***POV – Melaena
D: Mayday! Mayday! A little boy is dying!
I’ve changed his caller-id on my phone so I know when it’s him. I put away my phone. I’m not going to let one crazy guy ruin my life. He’s been sending me messages almost every day since that first time at the party. Mostly I just ignore them, but it’s starting to creep me out – this ‘mayday’ shit is something new cause usually he just rants on about how I belong to him and that soon we’ll be together. Perverted ass-hat stalker!
“This overall is ridiculously unflattering!” Kiara shouts while bursting into my bedroom pulling at the fabric of the black overall covering her lean body.
“I don’t think looking stylish on the paintball course was what they had in mind when they designed this.” I tease my best friend, looking down at my matching black outfit.
“At least we’re in the same team. I can’t wait to shoot somebody in the face.” Kiara has been going through a cranky week, partly due to PMS, but mostly because Don contacted her out of the blue, asking her out on a date. Don was Axel’s best friend at school, but something happened between them at the end of our senior year, causing them to fight, like in black-eyes, bruised smashed-up faces, type of fighting. Axel never talked about it, but soon after that Don broke up with Kiara in a text. She never showed any emotion, telling everybody it was just a fling, but I knew she was hurting. He was her first love after all and now he’s back so I can understand her frustration. I think I’ll talk to Axel again.
“Ok, let’s go meet the guys. I’ll just grab the presents.” I smile throwing my backpack over my shoulder while walking to the kitchen where we stashed the presents. Kiara opens the door finding Axel standing there with his hand in the air, ready to knock.
“That’s what I call timing!” He laughs, shaking his head. He’s also dressed in black, meaning he will be on our team. It’s Damion’s birthday, October 31, and his racing team, Black Reaper, organized a paintball battle and a party. I think it’s more about publicity, to satisfy the press and rub their victory in the other teams’ faces. I know that Uncle John and doctor Deimos own the Black Reaper team (that’s where the name comes from - Black from Blackburn and Reaper in place of Grimm) and that they have a small factory where they manufacture all the bikes. They also have a team of the best designers and engineers working for them. Damion won another race this past week, and even though the season is not finished yet, he officially took back the title of champion for this year after ending fifth last year due to an injury.
But on to something else, who’s thinking the same as me – a birthday on Halloween night – coincidence, I don’t think so! Come on, if this doesn’t prove my theory that he’s the devil in disguise, I don’t know what will.
We all got invited and it might be fun, especially if I get to shoot the cocky bastard on his perfect smooth muscular chest. I’m still upset about him hitting Ren at the party, although everybody tells me that Ren was the one to blame. In truth, I’m more upset about his almost kiss and what he said, and for him leaving me confused, thinking that I actually loved him. I now know better, he’s the devil that I despise.
The team sent out overalls to all invitees, dividing them into two teams, black and red. Logan said that mostly the teams consist out of friends, family, and work-related colleagues like his teammates and sponsors. There are more than 100 people invited to the party, but only 20 are going to participate in the paintball game – 10 black and 10 red.
I take the presents we bought for Damion and follow Kiara and Axel to the cars where my brothers are waiting. The twins and Ilkay are on the red team, but Logan is also black. I silently wish I could switch Logan with Jackson, just because having psycho Jackson against you in something like this is dangerous in more ways than one. He’s unpredictable and mentally unstable - if you know what I mean.
“Revenge is staring you in the face, my little sisters,” Enrique comments with a BEAST smirk pointing at me and Kiara. Jackson just gives me a knowing smile and I wonder if there’s going to be an ambulance on standby. But I know better than to show fear.
“Not if I shoot you in the balls first.” I stab back, but Enrique just winks, patting his manly parts.
“All cupped up, little witch, courtesy of Jackson’s hockey gear.” I feel a bit disappointed, but I should have guessed all my brothers would be wise enough to use dick-protectors. We split into our teams, the twins with Ilkay in his truck, while we are in Axel’s. We drive, cheerfully chatting about the game and the party, even talking strategy a bit, deciding that we will stick together, protecting each other as far as we can.
