The Eleventh Annual Hide Or Die Summer Challenge
A Ridiculous One-shot by Le Meg
SKoW Challenge Response #12 – Go Team UST!
1) Lots and lots of UST (unresolved sexual tension) between couple.
2) Some sort of under-handed way that they both end up in a steamy kiss at the end of the story. (Example: Strip poker)
3) Awkward moments (plural) where the couple attempts a kiss and gets interrupted.
4) The line: "You're-- you're like a gummi bear, you know that?"
5) Must be a one-shot
1) settings at parties, clubs, etc. Make it different. (Example: graveyard)
2) Couple cannot be teenagers. Both parties must be at least college-age.
"Is your name really Adelaide?"
I glanced up from my perusal of the chewing gums on display, removing the straw of my Starbucks beverage from my lips. The guy manning the cashier was smiling at me, and waved my debit card as if to reiterate the question. I think he was trying to flirt. It seemed to be a kind of dumb way to go about that, but it wasn't the first time somebody had raised an eyebrow at my rather antiquated first name. So I smiled back, preferring to be charming rather than rude or sarcastic. "It really is. Named after my grandmother, you know."
"I do now," he countered, and handed the card back without swiping it through the machine. When I raised my eyebrows, he winked at me, and slid the M&Ms, the gummy bears, and a bottle of Gatorade into a small plastic bag. "You have a cool name, so it's on me."
I turned the wattage on my grin up a little. "Why thank you," I cooed, grabbing the bag from him. Maybe if it had been any other night, I might have stuck around and flirted a little – the guy was pretty decent looking and he did just give me free candy, even if his pick-up lines could use a little work. Unfortunately for Mr. Cashier, tonight was not a charity night and I wasn't looking for anything more than a healthy dose of sugar.
With an extra wave for the nice young gentleman behind the counter, I headed out of the convenience store and towards my car. As I climbed in, I tossed the bags at Erin, who'd opted to wait while I ran inside for the goods. "Free candy, baby!" I tossed my hair exaggeratedly and gave a great sigh as I shut the car door. "You know, being this sexy really takes a toll on a girl."
My best friend snorted from her place in the passenger seat. "And how, dare I ask, did you manage this?" She asked, ripping into her M&Ms already. Erin was a chocolate girl, and that never wavered. Alternatively, I almost always went for the gummy bears. What can I say, I love the fruity little bastards. Besides, gummy bears are the way more satisfying candy. They're like those squishy stress balls that you work with your hands, except these you get to put in your mouth instead. It's cathartic, really.
"My mere name sent him into spasms of rapture so great that he could not operate the cash register," I replied, checking my mirrors as I backed out of the parking spot.
"He must be new," Erin scoffed, twirling her strawberry blonde hair around her finger. "I'm pretty sure everybody else around here has already sat through every possible story about your grandmother and the awesome name you inherited from her. You probably just put him to sleep and then ran out without paying."
"She was a cool lady," I defended, refusing to acknowledge the fact that she was, at least, right about my tendency to brag about my grandma. "She threw her underwear at The Beatles once. Impressive, considering she was a mother of two at that point."
"True." Erin grinned a little. "Hell, I'd still throw my underwear at McCartney."
"I'm sure he'd appreciate the gesture."
"I'm so fucking excited," she said then, and I grinned in whole-hearted agreement. Erin was referring to our plans for later – it was part of the reason we'd stopped first at Starbucks and then at the convenience store at 7:27 PM, getting ready to down untold amounts of sugar and caffeine. Preparation, you see, for the Eleventh Annual Hide Or Die Summer Challenge. Or, in laymen's terms, the massive game of hide-and-seek that we've been playing every year since we were nine.
Erin and I go way back. We've been super absolute best friends since elementary school when this jerk pulled on her pigtails and I retaliated by pouring sand in his pants. I'd actually only done it because he stepped on my sandcastle, but it didn't matter – the bond had been made, and it was unbreakable. We'd even tried, especially during those melodramatic teenage years when every little thing turned into a huge angsty mess, but somehow we always stuck together. My mother says it's because of the glue, but I think she says that because she's a kindergarten teacher and has to sniff it all day.
So we've been playing this game since we were nine, but really it's been going on for longer than that. Erin has three brothers, and they'd been at it forever with the other boys in the neighborhood and would never let her in on it. She took matters into her own hands one fateful year and stealthily followed them, marked out where they were all hiding, and then ruined their game by shouting out where everyone was. She did this four times in a row before Greg, the oldest and thus the one in charge, finally relented and said that she could play. But there was one condition: she had to bring some friends. I was inducted in, along with a few other girls in the neighborhood, and the whole thing became this huge war of the sexes – boys versus girls – and we've been playing it ever since. Sometimes our respective cousins joined in, if they were visiting for the summer, and sometimes we got kids from the other neighborhoods to join in. Obviously the number of people playing has changed from year to year, and we can't always get all of us there since we're all off in college and getting educated and all of that, but for the most part the core of the game has remained the same.
This year the game was being held at our university. Two of Erin's brothers went to school with us – Greg and Justin – and the other one Mark finally got off his lazy ass and flew in to visit, so it was kind of an easy decision. But between the four of us already here, we'd managed to recruit a whole bunch of friends to join the fun, so the number of people playing this year was something ridiculous – like thirty total. People were really getting into it. I imagined that a whole bunch of them were reconnecting with their childhood, although much of this reconnecting was done with the enthusiastic language one is used to hearing at a football game. I've been getting death threats on Facebook for like a week now.
"Did you get his number?" Erin asked, sipping from her white mocha goodness as pulled onto the road.
"I thought about it. Does that count?"
