The original crowd, p.3
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       The Original Crowd, p.3

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  “Just think about it. Alright?” he suggested, his voice husky.

  I didn’t trust myself to speak so I just nodded dumbly.

  “Fine. Fine,” he murmured, eyeing my lips intently.

  I licked them.

  Moaning, he came back, drawing a hand around my neck as I stood up on my toes to meet him halfway. Our mouths fused, he had my leg twisted around him again as his hand slid up and around to my stomach, resting there a moment, his thumb caressing in a rhythmic motion.

  Sliding his hand inside my front pocket he pulled out my ringing cell phone and handed it to me, chuckling wryly. I didn’t comprehend what he handed me for a moment. Blushing, I snapped it open. “Hello?”

  “Babe.”

  Turning around, my back to Tray, I snapped, “Brian, I swear to God, if you don’t—”

  “Don’t what?” he snapped back. “Give up on the one person who’s been there for me my entire life? I’m not doing it, Tar. I don’t give a shit what you throw at me.”

  Without realizing, I had softened my voice. “Brian, I’d do it for you,” I said hoarsely. “And you know it. I’d back off if you had this chance.”

  “No, baby, I’d bring you with me.”

  “It’s not the same.”

  “Yes, it is. I’d make it work someway.”

  He would. We both knew it, but I wasn’t him. “Fine, but we both know I would’ve done anything to make it right, and if that meant giving up the fun, I would’ve done it. You can’t do that for me.”

  “That’s what this is about? You think I won’t give up the ‘fun’ for you?” he asked bitterly.

  “We both know you won’t. You’re in too deep, Brian.”

  “Baby.”

  “Don’t,” I said firmly, unconsciously standing straighter.

  “Tar.”

  “I said no.” I’ve rarely told him no and he’d learned to listen when I said it.

  Brian was silent on the other end. I knew he’d listen this time too.

  “Goodbye,” I whispered, closing my phone before he could say I was fighting back tears because I knew he’d listen to me this time.

  “You love him,” Tray murmured, watching me intently as I turned back around.

  “I loved him. He was my…he was my family when everyone else didn’t want me.”

  “I get it.” He nodded solemnly. “What you’re doing, I get it. I do.”

  “And yet you still want me to steal the PRS-500,” I stated.

  Grinning, he shrugged. “Yeah…I gotta take care of the school.”

  I made my decision. I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “If you’re looking to turn me into one of those girls that’ll bow down to you—it won’t work. I’m not going to pant after you, hoping you’ll pay attention to me.”

  He waited. He saw the decision in my eyes.

  “But I’ll get the PRS-500,” seeing his triumph flare quickly, I continued, “after I have a friend of mine take a look at it.”

  “What?”

  “I’m your best shot of getting it and that’s the deal. Take it or leave it. I won’t lose any sleep over it.”

  Narrowing his eyes, he shook my hand. “You’re an operator. I should’ve guessed,” he said soothingly.

  I smirked, turning around and crossing to my car. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I caught a glimpse of Tray leaning against his, watching me.

  *

  Mandy had asked me if I wanted to go to Tray’s party that night, but I had declined, instead choosing to slip out of the house and head to an old friend’s. As my car slid to a halt outside the ratty old house, I grinned, hearing the music blaring from inside.

  Same old Geezer.

  Chuckling, I approached it and swept through the door, knowing he’d never hear my knock. I found him where I always find him—his skinny ass stoned on the couch, a half grin on his face, his hair looking even shaggier than the last time I saw him.

  Crossing over to him, I swiftly kicked the couch. I watched him stumble off, jolted from the bump. As his eyes lighted on me, a full grin spread over his face and he threw himself at me.

  “Tartar!”

  Laughing, I disentangled his arms and cut the music. “Geez, you don’t ever change, do you?”

  “Never ever. Never ever,” he babbled, bouncing up and down in place.

  Shaking my head, I replied, “It’s good to see you, Charles.” Using his real name, I saw a small tear slip from his eye. His smile vanished immediately and he threw himself at me again, wrapping his bony arms around me tightly, squeezing the life out of me.

  After a moment, I kicked him away. “Okay, that’s enough.”

  He was bouncing again.

  Tilting my head to the side, I asked, “Can I ask you for a favor?”

  “Yeah. Sure. Anything.”

  “Brian been around?”

  “No,” he said seriously. “He’s been off, like off off, if you know what I mean, ever since you left. I used to think he was scary, but man, he’s really scary now.”

  “Yeah…he’s been calling me.”

  “I think he never thought you’d leave him.”

