Fallen Fourth Down

Page 60

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It was Friday night, the football team had won, so of course, that meant a party. This time one of Logan’s friends was throwing the party. When I pulled onto the road by the house, I parked towards the end. I didn’t want to be boxed in. As I started walking towards the house, more cars passed me to park closer to the house. I glimpsed at some of the drivers and knew it was going to be a big party. Fallen Crest Academites had been invited; I recognized a few of the people. As I got to the house, I realized there were more people there than I had thought. The house was packed. There was barely any walking space. I started to wedge myself through two big guys, both with their backs to me. Suddenly, from behind me, someone shouted, “OUT OF THE WAY! KEG COMING THROUGH!”

I was pushed to the side, ramming against two people. One cried out in pain, then a growl sounded close to my ear. “You bitch! Get off me.” I was shoved back. Time slowed, and I knew what was going to happen.

I turned, seeing some of Logan’s friends headed right towards me. They weren’t looking ahead. Their faces were straining as they pushed the keg on a dolly, and it was coming fast. People had scattered and I had a brief thought that they must’ve done this before. I closed my eyes. I was still in the air from being shoved back. I couldn’t do anything. I was going to get hit, so I braced myself. At the last second, someone grabbed me and yanked me the other way.

A rush of air slammed into my chest, but I pressed against whoever was holding me, flattening myself as much as possible. The guys barreled past me. A litany of curses followed them. “Watch where you’re fucking going!”

Someone yelled, “You almost hit someone. She would’ve been wiped out.”

The rush of relief left me weak, and I turned to thank whoever had saved me. Natalie. Her lips were pressed tight together, the ends curved down, and a dead look was in her eyes. She shoved me away from her and shook her head. “You got your ass kicked last year. If I knew a keg could’ve done it, we would’ve saved the trouble. Honestly, Sam, you suck. You almost got laid out.”

“Thank you.” I blinked a couple times. I had no idea what else to say. I blurted out, “Why?”

Her mouth opened into a snarl, then she stopped. “I have no idea. I don’t even like you.” She lifted a fist between us. “You attacked me at the football game.”

“You attacked me during a basketball game.”

She paused.

I waited, and my eyes narrowed.

She shrugged. “I’m tired of fighting your ass.”

My eyebrow arched at that one. “You’re tired? Try being me. That’s all I’ve done since I transferred to your school.”

“Whatever. Whine about it. You’re through the hazing.” She started around me and threw over her shoulder, “You’re one of us now, Sam. Christ. I need a beer.” She shoved through the crowd, and a surreal feeling came over me.

I shook my head. I had no idea what had just happened and reminded myself why I was there. To talk to Logan. Make things right. So I headed off again and searched through the house. He wasn’t in any of the rooms. When I was going through a screened-in porch, I glanced to the side and noticed someone huddled in a chair in the far corner. A beer was open next to him, and he had a sweatshirt on, the hood pulled up to cover his face. I stopped. I knew that guy. Taking a step closer, I asked, “Jackson?”

He turned. His hood slipped back an inch, revealing his face. The ends of his mouth were strained, and there were bags underneath his eyes.

“What are you doing there?”

He sat up. His leg had been resting on the chair across from him, but he removed it and I sat down. He cast a wary look behind me and into the house. “I forgot how much I don’t like parties.”

“Why’d you come?”

He flinched, picking up his beer. It was still full, but he took a little sip and grimaced after he swallowed it. “It’s better than being home.” He lifted a shoulder up in a shrug. “A bunch of the guys invited me and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I came. I figure I could hide until I go home in a few hours.”

“Stuff with your mom?”

“Something like that.” His eyes narrowed, as if a different thought came to him. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Hey, listen. I lied to you.”


“Yeah. Last weekend. I knew you worked there. It’s why I went. I’d never been to that place before, but I didn’t stalk you for a creepy reason or anything. I just wanted to talk about that night, you know, with us.”

“I know.”

“Your boy came up to me. He told me to stay away from you.” Lifting his hands, as if surrendering, he leaned back in his chair. “I’ll be honest. I’d date you, Sam. I’d do it in a heartbeat if you were single, but no shade here. I’m not trying to manipulate you or anything. No tricking. Nothing like that. I really did just want to clear the air.”

“My boy?”

He gestured outside to the backyard. “Logan Kade.”

“He told you to stay away from me?”

“Yeah. Look,” he shook his head, “it wasn’t in a bad way. He was actually nice about it, but I could tell that he wanted to rip my head off. I don’t want to cause problems. I had kinda hoped we could be friends, but like I said, no problem. Since I am interested in you, he’s right. I’ll stay away.”

Jackson was interested in me? He said he would’ve pursued me before, and he was saying the same thing again. There was a ball of tension in my stomach. The more he talked, the deeper it dug down. Jackson was different than Mason or Logan. He understood the shadows, how comfortable it could be there. That was a foreign concept to Mason and Logan. I sighed, rubbing a hand over my face. Jackson had been easy to talk to the night he took my virginity, and he still was. That hadn’t gone away, even though I had been ripped apart with guilt over cheating on Jeff. Now he was here and a different part of me was coming back.

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