The original crowd, p.59
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       The Original Crowd, p.59
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         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  The situation scared me.

  “Tray,” I whispered hoarsely.

  “That’s Chance,” he said, “and that’s Lily.”

  Chance was with Galverson’s daughter. I’d already figured it out.

  “Tray, I’m—”

  “If you say you’re sorry, I will—” But he didn’t finish the threat.

  “I’m understanding,” I only said. It was true. I’d lost Brian. I might lose Grayley and Tray was just reminded, in video animation, what he’d walked away from a long while ago: his family.

  “Uh,” Props squeaked out, terrified, “I stamped the time for when they went inside and when they left. It was today, at 6:03 p.m. They left exactly twelve minutes later.”

  Chance was in town. Tray’s brother was in Pedlam, a mere four hours before we’d gotten there

  And Chance had waltzed in, unannounced, but still allowed. He was either undercover or he was working with Jace.

  Fuck.

  Chance was known so there was no way he was working undercover.

  “Tray,” I whispered again, realizing what he’d already figured out the second he saw his brother’s image.

  “Don’t,” he clipped out, his jaw clenched, “just don’t.”

  He walked out of the room, his shoulders rigid.

  I walked Props out, reassuring him everything was fine and thanked him for his help. As I shut the door behind him, I doubted the guy would ever help us again. He actually had peed his pants, a tiny bit, when Tray turned into scary maniac guy.

  I sighed, locking the door and wandered through the house. I shut off all the lights and found Tray in the glass patio, like so many other times. I was starting to realize that was where he went to think.

  I sat quietly in the seat beside him and drew my knees to my chest. I sat and waited. I’d wait until morning if need be.

  It wasn’t long before Tray spoke, in a low monotone voice, “Chance is working with either Lanser or Galverson. I don’t know what the alliance is between Lanser and Galverson anymore, but Chance has to be working with one of them.”

  “What about your dad?”

  “Dad works with Galverson, but he must’ve joined with Jace for your adoption. It was orchestrated by all of them. Had to be.”

  “What makes you wonder about their alliance? With Jace and Galverson, I mean?”

  “Because Chance hates our dad. He wouldn’t work with him, no matter what. So that means that he’s working with one side while Dad’s working on the other side. I’m betting that they’re keeping them separate.”

  “I thought Chance hated Galverson.”

  “He did. He does. That hate doesn’t ever change.”

  And Tray would know.

  He said again, “If Jace wanted us to go to that warehouse, he wanted us to know that my brother was here. But I don’t get why. It’s pissing me off.”

  “Maybe he didn’t want us to know.”

  “Then what were they using that warehouse for?”

  “I don’t know.” And it was true; I wasn’t the mastermind, not like Tray or Jace or Galverson.

  Tray fell silent, so I said, matter-of-factly, “We don’t know what Jace wanted or not. We don’t know why your brother is here or why Jace wanted me to be adopted. But what I do know is that Brian died for something. And that something has something to do with Jace and Galverson. And I know that if we don’t move quickly, I might be losing another person I consider family. I can’t lose one more person.”

  Tray turned and met my eyes. He said honestly, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

  I whispered hoarsely, “I don’t think we are going to know what’s going to happen. But what we know is enough for me.”

  “Worst case scenario: we get in there and find Grayley dead and we die,” Tray spoke, but continued when I flinched, “and best case scenario: we get in there and we get him out, alive.”

  “But what about taking everyone down?”

  “I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet.”

  That was the crux of it: Tray thought everything out. He had every angle covered, but with this—he couldn’t cover every angle because he didn’t know how all the pieces fit together.

  It was time we figured the puzzle out.

  “There’s a reason why Jace wanted me gone,” I murmured. “I’m good, Tray. I can get in there and I can get out. No one will even know I’m there.” It was true. Galverson wanted me gone because of what I could do. It was power, in the skill I’d developed and sharpened over my life—it was powerful.

  It was the power to be invisible.

  And it made men like Galverson break out in hives.

  “Taryn—” Tray whispered, hoarse.

  “It’s time, Tray.”

  It was. We both knew it.

  CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

  It was morning, just before the crack of dawn, and I was sitting with my coffee, just staring out at the window, daring the sun to peak over the horizon. Tray had fallen asleep, he was nestled underneath the covers, looking like my gorgeous protective angel.

  I’d fallen in love with him. I had and it didn’t scare me anymore. It didn’t cause my heart to contract or fall to the pit of my stomach.

