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The original crowd, p.5
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       The Original Crowd, p.5

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  “Can you watch him? For me?”

  Grayley’s grey eyes pinned me down. “And when he asks why I’m around? If he asks if I’m doing it for you? What then? He’ll get the message that you still care.”

  “I…” I was lost—I didn’t know what to say or so. “I don’t know…”

  “Look,” he sighed, running a hand over his buzz-cut, “Geeze told me what you’re up to. That why you’re here?”

  “Yeah. I was looking for you.”

  “Alright.” He nodded, glancing around. “I know what you’re going to ask and the answer is, of course, stupid. Just…get out of here. Brian’s already boiling over, he doesn’t need anything else to cause him to explode.”

  “Thanks, Grayley, I miss you, for what it’s worth. I’ll need the blueprints to Pedlam High; I gotta get in there.”

  “Yeah.” A rueful smile graced his features, his grey eyes solemn. “Now get out of here.”

  “Okay.” I nodded, sitting back holding Grayley’s gaze as Tray pulled forward. When he was out of sight, I rolled the window back up and huddled against the door, my forehead pressed against the glass.

  We drove in silence except when Tray’s phone would go off.

  “Yeah,” I heard him say. Then a moment later, he responded, “Nah. Have fun. Grant knows the way back.”

  His phone rang quite a few times and he had the same conversation.

  Sighing, I turned over and murmured, “A lot of people want you to go back to the party, huh?”

  He glanced sideways at me, but didn’t say anything.

  Then he said quietly, “You get what you wanted back there?”

  “Hmm…I guess. It’ll do.”

  My phone rang, interrupting anything else he might’ve said. I realized, rolling my eyes at my own stupidity, that I was flustered. Flustered because of Tray. How old am I? Thirteen? I flipped my phone open without checking to see who it was first. “What?”

  “Where are you?”

  I realized two things at once. It was Brian and he was furious.

  “I got a ride home.”

  “With Evans?” he demanded harshly.

  I looked at Tray—he’d heard. He could hear the entire conversation. Great.

  “What of it?”

  “God, you’re such a bitch!”

  “I’m the bitch!? Me? I am? What about you, Brian? If anyone’s a bitch, it’s you. Going off on Gentley like that. What are you thinking?”

  “Please. Gentley’s got nothing on me.”

  “He’ll retaliate, Brian. What were you thinking?”

  “And if he retaliates, trust me—he’ll be the one hurting, not me.”

  “Oh my God, you’re delusional. This is how it’s always been, Bri. The two of you put me in the middle every time. Well, I’m out. Okay? I’m done.”

  “The fucker was all over you. He was two inches from—”

  “From hitting me, not raping me. I was handling him,” I hissed, fully aware that Tray had pulled over and was watching me, seemingly content to sit back and listen.

  “You were handling him? You’re the one who’s delusional, Tar. He needs to know that you’re still my property. He fucks with me if he even goes near you.”

  That was it. I hung up on him and looked at Tray. Coldly, I asked, “Wanna have some fun?”

  “What kind of fun?” he asked, smirking.

  “My kind of fun.” I grinned. I hadn’t felt like this in a long, long time and it was about time Brian learned once and for all we were done.

  “Where to?” Tray merely asked, a faint grin on his face.


  Staring across the road, Tray asked guardedly, “Am I going to get killed in there?”

  I laughed, I couldn’t help it. He was warily eyeing the nightclub. The Seven8 was home to Jace Lanser, Brian’s older brother, and his gang. He led the Panthers, a gang that had the cops running around with their hands tied. Brian and Jace had a love/hate relationship, but Jace had something that Brian didn’t: discipline. Jace was smart, he had to be to lead the Panthers at his young age and still come out on top after the police had issued war against them. Brian was smart, but Jace was smarter and ruthless. Jace took care of me; he always had.

  “Come on. You’ll be fine,” I reassured him, climbing out of the SUV. Rounding to his door, I murmured, “Just…don’t say anything.”

  Tray didn’t look appeased, but he followed anyway.

  Approaching the club, I saw Ben, one of the bouncers, outside, manning the door. I called out, “Ben.”

  “Taryn,” he said reservedly, studying Tray intently. “He going to be a problem?”

  “I’m just here to talk to Jace, then we’re out. Promise. No trouble.”


  “Brian’s not in there, is he?”


