The original crowd, p.43
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       The Original Crowd, p.43

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  Mandy. It’ll happen then. Prove me wrong, if it’s that important to you.”

  I left, leaving the confused blue-blood behind me.

  In the hallway, I saw Tray poking at some of the plants in the foyer.

  “What are you doing?” I asked.

  He grabbed my hand and pulled me closer. “I put one of the guns in here. I need to find it and put it back in the safe. Can you distract everyone?”

  “Me? I don’t talk to those people.”

  “Just…take ‘em downstairs or something. Or you can find the gun and put it back.”

  I grinned. “Actually, I could, you know. It’s one of these mad skills I have.” I laughed, savoring the moment with him.

  “Shut up,” he said harshly, but I heard the laughter in his voice.

  “Fine,” I murmured, seeing Tristan move into the kitchen, but not before sending a frown our way. “I’ll figure out something.”

  “It won’t take long.”

  “Better not,” I murmured, “or I’m likely to kill someone as part of the distraction.

  “No killing my friends,” he shot back as I left for the kitchen.

  I flicked him off behind my back.

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  I suggested hanging out by the pool and everyone agreed. It worked as a perfect distraction. Turns out the best way to nurse a hang-over is to lounge around in the sun and either drink water or more alcohol. Go figure.

  Tray came outside a few minutes later and sat with me, Mandy, Tristan, Erin and Jasmine. We had segregated, somewhat. Mandy, Tristan, Erin, and Jasmine were at my patio table.

  The rest sat opposite us, across the pool.

  After the Jasmine’s incident, Amber and Sasha were inseparable. I was thinking that her plan had backfired. Now she was stuck with Mandy and…me, I guess.

  Carter arrived two hours later, complete with a one hundred foot sub.

  “Hey, beautiful,” Carter greeted, throwing an arm around my shoulders.

  “What’s this in celebration of?” I asked, grinning back at him. I liked Carter—remember when I slammed the door in his face?

  “Uh, it’s more of a de-celebration. I have to head back to boarding school. My ‘extended’ holiday is officially over.”

  “What?”

  “Yeah, but don’t worry. I should be getting another ‘extended’ holiday in a few months. It doesn’t take me long to get into trouble there,” he reassured me, squeezing my shoulders and steering us away to a corner. “So, let’s talk about you and my best friend, who I haven’t seen like this since…ever.”

  “What do you mean?” I grinned lightly, but dreaded what he was going to say next. I had it feeling it was going to turn into some mushy feelings crap that I always run away from. But this was Carter, so I sucked it up and waited for what he was going to say.

  “He looks relaxed, Taryn. I don’t know what you do.” He laughed. “Okay, I know exactly what you do, but any girl can do that too.”

  I punched him in the chest.

  “No, no, I don’t need the details. I just want to tell you, as Tray’s friend, thank you, for whatever the hell that works between the two of you. He looks good.”

  Not today. He looked like he was wound tighter than a forty year old virgin who learned masturbation was ‘evil.’

  “Uh…yeah,” I replied, unsure of what I was supposed to say.

  It must’ve appeased Carter, because he nudged me in the shoulder playfully, and then exclaimed, “Tristan! You big slut!” He took off and jumped into her lap. “I heard what you did last night.”

  “You hear the news?” Mandy asked, she materialized from behind me, a drink in hand.

  “You’re drinking again?”

  “Oh no. This is water. My drunk fest was yesterday. I’m good, thanks,” she said dryly. “Did you hear Carter’s going back to his school. It sucks.”

  “Why does he go to boarding school?”

  “Because his parents think he can get a better education elsewhere, where all his friends, like Tray, are not. They’re not big fans of Tray. Actually, a lot of parents aren’t fans of Tray.”

  “How come?”

  Mandy snorted. “Are you serious? Have you looked at Tray? He looks like sex on a stick. Mom and Dad would freak if they found out you’re dating him. Wait, you are dating, right? I mean, you’re still not in denial? Because it’s getting annoying.”

  “No.” I rolled my eyes. “We both know we’re in a relationship. Not that it’s any of your business.”

  “I’m going to throw that back at you the next time you’re yelling at me about Devon.”

  Touché.

  I argued anyway, “That’s different.”

  “No, no. No, it’s not, Taryn.” Mandy laughed. “But anyway, Carter and Tray used to be inseparable when they were younger, but…I don’t know. Tray went through some phase and he became scary. People either worship Tray or they hate him. Most parents fall in the ‘hate’ category.”

