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The original crowd, p.48
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       The Original Crowd, p.48

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  it was hot.”

  “I got three hours of sleep, bitched out by the cheerleading coach, and I waited two hours at school for Props to show up. I’m tired and I’m crabby. Sue me,” I muttered, blowing on my coffee.

  “Wanna have sex? I can pull over right now.”

  I bit back a grin and tried to sound exasperated. “Are you kidding me?”

  “It’s a good tension reliever.” Tray glanced at me. His voice was completely serious, but I saw the grin he was fighting back.

  I rolled my eyes, giving him a small smile. “That’s not funny.”

  “No, what’s funny is you actually thinking about it.” He chuckled, facing to the road.

  “I was thinking about sleeping. Not having sex in your car.”

  “It’s an SUV.”

  “It’s a car.”

  “No, it’s not. It’s an SUV. The dealership guy was very sure about that,” Tray argued, grinning.

  “You’re deliberately trying to piss me off.”

  “I’m deliberately entertaining myself. You just happen to be an easy target this morning.”

  “Because of you!”

  “You’re the one who woke me up. I was content to sleep.”

  “Shut up.”

  Tray laughed.

  “So—” I announced, thinking how I should put this.

  “Yeah?” Tray waited.

  “Are…are other people going to be riding with us?”

  Tray just laughed. “You have not made your opinions quiet about my friends. And yet, you needed encouragement to ask that question?”

  “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t like to always be a bitch.”

  “Taryn,” Tray spoke.


  “What are you worried about?”

  “I don’t want Amber, Jasmine, or Tristan riding with us.”

  “Tristan will for sure have her own car. I swear the girl’s identity is attached to that car. So she’s not a problem. I’ll tell the rest that they need to ride with someone else.”

  “And what if they insist on riding with you?” I cringed, thinking about that possibility.

  “Then I’ll tell ‘em you’re with me and you’re crabby. Trust me, they won’t want to ride with us.”

  It was meant to soothe me, and if I were anyone else, I’m sure they would’ve been insulted. Not me. It made me perk up a little. I liked knowing I had that kind power over girls like them.

  “That’s good,” I murmured, closing my eyes for a moment.

  The moment turned into a steadfast sleep, because the next time I opened them, we were at Carter’s. I groaned, wanting to be back asleep, but I saw five cars parked in the driveway with a crap load of people ambling around.

  “How many are going with us?”

  Tray shrugged. “The crew.” Then he was out the door, walking lazily to Carter’s open trunk where some of the basketball players had congregated.

  A few of them nodded in greeting to Tray, two high-fived him, and everyone else either called out greetings or they all looked up and watched.

  The bottom line: Tray’s appearance was noticed.

  I got outside to stretch, but then re-thinking the trip, I decided a last bathroom trip might be wise. As I walked inside Carter’s mansion, I heard from the kitchen, “Taryn.”

  It was Tristan, so I hurried my steps.

  “Hey, Taryn.” She’d followed me. Don’t people realize when they’re being ignored? They should learn to realize that.

  “Yeah?” I asked, standing in the hallway.

  “Sasha called us. She said Mandy didn’t show for the bus.” Tristan’s perfect eyelashes were large and voluminous, and her eyes were concerned. “What happened? Is she alright?”

  “She’s out of town. There was a family emergency.”

  “What? Wait!” Tristan grabbed my arm. “What happened?”

  “She’s out of town for an emergency. It’s all you’re getting from me.” I stated firmly.

  “But,” she faltered, “I’m her best friend. I should know what happened.”

  “You should know nothing unless Mandy wants to tell you. If you’re her best friend, you’ll back off. That’s what friends do, they support each other when they’re asked for it,” I said swiftly, twisting my arm out of her hand.

  “What about Amber and Jasmine, do they know?” she asked helplessly.

  I turned away and threw over my shoulder, “They’re smarter than that. They’ll get a ‘fuck off’ too, if they ask.”

  I finally found the fricking bathroom. After I used it, I saw Amber and Jasmine talking with Tristan. All three of them looked at me when I emerged from the house, but none of them approached me, thank God. I climbed into Tray’s car, seeking refuge and curled up with my pillow and iPod.

  Tray climbed in a little later and I opened my eyes, drowsy, when I heard two guys get in the backseat—Helms and Mitch. The two never separated.

  I turned my volume up and closed my eyes, snuggling back into my pillow.

