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The original crowd, p.53
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       The Original Crowd, p.53

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  and were sitting at some of the patio tables, listening to Coach Greenly. Motioning to me, he remarked, “Get a few laps in and pull up a chair.”

  Diving in the water felt different today. It didn’t give me XX like it usually does. However, after a few laps, I started to feel a little at peace for the first time since I Brian’s funeral. After a few laps, I got out and settled in a chair next to Brady.

  The team turned out to be a bunch of girls I’d never met. I recognized a few from Tray’s parties and the trips to Rickets’ House. But there were quite a few who I never would’ve known if it hadn’t been for the team.

  Tristan seemed welcomed like a long lost prodigal son. Even the coach doted on her, which was just annoying. Fortunately, only a few girls seemed to idolize her. For the most part, Tristan was more tolerated than anything else. Most of the girls seemed like serious swimmers, not social climbers.

  Which was just a breath of fresh air.

  Brady caught up with me at the end of practice as we walked out of the locker room. Dressed in street clothes, I was surprised to see that she didn’t wear the trendy almost whorish clothes that most girls wore. She was dressed in a loose-fitting t-shirt and worn jeans, flared at the ends.

  “So what’d you think of the first day?”

  I shrugged. “It felt good to be swimming.”

  “You’re good. Like really good. I’m jealous. I can see why the coach snapped you up so quickly.” She sent an easy grin my way, her swim bag over her shoulder.

  “You’re fast.”

  “I used to be the fastest swimmer on the team,” she remarked, shrugging.

  “Who’s faster now?”

  Brady laughed. “You are.”

  “What?” Startled, I stopped in the hallway.

  “I heard about your dives from the cliff and some of the girls have seen you when you were with your mom. Plus, those laps just now, you weren’t even trying and you beat my time. You’re the fastest, Taryn.”

  I was startled, unsure what to say.

  “You don’t have to say anything.” Brady laughed. “I’m just happy you’re on the team. You’ve got a talent that would’ve been a wasted. Plus, nationals are a sure thing now, thanks to you.”

  “Thanks.” I didn’t know what else to say. “Hey, I was wondering, are a lot of the girls seniors this year? I’ve never seen them around before.”

  “I’m not the only one who doesn’t run in Jasmine and Mandy’s circle,” Brady answered. “Not all of us are popular sharks like them. We just want to swim and get good grades.”

  Coming to my locker, I opened it and grabbed my bag and purse. I groaned, seeing three missed calls on my phone.

  “Not good?” Brady asked, waiting beside me.

  “I was very childish.” I sighed, seeing Tray’s name on my missed calls list. “I didn’t warn someone about something because I was mad.”

  “Ah.” Brady nodded knowingly. “Boyfriend problems?”

  “Yeah,” I sighed, “he’s going to be pissed at me.”

  “Tray Evans doesn’t exactly strike me as an easygoing guy,” Brady mused.

  At my look of surprise, she explained, “Like I said, everyone knows who you get along with and who you don’t. And everyone especially knows that you’re dating Tray Evans.”

  “If you’re not a fan of Tristan, I’m pretty sure you’re not a fan of Tray’s either,” I commented, walking out into the parking lot.

  “Hard to get a read on someone who’s larger than life, you know?”

  “Yeah,” I said quietly, “that’s a good description of Tray. Are you dating anyone?”

  “I am. His name is Josh Barrons and he’s a normal, average student with hopes of getting into Brown to major in psychology.”

  “You say that like you’re apologizing for him,” I noted.

  “I’m not. But he’s no Tray Evans.”

  I laughed at that. “That’s probably a good thing.”

  “Nah, Josh is Josh. For now. He’s my boyfriend, but he’s not a Tray Evans in bed, I’m betting.”

  “That sounds like…a security blanket.”

  “He is. My personal blankie that I’ve had for four years,” Brady noted.

  I jumped, slightly, hearing my phone ring. I’d forgotten how loud the ring was set at.

  Brady laughed. “Ah, the demanding, pissed-off boyfriend calls again.”

  I rolled my eyes, but braced myself as I answered, “Hey.”

  “You could have fucking warned me!” Tray hissed. I heard loud music in the background.


  “That kid you were talking about, Props—whatever, he’s here. He showed up after school. Thanks for the warning. I had to get rid of Carter and everyone.”

  “Is he still there?”

  “Yeah. And your friend that banged Hooters girl.” He cursed, catching himself.

