Rewind (Book 2)

By CJ Adler All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

Chapter 37: Overkill

I jostle awake when feeling myself being lifted off the ground. It’s only when my eyes fling open that I see that I’m no longer in my tent. Instead, my camping mattress is in the air, with me on it, being carried away.

“Let me down you savages!” I shout at the culprits - that being Landon and Dean.

I glance around to see pretty much everyone up and about already when it’s still very early in the morning. They are all seemingly irritated. It seems Lan and Dean have had quite the busy morning of pranking people, so it seems - surely Benley didn’t hang his own tent from a high tree overlooking the lake.

I shift to my knees, tempted to jump off of the mattress, but seeing as they’re running and seeing as they’ve lifted me up over their heads, I stay put. I don’t want to break a leg, well not one of mine in any case.

I only start yelling loudly at them when I see where they are headed - the water, the cold mass of icy water.

“Landon, I thought we were friends!” I whine, displeased with his betrayal. “I can see the damn sun rising. I don’t want to see the damn sun rising! This is an outrage! I am appalled! Not ever seeing the sun rise was on my bucket list!”

“Tough, everyone’s awake, Furbs,” Dean winks up at me, referring to the fact that they have pranked nearly everyone in the vicinity, including the peeved strangers all staring daggers into the back of Landon and Dean’s heads.

“Sarah!” I shout, hoping that she’d somehow hear me from the distance separating us. “Sarah!” I wave my hands through the air repetitively, hoping to capture her attention. “Your stupid boyfriend is harassing me!”

She’s too preoccupied in talking to AJ (it seems she’s left BoyBand to suffer the wrath of Landon and Dean’s hands).

Before I can shout another plea, I’m tossed, along with my mattress, into the freezing cold lake. I plummet off the mattress on impact before soaring through the air like a Bald Eagle. I land into the lake with a loud splash.

I instantly kick up, breaking the surface for a breath as mine suddenly disappears from the shock to the body.

“I’m not happy!” I sputter in a cough of water as I swim as fast as I can to the bank of the lake, refusing to let myself feel the cold. I climb out, my wet hair sticking to my top and to my forehead, blocking my vision. I carelessly flip my hair aside before I narrow my eyes at the both of them - my persecutors - in warning, “Run.”

“What?” Dean asks with a raised eyebrow, puzzled. He catches on when he sees Landon take off sprinting without any hesitation. He soon dashes after his friend, worried for his life - he should be!

That should tire them out...

“What the hell is all that racket about?” I hear Benley ask as he unzips his tent. With his eyes still closed, he pops his head out and takes in a breath of fresh morning air.

I stifle my laughter, deciding not to warn him of his inevitable and impending doom.

He lazily stretches and yawns before crawling out onto nothing, hence why he falls from his tent into the icy water below him, joining in on what I had just experienced.

I burst out laughing at the sight of him dropping through the air like an anchor being thrown out to sea. It’s hilarious when you’re not playing the victim. I see the humor in it.

BoyBand resurfaces with a stunned look drawn upon his features as it all slowly resonates with him.

“Who did this to me?! I want names and I want them now!” he suddenly shouts through erratic breathing, scrambling to the shore, in dire need of warmth. “Mark my words, you’ll pay, you’ll all pay!” he raises his tone in anger, forgetting to mind his step.

I laugh louder when he slips in the mud, face-fist. I giggle, having to crouch down for support when he gets back up to his feet, his face now painted brown. He spits out a mouthful of dirt before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“What’s so funny, Aqueela?!” he snaps venomously at me. He motions down to his filthy self before gesturing to his tent in the tree, “Are you the one responsible for this?”

I immediately clamp my mouth shut and shake my head before he gets any ideas. I’ve suffered enough.

“What’s wrong, my precious Ben Ben?” AJ asks when hearing the shouts of rage escaping her berserk fiancé. She’s knows exactly what happened. She let it happen. She’s just playing dumb now - I can see the mischievous glow behind her bright blue eyes.

“I’m so cold!” Benley shivers as he grabs hold of her to hug her, holding her closely to him, in need of any warmth whatsoever.

She pats his head in sympathy, running her fingers through his hair, “It will be alright.”

“I’m so cold, AJ. I don’t remember how it feels to be warm. It’s been so long. I don’t know if I’ll make it,” he says dramatically, bending his knees to lay his head on her chest, breathing in her scent as he tightens his grip.

AJ gasps and shoves him away, “I know what you’re doing! You’re such a flirt!”

“I could die of hypothermia, AJ! Do you not care?” he shudders from the cold, opening his arms wide to hug her a second time. She steps back from him in time, toying with him. “Do you want me to die? Do you?”

I roll my eyes at him overexaggerating. You’d think he really is in some prissy boyband.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Ben’s old flirtatious side. I almost forgot how he used to be with the ladies. He and Blubber worked as a tag team...well so thought Blubber - he only drove all the girls right into Benley’s arms.

I wrap my arms around myself, trying to conserve some body heat. My eyes stray back to the lake only to see Blubber himself asleep on his own floatable matress.

He’s far out, unknowingly and slowly drifting further and further away from us, still snoring his head off.

Fine, props to Lan and Dean. They happen to be legends.

The bobbing motion of the current seems to stir him awake. He sighs and rolls over, rolling right into the lake.

I throw my head back, unable to contain my laughter anymore.

“You like their pranks now?” AJ asks me upon seeing my amusement.

I shrug, “I like it, but I don’t love it.”

“I like it, but I don’t like it,” Benley adds his input.

I shake my head at the goof and make my way back to my tent to change clothes. I stop short when overhearing Jay and Keagen’s conversation with the others.

“Oog get it already,” Oog rolls his eyes, “we,” he gestures to FeeBee, Gland, and Jam, “won’t kidnap people, or sacrifice people or throw stones at people anymore. We stop.”

