Carnival Contest

Fake boyfriends. Sarcasm. Hand Holding. Find it all in One Little Word. Here’s an excerpt.

Ryan

Luke stared down my grinning form, his arms crossed against his chest, a reverse of our earlier position. Except his arms were more impressive, muscles bulging and straining against the material of his shirt. I teased him to avoid the distraction.

“Now you’re the one who’s a sore loser,” I said. I held a cake wrapped in plastic in my hands. It was white frosting with sprinkles and funfetti cake. Luke tried to get me to pick brownies instead, he was so weird. Funfetti was the best.

He wasn’t impressed. “That was entirely luck based.”

“There was no rule there had to be skill involved.” The possibility of winning sweet treats kept him from complaining when I selected the cakewalk, but he probably didn’t expect me to win. Maybe I had good karma stored up because I always won cakewalks.

“You’re at least sharing that cake with me,” he argued.

“Keep dreaming.”

Luke had given me a root beer when he won the ring toss, which was unexpectedly sweet. Not that he gave it to me, he was probably trying to bribe me into the dunk tank but that he remembered my beverage of choice. I might share my dessert, but he didn’t need to know that yet.

We did basically every event, jostling and trash talking each other at every opportunity. Things that weren’t even really a competition we turned into one, like the duck pond. Except we got into an argument about what actually constituted winning, getting a higher number or drawing a duck that earned two candies instead of one.

It was almost time to head back to our booth. We had time for one more game, where the objective was to knock down cans with bean bags. This was another game where Luke had an advantage, but Alicia was manning the booth for community service credit, so maybe she would help me out.

She just stared at us when we stepped up to her table. “Isn’t this game a little too easy for you?”

Luke nodded. “For me, but I have to give Ryan a fighting chance.”

“Tell that to duck pond, jackass,” I told him hotly.

I won the duck pond, not you.”

Before we could get into it further, Alicia held up her hand. “Yeah, this and the duck pond are for kindergarteners. You know that, right?”

We looked around. The cans were regular empty pop cans, and the bean bags were about half their size, so it did seem pretty simple. Unless you were six and could barely aim. And the people in this line were especially young and all of them had parents holding their hands who were looking at us in exasperation. The little competitive bubble Luke and I were in burst.

“Oh, I guess we shouldn’t do this one then,” Luke said, sounding as silly as I felt. It had been so easy to get absorbed in trying to beat him, everything else was in the background. There was a lot of trash talking and bragging when one of us won with petulant whining from the loser. I wouldn’t admit I hadn’t minded being in Luke’s presence for the moment, that it was almost fun.

“No, don’t let that stop you. By all means, play the angriest game of Can Knock Down the world has ever seen.” Her sarcasm skills were almost as good as mine.

We retreated from her booth as she laughed at us for being giant children. I wished I hadn’t drank the root beer Luke gave me. I could have chucked it at her.

“So, who won?” I asked.

I’d stopped keeping score at one point, just wanting to beat him so he wouldn’t be so smug. Plus, maybe he had this ridiculous pout whenever he lost that I wanted to kiss away. Ugh. Being attracted to someone I hated was difficult. I’d feel the urge to punch him one moment and want to shut him up with my tongue in his mouth the next.

“I’m not getting in the dunk tank again,” Luke declared. He looked like he had a bad spray tan, but even orange he was still hot. I didn’t think I could pull off that look so well.

“What if I promise not to accidentally dunk you?” I offered.

“That doesn’t stop everyone who tries to hit the bullseye.”

I smiled. “I may be able help with that too.”

“I knew it!” He rounded on me in anger for a moment. “You’re such a cheater!”

“Do you want to cry about it or do you want me to rig it?” I asked.

He stopped and paused. “Definitely, definitely rig it.”

~~~

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