Fallen crest public, p.21
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       Fallen Crest Public, p.21

         Part #3 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  side as possible to make room for him.

  “You have two fractured ribs, a dislocated jaw, and you look like a truck ran over you. I can’t, Sam.” His was gruff and his throat closed off on the last word. After he took a moment, he continued, “I just can’t, Sam. I’m so scared I’ll hurt you.”

  I narrowed my eyes and tried to show him my determination. I couldn’t do much else, so I patted the bed again with a hard slap.

  He still hesitated.

  Then I hit his arm before moving onto my back again. I had to go slow, but I couldn’t stop the tear that formed and trickled down my cheek. When I lifted my hand to brush it away, my skin felt like it wasn’t mine. It was an uncomfortable feeling, an unwanted one, and I needed his support even more to push it away.

  The bed dipped under his weight. He paused with one foot before shaking his head and mumbling, “I’m not going to be able to sleep. I’m going to be so damn scared that I’ll hurt you.”

  It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. When he shifted to his side and then reached for my hand, I closed my eyes. I could sleep now. Everything would work out. Our hands were tucked between us on the bed. I clung to his, while he seemed scared to hold mine back. That didn’t matter either. I just needed to be held, a mere touch from him. It anchored me, and as that feeling of being centered came back, the heaviness of exhaustion folded back over me. It wasn’t long until I fell asleep.

  The nurse checked on us, but she didn’t ask him to leave. When he started to get up, I gripped his hand harder. She caught the movement and only waved for him to stay. “Looks like you don’t have a choice.” As she headed back out, we heard her mutter to another nurse in the hallway, “They grow them like that nowadays? Sign me up to be a cougar. Holy crapola.”

  Mason chuckled next to me. He had moved so his mouth rested against my shoulder and his breath teased me. It warmed me even more when he yawned. “They’ve been coming in every hour to check on you. You wouldn’t let me go the first time either.”

  I couldn’t talk, but I tried to smile. I couldn’t even do that so I rested my head against his. Sleep overcame me again. The rest of the night was spent like that. I was in and out of it. Mason was always there. I think one of my nurses took pity on Mason. She snuck another hospital bed into my private room and lowered a rail on one side of it and one side of mine, then pushed them together to make almost a full size bed. Mason gifted her with a smile and I thought she was going to pass out in my room. When the other nurses came in, their gazes went immediately to him; it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the word had spread. We even heard one comment as she checked my vitals, “They weren’t kidding about the hottie.”

  When she noticed that we had heard, she shrugged. “Nights can be the best shift or the dullest. The girls are in a tizzy about another guy. He likes to streak naked down the halls at night. If he looked like you, I don’t think the other girls would mind.”

  “Can you tell us that?”

  As she typed something into a computer, she shrugged again. “He’s due for another run soon so you’re going to see it with your own eyes if your door is open. Take it as more of a warning. Don’t get scared if you see a flash sprinting past your door. He doesn’t go into other patients’ rooms.” Then she patted my other leg as she moved around the bed. “You’re looking better, girly. You should get discharged in the morning.”

  Two minutes after she left, we heard her yell, “Stop right there, four-thirty-two! Do not go into the nursing ward. Four-thirty-two!”

  A streak of bare flesh darted past our door.

  Mason grinned at me. “It’s like we didn’t even miss Fischer’s party tonight.”

  My nurse sprinted past our door, followed by another two.

  Except there are no nurses at those parties. I tried to say that, but I couldn’t. My mouth must’ve twitched because Mason turned sharply to me. “Are you okay?”

  I nodded, sighing at the same time, except I couldn’t do that either. Breathing was difficult so I took a small breath, followed by another one. I was closing my eyelids again when he said my name.


  My heart began racing as I heard how serious he was. I frowned.

  He took a deep breath. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here. I don’t know if I’m supposed to distract you. If I’m supposed to make you laugh, or if I’m supposed to be reassuring you. I have no idea what to do, so all I’m doing is just being here.”

  Oh goodness. My heart raced faster.

  His voice grew rough again, and he added, “You can’t talk back to me, and I need to hear your voice. I need to know you’re okay.”

  I tried to squeeze his hand.

  He laughed to himself, lifting them, kissing the back of mine. Then he pressed it against his cheek and took another deep breath. “I’m so fucked up right now. We were going to fight the Broudou brothers when that chick showed up. I don’t even know who she is. She took off when we finally got to your room, and I haven’t let anyone else in here. Logan was supposed to tell people you’re fine.” He broke off and cursed under his breath. “I’m so goddamn sorry.” He frowned before he shook his head again. “What I’m trying to say is that everything will be okay. Kate won’t hurt you again. I’ll take care of her, and I’ll end this thing with the Broudous. I know it’s been bothering you, too. I’ll take care of everything. I know you’re going to stay at your dad’s. That’s fine. I want you to know that I’m fine with that. I made him agree to let us stay there, too, so we’ll all still be together. What the hell am I saying here?”