  Ben had actually majored in communications. With his muscular built and tattoos circling his bald head, he could get anyone to tell him anything with the right look. He was Jace’s number three man and I think his noncommittal answers were one of the reasons why Jace trusted him.

  “Is Jace in?”

  “He’s in. He’s with Cammy.”

  I grinned. “Those two back on again?”

  “Don’t care. She’s either here or she’s not.”

  “Right.” I snorted in disbelief. “You going to let us in or do I go in my way?”

  Ben glared at that one. One night he refused to let me inside, Brian and I had had a huge fight and he didn’t want it to escalate. I got in anyway, from the roof. Ben didn’t like to be reminded that there was someone who existed that could get around him and I loved to remind him every chance I got.

  “He’s in the back. Take the small hallway.”

  Tray followed me as we circled around the front entrance, the pounding music already blaring in our ears. Catching Casey’s gaze, the front bartender nodded in greeting as we slipped behind him and trailed into the hallway that let its way around the club to the back offices.

  At the closed office door, I rapped briskly and waited. . A second later, it was opened as Cammy slipped outside, sliding the strap from her halter-top onto her shoulder. Blinking in surprise, she stumbled slightly when she saw me.

  “Oh! Uh…Taryn, I didn’t know—”

  “Let her in, Cammy!” Jace ordered from inside.

  Flushing, she rolled her eyes and slipped around us.

  Inside, we were greeted with the sight of a shirtless Jace, with his pants unbuttoned, hanging low on his lean hips. Raking a hand through his tousled hair, he grinned ruefully at me, his abdominal muscles starkly highlighted against the neon lighting inside.

  “Heya, Terry,” he murmured, buttoning his jeans as he moved to give me a hug.

  Jace was the only one who could get away with calling me that. Brian had tried once and I’d kneed him in the balls. He’d never done it again, although he always sneered every time Jace said it, so of course it made Jace say it anytime he could.

  “Jace,” I greeted. “You and Cammy back on?”

  “For the night,” he said easily, raking his eyes over Tray who had stayed by the door, leaning lazily against the wall. “Who’s he?”

  “Not important,” I said smoothly, but Jace was frowning staring intently at Tray. “Wait—” he murmured.

  A light of recognition sparked in his eyes and he stated, “Evans.”

  Tray straightened and moved to stand beside me.

  As he looked at me, I blurted out, “Oh my God, you can talk.”

  He grinned lazily before turning to Jace. “Yeah. I’m Evans. You’re Lanser.”

  I glanced between the two, feeling uneasy.

  Jace was regarding him cautiously while Tray informed me, “We had a business meeting a while back.”

  “Business?” I didn’t like that, but then again, I didn’t know Tray all that well.

  “Yeah. Rawley controls the highway intersection on the state line. Panthers really like to use that highway.
It was all Tray would say and looking at Jace, he wasn’t going to expand on that at all.

  Fine. This wasn’t why I was here.

  “I can give you the codes to Corrigan’s safe,” I stated bluntly.

  Jace looked startled, but he recovered instantly. “What do you want in return?”

  “I want Brian to know that I’m the one who gave them to you.”

  It was enough said—Jace got the message. Knowing that I had given that information to him and not Brian, would burn Brian. It had been the focus of a crap load of arguments between us. Both brothers wanted to know the information because both wanted what was inside. They’d both asked me to get the information and I had, but I had yet to choose who would get them. At first I’d refused to give them to Brian, just because I didn’t want him to get caught trying to get to the safe and because I knew the contents were probably drugs. I didn’t want Brian getting in any deeper than he had to. If anyone could handle the codes, it was Jace. He’d get around the security, somehow, he always did—he was already immersed in the business. It would force a wedge between Brian and me if I gave the codes over to Jace.

  I was forcing it now.

  “You’re a cold bitch, Taryn,” Jace stated, tilting his head to one side. “Probably why you’re family.”

  “Yeah,” I said quietly.

  “Brian hasn’t been leaving you alone, has he?”

  “You mean he was supposed to be?” I scoffed.

  “Yeah, well…my little brother’s always been obsessed when it came to you. Give him time, he’ll come around.”

  “Yeah, well…that’s not good enough for me.”

  Jace nudged me slightly, rocking back on his heels. “Wanna tell me the sudden change of heart?”

  “Brian called me his property.”

  Jace burst out laughing. “My little brother can be an idiot, that’s for damn sure.”

  “I know,” I said dryly.

