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The original crowd, p.56
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       The Original Crowd, p.56

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  saying. So much. So much had happened. My life had been turned inside and out, and this was the last straw. “Is it always about drugs and money?!” I cried out.

  “You’re asking the wrong person.”

  “I wanted a new life,” I said faintly, standing, hugging myself. “I wanted a family. I was determined that I’d do anything for a family. I was going to be perfect. I was going to go to school. Not have sex. Not do…everything that I’d done before. And now…I got that family because of what I was doing before. Because Jace didn’t want me to find out all his dirty little secrets.”


  “He bought me a fucking family! I was a fucking business deal!” I screamed.

  “Not to Mandy and I’m pretty sure not to Austin. I don’t think you were a business deal to them.” Tray said firmly.

  “Evans and Galverson together. It’s how they came up with the name.”

  “Not real bright, but that’s my dad for you.”

  I didn’t know what to think. What to feel. I didn’t even know what to believe or who to believe anymore.

  “I don’t think it was Kevin.” I murmured, softly, thinking.


  “He’s always gone on some kind of medical conferences or at the hospital. I don’t think it was him at all. It’s Shelley.” Shelley who couldn’t handle disciplining a fourteen year old. Who made Mandy do the dirty work. Either Mandy or me. Oh no. It wasn’t Kevin at all—this was all Shelley. And I’d bet anything that she first got the drugs from her doctor husband, but he wasn’t around enough to keep the prescriptions filled. So she ran to Tray’s dad.

  Who knows, maybe they’d had a thing going on. Maybe it was another reason for his mom’s suicide attempt.

  “I feel sick,” I muttered, right before I dashed to the bathroom and actually was sick.

  My insides wanted out. Again. Again and again and again.

  There weren’t any tears. Not after everything. Brian. My breakdown. And now this…I was just sick and more determined.

  I wanted everyone to go down.




  Fucking everyone.

  Even Tray’s dad, but that was Tray’s business. His to handle.

  A little shaky, I brushed my teeth and went back to the library a little later when my stomach was calmer.

  Tray just looked exhausted.

  “You okay?” he asked quietly.

  I saw the concern written all over his face and a small part of my world felt right.

  “I’ll be okay,” I promised.

  “You’re handling it better than I thought.”

  “I’ve got nothing left inside of me. I’m done crying and I refuse to be a dry-heaver.” I joked, half-assed as I stood in front of the window.

  “I’m sorry I had to be the one to tell you that.”

  “Makes sense,” I said. And it did. It all made sense now. Everything. It all ran in one big circle, all circulating around the addiction of drugs.

  “You can’t go home, you know.”

  “I know.”

  “If you do, you can’t go off on your parents.”

  “I know.” I wanted to. I really, really wanted to. I was a fucking deal. I meant next to nothing to them. “So what else did you figure out?”

  “Jace wanted you out of Pedlam because of the drugs that he and Galverson would have shipping through, from Broozer’s business. He knew you’d find out and you wouldn’t stand for it. So he arranged for your adoption to get you out of Pedlam.”

  It was the only thing that could’ve done it. Jace knew that.

  “The plans to remodel the school had gotten approved last fall in a town meeting. That means that either the committee chair is involved or the mayor’s fucking involved. Jace was busy. He must own the police force too, to get the river runs flagged through or at least not checked ever. And that second warehouse, it’s right smack in the middle of some property that my dad bought six years ago. The warehouse, by default, is owned by my dad.”

  “Guess your dad’s not as inactive in South America as you thought.”

  Tray looked like he could murder someone. In that moment, that second, I really believed he could’ve.

  “That means I own the building.”

  I heard it in his voice.

  I heard his decision made and I looked back, my breath captive in my throat as I searched his eyes. Trying to figure out what he was really thinking.

  “What are you going to do?” I asked hoarsely, not really wanting to know.

  Tray grinned. It was a bitter, hardened grin. And it made me want him. In that second I could’ve taken him down, because I was finding that his ruthlessness was a turn-on for me.

  “I’m going to foreclose on some of my properties.”

  “That’ll tip ‘em off.”

  “No. I’m going to have it done when we have everything we need and we can’t be touched. That’s when I’ll sic my lawyers on ‘em.”

  “Your dad gave you power of attorney over everything?”

