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The original crowd, p.36
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       The Original Crowd, p.36

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
slower 1  faster

  grinned, just enjoying the rapids that were leading in and out of the cave, right next to me.

  A moment later, I saw the light suddenly explode into brightness. I’d reached Crystal Bay, where an opening in the cliffs above allowed the sun to shine in. I was blinded for a second as my eyes was drawn to the water.

  “Taryn!” Mandy called out, shrieking excitedly. “Hey! You made it.”

  “Yeah.” I grinned at her, she was drenched in a white bikini, but she was smiling. She looked happy. “I’m here.”

  “Great!” She latched onto my arm and I smelled alcohol.

  They’d started the play-off festivities early.

  “Want a drink? Carter brought a pony-keg.”

  “Where is it?” I glanced around, seeing a bunch of their friends, but I didn’t see Tray or Carter.

  “At the top.” She pointed up, to the top of the cliff. “You gotta climb up to get some. Carter and Grant were telling us we had to jump to get a cup.”

  “Seriously?” I couldn’t figure the logic. You had to climb up, jump, and climb up again for a cup? It wasn’t even worth it. Which was probably the point.

  “Yeah, but Erin grabbed a cooler for the girls,” Mandy pointed to a corner, “so if you want some, help yourself.”

  Enough talk. I couldn’t hold back anymore.

  “I’m going to go look for Tray,” I murmured, already moving to climb the trail. It was nice, because the trail wasn’t as steep as the one outside. It wrapped around a little, moving inside the cave’s walls, but it was slippery. When I got to the top, I remembered why everyone congregated at the bottom. The top was just scary. Scary and rough. It was mostly a hole at the top, surrounded by dense forest. Walking barefoot was not smart.

  I hopped around, trying to find the smoothest walkway, with the least amount of pebbles. Finally, I just sucked it up and ran to where the guys were located.

  Tray, Grant, Carter, and four other guys were lounging around the pony-keg, each holding a plastic cup.

  “Heya, Taryn!” Carter grinned a drunk, lopsided grin at me. He raised a cup. “Want a cup? Gotta jump first.”

  I rolled my eyes, moving to Tray’s side. He slid an arm around my waist and brought me against his chest, his hand resting on my stomach. I grinned at Carter. “It’s just a ploy. You just don’t like sharing the pony-keg, so you make everyone work for it.”

  “Ah,” he scratched the side of his head, “kinda. Yeah. But you want a cup?”

  “No thanks. But I am going to jump.” I glanced to the cliff’s edge, where the water rushed over it. I couldn’t suppress the shiver.

  Tray must’ve felt it, because he asked, “Is that from excitement or—”

  “It’s all for you, baby,” I teased.

  “Right,” he murmured, chuckling, but I shivered a second later, as he moved again, bringing me in full contact with him.

  I slid a hand to his arm and rubbed it absent-mindedly with my thumb. I felt myself melting all over again, but I didn’t know if it was from the dive or him. Probably both and if I stayed there any longer, I’d be tempted to push the dive off until later and take Tray into the woods.

  I straightened away and murmured, “I’m gonna jump.”

  Tray stepped back as I walked to the cliff’s edge. I’ve no doubt all the guys were watching, but I didn’t care.

  My knees were melting as I looked down. I’d remember the sweet ache I felt the last time I’d been to Crystal Bay. I hadn’t chanced it then. I’d been more afraid, not from the dive, but from the attention I would’ve received from Mandy’s friends. But that was then. This was now.

  I’d taken my gloves off and now they all knew who I was.

  “Taryn,” Tray called after me.

  “What?” I looked over and saw he was walking towards me.

  “You want your clothes to get wet?” He gestured to me and I realized I still had my skirt and tank-top on. I’d remembered to take off my flip-flops at the bottom, but I hadn’t thought about my clothes.

  “Oh.” I quickly slipped out of them and handed ‘em to Tray. He stuffed both items in his back pocket and I stood there in my black bikini. I heard one of the guys let out a small groan.

  I saw the corner of Tray’s mouth curve upwards into half a grin. He was watching me closely and he could see the excitement pooling in my eyes. Our eyes held for a moment and then I flashed him a smile.

  Then I jumped, arching my arms gracefully, twisting vertically (called a twist group) in the air as I soared. It felt like I was flying. I loved feeling the wind against me and as I neared the bottom, I tucked my head, my arms perfectly straight as I cleanly cut through the water. I swam to the surface, my head breaking the water a moment later.

  I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face as I swam to the side, nor could I stamp down the flood of adrenalin in my body as I hauled myself out.

  “Taryn, that was awesome!” Mandy yelled out, sitting on the ground near the cooler.