  That made me smile. He’d caught onto my nick-name.

  “You don’t have to call her Hooters girl, I’ll have sex with you tonight anyway.”

  Brady pursed her lips, her eyes dancing in amusement.

  “Whatever,” Tray groaned, “can you just get your ass here?”

  “Yeah, I just got out of swim practice.”

  “I know. Carter told me.”

  “How does Carter know I had swim practice?”

  “You really want to know?”


  “Then don’t ask. Where are you? Get over here.”

  He sounded tense.

  “Is Props really that hard to handle? You sound like you’re at your wits’ end.”

  “It’s not him, it’s the other guy. What’s his name?”


  “If I hadn’t threatened bodily harm, I swear he would’ve torn my place apart. Plus, your folks are back in town. They showed up here looking for you, too.”

  “What?” I froze, my heartbeat suddenly deafening.

  “I know. Just get your ass over here. I covered for you. I told ‘em you went back to Pedlam to visit some friends because of Brian, but your dad hates me. I think they might’ve camped out across the street or something.”

  “Oh God.”

  “Tell me about it. When you show up, cut through my neighbor’s lawn. Just to be sure, alright?”

  Swim practice had been a heavenly vacation.

  “I’m on my way.” I hung up, my mind reeling.

  “That did not sound good,” Brady murmured, still watching me.

  “Uh…it’s not. It’s not good at all.”

  “You’re not, like pregnant or anything, are you? I know we just met and this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but if you’re pregnant, my aunt’s a counselor. You can talk to her if you want,” Brady offered.

  “I almost wish I were pregnant. It’d be a lot easier to deal with,” I said tensely. Getting inside my car, I called out through the open window, “I’ll see you tomorrow in school.”

  “Yeah. You can have lunch with us tomorrow, if you want.” Brady waved, walking to her car.

  I parked around the block and darted through his neighbor’s yard. Climbing the wall, I dropped down and was walking past the pool-house when Tray came outside.

  The look on his face stopped me in my tracks.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “They’ve multiplied,” he answered, grabbing my hand and dragging me back into the pool-house. In his bedroom, he fell onto the bed and pulled me down beside him.

  I laid there, stunned.

  Caressing his back softly, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

  “Gentley’s here. That friend of yours is here. Props is working on his computer stuff and your parents showed up.”

  “I’m sorry your house got ran over,” I apologized sincerely. Feeling lame for my pathetic childishness. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Props. I didn’t know Trent and Gentley were coming over. Wait. Is Gentley here for me?”

  “Yeah. I haven’t asked and they haven’t told
me what they’re doing here, but they’re waiting for you.” He pushed himself up, holding himself just above me. “Taryn, talk to me before you do whatever they want you for. Promise me.”

  “I promise,” I said softly, running a thumb over his lips. When I saw a smidgen of amber appear in his hazel orbs, I leaned up and captured his lips with mine. Feeling him sigh, he fell back onto me. As I embraced his weight, he ran a hand down my back and to my legs, curling them around his back.

  “We should probably head in,” I whispered against his lips.

  Instead, Tray dipped his head, deepening the kiss as his hands trailed to my waist and slipped underneath my shirt. I was fast losing the ability to think clearly. It’d been a few days since we’d been together. The funeral, everything, had come crashing down on us at one time.

  “Tray,” I murmured again, and sighed as I fell back on the pillow with his mouth moving to my neck and trailing downwards.

  I sensed the urgency in him as he reared up and stripped off his shirt. Meeting his eyes, I knew neither of us were going anywhere for a while. Whatever was waiting for me would have to wait a little longer.

  I sat up and pulled my shirt off. As I fell back, I felt the cool air against my skin, Tray was already pulling my pants off. Quickly we were both naked, our hands fevered, urgent. Gasping, I arched as Tray’s mouth moved to my waist and further south. He held my hips captive as he kissed and sucked.

  As I came, my breaths coming in shallow gasps, I reached blindly for him and scuttled down, clamping my legs around his waist. Tray met my mouth, curling me underneath him with experienced expertise.

  “Taryn,” he gasped, reaching for his nightstand.

  I held myself back forcibly, as I waited for him to grab a condom, but it was taking everything I had. I wanted him. And I wanted him inside me. Now.

  Then, a seemingly hour later, he slid in, stretching me, as he braced himself above me.

