|A Whole New Crowd
Author: Tijan PM
Taryn was good at three things: swimming, stealing, and sex. She just needed to survive her new school, her past, and the newest drug dealer that arrived in town...Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Suspense - Chapters: 15 - Words: 38,498 - Reviews: 681 - Favs: 795 - Follows: 461 - Updated: 05-12-11 - Published: 05-16-07 - id: 2362705
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A WHOLE NEW CROWD
A tray plopped on the table in front of me and I glanced up from my own lunch tray to see Tray Evans drop into the seat opposite mine.
I knew who he was. He was the resident god of the school. Captain of the soccer team. Heartiest partier. His own personal supply of kegs, and if you were really nice and kissed his ass he'd even rent a few out to you. Tray Evans was that kid that I hated the most. He had the family, the looks, the personality, the money. He could charm his way anywhere and he did. He was so goddamned lucky because he had everything and instead he chose to spend his days optimizing his level of fun.
He was lazy. Pure and simple and advantaged.
Tray grinned, so self-assured and drawled, "Your sis preaches about some of your skills."
"Skills that are firmly stocked and locked. Go away." I said coolly.
"Come on. Why are you so hard-pressed? A girl like you could get laid, easily."
I fixed him a steel glare as I heard those words in my head.
'A girl like you…'
There are a few different type of girls in high school, but the I fitted into the 'badgirl' category. I was tall, lithe, and I knew how to make my walk bring about the drool. I had the breasts of every boy's fantasies, I had the slim stomach, and yes—I even had the long brunette hair that nearly touched my ass. However, I also had the depth in my green eyes to threaten bodily harm if someone so much as even thought about touching when it wasn't permitted. And if the eyes didn't do the trick, I had my smartass mouth to finish the job.
So yes, I had to smirk as I thought of those words.
"A girl like me?" I asked, coolly. "And who do you think I am?"
There was a flicker in those hazel depths and dirty-blonde locks. He back-pedaled, "Chill. Didn't mean anything by it—it's just that…any guy would be with you. That's it. Didn't mean anything derogatory."
"Right." It didn't set right, the guy was lying. "What do you want?"
This wasn't the girl that he had been told about. And I knew it. I hadn't pulled out my confrontive bitchiness since my arrival three months ago—yet. I'd played in the background, pulled passive aggressive stunts, but right now…that wouldn't fly. Not with Tray Evans. He ate those girls for a snack and came back for seconds.
"Taryn!" Mandy cheerfully greeted, landing in the seat next to mine. "Tray, hey!"
I sighed as I eyed my sister warily. Or should I say—adopted sister, no—I'm the adopted so that makes her the… 'true' sister. I didn't understand the terminology, but she was now related to me. Lock, stock, and barrel.
And to my chagrin, she was one of the girls that never got along with my type of girl.
Mandy Matthews. Cheerleader. Golden girl. Popular to boot. And right now…an annoying pain in my behind.
"Matthews." Tray greeted smoothly, the cool façade slipped back in place.
"Is it true?" Mandy asked, "Is the party at your place?"
She hadn't seen the switch in him. That was weird—I'd seen right through it.
"Thinking about it."
Mandy caught my intent perusal and asked warily, "What?"
"Why are you here?" I asked pointedly. I sat alone. It was my rule.
She sighed, "Come on, Taryn. We need your help."
"That's what this is about? Both of you coming to double-team me?"
"Well…yeah." She said simply.
Tray leaned forward, propped those gorgeous muscled arms on the table that teased me with a view of a tattoo that peeked out underneath his polo sleeve.
He drawled, "Mandy says that you're good at swiping stuff. We need something swiped."
"Taryn, why are you being so unbelievably difficult? Come on—you're like a legend at this stuff. Mom and dad had to attend conferences about this stuff just to prepare the family for you."
'Prepare the family for you'—those words.
I went cold.
Mandy gasped silently as she realized what she'd said.
Straightening, I murmured coolly, "Sorry that your family had to learn how to sneak-proof their home before their new defected adoptee moved in."
"I didn't mean it that way." She scrambled, "I really didn't, I'm sorry—Taryn."
I had already stood and crossed swiftly out the door and down the hallway. Without thought, I found myself in the parking lot with my car keys clenched tightly in hand. As I got inside and put the keys in the ignition, I stopped myself. What was I doing? Times like these, there was always a Brian Lanser to make me forget. But now…that wouldn't solve anything. Not anymore.
