Mason, p.15
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       Mason, p.15
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         Part #0.5 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan
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  He couldn’t look me in the eyes. I was so tired of the lies and the manipulation. I was sick of everything.

  Then he murmured, “I did try.”

  “Not hard enough. What? A month?” I was disgusted. “That’s not a marriage. I don’t blame Mom for not giving up her loyalties to Grandpa. I wouldn’t either if my wife had another dick in her after a month of marriage.” I laughed. “What a riot. You tried. That might be one of the biggest lies I’ve heard from you.” It was killing me because he wouldn’t cheat on this new one. I had sensed it in him for a long time. He would be the husband to her that he hadn’t been for my mom.

  “I am sorry for putting you guys through all of this. We should’ve been more discreet, your mother and I.”

  “Just stop.” I sneered at him. I sneered at my own father. That was wrong, but somehow it seemed so acceptable in our lives. “I don’t want to hear about your failed marriage. I lived it. Say what you came to say.”

  “She’s moving in.”

  “When?”

  “Next weekend.”

  I felt sucker punched. We had less than a week.

  “Do you want me to tell Logan or—”

  I didn’t even let him finish. “No. I will.” He had to hear it from me. “I’ll tell him.”

  He stood, nodding to himself. As he went to the door, he wiped his hands down the front of his pants and I had to laugh. He looked up. “What?”

  It was like he’d been nervous, but that was the irony. It didn’t matter what we wanted or what was best for us, he was going to do whatever he wanted. We never mattered. For him to be nervous now? It didn’t make sense.

  “What?” he asked again.

  “I think you’re a coward.”

  He took a step back, looking like I had sucker punched him instead.

  I didn’t care. “After all the stuff you’ve done and now you give me a week’s heads up that some new woman is moving in? Should I thank you for the consideration of even telling me?” I gestured to his hands. “You were sweating. That means you were nervous and that means you cared how this would go. Why? You haven’t cared this whole time.”

  Pain and regret flashed over his face and he didn’t answer for a moment. I didn’t think he would. His throat jerked up and down as he cleared his throat. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse, “I’m sorry for threatening to send Logan away. I’m not a great father. I know that. I wasn’t a good husband at all, but this is a new beginning. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

  He started for the door, but I stopped him again. “Were you with her the whole time?”

  “What?”

  “Logan saw her around years ago, but I know you were with other women. Have you been with her this whole time?”

  “No.” He shook his head. “I didn’t want to leave a marriage and jump into another serious relationship, but you’re right. Analise has been around. She’s been patient. She waited for me. I love her, Mason. I love her a lot.”

  I knew he did. I hated that he did. “What about her kid?”

  “She’s coming too.”

  I narrowed my eyes.

  So did he. He hesitated and then said, “I’m quite aware of what you are capable of, Mason. I’ve watched you grow up.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “You will leave Samantha alone. If you have any idea of pursuing her to hurt me or hurt Analise, let it go now. That girl has no idea about any of this. Her entire world is going to be turned upside down in five days. You let her be when they move in.”

  I laughed again. “I don’t have to hurt that girl. You and her mother have already done enough. If I did anything, it’d be to help her.”

  He studied me for a long minute. “You just let her be. Logan too. I don’t want either of you to even talk to her.”

  Of course. As he left, I had to appreciate even more irony. He was telling me to be a stranger to his old mistress/new girlfriend’s child when they became our roommates. Only in our lives would that make perfect sense.

  Then my phone buzzed and Logan’s name appeared on the screen. He needed to be told too.

  19

  TELLING LOGAN

  We were at a party, but I couldn’t hold it in. Nodding to Logan, I gestured away from everyone. This had nothing to do with them. This was family business. This was private. When Ethan and Strauss started to come with him, I shook my head. They fell back immediately. They never questioned me, but Logan saw the exchange and he frowned.

  We went to a back room. Once we were there, he said, “What’s going on? You’re acting weird.”

  Shit. I didn’t want to say it, but he had to know. “She’s moving in.”

  Logan was silent.

  I waited. He was my kid brother and I was scared. What would he say? How would he react? Then he shrugged. “Okay.”

  I frowned. “Next weekend.”

  He hung his head.