  Amber and Sasha rolled their eyes. Okay, I don’t know if they did or didn’t. I wasn’t paying attention, but I imagine they probably did.

  “Want a drink now?” she called out, raising her glass.

  “Going again,” I shot back, and climbed right back up. I didn’t pay any attention to the guys as I walked back to the edge, and this time I did a reverse group—I faced the water, but as I jumped I rotated my body backwards as I fell through the air. I brought my arms up for a clean, straight entrance and kicked my legs to send my body soaring back up to the surface.

  The truth is that I could’ve done this the entire afternoon.

  After a while, the third dive—another twist group—the guys had stopped watching.

  When I knew no one was paying attention anymore, I approached the edge and gently lowered myself to the ground. I put my hands out and raised my body to a handstand and then pushed off. I tucked and then let loose, just before I met the water.

  Stealing was my first love. This was easily my second.

  And holy hell—if Tray and I end the night together in bed, I’ll die happy.

  When I raised myself out of the water, I realized my legs were a little weak, so I decided to call a break and found Mandy. I fell to the towel she had placed next to her.

  “Taryn, I didn’t know you could do that,” she greeted me excitedly.

  I couldn’t form words yet, so I just grinned as I accepted a bottle of water one of the girls handed me.

  “You’re really good,” the water girl said—I think her name was Erin. I just said thanks not wanting to humiliate her by calling her the wrong name.

  “Man! Mom said you were good, but Taryn, you should join the team. Like, seriously.”

  I had to laugh at her words. Like, seriously.

  “I could talk to Coach Greenly.” This suggestion was made by a girl, her hair in a French braid. I don’t swing that way, but I was taken aback by how pretty she was. Her brunette hair literally sparkled and she had the longest eyelashes.

  I would’ve been jealous, but nothing could affect me right now. I was still riding the adrenalin wave.

  “Thanks, but I’ve already met him,” I murmured, drinking my water.

  “My name’s Tristan,” she introduced herself, nudging Water Girl aside, she continued, “and this is Erin.”

  “Hi. Taryn.”

  “We’ve seen you around, but you probably don’t remember our names,” Tristan said easily, confidence oozing from her voice. “I’ve been in Spain until last week. I go to school over there. My parents don’t think Rawley has the best education my family of blue-bloods can achieve.”

  I couldn’t tell if she meant to sound snobbish or sarcastic.

  I remained silent.

  Mandy giggled. “Tristan can’t stand her family.”

  Okay, the girl was being sarcastic.

  I saw Amber and Sasha at the other end of the cave. They were talking with two other girls.
r />   “Where’s Jasmine?” I asked, not really believing I had even noticed her absence or that I’d even asked.

  “She had detention….Oh! Ah!” Mandy cried out.


  “We were supposed to go and see Mrs. Maslow, remember? That was today, after school.” She actually sounded worried.

  I raised my eyebrows. “Are you kidding me? She can yell at us tomorrow, if she even remembered.”

  “Why were you supposed to go see her?” Tristan asked.

  “Because we—” Mandy started to say.

  I interrupted and said flatly, “We had a shouting match. Our teacher overheard. The end.”

  “Taryn.” Seriously, why does Mandy continue to be shocked with how I say things? She should be used to me by now.

  “Oh.” Tristan fell silent, eyeing both of us intently.

  “What?” I asked, shrugging, finishing my water.

  “We could get into a lot of trouble. We should call her.”

  “Right.” I reached for another bottle. “You call her—half-drunk. I know I’m not calling. She was probably just going to make us sit in chairs and look at each other. Really. She’s a psych teacher.”

  “Yeah, but—” Mandy was chewing on her lip.

  I said firmly, “Mandy, leave it alone. If she brings it up tomorrow, we’ll just tell her we forgot. And we did. Tell her it was the excitement of play-offs and we forgot after the pep rally. Who wouldn’t, after watching a game of ultimate Frisbees with donkeys?” I grinned.

  Mandy giggled. So did Erin.

  Tristan looked perplexed or constipated—I always get the two mixed up.

  Suddenly there was a large crash in the water, startling everyone. I even jumped slightly.

  The pony-keg must’ve been empty and they guys had dropped it down. One of the guys ran down the trail and pulled it to the side, lifting it onto the ground. Then, one by one, each of the guys jumped off.

  The guy, whoever he was, walked over and handed my clothes to me.

  I couldn’t stop a grin. Tray had thought about me.

  And I couldn’t do any more thinking because Carter and Tray ran over and picked Mandy and myself up. Each tossed us into the water. I just laughed, waiting for the water to envelope me, but Mandy shrieked, pretending she was scared and mad.

  I rolled my eyes and pulled myself out of the water.

