Fallen crest forever, p.10
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       Fallen Crest Forever, p.10
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         Part #7 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  “He tried lying to you too?”

  “He can’t lie to me.” She chuckled to herself. “He’s tried. He sucks at it.”

  Logan was an incredible liar. That was a testament to Taylor and their relationship.

  I let out a deep breath. “I’m not really mad at Mason. I’m mad at myself.”

  “Why? You’re one of the nicest people I know. As Logan would say, you’re a big deal.” She winked.

  I laughed shortly, then waited as the waiter came over to ask Taylor if she wanted anything. She ordered a coffee and some toast. I was content with my water, but did ask for a refill of my carafe. I never claimed my addiction to coffee was healthy.

  Taylor groaned as the waiter left. “Our eight o’clock run is going to suck ass.”

  That was right. And I had to win. I had to beat Faith and Raelynn every time. I shook my head. I would. I had no worries about their running times.

  “We’ll be running even earlier once classes start.”

  “Why did I think joining the team would be fun?” She rolled her eyes, talking to herself. “Because I thought it’d be good for me. Good for me to join a team, to be social, to do something with you. I like to run. How hard could it be? I just do a few more miles than I normally do.” Her sarcasm was thick, but she was half-smiling. “You might have to remind me in a few hours all of those things. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be questioning my sanity at mile three.”

  “I’ll remind you.”

  “You and me, we’re not big social creatures, are we?”

  I shook my head. “I’ve been burned by too many people.”

  “Yeah.” She quieted, staring at the table. “Me too. Is there something wrong with us? And Mason and Logan love us. Is there something wrong with them?” She was laughing, but I sensed a twinge of sincerity in her questions.

  The waiter brought over the coffee and refilled both our glasses of water. I picked at a stain on my mug.

  “Is it possible to have an early-life crisis? Maybe that’s what I’m doing.”

  “No.” Taylor was firm. “You’re changing. You’re developing; that’s it. I firmly believe that.”

  “Yeah?” I looked up, feeling new hope.

  She nodded decisively. “Completely. I thought I was losing my mind when I started to heal from my mom’s shooting. And then it just happened one day. The day before, the same shitstorm; things were all in upheaval. And then the next day it settled. I felt okay. I felt I was going to be okay. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but that’s how it was for me.” She poured her coffee, eyeing me once she put the carafe back on the table. “You’re going through something. Don’t stress. Just let it ride, and you’ll be fine once you get to the other side of it.”

  I felt a little more relief at her words. “Does Logan know how smart you are?”

  “Are you kidding me? I’m ‘majorly awesome.’ That’s how he puts it. He’s awesome, but I’m in the major leagues.”

  I could imagine them laughing over that.

  I felt another twinge of jealousy. And I hated it. This wasn’t who I was, but I couldn’t hide from it. It’s what I was feeling. I had to face it.

  “You and Logan have a good relationship.”

  Her eyebrows shot up. “And is the subtext that you don’t?!”

  We weren’t equal. Mason had been my protector. I protected him too, but it wasn’t the same.

  “You guys are best friends.”

  “Again.” Her mouth dropped open. She put a hand under her chin and manually closed it. Then she pointed. “That was me almost falling to the floor. Are you insane? You and Mason are beyond tight. Logan and I are good. We’re best friends, but you guys . . .” She shook her head, a stunned expression on her face. “You’re family. You’re tight in a way it takes years for married couples to get to, and that’s if they don’t divorce. Not that you and Mason are going to divorce. Ever.” She frowned to herself. “I have to stop talking. I’m making it worse, aren’t I?”

  “You’re not.”

  But I still felt the whirlwind of not knowing in me.

  And the worst part, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Something was missing. It wasn’t Mason. It wasn’t Logan. It was me. I was missing a part of me, and I’d just realized it. I still didn’t know what it was.

  “Can we sit here a bit longer?” I asked.

  She nodded. “Yeah. Anything you want.”

  “Thank you, Taylor.”

  “That’s what friends do.”

  I looked up, holding her gaze. We were friends. It had started slowly when she began dating Logan. It had built a little over the year, then the summer jump-started it, and now—after the team and tonight—Taylor was a ride-or-die friend.

  And she was my friend.

  She stared at the coffee. “We should’ve ordered decaf.”

  Mason was in the living room when I let myself in an hour later. Taylor had gone back to her house since that was where she and Logan were staying that night. I glanced around, but as Mason stood from the couch, there was no one else around.

  “Nate’s still sleeping?” I put my purse on the table by the door.

