Fallen crest forever, p.38
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       Fallen Crest Forever, p.38
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         Part #7 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  I stopped, wide-eyed. I could feel the intensity in them. My blood was pumping. Everything stopped, and I felt it click.

  “What?” Faith’s eyebrows pinched together.

  Mason had to change. He needed to find the line with me, and hold it. But I had to change too. And Faith wasn’t another Kate. I had been looking at her, anticipating it, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t a great human being, but she wasn’t going to plot against me. She was all bluff.

  I was calling her on it.

  “You’re never going to actually hurt me, are you?”

  “What?” Her head craned backward. “No. Who do you think I am?”

  “People from my past.”

  “What?” Her eyes grew wary.

  “I have been plotted against. I have been hurt. Everything you’ve threatened has already happened to me. I took your threats seriously.” But I didn’t have to anymore.

  I was changing.

  I was growing up.

  What happened to me before wasn’t going to happen again, and I could see it now. It was clearer.

  “You aren’t Kate, Jessica, or Lydia. You’re not even my mother. You’re just . . .” I looked at her again, feeling my loathing gone. Faith just looked sad now. She was a girl, her brown hair pulled up in a braid. She had a pronounced jaw, maybe a little too square for a girl, and she was thin. I would’ve thought she had a problem if I didn’t know how strong her legs were. They were shaped and firm, like a professional runner’s. But . . . she was just a girl.

  All the fight I had stored for her fled. “I’ve been picking fights with you, haven’t I?”

  She closed her mouth, then lifted a shoulder, but she kept a cautious eye on me. “I’ve given you reason. I’m a spoiled brat, and I might tell people not to talk to you, but I’m not vindictive where I want you to actually get hurt. I just say things. My sister keeps saying my big mouth is going to get me in trouble. And you’re right.”

  I glanced at her.

  She rolled her eyes, her lips strained in annoyance. “You have made me question a couple things, and who I have in my circle is one of them. You’re right. Raelynn always had my back, and I knew she loved me, but she never did anything about it. She just supported me.”

  “She just loved you.”

  “Yeah. She did.” She let out a sigh. “I’ll make it right with her.” Her eyebrows pulled together. “You saw her last night? Where?”

  “A nightclub.”

  “Which one?”

  I shrugged. “I wasn’t paying attention to much last night, but she was more drunk than I was. She walked right past me without blinking an eye.”

  “She doesn’t pay attention. When she goes out, she purposely gets in her own head. I don’t know why she does that, but she does. Always drove me crazy.”

  I heard the fondness and added, “She was holding hands with a girl.”

  Her head lifted up. “Yeah?”

  I nodded.

  “Good for her, if that person is more, you know. She better be a damned good person. Rae deserves it.” She waved that off, or tried. Her hand stopped mid-wave. “She deserves more than me as a friend too.”

  I didn’t know what to say, but I didn’t think Faith cared. We stood in silence. Faith was with her thoughts, and I let her be.

  After a couple minutes, she coughed and refocused. “Uh. Why did you want to meet this morning again?”

  I gestured down the running path. “From here, if you follow this path until it stops, it’s seventeen miles. We both skip today’s race. This is ours. You and me.”

  “Why? I mean, you’re just going to beat me.”

  But she started stretching again, and so did I. My body had begun to cool. I needed to warm it up again.

  I grabbed for my toes. “Because this is it. This is our race. I’m going to beat you—”

  “Don’t get cocky or anything.” She laughed.

  I ignored her. “But it’s up to you by how much. And after this, we’re done. We’re not rivals anymore. We’re teammates. All the petty, catty bullshit is over. Got it?”

  She paused, her eyes narrowing, and then her head bobbed up and down. “Got it.”

  After we finished stretching and started off, I said, “I should probably tell you something.”

  “What?” She grew wary again.

  “I haven’t run for two weeks.” I smirked at her.

  She groaned. “You’re such a bitch.”

  I didn’t care, and I laughed as I pushed forward. It wasn’t even thirty yards before I couldn’t see her anymore, and when I got to campus, I did another bitchy thing.

  I had time to go and pick up some breakfast—for one. I went back to finish it, and I ate the last crumb when she showed.

  “You’re such a bitch.”

  I handed her some water. “I have to rub it in. This is my last time, remember?”

