The Boy I Grew Up With By Tijan
I have loved Channing Monroe all my life.
In first grade, he asked for my Trapper Keeper.
I hit him in the head with it.
Third grade, we were best friends. We kissed in seventh grade.
Eighth grade, he turned into a bad boy and the rest was a tumultuous storm.
Growing up, the problem was never love for us.
Bad times. Good times. There were times when I felt our love in every inch of my body, vibrating, making me feel like it could bring me back to life.
The problem was us.
The problem is that we’re living in two different worlds now.
Fallen Crest and its millionaires for me. Roussou and their criminals for him. I was thriving in mine and he was running his.
But there were nights I felt we couldn’t be further apart than we were, and there were nights I felt we shared the same heartbeat.
When was it time?
When was it time to either sacrifice, make a change, or walk away from the boy I grew up with?
** 103k standalone
There are two chapters at the end from additional books.
Excerpt The Boy I Grew Up With By Tijan
I had to get back to Manny’s.
But once in my car, I realized the gas was nearing empty, so I pulled into the one of two gas stations in Roussou. Channing was sitting on the front of my truck when I came out, an energy drink in hand.
His feet dangled off the hood, and he flashed a cocky grin at the sight of me.
I faltered for a step, glad to see the cockiness, not the turmoil I had unleashed two nights ago.
I tightened my hold on my drink before going over. “Hey.”
“Hey.” He was mocking me, giving me the same tight-lipped response.
I fought against rolling my eyes. “What are you doing here?”
He didn’t answer that. “You just coming from the house?”
“Yeah, I slept in.”
We fell silent, but we both knew what was happening next.
He was cocky. He was smirking. That meant we were going surface. We weren’t going deep.
But Channing would wait for me to make the first move—if I wanted to touch him, or if I didn’t. I would set the tone. He usually let me unless his hunger was too much. Then he’d prowl for me, and I could either say yes or no. But not like this, when his hunger was sated, when we were in broad daylight and there were people watching us like I knew there were. Everyone watched us, especially Channing.
He was revered here. They loved him, and they watched me because they knew he loved me.
The decision was mine right now. I didn’t know what I wanted myself, so I played it safe.
I forced out a fake laugh. It made me cringe. “I was heading back to Manny’s.”
He nodded, still watching me, still not saying anything. His gaze took on a knowing look, like he was reading inside of me.
“Okay,” he said.
I shot him a look. “What?”
His grin spread, slowly. “What?”
“‘Okay’,” I mocked him. “What’s that mean? ‘Okay’?”
“I’m not saying it in any way. I’m just agreeing with you.”
“Come on?” His eyes danced, and he lowered his head. “Come on what?”
He was flirting.
I couldn’t hold my grin back. “Okay.” I said it exactly the way he had.
He let out a laugh, reaching for me and pulling me in front of him. He slid his hands through my hair, bringing some of it to cover my face until I couldn’t see anything. “This is how you should wear your hair. It’s very Cousin Itt. You can start a trend, call it Heather’s Itt.”
“Really?” I was eating my own hair, but I couldn’t dim my smile. He had that effect on me.
“Oh yeah.” His voice fell soft, growing intimate, and he leaned down, his hand trailing over my back. “And then I can do this all I want.”
His hand was on my ass. He grabbed a good chunk, but it wasn’t an offensive grab. It was a possessive claim, and I felt his breath on my neck. His lips grazed my skin. He held me close, almost draped over me. I moved into him, my arms sliding up his legs and around his waist. It was an intimate touch. It probably looked uncomfortable as hell from the outside, but they were on the outside. They weren’t standing where I was, and they weren’t feeling how I was feeling with Channing at that moment.
I didn’t want to move back.
He sheltered me, and I felt like everything would work out. All the bad shit would be fixed, and I wouldn’t have to face any of it. But that wasn’t the truth, and I groaned as I stepped away.
His hand left my ass, though he didn’t let me go far. His legs tightened around me, holding me in place, and he closed his arms around my shoulders. He was hugging me, in an almost chaste way. His head rested against mine.
I felt his tension then, and I knew this hug was for him.
He needed me, and momentarily surprised, I stayed there.
I sank back into him.
“Aren’t you two sweet?”
The question wasn’t even fully asked before Channing whipped up and jumped down beside me. His body went rigid, and I turned. I knew whose voice that was, and I knew what Channing would want me to do.
He went forward to deal with Richter as I slipped into my vehicle. I was reversing out of there as I counted how many Demons there were with their leader.
Richter motioned to me, but I ignored him, spinning my tires to speed a block away before pulling over.
I called Moose.
“Channing’s at a gas station in Roussou with Richter.”
There was no hesitation. “Which one?”
“On it. Go to Manny’s.”
“He had four others with him,” I added.
I caught the slight swear before Moose hung up, and though everything in me wanted to go back and stand with my man, I went to Manny’s. That was my home. Dealing with Richter, that’s where Channing ruled.
I went to work and tried not to think about what I’d driven away from.