  “Yeah.” I sighed, rubbing a hand over my forehead. “Uh…I have a favor to ask.”

  “Sure. Anything. You know that.” He beamed up at me.

  “I need you to make a device look like it’s been wiped.”

  “Any certain type of device? And I’m guessing you don’t really want it to be wiped?”

  “Yeah. It’s a PRS-500. I only want one code to show up, one set of numbers. Everything else, I want it to look clean, but not actually clean. Got it?”

  He saluted. “Yes, ma’am. Whatever you want.”

  “Okay. Okay.” It was good to see him. Really good. Wrapping my arms around him, I hugged him back this time, something that I’d never done before. Brian was the only one I ever hugged. Geezer and the others, I let them hug me, but I never hugged them.

  Geezer knew the significance. He was sniffling when I pulled away and swept out the door.

  Getting in the car, I quickly started it and peeled out of there, flicking the tears away as they peeked at the corner of my eyes.

  It wasn’t a long drive, from Pedlam to Rawley, but it was long enough to get my thoughts in order. If I was going to do this, I needed layouts, blueprints, and security parameters. Everything. If Tray wanted this device to get inside Pedlam before the homecoming game, I needed to steal it just before that evening. At the last possible minute so they wouldn’t change all the codes. That meant I needed to get it by Thursday night. I had six days to get this assignment perfected. I would need Geezer on standby, preferably away from Tray and the others. They didn’t need to mix.

  I didn’t want to acknowledge it, but I had missed this. The old rush was building and I couldn’t stop the grin on my face.

  Pulling onto the highway leading into Rawley, I pulled into the town’s diner. Normally it was the hangout, but since Tray was having his party it was empty. Everyone, invited or not, wanted to be at his party. Apparently, they were legendary.

  So I was surprised when I saw Tray, Bryce, and Grant sitting in a booth in the corner. Before I could duck out, not sure if I wanted to stay or go home, Grant saw me and let out a whistle.

  I blushed. I forgot I was wearing my old attire when I went to see Geezer; he wouldn’t have recognized me if I wore what I normally did now. I had on tight black pants and a black tank top that dipped low, highlighting the swell of my breasts.

  Approaching them, fully aware of the heat in Tray’s scrutiny, I murmured, “Hey, guys.”

  “We thought we’d see you at the party, but you must have had other plans,” Bryce called out, grinning wolfishly.

  “Nah, just business,” I drawled, holding Tray’s gaze intently for a moment. “But that’s done so I thought I’d stop in for a Diet Coke. Thought you guys would be at the party, since—you know—Tray, you’re hosting it.”

  He grinned, leaning back, relaxed and in co
ntrol. “Nah, those parties can run themselves.”

  “Hmm,” I murmured, abruptly turning and heading to the counter. As I ordered my Diet Coke, I saw them leave. I heard their car squealing as they pulled out of the parking lot. Grabbing my Coke, I headed towards my car, then slowed seeing Tray leaning against my car, his arms crossed, waiting patiently for me.

  Drawing closer, I stopped just in front of him. Neither of us spoke.

  “You go see that guy?” he finally asked, the epitome of self-control.

  “No, I went to see a friend, the guy who’s going to check out the device before I hand it to you.”

  “You move fast.”

  “Yeah, well…this job needs a lot of planning. I gotta start early.”

  “So I was thinking, if you get the device, we’d need to have it by Thursday night.”

  “I know. The last possible moment so they don’t change the codes. I’m on it.”

  “You’re very…professional about this.”

  “Yeah, well…I used to go to Pedlam. There’s a reason why their security is so tight. It’s going to be a challenge.”

  “And that’s the only part of this that’s a challenge?” he drawled, pushing off from the car so he was right in front of me, almost touching, but not quite.

  Tipping my head back, I held his eyes. “It’s the only part that gives me a rush.”

  He grinned. “Somehow I don’t believe you.”

  “You’re not the challenge if that’s what you’re thinking,” I said softly, grinning at him.

  “But I give you a rush,” he murmured, bending so his mouth was against my neck. I closed my eyes, I couldn’t help it. I was slowly losing the capability of thinking when I felt his mouth kiss and linger on me, sliding around to the other side. My hand twisted itself in his hair, holding it like an anchor, as my other hand slid down his chest, finding its way underneath his shirt and sliding a finger on the inside of his jeans—just an inch inside. I grinned hearing his sudden intake of breath as I moved my finger slightly, rubbing it back and forth. Then his hand moved and slipped underneath my tank top, and slid upwards, inching up slowly resting just around the swell of my breast.