She rolled her eyes. "No it does not, but I will let the topic of your strange mating habits slide for tonight."
I gave her a sidelong glance, my mouth quirking. She'd been doing this lately – suddenly focusing on my love life or, as she put it, my tendency to "kiss and run". I wasn't sure why she was doing it at this point, and since she was never pushy about it, it didn't really bother me. But I knew there was a reason behind it, and eventually I'd get it out of her. "He wasn't that cute," I informed her. "Very few of the guys who go to our school are, actually."
"You liked it. You miss the attention, Addles, admit it."
Addles was what the entire Harris family called me – she started it, and then her brothers took it up willingly. I'd be lying if I said I hated it. I had no idea what she meant about the attention part though, seeing as I hadn't had an actual boyfriend for a couple of years and was in no hurry to pick a steady boyfriend out of the miscreant male hoards we go to school with. "Listen, I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm becoming a lesbian. It'll save me money on birth control."
Erin burst into laughter, and the serious expression I was trying to hold onto broke completely as I joined in. We both knew there was no way in hell I was ever giving up the male sex. I wouldn't call myself a floozy by any stretch of the imagination, but come on, I'm twenty years old, single, and in college. I have some fun. It's like going to the pet store—you know you're not going to buy the dog, but that doesn't stop you from taking the dog out of its cage so you can play with it for an hour or so.
"That's unfortunate," Erin said, and I could feel her eyes on me as she continued, her voice becoming a little evil. In retrospect, this should have warned me that what she was about to say next would be a doozy, but for some reason these things always escape me. Or maybe it's because I expect general evilness from her, so when something is truly dark it stands out even more. "Because my beloved cousin Charlie's going to be at the game tonight and he was looking forward to seeing you."
I may have jerked the car a little to the right. At any rate, somebody honked at me, and I shouted back a couple quick curses. Erin was laughing again, but this time she sounded a little too much like the Wicked Witch of the West for my liking. There was no pretending with this one – she knew all about that. "Charlie? You decided to tell me this now?"
She was still cackling. "Christ, tonight is going to be awesome."
Charlie Harris and I have something of a history. Lately most of that history has consisted of him shoving his tongue down my throat and doing various things with his hands while I moan like a porn star. The mere mention of his name makes all my little hairs stand on end. He's joined in on the Hide or Die Challenge a few times in the past but all of that was before winter break two years ago when everything changed. Before, we'd gotten along just fine; after, we got along a little too fine.
The Harris family always throws these ginormous Christmas parties, but they have the money and the house to do it. They really go all out – the place is decorated from top to bottom in garland and lights, there's a pine tree in every room, and more than one mistletoe scattered about. It's dangerous, and her parents think it's hysterical – so much that they'll move the mistletoe around so you can never be sure of its location. I don't know how many times I've been forced to kiss her brothers. They invite everybody they know from work and school, and both her mother and her father have at least three brothers and sisters apiece, so the place is filled to the brim with people. On top of that, they always hire someone to cater and the wet bar is overflowing with eggnog and other essentials.
Two years ago I got caught under the mistletoe with Charlie for the first time since puberty. I'd always thought he was pretty cute. He had his mother's thick dark hair—unlike the rest of the Harris kids—and he wore it artfully disheveled and parted a little to the side in the front. I've always had a thing for good hair. Greg was right there in front of us and he began to chuckle evilly as he pointed up and said, "You know the rules."
We both looked up – as if it could really be surprising anymore – and I started to mutter about his sadistic parents but Charlie grabbed my shoulders and kissed me. Greg wolf-whistled and I think other people began to join in, but at that point I'd pretty much went into sensory overload. His mouth was fervently sucking on mine. Charlie had always been cute, yes, but until then I hadn't known what he could do with his tongue. And I definitely hadn't known that he'd wanted to do that, but at that moment the chemistry was pretty clear to both of us.
Needless to say, the following Christmases and New Years became a lot more interesting. He went to a different school during the year so I hardly ever saw him beyond the ritualistic holiday make-out sessions, but I still compare every guy I kiss in between to him. Knowing that he was in town – right now – did something to my brain… fuzziness, like drugs, maybe. I had to remind myself that this was an inopportune moment to remember his lips. It took a few seconds before I realized that Erin was speaking again.
"The light's green," she said between sips, amused.
"I'm going to kill you," I told her, and started forward again, keeping my eyes on the road. "I'm going to use the game to kill you, and then dispose of your body in a place where no one will ever find it, ever again."
"Will that be before or after Charlie finds you and rips off all of your clothes?"
"I swear to God, woman."
Erin giggled. "You look so flustered, I can't help it. I wasn't even supposed to tell you he's here, to be perfectly honest – he wanted to surprise you."
That sexy bastard. "Your family is evil, you know that?" It took a couple seconds but somehow I got my brain to behave. "Is he coming to dinner, then?"
The dinner is an important part of the ceremony; it's the pre-game report, if you will. We go over the rules, the boundaries, enjoy a little smack talk and generally have a good time before it all goes down. Usually Erin or one of her brothers is given the title Master of Ceremonies, and this year Greg will be doing the honors. He's kind of the creator of the game, so it always seems a little more right when he gets to preside over things.
I glanced over at her and smirked a little. "You realize this means war, right? We have to win. There is no other option."
Erin laughed and slapped a hand on her knee. "Oh my God, I love this game."