  The next time I woke up, Tray was slowing to a stop. I sat up, rubbing my face as I saw we were already in the cities, at a stoplight.

  I took out my iPod headphones and asked, “Where are we?”

  “About ten minutes from the hotel,” Tray murmured, watching the traffic ahead.

  I checked the back. Helms and Mitch were looking at magazines. When I caught sight of the clock, I realized that we’d been driving for two hours.

  “Thanks for driving,” I murmured, sitting up in my seat.

  Tray didn’t reply, but I wasn’t expecting one.

  Not long after, we pulled into the hotel’s entrance ramp. Tray brought the car to the front doors and everyone filed out. Behind us, the rest of the cars either pulled up behind Tray or parked in the lot. Everyone was getting out and grabbing their bags. It’d be mass hysteria inside, considering there were at least twenty of us. Probably more.

  I saw Tray grab my bags and I moved to intercept. “I can carry ‘em.”

  “You sure?” he asked, reaching for his own bags.

  “Yeah. You can get in first and check in,” I replied, nodding to the crowd behind us.

  Tray nodded in understanding and went inside. I looked through the glass doors and saw he booted Mitch and Helms to the side, taking their place.

  I was proud.

  While he was checking us in, I managed to bring everything in—Tray’s bags and my own. Then I parked the car on the ramp and circled around to the lobby. Our bags were missing, so I sat back and waited. A minute later the elevator doors opened and I saw Tray.

  He held out a key to me. “We’re in room 2615.”

  “What floor?”

  “Twenty six.” He grinned, leaning against the wall.

  I felt stupid.

  “How long till we leave for the game?”

  “About an hour. Carter’s got the room next to ours. A bunch of the guys want to grab some lunch.”

  I yawned. “What about alcohol?”

  “What do you think was in my bags?” Tray murmured, a smirk adorning his features—those hazel eyes, angular cheekbones, those luscious lips…

  I murmured, “I could go for something else besides lunch.”

  The hazel was replaced with his amber coloring. He stood and drew close to me, curving an arm around my waist, he pulled me against him, bending to say softly, “One would think we’re just sex-crazed teenagers.”

  “Hmmm. But we are.”

  Tray laughed. “I don’t classify myself as a teenager anymore.” He kissed me and murmured, “Eighth grade. I was a teenager then. I turned adult not long after that.”

  “Yeah, I know.” I sighed, moving with him as he leaned against the wall, his arm still anchored around me. “I don’t remember ever being a kid, you know.”

  “Yeah. I do,” he said solemnly, watching me intently. Neither of us moved to close the gap, but we stared at each other. When our floor came, we filed out and down the hallway. Carter was in th
e hallway, carrying a bucket of ice.

  He lit up when he saw us. “Taryn’s awake! The day just got fun.”

  I liked Carter.

  He threw an arm around Tray’s shoulder, and asked me, “You’re going to let your boy party with us tonight, right?” He nodded. “Eh, eh? Play-offs don’t come around all that often. Once a year, Taryn. You know what that means…once a year we get to live it up while we can. Oh yeah!”

  Tray’s partying was up to me? Since when?

  I frowned. “What are you asking, Carter?”

  “Well, nothing, but Tray was saying you were tired, so if you decide not to partake in the festivities, it doesn’t mean Tray can’t? Right? Because that would be just—”

  “Wrong?” I supplied dryly, seeing the amusement in Tray’s eyes.

  “Yeah.” He grinned, feeling understood.

  “Are you calling me a downer?”

  “What? No. Just…if you’re tired then—” Carter floundered.

  I laughed, letting him off the hook. “I’m here to get my mind off stuff. I’m not planning on being a ‘downer’ and I’m not planning on taking away any of Tray’s fun.”

  But I could still feel that same sense of foreboding from earlier.

  I flashed a blinding smile. “How bout we start now? I could go for a shot.”

  Carter’s eyes lit up like a light bulb, you could see how excited he was. When I looked over to Tray, I saw a flash of concern in his eyes, but it vanished when Carter pushed us into his room. On the counter, he already had everything set up. A complete bar without the license.

  “What’ll you have?” He didn’t wait, but quickly poured three shots.

  Turning around, he handed them out.

  I met Tray’s suspicious eyes for a second before I tipped my head back and downed the shot.

  “You actually know how to have fun?” I hadn’t noticed Jasmine in the corner, but she was laughing.

