Fallen crest alternative.., p.6
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       Fallen Crest Alternative Version, p.6
 

         Part #2.1 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan  

  all the way. “We play Fallen Crest Public because we attend schools in the same town. It was a friendly competition drawn up a long time ago, but FCP is larger. They play in the league above us.”

  Cassandra had been watching the conversation. She lifted a shoulder now and cooed at the hostess. “They wanted Adam to play for them. They wanted him to attend their school too. Did you know that?”

  Malinda’s smile slipped a notch. “From what I’ve heard, the Kade brothers are assets to their team, but better for us. We need you, Adam. You’re our star quarterback.”

  Cassandra clamped a hand on his arm. “And he plays hockey too. Did you know that, Malinda?”

  He bit out a laugh as he twisted his arm from her hold. “Uh, yeah, but football’s more my sport.”

  “You don’t play basketball?”

  He seemed apologetic to Malinda. “I don’t.”

  She turned in her seat. “Mark, you do.”

  “Um.” He froze in mid-reach for the ribs and blinked several times. “I do, mom. You’re right.” He glanced around. “Was that a point of conversation? If I played basketball or not?”

  Cassandra plastered another bright smile on. She took the wine from Amelia, who had filled her third glass. “My boyfriend is their captain. Peter Glasburg. You’ve met Peter, right, Malinda? He’s their forward.”

  Becky groaned next to me. Her hands switched from her lap, to her plate, to her utensils, and back to her lap. She hadn’t had a bite of food from her plate.

  “He’s the one who dribbles the basketball down the court, right?” Malinda made a point to flutter her eyelashes across the table. “I haven’t been watching my son play his favorite sport since he was in third grade for nothing.”

  Mark grunted and walloped a spoonful of mashed potatoes on his plate. “My mom was my first coach. She played in college.” He grimaced. “If you want your asses handed to you, play horse against her. She always wins.”

  Cassandra’s laugh sounded strangled. “You don’t say.”

  Amelia blinked and beamed. “I’d love to learn basketball, Malinda. You could coach me.”

  The older woman’s smile slipped, and she rested back in her seat. “Oh, dear. Those days are long gone for me now. I wouldn’t know how to even spell horse anymore.”

  “You beat me last weeken—” Mark started to say.

  “Try some gravy with those, son.” Malinda stuffed a spoonful in his mouth, and he jerked back, sputtering from the onslaught. She sat back with a contented smile and raised her eyebrows across the table. “You were saying, dear?”

  Amelia looked from son to mother. “Nothing.” She folded her hands over her lap and sat back as well.

  Malinda looked like the cat that swallowed the canary and got away with it. She glowed for a moment before she looked to me. “Sam, honey, tell me you’d like more than that salad? David tells me you go on long runs.”

  “All the time.” Becky surged forward. Her eagerness couldn’t be contained. “She can run for hours at a time. I keep telling her to go out for cross country, but she doesn’t.”

  Aware of all the attention, I muttered, “I don’t do it for sport. It’s my time away.”

  “Well, of course. I know I wouldn’t even imagine trying to compete against Mason and Logan in sports. Those two are natural talents.” Cassandra leaned back and regarded me with a smug smile.

  I tilted my head to the side and asked, “Don’t you run cross country?”

  She blinked. “Yeah. Why?”

  Malinda placed a hand on my arm and gushed out, “Oh, you must try out for the team—”

  “It was in the fall. We’re done already.” Cassandra’s tone had chilled.

  Malinda frowned a second and then smiled. Two dimples showed. “How about for track? Do you run for track, Cassandra?”

  She seemed frozen in place. “I run the two mile.”

  My arm was patted. “There you go, honey. Run the two mile. I’m sure it’s nothing for you. You could smoke anyone.”

  “Mom.” Mark frowned. “You’re a track fan now? I’m not running track. I don’t care how much you love me. I don’t love you that much.”

  She laughed, a bit strained. “Not for you, honey. For Sam. She’s the runner here. I think she should show something for it.”

  I grinned at her words. “That’s what Garrett said. He asked what the point of running so much if I wasn’t training for a marathon.” I laughed at the memory. He’d been so brash.

  She quieted and I felt David’s silence beside me.

  I turned, helpless, “Not that I care what he said, but…”

  David tried to give me a reassuring smile.

  I floundered anyway. “I’m sorry, dad.”

  He shook his head. “No. No, honey. Don’t ever apologize for thinking of a memory, certainly not when it comes to him.”

