Fallen fourth down, p.5
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       Fallen Fourth Down, p.5
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         Part #4 of Fallen Crest High series by Tijan

  I continued sprinting. When I heard him doing the same, I wasn’t surprised, but when we saw the field in the distance, I heard his breathing becoming more winded. As I led the way onto the field and to the finish line, I reached over and tapped the clock. That was my time. A few seconds later, I heard him tap his too, but I continued into a light jog around the track. I wanted my muscles loose. He did as well, but he dropped back and reduced his speed dramatically. Everyone did the same. I jogged around the track for another three laps before I dropped into a walk. When my heart rate steadied out, I went over and began stretching.

  The guys were on one side of the field. I was in the middle, but I felt their gazes. Glancing over, as I bent and pressed my nose close to my knee, they had varying expressions of hostility. A few were outright glaring. One was seething, his nostrils flaring up, while others were frowning. One of the guys flashed me a smile and gave me a thumbs-up. “Good job, Strattan. You kicked ass.”

  I turned my head, stretching over the other leg, but I couldn’t hold back my smile. It felt good. It felt damn good. I heard someone say, “Am I right to assume Kade helped with your endurance?”

  Releasing my leg, I brought my feet together and bent forward, but I looked back over. “What?”

  “Kade. He’s fast.” It was the guy who had been leading that shrugged. “I know he’s not a cross country runner, but he’s super-fast for his size. Did he teach you tricks or something?”

  Another guy barked out a laugh. “Dude, we all know how she got that endurance. I don’t think it had anything to do with running.”

  The one who gave me the thumbs-up shot a disapproving look at his teammates, but the others laughed. Someone added, “No doubt. Kade’s the man.”

  I rolled my eyes and stood as the first of the girls filtered towards us. “I had to deal with petty bitches last semester. Who knew the cross-country guys would become the new catty girls?” I scoffed, walked past them, then turned and extended my middle fingers. “Here’s my thumbs-up except to the one in the yellow shorts.” He flashed a grin and said, “Hey, thanks.” Still walking backwards, I added, “And just to rub it in, I’m going to run home. Be jealous, bitches. Because I can and I know you can’t.” Giving them a wink, I turned and started a light jog.

  I’d have to have Logan or Mark give me a ride back to get my car, but it would be worth it. So worth it.


  The next morning, Heather was waiting at my locker for me. She flashed me a quick grin and moved aside so I could open it. As I stowed my bag inside, she said, “Heard you handed a few guys’ their asses last night on the run.”

  I grabbed my book and a couple pencils and pens. “You heard about that? From who?”

  “A couple juniors were talking about it when they were coming in.” She smirked. “I love people who aren’t aware of who else is listening. So did you?”

  “Yeah. Coach started me last and told me to smoke the guys. They had a ten minute lead too.”

  She whistled in appreciation. “God, I love you, woman.” A shit-eating grin was on her face.

  “I gave them the middle finger when they said I only had endurance because of all the sex Mason and I had.”

  “Yeah.” She glanced around the hallway. A group of cross country guys weren’t far away, and her gaze centered on them. Her top lip curved up in a slight sneer. “I heard about that. Precious egos and chauvinist pigs.”

  I grinned, moving my hip to shut my locker. We began walking to hers since it was closer to our first class. When we passed by the guys, Heather called out, “Hey, Hayes.”

  A head popped up. It was the guy who’d been in the lead the day before. He had been turned towards his locker, but cast her a puzzled look. “What?” His gaze slid to mine. A small amount of anger stirred in the depths of his eyes.

  Heather snorted. We passed by, but she turned around to face them. “Just so you know, if you beat me in calculus, I’m going to tell everyone it’s because you like to sew with your mom.”


  “Yeah. Makes no sense, but it makes you look dumb, and I’ll feel slightly better.” She pointed and winked at the same time. “I grew up next door to you. I know all your secrets and that was virginal compared to what I know about you.”

  “What?” His eyebrows furrowed together, and he shared identical looks with his friends.

  I laughed as we moved around the corner. “The guys didn’t even get it.”

  “It’s because they’re stupid assholes.”

  Coming up to her locker, I rested against her neighbor’s. “What’s up with you? I can handle those guys. Trust me. After Kate, they’re a piece of cake.”

  “Nothing.” She shook her head, then paused and closed her eyes. Lifting her hand, she skimmed it down her face. “I need to clear my mind. You’re right. You can handle them, but man, I get so angry when guys use sex to belittle a girl.”

  I grew thoughtful, but before I could say anything, she gave me another grin. This one was more carefree and laid back. She asked, “What’d Logan say when you told him? Or should I ask what’d Logan do when you told him?”

  “I didn’t.”

  “You didn’t?”

  “He was gone all night. I ran home, but he never answered his phone. I was hoping he’d give me a ride to get my car. Mark got the honor instead.”

  “So much for you being Mark’s bitch?” She chuckled, tucking some of her hair behind her ear. She bent down to pick up a book from the bottom of the locker.

