and wanted by so many others. That’s why you’re respected. You protect and you love and you don’t let anyone take that away from you.”

I leaned down until my forehead rested against his. I was staring right into him, and I felt like I could see his soul. He was stripped bare to me, like I had been moments ago for him.

“Do not let Park Sebastian get into your head. Handle him how you handle everyone. You go right through them, no matter what fight they put up.”

He grinned and his lips nipped at mine. His hand caught the back of my neck, and he held me still, adjusting our hips. I had a second’s notice as he said, “I love you so damn much.” He pushed inside me.

I closed my eyes, leaning back, and he started moving in and out of me again.

I loved him, too.

And I would tell him right after—

He held me to him and rolled, so he was on top of me.

I grabbed his hips and began to move with him.

Yes. Right after this.

“How do you like your roommate?”

I peered up at Mason, lying next to him. I was half-tempted to glare at him and give him the silent treatment. He hadn’t let me return the favor for his earlier torture that was…delicious. I didn’t know why, but something was still bothering him. I wouldn’t push it though.

I answered, tugging my tank top over my head, “She seems nice. We went to get our books after you guys left.”

“Right after we left?” He’d been rubbing my stomach, but his hand stilled.

I shook my head. “No, like two hours later. We visited for a while, and her parents brought a bunch of stuff to the room.”

He went back to rubbing in a circle. “Did you like her family?”

He was acting funny.

I shrugged. “They were okay. Normal parents.” I grinned. “Not like any of ours anyway.”

Mason waited until I pulled my arms through my top. He caught one of my hands and toyed with my fingers. “I didn’t do the dorm thing. I lived in the football house right away. Do you do things with your whole floor, like to get to know each other?”

I took a moment and stared at him, fighting from smiling.

He noticed. “What?”

“You. Being so cute.” I nudged him with my elbow. “You’re trying to be coy, but I know you want to make sure I meet people.”

He rolled his eyes and sat up to rest against the headboard. “Ha-ha. I honestly have no clue what the dorm thing is like, but yeah, I think it’d be smart if you became friendly with your neighbors. The more support you can get, the better.”

“I will, and yes, we had a floor meeting. Everyone went to get ice cream today, too.”

“Did you?”

“No.” Just looking at him, my mouth started watering. Again.

His green eyes were piercing me, and his firm lips were grinning back at me. Mason always had a chiseled face and strong jawline, but they were beckoning me once more. I ached to run my fingers over them.

“I came here instead.”

“Sam.”

I heard the reprimand coming, but I put my hand up, stopping it. The lust was held at bay. “It’s fine. They’re doing a movie and popcorn night in the lounge. I’m going to go back and join in with that. I figured any bonding I could’ve done while walking to get ice cream could be done while I made popcorn for everyone tonight.”

He nodded, but his face closed off. I couldn’t read him anymore, and I frowned, but I knew what was bothering him. It had been the same since he came back to Fallen Crest with a busted face.

Leaning over him, I cupped both sides of his face in my hands. “Hey.”

His eyes looked up.

“Let me in.”

And like that, his wall slid away, revealing the concern that I knew was there.

I whispered, “I will be fine.”

“You don’t know what he’s like.”

We both knew who he was.

We both knew what we were talking about.

I asked, “Do you think he’ll physically attack me?”

“He did with me.” His hands rested over mine, rubbing my wrists. “I don’t think he would with you. That’d be…there’s no going back from that, but I can’t promise he won’t. I don’t know.”

“Well then, I’ll carry a Taser with me, and I promise not to go anywhere alone. Would that make you stop worrying so much?”

“Sam,” he started.

His stomach muscles contracted, and he caught me around my waist, holding me in place, as he lifted himself back up, so we were sitting face-to-face, like we had been an hour earlier. He added, “I’m always going to worry. When it comes to you, there’s nothing I won’t do, and he knows that. That’s my weakness—how much I love you, the lengths I’ll go to protect you. Sebastian’s smart. He’ll use that against me.” He shuddered, running a hand down the middle of my back and over my spine. “Promise me that if you see him, you’ll call me or Logan. Promise.”

“I will.”

My words didn’t matter. The storm of unrest was still with him, but it’d have to do. We’d have to see how things progressed as we went.