"And?” Jay prods, gesturing for more whilst giving them the rundown of how to be normal and function like a regular human being and not behave like some devoled creature from the stone age.

Oog sighs loudly with another cheeky roll of his eyes, “Or use the lake as a private bathroom.”

“Better,” Jay nods solemnly, Oog mimicking him - he’s clearly irritated with the lecture being given. Jay turns his attention onto Troy, “What about you? What have you learned from this entire ordeal? What did we say?”

Troy yawns as if exasperated with the ongoing talk, as if he did nothing wrong, “If I’m tempted to put something on fire, I need to first come talk to one of yous,” he points to Jay and then to Keagen, submitting to their will.

“And if we’re not around?” Jay queries.

“Then don’t do it at all,” Troy mutters, frustrated with the new set of rules that he has to abide by. He perks up soon enough, “Unless-”

“No ‘unless’, Troy!” Keagen corrects him then and there. “You’re lucky Jay and Landon stopped the fire before it got out of hand,” he informs Troy, aware of the danger that it could have posed had they not stopped it in time.

Jay then turns to Ryan (who for once has no tech on him whatsoever seeing as Nancy banned him from it after the incident) next, “And what should you do during a fire? What should your first response be? I’m looking for common knowledge here.”

He smirks, up to no good, “Stop, drop and roll.”

Jay phrases the question differently, “Before you’re on fire?”

Ryan groans as if being forced to say it, “Run,” he says quietly and reluctantly.

“What’s that?” Jay cups a hand to his ear, messing with him.

“Run,” Ryan says loudly as he clarifies himself, “to stop playing games and to get as far away from the fire as possible.”

Jay nods, “Right. We shouldn’t even have to go over this with you.”

“Your life is more valuable than some game,” Keagen chips in, his eyes straying to Gland as if weary of his deadly stare.

“You think?” Ryan asks, oblivious, in denial.

“We’ve been over this a million times, Ry, if your life is in danger, you come first, not the game,” Nancy narrows her eyes at her boyfriend, concerned.

Keagen nods in agreement as he steps back from Gland as if cautious and slightly afraid.

“You staring at me ’cause I’m black?” Gland, having noticed the paranoid staring, immediately asks Keagen in spite of being the one to stare at him first. He always resorts to the ‘because I’m black?’ tactic. “What? You never seen a black man before?”

“Stop being racist to the convict,” Ryan shakes his head at Keagen reprimandingly, joining in on the fun. He’s getting even. He’s fearless. He’s a fearless tech geek - one of a kind.

“How am I being racist?” Keagen frowns, confused.

“You think he’s black!” Oog furiously shouts at Keagen as if it’s obvious, now very offended on behalf of his best friend.

“Not cool brah,” Jam shakes his head at Keags, “you just don’t do that.”

“He is black,” Keagen states, perplexed by the sudden argument.

“How dare you?!” Troy gasps at Keagen’s insinuation.“You racist bastard. You ignorant imbecile! He has feelings too, BroKeag!”

“But he is black,” Keagen insists.

“Stop right there man,” Jay teases with Keagen in jest, “you’re pushing for a punching.” He motions to a seething Gland, “You’ve evidently insulted the guy.”

"How? Please tell me how,” Keagen sighs in exasperation as if exhausted with the lot of them, the joke lost on him.

“Take it easy on the loser,” I step in, defending Keags, “he doesn’t get humor.”

“Clearly,” Ryan chuckles.

“Who said we were joking?” Gland raises his eyebrows at me as if daring me to argue.

“Put a sock in it, Gland, we both know I’m not afraid of anyone,” I wink at him playfully. I fear nothing!

“What happened to you?” Jay asks, taking in my wild and wet appearance.

“Landon and Dean,” I scowl at the reminder.

“It seems we have to talk to those two too,” Keagen says to Jay, pitying himself in the process when we all really know that he likes being in control, it’s an act. “Maybe we can slot them in after Laiken, Mia and Zac,” he kids...at least I think he’s kidding. “We can address the fire matter with Landon at the same time,” he suggests. “Landon needs to know that he cannot just walk into fires unarmed and unprepared. He’s not a water bender.”

“You go ahead,” Jay encourages, “I think he can handle himself.”

“You’re going to get sick,” Nancy tells me, “go and change,” she advises, “or at least get warm. Get your body temperature up again before you freeze to death.”

“I bet Jay can help her with that,” Ryan grins mischievously before sending Jay a thumbs up followed by a careless yet implying wink.

Jay, seemingly pissed off, shakes his head before walking away, grumbling a ton of obscenities beneath his breath.

“Jeez,” Ryan spins around to face the rest of us, “what’s gotten into him?”

Nancy whacks him upside the head, “You just openly mocked him, what did you expect? How did you expect him to react?”

Ryan shrugs before giving a confessing yet proud nod, “Yeah, okay, exactly like that,” he admits, boastful of his actions and not at all apologetic.

I stare at him in wonder before shaking my head at the myth before me, “This is exactly why you don’t have any friends,” I tell him, drawing to my own conclusion. He’s hopeless. There is no hope for him. He’s a lost cause. He’s cruising for a bruising.

“Correction,” he holds up a finger, “one friend, one,” he emphasizes before pointing to me with a cunning smirk.

“I’m more disgusted than flattered...wait,” I pause, building up suspense, “I’m just disgusted. Yup, it’s just disgust. We’d be actual friends if you fundamentally changed everything about yourself.”

“Why you always gotta be so harsh?”

“Because it’s no fun if I’m not.”

*~*~*~**~*~*~*

It’s much later in the day and the sun is finally showing her ugly face, one she could’ve shown much sooner had she not been so selfish. I almost froze to death for crying out loud. I have the right to hate everything and anything, especially Grey.