  I opened my mouth. No sound came out. So I closed it and looked away. Then Adam jumped in. He asked Malinda questions about her college years with basketball. She seemed eager to respond, and an hour slipped by. As it drew to a close, I sighed in relief. Becky hadn’t done anything for me to worry about. I hadn’t done anything for me to worry about. The only two who were sloshed by the end of dinner were Cassandra and Amelia. No one seemed to care.

  Everything ended in polite farewells.

  I looked up once and wondered if I’d get a one-on-one time with David, but he gave us all a goodnight grin with his hand curved around Malinda’s waist and I knew it wasn’t so. He’d go to bed with her beside him that night, someone who wasn’t my mother.

  And then when the door closed on us, I was jerked back to reality. It was cold. I shivered and Cassandra and Amelia seemed too jovial for my stomach to handle.

  “Let’s go party!” Amelia laughed as she tipped her head backwards.

  Mark frowned at her, but he made no move to hold her in place. That seemed to be Cassandra’s job as she smiled at Adam. “I heard there’s a public party tonight. Wanna go?”

  “I…uh…” He looked to me.

  Everyone looked to me.

  Becky grasped my hand.

  I shrugged. “I have no idea where it’s at.”

  Cassandra frowned and snapped, “Call your boyfriend. He’ll know.”

  I turned heated eyes on her, but she was oblivious. The wine rendered her brave or careless when she threw her arms wide and laughed. The sound ripped from the bottom of her throat, and it sounded inhumane.

  Then I closed my mouth. No retort would make a dent so I reached out and shoved her backwards.

  She gasped and reached for a hold on the person nearest.

  “Cass!” Amelia gasped as she fell with her.

  Both of them tumbled backwards into Malinda’s bushes. When they were caught and held for a moment, the branches broke. They landed on the ground with a loud thump.

  It was silent for one second. Mark and Adam burst out in laughter.

  Cassandra screamed. It was bloodcurdling, and when she couldn’t climb back to her feet, she let out another one.

  “Cass, shut up. My ears.”

  She was thumped herself.

  “Ow! Bitch.” Amelia tried to roll away, but the branches stopped her. They continued to be contained where they had landed. “Mark, help me!”

  He snorted and stepped back. “Make me.”

  Then I glanced at Becky, who had retreated behind me. She had both of her hands pressed to her mouth. Her shoulders were shaking and she was taking deep breaths. When a chuckle slipped out, she shook her head and turned away.

  And then I didn’t hold back my own amusement. It felt right to smile at that moment.

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  Adam pulled the car down a long gravel driveway. Trees surrounded us and he peered around. “You sure this is where Mason said?”

  Mark poked his head between the seat divider. “The party’s at an abandoned barn. Are you expecting pools and chandeliers?”

  Becky snorted.

  I said,
“One of their friends’ dad owns this acreage. I guess they have a winery close to it, but yeah—this is the place. That’s all Mason said.” And the car turned a last bend. A large barn stood in front of us. Lights streamed out of it as well as people. When we found a parking spot in a field behind the barn, music blared out, mixing with shouts and laughter.

  The barn had two wide open doors, one in the front and one in the back. We approached from the back, but three kegs were set up inside the doorway. As a girl raced past us giggling with only a bra on, Becky’s mouth dropped. Mark and Adam swiveled as one. A guy followed in hot pursuit. They disappeared past a group of trees. When the girl shrieked, both the guys had wicked grins on their faces.

  Mark bobbed his head in approval. “My kind of party.”

  Adam barked out a laugh and thumped him on the shoulder.

  Becky’s eyes were wide. “So this is what the real public parties are like?”

  They all looked at me. I shrugged. “I guess. I don’t go that much.”

  Adam frowned a bit. “Mason comes without you?”

  My eyes narrowed. “If you’re insinuating what I think you’re insinuating, you better stop right now.”

  His frown deepened, but he turned away.

  Becky touched my hand lightly. “It’s no fun to go to a party with only your boyfriend. I understand.”

  The knot that had grown in my chest unraveled a bit. I hadn’t known the knot was there in the first place. “I have my friends with me now.”

  “And why didn’t Mason drive you?”

  We turned and glared.

  He held his hands up. “I’m just saying—”

  “I told them to go without me. I thought I’d be wiped from the dinner.”

  Mark bobbed his head as he appeared with a tray. “Hey, I got you all beer. Drink up, everyone.”

  As he pushed a plastic cup into my hand, I shook my head for a moment. No one noticed his disappearance. Mark didn’t seem to mind as he couldn’t wipe his smile off his face. “Man, I love free booze. It never gets old.”

  Adam murmured, “Your grandfather created one of the most widely-sold whiskeys in the world.”