The paintball place is in a wooded area with a military-training camp vibe. Axel parks close to a log cabin with a sign saying ‘reception’. Ren is standing on the steps, dressed in red, talking to a curvy brunette also in red. I recognize her as Chloe, the bitch from the party and my heart sinks into my sneakers. Damion’s true love is here, fudge-buckets. But at least she’s in the red team so I get to shoot her, and I’m going to make it count.
“Ug, what is Chloe doing here?” Logan scolds while we’re walking up to them. Seems I’m not the only one with negative feelings towards the girl.
“Hi boys!” She greets, her voice sounding like a call-girl in the middle of phone sex. Not that I know anything about that, but it’s how I imagine it would sound. Ren doesn’t say a word but just pulls me into an uncomfortable hug. My brothers don’t make any effort of greeting her or Ren for that matter. No, they just walk past them, towards Damion, standing inside the building. Damn, he’s also in black, so my revenge ideas go flying through the window. They greet him overenthusiastically and wish him a happy birthday. Kiara gives Ren a fishy smile and joins the boys inside. I watch her kissing Damion on the cheek and giving him warm hug. I suppose I should wish him a happy birthday too, so I pull free from Ren’s arms and slowly stroll up to the devil. Ren stays outside, peace between him and Damion will never happen, but they promised to not get in a physical fight again.
“Happy birthday, asshole,” I say sarcastically, awkwardly hugging him. Damn, why do I always feel so alive when I am close to him. And like expected, electric jolts run through every nerve of my body as soon as I touch him. If that’s not bad enough, the butterflies in my stomach slowly make their way south, warming up my core. Yes, I know what it sounds like, but it’s not. Like I said before, love and hate produce the same symptoms, making things confusing and sometimes I mistake the one for the other, like at the party in the games room. But, I know the difference now, and this definitely is hate.
“Thanks my angel,” he whispers softly in my ear and his breath sends another army of tingles down my spine, causing the ache down-under to increase and I clench my legs together to keep it from erupting. The next moment, Chloe pulls his arm away and anger flushes into my eyes. How dare she?
“Come on, darling, the game is about to start.” Her eyes flirt with him and she pouts her lipstick mouth into a blood-red heart and the little green monster in me has this urge to make her bleed for real. But I keep my cool and stand back. It’s only then that I notice the cameraman in the one corner. Logan told us that the press would be here documenting the whole thing. I guess they’re going to have a field day with such a lot of celebrities in one place. Cause, just like Damion, my brothers’ lives get blatantly invaded by the paparazzi all the time. He unclings her fingers from his arm before pushing her away slowly.
“Chloe, you must go to your team. And take the duce outside with you.” She stomps her feet on the ground but drags Ren to the spot where the rest of the red team is gathering.
“Mel!” A shout comes from behind me and I turn around just in time to catch a leaping Luke in my arms. He’s also dressed in black and is just a cuteness overload in his little overalls. He hooks his arms around my neck and nestles his little face against my chest.
“I’ve missed you so much.” Then he lets go and drops to the floor with a big smile.
“Me too little dude.” Axel hands me my gear and I strap myself into it, looking at the yellow balls of paint, before we also get to our gathering point, Luke clutching my hand as if he never wants to let go. The men talk some strategy, concluding that the guys would be the protectors, some would stay with the flag and the rest will cover the girls while they will try to get to the opponent’s flag. And then the games begin.
The rules are easy, when you are hit, you have to leave the field immediately. The team that gets to the other’s flag first is the winners. At this moment, we are on the other side of the course and can’t even see the red flag. The semi-jungle scene stretching before us is a strange, fearsome place where the enemy could hide in every nook and cracky, specially made for the game. There are trees, trunks, reeds, haybales, walls, and tunnels, well placed over the whole course to make it easier as well as more difficult for each team. We slowly crawl forward, using the trees and man-made shelters as cover. I’m stuck between Damion and Luke, while Kiara, Logan, and Axel are just a few meters behind us. The rest of the black team are hidden close to the flag somewhere.