The passenger door opened and Tray got inside. Shutting it, he leaned against it, relaxed, "Going somewhere?"
"Get out." I clipped out.
"Where we going?" He countered as he grinned that smug smirk over his perfect set of lips.
I couldn't help it. I found myself checking him out. He really was gorgeous. He had eyelashes that girls would kill for. Startling hazel eyes. A lean muscular build that athletes inherited after years of training. And that mouth. Full plump lips.
He was a Brian Lanser. But the difference was that Brian Lansers never got away with anything. They were hated just because they were associated with criminals. Tray Evans pulled the exact same stunts—and were worshiped. They were dangerous in my mind.
"Like what you see." It hadn't been a question, but he had framed it as one. And we both knew it.
"Oh, you got the package. We both know that, but you have crap for quality." I drawled back and smirked. I didn't care that it was a hit below the belt.
"You think so?"
"All my life, I've dealt with boys like you. There's no surprise there."
Leaning forward, his face slowly getting closer, he whispered, his breath teased my skin, "You think so." He titled his head slightly so his cheek softly grazed mine.
I felt a tingle rush down my spine, I held firm. I had too.
I whispered back, "I know so."
"Bet I could change your mind."
"Bet you could…if I wanted you too. But…," I pulled away and said flatly, "I don't want you."
His eyes laughed. The hazel color had darkened to an amber color.
"So get out." I said smoothly.
He chuckled softly as he leaned against the door once again. "Listen…business only, okay?"
I was silent as I regarded him suspiciously.
"Next week is homecoming and we play the Panthers from Pedlam." Judging from my silence, he proceeded, "Anyway, last year they stole our gamebook and we got screwed. This year—it's our turn."
"You want me to steal their gamebook?"
"Mandy says you used to do this stuff. I respect that you don't want to do that anymore, but…we know that they've already been sniffing around campus. We caught a few of 'em Friday night, they were trying to take our State Championship flag from last year."
"You won state championships?"
"So the one loss didn't hurt that bad." I said, sardonically.
"It hurt enough." Acid could drip from his voice, "They had to revise an entire new gamebook."
"You don't even play football. Why do you care?"
"Because this is my school. I take care of what's mine." He promised. Firm.
This wasn't my school. I didn't have a school anymore. Wait—Pedlam?
I countered, "I know people at Pedlam." Brian was at Pedlam. I'd been at Pedlam for the last eight years. I had people there that I considered family.
"What? You go to school there or something?" Tray's hazel eyes flashed again.
"Yeah…a few times."
"So…?" He leaned forward. His eyes pinned me in place.
"So…I don't know if I want to go and help you screw with a school that I'm probably more welcome at than here."
Tray sighed and rolled his eyes, "You're Mandy's sister. This is your school too, Taryn."
And that was the first time I'd ever heard him say my name. In fact, until lunch he'd never spoken to me, but now he wanted something.
I made my decision—just like that and said, "Get out. I'm not helping you."
"What? Come on." Tray laughed, a little off balanced.
"Out!" I snapped and glared fiercely.
"Fine." He clipped out be fore he slammed the door after him.
Well…if I ever had hopes of climbing the social ladder—it just walked away with him.
As I let myself inside the house—correction—the mansion where my new family lived, I dropped my keys in the bowl beside the coat-rack. They didn't have maids or anything, but it felt sometimes that they should. The place was massive.
My parents—it was hard to think of them as parents, I had to keep reminding myself not to call them Shelley and Kevin in my mind—were gone on a business trip. Dr. Kevin was either on-call at the hospital, or like this weekend, he was off on a conference. And he usually took Shelley with him which left me, Mandy, and Austin home alone. Austin was fourteen. And a brat, but I could beat him up so he left me alone for the most part.
Our bonding was a work in progress.
After I grabbed a soda, I landed on the couch in the media room and put in a movie. I was having a hard time immersing myself in the movie when I heard the sound of voices coming from the kitchen.
I groaned when I realized it was Mandy and her friends.
The gods of the gods.
"She's down here." Mandy called out, bouncing down the stairs. "Hey." She exclaimed, plopping beside me.
"So Tray said you said no. A big fat no, actually."