Dinner was at eight o'clock at The Olive Garden, and we pulled up about ten minutes beforehand. Mr. and Mrs. Harris knew about the game, and if the mistletoe scheme wasn't enough of a clue in the first place, they were pretty into pranks. They fully supported our tournament, and like every year before, offered to buy us all the necessary supplies – stuff like war paint and batteries for flashlights. Part of this year's financial obligation entailed renting one of the rooms at The Olive Garden. The sheer number of people involved made it impossible to try and split up into smaller groups but still be close together, and quite frankly Greg didn't want anybody else to hear our plans for the night. So the thirty of us would sit around at the tables in one of the restaurants smaller side rooms and chat, and after we'd all eaten Greg would get everybody's attention and go over the rules. Afterwards, we'd pay for dinner – the Harrises weren't that generous – and then the guys and girls would split up into their factions and get ready.
"There's Greg," Erin nodded towards the restaurant doors as we got out of the car. I followed her gaze and saw the eldest Harris child leaning against one of the columns outside, his phone in one hand and his cigarette in the other. As we approached he glanced up at us and grinned. Greg's hair was redder than Erin's strawberry blonde and he had that whole tall, lanky thing going on for him. He was kind of the bad boy of the family, definitely the biggest troublemaker. Once he'd locked Erin in the hall closet for three hours and when his parents asked where she was, he blithely lied, "At Adelaide's." They'd known he was lying, though, because he used my full name.
"Oh, guess who just walked up? It's darling Addles." He said into the phone, and after a few seconds he handed it over to me and teased, "Charlie wants to say hi."
Unfortunately for him, I was prepared for their underhandedness. Smiling as sweetly as I could, I took the phone and purred, "Hello Charlie."
Erin snorted in a very ladylike fashion.
"Addles, how much do you miss me?"
"Hmm." I pretended to think about it, and then shrugged, even though he couldn't see me. Well, I didn't think he could see me, but then again, I wouldn't put it past these boys. "On a scale from one to ten?"
"A three, probably." I kept up with the purr because I knew he liked it. I could remember a couple times to bring up as evidence if he tried to refute that claim.
"Liar. Stop using the sex goddess voice on me."
"I don't know what you're talking about," I replied, the utter picture of innocence.
"Lying," he quipped. "You want me. You'd kiss me right now if you could."
"There's no mistletoe and I am simply not that kind of girl."
"So how about a little Christmas in July, then?"
I rolled my eyes. "Please, spare me the line about opening presents early. I want to be able to eat tonight, you know."
He laughed. "Tease. What color underwear are you wearing?"
I let my voice drop back into sex goddess mode. "Who says I'm wearing underwear?"
There was a pause and I grinned, and did a little victory dance in my head. In a slightly husky tone, Charlie said, "Evil. Put Greg back on the phone." I chuckled, low in my throat, and heard him swear at me before handing the phone over as asked. Serves him right, the sly bastard.
Erin hooked her arm in mine and announced that we were going in. Greg waved us off, raising an eyebrow at my preening, before turning his attention back to the phone. As the doors closed behind us, Erin patted me on the arm and winked. "Well done."
"Thank you," I sang.
Inside the hostess showed us to the room and we thanked her before taking a look around. There were a few others already present, Justin included, and the middle brother grinned at us as we joined him at the table. "Ladies. It's game day. You ready to lose?"
"Justin, please," Erin scoffed. "Give up while you still can."
He shrugged and sipped his water, but his eyes were still glinting wickedly. "We'll see."
Others began to file in slowly. I recognized most of them even if I didn't know them personally, if only because the Harris brothers were notorious party throwers and most of the people who showed up were regular guests. We talked, drank water, and threw insults back and forth for about fifteen minutes as we waited for Greg to come in and signal the beginning of the festivities. I purposely sat with my back to the door, a move Erin recognized with a quick grin, and couldn't help but notice how the seat across from me managed to remain empty as more and more people arrived. Justin had his arm thrown over it casually. When the last brother – Mark – arrived and sat on Justin's other side, the two exchanged this evil smirk and I knew the dear cousin had arrived.
The Harris men are all dirty bastards. I love them, but seriously.
I couldn't help but smile when I felt hands on my shoulders not a minute later and a voice said lazily, "I really hope you weren't lying about the underwear thing."
I craned my head back to look at him and narrowed my eyes playfully. "Charlie. What a surprise." His fingers were massaging my shoulders lightly, and for a second I was very glad that I was seated. Falling to the ground in a puddle would not send the right message at all.
Charlie glanced at Erin then, frowning. "You told, didn't you?"
She snickered in response. "Duh."
Greg came in soon after, his Cheshire cat grin permanently fixed to his face, and everybody began to settle in. Charlie naturally took the seat across from me and I was not surprised to feel him rub my ankle with his foot a minute later. I glared at him but I didn't take my foot away, which made him smirk even more.
Dinner continued in this fashion, and not just for Charlie and me. Even though the game technically hadn't started yet, the lines were clearly drawn – the battle of the sexes was on. Men might be from Mars but we were going to kick their collective ass all the same. We began by fighting over breadsticks and croutons and then moved onto stealing from each other's plates. Anyone who walked into the dining room at that minute and listened to the conversations going on at every table would probably suspect us all of being absolute heathens. Let's just say some people were pretty creative with their insults.
After a couple glasses of water each, added to the Starbucks from before, Erin and I escaped the battlefield and made a desperately needed trip to the restroom. We hatched some possible plans while peeing, gentlewomen that we were, and went over known hiding places while washing and drying our hands. An older woman came into the bathroom at some point and gave us a strange look, probably thinking we were talking about drug stashes, before disappearing into a stall.
I wasn't surprised to find Charlie waiting in the hallway when we left again. Erin sent me a grin that reminded me a little too much of her brother before disappearing around the corner. He glanced at her retreating form, and then made an obvious show of looking me up and down. I rolled my eyes and put my hands on my hips. "Charlie."
