Crystal laughed, clearly loving the attention. “What are you afraid they’re gonna do, Tank? Abduct me and take me off to live in some ivory tower in Washingtonville? Well I’ve got news. It’s not a crime if I go willingly,” she said, reaching down to squeeze Drew’s knee, which almost made him jump.
Tank’s eyes narrowed. “I said get your ass off that boy’s lap.”
“Tank, we broke up, remember?” Crystal said, running her fingers up into Drew’s hair on the back of his head. “I can sit my ass wherever I want to.”
“Get up right now,” Tank demanded.
Drew’s heart started to pound anew. Crystal was all defiance. “No.”
“Get up!” Tank shouted, grabbing for her arm.
Crystal jumped off the vinyl seat and wrenched herself away from Tank. Suddenly Drew found himself standing as well, getting between her and her aggressor, whose nickname was well deserved. He had two inches on Drew—who was one of the tallest guys he knew—and was about as broad as a bus.
“I don’t know about you, man, but where I’m from we don’t treat girls that way,” Drew spat, looking Tank up and down with antipathy.
“Then you don’t even want to know how I treat punks who get in my way,” Tank said, stepping right up to Drew. Clay and Dirk shoved themselves out of the booth as a bunch of guys from the back of the diner rushed forward. A few chairs toppled along their way, and a glass shattered somewhere. Even Jason attempted to get up, but couldn’t, since Drew and Tank were blocking his way out of the booth. He ended up half kneeling on the bench, his fists clenched.
“Hey! Hey! Hey!” An older man in a button-down sweater and slacks came running over and got in behind Drew. He was clearly the manager of the place and was obviously scared out of his mind. “If you kids are gonna continue to accost each other, I’d rather you take it outside before things get out of hand and you completely deface my business.”
Drew stared Tank town, his nostrils flaring as his breathing came hard and fast. He looked around at the families in the nearby tables—at a couple of little girls looking timidly up at them. The last thing he wanted to do was capitulate, but he didn’t want anyone else to get hurt either. Besides, in the parking lot there were fewer potential weapons lying around. No forks, knives, glasses, plates, ketchup bottles. Could be better for everyone.
“Fine,” Drew said finally. “Let’s take this outside.”
He turned around to head for the door, and someone shoved him in the back with two hands. Drew’s stomach swooped as he flew forward and just had time to brace his hands against the floor before his knees slammed down on the linoleum. There was a huge ruckus behind him, and by the time he had shoved himself to his feet, the entire diner had descended into chaos. The innocent bystanders flew in all directions, looking for a safe route to the door. Fists flew, jaws cracked, someone had their fingers gripped around Jason’s face and was shoving him to the ground.
That was all Drew needed to see to spur him into action, and he threw himself into the melee. All around Drew, plates crashed, curses were flung, guys shouted out in pain. Random body parts hit him in the jaw, the neck, the stomach. Before long, Tank found him in the mess, yanking him off of Adam Lazarus, who had pinned Jason to the floor. Drew didn’t even have time to react before Tank’s huge oven mitt of a fist came down right across his face. His eye popped, like it was coming right out of its socket, and blood spurted from his nose. Drew reeled around and punched at random, somehow landing a solid right hook across Tank’s face, but then someone else grabbed him around the neck and dragged him away, choking for air.
Drew grabbed behind his head, trying to get a hold of whoever had a hold of him, his legs flailing for purchase. He saw a coffee mug on a table as he was being hauled by and groped for it, then slammed it back into the side of the guy’s head. The guy groaned and let him go. Drew gasped for breath as he hit the floor. When he turned around he saw Samson Hill holding his skull with both hands.
“What is the matter with you, man?” Samson demanded, checking his hand for blood and finding none. “Do you have some aversion to logic?”
Drew reached out and shoved him backward, where Samson slammed into the counter. The middle-aged woman, crouching behind it, screamed.
“Let’s do this!” Drew shouted, his adrenaline taking over.
Samson glared at him. “Fine. If this is what you really want, then fine.” He yanked his jacket off and threw it on the counter. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Drew hated him for his total calm and poise. Seething, he grabbed hold of Samson’s sweatshirt with his left hand while pulling back with his right. This was it. He was finally going to get a chance to show this guy what he was made of. His fist came forward and met the side of Samson’s jaw with a satisfying crack.
And at that moment, a dozen Corinth cops rushed the diner.