Mason, p.10
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       Mason, p.10

         Part #0.5 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  sleeping in the back.”

  “I know you.” He pointed at me. “You leave her alone. She’s a good girl.”

  At the warning, the slight concern I had felt for Marissa left. In its place, the old emptiness and anger settled back in. They were like a second layer of skin, and it wasn’t until then that I realized they had lifted for a moment. It was because of Marissa. They didn’t press so hard on me when I was around her, but they were back and I’d gone back to being the bad guy.

  “No, no. He’s going. He’s getting his brother and he’s going.” She waved at me. “Go.”

  When I ducked into the back office, Logan was sitting up, cradling his head with his phone in the other hand. He saw me and blinked, dazed at me. “Mason? Did you just text me a bunch of times?”

  “I’m surprised you heard them. Marissa said you were wasted when you got here.”

  He groaned, then looked ready to puke. “I feel like shit.”

  “What happened? I thought you were at that party.” Hearing Marissa’s uncle begin to yell, I took his arm. “Come on. Let’s go. We have to get out of here.”

  Logan clutched his stomach. “Shit. What the fuck did I do?”

  “I have no idea, but we need to go. The owner is going to call the cops.” When I helped him through the door and saw his face in the light, I almost dropped him. “Shit. What happened to your face?”

  “What?” Logan touched his cheek and cursed. “It was throbbing in there, but it’s killing me now.”

  His cheek and jawline were swollen. I touched the corner of his eye and Logan sucked in his breath. “Man. You’re going to have a black eye.”

  Before I could fully comprehend that someone had done this to my little brother, Marissa’s uncle descended on us. He was pointing and shouting at the same time. “You! Get out. Get out of here! Now.”

  Logan flinched from the harsh tone. When the guy got closer and closer and didn't look like he was stopping, I moved Logan behind me and shoved the guy backwards. “Back off.”

  He paused, taking in my size and height, but shook his head again. “Him. I want him gone.”

  “Uncle?” Marissa was standing behind the aisle. She looked confused. “What’s going on?”

  “That’s what I’d like to know,” I bit out. “Logan?”

  He shook his head. “I have no idea. I can’t remember a thing.”

  “Him!” The uncle started again. His hand was up once more. He advanced again, his tone was irate. “He started this. Someone dropped him off.”

  Logan groaned then. “I think I got laid. I can’t remember.”

  The owner kept going as if he hadn’t said anything, “Then the Broudous showed up and they all started fighting.”

  “Wait. What?”

  “The Broudous. Budd and Brett Broudou, and their slob of a sister,” he spat out. His chest was heaving and the veins in his neck bulged out. “My son was here and he went to stop the fight. They started to hit this one, but this one hit my son. I had to take him to the hospital.”

  “Oh my god,” Marissa muttered. She had paled. “I never saw the side of his face. He was sitting on the curb when I told him to go inside.” She raised horrified eyes to me. “I wasn’t looking at him close. I’m sorry, Mason. I would’ve called for an ambulance if I had known. I was more concerned about calling you and letting you know and then taking care of the store.”

  “And your cousin.”

  She turned to her uncle. “What?”

  “You should’ve been concerned about your cousin. If he was okay or not.”

  Her hands were twisting around each other and she gulped. “I was, but you called and told me he was fine. I’m sorry.”

  I didn’t care. I didn’t give one iota about her cousin, about the owner, or anything else. I turned so my back was to them. I asked Logan, “You remember anything?”

  He shook his head, frowning with his eyes narrowed. “Not really. Wait…something about their sister? They were saying you slept with her?”

  “Their sister? I don’t even know who she is.” It didn’t matter. My decision was made. I was taking Logan home. I was calling Nate. I was calling anyone who wanted to come along and we were going to find the Broudous. This was going to be handled tonight. They hurt my brother. I was going to hurt them.


  I looked at Logan. “What?”

  He cleared his throat, wincing from the pain. “Wait. Whatever you’re planning, I want in. Wait until I’m healed. You’d want in too, if it had been you.”

  I gritted my teeth. He had a point, but fuck, I hated it. “Fine.”

  “I don’t want you guys back here,” the uncle started in as I helped Logan out. He kept following us but I tuned him out. As soon as Logan was in the car, I shut his door and went to the other side of the Escalade. Marissa’s uncle was there, tapping on the window, and I scanned a look over Marissa. She was standing inside the gas station, her hands pressed against her mouth. I tried to apologize to her, but didn’t know if she got it. Then I stopped caring. Her uncle began yelling again through the window at Logan. I had enough.

  I grabbed him by the throat and pushed him backwards. This was the second time that night I had physically moved another person. I was a lot rougher with him, but not enough to hurt him. It was just enough to remind him I was bigger and stronger. When he shut up, I glared down at him, but removed my hand. He started to open his mouth, but I shook my head, stopping him.

  I said, “I’m sorry Logan punched your son. I can tell you that he didn’t mean to. Now, I am taking my brother and I’m going home. We will stay away from your gas station, but if you even think about suing my family, we’ll counter sue.” I gestured to the camera in the corner. “My brother was attacked here and no cops were called. I don’t know, but there might be room for negligence on your end.”