  Glancing between me and Tray, Jace asked, “There a reason you couldn’t have done this over the phone? Or did you just want to see my handsome face? I’m favoring there’s another reason, because you’re not one to look back.”

  There was another reason, but I wasn’t going to tell him. I grinned easily. “Just keep Brian away, okay?”

  When Tray and I got back into his SUV, I said briskly, “Drive around the corner.” With only a quick look, he did as I said. When he stopped, I murmured, “I’ll be right back. Keep the engine running.”

  Tray didn’t say anything as I ran across the street, this time heading towards the alley. Quickly scaling up the side of the building, I threw my leg around one of the windowsills and pulled my body up. Feeling just underneath the frame, I pulled out two pieces of wire and nudged them underneath the window, crisscrossing them. Then I jerked them out, neatly dislocating the window off its frame, just slightly but enough for my finger to get underneath and nudge it upwards. It was one of my tricks. Climbing through, I was in Brian’s room that he kept at the Seven8. Quickly moving to his computer, I booted it up. Working my way through his files, I closed them and shut it down. When Brian would try to get into his computer, he’d find all his files frozen and protected by three passwords.

  It was petty. I knew that, but I couldn’t help it. Geeze had shown me once how to do it in case I ever wanted to piss someone off. Of course, I knew Brian would have Geezer figure out what was wrong with it and, of course, Geeze would automatically know it was me, but I didn’t care.

  I’ve never been anyone’s damn property.

  Stopping just before the window, I froze, catching sight of a bracelet. The moonlight hit it just right, because only a small corner was actually visible. It was hidden underneath a pillow on one of his couches. Taking it out, I saw that it was made of diamonds.

  Holy…Where the hell did he get this? I wanted to take it. I knew I shouldn’t, but…holy hell, I wanted to.

  I placed it back underneath the pillow.

  Before I climbed out the window, I wedged the wires back underneath the frame and climbed out. Shutting the window, I scaled back down.

  Darting back across the alley, making sure Ben was currently inside the door, I climbed in the SUV finding Tray sitting patiently.

  “We ready to go?” he asked, sounding almost bored.

  “Yeah,” I said breathless, thinking back on that bracelet.


  His phone kept ringing as we drove back to Rawley.

  “Why aren’t you answering?”

  He kept his eyes on the road. “Because they’re drunk.”

  Taking his phone, I looked at it, the name Aidrian was displayed as the phone rang once again. Flipping it open, I answered sweetly, “Hello?”

  On the other end was shocked silence, before she yelled, “Who the hell are you?”

  “Tray can’t talk right now. He’s too busy fucking me,” I said, grinning. Looking at Tray, I saw him staring at me, showing no reaction other than a slight flicker of amusement in his eyes. “And he’s sooo good,” I moaned into the phone.

  There was a twitch at the corner of his mouth.

  Aidrian was quiet, but I could hear screeching in the background. “Who is this?” she demanded.

  I laughed. “The girl that took your place apparently.” Before I could say anything more, my own phone went off. Hanging up, I answered mine, “Yeah?”

  “Girl.” It was Crispin Gentley.

  “What do you want, Gentley?” I asked coolly, seeing Tray glance at me intently.

  There was a laughing note in his voice when he answered, “You always surprise me, you know.”


  “I thought that I missed our little run-ins, now I’m reminded why we kept having those.”

  “I took a sneak peek at your file before I left,” I remarked casually. “Imagine my surprise at all your little secrets.”

  “And you are such a bitch!”

  “I’ve been called worse, Gentley,” I taunted. “Piss me off and I’m sure I can get a look at your daddy’s file. In fact, I’m fairly positive your momma hired a P.I. to get some dirt on daddy dearest…wanna know how I know? You’ll love the irony.” Waiting a moment, hearing silence, I pressed on, “Because he asked me to get your file and his requests didn’t stop there. Oh no, he wanted me to bug your home, your bedroom, your Jeep, and get all of your computer files. Wow, I can see why Stephanie Markus is your Girl Friday. She’s a screamer.”

  “Thought you might want to know that I’m going to put your boyfriend in the hospital,” Gentley said harshly.

  “Brian’s not my boyfriend and if you do, you deal with his brother.”

  “Wasn’t talking about your ex-boyfriend. I’m talking about Evans. The guy you’re sitting next to.”

  Hanging up swiftly, I cried out, “He’s behind us.” Just then a pair of car lights turned on, blinding us from behind.

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