I rolled my arm up and around, breaking the hold on me.

The screaming stopped.

I rushed forward. I stopped thinking. Logan couldn’t get hurt, but he must’ve sensed my intention.

He yelled, not looking away from Sebastian, “Get her away from him! Now!” He dodged Sebastian’s hit and landed an uppercut to Sebastian’s rib cage.

The fight was on after that.

I tried getting free and running in, but I couldn’t. Whoever was holding me had a cement-like grasp on me.

Sebastian threw Logan off, going with him against a wall and raining punches to his side and stomach. Logan doubled over, his arms up to block the hits. Sebastian switched, bringing his elbow down on Logan’s head, but Logan feinted, caught Sebastian’s elbow, and slammed him into the other wall. He was on the offense this time. Sebastian went on the defense until they switched again.

It was deathly quiet in the hallway. No one was saying anything. No one was doing anything. Sebastian and Logan kept exchanging punches until we heard a stampede of feet coming up the stairs. We felt them at first, and the crowd looked back.

It was a bunch of Sebastian’s friends. They were coming to help him.

The hold on me disappeared, and Blaze stepped out in front of the guys. His hands were up. “Hey. Whoa, whoa. That’s no longer a fair fight.”

The friends didn’t care. The guy leading their charge took one look at Blaze. An ugly grin appeared, and he knocked Blaze out. He didn’t break his stride. Then they were all on Logan.

“No!” I took off and screamed over my shoulder, “Call the police, Ruby!”

She was glued back against the hallway, her phone clutched in her hands. The blood drained from her face long ago.

I screamed one last time, watching with a sickening feeling, as I saw Logan get picked up and slammed back down on the floor. They started to kick him.

“Ruby!”

Kitty grabbed the phone from Ruby’s hands and punched in the numbers. She yelled at the guys, “I’m calling the cops, you assholes!” She twisted around. “Nina, tape those fuckers.”

Help was coming. I tried telling myself that, but they kept kicking Logan. It wouldn’t come fast enough.

I was going in. I had to try.

“Sam! No!”

I didn’t know who yelled at me, but I looked around for a weapon. There was nothing—until I saw the fire extinguisher. It was big. It’d have to do.

Nina was ahead of me.

She was coming out of her room with her phone in hand, pointed right at the group, and a bat in her other hand. I took the bat and shattered the glass. Nina took the bat again while I pulled the extinguisher out.

“Here.” Kitty gave Ruby’s phone to Nina. “Talk to them.” She took the bat from Nina and shared a look with me.

It was the two of us.

I nodded, gripping the extinguisher with a firm hold. She nodded and started forward with me.

I pulled the pin, aimed the extinguisher, and squeezed the trigger, sweeping from side to side. It hit the guys, and they fell back, slightly stunned. It didn’t faze the others, and Kitty ran in. She lifted the bat, already swinging. One guy bent down to hit Logan’s head. Kitty swung the bat, getting the guy clear under his chin. He snapped back, and she hit two of his friends. She kept going.

I kept squeezing the trigger, using the extinguisher on them. When I was out, I took the handle and began swinging like Kitty.

The guys could’ve taken the weapons from us. It would’ve been so easy, but they seemed dazed by the sudden turn of events. We waded in. I got close enough to Logan, and I swung one last time. I clipped Sebastian on the forehead, but he grabbed the extinguisher. I let him have it, even shoving it at him. He was pushed off-balance. As he was knocked backward, I grabbed Logan around the arm and dragged him into my room.

“Kitty!” I yelled.

Her back was to me. She jumped there to protect us, and she was swinging the bat again. She couldn’t hear me. I tugged her backward.

I yelled at Nina, “Get in your room, so they can’t take the phone.”

After that, I slammed my door shut, locked it, and sank down with my back against it. My pulse was racing. My arms and legs started trembling, but I had to keep it together.

Logan still needed me.

“Kitty,” I croaked.

She was standing above me, her chest heaving. She was holding on to that bat like they were going to shove their way inside. “What?”

“I need you to call someone for me.”

She looked down at me. I couldn’t even hold on to my knees. Even my teeth were rattling against each other.

“Okay.” She patted me on the head. “I’ll call your boyfriend for you.”

I looked up, my jaw trembling. “Thank you.”

MASON

Logan got his ass kicked by Sebastian and four of his friends. They’d beaten my best friend. I gazed at Sam over Logan’s hospital bed and knew she was next. They might not physically beat her, but they were going to beat her down somehow. She was right in the aim of fire. If she didn’t see that, she was an idiot.

