Two hours and three beers later, I was sober.
Taz couldn’t say the same. She was beyond buzzed, which both Cross and Race were just shaking their heads over. Me, I’d like to think I was more open-minded and accepting. Yeah. I surprised myself. Taz wasn’t slurring her words, but she’d told me for the eighth time how she loved me and viewed me as a sister.
After the ninth time, Cross finished his beer. “Yeah.” He turned to Race, who was on a log parallel to us. “Thinking it’s time my sister goes home?”
Race barely acknowledged Cross, just the slightest of nods. “Have you tried taking her home when she gets like this?” He raised his eyebrows now. “Not so easy. Your sister gets feisty.”
“Fuck yeah, I do!” She burped, raising her beer in the air and then surged to her feet. Jumping up on the log, she hollered right as she started to fall down, “Hey everyone!” I grabbed her legs, steadying her.
I don’t think Taz even noticed. She raised her beer even higher, her shirt lifting from the movement. “Who’s here from Roussou?!”
A cheer rose up.
“Hell yeah, we are!”
She waited until they quieted, burped again, and yelled out, “Raise your beers, Fuckers! ‘Cause we’re Roussou and we’re proud! Helllll yeah!”
Another roar went over the group nearest us, traveling to the other trucks, along with a few grumbles.
Cross groaned, “Like I said.” He hit Race’s leg. “Take her home, Fucker.”
Race glared back. “You take her home. She’s your sister.”
“She’s your girlfriend.”
“Boys. Seriously.” Tabatha sauntered over, sitting on the empty log across from our bonfire.
I looked, but she was alone. “Where’s Jordan?”
“Checking on Zellman.”
I pointed to the next truck. Zellman was in the back of the truck, a girl on his lap. “He’s right there. And the point of a buddy system isn’t to leave while your partner is checking on someone else.” I was saying that as I was rising to my feet, already scanning the party area.
I hadn’t been taking stock while we were sitting, mostly because it was nice to sit and talk with Taz and Race. But now, seeing nine trucks spread out over the area, bonfires spread throughout and all the people walking around, some going into the woods, but most staying in the lot, I was a little taken aback at how many people were there. The lot was huge, but there were more people there than I realized.
“Where is he?” I asked under my breath as Cross and Race climbed up on their logs, looking too.
We were looking. Looking.
We were not seeing him.
“What the fuck?” Race growled, shooting Tabatha a look. “You dropped the ball, Sweets.”
She’d been all cool and relaxed, but now she stood with us. “What? How far could he get…?” She trailed off as she was looking too.
“What direction did he go?” Cross asked.
“I—” She gulped, starting to pale. She had a beer in hand, her hand clutching it tightly. “I don’t know. He just said he was going to check on Z, then come find me.”
I went truck by truck.
Truck one, no Jordan.
Cross moved so he was standing next to me. “Which one are you on?”
He knew what I was doing.
“I’m on two now, going to three next.”
He pivoted. “Working on the last truck then. Race, check the parking lot. Tabatha, study the treeline.”
We were working as a team. Taz had started a Roussou cheer. Tabatha was groaning under her breath, looking, “Oh my God. What if something happened to him? Oh my God…” And repeat. She didn’t shut up for the next few minutes as we were all looking.
Two was clear.
Three, the same.
Four, still no Jordan.
Cross was counting down as he cleared the end of the line. “Eight. Seven. Six.”
We both were on five at the same time. Still no Jordan.
“He would stick out. He’s the tallest guy here,” Race was saying. “Fuck, guys.”
We knew. But it was decision time now.
I had my phone out, typing a text as Cross pressed his own phone to his ear. He was calling while I was texting. I spoke as my thumb was moving over the keys, “Tabatha.” My voice was calm, but my blood pressure was not. It was spiking all the way up.
“Yeah?” She rushed to my side. “What can I do to help? I’m so sorry, you guys. Honestly. He sent me over here. I didn’t think—I trust Jordan. He usually knows what’s best to do—”
I cut her off. Her rambling wasn’t helping in that second. “I need you to pull your phone out and send a group text to as many people as you can. We need eyes on Jordan, now. Text. Then do group chats on all your social media.”
“Okay. I can do that.” She pulled her phone out, and dropped it in her rush. Picked it back up, and dropped it again. “Shit! Shit! Shit! Okay.” She breathed out, exhaling deep. “I can do this. I can do this.”
“YEAH, WE’RE ROUSSOU AND WE’RE FUCKING PROUD!”
Since she was already shouting, I tugged on her shirt and said, “Start cheering Jordan’s name.”
“—FUCKING PROUD—JORDAN! JORDAN! JORDAN!”
Phones were lighting up. People were starting to look around. The word was spreading, and those who weren’t checking their phones started in with her chant.
Cross turned to me. “Let’s move. It’s time to start looking ourselves.”
I clipped my head in a nod, getting off my log.
“What should we do?” Race stepped toward us.
Taz was still thrusting her fist in the air, leading the chants. Why, I had no clue, but I gestured to her now. “Watch over her. If Jordan’s actually missing, pressure is good against whoever might be hurting him, but if he’s not missing, we don’t want to give the wrong people ideas. You know?”
He nodded, running a hand over his face. Bags suddenly seemed to appear under his eyes. “This whole rivalry thing is real, huh?”
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.