  “Yeah. Over everything, but he probably didn’t figure I’d find these out.”

  “So you actually own the warehouse, but that doesn’t help us getting in there.”

  “No, but it’ll make me feel better, knowing that I can take it away from Lanser,” Tray bit out, running a hand over his tired face.

  “Are you going to make it through school?”

  “Yeah, I’ll be fine. I probably just won’t be able to make sense of a whole lot.”

  “So what else did you find out?” Again. I didn’t know if I wanted to know. Everything he told me made my stomach roll over.

  “There’s a field that connects the warehouse to the river, which is probably how they get everything into the school. I really think everything’s just being stored until the drug-runners can load up for another run. But I’m also pretty sure it’s not just drugs, but a whole ton of shit. Brian had a bracelet for you, right? No doubt that was hocked somewhere, waiting to be sold to a highest bidder on the black-market.”

  “How are they getting everyone in and out of Pedlam without the cops noticing? They can’t have every cop on their payroll.”

  “The conferences,” Tray explained. “There are conferences and concerts in Pedlam all the time. And those numbers have actually gone up, so that means more and more people are going through Pedlam. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of those concerts are booked to play at the Seven8 or that most of the conferences are held in a banquet recreation center, which my father also owns.”

  “And now you own.”

  “Yeah,” he sounded bitter, “I didn’t know that I was a fucking landlord.”

  “If you have power of attorney, how is it that none of these rewards are going to you?”

  “Some of them are, I’m sure. My dad was chief of police, but my mom actually had a real-estate business. So a lot of her properties are still thriving and that money goes to my account. I don’t check it on a monthly basis. I usually have my accountants check it around tax time, but I’m betting Dad had it worked so that everything filtered through Galverson’s accounts first.”


  “Tell me about it.”

  “A lot of planning and thinking went into this.”

  “And we figured it out in the matter of a week. Give or take.”

  “You figured this out. And you did it all in one night,” I breathed, appreciating how intelligent Tray really was. No wonder his brother wanted him on his side. Tray was formidable, either way. As an ally or an enemy. I wouldn’t want to go against him, but then again, that’s what people say about me, too.

  “Yeah, well…you gave me the right motivation.”

  “Would you rather I didn’t? That I wouldn’t have done anything, even moved here?”

  “No.” It was quick and so sure, I never doubted the genuineness. The honesty rang true in his voice.

  I found myself mel
ting, a familiar emotion when I was around this boy.

  Checking the clock, I saw it was almost seven.

  Fucking seven in the morning.

  “We have to be at school in an hour and half.”

  Thank God I’d packed a bag last week, planning on being at Tray’s for a while. I was in no mood to slip into my room, dress, and sneak back out. And if I ran into either Shelley or Kevin, I don’t think I could keep my fucking composure. But right now, I was good. I was steady. Just wanting to get in, get whatever information we needed, find Grayley, and get out. Ready to take everyone down with us, if need be.

  “I’d offer to have sex with you, but I’m afraid I’d fall asleep after and not wake up.” Tray joked as he yawned, standing to go into the kitchen.

  I followed and hopped on a barstool, watching him refill his mug. As he took a second one out for me, I remarked, “So we’re both sans-parents.”

  Tray grinned at that, sweetening my coffee. I’d like to think I’m one of those hard-asses who only take their coffee black—black and strong. But I’m not. I’ve got a sweet tooth, hence my addiction to Tray Evans.

  The sex was not just sweet, but it melted my pants off. Every time.

  I grinned at that thought.

  “I’m going to go and shower.” Tray set the mug in front of me and headed out the backdoor, to the pool-house.

  Checking the clock, I remembered that Brian used to always be up at rehab by this time. Grabbing my cell, I called the main desk. Patricia might still be working. Sometimes she’d do overnights and she always patched me to Brian’s room. It was nice being liked by the front desk clerk.

  “Hello, Northeast Rehabilitation Center. This is Patricia speaking.”

  “Pat, it’s Taryn.”

  “Oh, Taryn!” I heard the warmth in her voice. “How are you, dear?”

  “I’m good. I was wondering if my sister might be awake?”

  “I’ll put you through right away. You come and visit, Taryn. I mean it.” Then I heard her transfer me.

