Fallen Fourth Down

Page 10

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Heather started laughing. I couldn’t hold back my own grin. The old hostility was in their gazes. Lydia turned away after a moment, but Jessica held my stare. She lowered her drink and glared right back. I sighed and murmured, “Yeah, they used to be. That seems so long ago now.”

“They’re bitches. You’re better off.”

I hadn’t seen Jeff at the party. Scanning the crowd, I ignored the envy from the girls and the interest from some of the guys. A year ago, I’d been an outcast and had to fight for my place at Mason and Logan’s school the semester after that. For once, there was no one planning my demise. Remembering Natalie’s veiled threat, I wasn’t worried. This year was going to be different. I felt it in my gut. Since Mason was gone, the target wasn’t so big on my back. It was still there because of my closeness with Logan, but not as big. It was freeing and that sucked because I knew it was mostly because Mason wasn’t there.

“You okay?” Heather had been waiting, watching me.

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“Strattan,” Logan barked from across the table. He held a ping-pong ball in his hand and gestured to the cups of beer in front of us. “You ready to be our bitches next weekend?”

He was grinning. He looked like the usual carefree Logan that most knew, but I knew part of it was an act. He wouldn’t let it go, knowing that something was wrong. It was only a matter of time before he’d get it out of me. I just wasn’t ready for that day because when it came out, when I told him that I knew, everything would change. No matter what the truth was, I was scared of losing him and Mason.

He lowered his hand, his grin fading to a small, concerned look.

I shook it off. I couldn’t lose them, either one of them. I gave him a reassuring grin and vowed that the truth wouldn’t come out. It couldn’t. I would be destroyed the day it did.

He lifted his hand again, but the dark concern was still in his eyes. As I watched, he masked it himself and threw the first toss. It landed in the cup right in front of me and without a moment’s hesitation, I downed the beer. He could win. I wouldn’t care. I was ready to drink all of it that night.

“Well, then.” Heather grinned at me. “Looks like Sam’s ready to party this year.”

I gave her a half-grin, but hung my head at the same time. Mason should’ve been there. When I looked back up, Logan was studying me. Our gazes collided and he saw the pain in my eyes. Somehow I knew that he understood. He nodded, growing serious for a brief moment. In that one second, we were on the same page. We both missed Mason.

That made everything worse. A burden like I had never felt before was placed on my shoulders. No one could get hurt. It was on me. Tate told me the secret, whether Logan’s feelings were true or not, I would shoulder it on my own.

I didn’t wait for them to throw again. I grabbed another cup and downed it.

Mark’s mouth fell open, but he lifted his arms up in victory. “Keep going, Sam. Mom won’t do my laundry so guess what you’ll get to do?” He dropped his arms and rubbed his hands together.

I didn’t care. My chest and throat were burning. I was willing to do anything to make that sensation go away.



It had been a week since Nate’s party, and he called once to have lunch together. Things were different. That was obvious, but I didn’t know if it was me or him. I figured it was him since I hadn’t changed. I kept to myself and did my own thing. Like right now, most of the team had gone, but I stayed behind. Coach switched my position. I’d been big enough to play lineman in high school, but I wasn’t big enough in college. With my speed and still being muscular, just not lineman muscular, he had me as wide receiver now. I had known since the summer he was planning this, and I tried to train a lot during then, but it was different being here. The feeling to play catch-up was weighing me down.

I was running drills when Matteo hollered at me from the sidelines. “Yo, Kade. We be out, man. You sticking around?”

I stopped and wiped the sweat from my forehead so I could see. “Yeah. I’ll see you back at the house.”

“We’re grilling tonight. Grab any food you want grilled up.”

“Yeah.” When they left, there weren’t many others on the field. A few of the assistant coaches were standing in a huddle, talking, but I glanced over and saw my coach watching me.

He changed my position on this team so I needed all the extra training hours I could get. I exploded to cone two, ran around to cone three, passed the second for the fourth cone, and circled back to the second cone. I finished strong going back to the first cone. Drop your shoulder. Drop your shoulder. Chop your feet, up and down, up and down. Lower the hip. Pivot with your arms.

When I was done, I repeated it four more times and turned in bounds for twenty yards. I repeated that three times, leaping as high as I could as I covered the distance. After resting for two minutes, I began again with my drills. I kept doing them until some of the lights were shut off.

One of the assistant coaches hollered from across the field, “Go home, Kade. We’re closing up.”

“Okay.” I lifted an arm, but it was too heavy, so I nodded instead. Panting, knowing every inch of me reeked, I headed off to the shower. The locker room was empty except for another player. He was in the weight room and glanced up, but neither of us said anything. We nodded to the other as I went to clean-up. When I left, he was still doing curls.

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