  I didn’t like this conversation. I shrugged. “They just don’t know him.”

  “No one really knows him,” Mandy commented. She paused for a minute, studying Tray. “I mean, I know he likes beer, sex, and pizza. That’s about it and I’ve known him my whole life.”

  I was uncomfortable.

  Mandy burst out laughing. “You’re in pain right now, aren’t you?” she asked. “You’re just hating this.” She laughed hysterically.

  I didn’t get what was so funny.

  “I love you, Taryn.” She threw her arms around me, hugging me tightly. “I really do. I was a bit worried when we were asked to adopt you, but…man…this is great. You’re great. You and me—we’re actual sisters. We fight, laugh, cry, but you’re there for me, just like a sister should be. You’re better than a best friend. Best friends can fight and that’s the end of it, but not you and me.”

  See why I’m so uncomfortable? There is absolutely no point in this conversation. Mandy and I have bonded before, we don’t need to do it again. In my opinion, conversations need to have a purpose. They should be limited to these purposes only: 1. To argue; 2. To make plans for the immediate future (stay away from long-term planning, could lead to something more serious); 3. Sex; 4. To inform someone or be informed of something important (I will be the judge on what is considered important). If conversations do not adhere to these requirements, the only exception is if I’m amused (I will also be the only one to judge if it is funny or not).

  “Anyway,” Mandy continued after her fit of laughter, “I was saying that Carter’s parents don’t like Tray. I think it’s because Tray told ‘em to fuck off. The guy hates authority. He used to be awful in the eighth and ninth grade. He was suspended almost every month. They only kept him in school because the superintendent was golf buddies with his dad. Last year he started to get better. He only got suspended every third month or so.”

  She started laughing again. She had to be drinking; water doesn’t have this kind of effect.

  Another stipulation: both parties must adhere to the aforementioned stipulation concerning the humor exclusion. I was not amused. According to the rules, this conversation is illegal.

  “I just think it’s awesome that my sister is dating Tray Evans. Like in a real relationship. This isn’t like when he dated Jasmine.”

  Okay. This conversation needed to be done.

  “I have to go to the bathroom.”

  I veered into the kitchen instead and grabbed some of the magical coffee that appeared out of nowhere.

  “Hey.” Tray had followed me.

  “Let’s go back to denying that we’re in a relationship.”

  Tray grinned and hopped onto the island counter, sitting back to listen to me.

  I continued, “People suddenly think they can start talking to me about this, you and me. Carter. Mandy. God knows who’s next. I don’t care about what they think. I don’t care about what you used to be like and how you’ve changed. I don’t care that you’re treating me dif
ferent than you treated Jasmine. I don’t care about any of that, so why do people think they should tell me? Because I should care about that shit? Which, I do not!”

  “Just tell ‘em to fuck off. It works for me.” Tray was still grinning, finding my tirade amusing. He lifted a hand to run through his hair.

  My eyes fell on his bandages.

  “You want me to redress those?” I pointed to his hands.

  “Oh. Uh,” he paused to consider it, “nah. They should be good. If I go swimming, then yeah.”

  “I suggested swimming. But no one’s swimming.”

  “That requires energy.” Tray yawned. “I know I don’t have that much.” He pointed to my hands. “How are your hands?”

  I’d forgotten about my cuts. I lifted my hands and looked at them. “They’re better. Not hurting, if that’s what you’re asking.” But I should change their dressings, it’d been awhile.

  “You two aren’t doing it in the kitchen, are you?” Carter asked, from around the corner. He must’ve been the spokesman, because a smattering of laughs—and giggles—broke out.

  It’s only funny when men giggle. Giggling girls: annoying.

  Tray retorted, “If we are, you gotta pay to come watch.”

  Carter turned the corner, a dollar bill in hand. “Do I know you or what?” He laughed, launching himself up on the counter, landing next to Tray. “So, Taryn, do a dance for me.”

  I narrowed my eyes at him.

  Tray grew silent, waiting for my reaction.

  I smiled, going for sultry, when I moved up next to Carter, sliding my hands along the counter, right beside him. Then I grabbed hold of his pants and yanked him off the counter.

  I stepped back as he fell to the floor, landing on his ass.

  “That’s more entertaining to me.” I grinned at him. Tray lifted me up and placed me beside him.

  Carter sat there in shocked silence for a moment. “The fuck—” he finally sputtered, glaring at me as he stood up, brushing off his pants.