I wasn’t the mastermind that Mason was. I couldn’t predict people’s behaviors like he could, but I knew one thing. I’d gone against my fair share of formidable enemies. Park Sebastian was a guy. The only thing he had over my other enemies was his physical strength. I didn’t think he could outcast me like Jessica and Lydia tried my sophomore year at Fallen Crest Academy. I didn’t think he’d have a group of girls assault me in a restroom, and I didn’t think he had the mojo to make me fall in love with Logan. The only other threat that we’d endured was my mother, and she was long gone. I knew she wasn’t coming back.

I sighed, pressing a kiss to Mason before crawling off his lap and heading for the shower. “I need to get going. Floor movie and all.”

“I’ll take you back.”

I flipped on the light and stepped under the water. Mason was dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting for me when I came back out. My eyes narrowed, but as he looked me up and down, a slow grin tugged at the corner of his mouth, and I started to forget the small hope I’d had of him joining me. Raking a hand through his hair, I tugged his head to look up and into my eyes.

His hands rested on my hips, and he pulled me to stand between his legs.

I said fiercely, “I will be okay.” I paused and then asked, “Okay?”

His hands tightened once before relaxing. “I know you will be.”

Logan was in the living room when we passed, heading for the vehicle. He grinned and waved his fingers to us. “Toodles, lovers. Don’t screw in the parking lot. I heard they ramped up their security guard detail.” His gaze shifted to Mason. “Something about a fight by the campus bookstore.”

“Really?” I frowned. “I hadn’t heard anything. My RA would’ve said something—well, I think she would’ve anyway.”

He went back to the football game on the television and shrugged. “Hmm. Yeah, well, maybe she’s not in the know, like I am.”

“Logan.” A low warning came from Mason.

Ignoring him, Logan raised a hand in the air again. “Tell your roommate she’s hot, Sam. I’ll be stopping by for morning coffee and crumpets.”

“Toodles and now crumpets.” I rolled my eyes, following Mason out the door. Bypassing him as he stopped to hold the door for me, I said, “Your brother needs to stop watching the BBC network.”

Logan shouted from inside, “I heard that, and never, woman. BBC holds my heart like no vixen ever shall.”

I groaned.

Mason grinned and let go of the door so it could swing shut. “He’s hyped up for a good fight. He was bored last year in Fallen Crest when all the action was here. He’s been in a Monty Python phase lately. Don’t get him going on the burning of witches.”

I glanced up at him as he said that, rounding the car for the driver’s seat. I tried to judge if there was an undertone or

hidden meaning in his statement, but as Mason got into the car and started the engine, he didn’t seem to hold on to anything. His shoulders were relaxed. He grinned at me and reached over to grab my hand when I got inside. He held my hand the entire drive back.

The tension from in the bedroom seemed to have lifted off his shoulders—at least for now—but I knew some of that was because Logan was here.

We were all here.

The house that loomed in front of us was large and in charge.

Music pounded from it. The lights were bright through the windows¸ spilling out onto the backyard. And people were everywhere. I glanced around the group of girls who opted to skip the movie night for this house party, and most looked scared. A couple were already drunk while my roommate was busy checking her phone. She had a bored expression on her face. I frowned, unsure of how to take that, but I understood the nerves from the rest. This was their first college party. To be honest, I was a little unnerved, but I thought it was more because I hadn’t told Mason I was going to this party. He thought I was safe and sound, sitting all cozied up with a bowl of popcorn, a blanket, and maybe even a wine cooler.

That was the plan until the movie reserved by the resident advisor sucked. After thirty minutes of most people spending time on their phones or taking restroom breaks, she let us go and threw in an invite to a party she’d heard about. It was her way of making up for the suck-ass movie. We were given directions and a few guidelines on what kind of guys to stay away from, and then she gave us the green light along with a request to save the puking for outside and not in the floor’s restrooms.

That led to a group of nine of us trekking across campus and down one block.

“So…” Summer cleared her throat, putting her phone in her pocket. “What do you say, ladies? Are we going to tackle this bitch or stare at it all night?”

Another girl, a little heavyset with red hair, smacked herself in the chest. She nodded firmly and declared, “Hell yes, we are.” She paused before adding, “Tackle this bitch, I mean. Not just stare at it all night. I, for one, want to meet a man, and that ain’t happening if I hang out with only you ladies this year.”

Summer thrust her fist in the air. “That’s the whoring spirit we want.”

I grinned.

The red-haired girl nodded again to us. “That’s what I have. Not a whore, but I have spirit. I have the drinking spirit tonight.”

Another girl, shorter than the rest with striking, blue eyes and white hair, piped up, “We need to buddy up. Sexual assaults happen at parties like these, so we need to check on each other.”