“You’re going to lose,” I tell him quietly yet threateningly, taking my fury out on him even though he’s been behaving thus far. Still, I need my personal punching bag and Ferrot always seems to make the cut. He’s good at what he does.

“You’re on, Lawson!” he rages with fury, immediately taking me up on the challenge.

I don’t miss a beat, noticing the giant black tube under his arm, matching that of mine and everyone else’s as we all hike our way up to the start of the river, ready for some water entertainment. I take the easy way out and just roll the tube. If it were a tire, I would sit in it and force someone to roll me up the hills.

“Is there a race?” Landon questions, overhearing us. “I’m in!” he agrees, despite the lack of invitation. His competitive streak got the best of him.

Sarah merely rolls her eyes, used to Landon being unromantic and uninvolved. He’s always on his own mission and she’s alright with it.

“What race now?” Jay asks, probably fearing that he won’t be as talented in the water than what he is on the tracks.

Grey shrugs at Jay, clueless yet riled up, “I have no idea, all I know is that I’m going to beat and destroy Lawson, completely humiliate her. Hopefully, I’ll be able to drown her somewhere in the process, like on the way there.”

“On the way where?” Jay questions, completely lost.

“Who cares? Just get with the program, JT,” Grey replies hurriedly, more than ready to try and dominate and conquer. His eagerness will prove to be a calamity. Nevertheless, no doubt, he’ll lose. The only thing he’s ever won is the race to his mother’s egg.

“I would,” Jay starts off calmly, growing slightly agitated by the second as he continues on with sheer determination, “if there were an actual program to get with!” he raises his tone, an indication of his patience wearing thin.

“So cranky,” BossMan elbows Jay, willing him to return back to his relaxed persona. He’s been all over the place, no thanks to Ryan.

“Dudes and dudettes,” Jam segues, “this is our instructor for the day and his name is Peanut Butter. We’re best friends now - soul sisters.”

I arch an eyebrow at the new guy, “Peanut Butter, really?” I ask, intrigued by the outright lie that had escaped Jam’s deceitful mouth of evil intention.

He shakes his head just as Jam nods his - total contradiction.

“We’re PB&J now!” Jam exclaims in pure excitement. “It’s like a special dream come true.”

“Or just a normal dream that doesn’t come true,” I counteract his lies, bursting his balloon of pride swelling within him. I proceed forth and throw a loose arm around Grey’s waist, “We’re super close like PB&J too,” I tease, purposely annoying him as I let Jam in on the secret.

“No, we’re not!” Grey snaps at me, shoving me away in detest.

I break out into a happy-go-lucky grin as I meet Jam’s gaze, “He loves me,” I conclude, jutting out my thumb in Grey’s direction.

“I see it,” Jam nods, convinced.

Grey raises an eyebrow at him as if to ask ‘how’.

“Anyway,” Peanut Butter continues on as if trying to brush Jam and his delusional self aside, “this is how it’s going to work,” he gives further instructions that I mindlessly nod to in spite of not listening at all. He hands us each a life jacket before motioning us all to get into the water. “Just remember rule no.1, always stay behind the guide,” he carefully adds as we follow his lead.

His words get away from me, probably because I don’t feel like obeying at this stage, or listening for that matter. Rules aren’t my strong point.

I slip on the jacket over my bikini before hurriedly zipping it up. I splash into the cold water passed all of them as I hold my tube and jump on. I end up falling through the middle much to Grey’s insulting laughter as he thrives on my misfortune.

I glower at him, desperate to get on my tube and get going - the first one that reaches the pool of water at the end of the river wins the race. I’m more than determined to at least kick Grey’s ass in this. It’s showtime, the battle of the foes, and I’m prepared to come out on top and be eternally victorious. It’s going down for realzies. Let the final countdown begin!

Once I’m back on my tube, I bravely start paddling down the river, hoping to join the quick current and become one with it. I’ll be grateful for rapids at this point in time, no matter how crazy I may seem.

“You’re so stupid!” Grey’s loud laughter echoes after me down the river bed as if he knows what’s about to happen next.

Forget him, Aqueels, he’s just trying to distract you in order to pass you. He’s trying to get into your head, but it’s okay, your mind is like a fortress. You’ve got the lead and you refuse to give it up now.

“Hey! Come back here!” I hear Peanut Butter call from somewhere behind. He soon catches up to me, experienced, and stops me by yanking my tube to the side. “Did you not hear rule no.1, the rule I emphasized a million times, the most important rule of all?”

“Always have fun?” I respond sheepishly, trying to rack my mind for the possibility of what he might have said.

“Stay behind the guide,” he repeats, clarifying himself through extreme sternness.

“Question,” I raise my hand in the air and wave it in front of his face until he has no choice but to slap my hand away, “can you like...not come with us?” I ask rudely, dead serious. He’s irritatingly bossy and he’s rules and regulations are annoying me.

“I have to come with as a safety precaution,” he informs me, unimpressed by my bluntness. “It’s my job. I get paid to do this. If anything happens, it’s on my head.”

I hope he gets fired...

“See ya at the end, loser!” Grey yells at me as he passes on by in a swift motion. I’d miss it if I blinked.

Damn him! I hope he breaks a leg...literally.

“Don’t pass the guide!” I shout back, infuriated that my lead has just diminished to nothing in front of my eyes. It’s no thanks to this peanut butter fool in front of me.

“Screw the guide!” Grey retorts sourly, persistent to get far ahead of me. He’s not wasting any time and it’s putting me on edge.

“I didn’t know we were starting yet! No fair!” Landon wails as he paddles after Grey in the hopes of passing him.

“Come back here you two imbeciles!” the guide scolds them, furious. When I try to go follow suit, the guide stops me yet again, “You’re not going anywhere,” he reprimands me in an authoritative tone of voice.

