the first to brave it, “So, what are you going to do, Taryn?”

  I didn’t play the dumb game. I knew exactly what she meant, and everyone else did, because everyone waited.

  So I answered honestly, “I’m going to find out the truth, and I’m going to make them pay.”

  That was me being nice because I said it without cursing. Look at me, so grown up.

  “So,” Carter spoke up, “what are we doing the rest of the night?”

  Amber laughed. “I think we should put a movie in.”

  “I think we should have sex,” Carter countered swiftly.

  “Hell, the movie can be foreplay,” Bryce interjected, cursing a second later when he grinned.

  “Bryce!” Amber cried out.

  “This is my sister, you guys,” Grant mumbled, rolling his eyes.

  Amber wrapped her arm around his shoulder and murmured, “Oh, my poor little brother—can’t handle that his big sis has sex. Sex! I tell you.”

  He shoved her away, looking disgusted. “Don’t ever say those words together. Ever.”

  Amber laughed and then shrieked when Carter swept her up in his arms and threw her over his shoulder.

  He led the way downstairs.

  Mandy and Devon settled on the farthest couch, Mandy curled up in his lap, both looking content.

  Carter was already starting a movie by the time the rest of us sat down.

  I settled at the end of a second couch when Tray returned from the bathroom. He walked to me, lifted me up, and deposited me in his lap. I barely reacted, but closed my eyes, feeling his arms encircle me and I pillowed my head against his shoulder.

  I woke later on and realized Tray was carrying me up the stairs. A little bit later he laid me down on his bed and stripped down to his boxers. I grinned. “Wanna change me?”

  Tray knelt over me on the bed and slowly peeled my shirt off. He left my bra on and then undid my pants. Slowly, he slid them down my legs. Smoothing his hands back up my legs, his fingers slid underneath my thong straps and his thumbs rubbed gently against my hipbone before pulling them off.

  Then he bent and pressed his mouth there.

  I arched my back, suddenly wide awake.

  “Tray!” I gasped.

  He chuckled, but continued.

  When I came, he lifted his head and slid his hands up the side of my body, underneath my bra straps and slid them down. He unclasped my bra and threw it to the side.

  I wrapped my legs around him and deftly flipped him over, an old wrestling move. Seeing he was startled, I straddled him and slid my body down his, my mouth lingering on his chest as I moved down.

  I bent my head taking him in my mouth, and when he gasped and then arched, I grinned enjoying the torment I was putting him through.

  “Fuck,” he groaned a little while later.

  The fun was over when he tucked me underneath him and reached for the nightstand.

  I closed my eyes, my head falling back against the pillow when I felt him cover my body. My legs wrapped around him when I felt him slide into me, and my body moved right along with his.

  Both of us were groaning within seconds.

  *

  I woke up a few hours later and checked the clock. It was already seven in the morning. I nudged Tray awake and whispered, “I need to go to school.”

  “’Kay,” he mumbled as he rolled over.

  I nudged him again. “You have to drive me. My car’s there.”

  Sleepily, he reached for his pants and grabbed his keys inside the pocket. He passed them to me, and yawned. “Park it in the lot.”

  “Thanks,” I said happily as I climbed over him and headed into the shower. Tray had moved all the needed essentials into his bathroom the previous day—it had been our agreement. I’d been scared he wouldn’t get around to it, so I made him do it that instant, otherwise I wasn’t going to sleep over.

  Stepping underneath the shower spray, I was thankful for my foresight.

  When I moved back into his room, grimacing at my old clothes, I saw Tray was staring at me. Now wide awake.

  “What?” I asked, my hands pausing as I moved to dress.

  “You’re up early. Why?”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “What are you planning, Taryn?” he demanded insistently.

  “I’m going to school.”

  “Taryn,” he said firmly, standing up, his muscles rippled with his lithe movements, “look, you need to know some stuff before you go off on your little rampage.”

  “Like what?” I asked, now interested.

  “My dad was chief of police. I know all about Galverson.”

  “What?” That threw me. “How? What do you know?”

  “It’s not…look…all those people that have been telling you to keep your nose out—they’re saying it for a reason.”

  “What do you know about Galverson?” I couldn’t believe his nerve. Now he was joining their ranks?

  “Galverson is a heavy hitter.”

  “You’re telling me this now? Why not last night?”

  “Because you were pissed last night. You weren’t thinking clearly.”

  “I’m still not.”

  “You’re thinking better.” He snorted, raking a hand through his
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