  I had a feeling they’d been ‘partying’ on the way up when I saw her fall over.

  “Have another one, Taryn,” Carter suggested, going over to help Jasmine stand up. I saw his hands linger on her waist and hip. Hmm…looked like Carter had already staked his bed-partner for the weekend.

  Tray dropped to the bed. I met his gaze in the mirror when I tipped my head back for a second shot.

  “Tray.” Jasmine laughed, getting tickled by Carter.

  “Yeah?” he asked.

  “Remember when we were together?”

  “Not really,” he drawled, falling back on the bed, yawning.

  Jasmine giggled, extracting herself from Carter. “Whatever, you’re just saying that because Taryn’s in here. But really…remember last year when we were here for play-offs?”

  “Let me guess,” I said dryly, downing a third shot, “you did it in the elevator?”

  She giggled hysterically, like I’d made a joke. Which I didn’t comprehend, neither did Tray, judging from the confusion on his face.

  I rolled my eyes and then climbed on top of Tray, purposely slow, sliding my body against his. Hearing his sudden intake of breath, I turned and grinned at Jasmine, tipping my head as Tray started nuzzling my neck. “Yeah. Elevators are so…bad,” I said condescendingly, which everyone registered. Jasmine flushed, Carter barked out a laugh, and Tray flipped us over, kissing me more urgently, ignoring the fact we had an audience.

  I watched Jasmine. Oh yeah, she was pissed. She was more than pissed, but she turned and grabbed Carter, smashing his mouth to hers as she pressed up against him.

  Carter looked like it was his birthday and he turned her against the wall, taking over the kiss.

  Tray stopped kissing me, and looked up. I grinned, and turned his face towards them, and he smiled too.

  Then I kissed him, one last peck and shoved him slightly. Tray sat up and let me up. We slipped out of the room unnoticed.

  I sighed when we got in the room.

  Tray bypassed me and dropped on the bed. I stood in front of him, where he grinned. “You gonna do a dance for me?”

  “You want sex tonight?” I shot back.

  The smile vanished.

  I turned to our fridge. “You put some liquor in here?”

  I heard him sit up and move to the end of the bed. “What’s up with you? You inhaled three shots.”

  I smiled when I saw he had put a bunch of mini-wine bottles in the fridge. Taking one, I drank it, tipping my head back.

  “Taryn,” Tray said seriously.

  I shrugged. “I’m here to get away from everything, right? I just want to forget.”

  “And the irony’s not lost on you?”

  I sighed and stood. “Look…I just…I got a bad feeling, alright…and I don’t like feeling it. So fucking sue me.”

  “It’s the same as Mandy taking Vitamin R.”

  “Oh no. No fucking way is it the same thing.”

  “It’s the same,” Tray said firmly, standing up.

  “So what?” I cried out. “I can’t drink now?”

  “No. You can drink—just not when you don’t want to feel.”

  “Oh please,” I said, “look at you on your fucking high horse, telling me I can’t drink when I want to get rid of this gut-wrenching sense of dread in my stomach.”

  “Taryn,” he murmured.

  “No. You telling me you never wanted to forget? To stop feeling like a piece of shit when your family left you?”

  “Taryn,” he warned.

  Well, fuck that. I continued, unheeding the warning in his voice, “Your family left, you pushed ‘em away. And you’re coming off like you know what’s right? Fuck that. I took my sister to rehab. You know what that’s like? Or how about the times when—”

  Tray left, slamming the door behind him.

  “Oh, hell no.” I stormed after him, out into the hallway. He wasn’t far, some people had stopped him, but I was past caring. “You don’t walk away—”

  Tray turned and glared, a death glare, but I pressed on, “You don’t walk out when the conversation touches on your issues, you can’t do that. Not when you’re judging my fucking issues—” He’d grabbed my arms and passed by.

  “I left before you said something you’ll regret,” Tray bit out, dragging me back to the room.

  When the door shut again, I wrenched my arms away. “Right, because you never say anything that you regret. In fact, you don’t say a whole lot, do you? You just hang out up there, on your fucking throne—”

  “What do you want?” Tray snapped, shouting. “What do you want me to say? Yeah, I’ve fucking buried a lot. Do you blame me? I’m not in the same place you are. Boohoo—you fucking took your sister to rehab. So what? She’s coming back! She’s not out of your life forever, Taryn! You don’t have someone holding her life over your head…you don’t know anything about my shit!”

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