  Mark grunted as he drank half a glass in one gulp. “You think my mom lets me touch that stuff? I have to sneak the crap just like everyone else. Which is why I love getting free beer!” He lifted his glass in a salute.

  Adam shook his head but bumped his glass with Mark’s; both finished their first glass together. As they went for refills, Becky nudged my side. “Did you text Mason? Does he know we’re here?”

  I lifted a shoulder. “I’ll find him. It’s okay.”

  “Yeah, but don’t you—”

  I was cut off by someone scooping me over his shoulder. He raced through the barn as he patted my butt. I groaned. I didn’t need to even look. His hyena laugh sounded out in a victorious call as he bounced me around the barn and out to some bonfires. “I got her! She’s mine, Mason. You can’t have your woman tonight. I’m claiming my sister, and that’s final!”

  “Logan.” I hit the back of his head. “Put me down.”

  He continued to race around with his free hand in the air. Beer spilled from it, but he didn’t care. He hooted and laughed as everyone cheered him on.

  “You’re mine, Sam. You’re mine.” His legs pumped higher and he raced back to the barn. Everyone stood and hollered in laughter as he returned to my friends. I took a breath and expected to be placed back on my feet. Nope. Logan circled around them. His head was thrown back, and he ran the same routine as before.

  When he turned back for the barn, someone grabbed the back of my jeans. I was hoisted off his shoulders and held suspended in the air. Mason grumbled as he lowered me to my feet, “Sam’s not a prize to be paraded around.”

  I bent forward and took gaping breaths of air. His shoulder had been hitting my sternum.

  He smoothed his hand over my back. “I’m surprised she didn’t vomit on your ass. You would’ve deserved it.”

  Logan tipped his head back. A smile was spread from ear to ear and he pumped his knees in front of him again. He took off once more with the same hyena laugh sounding out.

  I couldn’t stop a chuckle. “How drunk is he?”

  A girl screeched, and Logan’s laugh doubled. Mason rolled his eyes as he turned me into him. He held me close. “You okay?”

  “Yeah.” And I was. I touched the side of his face for a kiss. “I’ve missed him too.”

  The corner of his lip curved up. He dropped his chin on my shoulder and kissed the side of my neck. “He’s pretty drunk tonight. Pretty sure he’s already gotten laid twice.” He glanced back when the same shriek was heard, followed by high-pitched giggling. “That’ll be the third time.”

  “Same girl?” Did I really want to know?

  Mason grimaced. I had my answer.

  A girl snorted behind us. “What’s he so amped about?”

  Mason turned us to the group, who was spread around a bonfire. The girl who spoke lifted her hand in a lazy wave. She gave me a polite smile. “Hi, Sam.”

  My insides tightened. “Kate.”

  She swung her legs wide and leaned forward to brace her elbows on top of her tight jeans. She brushed some loose strands of golden blonde hair back and sighed. “Logan’s in rare form tonight, Mason.”

  His tone cooled. “He’s excited. That’s all.”

  Another girl perked up. “I’m excited!” She had a drunken giggle on her face before she toppled off the log she had tried to squat over.

  Kate rolled her eyes. “Parker’s going to get laid tonight. We all know.”

  A hand shot in the air. A cup was in it. “I saved my beer.”

  Some of the guys snorted in approval. One stood, bent down, and scooped the petite black-haired girl from the ground. He deposited her on the ground beside Kate, who patted her on the head. “Thanks, Strauss.”

  He grunted before he took his old seat.

  Parker giggled and fell to the side. “When’s Nate coming, Mason? I’ve missed him.”

  I swiveled around. “Nate’s coming?”

  Mason pressed a kiss to the side of my head and whispered, “I’m excited too.”

  “When?”

  “Now!”

  The shout came from my right, and I was scooped off my feet once more. Nate wrapped both arms around me and twirled me in a circle. “Heya, Sam!”

  “Nate!” I hugged him tight and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It grew when he set me back on my feet and grabbed Mason in another bear hug. He scooped him up but only lifted him in the air for two steps before he couldn’t hold him any longer. The two couldn’t contain their delight, and the best friendship was easy to spot when they thumped each other on the back a few more times.

  “Hello!” Parker stomped the ground. “Other people here.”

  Nate turned with a different grin, one with promise as he crossed and lifted her off her feet too. She giggled as she wound her legs around his waist. Whispers were shared between the two as Nate carried her away from the group.

  Kate stood and yelled, “You better come back and greet the rest of us.”

  Nate flipped her off before they were swallowed into the darkness.

  “Ass,” she grumbled and sat back down with a huff. Her eyes
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