  Remembering where we were, I ripped away from him breathing heavily.

  “Shit…” he breathed, his eyes raking my face.

  “Go to your party. There’s a girl there you can fuck,” I snapped, climbing inside and ripping out of the parking lot.

  *

  The next day passed uneventfully. Mandy came in my room Saturday evening feeling better after nursing her hangover away the entire day, and filled me in on everything that had happened at the party. Who hooked up with whom; who broke up; who fought; who barfed. It was an awesome party supposedly.

  Watching me intently, she asked if I wanted to go out that night with the gang. I declined and continued folding my clothes, showing no reaction.

  At her silence, I almost flinched. The rumors had already circulated—someone must’ve seen Tray and I outside the diner, because I knew he wouldn’t say anything and I sure as hell didn’t. Then again, maybe he would tell; I didn’t really know him that well.

  She didn’t push it. Instead she launched into a rant about how she thinks Devon might be cheating on her.

  Frowning, I turned back to her. “Are you serious? Devon? We’re talking about Devon?”

  “Yeah.” She swung her legs around and sat up, still on my bed. “He was…weird last night. I don’t know. Maybe he really did hook up with Stephanie.”

  “I lied about that.”

  “I know you did, but…maybe she’s going after you through me and she’s trying to do it through Devon because she knows that would hurt me.

  “Nah,” I dismissed easily,” Stephanie’s pretty direct. She’ll come straight after me, not you.”

  Laughing, she murmured, softly, “You know, after that phone call the other night, you’re different. It’s like you’re a whole different person.”

  “No. I just wasn’t me before. Now the old me is starting to come back out.”

  “Why’d you hide?”

  I wasn’t ready to unburden my soul. I didn’t care if she was my new sister.

  I shrugged. “Getting to know people. Nothing dramatic.”

  “Oh.” She sounded disappointed.

  “So are you going to talk to Devon tonight? About your hunch?”

  “About Stephanie? No, but I am going to ask him if he’s cheating on me.”

  “Come on, Mandy. The sooner you talk to him, the sooner you’ll know what’s really going on and be back to being lovebirds again,” I murmured, folding my last shirt. Leaning against the wall, I took in her frown and said, “Whoa. You’re actually serious.”

  “Yeah,” she said sarcastically, standing up she started to pace. “He’s really off and it’s getting to me, you know? He’s been like this for a while, but last night…it creeped me out.”

  “Well…” I murmured softly, feeling sad for her. I know what it felt like, Brian had cheated on me a few times too. “Do you stay like this, not knowing, or do you push him and find out?”

  Sighing, she replied, “I can’t stay like this. No way. It’s been…God…like seven months of this already. I didn’t want to admit it, but this feeling has been there, you know?”

  “Yeah…”

  “Yeah…”

  “So where are you guys going tonight? And who’s all going?”

  “The gang and some others.” That meant the elite and the crowd that gathered around them, including Stephanie and her wannabes. “We’re going to a party at Rickets’ House.”

  Great. I felt a knot in my stomach. Rickets’ House was a great big white mansion near Pedlam. It was where a lot of parties were thrown because it was situated deep in the woods. Kids could scatter easily if the cops showed up and it was notorious for being a mating ground for other schools. Brian wouldn’t be there, he hated that place, but there’d definitely be some others there from Pedlam.

  On the other hand…

  “I’m in.”

  I didn’t care about Mandy’s abrupt startled gaze.

  *

  Devon and Jasmine were driving with us. They’d arrived a few minutes ago and it had been awkward…to say the least. Jasmine had obviously heard the rumors because she gave my outfit a second glance. But, I might run into other Pedlam students and they needed to see me. Not the new me—the quiet, boring, saintly me. They’d just laugh.

  So I dressed how I used to. I wore a leather miniskirt and a lacey black tank top that hugged my curves with a diamond necklace that was looped twice around my neck, resting just above my belly-button. Even Mandy had been slightly taken aback and she’d seen the old me a few times.

  I could tell that she was distracted by Devon’s behavior. He’d been standoffish the entire evening. He arrived and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek and that had been it. After we traipsed into the car, he’d been silent, just focused on driving. Jasmine sat in the back with me, chatting to Mandy, who was glancing at Devon every few seconds, trying to appear nonchalant. I was staring out the window tuning the conversation out.

  Until I heard Jasmine murmur, “…he was with Aidrian last night. God, Tray just pisses me off at times.”

  I looked over and caught a furtive glance from Mandy under her
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