  Tray was helping Erin and Tristan pack everything in the cooler, but he was watching me over his shoulder.

  Our eyes met and held.

  I walked to his side and grabbed my clothes. I slipped the tank-top and the skirt on. The skirt was loose and flowing, so perfect swimming clothing. The tank-top was quickly soaked and hugged my curves. Tray didn’t mind, I saw his eyes move up and down my body. I rolled my eyes again—like it wasn’t something he hasn’t seen before.

  Hearing a small cough, I looked over and saw Tristan watching us, glancing between Tray and me. She gave me a weak smile. “We’re…huh…we’re heading out. You need a ride or anything?”

  “I drove,” I indicated, feeling Tray grab my elbow when I slipped on my sandals. I didn’t need help, we both knew that. It was just an excuse to touch—one we were both grateful for.

  The slight touch of his fingers sent shivers down my back and I felt myself melting again. I sighed. I really needed to address how my body responded to the mere proximity of him.

  “Tray, when are we meeting at your place?” Erin asked, a slight hoarseness in her voice. She was watching him, almost shyly.

  The girl had a crush on him, but then again, I’d heard most of the girls had a thing for him. Like I could really judge, I was sleeping with him.

  “Ten, sharp,” he murmured, his hand splayed openly on my back, walking behind me as I led the way.

  Carter led the way out for everyone else, down the trails and around the rocks. When we got to the beach, some of the guys took off—stripping as they dove into the waves. The girls—were being girls—laughing and giggling.

  Tristan grumbled and moved up the trail to the cars. Which surprised me. Erin followed along, almost meekly.

  Amber and Sasha were waiting for the guys, grinning as they held their clothes up. Then they took off, sprinting for the trail, the guys’ clothes still clutched in their hands.

  Tray laughed. “Fuck that.”

  I grinned, moving closer to his side, and he slipped his arm around my waist.

  “Taryn.” Mandy giggled, stumbling over to my car.

  “Yeah?” I asked, opening my car door.

  “Are you going home? Or should I get a ride with Tristan and Erin?”

  “I’m going to Tray’s.” I looked up at him as I said the words. I saw the agreement in his eyes.

  “Okay, I’ll see you tonight then.”

  “Hey, Mandy, Shelley and Kevin went on a—”

  “I know.” She waved at me, moving off to Tristan’s Rolls-Royce—holy crap. “Mom called and left me a message. Austin’s staying at a friend’s for the week.” Then she climbed inside and Tristan drove off, flicking a wave to us.

  “So, you’re coming over?” Tray asked, looking over to his vehicle. Two of the guys were already inside, waiting for him.

  “I’m hoping,” I said ruefully.

  I saw the hazel turn to amber in his eyes.

  I climbed inside my car shakily, seeing Tray cross to his vehicle.

  Starting my car, I was halfway through town when I realized I had nothing to wear. I knew if I went to Tray’s that I wouldn’t be returning home tonight. So I headed home, to quickly pack a bag before heading over.

  When I got to the house, Tristan’s car was parked in the driveway. I let myself in and darted up the stairs.

  “So, I told my parents that I’m not going back there. No fucking way.” That was Tristan, coming from Mandy’s bedroom.

  “Totally.” That must’ve been Erin. Somehow, her agreeing didn’t surprise me.

  Mandy giggled. “I could totally stay drunk for the rest of the day. We should do this more often.”

  “Your sister’s pretty impressive,” Tristan remarked. “Are her and Tray dating?”

  It was silent a moment and then I heard her say, “Well, if you ask Taryn, she’ll say no, but yes, they’re pretty much a couple.”

  “Does she know about…?”

  About what? I wanted to know now. I’m fully aware that I’m standing in the hallway, shamelessly eavesdropping—the conversation was about me anyway.

  “You and Tray?” Mandy asked. “I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t know what they talk about. They were in a fight the last two days though. Musta made up. Hmmm…I love the making up part.”

  “Yeah, I heard about you and Devon. He’s an ass and has such poor taste. Jasmine. Seriously?”

  Alright. I’m on the fence with this girl. She could be cool, but there was something about her that rubbed me the wrong way. She reminded me of a slippery eel…just slippery.

  “Shut up, Tristan,” Mandy said sharply. “We’re over that now.”

  “Whatever. Just saying. I’m guessing Amber wasn’t real helpful, was she?” Tristan laughed, the sound hollow.

  “Just because,” Mandy started, I could hear the irritation in her voice, “Amber didn’t have your back doesn’t mean it’s the same situation. Devon and Tray are different. Much different.”

  “You’re right. Devon’s a puppy compared to Tray,” Tristan said amusedly.

  That bitch. I made up my mind—I didn’t like her.

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