"Come on…why not?" She whined and pouted at me with her puppy dog blue eyes and fluttering eyelashes.
"What's going on?" Jasmine Kent laughed as she sat on the couch opposite us.
From the three months I'd partaken at Mandy's school, I wasn't sure how I felt about Jasmine Kent. She was one of the three girls at the top of our grade. To me, she was just a typical stuck-up rich kid with silken black hair and flashing brown eyes that seemed to make a lot of the guys melt in her presence.
Tray, Bryce Sethlers, Grant Lancaster, and Devon Hedley trailed behind. To my nonsurprise, most of the guys were the same. Like Tray, they had the athletic physique and the cocky swagger to round out what every girl looked for in an unrealistic boyfriend fantasy.
I eyed Devon for a moment and wondered if my sister had a thing for redheads? His hair was almost strawberry colored, but it seemed to work with his green eyes. I couldn't forget the rest, like Bryce.
Bryce was larger than the rest of the guys, but he wasn't bulky. It looked like muscle. And he had the tan skin to round out his blonde curls and mischievous blue eyes. I'd heard that Jasmine had a weakness when it came to Bryce and parties.
The only person missing was Grant's sister, Amber. The twins had the same tawny colored hair and hazel eyes, but to me—Grant seemed the complete opposite of his sister with personality. He actually seemed nice while Amber was just as much a snob as Jasmine.
I briefly wondered how Mandy, who seemed nice, fit in with the two girls.
"Leave her alone, Mandy. The girl's frigid, she said no." Tray said in low tones.
I rounded on him, "Excuse me?"
"You heard me." He smirked, challenging me.
Right now, this wasn't about me being the perfect little girl to stay in a home. No, right now—this was about me defending me. Mandy wouldn't back me up, not against Tray. So I was on my own.
I stood and taunted, "Got your little knickers all wrapped in a bunch, huh? Rejection must really get you if you gotta resort to name-calling. Superficial...if you ask me."
"Oh—they're not little." He grinned, completely at ease.
"Says me." Jasmine giggled.
Mandy had fallen silent.
"And you're pretty experienced, huh?" I held my own. This was what I did.
"Taryn!" Mandy hissed.
"Whatever." I shrugged and left through the door. My sister should've supported me, not reprimand me.
"Oh come on….," Mandy called out, "Taryn, come hang out. These are my friends and you're my sister."
I hadn't forgotten.
I turned around. Tray watched, amused by the scene. Jasmine glared. The guys were—well, guys. They snickered.
I knew what Mandy wanted and it wasn't just to hang out. "I'm not doing it. Whatever you want me to take, I'm not doing it." I said—again.
"We're not asking." Tray remarked, sounding bored.
"Yeah." Mandy agreed, "We'll figure something else out, okay. So just chill, alright."
They were all watching me and I knew whatever I did next would seal my position in the school. And…Mandy was my sister.
I went against what my instincts were screaming and I slowly sat back down.
Mandy squeezed my arm slightly before she chatted with Jasmine.
I was silent throughout the rest of the evening. I think they were a little cautious around me, I'd been pretty quiet over the few months they'd known me and everytime they came over. It was the first time anyone had seen that side of me. It was a side I hid, from…well, from everyone.
After the movie, everyone meandered to the kitchen where Mandy put a pizza in the oven. I had followed, perched on a stool with my hands wrapped around another can of soda. Tray watched me the entire evening and it pissed me off. Call me paranoid, but I was guarded for a reason.
When the phone rang, Mandy handed it over and said, "It's for you. Dunno know who it is."
I brought the phone against my ear and asked, frowning, "Hello?"
"Babe." A smooth persuasion sidled up to my ear and my insides instantly clneched at that baritone.
I jumped off the stool and scooted out the patio doors where I shut them behind me. I asked, almost frantic, "What are you doing calling me?"
"Babe, come on." Brian laughed.
"Brian—leave me alone." I said firmly, but I clasped my eyes shut when I heard a betraying note of yearning in my voice.
"Come on," he said silkily. He'd heard the betraying tremor. "After all we've been through? You and me? And you're just going to write us off?"
"There's no us. I made that loud and clear." But god, it was good to hear his voice.
"Let me come over. Let's talk about this." He whispered, so tempting.