  We both held on as his thrusts took us closer and then hurdled our bodies over the edge. I melted, again, panting as we both laid there.

  It took a moment for the fog to clear and I then remembered who was waiting for us.

  “Oh…fuck,” I groaned.

  Tray laughed into my shoulder, where his mouth was lingering.

  “We should head in.”

  Tray grunted slightly as he lifted himself up again. But he held me trapped on the bed, with his arms on both sides of me. “Taryn, promise me that you’ll come to me first with whatever they want.”

  “I promise.”

  “I mean it. Those guys don’t know what they’re doing or who they’re going against.”

  “I will. Promise.” I smiled as I saw him look sternly at me. “Now get out of my face before I pull you back down for another round.”

  Tray grinned, but lifted himself up and off the bed.

  We both showered quickly and dressed.

  As we entered the main house, we heard shouting from the basement.

  “Fuck you, man! I’m telling you we don’t need Taryn for this. We should leave before she gets here.”

  Rounding the corner, I saw Trent shake his head. “Oh hell no, man. We can’t do this without Taryn. I’m telling you, we need her.”

  “And I’m telling you we don’t,” Gentley shot back.

  “You don’t need me for what?” I asked, feeling Tray behind me.

  Gentley swore, raking a hand through his hair.

  “Taryn.” Trent looked relieved. “We think we know where Grayley is, but we gotta move now.”

  “No,” Tray spoke up, coming to stand beside me.

  “Fuck you, man. This has nothing to do with you.”

  “This does have to do with me.”

  “Where do you think Grayley is?” I asked, my heart had started racing at Grayley’s name.

  “Jace has another warehouse on the eastside. We found it last night, but it’s going to be a bitch to get into. We need you for that,” Trent explained, watching Tray intensely.

  “Why are you here?” I asked Gentley.

  “Because Gray’s a friend of mine, too.” He actually sounded sincere.

  “You weren’t at the funeral.” I turned back to Trent.

  “I was trying to find Grayley before we have one for him.” He cursed, pacing. I could see why Tray was tense—Trent looked like a caged animal: pissed and hungry. It was a side of Trent that I’d never seen before.

  “Where’s the warehouse?” I asked.

  “Taryn,” Tray spoke up, “you promised.”

  “Where’s the warehouse?” I ignored him.

  Gentley watched the exchange between us. I knew he was studying us, but he didn’t say anything.

  Trent looked relieved.

  “You’ll help?” he asked.

  “Of course, but I’m not going in blind. And,” I glanced at Tray, “I’ll need to run it over with Tray, in private.”

  Trent cursed. “When the hell do you ever have to run things by a guy? What the hell’s happened to you, Taryn? You’re like a shadow of the Taryn I know. You’ve changed. God knows, you’d never be caught dead dating someone like him—”

  “And you better remember whose house you’re in.” Tray said quietly, a clear threat in his words. But it worked because Trent shut up immediately, glaring at us.

  “What do you think is going on?” I asked, ignoring everything he just shot at me. That needed to be dealt with at another time, in a more private setting. Grayley was the only thing that mattered to me right now.

  Trent hesitated, sharing a look with Gentley.

  Tray remarked, poker face firmly in place, “Start talking or you can leave without Taryn’s help.”

  Trent swallowed whatever he was going to say. I saw the words actually come up and have to be forced back down. After composing himself, he said, “It has to do with Jace. Brian’s death has to do with Jace.” He looked at me then, an apologetic note in those blue eyes. “Brian was coming to you with something about Jace. But he’d been missing for a few days before that. That’s when Grayley said he was going to go and find Brian. We found his car on the eastside, about a mile from Jace’s warehouse. We think he’s in the warehouse.”

  “How do you know all this?”

  “Because things have been wrong in Pedlam since you left,” Gentley spoke up now, resigned. He glanced warily to Tray and myself, but continued, “Your psycho ex has been off kilter, Grayley’s been acting like a nervous bitch, and your stone-head friend—he’s just been more whacked than normal.”

  “What he’s trying to say,” Trent sent him a meaningful glare, “is that there’s been some shady shit going on at school. I’ve seen some of Jace’s guys in the school parking lot every day. That’s not cool. Brian’s always been violent, but a month before he died, he was showing up at school black and blue every day. Then Grayley suddenly started acting like he was on drugs or something. Things have just been off. But—”

  Gentley stepped in and added, “After you guys broke into our school, things got worse. Security guards were added, like ten at
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