Summer grabbed my hand, holding it in the air. “My roommate’s mine.”

As they found their buddies, their hands joining ours in the air, Summer leaned closer to me. “I’m glad you came. You looked unsure about it before.”

I shrugged. “My boyfriend has enemies on campus. He worries.”

“Stay close to me. My mom worried about the same thing, so she made me take self-defense classes. You know,” her cheeks flushed as she lowered her voice, “because I’m a model.”

I glanced around, but the others hadn’t heard. “I know how to fight a tiny bit, but don’t be embarrassed about that. I get it. I really do.”

“I know. I just…” She waved a hand down the line of girls. “Most get jealous when they find out what I used to do for money.”

“Are you talking about the whoring spirit?” The heavyset girl joined our conversation along with the little female next to her.

“What?” Summer asked.

“What you used to do for money.”

“Oh. Uh…” My roommate was a deer in headlights. Her eyes were wide, and she went pale.

I stepped in, channeling some Logan, “She used to clean ass.”

All three of them snapped their attention to me.

I grinned. “She was a nurse’s aide. That’s what they do, but she didn’t want to let you know. All the jokes, you know?”

“Oh.” The heavyset girl scratched the side of her face. “That’s…completely understandable. I was a sandwich artist all through high school. It may sound great, but there’s really no art involved, if you get my drift.” She held her hand out. “I’m Kitty, by the way. With my name, trust me, I really do understand not appreciating the jokes.”

We all stared at her.

She glanced at each one of us and then explained, “Kitty’s not a nickname. It’s my real name. My mom was obsessed with Pink Kitty.”

“Oh.” I frowned. “I’m so sorry.”

“Ah, what can I do?” She waved it off and nudged her elbow to the white-haired girl. “This is Nina.”

“Hi.” Both Summer and I nodded and introduced ourselves.

Nina waved but glanced over her shoulder at the house. Most of the girls had gone inside.

Seeing this, she asked, “Shouldn’t we have a plan, so no one gets lost? And are we all walking back together to the dorm or going with our buddies? We are not prepared for this house party at all. Do we even know who’s hosting it? I heard some fraternity got disbanded last year. It’s not those guys, is it?”

I tensed, wondering what else she had heard, but Kitty had the answer. “Oh, no, I talked to Ruby.”

“Who’s Ruby?” someone asked.

Kitty’s eyebrows knitted together. “Our RA. Don’t you guys listen?”

Summer grinned at me.

Kitty was already saying, “She told me where some of those guys were holed up, and it’s not the same house. These guys are just a group of friends. She knows them. She said they’re pretty harmless, except for those two creepers she warned us about. Oh, and she was going to call to give them a heads-up that some of her girls were coming.” She pointed at us, including the group who had gone inside the house. “That’s us.”

Summer sucked in her breath, fighting back a grin.

“I think we should do a four-person buddy system. You two look out for us at the end, and we’ll do the same,” she said with precision and a firm head nod.

I glanced down, expecting her to do a little footstep. It’d sounded like she was starting a cheer. As I was waiting for the toe-heel movement, she linked her elbow with Kitty and began prancing up the hill to the house. Her free arm was swinging widely. Her head was high. Her shoulders were back. She even tossed back her hair with a head shake. Nina was ready to take the world on, one house party at a time.

Summer groaned next to me. “Oh my god, we’re surrounded by dorks.”

“Not our whole floor.” But I wasn’t sure, and dorks wasn’t the nicest word to use, but I had to agree a little bit. “I would say that they…” I was searching. “Um…they’re not as practiced with house parties as we might be?”

“Speaking of, you’ve barely blinked since we got here.”

We started after the other two after Kitty hollered for us to get our spirit butts in gear.

“But from the stories I’ve heard about Mason Kade and his brother, I’m not surprised. I have to admit that even I’ve heard about the Kade parties. I wanted to go to one, but I could never talk my friends into crashing one with me. They were too scared. They’d heard the girls who went to them were like savage beasts.”

“You’re not far off with that one.” Kate and her pack of four could howl with the best of them. “And,” using her phrase, I said, “you’ve barely blinked yourself.”

The music grew louder as we stepped onto the porch. Reaching for the door, Summer murmured before opening it, “I’ve been to a few discos overseas. These don’t compare.” She winked as she drew back the door.

The music overwhelmed us.

So did the laughter and conversation.

So did the heat from all those bodies inside.

Tijan Books | Romance Books | Fallen Crest High Series Books
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