"No." I almost squeaked. I was breaking…
"Brian—no." I slammed a tight lid on my weakness and said harshly, "Go and fuck Liza. I know she's probably panting right behind you."
"She's not you, Tar. No one's you, that's the fuck up." He sighed, "I want you. I miss you."
I couldn't say anything that I hadn't already said. And I wasn't going to tell him the truth. He'd be relentless.
"Babe…you can't tell me you don't miss me. I'm your family, Tar. I've been your family and you can't just dismiss me. You know that. I know that you know that."
"Yeah, well…," it was harsh, but… "I have a new family." And I hung up. I breathed heavily as I leaned against the wall, hidden from inside where I knew there were eyes on me.
Mandy came to the patio door and opened it a crack as she stuck her head outside, "You okay?"
"Yeah." I said shakily.
She frowned and tucked a glittery strand of hair behind her ear, "You don't look okay. Who was that?"
"Just…someone from my past."
"An old boyfriend?"
"Guess you could call him that." Brian was a lot more than that. He was my history.
"He sounded hot over the phone, is he hot?"
"Oh yeah. And he knows it." I chuckled. Brian did know it. He was different from Tray. Tray's looks could mesmerize people. Brian's almost scared people away, he was the cliché badboy and everyone saw it when they looked at him. He'd spent more than his fair share of time in juvie and he always learned new tricks. He was fast trying to become a professional criminal. He had big shoes to fill—his brother's.
The phone rang in my hands. I saw Mandy reach for it, but I shook my head. "No. I have to do this."
I raised the phone again and mrmured, "What?"
"You call me again and I'm putting a restraining order on your ass." I snapped, as I turned my back, "And you know I'll do it even if I have to sleep with a cop to get it done."
"You don't mean that. You don't really want me out of your life."
That pissed me off. I'd lived my life not letting anyone tell me what I wanted or didn't want. And Brian knew that—he just screwed up.
"Just watch me." I said smoothly as I felt my control back in its familiar place. It was an old friend.
"Babe…you really don't want to do that."
"Oh really? What? You think I don't know all about your crap you got going on? I know that you're trying to get in with the Panthers. Not to mention—I got the codes, Bri. It only takes one phone call and they go to Jace."
I'd have to be a cold stone bitch to seal this deal.
"You mean the break-in that you planned and fulfilled to get those codes?" He countered. He didn't dare say a thing about the Panthers. We both knew whose final decision would insure his future with the Panthers.
It wasn't mine, but I knew that I had some weight when Jace finally made that decision.
I laughed, openly, "Oh please. I'm the professional. You think I'd be reckless enough to get caught? There's no evidence on me and let's not forget who else wants the codes?"
"You threatening me, Taryn?" Brian was suddenly too serious.
"It's Taryn now? Not Tar? Not babe? Is Liza crawling all over your lap?"
"You're pushing me." He warned.
"Then stay away from me, Brian. I mean it. Or else I'll give the codes to Jace, once and for all. And you know, more than anyone else, my capabilities."
I waited a couple beats of tense silence.
"Fine." He bit out, "I'd forgotten how much of a bitch you are."
"Oh no, baby. I was your equal, that makes you a bitch just as much." I said smoothly before I hung up.
Ashen, I knew that I'd just burned one of the sturdiest bridges I had ever had in my life. And I didn't know if it was worth it.
"Holy hell." Jasmine breathed out.
Whirling, I paled as I saw the entire gang on the patio. Amber had shown up sometime, just as shocked as everyone else.
Tray stared at me with an unnamed emotion, one—shivering—I didn't know if I wanted to identify.
Mandy wasn't breathing.
"Mandy." I said, faltering self-consciously, "I—"
"Mom and dad, they told me some of the stuff, but…they don't know any of that stuff. That's some…that's like serious stuff."
"It wasn't me. Most of it was…Brian." But I couldn't take back the blackmail or even the confession of my own criminal past. They'd all heard it.
"Yeah, I remember hearing mom talking about him to a parole officer."
"Look," I let the parole officer slide by, I wasn't really surprised. "…it's why I don't want to go back to that life. This life, with you guys, it's a new start for me. Yeah, I'm good at stealing stuff, but I don't want to do that anymore."
The rest were quiet, but they'd heard.
And I saw Tray's eyes. I saw what they were calling me—
—I was a complete and utter liar.