  I could tell it was hurting him to hold back.

  “You might want to ask your niece who our father is. He’s a rich asshole. Those pricks always seem to win, one way or another.” Then I got in and started the engine.

  I shot away from there, but hadn’t gone far before Logan said, “I don’t like that one.”

  “We’ll use a different station.”

  “No.” He was in pain, but he wanted me to hear him. “I don’t like her.”

  “What do you mean?” I was trying to quell the anger in me, the need to protect my brother, but I tried to stuff it down. “Who are you talking about? Marissa?”

  He nodded, swallowing and groaning at the same time. “I was out of it, Mason, but I noticed that she’s not right. There’s something wrong with her.”

  I frowned, but didn’t say anything. Logan was still out of it, but I couldn’t tell how out of it he was. When he didn’t say any more, I didn’t question him on it. I took him home and I took care of my brother.



  I was tired.

  It’d been months since Logan was attacked by the Broudous. They were angry at me, saying I used their sister for sex. When I realized who it was, I laughed. She had come onto me months ago, but I rejected her advances. She had come onto all of us, Nate first, then Logan, and then me. None of us wanted anything to do with her. I didn’t know why she waited so long to say anything, but her brothers didn’t want to hear the explanation and a war was launched between our schools. We retaliated for Logan’s attack by burning down their barn. It was their turn now, but they weren’t the only problems on the horizon. I hadn’t forgotten my promise to Tate, but Kate seemed to have started taking her anger from me out on Tate even more. I didn’t understand the logic, but I wasn’t arguing. As long as both of them were hurting each other and I didn’t have to deal with them, I wasn’t going to stop them. The fighting was becoming hostile between them and after another explosive confrontation in the hallway broke out between them, I ducked into the cafeteria. I needed a breather. Logan acted like he didn’t care about what Tate had done anymore and maybe he d
idn’t. He had gone back to his laughing, smart-ass ways and he seemed to be fine. That meant I was fine too, but if Tate tried to get back in with Logan, she’d have to deal with me. She had done enough damage to my brother. She wasn’t going to do more, or even have the opportunity to do more.

  As the door shut behind me, conversations halted. I saw Logan sitting on a table, his feet on the seat. He was smiling down at a girl, looking down her shirt. When I glanced at her, I saw her adjust it to give him a better view. He glanced up at me and narrowed his eyes. I saw the silent question from him. He wanted to know if I was fine, so I gave him a short nod. He flashed a grin and went back to flirting. As I moved through the room, a few of the juniors nodded their hellos. They were the top dogs in school during lunch since most of the seniors were allowed to leave campus. Sometimes I sat with them, but the door opened and Kate strolled in. She headed for their table, folding into the lap of one of the guys. Her friends followed her except the one that Nate was hooking up with; she went to his table instead. He was sitting with Ethan and a couple other guys from our table.

  I didn’t want to deal with any of them. After grabbing some food, I skimmed the room. I could sit at any table, but then Tate came in. She was followed by a group of girls and I watched as they took the table next to where Kate was sitting with the guys. Shit. The fighting would start all over again. I was tempted to leave and eat in my Escalade, but then I spotted my table mate in the back corner, hidden behind a post. Logan never repeated his comment about Marissa so I started to wonder if he had ever meant it. At that moment, I didn’t care. I wanted to get away from the tension. As I started towards her, I saw there were two other girls with her. I grinned. They all looked the same. Two of them had books out and were reading them while the third was staring off into space.

  I stood beside the table and waited. They didn’t notice me at first. When one did, it was one of the girls reading a book. I had shifted on my feet and my shadow hit her book. She looked up and then gasped. Marissa looked up from her book. Her eyes got big. The third one was still staring off into space, oblivious.

  Marissa asked, “What do you want?”

  A grin formed. Shit. This was refreshing. “Can I sit?”

  “No.” She looked horrified.

  “Marissa,” her friend said, a note of alarm in her voice.

  “I know. I know,” she reassured her.

  The third girl still had no clue.

  “You can’t sit here, Mason. No way,” Marissa said firmly. She was looking around.

  Her friend whispered, “Oh my god.”

  I frowned. I thought we were okay. I hadn’t talked to her in a while. This wasn’t the reception I had expected. “Look, I’m sick to death of dealing with bitchy girls. You don’t have to talk to me. Just let me sit. I’m looking for a spot away from the drama right now. That’s it.”

  “Oh dear lord!” The third girl saw me and physically jumped off her seat. She landed on the floor. There was a moment of silence from the tables around us and then people started laughing.

  “Shut up,” I barked at them. I had sought this table out to get away from that shit. Another hush fell over the tables, but it was from surprise. I could sense the interest. All eyes turned to the table and a few girls in our class recognized Marissa. They started whispering to each other, and I was beyond caring what would happen because of this. I turned back to Marissa. “I really just want to sit. I don’t want to talk. There’s no drama at our table in class. I didn’t think there would be drama at your table during lunch either.”