“But you are!” I hiss at him impatiently before pushing him backward with all my might, so much so that he loses his balance and tips off his slippery tube into the water.

I take my chances and escape whilst I still can, going with the literal flow as I head after the other two in front of me.

It should take this idiot a while to get back on his tube, especially since it’s been taken halfway downstream by now. He’ll have to swim for it.

I grin giddily to myself as I grab a passing stick and use it to my advantage - an oar to paddle faster and to steer.

“You in a hurry there?” Jay asks as he swirls past me effortlessly, using his arms and legs to push forward through the water with haste.

I nod at him, barely paying him any attention.

You know it’s serious when I’m more focused on winning than on Jay and his shirtless torso.

He sees my intent focus and quirks an eyebrow my way, “You really want to win that bad, huh Aqueela?” he presses for a legitimate answer, curious.

"Obviously,” I say in a matter-of-fact way as I gesture back to the guide that I had tipped over as a result of his sucky attitude. “I’m willing to take any desperate measures. I always am. You know how I roll.”

He grins, carelessly adjusting his life jacket, as he thinks back on everything I’ve done in the past before nodding fervently, “Yeah,” he agrees with me before smiling mischievously, “yeah, you are pretty crazy.”

“I have to win,” I narrow my eyes at him in warning. I have no time to stop and chit-chat if he’s going to be completely useless. Winning is everything - lies, beating Grey is everything. Nothing can compare to the happiness and fulfillment I will receive when beating Grey and seeing him distraught over his failure. It will be sublime!

Jay lounges back in his tube with his arms folded behind his head as he casually allows the current to do the work for him. He’s unfazed by my reckless behavior. Instead, it’s almost as if he expects it. “You will win,” he states confidently with his eyes closed as the water splashes up against him and his tube, not that he seems to care much.

“I’m behind,” I complain, puzzled by his words.

He opens one eye and smirks knowingly at me before he grabs the stick from my hands. He uses it and points ahead to where Landon and Grey are stuck in a shallow part of the river. It’s misleading because you never see the rocks and sand until you hit them first.

“There’s your con about being ahead, you can’t see anything until you’re behind,” Jay tells me as if he has everything strategically planned down in his mind to the finest of details. “Now you can avoid the shallow side and pass them by with ease.”

I grin as it dawns on me. I grin even wider when we near the morons who both happen to be fighting a war that is proving to be futile.

Jay and I steer ourselves to the other side as not to get stuck where Lan and Grey are currently being held captive. I follow Jay’s lead, dodging all obstacles that may slow us down.

I laugh when Grey has to get off of his tube and physically push his tube off the mud in order to get back to the deeper parts of the river. He then still has to quickly hop back onto his tube before it floats away from him.

The sight of him struggling is incredibly amusing. It’s hilariously enjoyable. However, my laughter dies when Landon takes the lead with us just behind him.

Jay passes the stick back to me before motioning to Landon’s tube, “You know what to do. Do what you must...” he trails off, hinting at the obvious.

I grin wickedly at his devious suggestion before taking the sharp stick and plunging it into Landon’s tube.

“What the hell?!” Landon yells at me as his tube simmers down, flattening as the air escapes. He shakes his head in an overdramatic way as if to express his hatred for me. “You’re the reincarnation of...” he falters, too pissed of to think of anyone evil on the spot, “all crappy people!” he ends lamely.

“Hate the game, not the player!” I call back to him over my shoulder, uncaring of the many threats he’s now belting out at me.

“I still hate the player!” Landon shouts, angry that he was forcefully eliminated from the competition.

“Put it there,” Jay holds his fist out to me.

I grin ecstatically and fist bump him, pleased with my lead.

My joy crumbles, not lasting long, when Grey catches up to us.

“How?” I ask with raised eyebrows. “There’s no way...”

“Swam with the tube,” Grey states, filing in the blanks. I’d consider it cheating, but technically, he’s had his tube with him the entire time. He turns his attention onto Jay when noticing his presence, “You in the running too now?”

Jay shakes his head at Grey, purposely yet lazily spinning around on his tube for the fun of it as he kicks up water at me, “Nah man, just passing time and filling what’s left of my day with some fantastic entertainment.”

I scowl at Jay, covering my face from the icy water prickling at my features.

“Then can you stop teaming up with her and stop trying to sabotage me?” Grey asks with a frown, insistent that Jay not take my side on this one.

“Alright, alright,” Jay raises his hands up apologetically at his friend, “I’m out,” he instantly stops putting in effort, deliberately falling to the back once again, “see you guys at the finish line. I sincerely hope you guys tie.”

“You’ve just one-upped Grey in my ‘to hide bodies’ list!” I growl after him, bitter at the mere thought of tying with Grey - I’d rather gouge my own eyes out with a spoon.

The wind carries the sound of his infectious laughter forward, bringing an affectionate smile to my face at the thought of him being content in the moment. It’s enough to distract me as Grey swoops back into the lead.

I begin to panic when I see the end, the pool of water, coming up ahead.

Acting on impulse, I take to drastic measures, aiming before jumping off of my tube and onto Grey’s...and well...onto Grey.

The loud thud is not just an indication of my terrible landing skills, but it is also a sore reminder of the many possible bones I may have just broken, and the many possible bones broken in Grey on my account.

“What do you think you’re doing, Lawson?!” Grey asks through blatant anger. He unsurprisingly tries to shove me off of his tube, “Get off of me!” he commands, enraged, as he tries to push me off of his lap.

“No!” I push back at him, relentless. “You get out from under me!”

He places his hand against my forehead and pushes with more force, ”Get. Off.” he orders through clenched teeth, ticked off at my nerve.

“No!” I persist stubbornly.

The argument merely heightens after that:

“Don’t test me, I will drown you!”