  I wanted to smile at him. I wanted to pull him into me and have him wrap his arms around me, but I couldn’t do either. I couldn’t even tell him to shut up because I loved him, too. That’s what he was trying to say, but he was never this awkward about it. I lifted my hand to his cheek. I cupped the side of his face the same way he always cups mine, and I pulled him to me.

  “Sam?” His eyes grew wide and he hesitated.

  I pulled again, this time firmer.

  He relented until I had moved his face right to mine. I couldn’t feel it, but I pressed his lips to mine. When he pulled away, I saw him brush at something on his face before he settled back into place beside me again.

  We remained like that for the rest of the night, but right before I fell back asleep, I felt him kiss my hand.

  I was smiling on the inside.

  It sucked being an invalid.

  I was released the next day, and it took an entire afternoon before it was decided that I’d stay at Malinda’s house for the first week. I couldn’t go back to school for a week, and she didn’t have a job. It made sense. I would move into David’s after the first week since I’d still have four to six weeks to heal. Of course, Mason and Logan followed me where I went. David already agreed, but Malinda hadn’t been told of the arrangement. When she was informed, both were adamant. David leaned close to whisper, “I warned you they’re protective.” A bright smile was plastered on her face, and she waved him off. “Oh no. It’s completely fine. The more the merrier.”

  She didn’t know what she was getting herself into. She must’ve caught my reaction because she broke away from David’s side and took the chair beside me. She patted my arm and leaned in close to me. “I mean it. Those two have become your family, and you are David’s family so that means all of you are welcome in my home, at any time.” Her warm chocolate eyes doubled their sparkle as she added, “I grew up with twelve brothers and sisters. You think three more kids are going to scare me?”

  She really had no idea what she was getting herself into.

  When I was discharged and being wheeled out of the hospital, I felt like I was part of a Brady Bunch sort-of family. All eyes were on us as we left, but most of the nurses waved to Mason and Logan. David was shaking his head when all six of us got to the parking lot. Mason had pulled his Escalade up to the circle, and I was loaded into it. Logan hopped into Mark’s car. As everyone followed behind D
avid’s Luxury SUV, which I assumed was owned by Malinda, Mason said that Mark and Logan were going to a party that night.

  Malinda’s house was a massive log home. Logan was shown to his bedroom, which was a guest bedroom in the basement, and we were shown our room. It was tucked into a back section of the house on the main floor, so it felt like we had our own wing. Mason had packed a few bags for me, and as he dropped them on the bed, Malinda chuckled at us. “You two are like a married couple.”

  Uh … I pointed to my head. “Heavy meds here. Say that again?”

  She rolled her eyes. “You heard me just fine. So did you,” she threw to Mason. Then she gestured to the door across the hallway. “That’s your bathroom. Your father wanted you upstairs in case you needed something during the night.” Her gaze lingered on Mason. “But I reminded him that you’re not a single package anymore; that you come with a plus-one, whether he likes it or not.”

  “Thanks for that,” Mason murmured, leaning against the far wall. He stuffed his hands into his front pockets, which moved his jeans down an inch. As he hunched his shoulders forward, it gave him a longer and leaner look. The tops of his black boxer briefs were visible now, and I could see a hint of his oblique muscles underneath.

  I licked my lips. If only … Desire spread through me. When his jeans moved another inch lower, my body felt engulfed in flames. It was like a drop of gasoline had been added to a fire.

  Malinda chuckled behind me. “I recognize that look. You got the good meds, for sure.”

  I was burning up. “Can we open a window?”

  Mason frowned. “What?”

  “He says what.” She chuckled some more before stepping into the hallway. “When you get an ice pack on those loins, join us downstairs. We got couches, blankets, movies, pop, whatever you need.”


  Mason said it for me, looking equally confused.

  “Saturday family night.” Her eyebrows arched high. “Don’t you two know what family night means?”

  We were both silent.

  She snorted. “It’s a night you spend with family. Forget any plans you two might have had for canoodling. You’re in my home, and you have to endure the torture. Sorry, Sam. They said you have a mild dislocated jaw, but I got lots of liquids and soft foods for you. Yogurt. Applesauce. The good stuff, but the rest are going to be forced to eat popcorn, pizza, chips, and tacos. You name it, they have to shovel it in. Bahahaha.” She left, her laugh eerily close to an evil witch’s.

  “What just happened?” Crap. I winced from pain. I’d been talking too much.

  “Mark’s mom is nuts.”

  I gave him a pointed look. Did he not know who he was talking to?

  Mason shrugged. “So’s your mom, but this one … she seems nice and … genuine. I don’t like it.”

  That earned a snort from me. A mother who was genuine and nice? It made perfect sense why he wouldn’t like it. I’m not sure I liked it either.

  He gestured out the window beside him. “Did you know Mark lived down the block from my dad’s?”

  I had forgotten, but now I wished I hadn’t remembered.

  “Yo. Mark’s mom is hilarious. She just told me she’s Queen Royale of Bitch.” Logan appeared in the doorway and flashed a grin. Holding onto the doorframe from the top, he leaned forward, laughing at the same time. “You see how close we are to Dad’s?”

  “I know.” Mason gestured to me. “I was just telling Sam that.”