  I loved that boy behind me, looking all delectable and shit.

  He’d told me first. He’d told me he’d fallen, but the ‘L’ word hadn’t been included. That was alright. It was there between us and we both knew it.

  And me yelling at him, him yelling back, we both knew it was alright. It was the atmosphere around us. It encased us, a protective shell where it was safe for us to disagree and rage and still know we’d be there for each other.

  I’d lost Brian and it didn’t cripple me, it didn’t paralyze me. And I might lose Grayley and that didn’t even freeze me in place. Brian had been my anchor through my life in the past. I’d had been fortunate enough that I got to say goodbye.

  I’d gotten more than what Tray had been dealt.

  His brother beat the shit out of him after threatening him to choose between him and his father.

  He’d been a kid, a fucking kid going through puberty. He was supposed to worry about how many girls liked him, not which family member would be walking out of his life.

  But Tray had done what so many could never fathom. He’d stood on his own. He’d decided that he wouldn’t bow to either, so he told ‘em both to fuck off.

  I loved a man like that.

  And he was right. Tray wasn’t a kid. He’d ceased being a kid long ago. He was a man, he may be in high school, but he’s a man nonetheless.

  I loved him.

  And I loved him even more because he’d be going into that school with me, at my back, ready to handle whatever came at us.

  It had been right. Jace had been right. Whatever had been going on, I wouldn’t have stood for it. He just messed up and didn’t make sure my adoption took me clear away from Pedlam.

  The time was right. What Tray and I were about to do was right.

  So I found myself standing, in the wake of morning, watching the horizon that was still encased in darkness.

  And I felt right, for the first fucking time in my life.

  I was meant to do this.

  I was meant to be here, with this man, and I had my purpose laid out before me.

  “Hey,” Tray whispered, moving to stand behind me. He pulled me against his chest as he wrapped his arms around my waist.

  I let my head fall against his chest. “Hey,” I said softly, still watching the sun.

  He dipped to rest his chin in the crook of my neck and shoulder. “You ready?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Let’s go,” he murmured, before moving to dress.

  I turned and dressed in my normal work outfit. The same snug black lycra fabric, complete with everything I needed to break-in. I’d made Tray unearth the PRS-500. The codes were still there and I knew how to override them, but who knew if the same codes were still activated for the warehouse or
not. Jace most certainly had them changed, but there was a wireless connection to the PRS-500. So that meant it was possible that only the codes to the school would be changed. All the codes on the device were still active, which meant that the connection was still bridged and working. Bottom line: the codes might’ve been automatically downloaded to the PRS-500, granting us open access.

  Let’s hope anyway.

  Tray left the room for a minute and I met him in the kitchen.

  “So what’s the plan again?” I asked for the third time, still not totally believing his choice of accomplices. You’d think Carter, Bryce, Devon, or any one of his friends, but no, .he chose Gentley.

  “Gentley’s going to be watching the parking lot when you go in. I’ll circle around to the river’s opening.”

  “And explain again…him?”

  Tray just grinned, but spoke, “Gentley runs that school. He knows who belongs and who doesn’t. Plus, he can carry his own. There’s a reason why he runs that school and someone else doesn’t.”

  “He’s an ass. It’s the only reason.”

  “Then I’d probably have whoever else ran the school to help us. I need someone who can give orders over there and they be followed out. Trust me, he’s not a bud, but he’ll do.”

  “He’s an ass. I don’t like working with asses.”

  “No,” Tray grinned cockily, “but you’ll screw ‘em.”

  Gentley would have to do, I guess. But I didn’t like it.

  Tray sighed. “Just trust me, Taryn. This is my part, what I can do. You’ll be doing your job, but I’m telling you that we’ll need a third guy on this. Gentley’s the best choice, but only because it’s his territory.”

  “It’s Jace’s territory, not Gentley’s.”

  “No, but Gentley’s the acting owner. You know what I mean.”

  But I was a shit, so I asked even though I fully knew the answer. “And why are we doing this during the day?”

  “Less guards and stop playing games.”

  It hadn’t taken us long to devise the plan once we’d decided on actually going through with it. Seeing Chance had been enough to light Tray’s fire, but I could tell he was slightly nervous. He’d called Gentley back over and the rest of the night had been spent going over blueprints and coordinating time schedules.

  Gentley hadn’t been thrilled, but like I’d noticed before—he respected Tray. Or at least he knew who the top dog was, the Alpha male, or whatever. It was all a bunch of nonsense to me. I just needed to know my part, where I was going, and what to do when I found Grayley.