He smirked at me, and I think my heart began to beat a little faster. "You look good."
You will not swoon, I told myself. There will be no swooning here. "Charming," I replied, "But flattery will not stay my hand. You, sir, are going down." I took a step in the direction of the table but he was quicker. He trapped me on the wall between the restroom doors, and moved in close enough to put his palms flat on either side of me. His scent was musky and familiar and I flushed with warmth. It became hard to focus on the plan. This was the part where I broke away haughtily and sauntered back to the table, as though his close physical presence didn't actually do anything to me.
Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.
"So," he started, his dark eyes drifting over my face to rest on my lips. "Where are you going to be hiding later? Maybe I'll come find you and we can hide together."
I smiled, amused. "Trying to cheat?"
He pressed closer and one of his hands came to rest on my hip. "Maybe," he murmured, and his lips found that little spot under my ear.
My breath caught in my throat and he chuckled, and the sound went straight down my spine like nothing else could. It was starting to get a little hot in that hallway. The hand that was on my hip moved under the hem of my jeans experimentally, and once his fingers found the top of my underwear he pouted in disappointment. It took every ounce of will power in me not to throw myself at him. "Tease," he sulked, and looked at my lips again.
I was having a very hard time not looking at his mouth. He had a gorgeous pout, and every instinct in me was screaming to take his bottom lip between my teeth, to push him to the floor and have my way with him. My nerves were shot. He began to lean closer, and his head begin to tilt, and my eyes fluttered close and my pulse went crazy and all I could think about was that damn tongue of his and what he could do with it.
The door to the bathroom opened suddenly and then the old woman who'd glared at Erin and me earlier gasped and then cleared her throat rudely. Charlie jumped back and I felt cheated, though I knew I was lucky. I wasn't very sure why my personal war involved no kissing anymore, but damn it all if I didn't keep to my principles. What kind of girl would I be if I just let him push me against walls and make little fires in my body every time he so much as looked at me?
Besides the very hot and bothered kind, cause I was already well on my way to that.
I threw him a wry glance before darting out of the hallway back to my seat. He followed a few minutes later, and when he sat across from me our eyes met and his mouth quirked, and that was it. But I could tell – the game between us was on now.
Greg stood up soon after and all eyes in the room swiveled to him as he waved his arms. "All right folks," he started, and grinned in the spotlight. "How was dinner?"
A few people shouted great, and there were other mumbles and smart-ass comments, and then Greg waved them off again and said, "Okay, shut up, I don't care. Welcome to the Eleventh Annual Hide or Die Summer Challenge." There was some cheering, and Greg waited again for it to die off before he continued. I couldn't help but think that this had gotten pretty silly – I mean, it had just started as a game of neighborhood hide-and-seek, and now eleven years later a whole bunch of twenty-year-olds were getting pumped about it. It was still awesome, though. My friends are the best, let's be honest. "I think by now most of you have gotten a break down on how this game works, but I'll go over the rules and stuff just in case. We play in teams – guys versus girls – and each team has a Captain and a Seeker. It's the Captain's job to coordinate hiding place and movement strategy during the game, and it's the Seeker's job to locate the other team. Captains have already been chosen – me and Erin, for you idiots not paying attention – but we'll draw names for each team's Seeker."
Erin got up at this point and began to pass around little squares of paper to each table. There was a general shuffle to find pens but once it settled down Greg started talking again. "Some rules: no going out of bounds. The boundaries for the game are from Washington Street in the north, to the Aberheart Building, to the end of the lawn where the statue of the founder is, to Grey Street. You can hide anywhere within that radius, as long as you don't go indoors. You're allowed to communicate with cell phones, of course, to keep team strategy going, unless you're found by the opposing team's Seeker. Once that happens you have to go to the top of the lawn by the fountain and wait for the game to end. No cheating or I'll kick your ass! After three hours, if there are still people hiding, we call time. The team that finds everybody first or has the most people left wins. Any questions?"
Erin was now collecting all the little pieces of paper. She'd commandeered two baseball caps for the purpose, and was putting girls in one hat and boys in the other. While she did this, someone spoke up, "What does the winning team get?"
"Bragging rights," Greg answered. "And the loser buys the alcohol at tomorrow night's party. Remember, there are thirty of us, so ladies, make sure you buy enough."
I rolled my eyes and glanced over at Erin, whom I'm quite sure was insulting her brother creatively under her breath. A girl a few tables down shouted an amused, "Fuck you," at him, to which he responded by licking his finger and then grabbing his balls.
"What about flashlights?"
Greg shook his head. "Only the Seeker is allowed to have a flashlight." He glanced around and waited for more comments but most people had already begun to chatter amongst themselves again. Erin brought over the baseball caps and they made sure that each paper was folded and in the right cap. As they were doing that, Charlie leaned forward and asked, "How about we make a personal wager?"
I raised my eyebrow at him. "What did you have in mind?"
Justin and Mark were both watching intently, co-conspirators in his little plot. The two could have been twins, if it weren't for their hair. Justin had hair like Erin's, but Mark's was the lightest of all the Harris children – he was a regular little blond-haired, blue-eyed devil. It was probably Mark who brought Charlie in with him; the two had always been closest. He'd played lookout more than once at the last couple of family get-togethers, should one of our parents walk in to the otherwise empty room and find us in a compromising position of some kind. And there were plenty of those.
Charlie tossed his dark bangs out of his eyes, a gesture that was far sexier than it should have been, and then suggested, "Loser buys dinner tomorrow."
We'd never actually gone out to dinner before and the idea made my brain stop. Again. My brain did that a lot around him. Was he asking me out? More importantly, was I blushing? Because that was going to have to stop. "Dinner?" I repeated.