  Mason nodded, rubbing his hands together. “I woke Logan and Taylor, but I didn’t think I needed to wake everyone up.”

  “Taylor came and talked to me. Thank you for doing that.”

  He nodded again, seeming hesitant to cross the room. “Yeah. Anything.”

  This wasn’t normal us.

  We barely fought.

  We were never unsure around the other.

  I felt horrible that this was us now. Mason was always in control. He was the mastermind, the one who fought for us, and he was always three steps ahead of his enemies. The fear in his eyes now tore my insides apart.

  “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

  He shook his head, taking two steps toward me now. He was still hesitant, and he stopped just on the other side of a chair. He could’ve taken two more steps and I would’ve been in his arms. He didn’t. He stayed, running his hands down his pants.

  He looked so uncertain. “I’m the one who should be apologizing, Sam. I never thought about it from your side, and you’re right. Logan and I were just doing things. We were making decisions without consulting you, and I can see how infuriating that would be. It’s my fault.”

  “No.” I shook my head. “I came to you broken. You and Logan put me back together, and that was the start of us. But that’s how it remained. You protected me. You fought for me, and I let you.” I closed my hand into a fist and pressed it against my chest. “Every girl wants that. They want the guy to come in and save them. You gave me that fairytale, but I let it go on too long. I’m supposed to find my own footing and walk next to you. I never did that.” I felt the tears falling. I didn’t care. “I have to find that in me now, and it’s not your fault. Ever. I don’t want you to think you’re to blame for this.”

  “But you’re in pain.”

  Another step. He still didn’t reach out.

  “It’s not your fault,” I said.

  “I don’t know how to help you.”

  A second step. He was within touching now. I ached to reach for him.

  My voice was so hoarse. “I know. And I’d feel the same torment if it were the other way around.”

  He held his hand out now. I took it, clasping tightly.

  He looked down at our joined hands. “I really am sor—”

  I squeezed his hand. “Never apologize for protecting me. Ever.” I inched toward him, feeling his arm pressed against my side. Another inch and I would be touching the rest of him. I held back. I was content to let my mouth water.

  “If I can help you, tell me. Please.”

  I nodded. “I will. Taylor said I’m changing, and that’s what’s going on with me.”

  He grinned faintly. “What else did she say?”

  “That one day it’ll be better.”

  “Does she know when that day will be?”
br />   I shook my head. “I don’t think anyone knows.”

  He let out a sigh, running his free hand through his hair. “This is going to suck, isn’t it?”

  “Yeah.” I said that so softly, so quietly, I wasn’t even sure I said it. Then my eyes closed, and I leaned forward that last inch. My forehead rested against Mason’s chest, and his hand held the back of my neck. His thumb moved back and forth, comforting me.

  “I love you, Sam.”

  I felt the words through his chest.

  “I know.”

  That wasn’t the problem.

  As Taylor predicted, the morning’s run sucked, but I won.

  Logan had given Taylor and me a ride in, and he picked us up after practice. We all went back to the house, and I assumed they napped. I went to my room and slept until the afternoon. Logan gave us another ride back in at two, and the second run was a lot better. I won again.

  Mason came home in the evening after practice, and the whole house just chilled. Even Nate. He’d been going out with some of his other friends, but he stayed in tonight. Logan and Taylor were here, and Matteo and a couple other football guys came over.

  Someone started a movie in the media room downstairs, and Logan declared it was time that Chef Logan came out again. Forty minutes later, we were treated to another buffet of grilled meat: Steak. Hamburger. Chicken. Brats. I think he even grilled some tofu for Taylor, but while she kissed him on the cheek for his thoughtfulness, she reached for a chicken breast.

  Mason and I made love that night, and there was a tenderness to it that had me melting.

  The rest of the week passed much the same way: Logan drove Taylor and me to both runs. We napped in between. Mason came home at night, and everyone hung out at the house. Matteo was joined by another couple of guys every night. By Friday, it was just an unspoken agreement that the party was in our basement.

  When I asked about the guys’ “secret” plans to see my mom in Fallen Crest, Mason said they wouldn’t do anything without my opinion asked for and given. I was relieved to hear that, and now the Friday night party morphed into Nate’s birthday celebration.

  The guys called more people over.

  Logan grilled so much meat that it wasn’t a third Meat Rushmore anymore. It was now Meat Everest. The guys brought more booze, more kegs, and then the girls started trickling in. They set up a DJ booth, and by eleven that night, the party was in full swing.