  “Oh.” Concern filled her eyes, and she bit her lip. “Oh man.”

  The third girl had crawled back onto her seat. She was watching me like I was a lion ready to tear into her. She was cowering. The other girl was just watching me. Her eyes kept darting from Marissa to me. After another few minutes, she was the one who broke the silence. She cried out, “Oh god, Marissa. Let him sit.”

  “Paige, I don’t know.”

  The friend leaned across the table and whispered, “Damage is already done. People are already looking.”

  Marissa gazed around the room and sighed, nodding to me. “You can sit.”

  I frowned at them. Did they really think I would hurt them that bad? I didn’t take the seat next to them. Marissa was on the end. Her two friends were across from her. I sat at the other end of their table, keeping three chairs between Marissa and myself. All three of them watched me but they didn’t talk to me. After a few more minutes, I realized they had taken me literally. They really weren’t going to talk to me, so I turned and began eating. When I was done, I glanced up and was surprised again. They were still watching me. As I thanked them for letting me sit there, I took my tray and stood up. People turned away and I realized they had all been watching. It wasn’t just those three.

  When I put the tray away and turned for the exit, that’s when I glanced at the other side of the cafeteria. All my friends were on that side. They were confused, but I saw Kate standing, glaring across the room. Her arms were folded across her chest as she pinned Marissa down with near-hate in her gaze.

  Walking over to her, I stood in front of her.

  Kate looked up. The dark look in eyes didn’t leave. “Why were you sitting over there?”

  “Because I can.” I narrowed my eyes. “Stop looking over there.”

  “You’re lunch friends with her now?”

  “You don’t get to have an opinion. Remember?”

  She moved to the side and the glare was directed back to them.

  I moved to block her again. “Stop it, Kate.”

  She gave me a tight smile, but her eyes were cold. “You don’t get to have an opinion.”

  I glanced to Logan and saw him watching. He was frowning, gazing at where I had been sitting too. When his gaze caught mine, he nodded and stood from his table. Walking to us, he stood next to me, blocking Kate’s view again.

  She let out a disgusted sound. “So because the big bad Kade brothers are standing up to me, you think you can tell me what to do?” She turned that chilly smile to me. “All you do is preach about how I have no claim on you. Every time I’m dumb enough to fuck you, you leave me with the same message. Message received, Mason, but it goes both ways.” She glanced to the guy whose lap she vacated. “I’m with Tim now and I won’t be coming around anymore.”

  I didn’t care. “Yeah, okay. Whatever makes you feel better.”

  Tim didn’t stand up. As Logan and I looked at him, his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed. When he wiped his palms on his pants, I told him, “Relax, Cosello. I have no beef with you.” Then I lowered my voice, “Kate, leave the girl alone. All I did was sit with her at lunch.”

  She lifted her chin up. “Like I said before, you have no business telling me what to do. I’ll do what I please.”

  I sighed. Tate was standing too, but she remained at her table. Recognizing the gleam in her eye, I suppressed a curse. If I said anything more, I’d make it worse. Tate saw a new victim. Kate was distracted. As I stood there, my jaw clenched. I hadn’t realized this would happen, but both groups were looking at Marissa like she was prey they could both enjoy.

  I turned around. Marissa was watching us, her face pale.

  Kate started laughing. “Christ, look at you. What’s wrong? Don’t tell me you actually care about the girl?” I thought the only person you care about is standing next to you. He’s all you protect. Even Monson gets the shaft sometimes. She gestured to the side where Nate had stood, but he was waiting for my call. I shook my head. If he came over, it would be worse. Kate would become even more determined and Tate would be even more relentless, seeing a distraction from her own torment. Then Kate distracted me when she said, “Don’t beat yourself up, Mason. It’s not the first time that girl’s stepped out of place. We had a little round with her at the beginning of school.”

  “Stop this, Kate.”

  She laughed and shook her head. “Not your problem. Remember? Those
are the terms you’ve always set. What I do is none of your business.” Then she walked away.

  A sick feeling took root in me, but I didn’t know what to do. Kate controlled the girls. She had for a long time and I knew things went down that the guys never knew about. When I glanced to Tate, she was smug. Her gaze collided with mine and I knew she was remembering my promise. I was going to break her how she had broken Logan, but still I hadn’t done anything.

  Logan was following my train of thought. “She doesn’t care.”


  He glanced at Marissa too and frowned, then turned back to me. “Tate. You told her that you’d hurt her. She’s going after that girl because of that now, to hurt you back.”

  “I haven’t done anything to her.”

  “Yeah, you have. Kate wouldn’t have gone after Tate if it wasn’t for you. People know what happened, Mason. They know she came onto you. It was obvious even though we didn’t say anything. They figured it out. Tate blames you for what Kate’s been doing to her.” He nodded in Marissa’s direction. “If you want to help her, distance yourself from her. The girls will do what they always do. You can’t stop them.”

  He was right.

  Then he said, “Mom called last night.”

  I stopped thinking about Marissa. “What?”

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