“Sharing is caring!”

“That’s it! I’m drowning you!”

“You can try, but you’ll never succeed!”

“Say your prayers, Lawson, ’cause I’m done being the ‘nice guy’!”

His eyes flame up like a lit match and that’s when I realize that he means it. This is the last straw. He’s going to overpower me and really shove me off of the tube. He will then undoubtfully win and will forever hold it over my head for the ages.

I grab his shoulders to keep my balance, to restrain myself from falling in.

If I go in, so does he!

“You’ve always been a jerk,” I debate the matter in the hopes of finding a gap to get him off this damn tube. I’m hijacking it and there’s nothing he can do to stop me. His tube will be mine and so will victory!

“Agree to disagree,” he actually tries to argue with me on this one when he’s clearly lost before it’s even begun.

We go over another rapid and end up bumping heads. He glares daggers at me as if it’s my fault before he resorts to shoving me yet again. Nonetheless, my grasp is pretty powerful when I’m desperate for something, that being winning.

It’s the last rapid before the pool of glowing victory. If I don’t act fast, I can kiss coming first goodbye. I’ll be...dare I say it...tied with Grey flipping Ferrot.

I act on instinct alone, taking to extreme extreme majorly extreme extremely major measures that I would usually only take never, and stare up at Grey with a very serious expression written on my face before saying the unspeakable, “Ferrot, I think I’m falling in love with you.”

The words are like poison in my mouth and it takes everything in me not to collapse from repulse at even the slightest possibility of that ever happening.

Grey’s pushing hands fall limp at his side as he stops fighting and sputters out in shock and bewilderment, ”What?” He clarifies, tense, awaking from his stupor with a mumbled cough, “What did you just say?”

I don’t wait a second longer to expose his weakness and exploit it to my will. Seeing that he’s caught off guard, I immediately shove him backward and laugh deviously when he tips over, falling into the water with a splash.

It just so happens to be in time too.

I enter the enclosed pool at the end of the river - the pool of glowing victory - alone on a tube, thereby winning the race and coming out on top once again.

I smile to myself in satisfaction as I lay back on the tube, resting my beating heart and burning limbs as I slowly recover from the trauma.

Man, I am still a living legacy!

I still got it.

Talented.

*~*~*~**~*~*~*

“I want a rematch,” Grey continues to rant like he’d been doing for the last several minutes as we wait for the others to reach the end of the stream.

“Stalk the lantern?” Landon chirps in with an idea. “Girls versus guys.”

“But then Grey’s on the same team as me,” I mock.

Grey feigns a laugh before he resorts back to glaring at me, “Ha ha.”

“I thought it was pretty funny too,” I laugh lightly, really getting under Grey’s skin. He’s had it with me.

“Would you two quit fighting already?” Jay asks absentmindedly, his focus drawn elsewhere. His mind is in the clouds again. “Get over it.”

“Lawson cheated,” Grey defends himself, suddenly on the offense, “so no, I will not get over it, JT. She used a low blow on me.”

Landon shakes his head at Grey, “Do you hear yourself?”

“Leave me alone!” Grey snaps at him, beyond aggravated with the outcome.

Landon just grins, flashing Grey all his pearly whites.

I begin to grow antsy when Peanut Butter climbs out and marches our way. He throws an accusatory finger in our faces, “You three are never allowed to go tubing ever again!” He sees the bust tube in Landon’s arms, “And you owe the company a new tube!”

He storms off after that, none of us taking him seriously.

Jam shakes his head at us in disappointment before following after his precious Peanut Butter whose name I won’t care to learn.

I hide my smile and only show it again once they’re both successfully out of sight and out of mind.

“How is it that you don’t get yelled at too?” Lan asks Jay incredulously. “You always get off scot-free.”

Jay shrugs, a lazy grin on his face. “I’m likable.”

I have to laugh when I see Benley and AJ entering the end pool while talking away with each other and snapping selfies, both with their aviators on. They got swag alright.

Next is Nancy, seemingly pissed off with her boyfriend who manages to even play games even when going down ferocious rapids.

Max, Bells, Xavier, Emma and all the others follow suit with carefree expressions on their open faces. They’re all chatting amicably as if they just had a stress reliever, the time of their lives - opposite for Grey and me.

Troy’s just watching himself flex, Jezel gagging, whilst Simo and Blubber struggle to get out of their tubes, much to Susie’s amusement.

Zac, Mia, and Laiken are still having their issues and poor Mason is being dragged into their latest bicker of the century.

“Hey!” Max greets upon seeing us. “There you guys are! You should’ve stayed behind the guide.He gave us a tour and even showed us landmarks and stuff.”

“He did?” I pout in jealousy, now feeling envious for rushing ahead. Although, the gloating was most definitely worth it.

“Yeah,” Bells nods in enthusiasm, “and he’s so funny too!”

“He wasn’t that funny,” Max argues, shooting his wife a look.

I raise an eyebrow when seeing the lack of two certain beastly gentlemen, “Where’s Gland and Oog?”

“Alligator hunting,” FeeBee answers instantaneously.

“Don’t ask,” Emma warns me, giving me the heads up.

“Wasn’t going to,” I tell her, “was just going to ask why I wasn’t invited,” I joke, Emma smiling at me, a fan of my humor.

“So who won?” Sarah asks, breaking the peaceful atmosphere - that’s if you discount all Grey’s glares and scowls of hatred, as I did.

“I did!” I cheer in delight, taking my moment to shine. “Whoop! Whoop!” I flip upside down onto my hands, doing a handstand, before walking back into the river. When the water is just about touching my mouth, I stop. I try to reverse backward but find that I have no talent in this whatsoever. “Yeah, I didn’t think this through,” I confess aloud, “I’m too scared to flip back up. I’m going to get a mouthful of water.”

