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The original crowd, p.57
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       The Original Crowd, p.57

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  I still felt bad about that.

  I was surprised, a good surprise, to see that Brady had first and second period with me. Who’da thunk it.

  Brady waved me over in first period. Tray looked half dead in second period, but I didn’t need to worry. Carter sat beside him and was keeping him awake, by annoying him.

  Molly grinned welcomingly as I sat beside her. This was my third or fourth time actually going to XX. I still liked to skip for study hall, but just pretended that I kept forgetting.

  Brady slid into a seat at the table behind us with another swimmer, Lexie.

  I introduced Molly to them and I thought Molly would die happy. Brady and Lexie immediately enfolded her in their clique.

  I glanced over, and saw that Tray was watching me. I smiled, a soft smile and he returned it.

  “That’s a Tray that I’ve never seen before,” Brady remarked, catching the look we shared.

  “What do you mean?”

  “He’s transformed.”

  “But he’s still hot,” Lexie put her two cents in.

  “He’s like a tamed panther,” Molly remarked. Which shocked me. She was talking with two strangers. Getting with Larkins was working, kinda like action therapy or something.

  “Kind of, yeah,” Brady remarked, frowning slightly at Molly, like she was an enigma to her.

  Molly noticed the look and quickly looked to her lap. She was back to being an Invisible.

  I nudged her shoulder and commented, “Tray’ll like being called a tamed panther. I’ll tell him that tonight when we’re having sex.”

  “Oh God.” The blush was back. I couldn’t go a day at school without at least one from her.

  Brady and Lexie grinned, seeing my amusement.

  “He’ll think I’m calling him a sex panther.”

  Anchorman was just one of the greats. No way around it.

  Brady and Lexie laughed at that.

  “Do you have to be so loud and annoying?”

  Of course, I couldn’t go through one morning without at least one attack by either Amber, Sasha, or now Tristan.

  This time, it was Sasha.

  “Mr. Hauge,” Sasha whined, her voice actually grating against my ears, “can they please work quietly? This isn’t social hour.”

  But before I could blast her right back—and I had the perfect comeback—Tray yawned, and remarked casually, “Just shut up the fuck up, Klinnleys. You’re irritating.”

  And that was all it took. I knew Sasha wouldn’t say one word to me for the rest of the year.

  The sleeping panther god had spoken.

  “Yep,” Brady whispered,” tamed.”

  But Sasha had been quieted. Now I only had Amber and Tristan to look forward to.

  Note that Tray didn’t get reprimanded for swearing in front of the teacher. The panther god was above that rule. But whatever. He was mine.

  Third and fourth passed without event. And lunch was a surprise. I sat with Brady and the rest. Molly even came over towards the end when Kayden and Angela had sulked off to the shadows. She was welcomed whole-heartedly, which made me happy. But sad at the same time because it meant Kayden and Angela might be losing a friend. But another Invisible would probably take Molly’s place, eventually.

  I didn’t look for Props, figured he was already on his computer.

  Tray sat, sleeping, at the table with the ‘popular’ crowd: Carter, Amber, Jasmine, Bryce, and Devon. Devon had been watching me throughout lunch, but I had no inclination to go over and talk to him. I’d done my part and had called Mandy. That was enough. I did not need to go make nice to her probably-future-cheating boyfriend.

  By seventh period I’d come to the realization that school had become boring. When did school become boring? People either didn’t say anything to me, especially after Tray shot down Sasha, but I noticed that this had started the week before. I must’ve been getting a reputation not to be messed with. Maybe. I don’t know, but I realized that either they didn’t say anything to me or whatever I said, went. Just like that.

  I’d never had that power.

  That’s what Tray must feel like on a daily basis, for years now.

  Wow. It was…just powerful. A control that you couldn’t even explain. But it was also boring. No wonder I’d rocked his world.

  Swimming helped with the restless energy that I was carrying around. Coach paired us off. Lexie and I raced first. I won. I won every match after that and I saw our coach a bit speechless at times.

  I relished the victory over Tristan. I kicked her ass. Which felt so good. And Brady and I were the last match of practice. Everyone had been holding their breaths. Brady and I both consecutively won every match. There were a few others who had won, but it was me and Brady matching up. Everyone knew.

  And when the gun went off, I dove in and poured all my fury into my swimming.