  She groaned, but took the water.

  It wouldn’t have been correct to say that Faith and I stopped being rivals after that race, but it was close. We weren’t friends, but there was respect for each other. And no matter how much she wanted to beat me, she never could. I always loved rubbing it in her face.

  I’d run for years, but I never realized until this year how fast I was, how unique a runner I had become. I don’t know if it was family genetics—Garrett was athletic, but he told me he never enjoyed running. That made me think of Analise. Had she been the one to give me this gift? Or was it more complicated? Genetics mixed with practice? Maybe I was blessed, but I’d honed it into this ability to run longer and faster than anyone else I knew.

  At least until I qualified for the Olympics.

  After that, I was no longer the fastest person I knew.

  But I was among them.

  A year later.

  I ran through the back hills near Fallen Crest, feeling the burn in my legs. I loved it, just like I always had, and I picked up my pace.

  So much had happened over the last year.

  Mason graduated and was drafted to the New England Patriots. His first year with them had been good, and he was happy to start a second, but he’d been restless. Logan and I had remained in California to finish school while he went to Massachusetts, and I knew it hurt. He was clear across the nation. The winter was hard, but every free moment we had, Logan and I flew out to see him. Then when it was off-season for him, he came back to live with us. But all that was done now.

  Logan and I graduated last week.

  I got a degree in health and wellness—yes, I’d finally picked a major. Logan was on to law school next, but for now we were back home for a couple weeks until Mason had to fly out for summer training. I was going to go with him this time. I could train wherever I was, and the Olympics were always on my mind.

  Logan would join us at the end of August. He’d gotten in to University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth. We bought a huge house where all five of us could live: Mason, Logan, Nate, Taylor, and me.

  Matteo had been drafted to the Los Angeles Raiders right out of school, and he was glad to stay in California, as it put him closer to his family, and closer to Grace. Those two were still together.

  As for Courtney, she was headed back to Ohio for a teaching job. She’d only been there a couple weeks, but already life was boring. She wanted another dancing night with the girls.

  I was all for that, and I pumped my arms harder at the thought. I kicked off with a bit more speed.

  Mason and I had plans to hang out with Heather and Channing tonight. Heather wanted me to scope out a location for a second Manny’s with her tomorrow, but she said tonight we’d all get fucked up, laugh till our sides split, and take our men home to have hot and heavy sex.

  Sounded good to me.

  I still had ten miles to go, and I approached the clearing at the top of the hill where Mason first proposed to me. We hadn’t really discussed marriage since Mason had announced our engagement at his press conference—not at length anyway.

  W
e had an understanding. Mason would wait until I felt more comfortable with the idea. As much as I tried, old scars from Analise and David’s marriage ran deep in me. Or they had.

  Now I was ready. More than ready.

  I wanted to talk to Mason about it this summer, but I wasn’t sure yet how to have the conversation. Uh, honey? You can propose to me any day you want. Yeah. It felt weird. Maybe I could slip him a note. I smiled to myself at how foolish that seemed as I crested the hill. The clearing opened to me, and I stopped in my tracks.

  Mason stood in front of me.

  He wasn’t alone.

  Logan, Taylor, Nate, Heather, Channing, Malinda—I scanned the group quickly. There were so many. Mark. David. Even Garrett. Sharon was there, holding my little sister, who waved, her cheeks and lips covered in chocolate. Helen was there too, looking like it was the last place she wanted to be, but she folded her hands in front of her and even managed a small smile.

  Analise and James held hands, a few feet to the side and behind everyone else. My mother waved, a tentative smile on her face, and drawing in a deep breath, she stepped closer to the group. James patted her back, and she flicked a hand up to her eyes.

  She was crying.

  Why was my mom crying? Wait. I went back to Malinda. She was crying too. Taylor. Heather. Courtney. Grace. Even Matteo, who was holding Grace’s hand. They were all blinking back tears.

  I focused on Mason again. He was in front of everyone, waiting for me.

  “What’s going on?”

  He knelt down and held up his hand. There. Right there between his finger and thumb was a ring.

  I stopped breathing.

  It sparkled, and it was beautiful, and it was huge, but I didn’t care about any of that.

  “Are you sure?” I asked hoarsely.

  He laughed, his own voice raspy, and nodded. “Will you marry me, Samantha? Will you become Samantha Jacquelyn Kade?”

