He was coming right, so I shifted, blocked his punch, and rounded with my own. My fist hit the side of his eye, and he doubled over. There was a crowd around us, but I couldn’t hear them. They didn’t exist to me. It was this guy. This was Sebastian’s crowd. They wanted a fight. They got one, and this lackey would be the third guy I took down. It was a matter of moments before he gave in. He bent over, drawing in ragged breaths, and his hand raised to his head. He was checking out how much blood was there, and then the yells started to filter through my haze.
They’d been screaming like that for the last hour. It never mattered. Each one of Sebastian’s guys would get up, and I’d hit them back down. When one was knocked out, another would step in, and I’d fight him like the others—quick, painful, and without thought.
I hadn’t fought in so long, but this felt good, finally being able to release the demons. Sebastian wanted to destroy my friendship with Nate. That failed. Nate left their fraternity instead, and they went after me. Their hit-and-run got Marissa instead. She wasn’t innocent in some things, but she was an innocent of this war. And Sebastian won that battle.
He got to Marissa.
I didn’t know what was promised or what was threatened, but she testified that she didn’t remember anyone else being there. It was only me, her, and the speeding truck that came out of nowhere. The security cameras went missing. The only evidence I had on Sebastian was Nate’s recording where he admitted that they didn’t mean to hit the girl, but it wasn’t enough to condemn their futures. The university didn’t want a criminal case, so the fraternity was banned. Each individual member could attend Cain University, but not within their fraternity. That was it, though.
My revenge was simple. I burnt their house down.
They tried to get me expelled, but no evidence was found. They couldn’t pin that on me. Months passed in tension. I knew they were going to fight back, but I was given a break—until tonight.
They were waiting for me after my last training session.
A third one came from the left at me. I bent down, swept an arm out, hooking him around the legs. I tossed him over my back, flipping him in the air. His back hit the ground, and he stared up at me, blinking in shock. I didn’t give him time to think. My leg was up, and I brought it down. He twisted to the side, but I still clipped him in the head. It was enough to make him slow his attack. He rolled to the side and lay there, shaking his head clear.
A fourth was charging toward me.
I stood my ground, caught him by grabbing a fistful of his shirt, and hit him from the other side. My arm thrust out in a straight punch, connecting with him in the mouth. He stumbled backward, but a friend caught him and helped him to the background. There were more, all standing back and waiting their turn.
I took in a deep breath, my chest was tight, and my breathing labored.
This could go on forever. If they kept coming at me, they’d win. They’d wear me down. Some were surprised. Some wary. Others were just glaring with their hands closed in fists by their sides.
They were waiting for their leader, and then he came forward.
He was clapping with an ugly smirk on his face and a gleam in his eyes. Stopping just outside of my reach, he stopped clapping. He dropped the smirk and lowered his eyes, locking his gaze on me as if he were going to charge. “Aren’t you full of surprises?”
With the back of my hand, I wiped the blood from my mouth. Sebastian watched the motion and followed as I wiped it off on my pants.
He added, “I wasn’t aware that you could fight.”
I narrowed my eyes. He’d already tried to hit me with a car, knowing it would injure me and I’d be off the team. I could’ve been off the team permanently. No more football for me. No professional career either.
I tilted my head to the side. What was he doing?
“You took my house.” He wagged a finger at me. “You took it in more ways than one. Although, in a way, you saved the university from rebuilding it.”
“They did rebuild it.”
“It’s a fucking daycare now.”
There was the Park Sebastian I knew. The cool and calm one wasn’t the right one. I wanted to face the real one. I wanted him front and center.
“What are you doing, Sebastian?”
He nodded once, clipping his head up and down to himself. “I know what you’re thinking. We could keep fighting, exhausting you, and we’d eventually win. We could do whatever we wanted to you.” He pointed to my leg. “Maybe break that.” He pointed to my arm. “Or tear the tendons in those so you can’t catch a ball anymore.” His finger moved up and down, from my head to my toes. “Or we could try it all over again. Run a truck over you, and you’d be done for. There’d be no going back, but here’s my dilemma. The university would have to step in, and at some point, they’d let the law come with them. That’s the dilemma.”
He stepped back, his hands resting on his hips. “I don’t want to go to prison because of you. Checkmate. You won. The fraternity is gone, literally in all ways. We’re not allowed to function as a house of brothers anymore, but in our hearts, we still are. The other chapters know that, so even though we’re not officially recognized as fraternity brothers, we still are. Outside of the university, outside of all the universities, we’re still brothers.” He tapped where his heart was. “You couldn’t take this from us, but this is what I’m going to take from you.”
I knew. I’d always known.