“You deserve worse,” Grey remarks, still incredibly bitter.

“Overkill, Aqueela,” Dylan chuckles.

Kyle, being the friendly guy he is, assists me in getting back to my two feet. I send him a thankful smile before shaking my head at Grey in disapproval, “Tsk, tsk, so bitter,” I voice my thoughts aloud, making them known to him.

“Screw you.”

“How dare you say that to someone who loves and adores you,” I giggle as I remind him of the words that literally took him out.

“Screw you, multiple times!”

*~*~*~**~*~*~*

“Can Simo be on girl’s team?” Simo queries timidly and shyly as he fidgets on the spot, seeking our permission.

“Why?” Nancy asks Simo scared, having no sympathy at all. I now get why Grey has a thing for her.

“It’s war. It going to be a bloodbath and Simo is scared boys will leave him to die at hands of all you pretty girlies,” Simo admits as he peeks down at all of us, lacking self-esteem, batting his eyelids at us like a damn butterfly trying to escape a spider.

“Oh Hon,” Bells empathizes, softhearted in nature (when she wants to be, that is), and places a comforting hand on his shoulder, “of course you can be on our side, Sweetie.”

I roll my eyes. Bells is so gullible. She’ll fall for anything.

Simo grins cunningly and turns to the guys and winks cheekily before gesturing to all us females.

“You little sh*t,” Landon laughs aloud, catching on way quicker than Bells, now aware of Simo’s plan to be surrounded by the ladies. “Who knew you had it in ya?”

“I did,” Nancy frowns moodily at having called that one, “I knew he had it in him.”

“Guy’s got game,” Laiken chuckles.

“Girlies,” Blubber starts, innocently batting his eyelids too, “may I also-”

“No,” Susie and AJ say in unison, bored as they pick away at their painted nails.

“Damn it!” Blubber curses at being caught red-handed. “They’re onto me,” he rambles to himself in spite of there never having been anything to be on to. We were like ten million steps ahead of him in any case.

“I’m pretty eager to get this over with,” Benley sighs grumpily, “can we just start already?”

“Yeah, I have some ass-kicking to do!” Max delves back into his competitive streak that only appears every once in a while, for example, a laser tag battle to the death. We were an excellent team, the best that mankind has ever seen.

“You can’t say that when the opposite team is made of just girls!” Bells hisses at her husband’s lack of manners.

She knew fully well that he wasn’t a gentleman when she decided to marry him.

“I will just say this then,” Max pauses dramatically, building up suspense, “heads will roll.”

No wonder Simo wanted to swap teams...

“What happens if the guys win?” Laiken asks with a smirk, too confident for his own good. I don’t miss Mia swoon over him despite her apparent feelings for Zac.

“You get all the tents and luxuries,” I speak up, placing down the terms and conditions for the winning team.

“And whichever team loses, roughs it out with mother nature,” Grey agrees, narrowing his eyes at me in a deathly challenge.

“Fine with me,” I shrug at him, “bring it on.”

“Oh, I will,” he threatens.

I glower up at him in turn.

“Okay,” Benley interrupts our glaring sesh with a glare of his own, “I did not agree to any of this.”

“You scared, Ben?” AJ teases in good strife. “’Cause you should be.”

“No, it’s just that the girl’s team will need some help or it just won’t be fair,” Benley gives his opinion on the matter.

“You take that back,” Emma warns.

She just so happens to be a feminist.

“Yeah, you take that back,” Nancy joins Emma as they stand before Benley in an intimidating manner, him slowly backing off in fear.

“I’ve learned to never underestimate women,” Xavier tells Benley, encouraging him to stop whilst he’s still able to. “Trust me, it’s like signing your own death warrant.”

Benley’s fortunate that he has a cool, laid-back girl or else he’d be in some serious trouble.

“I find that girls are easy to control,” Ryan argues with Xavier before winking at Nancy, referencing to the fact that she does everything he tells her to do. “You just gotta keep them in line, piece of chocolate cake,” he finalizes much to Nancy’s budding outrage.

“The reason I want to join the girl’s team is because Aqueela somehow always wins and I don’t want to freaken lose luxury, I won’t survive,” Benley explains himself and his sly ways, some of the guys murmuring in agreement as if he’s actually onto something. “I just used ‘the helping out the girls’ thing as an excuse,” he tells the truth.

In other words, he needs the girls.

I salute him for his efforts, “Good choice, BoyBand, you know your stuff. You are wise beyond your years.”

“Don’t get an ego about this,” he shakes his head at me before joining our side, Dylan and Troy following suit, their minds made up, Dylan mumbling to himself all the while - something on the lines of mosquitoes and Malaria.

These guys seem to have placed a lot of faith in me - idiots!

“Do I get to keep my iPad if we lose?” Ryan asks as if that is the only thing he’s concerned about. You’d think sleeping on the hard ground would bother him more.

No one answers him seeing as the answer is obvious.

Ryan gets it and quickly adds, “Then I’m the guy who stays by the lantern. I will be the judge of who captures it first. I’m not getting roped into this agreement. I need my tech.”

“You’ll be biased,” Nancy argues, “you’re a guy,” she points out the facts.

“Yeah, but I’m dating a girl,” Ryan reminds her with a wink.

“That doesn’t mean to say that-”

“I’m starting either way,” Jay suddenly calls to the guys as he heads to the opposite side of the small section of woods. He’s impatience has bested him yet again. He’s giving in to his temper more so than usual, especially today.

“Kill or be killed!” Max shouts at each of his fellow comrades passing him by, all of them blocking their ears and glaring at him with stares of evil intention for deafening them and limiting their intake on noise levels.

Landon, predictably, loses it with him, “Raise your voice at me again and just see what happens, pipsqueak! I’ll end you.”

