The original crowd, p.4
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       The Original Crowd, p.4
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         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  eyelashes. “What?”

  “Didn’t say anything.”

  Jasmine turned to me. “I was just telling Mandy that sometimes I’m embarrassed by Tray. God, especially when he fucks girls like Aidrian Casners. She’s white trash. Seriously.”

  “That’s probably why he fucked her,” I drawled, leaning back.

  Jasmine and Mandy were both watching me intently. Even Devon had glanced in the rear-view mirror.

  “What?”

  “Nothing,” Mandy squeaked.

  Jasmine turned to face me. “We heard an interesting tidbit last night…about you and Tray,” Jasmine said, trying to bait me. “Care to elaborate?”

  “If it’s anything short than us screwing on the hood of my car, it’s not worth addressing.” I grinned, a dry chuckle in my voice. “How long till we get there?”

  “We’re meeting up with Tray and the rest of the gang at his place first,” Devon said tightly, turning into a driveway.

  I had to admit, the place was impressive. It was gorgeous. The mansion had two massive pillars right before the front door with a large patio extending off to the side. The living room could be seen through three large windows and inside there was a flat screen TV highlighting one entire wall. It looked like a movie theater with black leather couches gracing the sides of the room. Through the house you could see the pool shimmering through the glass patio doors on the other side of the mansion.

  Yes. It was impressive.

  Fuck that.

  Walking inside we were met with a chandelier—an actual chandelier in the foyer with a spiral staircase leading off to the right. There was an open doorway just before the steps and it led to an expansive kitchen, complete with an island in the middle. Even the kitchen looked like a masterpiece.

  Most of the ‘cool’ crowd were lounging around, all drinking, chatting, or in the process of making their drinks for the ride.

  I saw Grant and Bryce right away. They were at the table talking with some girls I didn’t recognize. Amber was sitting on the island, dangling her feet, talking with a guy that I thought was Brent…Garrett? Basketball team…I think. I didn’t really care.

  Tray was nowhere to be found.

  I felt Mandy nudge me and whisper, “Tray just got here.”

  I couldn’t see him.

  “What are you talking about?” I asked in a seemingly bored, low tone.

  “I just talked to Erin and she said Tray just ran in. He’s getting dressed and then we’re all heading out.”

  “I don’t get why we’re all meeting here? Why don’t we just go to the party?”

  “Because Tray and Grant are the only ones who know where Rickets’ House is…and…there’s probably Pedlam students there. It’s not like we all want to show up alone.”

  I grinned. “What? Strength in numbers? Can’t handle a few Pedlamites?”

  “You probably could, but I’m secure enough to admit that I wouldn’t want to do it. Trust me, we want Tray there with us when we show. He can handle Crispin Gentley.”

  I scoffed, “Gentley’s a baby.”

  Jasmine had been listening and asked, “You know Crispin Gentley?”

  “Yeah and he’s nothing to be scared of.”

  Bryce had crossed the room without me noticing. He asked, “How do you know Gentley?”

  “I went to Pedlam a few times.”

  “A few times?” I didn’t recognize this girl, but she was already annoying me. She had platinum blond hair and boobs that shouted ‘screw me’ every time your eyes skimmed across them. She could’ve been the poster-girl for Hooters.

  I clamped down on my instant irritation. “Yeah. What about it?”

  “She didn’t mean anything, Matthews,” Tray soothed, walking up behind me and wrapping an arm around my waist, pulling me into his side. To everyone else, he said, “Let’s head out.” He pulled me with him and said, “You can ride with me.”

  I glared at him, but noticed that Mandy was looking cautiously at Devon. I saw Jasmine pair off with Grant, so I said lightly, “Fine.” It would be the perfect time for Mandy to talk to Devon anyway.

  Two other guys were walking behind us as we walked to Tray’s SUV. I ignored the heat from Tray’s hand as it spread, open palm, on my stomach. Brushing him off, I rounded the SUV and climbed into the passenger seat. The other two got in the back.

  As Tray started it up, he introduced us, “Helms, Mitch, this is Matthews. Matthews—the guys.”

  “My name’s Taryn, not Matthews,” I informed them dryly, seeing each nod in an easygoing way. I recalled that they were both on the basketball team. They fit the description—tall and lanky. They were both wearing Abercrombie & Fitch. Preppy boys.

  If I had been worried about having to converse with Tray the entire time, I would’ve been relieved. For the most part, he ignored me and seemed content making small talk with Helms and Michael.

  I tuned them out as I speculated on the night ahead.

  Crispin Gently would probably be there. He seemed to always be at Rickets’ House. I had only heard stories about the parties there. They were notorious just because kids from other towns showed up. Rickets’ House wasn’t Pedlam Territory. It was in the middle of four towns. Four territories. I’d been there a few times, enough to know how to get there myself if I was asked, but Brian wanted me to stay away from it when we were together. Cops seemed to always show up and, of course, they always went after Brian first.