Sam was sent to Boston. I wanted her to get away from Cain University, away from me, and even away from Logan in Fallen Crest. In some way of thinking, I’d thought that the farther away she was, the safer she would be.
His lips began to form her name, and I knew all that was for nothing. He was still going after her, and she would be at Cain University next year, coming right into the lion’s den. I was delivering her to him.
His words were low and gravelly. I heard them through my alarm. A storm was going off in me, but his words penetrated me as he said, “I’m going to take your heart away.”
That damn smirk coming back to him, he added, “And you won’t be able to stop me because she’s not going to let you. That’s going to be the best thing about it. You won’t be able to do a damn thing about it, and the way I’m going to do it, she’ll come right to me. I’m going to savor that day when she walks from you to me, and after I’ve taken your heart out, I’m going to take hers. I’m going to hurt her in a way so that she’ll never be the same. I’m going to rip her soul from her body.”
I snapped. One step took me to him, and before he realized what I was doing, I grabbed him and threw him down. I was on him, raining punch after punch, until his guys tore me from his body. They had to lift me off him, and even then, I kept going back for more.
I wanted to rip his insides out, but as I was trying to hurt him, I knew it wouldn’t matter.
He was going after Sam.
Weddings were where two souls became one, but for me, it was a day where I was about to beat a bitch down. I was staring at that girl now as I opened the door, and Cass Sullivan was on the doorstep. Dressed in a tight skirt that ended below her knees with a slit up the thigh and a sequined top that dipped low between her breasts, she was ready for the wedding festivities. Her hair was pinned on the top of her head with curled tendrils that fell to frame her face. A normal person would’ve looked beautiful, but this was Cass.
I drawled, “This must be your dream come true.”
Her heated eyes rolled upward before she sighed. “Seriously?”
Seriously. I was trying to keep from gloating as I said, “You’re finally showing up at the Kade house to see your boyfriend. You’ve got to be wet. This is what you’ve been salivating about for years, right?”
“Oh my god.” She groaned. “Malinda said that Mark was here. You guys are all sleeping here for the weekend. Is he inside or not?”
A girl had to enjoy this torture. I had my fair share of enemies for four years now, but Cass was one that never went away. She had hated me since Mason and Logan became family, and she’d stuck like glue, refusing to go away. Her latest venture was as Mark’s girlfriend, who would be my stepbrother after today.
I folded my arms over my chest. “Maybe.”
“Sam! For real?”
I lifted a shoulder. “Maybe not.”
I was being mean. I knew this, but after the crap she put me through, she deserved it. Once Mark’s mom married my dad today, it would be official. Mark would be family, and that meant she had to be nice…er to me.
She took a step toward me.
I lifted an eyebrow.
Putting her mouth right next to my ear, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “Mark! Are you here?”
I cringed. I’d known it was coming. I’d known she was either going to hit me or scream. I’d thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. “Shut up. My god. You killed my eardrum.”
She grunted and rolled her eyes, smoothing her hands over her skirt. “Whatever. You should’ve called for him. I warned you.”
Our gazes were locked in a battle, and that was when I knew. “You’re still going to be a bitch to me, aren’t you?”
“You thought I wouldn’t be?” Her head reared back. “Where did you get that idiotic thought?”
Well, that sealed her fate. With a big grin on my face, I stepped back and shut the door in her face.
“Mature much?” she asked from the other side.
I shrugged. Any chance I got to shut a door in her face, I was going to take it. That made this more enjoyable. I turned the lock. Cass could knock and yell all she wanted. She was screwed. What she didn’t know, I did, and that was the fact that Mark was with Logan right now, and they didn’t have their cell phones with them. They weren’t even here.
Mason looked up from the table as I rounded the hallway for the kitchen. “Who was that?” A pad and pen were sitting in front of him as he was finishing up a speech.
Mark was the best man with Mason and Logan being the rest of the groomsmen. The other two snuck out for an errand, something to do with doves. I didn’t want to know any details, so I hadn’t asked. All I knew was that they’d left their phones for some reason, declaring they didn’t want to risk evidence being recorded against them. As they had done that, Mark dropped another bombshell. He was horrible with speeches and he wasn’t going to do one. No one trusted Logan to give the speech so that left one person: Mason. This was the reason my boyfriend remained behind with me.
Needing to leave to get my hair done, I was glad Mason and I were the only two in the mansion at that moment. It would be overrun that afternoon, but right now, I was trying to hold back from climbing onto his lap instead of sinking into the chair beside him. His hair was tousled and messy since he hadn’t cut it most of the summer. It would be buzzed tomorrow for football season, so until then, I would enjoy running my fingers through it.