Then Logan shoots and a red team member swears and leaves the field. I notice some red movement to my right and motions the others. I lean against a tree, staying hidden while waiting for them to come closer. Damion lies flat on the ground and I jolt when he starts shooting. I peep from behind my tree to see Ren standing up, yellow dots on his helmet and chest. He looks down at something and I notice part of a red arm. I land a shot on it with a huge smile. It’s Chloe and she jumps up with a scream. Got you bitch! I yell to myself, feeling ecstatic and moving around the tree.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Pain shoots through my tummy and boobs. The bitch is shooting me with suppressive fire. I want to shout out, but don’t get a chance as a hard body flings against me and pushes me into the trunk, strong arms cradling around my head.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
I can feel his body contracting with each shot, but the popping sound doesn’t let up.
“Chloe, stop it, you’re out!” Logan shouts, but there is some more popping before the explosion of balls suddenly stops. Damion moves his body painfully away, but I stay stuck to the tree for a few moments, gasping for breath. I’m not sure if my lack of oxygen is because of the force of the paintballs hitting my chest, or the closeness of the body that was pressed against mine seconds ago. Something about him protecting me pulls a string in my heart.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
“Ouch! Ouch!” Chloe yells and then she stands there looking surprised down at her overall covered with yellow paint, her gun drops to the ground.
“Take that bitch!” Kiara shouts looking like a regular GI Jane, weapon still aimed at Chloe. Ren helps Chloe and they walk away together, his arm protectively around her shoulders. The idea of him not even attempting to help me or stop her, clouds my mind as we continue our quest, the fact that he’s holding her not bothering me a bit. Luke takes out the player that shot Logan from behind. My brother is not happy about being out of the game.
Even though this game is pitiless and even painful, shooting the other team does have a profound and strangely compelling effect of fun on me. And it seems I’m not the only one who feels that way. Damion has this energetic light in his eyes and I know he’s enjoying it just as much. Two more red-team members experience our rage and leave the field. We can see the red flag a few yards from us and we bundle together behind a wall.
“Ok, girls, this is it. You go get the flag.” Axel points at us. Kiara peeps over the wall in the direction of the winning piece of cloth. I wipe the sweat rolling down my forehead like tiny little vipers with my sleeve. My parched tongue licks over my palate, where dust and spit intermixed to a muddy bitterness.
“I’ll cover Mel and you stick to Kiara.” Damion looks at Axel and they salute each other.
“Luke, you’re the secret weapon.” Luke shakes his head eagerly giving his brother a fist bump. I get up and run to the next cover, green balls splatter all around my feet. It sounds like a machine gun, and then Damion falls next to me.
“It’s Enrique, the bastard,” he grumbles with a smile. We look at the next safe spot and he motions at Axel to be ready. I start running again, balls flying past my head. The next moment, Damion dives forward while grabbing me and we fall onto the ground, his body on top of mine. Again, he takes a beating of green balls on his body - back, arms, legs, helmet. He moans softly, cursing the lunatic that’s emptying his gun on him.
I see Damion’s mouth move but my heartbeat pounding in my ears causes ferocious drumming inside the helmet, deafening me for a few moments. I take a deep breath and close my eyes to calm my ticker down and when the thumping slowly stops, I can hear his voice.
“You ok?” He asks as soon as the grievous bodily harm on him stops. I nod and then I hear Enrique laughing from behind some logs. Douchbag!
“Enrique, you’re going to be a bloating carcass when I’m finished with you!” Damion shouts, but Enrique just laughs harder. I smell that pine-fresh, earthy scent I came to associate with Damion over the years, mixed with sweat, but somehow it triggers my butterflies. They must be drawn to the musky smell of perspiration. I barely register the pain from the bruised wounds on my torso as it is being drowned out by the heightened, throbbing ache between my legs.