  “Mom’s going to flip when we tell her where we’re staying.”

  “Yeah …” Mason was deep in thought. He leaned forward to look out the window and moved so he could see further up the street. “You know Nate’s old house? The one he lived in before his parents moved?”

  “The one at the end of the block?” Logan moved next to him. Both were studying a house through the window. “The couple that bought it from them moved, didn’t they?”

  Mason nodded. “They’ve been trying to sell it for six months. Want to bet that Mom’s going to move in there?”

  “No way. She won’t buy that.”

  “Dad’s is three houses down. We’re in this one, and Nate’s old place is three doors the other way. She’s going to go nuts when she realizes how close we are to Dad’s. She thought she finally got us all to herself.”

  Logan shook his head. “Man, most of our stuff is at the hotel. She won’t think we’ll want to drive there to grab anything we forgot … it’d be easier to just leave it at Dad’s and grab it when we need it. Or that’s what she’s going to think.”

  Mason cracked a grin. “If she doesn’t buy that house, she’s going to rent it. I bet you money. Somehow, Mom’s going to be living somewhere on this block.”

  A curse slipped from Logan. “And we’re not telling her we’re only staying here for a week, are we?”

  “You want to?”

  “No way.” A smile stretched across his face. “This’ll be way funnier when she learns we’ve moved to Sam’s old neighborhood, the ‘poor’ community. Mom will shit a brick thinking she’ll have to live there. She won’t know what to do.”

  Listening to them and watching from the bed, a pang went through me. David lived in a poor community according to them. I knew neither cared, but their mother thought like that. It was a middle class neighborhood. People weren’t poor, but they weren’t wealthy. They were normal. I was normal, but I was different from them. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but I was reminded of how different I was from them.

  It stung more than a little.


  Mark stood in the hallway now. He glanced around before stepping inside. As he closed the door, everyone grew quiet. “David and Mom are downstairs, so I thought it was the right time to come up and say this.”

  The feel of the room changed. It was like a cold blast of wind tore through it, and everyone tensed. Mark said, “I don’t know what you guys have planned.” He glanced at me, but everyone knew he was talking to Mason. “But I’m in for whatever it is. I know how you are with trust. You don’t trust anyone except the three of you in this room. You don’t have to tell me the plan; you don’t have to explain anything to me. Give me a job to do and I’ll do it.” His gaze lingered on me before his jaw hardened and he looked away. “No questions asked. That’s all I wanted to say.”

  He started for the door, but Mason stopped him. “One thing.”

  Mark paused.

  “Your friends can’t come here this week.”

  “It’s already done. I told them my mom’s having guests staying here. My mom never says anything, so if you guys don’t say anything, no one will even know you’re here. Not like it’s a secret or anything.” He lifted the corner of his mouth up and shrugged. “Besides, it’s usually only Adam that drops by or comes over for dinner. My house is quiet compared to his, but he won’t ask any questions. My mom has random visitors all the time. We had a homeless dude stay for a week one time when she volunteered at the shelter last winter.”

  Logan started laughing. “Your mom can’t be any more opposite from ours.”

  Then we heard from the hallway, “MARK!”

  “And she summons …”


  Mark said to us, “She won’t pick a comedy because she doesn’t want to make Sam laugh.”

  That was much appreciated.

  “But if we don’t get down there and pick the movie first, the scariest damn movie will be starting. My mom never gets scared from horror films. I have no idea why. Her other sisters are like that, too. I wish I had inherited that gene, but she loves watching the rest of us when we’re close to pissing our pants.” He rolled his eyes. “You’re right Logan, but my mom is not like any other mom. She’s not normal. For real.”

  The doorbell rang.


  He grumbled, but left.

  “If Mark wasn’t a cool guy, and if your dad hadn’t got there first,
I’d bang Mark’s mom.”

  If I could talk easier, I would’ve informed Logan my vomit was coming in three … two … one … I couldn’t and it would’ve hurt to throw up. It hurt to do anything, so I gave him the middle finger. That would have to satisfy me for now.

  Logan laughed, and for the rest of night, he flirted. Mason didn’t care. I did. Mark seemed confused, and David shook his head. As we watched a movie about teen wizards, followed by a documentary about polar bears, Malinda seemed to enjoy herself. Her cheeks were red by the end of the night from her wine.

  The first night passed quickly and so did the rest of the week.

  Things seemed normal between David and me. There were no awkward silences or uncomfortable moments. In hindsight, I realized it was because of Malinda. She always had a quick retort for Logan, and when there was a lull in conversation, she’d grill Mark on his love life. He was mortified when she suggested getting a vibrator for his girl. “Mom!” he cried out. She shrugged. “You’re not a virgin, and I’m promoting her pleasure as well. The girl will enjoy it a lot more. They don’t always, you know.” She scanned the rest of the table. “I’m sure you two bucks think you’re the stud for all those does,” she remembered me and amended, “well maybe just you and Logan, but I’m telling you. Girls fake it eighty percent of the time.”

  That opened a whole new channel of adoration from Logan. He wanted to know it all.

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