CREW PRINCESS by Tijan
Being crew is walking between two worlds.
One world is normal: Prom. Parties. College.
Those are the concerns they worry about.
In our world, we deal with other situations.
Cops. Drugs. Brawling.
That’s a typical day for us.
But what if it wasn’t?
What if there came a day when you stopped?
When you considered letting your enemies win?
When you didn’t fight back?
When you chose a different path?
First I lost my family. Then I got the Wolf Crew.
I couldn’t lose them too.
But what happens when Cross, Zellman, and Jordan keep going…
…and I don’t?
Crew Princess is the second book in the Crew Series
The District Weekend was a long tradition among the three towns.
Each town took an event. The Fallen Crest bonfire was usually Sunday, but things got switched around with Frisco. The street dance was tomorrow, but I wasn’t expecting to have any merriment. The street they shut down was the one that ran in front of my brother’s bar and his new bounty-hunting office. Channing would be there, probably busy kicking anyone underage out of his bar, while debating selling extra booze to make some cash.
Alas, Channing was on the straight and narrow too, which meant no booze to minors. I, on the other hand, would just take whatever was under the counter like always. Still, my big bro would be there, and he’d be keeping an eye out—his unofficial role in Roussou.
Tomorrow would be a day when I’d try to disappear from the watchful eye of his guys.
But tonight was a different matter. District Weekend used to have the bonfire up in a bunch of hills north of Fallen Crest, but this time, it was on the southside and overlooking Manny’s, a popular place my future sister-in-law ran.
Heather had taken over Manny’s from her father, and she was now talking about doing some other franchise spots. Sometimes I forgot about that other world Heather was connected to—Channing too since he was going in on one of the franchises. Or two, maybe. I tuned them out when they talked about that stuff, usually slipping out the door and finding Cross.
Tonight, things felt different.
Not Cross, but the rest. The future. It was lingering, ever since Zellman had mentioned graduating. And the same old paralyzed emotion crept up my throat, threatening to choke off my oxygen…
Cross’ arm fell around my shoulders, and he pulled me back to his chest. He pushed a cold beer into my hand and lifted his mouth, pressing a kiss to the side of my lips. “You okay?”
We’d found a spot at the back of the party in the woods.
I’d settled against a tree that offered a view of Manny’s below. We could see all the cars, hear the customers going in and out. Heather stepped out once to yell at her brother and went back in. The door slammed shut behind her a second later, the sound echoing in the valley around them.
That was normal.
The familiarity had eased some of my tension, but now I had Cross for that.
As I rested against him, his hand trailed down and began rubbing my arm. He lifted his beer, taking a drag and just waiting.
He knew I’d talk.
Sometimes it took a minute.
“What are you doing next year?” Finally.
He stiffened, his voice low. “What do you mean?”
More tension, then his chest rose. “I don’t know.”
“Bullshit.” I stepped away, turning to stare at him.
Cross never lied to me.
He held my gaze.
I’d picked this place for a reason. I liked my privacy, and most of the others respected me, staying away. Only a couple of the Ryerson crew had positioned themselves not far from us. There were a handful of other guys scattered nearby. I suspected they were Fallen Crest because they were obnoxious, and they were wearing polo shirts. No one I knew from Frisco wore fucking polo shirts. Some of them had been looking over, their looks lingering more and more until Cross arrived.
I’d have to deal with them at some point, but I’d been putting it off because of my thoughts.
They were dark—then again, that term could be used to describe me. I was dark.
Cross glanced at them, resting his head against the tree. “Let’s talk about this later.”
He was right.
Now wasn’t the time.
“I mean it.” I touched his shirt, fisting a hand in it. “We graduate in a month, and no one’s talked about the after.”
His hand went to my hip, slipping under my shirt, and he tugged me to him. My leg brushed against his, and I tipped my head back to see him.
He rested his forehead against mine, almost whispering, “What does it matter? We’re staying crew, no matter what.”
Lowering my voice as well, I said, “I’m staying.”
He pulled me closer and nuzzled my forehead. “I know you’re staying. We all know you’re staying.”
“But what about you guys?”
Cross lifted a shoulder. “You want to do this now? Here?”
Normally, no. But seeing Malinda had spurred something in me, an urgency I’d been ignoring for too long.
“Okay.” He took another deep breath and watched me. His hand moved up under my shirt, starting to explore between our bodies.
Mine did the same. I couldn’t help it. If Cross touched me, I touched him back. That’s how it was.
“I applied at a few places.”
My head lifted in surprise.
His eyes were waiting for me. “Some local that I can drive to, and a few not local.”
Shit. My tongue felt heavy now. “Where did you decide to go?”
“My counselor’s ingrained in my head that I need to go to college or I’ll die.”
He laughed as his hand moved farther up. I tugged my shirt down so the others couldn’t see, but I felt his finger tracing my bra before slipping underneath. He cupped my breast, his thumb rubbing over my nipple.
“That’s what high school counselors do, but we have time.”
We did, didn’t we?
He leaned in, his lips finding my forehead. “We have lots of time.”
“Lookie, lookie, such a happy couple. Hmmm?”
Cross stifled a groan, lifting his head, but I didn’t need to ask who it was. I would recognize the smugness of my ex even if I were deaf. Lifting my head, I turned and stepped away from Cross.
Drake Ryerson stood, smirking at us, with the two of his crew beside him. A few others had congregated with them as well, and the Fallen Crest guys were more wary than earlier. They should’ve been wary before too, but they were arrogant and ignorant, just how we liked them. Their numbers were matched by our Roussou ones now, so they should’ve been scampering away. They weren’t.
We’d see what unfolded. If there was a confrontation, more would come running—either to join in or record it.
“What do you want, Drake?” I asked.
We’d had to deal with Drake a few times since he came back to take the leadership role for the Ryerson crew. The crew was named after their family, but ironically the only Ryerson in the crew was their leader. Alex, their last leader and Drake’s little brother by one year, had been kicked out then gift-wrapped for us to kick his ass.
He’d hurt one of ours, so the debt had been a long time coming. But since then, a tentative and uneasy truce had been called among all crews. There was no longer an unsettled rift between us.
But we didn’t enjoy them. And we weren’t quiet about it.
Drake’s eyes moved between Cross and me. A wicked grin spread over his face. “I almost feel bad, breaking up a moment for the two of you.”
He was right. We rarely showed that side. And it was over now.
I moved over, and Cross stood next to me, ready to square off.
I kept my hands at my side and raised my chin. “I won’t ask again.”
His eyes fell flat and his mouth pressed into a thin line. “You’re not being fun, Bren. You used to be fu—”
“I’d consider whether you really want to finish that statement,” Cross said.
A chill ran up the length of my spine.
About the author:
Tijan is a New York Times Bestselling author that writes suspenseful and unpredictable novels. Her characters are strong, intense, and gut-wrenchingly real with a little bit of sass on the side. Tijan began writing later in life and once she started, she was hooked. She’s written multi-bestsellers including the Carter Reed Series, the Fallen Crest Series, and the Broken and Screwed Series among others. She is currently writing a new YA series along with so many more from north Minnesota where she lives with a man she couldn’t be without and an English Cocker she adores.