  My throat filled, and I nodded. I couldn’t stop nodding, and I couldn’t stop smiling, and then I felt the tears on my cheeks, and I couldn’t stop crying.

  “Yes,” I managed, just as he stood and swept me off my feet.

  I wrapped my arms tight around him, whispering it again, just for myself. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

  “I love you,” he whispered, carrying us a few feet away.

  He set me back down, and I looked at him. “I love you too.” I touched his lips. “So goddamn much.”

  “So goddamn much.” And his lips were on mine.

  EPILOGUE

  Six months later.

  “Tomorrow you’ll become my wife,” Mason murmured, lifting our hands.

  We were in bed. I lay in the shelter of his arms, my head propped in the corner of his arm and chest.

  “I am.” I grinned up at him. “You’re going to become my husband.”

  A soft smile crept over his face, lighting it up. “Husband.”

  “Wife.” My grin matched his.

  We were defying tradition.

  We were supposed to separate, sleep in other beds, but there’d been no discussion. We both knew that wouldn’t happen. And it was now close to five in the morning. The first light of the day would be showing soon, but there was no tired bone in my body. I knew there wouldn’t be all day.

  “Are you sure you want to marry me?”

  I had settled back into his arms again, but lifted my head once more. “What do you mean?”

  He shrugged, his smile gone. “I mean, are you sure? We were high school sweethearts. It’d be normal to think about being single at some point in your life. Right?” His eyes flashed and tense lines formed around his mouth.

  “Mason.” I shifted on the bed, propping myself to lie on my stomach. I tucked some of the sheet over my breasts, but they were pressed against his chest. I watched him. “Are you having second thoughts?”

  Logan said their bachelor night had been epic. Maybe too epic?

  At my question, the tension lines softened, and he slid his hands into my hair, cupping the sides of my face. “No. I’m just worried you might regret this one day.”

  “Not possible.” I said those words softly, but they tore at my heart. He really thought that?

  “Are you sure you’re not going to regret this?” I asked, feeling my throat burning.

  He laid his head back against the headboard and moved it from side to side. “Not possible.”

  A thrill went through me as he used my words, a loving smile on his face, and I felt my heart skip a beat. Nope. The words regret and second thoughts would never enter my vocabulary when it came to my relationship with him.

  I sat up, drawing more of the sheet around me. It slipped from his waist, so I lifted a corner and spread it out over him.

  He snorted, grinning. “What are you doing?”

  I shrugged, holding back my own grin. “I have something to say, and I don’t want to get distracted.”

  “Distracted?”

  I nodded. “Yes. Distracted.” I crossed my arms over my chest and fixed him with a sturdy look. “I want to know more about where this came from. You’ve never mentioned second thoughts to me before.”

  He reached over and caught my hands, tugging my arms back down to my lap. He slid his fingers against mine, resting our hands on his chest. “Logan said something earlier about how he got to be free and slutty. He was glad he met Taylor when he did, because he got the wild side of him out and he could be content with her for the rest of his life.” He paused, swallowing. “Got me thinking. You went from Sallaway to me, and you’ve never been single since.” His eyes flicked to mine, a haunted agony lining them. “It’d break my heart if you ever regretted us.”

  And that, right there, broke mine.

  Feeling choked up, I could only shake my head. “You want to know what I was going to say to you tomorrow?” I murmured, hoarse around the big fat lump in my throat.

  “What? No—”

  But I’d already started. He was too late, and I knew this was the perfect time to say these words.

  “On this day, Mason James Kade, you become my future. You are already, Mason James Kade, a huge part of my past. On this day, Mason James Kade, you are my ever-living present.” I gripped his hand. “I will be side by side with you no matter where our path goes. I have walked with you. I have run with you. I have laughed with you. I have cried with you. I have supported and been supported by you. I have yelled at you, for you, and with you. I have cursed with you. I have felt pain. I have felt joy. I have felt peace. I have felt every emotion a person can experience. Some have been because of you. Some have been because of others, but it was always with you that I could feel what I felt. From the moment I met you, you took me in and loved me as family. We evolved. We became more, and we will continue to evolve, but there is no one else I would choose to have next to me. Ever.”

  I had to stop. The tears were drowning my words, but he needed to hear them.

 
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