  “You’re a moron.” Tray chuckled. “When you say moronic stuff, you need to expect to be treated like a moron.”

  Grant moved back to the sub, which had been left out. He picked up a piece, and remarked, “Man, thanks for the food, Carter. I get sick of Tray’s pizza all the time.”

  “Hey, don’t forget KFC,” Tray balked weakly.

  Grant ignored him. “Too bad you gotta go back to boarding school. You should not go, like your parents would ever know. Aren’t they in Europe? Just have Taryn sneak in and steal all your contact info. They wouldn’t have a way to get a hold of your parents.”

  “What?” Carter looked at me, interested.

  “No,” I said automatically. “No. No.”

  “You could do that?” Carter asked.

  “No. I can’t. Not anymore. No.”

  “That would be awesome. I wouldn’t have to go back and my parents wouldn’t cut me off.”

  “I’m not doing anything. No.” I shot Tray a pleading look.

  He laughed.

  “Seriously, Taryn—”

  “No, are you not listening to me?! I said no. I’m done.”

  A very loopy looking Mandy piped up, “I won’t let her. So you can hate me. But Taryn’s not allowed to do anything illegal…like that.”

  “Go find a computer genius, promise him whatever he wants and have him do the computer stuff. I don’t think you need help breaking into your school’s offices. You just need someone to hack into their system.”

  “I could do that.” Carter was thinking pensively. “In fact, I could do that from here. I know some guys that could do it.” He took off, darting out to his car.

  Tray and Grant were grinning.

  “What?”

  “He’s just going to threaten ‘em,” Tray answered, laughing. “Carter’s not big on public relations. He’ll threaten ‘em, they’ll report him, he’ll get in more trouble, and the dudes will get their asses kicked in the end.”

  “He might get an extended suspension then. He gets what he wants either way,” I mused.

  Just then Amber, Sasha, and another girl came into the room giggling—see annoying!

  “What’s going on?” Amber asked pleasantly. She tended to downplay her stuck-up, bitchy, goddess-like persona around the guys.

  Sasha was quiet.

  “Not much,” Mandy answered her.

  “We should go to the diner. Or to Sers,” Amber suggested, glancing around the group.

  “Let’s go to Sers and rent a boat,” Jasmine added. “That would be a lot of fun.”

  What the hell is Sers?

  But everyone wanted to go to Sers, so the decision was made and everyone left.

  Outside, Mandy pulled me towards Tristan’s car. “Hold on. I gotta grab my purse,” I muttered, darting towards the pool-house.

  “Okay. We’ll wait,” Mandy called after me, moving towards the white Rolls-Royce.

  Tray was doing the same when I entered his bedroom. I saw him stuff his wallet in his back pocket.

  “What the hell is Sers?” I asked, looking around the room.

  “It’s a rec center on the lake in town,” Tray answered distractedly. I watched him as he searched around the room for something. He lifted up a pillow, but put it back down.

  “I plugged your cell in.”

  “Oh. Thanks.” He lifted up a shirt and there it was.

  “I did that when you were beating the shit out of that dumbass punching bag,” I murmured, looking for my purse.

  I looked up, grabbing my purse—which was in the corner—and found him looking at me. “What?” I stopped, slinging my purse over my shoulder, to have it cross my body.

  “Nothing.” His eyes didn’t reflect nothing, but I let it go.

  “Okay.” I shrugged, moving to the door.

  But Tray stopped me, he grabbed my hand and pulled me to him. Bending his head, he kissed me, his hands resting on my hips, holding me firmly against him.

  When he lifted his head, he said, “Thanks.”

  “For what?”

  He didn’t say anything, but grinned, leading the way out.

  I followed him out and headed towards Tristan’s car. The backdoor was open with Mandy half sitting outside. “Let’s go, Taryn. She’s riding with us, Tray.”

  Tray lazily lifted a hand in response, already heading to his own vehicle.

  When I climbed in beside Mandy in the backseat, Tristan sent me a small smile before starting the car. Erin sat in shotgun.

  “Mandy, have you talked to Devon lately?” Erin turned and asked. She looked at me, then immediately looked away. I guess I still made her nervous.

  He left yesterday. Define ‘lately.’

  I tuned the conversation out. Mandy had launched into a story about how she drunk-dialed him last night and he was not amused. The guy’s getting ready for the play-offs. He probably needed his sleep. I could sympathize with him.

  After a short drive to the opposite side of town, we reached Sers. The place was huge, complete with tennis courts, sand
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