A shadow had formed over his jaw, but he was gorgeous. With striking eyes, angular cheekbones, a strong jawline, and an athletic build, which was sculpted to perfection from years of playing football and his extra training over the past summer, I knew why he was coveted by so many at Cain University.
My fingers ached to smooth some of the worry lines from his eyes as I said, “No one.”
His eyebrows lowered. “That didn’t sound like no one.”
I shrugged and leaned close. “Trust me. No one important.”
“Hmm.” But he grinned and met me for a kiss.
With that gentle brush from his lips to mine, a small tingle went through me. We’d been together for three years now, and we had been through a mountain of troubles, but our time apart during the last year was coming to an end, permanently. After this weekend, all the cars would be packed, and Mason, Logan, and I would be moving to Cain University.
Mason would be starting late with his practices, considering his probation time from Cain U. After his last run-in with Sebastian, Sebastian’s crew got suspended, and so did Mason. He was allowed to take all his finals online, and he didn’t lose his football scholarship, but I knew he was antsy about returning to college.
As our kiss deepened, he sighed, and I could feel the tension in him.
Cupping the side of his face, I pulled back. “Everything will be fine.”
The concern was heavy in his eyes. He lifted a hand to tuck some of my hair behind my ears, resting his fingers on my cheek afterward. “If they hurt you…if they hurt Logan…” The ends of his mouth tightened, and a flash of pain filled his eyes for a moment. “I don’t know what will happen, Sam, if they touch you. I don’t.”
“It’s not going to come to that.”
Park Sebastian was the ringleader for the now officially banned fraternity, and he was the real reason behind Mason’s feud with them. Mason hadn’t wanted to play the fake who-are-you-related-to, how-wealthy-are-you-going-to-be-in-the-future, or you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours games that Sebastian initially tried to recruit him for. The rejection wasn’t taken lightly.
I ran my fingers through his hair and pulled back enough to gaze into his eyes. He was scared. I’d felt it during the summer. Each night, as he’d hold me, he’d grow more and more tense, the closer we got to this weekend.
I had no intention of being one of his weaknesses. “Mason, you don’t have to worry about me. No matter what, we’ll fight it. No one will hurt me. No one will hurt Logan.”
His hand rested on the back of my neck. He was searching my face. He wanted to believe me, but he couldn’t. Mason knew better. We’d been through too much bullshit to believe that everything would be okay, but I couldn’t be his Achilles’ heel.
No, it wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t going to be used to hurt him.
I shifted closer to him. “I mean it, Mason. I’m here. I’m at your side. I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Sam—” he started.
I saw the struggle in him and shook my head. “No. Stop. I mean it. I get to have your back this time. And I will. No one is after me—no scorned lover, no obsessed stalker, not even a hateful bitch like Cass. No one like that will get close to me. Been there, done that. I know how to handle them.”
I pulled him close, peering deeply into his eyes. He was torn, so I smiled and softly pressed my lips to his once again. I murmured against them, “Trust me this time. I know what we’re getting into at school, and I’m here to help you. That’s it. That’s all.”
He shook his head. “You shouldn’t have to. That’s what pisses me off. I shouldn’t have to worry about Sebastian going after you, but…he’s capable of anything.”
Mason always kicked ass. He’d stand in the line and dare people to go against him. He wasn’t like this, unsure of the future. This wasn’t a Mason I was used to, and that tugged at my heart even more.
“I will make friends, if that will ease your mind. I will surround myself with new college comrades, and when I come over to your house, I’ll make sure to be careful. You or Logan can come pick me up all the time. How about that?”
He only said, “He can’t hurt you. I don’t know what I’ll do if he does.”
“He won’t.” I leaned close, pressing a kiss to him once more. I whispered, “I promise.”
As a shout came from the front door, and we drew back. A second later, Logan and Mark rushed in. Their cheeks were red. Beads of sweat were on their foreheads, and both had stupid grins on their faces.
Logan said again, “Yo.” He stopped, his eyes narrowed, and he cocked h
is head to the side. “Did you two just beat it here?”
Mason’s hand fell from my waist, and he rolled his eyes. “Logan, we’re not like rabbits, humping all the time.”
“Why not?” Logan grabbed the orange juice from the refrigerator and brought it over to the table.
As he set it down, Mark grabbed two glasses, and both sat down.
Logan added, “I would. You know, if I could…like we could’ve been—”
“Shut the fuck up.” Mason glared.
Logan winked at me as he kept grinning, pouring the juice into his glass. “Come on, brother. I thought we were all fine with what was discussed. You know, the idea of Sam and me, that there could’ve been—”