Fallen Fourth Down

Page 45

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Eric Hayes was tall and thin. He had a perfect body for running, which he knew. A handful of football players filled in behind Logan, and it looked like a smaller version of Goliath being challenged by David. Logan was lean, but he was muscular. His friends and teammates behind him were bigger. They were not only built to run, but to chase down their prey. As they heard the condescending tone in Hayes’s voice, their nostrils flared, and I imagined the entire cross country guy’s team just became their prey.

There were dark promises in Logan’s gaze, but he only smiled. “Sure.” He waved his hand in front of him. “Show us the way. We’ll let you guys go first.”

Hayes started forward, but caught himself. His eyes narrowed and he glanced at me. Nope. I wasn’t giving him any reaction. He had dug his own grave. People knew not to cross Logan.

Logan moved forward. “Sam’s running with us.”

Hayes snorted. “She runs with us.”

Good god. This was on repeat. “What route does Coach want us to go?”

“The scenic route.”

My shock was immediate. That was the trail that went the whole way around Fallen Crest. It even went on a ridge that looked over the back of Fallen Crest Academy and their football field. I grunted. If this was just the beginning, I didn’t want to know what drama might happen when they saw my dad’s football team practicing. I did the calculations in my head and knew we’d be hitting that hill during the middle of their practice.

I started forward.

“Where are you going?” Hayes asked me, his voice strained.

I cast him a grimace. “I’m leaving. I’m starting before all of you guys.” I gave Logan a quick grin, but saw that he didn’t care. His eyes were still fixed on Hayes.

I shook my head and started off, hitting my timer to begin my run. I wanted to get a little ahead of the guys because I had a feeling the football team would be bearing down hard on the cross country team. Logan didn’t take to being insulted. Even if the distance was longer than they ran, I knew their football team did runs like ours for conditioning. I just didn’t think Hayes knew that, and as I started off on the path, I chuckled to myself. He was going to learn.

I took it easy at first, warming up. My first intention had been to press hard today, but after seeing the show of testosterone between the guys, I was going to do the opposite. I was going to take my time. They would lap me, which they did. The cross country team was pushing harder than they ever had, but the football team wasn’t far behind. The difference between the teams was that Logan’s group could only run like this one day. Hayes and the rest would be winded from going so fast, but they’d be able to do the same route tomorrow.

After the third mile, the football team had slowed and began to separate. Even as I began to pass them up, I knew I wouldn’t find Logan until later. He’d keep up with Hayes, just to piss him off, or he would try. It was mile five when I passed the girl’s team. I imagined they were annoyed at first, but by the time I got to them they were all smiles. I didn’t blame them. I remembered running with Mason. It was exhilarating. He was a primal specimen of hotness. Mason. Running. I fought against pushing him down on the trail at least twenty times.

I noticed Kris ahead. She wasn’t running with her friends. Instead, she had paired off with two football players. I didn’t know their names, but I recognized them and remembered they were juniors. They weren’t friends with Logan, I assumed, as one guy kept falling back to check out Kris’ ass.

When I passed them, I glanced over, caught Kris’ gaze, and didn’t look away. She swallowed and looked down to the ground. I moved on, but before I went over a hill and fell out of eyesight, I looked back once more. She had separated from the two guys, but they didn’t seem to mind. Their gazes were trained on her ass with smirks lingering over their faces.

Well, shit. What was I supposed to do about that? Nothing, my inner voice piped up. Shaking my head, shoving everything out, I kicked forward with more speed than I had anticipated. The need to push harder was back. Gritting my teeth, I let it loose. My legs lengthened their stride. I held my hands loose so those muscles wouldn’t be exerted, and my head ducked down a little bit.

It wasn’t long before I lapped all of the football team. Skimming over the last two guys, I recognized one of Logan’s friends, Derek, and he gestured ahead. Nothing was said, but I got the drift. Logan was still ahead. I sprinted over four more hills before the trees began to change.

Fallen Crest Academy had planted spruce, pine, and redwoods around the campus. The redwoods were still young, but they towered over the running path. I kept going ahead. I was approaching the ridge that overlooked my old school, and the closer I got, I popped my earbuds out and listened. I was right. I could hear shouts and grunts ahead. The sound of shoulder pads smashing into each other came next, along with a thudding sound. I didn’t expect to see anyone on the trail, but as I came around the last bend, some of the cross country guys were there. They had stopped and were watching the team below. Logan and another guy stood at the end.

I had to laugh. The paradigm from Logan and his teammate versus the cross country guys was almost comical. Their shoulders were broad. Their shirts had been abandoned and tucked into their waistbands. With arms resting on their hips, their backs were covered in sweat, but their muscles looked finely sculpted. If Mason had been there, he would’ve perfected the image of male hotness.

“Stop checking me out, Strattan.” A grin teased the corner of Logan’s mouth. “You’re practically family.” He waited a beat. “You’ll turn me on.”

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