  I was nestled on Mason’s lap, sitting on the veranda with Nate, Logan, Taylor, Matteo, and a bunch of others when Faith and Raelynn moved past us in the yard. Both had drinks in their hands, and their hair was loose and shiny. Raelynn wore tight jeans and a white halter top. I wanted it to make her look cheap and trailer trashy, but it did the opposite. She looked like some wealthy tourist. Faith had a similar top, though hers rested just above her waist and showed half an inch of her stomach. She had on a long and flowing skirt. As she stepped forward, I saw her flat sandals and decided she just needed henna tattoos on her arms to complete the bohemian look.

  “Are you lost?” I called as I sat up from Mason’s chest.

  His arms remained around me, but they moved to my legs. He looked over to see who I was addressing. Everyone did, and Logan was the first to snort.

  “They gotta be lost,” he added, and with one lithe jump, he was over the veranda’s fence and landing right in front of them.

  Their eyes rounded, but Faith’s jaw firmed. “We’re not lost.” Her hand tightened around her drink.

  “This is a private party.” Logan folded his arms over his chest. “Next time we’ll leave signs up to alert everyone that you’re not welcome, but if you want to save time, just know there’s always a disclaimer to our parties.” He placed his hand to the side of his mouth and pretended to whisper, “You’re not invited.” He shot Raelynn a look. “You either.”

  “You don’t have to be rude.”

  “On the contrary, what are you doing here? I think that makes you the rude ones.”

  Faith started laughing. She turned to find me. “I’ve heard stories about your guard dogs. Is this it? I get a vague and sarcastic threat?” She looked Logan up and down, wrinkling her nose. “I gotta say, you’re underperforming.”

  I almost laughed. Almost. I held it in and got comfortable against Mason’s chest once again. The whole veranda seemed to share my thoughts. Taylor was shaking her head, grinning. Nate too. The other guys just watched. Logan wasn’t one to ignore when a gauntlet was thrown down.

  “Say what?” He pretended to wind his arm up, his hand ending cupped behind his ear. Pretending to clean his ear out with a knuckle, he shook his head. “What was that I just heard? Did you say I ‘underperformed’?” He twisted back to us. “Mase.”

  “Yeah?” Mason sat up again, but he held me in place so I wouldn’t fall.

  Faith and Raelynn looked as well. Faith’s eyes caught mine and lingered. I saw a quick flash of emotion, something dark, but it was gone as soon as it appeared.

  “All the chicks I’ve been with, have any of them said I ‘underperformed’?” Logan asked.

  “Watch where you’re going with this,” Taylor warned, but she hadn’t moved from her relaxed position on the bench. Her eyes were alert.

  Logan pointed at her without looking. “See? Right there. That’s one satisfied girlfriend. I’ve never underperformed.” He looked Faith up and down again, exaggerating this time. “Though I can’t say the same for you. Word through the cross-country grapevine is you’ve been underperforming quite a bit this week.” His eyes narrowed. “You thought you could keep up . . .” His eyes glanced to me, then back to her.

  I sat up slowly.

  Mason’s arms loosened around me again.

  Faith stiffened. “It was a learning curve. I know better now.”

  “You’re right. You know how much ass Sam can kick, and she kicked yours.” Logan whistled under his breath. “She kicked it all up and down an entire second route.”

  “Like I said,” Faith hissed. “I know better now.”

  I frowned and called, “What does that mean?”

  Faith found me again. That same dark emotion appeared before it vanished. “What?” Her tone was frozen.

  “You ‘know better now.’ What does that mean?”

  “It means I know how much I have to train.” Her smile turned icy. “Because I’m going to beat you. I should thank you.”

  That was a bait.

  I wasn’t going to get hooked.

  “I’ve never been challenged before,” she said, her eyes bored.

  Raelynn snapped around to look at her friend.

  “It’s about time it happened.” Faith either didn’t notice her friend’s reaction, or she ignored it. She moved closer, so I was almost staring down at her. “You’re going to make me a better runner, but don’t get confused. I will beat you. I win. That’s what I do.”

  “You really think like that?” That wasn’t what bothered me. I moved to stand by the stairs, and crossed my arms over my chest. “What happens when you don’t get your way? What do you do if you can’t fulfill what must happen in your mind?”

  She rolled her eyes. “What are you talking about?”

  “I’m going to beat you.” I already had. “I will continue to beat you. No matter how hard you train, how fast you can go, I will always be faster. What are you going to do when you’re forced to accept the fact that I’m better than you?”

  She wasn’t laughing anymore. There were no scoffs or cocky attitude. She glared right at me, and that dark emotion showed again. This time, it stuck. I identified it now.


  That was when I knew. She knew I was better. She knew she couldn’t beat me.

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