  Crispin knew my rep though. He’d hit on me enough in the past. Something about the fact that I could steal anything seemed to fascinate him. He and Brian were constantly getting in shoving fights—usually over me. I think I was just an excuse, though. Gentley hit on me because I was Brian’s girl. Everyone knew it, so he used me to get a rise out of Brian—and it worked.

  Of course, I think Gentley was just entertained by me. I had noticed, on a few occasions, there had been amusement in his eyes when he had hit on me, even when Brian wasn’t anywhere around. He enjoyed baiting me and seeing how I handled it. Normally I handled it with grace, but one time, he’d gone too far. That night, Gentley received thirteen stiches and spent the night in the hospital.

  Without realizing it, we were already there. I blinked. That hadn’t taken as much time as I thought. As Tray drove through the back winding roads, I glanced uneasily at the forest on both sides. The woods always unnerved me. I don’t know why but they just…freaked me out. It was something I’d never told anyone; not even Brian. Snapping back to the present, Tray was already pulling into the long driveway around the hill that led its way to Rickets’ House, its lights already blinding from the party going on inside. There was a good amount of cars loitering the driveway as we passed them by.

  “Dude, where we going to park?” I think it was Mitch who asked.

  “Forget that. Look at all these people. Holy fucks! We’re going to get trashed tonight.” That must’ve been Helms then?

  I grinned, catching sight of Grayley’s fender. He’d think it’s a riot, me showing up with the crème de la crème from Rawley’s royalty. No doubt he’d double over in laughter when he saw us make our entrance.

  “Something funny?” Tray asked silkily, watching me from the corner of his eye.

  I looked at him. I had to admit, he looked good; he looked more than good. If I were to create the perfect guy, I have to admit, he’d looked like Tray. His knowing eyes were still resting on me as he paused briefly for Helms and Mitch to jump out.

  “I just recognized a few of the cars back there,” I said lightly, moving to open the door.

  “Walk with me,” he requested. Anyone else would’ve taken it as a command, but I heard the questioning lilt to his voice.

  So I sat back and waited as he moved the SUV forward. The rest of our train did the same thing; each car paused for the passengers to hop out and the cars all followed the others, parking side by side on the opposite end of the hill.

  As we got outside, Tray didn’t move to draw me against his s
ide. I was grateful, but at the same time I was seething at myself—I had kind of hoped he would have. We walked easily beside each other, making our way up to the house. Turning back, I saw Devon walking alone, looking lost in thought. Jasmine was walking with some guy—I couldn’t place his name.

  When he neared the door, we saw that everyone had already gone inside. There were quite a few drinking and lounging on the patio in front of the door. I recognized one or two from Pedlam.

  “Holy shit!”

  Whirling around, I paled at seeing Veronica Teedz teetering unsteadily on her high heels, beer sloshing over her yellow cup, her eyes transfixed on my face. “Holy shit,” she exclaimed again, drawing nearer. “Taryn! How the hell are you!? I can’t believe it’s you…it is you or am I that drunk?”

  I was taken aback. Veronica Teedz had never acknowledged my presence before, why now? Coolly, I replied, “You’re that drunk.” And I moved past her, catching an amused look in Tray’s eyes.

  I failed to see her pull out her phone as our group moved inside.

  Inside there were people everywhere; each room was packed tight. A few tables were set up in the corners for some card playing. I knew from previous experience that the dance floor was in the basement, but the bass of the music pounded throughout the entire house. The second, third, and fourth floors were the bedrooms—hookups and smaller parties usually congregated there.

  Apparently tonight was different because the main floor had been turned into a dance floor, along with the patio outside.

  I felt Tray grab my hand and pull me towards the kitchen area. He shelled out some money for our cups. After they had been filled from a keg, he gave one to me. Pulling me closer, he murmured in my ear, “You here to work?”

  I tilted my head back, my lips brushing against his ear, a hand braced on his chest. “Yeah. Some of my old crew is here, they might be willing to help me out.”

  He nodded and turned into the crowd, leaving me alone.

  I didn’t notice how some of the crowd stopped to watch us.

  Pushing through the room, I worked my way through the crowd, smiling in return to a few greetings, some from those who recognized me from Pedlam, some just from drunken pervs.

  Finally, I pushed my way into a backroom. I saw that Tray had taken root against the wall off to the side. He was swamped on both sides by people. Some were Rawley students, I recognized Tamira Case from another school I briefly attended—from what I remember, Tray was exactly her type—there were others that I didn’t recognize. Tray had an atmosphere around him that told the world that he didn’t give a damn about anyone or anything; it made him all the more appealing.

  On the other side of the room, was Crispin Gentley, also surrounded by bimbos—okay, to be fair they were cheerleaders—and jocks—okay, to be fair they were cheerleaders. I saw Tracy Hardkins and Kimberly Ringsworld. They were at the top of the food chain in Pedlam. I groaned softly. I saw Crispin’s eyes grow wide, falling on me at the same time I saw the person I had been searching the entire house for: Grayley.