  There he was. He was my little brother again. We didn’t talk about our parents’ relationship or lack of one. We talked about people who were trying to hurt us or use us. We were a united front against them, but this was different. Logan had always clammed up when it came to Mom and Dad. He needed to talk about it, but fuck. I had no idea what to say.

  I tried, “I’m sorry.”

  “Why?” He bit out a bitter laugh. “You didn’t force Dad to sleep with all those women. You didn’t make him give up on their marriage or Mom to put up with his shit. You fucking raised me. That’s what you did.” He wiped at his eyes, swallowing for a moment. “Shit. For real?”

  I nodded. “Dad told me today.”

  “Christ. My god. FUCK.” He closed his eyes and turned away. His shoulders shook.

  “Logan.”

  “Stop, Mason.” He turned to me.

  The sight of his tears silenced me. He had cried in front of me before, but this was deep. This had been going on for so long. My own emotions were coming up in me. I didn’t want to deal with it.

  He asked, his voice hoarse, “Why the fuck can’t we have normal parents? You know, where the dad and mom don’t lie all the time? Maybe some of the time, but they fight, make up, and the family pretends everything’s fine. Why’d we have to have ours?” He shook his head. “We’re not even a family. It’s you and me. Who the hell is Dad to us? He’s not a father.” His arm jerked up to me. “You’re my father. You raised me. He didn’t. She didn’t. FUCK.”

  He turned back away, but it didn’t matter. He hurt. I hurt. No one could deny it or ignore it anymore. Everything he said was true. It was us against the world. It had been for a long time.

  “He loves that bitch, doesn’t he?”

  I nodded. “Yeah.”

  “He’s going to marry her.”

  “Probably.”

  “She already hates us.”

  “Yeah.” I closed my eyes. I’d been protecting him for so long, but I couldn’t anymore. “I have no idea what she’ll do, but I’m assuming she’ll want us out eventually.”

  Another harsh laugh came from him. “So it’s over.”

  It was. A resounding ache was in my gut. It was worse than ever before. “Yeah. It’s over between Mom and Dad.”

  “They’ve been divorced for a while. She moved out years ago.” He sighed. “Why is this still hurting? It’s like the pain will never go away.”

  “Yeah.” The ache deepened as he spoke.

  His voice dropped to a whisper. “Why do I feel like I’m that little kid again, listening to Mom cry as he ignores her?”

  We were both there, reliving that moment. I was on the stairway with him, hearing their argument from our floor. Logan said, “We shouldn’t have had to go through that.”

  “We’re not the first.”

  “I know.” I wouldn’t do that, not to my own child. “It hurts because it’s done, for real this time. He moved on.”

  “Mom hasn’t.”

  “She will.” She would have to. “He left her alone a long time ago, she just didn
’t let him go.”

  Logan cursed again. “This sucks.”

  “I know.” The ache was still embedded in my chest. It wasn’t going anywhere. I’d have to live with it. I already had been. “I want to get drunk tonight.”

  He flashed me a grin, brushing at his eyes at the same time. “I thought you stopped drinking for football.”

  “Really?”

  He laughed. “Coach says you can’t drink, remember? It’ll screw up your training.”

  “Fuck my training.” I shook my head. “Fuck this night.”

  “Fuck our life.”

  I nodded. “Fuck our family.”

  Logan stopped grinning. The sadness appeared over his face again. Sometimes I didn’t think it ever left him. He said softly, “You and me.”

  “You and me.” It always had been. It always would be. “Let’s forget what’s going on for tonight, just one night. Let’s have fun. Then we’ll deal with whatever happens.”

  He nodded. “Okay.” He cursed then. “We’re going to have a stepsister. Shit. How’s that going to go?”

  I grinned.

  “What if she’s ugly?”

  I frowned. “Does it matter?”

  “What if she’s hot? Would that be worse?”

  I didn’t know. In that moment, I didn’t care. Logan knew she was moving in with us. He had handled it better than I thought. Then I said, “I love you, brother.”

  He murmured back, “I love you too, big brother.”

  We didn’t leave the room, not at first. We didn’t say anything else either. It was a comfortable silence between us. Our lives were changing again. We’d deal. We always did. I didn’t want to go back to the party. For a moment, just one moment, I sat in that room and I wasn’t the Mason Kade everyone expected to deal with. I was hurting. I was angry. I felt like we had no parents, but I did have a brother. Logan met my gaze. He was thinking the same thing. We had each other. We would continue to have each other, but at that moment, we were still the little boys who were hearing their parents break up a family.

