It’s been years since my mother was in my life.
I learned to accept love.
That’s all done. She was away, and now she’s back.
I’ve avoided her for a year and a half, but I can’t hide anymore.
Mason has an internship in Fallen Crest, so we’re heading back for the summer.
And when we got there—no one was prepared for what happened.
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.