  Grayley fit in with anyone—it was one of his gifts. He was a pretty likeable guy and pretty popular. He had become friends with me and Brian years ago; he was also Geezer’s best friend so I knew I could trust him. I knew he wouldn’t say anything to Brian or Crispin, but as I took a step in his direction, I gritted my teeth, finding myself blocked by the Crispin Gentley.

  “Well, well, well,” was all he said, in a tone like I was a mouse caught in a cat’s paw.

  It set my teeth on edge and I knew that Tray was watching intently.

  I didn’t say anything, but just waited for him to finish.

  “Looking good, Rosette.”

  “It’s Matthews now,” I stated.

  “Oh right. I heard that you’d gotten adopted. Good family, I hope?” He chuckled.

  He didn’t give one damn. We both knew it.

  “Get lost, Gentley. I’m not here for you.”

  He laughed outright at that one, tipping his head back, his perfect teeth blinding. “I’ve forgotten this. You and me. Our little…foreplay—”

  I smirked, moving closer a step. “Oh, honey, when it’s foreplay, you’ll know. You’ve never gotten close.”

  Grayley had finally noticed us and I saw him starting to push his way through the crowd towards me, a look of panic on his face. That made me frown slightly…

  “Come now, Rosette…now that you’re free from Lanser, we don’t have to continue this little game,” he coaxed.

  Grayley was almost to us and the pale color on his face was more distracting than Gentley’s repulsive comments.

  I struck out without thinking, taunting him, “Oh, little Crispin, just a poor neglected boy. Always hiding in the closet, his little G.I. Joe clasped tightly in his hands, afraid his abusive, drunk daddy will find out his secret…he wet the bed last night in a long run of nights.” I stepped back. “It explains a lot.”

  Crispin had fallen silent, just watching me, not letting any emotion show.

  So I continued, “At least that’s what your file says about how you developed your over-compensatory behaviors, pretending you’re Mr. Sex God—so full of sexual prowess, when in fact—”

  But I was cut off as Grayley flung himself in between us, pushing me back, facing Crispin and saying urgently, “She’s drunk, Gentley. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

  Crispin was seething in a tightly controlled rage as his eyes flickered over mine, leaving me cold. “She better remember where to step, Grayley.”

  I leaned over Grayley’s shoulder. “It’s not the only thing I read in your file. Want me to share your other secrets?”

  “Goddamn, you little—” He was cut off as someone launched himself around us and shoved Crispin against the wall, raining punch after punch against his face and stomach.

  It was Brian and I was shocked to see my ex-boyfriend so livid and uncontrollable as he assaulted Crispin savagely.

  “Oh fuck!” Grayley bit out, before launching himself at Brian, desperately trying to get him off Crispin.

  I couldn’t help it, I looked at Tray, pleading.

  Tray had straightened, hearing the exchange, but he saw my look and hesitated for a moment. Watching the two guys fighting, Grayley and a few others tried to get between Crispin and Brian, but then Tray nodded and the rest of his crew rushed the fight and pulled them apart. Tray crossed to stand behind me. He leaned close, one hand splayed on my hip, and murmured in my ear, “This part of your plan?”

  “It was until Brian showed up.”

  “That’s your ex?”

  “Yeah,” I said tightly, unconsciously hugging myself.

  “You want out of here?”

  “I—” I faltered. I did, but I didn’t.

  Tray decided for me. “Let’s go.” He grasped my hand and led the way, weaving through the crowd. We were out the door when Veronica Teedz stopped us again, if possible, even more unsteady on her high heels. “I called him, you know, Taryn. Brian’s been miserable and we all know it’s because of you. He wanted to know if you were here.”

  “You called him?” I demanded through clenched teeth.

  “Yeah…I did. He loves you. It was the two of you. You guys were so…you guys are perfect together.”

  “Yeah, except that I’ve changed,” I said tightly, following behind Tray as he pulled me down the steps and down the driveway. Walking side by side, in silence, I hugged myself, suddenly feeling cold.

  Tray didn’t say anything. He just glanced at me once before he resumed walking by my side. When we got to the SUV, I climbed inside after Tray unlocked the doors, huddling against the window.

  As we drove past the house, I saw Grayley standing outside, frantically searching the parking lot.

  “Stop,” I said, rolling my window down as Tray paused in front of the house.

  Grayley saw us and approached the car looking relieved. “Holy fuck, Tar!” He groaned, shaking his head. “Holy hell for fuck’s sak
e.”

  “Sorry,” I said weakly. “I’m…sorry. I didn’t realize that was going to happen.”

  Grayley was eyeing Tray, but he murmured, “Yeah, well, for what it’s worth, I think Gentley forgot that you go for the jugular. He’ll remember next time.”

  “I didn’t know Brian was there.”

  “Yeah.”

  “Is he okay?”

  “He’ll…Brian bounces back. He’s looking for you, you know. He’s convinced you’re still inside.”

  “Oh, God, Grayley, he’s going to do something stupid.”

  “I know.”

 
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