He grinned. "Why? Did you want to buy me something else?"
I balled my napkin up and threw it at him. "Okay, Sparky, loser buys dinner. Also, I expect plenty of lip service and general groveling when I kick your scrawny ass."
His grin only got wider. There was something about that Harris smile, almost like it had no limits. You expected it to stretch on and on forever. It looked good on all the boys, but on Charlie, it was something else entirely. "You know I'm good at lip service, Addles."
One of the brothers began chuckling but I was saved from responding by Greg, ironically enough. He cleared his throat loudly and said, "Okay, so we're drawing names now. Guys first." He shuffled around in the first baseball cap for a bit and then drew a piece of paper and unfolded it. "Steve! Dude, you're our Seeker. Go with God, my son."
Steve held his fist up in the air in response. Erin rolled her eyes and mirrored her brother's actions in the second hat. She opened the folded paper and read, "Chelsea, excellent." Chelsea had played with us the last couple of years and she knew how the game worked; it was an advantageous start for us. The named girl stood and bowed, and Greg scowled at her.
"Well, that settles that," Erin said brightly.
Greg turned the scowl on her before announcing to the crowd, "Okay, so the game starts promptly at ten-thirty, people. You have about an hour to get ready. We meet at the fountain on the lawn. You are dismissed."
Erin and I had already paid and took this as our cue to grab our bags. A few girls approached Erin with questions so as she talked to them, I turned my attention back to the Harris boys and narrowed my eyes playfully. "Gentlemen. I prefer Effen to Absolut, but adore Bacardi above all else. Please keep this in mind while shopping for liquor tomorrow."
Justin snorted. "Okay."
Charlie cocked his head at me, and from the way his mouth was quirking I knew he was thinking of something evil. My suspicions were confirmed when he opened his mouth. "If I'm buying, you're drinking tequila, babe."
That immediately got a response from the brothers. Mark, always the cool one, just smirked, but Justin broke into laughter. At my glare he quickly turned it into a very obvious cough, but none of the Harris boys could hide their mirth. Not that they were particularly trying.
Unfortunately, thanks to one momentous night last year during winter break, an entire club full of people discovered what happens when me and a certain friend I like to call Cuervo get together. The result may or may not involve dancing on top of bars and getting free body shots. Needless to say, I was quite popular that night. But it was Charlie who took me home and got the strip show, so I knew that whatever fond memories he might have called up for Justin and Mark were nothing compared to his. The smug little grin on his face was only further proof of that.
Erin popped back into the picture and nudged my arm. "Hey, you ready to head out?"
Still glaring at Charlie, I responded with a crisp, "Quite."
She batted her eyes at her brothers and waved her fingers. "Ta ta, losers."
Justin made a very rude gesture – really, I don't know where they get these things – and Charlie just blew me a kiss before Erin and I turned heel and headed out. As we were leaving, I muttered, "Oh, I'm going to kill him. I'm going to rip him limb from limb. Possibly jump him. But definitely kill him."
Erin just laughed. "You are going to get hunted down tonight. Like Bambi but with an NC-17 rating."
"That doesn't make any sense at all."
"Yes it does," she retorted, and then began a stirring rendition of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" all the way back to the car.
We drove back to campus and met the rest of the girls at one of the school dormitories that was just a couple blocks from our designated gaming area. A few of the girls invited lived in the hall so it made it easy for all of us to get together, change into our battle gear, and go over the plan. Erin was a seasoned pro when it came to this, and made a show of putting on her war make-up and talking in elaborate war metaphors as she paired people off and made sure that everybody had the right numbers planned into their phones. There were fourteen of us, and out of that number only four of us – myself included – would be going alone. After eleven years of this shit, I'm pretty damn good at this game, but some of the girls would work in twos so they could look out for each other. Erin would have a partner simply so that she could have an extra set of eyes while she relayed messages and so forth to the rest of the team. Chelsea, of course, would be our lone hunter, prowling the grounds with a flashlight in one hand and a super-soaker in the other.
A super-soaker. That's right, you heard me. It's our sure-fired way to mark those who've been "found" from those who haven't – drown 'em.
As the appointed rendezvous time drew near, the excitement in the air grew palpable. Erin and I had spent most of the day exclaiming our enthusiasm for any who would stop to listen, but now I was pumped for a very different set of reasons. However much smack talk we did before and during the game, and despite the rules I'd set up for myself up to this point, when everything was said and done and we girls were victorious, I would have one hot piece of ass waiting for me. Talk about spoils of war.
Did he want to date me? I mean, date? Or was he just feeling particularly magnanimous? Or did he think that by feeding me he could butter me up and get me to do something really kinky after the party tomorrow?
Too many possibilities, really. Damn these crazy Harris men.
Camera flashes were going off and shots were being poured as the girls huddled together for pre-game pictures and drinks. Erin grabbed me and together we growled at Chelsea as she snapped off a couple of photos, yelling "Work it, work it!" like we were the next top models and she was Powers, Austin Powers. Everyone was in camouflage and jeans for this, and let me say, with our war paint and our pigtails and odd caveman noises, it was a brilliant and awe-inspiring moment. I was proud. Sniffle.
We got some looks as we headed to the fountain, but it only exhilarated us even more. There isn't much that can beat the game-day enthusiasm of a big group of college kids. I loved the pre-game high, and every time I glanced over at Erin she grinned at me and I knew we were thinking the same thing: Fucking Awesome.