Max instantly clamps down and shuts up.

“Stay out of my way,” Zac warns Laiken cockily.

Laiken attempts to reason with him, “Dude, can’t we just work things out and-”

“No,” Zac concludes adamantly.

Mason groans in despair, taking it upon himself to somehow mend their relationship. The maggot has become a peacemaker. It still boggles my mind.

We wait a few minutes for Ryan to find a suitable place to hide the lantern, taking a flashlight with him as he stumbles through the black trees. Once enough time has passed, I get the urgency to begin, and fortunately, Ryan senses it.

“Y’all can start!” Ryan calls from who knows where, probably preoccupied with his iPad, otherwise he would’ve just texted someone. He hates wasting his vocal chords when he can just use his phone for communication purposes. He may as well be mute.

“Alright,” I clap my hands to gather the girl’s attention, “let’s get going! I want my hands on that lantern. Follow his voice. Oh, and watch out for bears.”

“Simo don’t like bears,” Simo states fearfully, gulping as his eyes betray him to search the surrounding forest for any trace of wild animals. “Simo only like Panda. Panda is Simo spirit animal. Simo love the Panda. Big bear. Big, big bear. Black and white. No racist bear.”

I ignore Simo flat seeing as he’s just being a whining nuisance. Right now, he doesn’t deserve attention.

“No,” Nancy openly disagrees with me, “we have to first strategize-”

“Meh,” I wave her off, “I don’t really believe in planning. I’m more of the ‘win or else’ kind of girl.”

“You can’t win without tactics in place,” Nancy huffs, frustrated, as she tries to gain control of the operation.

Where’s Ryan when you need him?

FeeBee takes matters into her own hands and sprints passed us with a thunderous war cry before she tackles some form to the ground. I soon learn, by all his swearing, that Zac, unfortunately, is her latest victim.

I ignore her actions and Nancy’s words and turn to Bells instead, “What do you say to bringing back the force of Bequeela?”

Bell’s face brightens at the memory before she nods, elated with the solution to it all, “We were unstoppable.”

“We still are,” I say before grabbing her wrist as we run into the forest, sneaking about cautiously yet moving quickly toward the bright lantern some distance away.

My guess is that Emma will tag with Nance, and Sar with Susie and AJ. I don’t really know about FeeBee or Jezel. As for the guys on our team, who the heck cares? I don’t. I have more important things to worry about, like keeping my winning streak of gold. I will obliterate the other them to ashes. I am that skilled.

“Can you imagine if Click Clack Slide were lurking in the shadows right now?” Bells asks wearily as the cold wind picks up, the silhouettes of trees looming over us in a doomly fashion that neither of us want to fathom.

The thought is eery. Still, I’m up for anything. My adrenalin is spiked and nothing is going to bring it down. I’ll take out Click Clack and a grizzly. It’s whatever.

“For the hundredth time, Max, I can see you. I can see you with both my two working eyeballs. I can see you. You moved like ten times!” I hear Ryan tell Max from close by as we near our objective. There’s a pause before he complains again, “You’re moving right now!”

“Whose side are you on, man?!” Max complains as I venture further toward the lantern, careful in not being spotted.

“The side of injustice,” Ryan replies back in pride, refusing to be the good guy.

I roll my eyes, ignoring the muffled sound coming from beside me. I try not to pay too much attention to it. I have to concentrate. I’m so close. Even thick vegetation can’t keep me at bay.

“You’re right,” I whisper to Bells, just the two of us, and visibly shudder, “this does feel kind of creepy.”

When I don’t get a response from her, the supposed talkative one between us, I turn around to see that she’s gone. In her place, only darkness.

“Bells?” I call softly, only to see that she’s nowhere in sight. “If this is a joke, it’s hilarious, but still, not funny.”

Silence.

“Okay, I give, it’s very funny.”

I’m met with some more silence.

Sensing that something is most definitely up, a ploy in our midst, I decide to just make a run for it, heading directly for the lantern in itself.

Before I can react or sprint further, a hand is placed over mouth as I am attacked from behind. I start hitting the muscular figure to no avail just before being dragged away against my will.

“Now this is what I call getting even, Lawson,” I eventually hear Grey say in my ear as he hands me over to someone else. I soon come to realize that it’s Dean and Xavier, his minions, holding me and Bells captive.

I somehow think that Max wouldn’t even care that his teammates have his wife tied up to a tree. In fact, he probably authorized it. When he’s in a game, all he cares about is winning...no matter what. It’s why he’s my strongest and fiercest competitor. I prefer it when he’s on my team. We get each other.

“Unhand me!” I hiss, trying to clout Xavier as Dean deals with a ruthless Bells.

“Oi! Watch the hair,” Xavier whines, stepping out of my reach to quickly readjust his styled hair.

“Not the time,” Grey reprimands Xavier.

“Where is Jay?” I ask the three of them, seeking freedom.

“My bets are that he’s busy winning the game for us,” Grey answers nonchalantly.

“He knows about this?” I raise my eyebrows, surprised.

“It was his idea,” Grey lies at the same time Dean confesses:

“He would never approve if he knew.”

Grey shakes his head at Dean in disapproval, “I told you to talk as less as possible. You ruin everything.”

This is really not fair considering all the parkour guys are in the game right now whilst I’m stuck. Jay and Goku, the ninja turtles, can easily get to that lantern if I’m not there to stop them, or to at least get them seen by Ryan.

“What’s it going to take for you doofuses to untie me and let me go?” Bells asks, getting straight down to business.

“Winning,” Grey comments in ease, sure of his answer.

Time to put my bargaining skills to the test...

“What about getting Nancy to leave Ryan and date you instead?” I implore with a condescending grin before wagging my eyebrows at him knowingly.

I can make anything happen.

“I don’t want to date Nancy!” Grey barks out at me like some vicious dog infected with rabies.

