His hand inched down and began to rub between my legs. I closed my eyes and laid there as his fingers dipped inside of me. Later, as he moved down between my legs, and I felt his lips on me, I opened my eyes and gazed at him. His lips were sending me over the edge, but it was the sight of him that sent a burst of desire through me. His back was sculpted. All the power was there, but he held himself so he wouldn’t hurt me. Even now, he protected me. Then his tongue swept inside and I was gone.
Kate dropped out of school. Heather told me the rumor was she was going to get her GED, but I didn’t care. I was happy she was gone, although in her absence Natalie became the new leader. She appealed to Mason and promised they learned from Kate’s mistakes, but it didn’t matter. The guys were done with them. The bathroom beat down finalized the decision for each of the guys, which I was thankful for. School was easier when I returned. People were friendlier.
Once I healed enough, Coach Grath had me running with a select group of girls in the mornings before school. There were five of us, but there was only one that was competition for me, or she was the closest thing I had to competition. When real practices started, I was still leery about running with so many others, but I went at my own pace. I shut it all out. The guys. The girls. The people who were talking with each other, the girls who gossiped, the ones who complained about practice. All of it. Half way through the season, after a few scouts started coming around, my status changed again.
I was one of the best.
I was also becoming popular. Slightly.
Heather snorted when a few of the drill team girls hurried to open a door for me one day. She said I was now the prime target—get close to Samantha Strattan meant getting close to Mason and Logan Kade. They didn’t care that I was Mason’s girlfriend, they were lining up to be his next one or Logan’s go-to girl since Tate had stopped his all-access to her.
When I asked Heather if it was because they felt sorry for me, she started laughing. “Are you kidding me? People don’t give two shits if someone gets hurt or not unless you’re their friend. You weren’t friends with anyone. They’re being nice for two reasons: you got Kate out of here and they want to use you to get in with the Kades. It’s a good thing I don’t give a damn about either Kade.”
My eyebrow arched up at that. “You going to finally talk about Channing?”
Heather kept her lips sealed tight about that relationship, but I wasn’t blind. Channing was at Manny’s more often than not. He now had his own stool right next to Gus and they kept Brandon entertained during the slow nights. Logan and Mason joined them after their basketball practices, and all five of them had become friendly. Logan mentioned going running with Gus since the guy had a beer gut that was bordering on becoming a bear gut.
He even invited Gus to family dinner at Helen’s. That didn’t go well.
Nothing went over well with Helen.
Mason had been right and wrong. She didn’t buy Nate’s old home. She bought land at the end of the block. She was going to build her ultimate dream home. Since James and Analise were gone, she moved into their house until it was done. I moved into Malinda’s home, and that seemed to be the official move in day for David as well. He reassured me he wouldn’t sell the old house. It would be there for me if I ever wanted it. Mason spent the nights with me while he ‘lived’ with Helen in the old house. Logan came over for almost every breakfast and they were around most of the time during the weekends.
This was another arrangement Helen didn’t like, neither did David, but neither of them could say anything—it was going to happen whether they wanted it or not. We’d already fought one parental unit about our relationship. They knew we would’ve done it again, but it didn’t mean Helen didn’t make things uncomfortable at times.
Today was one of those days.
It was a Saturday, and Mason had spent the night, but so had Logan. Helen didn’t like that. He and Mark came back to the house after a party and played video games all night. He fell asleep on the couch, and Helen started calling at eight that morning. She called both of their phones, and then she began calling the house phone. When she asked for her son, Malinda knocked on our door and gave the phone to Mason. Wrong son. When he sat up and I heard her yelling on the other end, I rolled out of bed and grabbed my running clothes.
Helen was a saner version of Analise.
It was time to run.
I headed towards my favorite path. Instead of driving to my old neighborhood and jumping on it from the park, I found another trail that connected to it from behind Malinda’s house. When she learned where I ran the most, she pulled out a map of walking trails and showed me new trails, but I kept with the one that ran past Quickie’s and into the hills behind it. I could get lost back there and today was a day I needed that. It was when I came back that I noticed something was wrong.
The clerk was pacing back and forth outside the side door. He would stop, wring his hands together, shake them out, and return to pacing. After a few moments, he stopped again, took a deep breath and peeked around the back corner. Jerking back, he shook his head and started twisting his hands together again.
I made my way down to him. My heart was pounding so I pulled my earbuds out and silenced the noise. As I got to the bottom of the hill, I took a few breaths so I could talk and not pant through a conversation. He was turning around again in another sharp circle when he saw me, and his eyes bulged out. I recognized the same clerk from all the other times I’d been around here. I saw him through the window the first morning when the Broudous showed up for a pit stop and a few times when I’ve run past here.