  Gentley figured Grayley would be underneath the gymnasium, since the school alarm was slightly louder in that room than the hallways. It made sense. The added echo probably helped us hear the alarm over Grayley’s cellphone, but it was still nerve-wracking.

  Once in the car, I asked, “Why not Trent? Or Geezer? My friends, not the enemy.”

  Tray didn’t even answer. It would’ve been the same answer from the first three times I’d asked. Geezer wasn’t reliable—he’d probably be stoned or just unable to handle whatever came up. And Trent would do, but Gentley was better. I hated it, I absolutely hated it, but Tray was right. Gentley was the best man for the job, but I needed to whine some more.

  When we arrived at our rendezvous spot, my scowl was firmly in place when I saw Gentley was already waiting for us.

  He scowled right back, but neither of us spoke. I was a little relieved because our constant insult-exchange had wasted an entire hour of work. Last night, Tray lit into both of us until we stopped and were reluctantly civil to each other.

  “Gentley, are you absolutely certain that you’ll be left alone in the parking lot all day?”

  “Yeah,” he shrugged, “I’m sure it’s the same at your school, but there’s a few of us that can’t be bothered, you know.”

  “Taryn—” Tray had been speaking my name.

  “What?”

  “Are you ready to go in?”

  I noticed Gentley had been checking out my outfit, but it wasn’t from lust. I saw the note of surprise in his eyes.

  All professional and shit, I said, “Yeah, I just gotta wind this rope quick.”

  “You got everything?” Tray moved to my side.

  “I think so.” And I did. I grabbed two small karabiners, a lethal looking knife, my rope, and anything else I could carry on my body that I’d need to break a lock…or if anything came between me and Grayley. He was down there and I was going to get him out. There was no other way around it.

  “We go on your count,” Tray murmured, for my ears only. Gentley had moved a few feet away, enough to give us a modicum of privacy.

  “Tray,” I murmured.

  “Yeah?”

  “Are you—” I would be fine. I knew how to handle myself, how to disappear and reappear, but Tray was coming in from the river. That meant a whole lot more open spaces than I’d have. I could hide in the nook and crannies in the school. But Tray’s way was a lot more dangerous, he’d be an easy target for any marksman.

  “I’ll be fine,” he whispered, reassuring me for the umpteenth time. And he had, over and over last night, but it wasn’t enough to reassure me.

  I really didn’t care that he had two guns on his body. Or that his brother had been a DEA agent, and his father the chief of police. I didn’t care that he’d been trained, at an early age, to handle himself and any gun he’d come across, or that he could probably out maneuver most SWAT teams.

  A sniper’s aim was still a sniper’s aim.

  He kissed my forehead and whispered again, “I’ll be fine. I’ve done this before, just focus on getting in there and finding your friend, alright?”

  I grabbed his chin and kissed him hard on the lips.

  When we broke apart, I saw that Gentley was watching and he looked annoyed. “Can we get going?”

  Tray threw a walkie to him and asked, “You know what to do?”

  “Yeah, yeah. Watch the parking lot and if a new crew shows up, I’m supposed to call you.”

  “Channel eleven-twelve. Taryn and I are both on that channel, but the volume will be on vibrate so you’ll have just SOS us or something. Long, short, short, short, long is the code, alright?”

  If it had been under any other circumstances, maybe one where we weren’t about to enter into a building without knowing if we’d be walking back out, I would’ve taken Tray down right then and there. The guy was just hot, all authoritarian and lethal. Plus he had a nicely tight body with muscles that contracted even when he breathed. Holy fuck.

  “Taryn,” he barked my way.

  “Yeah.” I know, I know. Distracting myself with sex wasn’t going to chase away the foreboding feeling that I felt in my stomach. It was the same feeling when we’d driven by that car accident. But holy God, there was no way I’d let that feeling overpower me and keep me from getting inside today.

  Suddenly I was overfilled with urgency and adrenalin. I needed to get inside that building. I needed to take that fucker down. Now.

  “I’m going in,” I announced and was already off, sprinting over the ditches and through the football field.

  We’d decided the night before we’d hit the school early, really early, and we’d move in when they probably wouldn’t expect it.

  I was coming in from the school’s backyard. Past the football field, the tennis courts, the swimming pool, the outside volleyball and the basketball courts. Behind the courts, there was a back door that the janitor’s used for their own entrance. They usually came and went at their own freedom, so the chances were pretty unlikely
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