“Oh please...” I scoff in disbelief, “you’ve always had a thing for her.”

He pinches the bridge of his nose as he glares down at me sharply, “Lawson, I swear...” he trails off as if trying to maintain self-control, “not today.”

“He had a shot to tap that, Kitten. He chose not to,” Xavier informs, disclosing new information to me. “He passed her up willingly. She confessed her undying love for him and he turned her away without a second thought in mind.”

Confused, I pull a face at Grey upon hearing some of his mysterious story, “Why would you do that? What is wrong with you? Are you mental? Who am I kidding, yeah you are. Why did you push her away when you clearly liked her?”

“None of your damn business,” he says, keeping his eyes off of me and glaring at Xavier instead for revealing too much to me.

“I still believe it’s because of JT,” Dean speaks up on Xavier’s behalf, skeptical of the real truth as he throws down his own assumptions. “He was being a friend for Jay during the time that you were gone. He didn’t have time for Nance and Nance didn’t have time for a guy with no time for her, so she ditched on him and snagged up that gamer geek instead.”

Ryan happens to be a cool gamer geek, at least to me anyway. Although, Nancy and Grey are way more compatible for each other - both uptight, intelligent and grumpy. Ryan’s more carefree and casual.

Grey swears beneath his breath before turning to Dean with an aggravated frown, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times that Jay had nothing to do with my decision to end things with Nancy. I ended us before we even started and I have solid reasons for it, reasons that I don’t have to explain to anyone. It wasn’t JT’s fault. It was my choice.”

“Aww,” I coo, going out on a limb, “you love her.”

Grey starts to approach me again, a fire ablaze behind his dark eyes, as he reaches for me, “You’re dead.”

"Murder!” I begin to shout at the top of my lungs in terror. “Murder! Murder! Murder! Help! A murder is about to commence!”

“So close, Jay!” I hear Ryan cackle like the evil warlock he is. “You were so close before you upped and moved like that!”

Grey backs off when fast paced footsteps are to be heard before Goku, Jay and Leban make their appearances on scene, having heard my cries for help against this deranged beast before me, this beast that they call a friend.

“What’s going on?” Kyle asks, stupefied from shock.

“Grey’s trying to murder us!” I answer as I motion over to Bells and then to me.

“You’re just stooping to her level, you flop,” Leban shakes his head at Grey, giving him a lecture. “And if you’re gonna kill her, at least do the job right.”

“Exactly,” I nod in agreement.

Leban throws his hands up to the air in exasperation, fed up with me.

“Welcome to my world,” Grey tells him, “I’ve endured this,” he gestures to me, “for much longer than you have.” He sighs, “And let me tell you, she takes a lot out of a person. She slowly sinks her claws in before draining the rest of your soul away until you’re nothing but a walking corpse, an empty shell of nothingness.”

So not dramatic at all...

"Rude!” I pout at them, unfazed in the least by their empty insults coming from their empty heads.

“Yes! Girls totally win! We rule!” we all hear Nancy herself shout in excitement from somewhere close to Ryan. I can only guess that she and Emma just won the game for us through their logic and intellectual abilities.

I’m annoyed that it’s not me that got to the lantern first, but at least I still get to sleep in a tent tonight.

“Not fair. You two are cheaters!” He continues on grumbling his complaints, rather loudly might I add, his voice bouncing off of the trees, “Nance, when I didn’t give in to your seducing, you guys ambushed and bombarded me like savages! Who does that?!”

“Grey would’ve totally given into Nance’s seduction tactics,” I wink at Grey suggestively, pushing my luck. If Jay wasn’t standing right here, he really would torture me and then kill me in a barbaric and gruesome way.

“It’s like you want to die,” Grey folds his arms across his chest, striking a threatening pose as he towers over me, unimpressed by my courage and bravery that should in actual fact win me a golden medallion.

“You don’t learn, do you?” Xavier laughs as his eyes stray to me.

“Nope,” I pop the ‘p’ ever so politely.

Grey rolls his eyes at me.

“Chicks do rule!” Troy cheers from some distance away before I hear Landon cursing him and going on about how all girls suck. Landon takes the competition seriously, but not as seriously as Max, that’s judging by all Max’s death threats on the poor girls.

“Great, there goes the game,” Jay voices his thoughts, seemingly indifferent about his loss, almost as if he prefers it this way.

Grey, smart, immediately clicks as he turns to Jay and Kyle with an accusing look to his eyes, “You two threw the game for us, didn’t you? Knowing you two, we should’ve won ages ago. You gave them an easy win.”

Jay scratches the back of his neck with a sheepish expression floating across his handsome features before he shrugs and looks elsewhere, avoiding the question entirely.

Grey turns his intense and intimidating glare onto Kyle instead, knowing exactly who to pick off first - the weaker one.

Kyle gives way instantly under Grey’s piercing gaze, “You can’t expect us,” he says, referencing to Jay and him, “to let girls sleep out in the freezing cold with no protection!” He shakes his head, allowing us to see his concern, “It’s not right, bro. Some of us have morals. Not all of us enjoy kidnapping girls and tying them to trees late at night with hungry bears on the prowl,” he jokes, merely messing with Grey for his own amusement.

Dean shivers before pinning the blame on Jay alone, “If I get eaten by a bear tonight, I just want you to know that I blame you.”

Jay smirks as if taking his comment lightly, “And from my side, I just want you to know that I won’t care.”

Xavier gasps as it dawns on him, “You’re turning into Aqueela! That’s life threatening and incredibly dangerous!”

I stare at Jay, waiting for his reaction to this one. It should be interesting.

He catches me looking and meets my gaze with a smile before winking my way, keeping his eyes locked on mine while answering Xav, “It’s a good thing I enjoy living on the edge.”

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