  Shelley. Kevin. Jace. Galverson. Hell, even Devon. Everything.

  And I was surprised when I finished and saw that I was three complete laps ahead of Brady.

  The coach had dropped his clipboard.

  “Nationals here we come.” One of the girls whistled. The rest were still amazed. Speechless.

  Tristan looked…constipated. I didn’t know what that look was. I couldn’t tell if she was angry, jealous, or glad.

  “Okay.” The coach tried for dignified as he stooped to pick up his clipboard. “That’s practice today.”

  As I left, Brady walking beside me, I saw the rest of the girls take notice. Brady was okay being second. She was okay that I was first, so the rest would be too.

  Tray was sitting at my locker, his eyes closed, probably sleeping.

  Brady and I paused as we stood there, just in front of him.

  “Get up, you dumbass, you’re not sleeping.” His breathing wasn’t deep enough or even enough.

  “Doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying,” he remarked, but kept his eyes closed. But he said, as I opened my locker, “Gentley called. They got what we wanted.”

  I looked up, alarmed, since Brady was still there. Tray hadn’t seen her yet.

  “Brady, you know Tray?”

  Tray opened his eyes at that one and cursed, swiftly standing up.

  “I know who Tray Evans is,” Brady said lightly, “but I doubt he knows who I am.”

  “Bannon’s girlfriend, right?” Tray held his hand out, “Nice to meet you. You a friend of Taryn’s?”

  “Yep, I’d like to think so. We’re on the swim team together.”

  “Brady’s one of the captains, which says something since she’s still a junior,” I remarked, grabbing my bag and purse.

  Tray nodded, silent.

  “It’s nice to formally meet you, Tray, although we’ve met many times in elementary.” Which was true, but this was a social introduction. Everyone really knew everyone, when you got down to it. But socially, Brady had just jumped up a level. She needed a proper introduction for that.

  “You too. You’re number one in class, right?” Tray had surprised her. I could tell because Brady was momentarily speechless, before she replied, “Uh, yeah.”

  “I’m second,” he said swiftly, grinning cockily.

  “You are?” I don’t think she meant to have such dumbfounded shock in her voice.

  “Tray’s actually a genius,” I remarked, leaning my back against him, feeling his hand come around to rest on my waist, hooking his finger on one of my belt loops. “He just acts dumb most of the time.”

  Tray chuckled, kissing the side of my face, “You never cared about my intelligence before.”

  “As long as you keep performing well in bed, I won’t ever have to.” I grinned. Joking.

  “Okay,” Brady remarked, nodding, “well, I’ll see you tomorrow. I might hit the pool early if you want to join me, Taryn.”

  “Maybe.” But I knew I wouldn’t. I’d be lucky if I was even in school tomorrow at all.

  When she left, Tray murmured quietly, for my ears only, “Ready to go?”

  I met his eyes and we both knew I was—I’d been ready since this entire war had been declared.

  I was pretty sure Brady wouldn’t have recognized me, if she saw me in that second. But Tray and I, we were in perfect accord.

  Both of us were ready to end this. One way or another.


  You’d think that a person, staring across an open valley, knowing the odds of getting across and into the warehouse that stood high above everything else were not good…would feel something. Maybe fear. Maybe trepidation. Maybe hesitation. You’d think, right?

  But no. A hell no.

  I stood there. I stood standing above that valley, seeing the warehouse below me, and I felt strong. I felt good.

  I was ready, maybe too ready.

  The guards’ just had shift change, there was one every twelve hours on the dot with a break every four hours. The perimeter was easy enough to cross. It’d take me a little while to cover it without attracting too much notice, but it was dark out. That’d help. I was dressed all in black, same material as before. The way it melted around all my curves and had been rewarded with a soft groan from Tray.

  Gentley had gotten his hands on the blueprints, I had no idea how he’d managed that. But he had. And Trent vouched for him, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the prints. Of course, both of them had been plenty pissed when Tray informed them they wouldn’t be a part of it. I’d thought, for a brief second, that they’d come to blows. Either Trent and Tray. Or Gentley and Tray. If they went at it, I was ready to scram for the safe, and break inside of it to get the gun inside. But apparently Gentley calmed enough to keep in control. He’d held Trent back, but it hadn’t saved me from quite a few curses sent my way.

  Tray ordered them out at that point.