No matter who got hurt, I was Sebastian’s main target. I’d been sitting back this whole time. I had been waiting. Sam was going to be his weapon against me. I knew it. I was just waiting for the warm-up before he struck.

That time was now.

Logan was kept for observation overnight and released.

That was the beginning of his troubles. The school board asked the police department to step back. It was between college students and occurred on campus. They wanted to deal with it internally. Because Cain University was powerful and a Division One school, the department stepped back, which everyone was happy about—except for Logan and everyone on his side.

The board found Logan guilty of the altercation between students. He’d swung first. He got the blame, and the meeting today was to officially determine if he’d get expelled from school or just suspended. And because it stemmed from my own run-ins with Sebastian, I was called to testify. I knew what I was walking into. They were going to ask me questions about Logan’s past—if he was violent, if he started physical altercations. What else had he done? Had he been arrested? How many times was he arrested?

Logan could get expelled for the mere fact that he’d swung first, but the real agenda was to discredit him so that he looked like the only guilty perpetrator. They didn’t want to suspend Sebastian.

“Is your dad coming today?”

I looked up from fixing my tie. Sam was on the edge of our bed, watching me in the mirror.

Since Logan’s attack, she’d been different. The fight left her. Her cheeks were gaunt. She seemed more fragile. I knew she hadn’t been eating, and her runs had been back up to two hours, sometimes more. I’d started driving around, looking for her, and so many times, I’d find her limping back. She always climbed into the vehicle, and I would bring her home. I’d tended to her while Malinda came and tended to Logan until our mother got in from Italy. That’d been two days ago. Malinda hadn’t wanted to leave, but we’d return to Fallen Crest within a few days anyway.

Finals were done.

Football was done. We hadn’t gotten to the championship game, even though Drew won The Heisman.

The only thing I had to deal with was this meeting…and Park Sebastian.

“Mason,” Sam said again, tucking her hands under her legs.

She’d been doing that a lot lately, always hiding her hands. My mouth twisted, and a jolt of anger started in me. She was still rattled from the fight. She would shake at night, tossing and turning. Some nights, she’d wake up, screaming. I hadn’t been there, and I’d have to live with that for the rest of my life.

She leaned forward, still searching my face in the mirror.

I cleared my throat, finishing the tie, before I turned around. “I hope so. I think so. Helen said she got ahold of him.”

She relaxed visibly, her shoulders softening. “Oh,

good.”

Sam and I hadn’t resolved what happened in the library when I found out she knew Summer was Sebastian’s sister. I didn’t care who Summer was, but I cared if she hurt Sam or not. I also cared that Sam hadn’t told me, but even that…I understood that, too. She and my brother both protected me this year. It was still their mission. Sam and I needed to smooth things over, but I didn’t think either of us had the energy to approach that conversation yet.

I sighed and reached out for her hand. “Come on. Let’s go deal with these board dickheads.”

Sam’s cheeks grew pink, and she linked her fingers through mine, squeezing my hand. She walked beside me out the door and remained by my side the entire drive to campus and into the building.

When we got inside, everyone was ready. My dad wasn’t there, but he was coming. I hoped. There weren’t a lot of times when I needed him, but I did for these moments. My jaw hardened, thinking about needing my father. I hated it, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

“Mr. Kade.” A woman in a business skirt opened the boardroom doors.

I recognized her from the last time I’d been called in there. That meeting was eerily similar. It was after Sebastian and his buddies jumped me, but instead of questioning if only one of us should be expelled, they decided to suspend both of us.

Some anger grew in me, but I nodded, my entire body tense.

Sam squeezed my hand once more, and I skimmed a soft kiss to her forehead, hugging her to my side. As we stood there, the lady went back inside. Right before the door closed behind her, I got a glimpse of Sebastian. He was sitting at the same table as before, wearing a business suit, with two others beside him. He’d brought a lawyer.

I growled, “This isn’t supposed to be a trial.”

“Mason?”

Sam hadn’t seen him, and I didn’t want her to.

My hand found her hip, and I gently moved her back. “I’ll be back. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

I heard a small wonder in her voice as she said those two words, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I turned abruptly and went inside. She sensed my anger, and I knew she wanted to help, but she couldn’t.

This was my mess to clean up. The first step to do that was going into the boardroom and sitting at the table.

“Thank you for coming in, Mason.”