The boys were already there when we arrived, some decked in similar camo gear and some all in black like this was Mission Impossible. I was charged with filling up the super-soaker and so I left Erin to confer with Greg over last minute details and made my way to the fountain. Chelsea fell into step with me and hurled cheerful insults and death threats to every boy we passed. Some of them were beyond funny and by the time I'd begun filling the bottle up with fountain water I was laughing and grinning like an idiot.
"So I've bet Justin fifty bucks that he will be soaked by the end of the night," Chelsea told me, leaning against the edge. "I plan on cheating, of course, so if I don't actually find him you'll have to help me throw him in the fountain."
This girl was funny. "Gladly," I replied, screwing the first bottle back into the super-soaker. As I started on the second one, she whipped out her camera again and snapped a few pictures of me. The girl was known for her photography – her camera was practically surgically attached to her hands and she made party pictures look like they belonged in Time Magazine. Let's just say the Dixie cup had never looked better.
"I must chronicle everything," she said, fixing something on her camera. "Last year the weather was too icky, so I must seize my chance while I can. I think I might make a photo journal out of this for class."
"You are very odd," I told her, smiling. "Of all the things to turn in…"
Chelsea snapped another quick picture. "This is far more interesting than any stupid sob story on the homeless or old people at the nursing home. Everybody always does shit like that, so I want to make sure my pictures are extra out there."
"I think you're definitely going to manage that just fine." I screwed the second bottle in place and tested the super-soaker briefly before handing it to her.
"Plus, it's a great opportunity for blackmail," she added, and took the gun with a grin. It was an evil grin, and in it I could see why Justin liked her so much – they would fit together very well, if they ever got over their constant need to antagonize each other.
"Why does that sound so ominous?" I asked.
"Because I have no mercy?" She suggested.
Somebody tugged one of my pigtails from behind and then I felt an arm slip around my waist casually. "I thought of something else to add to our bet," Charlie told me, his lips far too close to my ear to be safe. I could feel his warm breath on my neck and it was terribly distracting. "Winner gets to choose the restaurant."
"I think that goes without saying," I responded, and pinched his hand to stop it from wandering. "Don't you have some praying to do? Before our total female victory ensues and you have to shell out lots of money to take me to Stefano's?"
It was my favorite restaurant, a cute little whole in the wall place with authentic Italian and a guy who plays the mandolin on weekends, and it was not cheap. I could already taste the delicious manicotti and their freshly baked bread soaked with olive oil.
"Can I get a good luck kiss first?" He asked, though he was already hooking his finger in my jeans to pull me closer. The boy had a very dangerous habit of putting his hands in the vicinity of my lower regions far too often.
"No," I said, stubborn like a child, but that didn't stop him – not that I thought it would. He leaned in, going straight for the kill this time, but a sudden flash interrupted us once again and distracted me enough to skirt away from his too-tempting lips.
Chelsea managed to look innocent as she snapped another picture, this time of him scowling. The super-soaker was slung over her shoulder, the plastic blue end of it sticking up comically like a hunting rifle. "What? It was too great of an opportunity to pass up."
"No luck for you," I wagged my finger at him as I backed away. "I want my dinner."
Charlie smirked at me, watching me go. "We'll see about that, Addles."
I checked my watch. It was fifteen past midnight and our three-hour time limit was nearing. So far I'd hidden in about six different places, and had only two close calls with Steve and the squirt gun. Both times I would have been caught, if only he'd checked the area a little more thoroughly, and I thanked the Hide or Die gods for picking a rookie as the men's seeker this year. According to Erin, we still had a decent number of girls in hiding; she was good at updating everybody and keeping tabs on the action by the fountain. I'd managed to help Chelsea out and sic her on a few unsuspecting guys, as well, so all in all the night was turning out pretty well. It wasn't over yet, but I had high hopes.
The one thing that hadn't happened was Charlie. I didn't exactly want to admit it but I was a little disappointed that he hadn't found me and ripped all my clothes off, as Erin had previously predicted. Twice now he'd come so close to making me buckle. Now I was squirming thinking about how he hadn't kissed me yet; how his mouth hadn't made its claims already. And of course thinking about how it hadn't happened yet only made me remember all of the times it had in the past. I felt flushed and distracted, and though I knew it was a recipe for disaster it certainly didn't stop my mind from wandering into forbidden territory.
I rubbed my face and pulled my knees up to my chest. My current hiding spot was one of the best I'd ever had – the roof of the Brendlinger Building. The part of the building I was on was only one story, but other wings of the building went up to two, three, and four stories. I'd climbed an old oak and dropped down from one of its branches to get here – no easy feat. Probably a really stupid one, too. But the chances of anybody finding me here besides campus security were slim to none. This was an advantage I definitely needed, considering my head was so not in the game.
My cell phone vibrated in my pocket and I shifted so I could pull it out, glad for the distraction.
Greg's been caught!! ;D was the message so happily displayed. I grinned at the news and quickly texted Erin back, knowing she was totally loving this development.
Long live Erin Harris, Queen of Hide or Die! May the evil and unrighteous brothers quail beneath her almighty power and buy her lots and lots of liquor.
Thank you, thank you. Where are you? Is your spot good? I might send a couple girls your way.
Oh, it's brill. I hope they can climb.
WTF?? Where the hell are you, Addles?
Roof of the Brendlinger Building. I shimmied up the tree.
You're fucking crazy, girl.
Erin sent no more texts after that, and I figured I would shortly have some visitors, if said visitors were up to the task of climbing the oak and scrambling over. There was definitely plenty of room, and I wouldn't mind the company. I still didn't quite trust myself to behave.