  My big protective boyfriend. Of course, he did have that scary lethal side to him that always helped.

  The warehouse was protected by one outer wall made of wire. I’d grabbed some heavy-steel clippers for that. And the walls would be climbed with my hooks and grabs. I didn’t want to burden myself with too much and rope, complete with clanky karabiners would not work. Not for this job.

  I started off, at a light trot, not fast enough to get noticed but enough to cover the ground efficiently. As I neared the wall, I pulled the clippers out and cut a hole out that was big enough for me to get through. The guards had moved back inside, so I quickly made work of the wall and was standing on the roof in no time.

  Tray was right. Whatever was inside wasn’t valuable, otherwise it would’ve been a lot harder to get this close.

  Slipping through a vent at the top, I fell lightly to the flooring below. It wasn’t too far for a jump and I landed gracefully on my feet, like always. Hugging the wall with my back, I crept down the hallway, quickly finding the guards inside. As I circled around them, nearly invisible to their line of sight, I headed to the basement.

  It was an open warehouse inside and when I got to the main room, I was surprised.

  It was empty. Completely and utterly empty.

  Which sucked ass.

  Swearing, I did a walk-about, making sure to cover every single corner, nook, and cranny. Any little thing would help us out. But there was one thing for sure that we got from this trip.

  If this warehouse wasn’t being used, that meant everything was underneath the school.

  And I already knew how to break into that building.

  Something caught my eyes, I couldn’t tell you what, but I knelt in a far corner. Running my hand over the flooring, I realized something had been lodged just underneath the floor grating. Twisting my finger underneath the grating, I tried to pull the item out. My skin got snagged on the jagged edge, which brought some silent curses to mind, but I managed to maneuver the item out and realized, another surprise, it was a cellphone.

  Correction: It was Grayley’s cell phone.

  Pocketing it, not allowing myself to feel momentary hope, I finished scanning the rest of the room.

  A big fat nothing.


  So I moved to the next floor and proceeded, until every empty room had been surveyed.

  Nothing. So this left me with a dilemma—the two guards in the surveillance room.

  Two large, able-bodied guards.

  But everything I needed, or could use to get my hands on, sat right before their hands and feet.

  So this meant that I either had to get Tray in here for him to do the deed…or I had to take down these two burly guys.

  So I did what every proud standing burglar would do.

  I grabbed my taser in one hand, a pipe in the other and I headed in.

  Surprise was pretty much my only element. As I hit one guy on the back of his head, using every ounce of my body strength behind the pipe, I scrambled and quickly tasered the second guy.

  And both went down…after a few more jolts for my own safety.

  I downloaded everything I could get my hands on. I remembered everything, everything, that Geezer had taught me. I’m not a computer hacker extraordinaire, apparently not even as much as Tray is or Props or Geezer, but I could hold my own if it came down to it. Bottom line. I could do enough damage, but what I couldn’t get…the guards knew I was there. They’d seen me. I was probably on their video surveillance, somewhere, and so I took the pipe and rained free.

  The printers went first.

  The keyboards bounced up and down, the buttons popped out.


  The chairs smashed against the walls.

  The desks were overturned.


  The cables were yanked out of the walls and they came crashing down.

  The televisions were pulled down, kicked over.


  And I turned, my chest heaving, my heart beat deafening my ears and I gripped the pipe harder. My knuckles turned white as I gripped it, and I swung, every muscle in my body behind that swing, and I smashed the hell out of every fucking screen that was in that room. One. Two. Fucking six and seven.

  Every single one of them.

  As the glass sprayed my body, some falling to my hair, it dusted over my body and the ground. But I kept swinging until every damn piece of glass had been shattered.

  And then I turned and walked out, a smug smile crossed my face as I left the room. When the door clicked shut, the lights clicked off, like poetry and I was quickly out of the warehouse and moving back over the field, knowing I’d resolved some of my anger behind.

  Calmly, I walked up to the car and moved to the front seat.

  Tray was in the driver’s seat and I saw his eyebrows rise slightly at my appearance. The shattered glass had become a second coating on my body, but it didn’t cut. Nothing cut anymore.

  Without a single word spoken between us, Tray drove us back to his home.

  I gave him the cellphone and the flash drive before I went and showered.

  I had turned off. My body was on automatic and my mind was on pause, resting. I don’t know, I didn’t really give a shit. All I
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