  “Hello?” Mandy was awake, but barely, by the sound of it.

  “Hey, sis.”

  “Taryn?!” she asked sharply, suddenly more awake.

  “The one and only, sister dear.”

  “Holy shit. How are you? Are you okay? Tray called me Saturday morning. I’m so sorry, Taryn.”

  “I’m…,” I hesitated. This was Mandy and I had grown to love her, even if I were just worth a mere ten million to her parents. “I’m getting through it.”

  “I thought I had it bad, you bringing me, but man—I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to Devon.”

  “And speaking of Devon, does he know where you are?”

  “Yeah, I called him. He came to visit Sunday and yesterday.”

  “Tray said Shelley and Kevin showed up at his house yesterday looking for me.”

  “Yeah, the counselors called them. I think they’re coming out today to see me. Not looking forward to that.”

  “Austin said your mom found your pills one other time.”

  “Whatever. Those were more her pills than mine. Dad was there, that’s the only reason she even made a big deal about them.”

  I was right. But my heart just dropped a little at the knowledge.

  “But I’m going to say something when they get here. I even talked to my one-on-one counselor about it. Karen said they can’t make Mom stay and get into rehab, but she said it’s good to have everything out in the open. It jumpstarts the healing process or some shit like that.”

  I had to grin at that. Mandy. Swearing. I must be rubbing off on her.

  “So, you got through the weekend? I know those are the hardest, the first few days.”

  “Yeah, it sucks, but…I’m here for a reason. Devon broke down crying on Sunday and that just killed me. But I needed to see that, you know. Karen said I need to know how my actions and decisions affect other people. Something about The Impact.”

  I remembered. The Impact referred to how you hurt others by your decisions and how your decision was a selfish act. Kind of like a ripple effect. I’d heard before when I attended a few sessions with Brian. But later he told me that he got more motivated from watching me leave with Jace. He hated any time I spent with Jace while he was in rehab. It just grated at him.

  The Impact had no impact.

  “It’s good that you saw that.”

  “Yeah, well…I hope Devon doesn’t start sleeping with Jasmine again. That’d be awful.”

  Oh the weight of her problems. She’s in rehab and she’s worrying that her boyfriend might cheat on her.

  “I think you have more important issues to deal with,” I said lightly.

  “I know, but still…it’d be just like him to use this as an excuse. He’d probably say something like he couldn’t handle the pressure of having his girlfriend in rehab so he slept with Jasmine when he was weak.”

  “Should’ve stuck with Carter.”

  Mandy was silent at that. We both knew Carter wouldn’t ever cheat on her, even for all his loud-mouthed reputation. We both knew the real Carter and he’s not weak like Devon. But Mandy had chosen and she’d chosen what was more comfortable for her.

  “So should I tell Mom and Dad where you’re hiding out at? Or keep my mouth shut?”

  “Tray told ‘em I was in Pedlam. I’d prefer if they believed that.” But I didn’t want her to feel like she owed me anything.

  “Okay, Mom and Dad are fine as long as you’re not with Tray. Someone must’ve told them that you guys are dating for them to ever show up there. I bet that went off well when they heard that. Mom and Dad hate Tray. Especially Mom, but you’d think Dad would hate him more.”

  “I think they’ll forget about it when they get there,” I said dryly, reaching for my coffee.

  “Yeah. Good point.” Mandy yawned on her end.

  “I’m going to go, but I’ll call you later.”

  “Okay. Thanks for calling, sis.”

  “Yeah. Bye.”

  “Love you.”

  My phone halted, mid-motion when I heard her. I found myself pulling the phone back to my ear and I said softly, “Love you too.”

  I did. It’s why I did what I did for her.

  Hell. I’d even started to love the fourteen year old punk.


  School was easier to get through than what I’d thought. Maybe it was because I knew things were in motion. Maybe it was because I knew that my life, and Tray’s, would irrevocably be changed. Somehow. Or maybe it was because I wasn’t quite ready for what was coming.

  I was itching to get inside that warehouse.

  But I’d swim after school. That’d help. Hopefully Coach would even have us race today. I had energy to burn. And, of course, none of it had to do with the fact that I’d slept from eight at night till five-thirty in the morning. That’s like…nine and a half hours of sleep.

  Tray: zero.

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