There were six board members. All of them sat across from me with their stern asshole faces. It’d been the same after my fight with Sebastian and his buddies. I hadn’t struck first with my altercation. Logan had. That was a big difference in their eyes, but they were stuck-up pricks. They weren’t taking the common factor into account—the dick sitting at the table on my right, Park Sebastian. His crew, his fault.

“Mason,” the spokeswoman prompted me again.

I scowled. “Am I going to be able to have my say in here?”

Surprise flitted across her face. Her lips mashed together. Her eyes blinked a few times, and her head moved back an inch. She cleared her throat. “Why wouldn’t you?”

“Because you’ve deemed my brother guilty already.”

“Well.” She looked up and down her table.

The other members all gave varying motions of support. One nodded. Another moved his head down. A third gave her a slight grin. The fourth lifted his finger in the air.

She was reassured and said further, “Guilt goes to the first aggressor. In your situation, it was Mr. Sebastian and his friends. In your brother’s case, it was your brother. He struck first. We have witness testimonies and a video clip that speaks to that.”

I snorted, cursing. “The video clip didn’t show my brother hitting Sebastian first. The clip showed him on the ground while Sebastian and four of his friends ganged up on him. The rest of the clip is where my girlfriend and her friend waded in to save him. And why did you bring up the video clip? You threw it out, said it wasn’t helpful.”

“Mason,” she spoke in that pretentious and condescending manner that my mom used.

I was gritting my teeth. I interrupted her, “Stop, lady.”

The other members sat upright.

One pointed at me, leaning forward from his seat. “You’ll show respect, son.”

“I’m not your son,” I whipped back to him. “Can we just drop the fucking act here? You want to expel my brother, but you don’t want to piss off Sebastian by suspending him. Sorry. Anytime there’s one against five, the one guy isn’t kicked out.”

“There wouldn’t have been an altercation if your brother hadn’t started it.”

“Bullshit.” I jerked a finger in Sebastian’s direction. “There was an altercation last year with me. Same guy. Same scenario. I took on six of his friends.”

“Yes, and you were both suspended for that.”

“Both of us, even though they hit me first.”

“Mason,” the spokeswoman started to say again.

I shook my head. “No. No. I’m not your friend. I’m not your son. You don’t know me. The only things you care about is my record on the football field and if I go pro next year or not. That’s the only reason you brought me in here. Own up to that. You don’t want to piss me off either.”

They were quiet. I was right, and the slight guilt on their faces told me that.

“Who do you think I am? You think you can pull me in here, and what? Brainwash me to sell out my brother? Manipulate me? Is that what this is about?”

“Mr. Kade,” the guy on the end spoke up. He sat forward, placing his folded hands on the table. His striped business suit looked like it was bursting at the seams. He was the type who was pissed that this meeting was cutting into his time with his mistress before going to see his second mistress while his wife got drunk and ordered a new mare for their neglected teenage daughter.

I said before he could continue, “You all are forgetting some things. I don’t push my weight around like Sebastian does, but that doesn’t mean I don’t live in your world. None of you scare me. I grew up throwing water balloons filled with piss on people like you while you attended my father’s sleazy parties. You’re that type of people. The money in here can’t push me around because—sorry, Sebastian, but I’m pretty sure your father’s not in my dad’s league—if that’s what this is about, be prepared for me to push back.”

“Mr. Kade—”

“Mason.” A new voice filled the room.

My football coach came in. He stopped inside the door and stared at me, his chest heaving up and down. He jerked out the chair beside me and sat down. His breathing was ragged. “I’ve never heard you speak like that.”

“This is what you’re playing?” I ignored him, addressing the board. “The football card? You think my coach is going to make me heel?”

“Mason!”

I started to shove back my chair. This was enough. They were putting me in a corner, and I wouldn’t go there. I wouldn’t make it okay for them to expel my brother while Sebastian got away, scot-free.

The second woman snapped her fingers at me and pointed to the chair. “Stay there.”

She was different. The others looked like they thought they were important. They kept glancing at Sebastian and whoever’s support he had. The looks were nervous and cautious but not this woman. She was leaning back in her chair the whole time, only giving support to her fellow board members

She was calm. Her voice was soft as she spoke now, “I’m going to do something that will shock the pants off you.”

I doubted that.

She laughed, waving her finger at me. “You’ve got some spunk, Mr. Kade. I can see how you look at us, and I’ll tell you something.” She leaned forward over the table. Her pearl necklace fell, grazing across the top of the table. “You’re completely right.”

“Miriam,” the other spokeswoman gasped. “What are you doing?”

Miriam ignored her and ignored the mutterings from the other

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