Maybe twenty minutes later – less than half an hour until one, the official end time of this year's Hide or Die Challenge – I heard some leaves begin rustling determinedly and directed my focus to the edge of the roof where the tree was. The oak was a huge one with big sturdy branches, and anybody with adequate tree-climbing experience could probably make their way up. But some girls – even some guys – didn't always relish the thought of hauling themselves up limb by limb, so my awesome hiding spot wasn't necessarily accessible to everybody.
It was too dark to see who it was, but a dark shape was definitely in sight now, making its way across the branches. It paused every once in a while and I could imagine the girl checking herself, glancing around to make sure the coast was clear – I know I did the same. It told me that whoever she was, she was either an experienced player or a very intuitive one. I'd have to make sure she came back to play with us next year.
Then the figure dropped carefully onto the roof, and I saw that it was not a girl at all.
I pulled open my phone again and began texting. Erin, you are an evil and conniving little bitch. Your ass is mine.
Charlie crept over, glancing at my busily working fingers, and took a peek at the message. "Addles, darling," he whispered, settling down on his haunches in front of me. "That's not very nice."
"Never claimed to be," I muttered, and sent it. A few seconds later, she sent something back in return.
Nyah nyah! ;p
When I scowled at the dimly lit display, Charlie just grinned and took the phone from me. He closed and pocketed it without even so much as glancing at it; instead, his focus was entirely on me. "I promised to buy her some Bailey's if she helped me out," he explained, and wrapped his hands around my ankles, rubbing along the tendons there gently with his thumb. It should not have turned me on as much as it did, but then again, generally being in the same room with Charlie tended to have that effect on me.
"You suck," I sulked in response.
He inched closer. "You would know."
I was glad for the dark because there was no way I wasn't going to blush at that. For appearance's sake I kept my sulk on and lifted my chin indignantly. My heart might have been beating excitedly and my skin was tingling in anticipation, but I wasn't going to let him know that. He didn't need to know how easily he could make me a wet hot mess. "I'm pretty sure you're breaking some rules here. Fraternizing with the enemy, and such."
His mouth quirked into a sexy little smirk and another line of my defenses went down. How was a girl supposed to think rationally when he had that kind of ammunition to fight with? "Funny, I don't remember Greg mentioning anything like that at dinner," he retorted, and pulled my legs out on either side of his hips as he leaned forward. The action forced me to on back on my elbows for support and sent the want in me spiraling out of control. God damn, he was good.
"Shit, Charlie, that hurt—" I started to protest, despite the lust, but he loomed closer, holding himself up on one arm, and the thought completely dropped from my lips. His lower half was the closest it had been to mine since New Years and the only thing I could think about now was how much closer I wanted it to be.
"Oh, my poor baby," he purred, and nuzzled my neck. I could practically feel the noise reverberate through me and it made absolute soup of my insides. If that wasn't enough, he jerked his hips closer, grinding slowly, and the fight instantly went out of me. I couldn't quite repress a groan and leaned my head back, offering my neck up for his perusal – the most primitive sign of surrender possible. And I was feeling very, very primitive right now.
His mouth moved over my throat, and though I felt his breath slide like feathers over my skin, so warm and moist and nice, he didn't put his lips to work just yet. "So, while I have your attention…" His voice was still low but there was a strong undercurrent of amusement now and I couldn't fight a grin in response. Oh, he had my attention, all right. "I'd like to bring something up."
"I'm pretty sure something is up already," I murmured demurely.
Charlie chuckled, and I shivered. "Yes, well," he continued, "Be that as it may, I thought I'd let you know that I'm considering transferring here."
That made me pause, and I lifted my head to look at him. This shift brought our faces very close, and I studied his mouth for a second before lifting my eyes to his. His eyes were dark in the dim light, almost black, and he took my scrutiny patiently, his face remarkably composed considering he was still occasionally rubbing himself against me. After a moment, I repeated quietly, "Considering?"
"Yes," he agreed. "Kind of like how I'm considering fucking you senseless right here."
"Hmm. I'm pretty sure public fornication is somewhat illegal in this state."
The corner of his mouth quirked up. "If the paperwork comes through in time, I'll start here in the fall."
I was suddenly reminded of Erin's queries into my love life and couldn't help but wonder now if Charlie had something do with that the entire time. This wonderful sort of aching feeling was beginning to flood my chest. I felt breathless, and a little elated. "You don't say."
"Technically, I just did."
I narrowed my eyes playfully. "So that 'considering' thing was totally dishonest."
His eyes drifted to my mouth. "No, I still really want to fuck you."
The door to the roof swung open then, squeaking loudly on poorly oiled hinges, and a campus security guard stepped out. He swung his flashlight over us and called out, "All right, you two, off the roof."
Charlie made a frustrated sound and his shoulders drooped comically before he pushed himself off me. As he helped me to my feet, he muttered under his breath, "Un-fucking-believable."
I couldn't contain a giggle, even though I shared his incredulity – what was that, the third time? No one had ever interrupted us in the past, and now we couldn't even get one lousy kiss in. What kind of evil, mean-spirited God would build the sexual frustration up so high and then cut in before it could be even remotely sated? It wasn't right, man. Not right at all.
The guard seemed more amused than anything else – apparently he often found students cavorting around on rooftops – and followed us downstairs through the building to make sure we left. Before shutting and locking the door behind us, the guard called out, "Do yourselves a favor and take it somewhere indoors, all right?"
Charlie saluted him, smirking, and squeezed my hand. I just giggled. Since there were only about ten minutes left in the game, we didn't bother to scramble for another hiding place and instead began walking back towards the fountain.
"You're—" I paused, thinking about how ridiculous I was about to sound, and then shook my head and continued anyway. "You're like a gummy bear, you know that?"
He raised an eyebrow at me. "Pardon?"