  “Yeah.” The beer pong game had been last weekend. “Although I did do his laundry on Sunday. He wasn’t kidding. His entire closet was just dirty clothes. He uses the storage room in the basement for his closet.” I grimaced, remembering the smell of dirty boxers and moldy food. “I was tempted to wear a mask over my nose so I wouldn’t inhale anything and get sick.”

  “God forbid, you get sick. Those guys would rejoice on your hospital bed.” There was a bite in her voice.

  When the first bell went off, we headed towards first period. I threw her a confused glance. “I mean it. Those guys really aren’t a big deal.”

  “I know.” She sighed and opened the classroom door. “I just really dislike Hayes. We were friends, but when my mom left, his mom decided we weren’t good enough for their family anymore. He agreed and has had a superior attitude ever since. I’m surprised he’s never tangled with Mason or Logan. Wait,” she stopped and a rueful expression filtered across her face. “I can. He’s in cross-country. They’re in football. I think he’d piss himself if Logan went after him.”

  “Who’d piss themselves if I went after them?” Logan had come up behind us. We both jumped, startled, and he chuckled. “Always be aware of your surroundings, Jax. You never know what creeper is stalking up behind you.”

  “Not long ago you threw your arms around our shoulders and told us we needed shorter skirts.”

  “And cupcakes,” I added.

  She nodded and pointed back at me. “What she said. Where’d the love go, Kade? I feel like we need to explore that happy place once again.”

  He barked out a laugh. As we stopped in the hallway, he moved between us. Hooking an arm around my shoulder, he bent me forward so my head was firmly within his hold and he tugged me into the class. He said over me, “The happy place went away when you got a stick up your ass about my girlfriend.” He stopped, patted my head, and added, “And when you started protecting Sam from me.” The last was spoken with dead seriousness.

  I winced. Shit just got real. Closing my eyes, I could feel the sudden tension come over the room. They’d been talking and laughing, but when he said those words, it acted like a blanket had dropped over everyone.

  Logan was tense.

  Heather cut out a short laugh. “For real? I’m being a friend.”

  I felt him take a silent breath. As he let it back out, his body loosened with it. He was forcing himself to relax. “Yeah, well, I call dibs for today. Sam sits with me.”
  “What?” She started to argue, but I pushed up enough so I could meet her gaze. When she saw me, I shook my head and she got the message. “Fine.”

  He turned around and led me to the table in the far back. Kicking a chair out, he let go of me and pointed to it. “Sit. You can’t avoid me, and you can’t say no to your future stepbrother.”

  He sounded like he was joking, but I caught the heated spark in his gaze. When he dropped next to me and didn’t start talking right away, the rest of the classroom began their own conversations again. More than a few kept glancing back, just in case a heated exchange broke out again. Rubbing my neck, I tried to apologize to Heather as she took a seat beside the board. We were next to the window and surrounded by Logan’s friends. It wasn’t long after that when a group of girls came in. Kris was with them, dressed in a floral skirt, a white tank top, and a jean jacket pulled over it. With pink ballet shoes on, she was ready for a picnic date. Her friends headed to the front two tables in Heather’s row and Kris scanned the room for Logan. When she saw me with him, her mouth fell open an inch.

  He wasn’t paying attention so I hit him with my knee. “What?” I jerked my head to her, and he cursed. “I forgot she was transferring to this class.”

  “Whatever. Do something quick or you’re going to be kissing her ass all week.”

  He groaned, but got up from the table. “Hey…”

  “I’m sorry.” She closed her mouth, and her hand jerked out, pointing to me. “I assumed I would sit with you.”

  “Yeah.” His hand lifted to the back of his neck, and he gripped it.

  His back was to me, but when he grabbed the back of his neck, it meant he knew he was in trouble and had no idea how to get out of it. I had to laugh. Logan was never at a loss for words, so I stood up and said, “Don’t get mad. I made him promise before school started that we’d sit together in a couple classes. I pulled out the sister card.”


  He twisted around so she couldn’t see and mouthed, “Thank you.”

  I rolled my eyes, then sat back down.

  “Okay.” Her hands came in front of her and twisted around each other, cradling her book and notebook in her arms. “Well,” she scanned the room, “I guess I could sit…”

  One of her friends raised her hand. “We have a seat. Come on, Kris. We’re more fun than boyfriends. We can gossip.”

  She laughed. “There is that.” Casting another shadowed look at Logan, then me, she started for the front of the classroom. When she passed Heather, my gaze caught hers and her mouth was hanging open. She jerked her hands up and down and mouthed, “W.T.F.?”

  I flinched. What the fuck was right. I had an opportunity to avoid Logan. Why hadn’t I taken it?

  Sitting next to me, he let out a deep sigh of relief. “Thanks, Sam. I had no idea how to back out of that.”

  I knew. He was family. Secret be damned, he was still family, and I couldn’t hide from him. I didn’t want to. I pretended to punch him in the arm and said, “What do they say? Bros before hoes? In our case, fam before…females?” I shook my head. “Sorry. I’m not funny.”

  He laughed, leaned back, and rested his hand on the back of my chair. “Yes, you are, and you’re right. Family before all others, right?”

