Mason frowned, twisting around once again.
I held my breath. There was an unspoken message there, and I knew he was delivering it to her. As she made an exasperated sound before slamming Natalie’s locker, I guessed she had received it, and whatever she saw, she didn’t like. Then he moved again. Kate and her group were coming towards us. I snuck a peek at Mason, whose eyes went flat, but she only hissed as they went past us, “You’re going to regret this. All of you.”
Her friends smiled at us, following behind her.
Heather shuddered. “Evil. They’re all evil.”
I agreed with her, but asked Mason, “How’d they take the exile?”
His gaze had lingered on Kate, who paused and glanced back once, but he turned back to me. “What?”
“The exile. How’d they take it?”
“Oh.” He lifted a shoulder. “They took it. They didn’t have a choice.”
“Must be nice,” Heather drawled. “You declare it and people have to follow it, whether they want to or not.” She snorted, tightening her grip on her bag. “I’d like to declare something. Whoever won the lottery last week will hand their ticket over to me.” She rubbed her hands together. “And voila, all my problems—poof!—gone.” She eyed Mason up and down. “Must be nice to be rich.”
He shot her a dark look. “That’s not how it went down.” He touched my arm again. “We have basketball practice. What were you going to do after school?”
“Oh.” I hadn’t driven to school and Coach Grath was gone for the week. I glanced at Heather. I wasn’t scheduled for Manny’s until Saturday so what else was there? “Running.”
“You want to take my car home?”
I held my hand out to Mason. “Yes, please.” I didn’t care how I got home, I just needed to run.
He grinned as he put his keys in my hand. “Just don’t go for hours. Please.” He pulled me close and pressed a kiss to my forehead, whispering at the same time, “And be careful. Keep an eye out when you’re running.”
My throat grew thick at his concern, and I nodded, reaching for him again. My hand clasped onto his shirt’s collar and hung there. “I’ll be safe.”
“Good.” He pressed another kiss to my lips before he pulled away.
As he headed down the hall, Heather groaned. “I stand by what I said. You two are disgusting.”
Running was my escape. I escaped all reality and pushed forward. I kept going. It was like a drug to me. It came with its own challenges and obstacles, and as long as I kept going, I broke through every single one of them. Tearing down a wooded trail, the bass was pounding through my earbuds and my adrenalin matched it. My heart pumped as I lifted my knees and pushed off from the ground. Power rippled up through my legs. I ducked my head and raised my hands to keep projecting forward.
I’d never tire of this.
And with that thought, I rounded a turn in the new trail. My eyes widened in surprise as Quickie’s came into the clearing. I never knew this path came through here, but it wasn’t far from Nate’s home. It made sense. There were no cars in the lot so I raced through, but saw the clerk watching me. When our eyes caught for a second, he lifted his hand and I nodded back, but then I was gone again. The path led up a hill behind the gas station and I heaved a deep breath, pushing myself upward now.
There were no thoughts in my head. No concern. No fear. There wasn’t even love. When I ran, I was just being. My nostrils flared and I kept going, flying up one hill and then another. I tore past another clearing. The trees parted below me and I braked. My chest heaved up and down, but I couldn’t move away.
I was looking down on Fallen Crest.
I hadn’t realized how high I must’ve run, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. It was breathtaking. My old school’s campus was on another hill, straight from where I stood. Fallen Crest Public was in the valley below. The massive football field was a patch of green among the rest of the town. Then I looked for the south side, wondering if I could see Manny’s. It was surrounded by trees so I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t. Then, without thinking about it, I glanced to the neighborhood where David’s house was, my old home.
Instead of the old pain, there was nothing. I frowned, but started forward. A chill drifted over me and my blood was pumping. I needed to keep going before the cold settled in. With that last thought, I tucked my head down and pushed forward with a new burst of speed.
After my run, I showered, ate, and then fell asleep watching television in the basement. It was later in the night before the guys got home. A stampede of feet sounded above me, and the door slammed shut as I heard Logan yell, “SAM! WHERE ARE YOU?”
“You don’t have to scream your head off.”
“Whatever, Nate. You’re pissed because you need to work for some pu**y now. Can’t have Parker running over anymore.”
The door leading to the basement was thrown open and Logan’s voice grew clearer as he laughed. “Don’t blame me that girls are scared of you. You’re a shady, motherfucker.” He hurried down the stairs, but stopped before laughing. “Sam? You’re down here?”
I scowled at him before rolling back over and pulling my blanket over my head. “You’re so loud. Shut up.”