"Stay with me here. You're like a gummy bear – you're cute, a little odd, and unbelievably delicious, and right now all I want to do is suck on your—"
The feeling of being squirted with large amounts of cold water stopped me in my tracks and I whirled around, pointing accusingly at the perpetrator. Steve must have just popped around the corner because I know he hadn't been there a second ago. As it was though, he was grinning quite widely and patting himself on the back. "Boys rule, girls drool," he said, before I could begin impressing him with elaborate insults.
I faltered. "Wait, what?"
"You were the last of the ladies, hun'," he said cheerfully. "The men officially win."
I gaped at him, and then turned my disbelieving stare on Charlie, who just shrugged. "I told you we'd win," he remarked, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Give me my phone," I demanded in response.
He handed it over quite lazily. "I think you were about to say something wonderful. Something about wanting to suck on my—"
I covered his mouth in response, and focused on retrieving the eight different messages that had appeared since I'd last texted Erin. "Mother fucker!" I stomped my foot, back to sulking as I read through my team's downward spiral in the last few minutes. It seemed as though some of the girls had gotten a little too confident towards the end and the boys had pounced accordingly. And everything had started so promisingly!
Just as I read the last message I got another from Chelsea, reminding me about my promise to help her dump Justin in the fountain. That was an obligation I was more than happy to fulfill at this point. "Excuse me," I announced, flipping my phone shut and starting for the fountain. "I have to go end a life."
Charlie and Steve shared a high five and followed after me, speaking loudly about how superior a force they were and how much they couldn't wait to party for free tomorrow night and take full advantage of those promised bragging rights. That, on top of the sting of losing and my now raging sexual frustration, made it very easy for me to march over to Chelsea and suggest that she help me score some justice with one other particular Harris man after we finished with Justin. Chelsea wholeheartedly agreed, and then rubbed her hands together. "All right, let's do this."
She went over near the fountain and called Justin over as I snuck around. Erin quickly caught on to what was going down and circled the other way, her eyes glinting quite evilly. Justin was far to preoccupied with preening in front of Chelsea to see us coming, and between the three of us we managed to pick him up and toss him in. He made for Chelsea after that but she danced away, laughing, and shouted, "Be a doll and stay there, will you?"
The thing about Harris men is that they never listen. Justin chased after the shrieking girl, apparently intent on giving her a big, wet hug. Just as I realized that I'd lost one partner in crime, I caught Erin backing away sneakily out of the corner of my eye and knew instantly what was about to happen. And then Charlie had me off my feet and we were moving back to the fountain.
"Oh, you are done," I told him and his accomplices as I tried to wriggle out of their grasp. "You are all done."
Mark grinned back, but Greg merely scoffed. "Addles, please stop squirming. You're making this very difficult."
The water was cold, but if anything, it was a welcome relief to the hormonal flashes of warmth I'd been feeling just moments before. When I surfaced, I glared at all three of them and pushed my hair out of my face. My eyes settled on Charlie, who perched near the edge of the fountain with an incredibly pleased look on his face. "You," I said, splashing at him to emphasis my point, "Are definitely not getting any tonight."
He'd danced away from the water, but my words brought him right back again. There was no hesitation in him whatsoever as he hopped over the ledge and joined me in the fountain. In his eyes was a certain, familiar gleam and I felt the excitement build in me again. "Wait, what did you say?" He asked, feigning doubt. "I can't be sure, but I think you just insinuated that you were going to withhold sex as punishment, just because you're a little wet."
"Oh, I'm more than a little wet," I started to retort, resorting to splashing to keep him at bay.
He caught me anyway, and gave me another one of his sexy little smirks. "Trust me, I know," he replied, and pulled me against him roughly as he held my wrists together behind my back. I think Greg or somebody whistled at that, but I couldn't really be bothered to spare him or anybody else any attention. Charlie's eyes were locked on mine again, his expression smug. He was right – totally and completely right – and we both knew it.
"You are such a sexy little bastard," I told him, and this time I didn't wait for him to make a move. I went up on my toes and claimed his mouth for mine, kissing him with everything I had. He immediately relinquished my wrists in favor of my hips, going so far as to pull one of my legs back up around his hip. It was a familiar position to both of us and, perhaps, not a very wise one, all things considered.
"Hot damn!" A flash went off a second later and I began to turn my head, ready to throw something witty at Chelsea and her damn camera, but Charlie was having none of it.
"Oh no you don't," he growled, and brought my mouth back under his. The kiss was hard and in no way decent for our very public space, but there was no stopping us – not after so many interrupted attempts. I curled my leg around him even more, pushing his hips into mine, and tangled my fingers in his hair. The only thing that made it through the lust-induced fog in my mind was a very furtive, Oh God, thank you thank you thank you…
When we finally backed off, having gotten a little – but by no means all – of our frustrations somewhat sated, Charlie moved his lips to my ear and kissed it rather gently before whispering, "So how does Stefano's sound? I'll buy."
I grinned, sliding my leg off of him… for the moment. The kiss had attracted some attention and as much as I wanted to continue molesting him right there, I didn't exactly want an audience. "If you insist."
"Oh, I do," he agreed, and tugged on one of my braids. "I think this will be the first of many, in fact."
"I think that is an excellent idea."
He took my hand and began pulling me out of the fountain with him, a very sinister grin appearing quite suddenly on his face. "No, an excellent idea involves us testing out that little gummy bear theory of yours, post haste."
I laughed, feeling deliriously happy with the way things had turned out. "If you insist," I repeated melodramatically, deciding once and for all that this game – our beloved Hide or Die Summer Challenge – was quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Well, that and gummy bears.