  I could’ve sat in that room for the rest of the night.

  20

  MEETING SAMANTHA

  “Mason, we have a problem.”

  It was the night before they moved in. I gripped the wheel tighter when Logan started laughing like a hyena beside me. Our buddy, Strauss, was dissecting the exchange we witnessed twenty minutes earlier between Kate and Jasmine so I adjusted the rearview mirror to see Ethan better. “What?”

  “We have a problem.”

  “Then Kate whipped out that bottle and Jasmine pissed her pants, I almost lost it,” Strauss continued to say as Logan kept laughing.

  “Shut the fuck up.” I punched my brother. He was drunk, he’d just gotten laid by two girls, and he loved hearing Strauss’ commentary on any chick fight we saw, but I couldn’t take anymore.

  “Mase!” Ethan hit my seat. “I told you. I have a problem.”

  Logan glared at him. “Shut the fuck up, Fischer. Strauss is talking.”

  “You shut the fuck up. Now. I have a problem.”

  We were all silent. Waiting. When Ethan didn’t comment right away, Logan reached over and punched his leg. “No follow through, man. That’s your problem. On and off the field.”

  “I forgot my problem.”

  “Fucker.”

  “Yeah.” Strauss shook his head. “We were all quiet, but you lost your turn. You didn’t perform. You gotta think quick on your feet, Fischer.”

  “You guys are pissing me off.”

  Logan started laughing again. When I heard his voice starting to rise again, I spotted Quickie’s and turned into the parking lot. I’d had enough. As I wheeled next to a gas pump, I turned the engine off and twisted back around. “Logan, go inside and get something to sober up. I’m not taking you home like this.”

  He smirked at me as his eyes glazed over. “We’re not going home. You heard Ethan. He’s got a problem.” Then he clambered outside.

  When Fischer didn’t follow him right away, I shot him a glare. “Go with him. Calm him the fuck down.”

  He grunted, but did as I told him. Logan waited at the front of the car, and when Ethan joined him, I heard him say something about Molly’s pussy.

  Strauss started laughing. “I know your brother isn’t high as a kite, but man, he’s acting like it.”

  “What do you expect? Two girls blew him.” And he was trying not to think about tomorrow, but I didn’t share that information with him.

  I lifted the gas handle and put the nozzle in my car. I knew Logan wanted to fight someone; he kept asking if we could go after the Broudous tonight. I kept saying no. When we fought them, we were going to make sure they wouldn’t come around for a long time, but I felt the itch inside of me too. I wanted to fight someone. I wanted to do physical damage.

  I sighed and leaned against my car, waiting for the gas to fill up. We were supposed to help them move in the next day. There was no way we were going to, and there was no way we’d take his money to help move them. The bitch and her spawn would have to move themselves, even though I knew James would end up paying for movers if we didn’t go.

  Then I saw her.

  It felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach. It was the same girl Logan had googled. Samantha Strattan. It was her.

  She was waiting by her car. Her arms were crossed over her chest, hugging herself. She was staring at Logan, who was now inside of the gas station. She had long black hair. It whipped around her from the wind, but it was like she didn’t even feel it. No. She didn’t give a damn. That look punched me in the gut.

  She was strong. I saw it in her. She had dark eyes, petite lips, and high cheekbones. Her rack was decent. Her body was long and thin, and her legs were strong. Shit. She was tiny, but her eyes were dead.

  This was the bitch’s kid?

  Then her shoulders tensed. She’d been studying Logan. Her eyes were eating him up, but not like the two chicks who had just been with him. She looked at him with loathing.

  I narrowed my eyes.

  I saw her turning—here she came—and her gaze locked with mine. Her eyes widened. She moved away from her car, just a step. It was the same look I got from wide receivers after I sent them to the ground with one touch. They were always shocked by the force and they'd reassess me. Every time. I had shaken her, but she had shaken me too.

  Strauss came to stand beside me. He studied her a second before he commented, “Kate’s going to shit her pants by the looks of that one.”

  I wanted her. And he was right. Then I smirked at her. This was going to be interesting.

  She saw the exchange. Her eyes narrowed and she lowered them for a second.

 
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