  “That sounds better.”

  “Good.” The relieved and jovial look disappeared and his gaze trailed over my shoulder to fix on someone else. It grew dangerous as he said, “You gonna tell me what was said to you at your practice last night?”

  I turned and saw the object of his stare. Hayes. He was staring back, but unlike the puzzled look from earlier and the arrogance from yesterday, fear flooded his gaze. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple moved up and down, and he turned forward in an abrupt movement. His head went down and his shoulders hunched forward. His table mate cast him a confused look, but didn’t say anything.

  Logan leaned close and murmured in my ear, “At the first sign of anything, you give me the go. I mean it. I won’t be having you getting carted out of another bathroom to the hospital. Can you imagine the beat down I’d get from my brother?”

  “I’d imagine it’d be similar to the beat down you’d give to anyone who might try to do that again.” I stressed the word. “And it won’t be a problem. I promise. His ego just got bruised.”

  “It doesn’t matter. Say the word.”

  I nodded. “I will.”

  “I mean it.”

  “I know. I know you do.”

  “Mason’s gone. You’re my responsibility.”

  A surge of warmth spread through me. It gave me hope that maybe it wouldn’t matter. If I told him that I knew, he could deny it and we’d laugh it off. Nothing would happen. I wouldn’t lose him or Mason. Logan was waiting for my response, watching me intently, and I joked, “What’s this shit with me avoiding you? I called you last night. You avoided my phone call.”

  “Sorry.” The teacher came in at that moment. As everyone sat up and quieted down for roll call to begin, Logan said to me, “I was having sex most the night.”



  It was the first week of classes and I had political science with Matteo and Drew. As we went through campus, we drew attention. I was big already, but Matteo was bigger. He was a lineman. He had to be huge, but Drew wasn’t a slouch. Some quarterbacks were smaller, but not him. He stood at the same height as us. His shoulders were broad, but he wasn’t as filled out as me. He was leaner.

  The three of us walked through the quad with our backpacks on and our waters hooked through the straps. People stopped and watched us. They stepped off the sidewalk as we went past, then stepped back on. We heard the whispers behind us and around us.

  Matteo’s elbow bumped mine, and he nodded his head towards the side. “Those girls are friends with my Georgie.”

  Drew barked out a laugh. “I still can’t get over that your girlfriend’s name is Georgie. I’ve known her for a year, but still. Georgie.”

  “Her parents call her Georgina, but she hates the name. I tried calling her that when we first started dating, and she wouldn’t take my phone calls for a week. I learned real quick.” Matteo lifted his hand and hollered, “Ho to the hoes.”

  A group of six girls were at a picnic table, and unlike most of the rest, they weren’t paying attention to us. At his greeting, three of them looked up with snarls at the ready. They were primed for a fight, but when they saw it was Matteo, two rolled their eyes and looked back at their textbooks. The other girls were unfazed. They were either talking or studying, but all of them held a paper coffee cup. The last girl with long black hair, almond eyes, and a clear complexion laughed. She stood up from the table and headed our way. She was dressed in a simple white polo with a pink emblem of a unicorn at the corner and jeans. She was stick thin, and as she walked to us, she was confident. The others around us turned enviable eyes on her, and when she got closer to Matteo, she lifted a fist, pounded it on his chest, and grabbed his shirt. “Come here.” She yanked him forward, but he didn’t move. He dropped his smirking mouth down on hers.

  I glanced to Drew. “This is Georgie?”

  He nodded, grinning at the couple. “Yeah. You two didn’t meet at the ass’ party.”

  When they broke apart, Drew asked, “Is that Carly over there?”

  Georgie turned around, drawing Matteo’s arms around her. “Yes, it is, but I’m told to tell you to stay the fuck away from her.”

  He laughed and pretended to shiver. “Why the hostility?”

  Her eyebrow arched high. “Something about a non-phone call after you two hooked up the other night?”

  He shrugged, craning his neck to study the table. “We had back to back practices that day. I was wiped out by the time we got home. Trust me, she would’ve gotten mad at me anyway, saying I wasn’t listening to her enough or something.” He grimaced, glancing to me. “Chicks. They’re all the same. If we don’t listen good enough, they get mad. Your girlfriend like that?”
r />   “Nah.” I grinned. “I’m the one who has to push Sam to talk.”

  Drew and Matteo seemed surprised. My roommate broke out laughing. “For real? You’re the talker in the relationship?”

  “Believe it or not, I am.”

  Matteo continued to hoot as he slapped his leg. “That’s awesome, man. I really have to meet your girlfriend. I know she helped you move in, but that was long ago and you two disappeared right afterwards.”

  “Speak for yourself.” I gestured to Georgie. “It’s been over a month, and this is the first time I’m meeting your girlfriend who goes to college here.”

  She tipped her head back, resting it in the nook of Matteo’s arm and chest. A low, smooth chuckle came from her. She leaned all her weight against him and crossed one ankle over the other. “That’s my fault. I’m in a sorority, and we’ve been busy with the
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