Damion looks at me with a heated glint in his eyes, then he wipes his fingers over my cheek saying I have some dirt there. I wiggle to get free, scared by the emotions I’m feeling, and notice a green patch on my sleeve. Damn, I’ve been really hit this time and am out of the game.
Damion helps me to my feet and then a loud noise judders me to close my ears with my hands. It’s the siren signaling a win. Somebody grabbed a flag. I quickly look over, and then a big smile spreads across my face. Luke is jumping up and down, wildly waving the red flag through the air. I remove my hands slowly, letting them fall down my sides. We won!
Enrique jumps up from his hiding place and slowly walks over to us.
“Congratulations.” He intentionally hits Damion on his back, knowing it hurts. Then he sees the paint marks covering my front and his eyes turn dark. A cameraman is standing close by, recording our win.
“Who the bloody hell shot you like that?” He seems angry and it’s ironic because just a few moments ago he was the one shooting at me.
“Chloe went all out killer crazy on her,” Kiara explains walking over to us with a smile. Then she looks at Damion and wrinkles her nose “… but Damion protected her viciously, taking the most hits.” Enrique’s brow lifts and he looks at his friend standing next to me. Damion looks uncomfortable but he doesn’t say a word. Luke comes in running and Damion grabs him and throws him into the air.
“We WON! We WON!” The little guy shouts while laughing. Enrique puts his arm around my shoulder and whispers “I’m going to make that bitch pay! Nobody shoots my sister except for her brothers.” I just shake my head and smile at the contradiction of his words. Is that so.
I push him away and then lift my gun. Before he realizes what’s happening I shoot him a few times on his chest and legs. He jumps around swearing, trying to get out of the way, but then Damion bursts out laughing and I stop shooting.
“Serves you right, asshole. You messed up my backside for nothing.” Enrique looks at me as if he’s going to murder me, but then he puts his arm around my shoulder again and we walk arm in arm to the exit. Luke jumps on his brother’s back and Damion gives a soft growl. Axel grabs the little man and swings him over to his back, knowing his friend must be in pain. We join the other people, a mix of red and black overalls, most of them shattered with blobs of paint and already dispensed from their safety gear.
Ren is talking to Chloe. Her red overall is open at the front, giving him a perfect view of her exposed cleavage covered in only a red lacy bra and I notice his eyes taking full advantage of the show. Funny, I don’t even feel a pint of jealousy, not in the slightest. Chloe suddenly rushes towards us like a freight train, grabbing Damion. All the guys’ eyes move, as if in union, to the exact same spot of red lace, leaving smirks on their faces. Even Luke’s eyes are almost popping from his face. Ug, boys are so predictable!
I shoot my eyes towards Damion, jealousy NOW suddenly shooting through me, but to my surprise, he’s staring back at me. He smiles when my eyes catch his, questions hiding in them, and he just shrugs his shoulders.
“Undefeated legend, not one shot,” Jackson willows proudly, walking over to us swinging his gun in his hands. Ilkay appears silently behind him and without hesitation, shoots him three times on the back. He growls and jumps around to see his brother’s self-satisfied face teasing him.
“And now you’re not!” Enrique smirks next to me, the same egotistical expression displayed on his profile. Jackson lifts his gun and shoots Ilkay back, hitting him solidly on his chest. Then Enrique shoots Axel, who also wasn’t hit during the game, and Jackson shoots Kiara once.
Sean, Damion’s teammate, walks over with a big smile and upon seeing his clean overall, the boys all turn on him. He turns his body, protecting his face and crotch, and takes most of the hits on his arms and ribs. Then they start a shooting frenzy, and without thinking I jump behind Damion, not eager to receive another painful shot. As soon as they run out of ammunition, they start laughing and giving each other bro-hugs.
Men, men, men! I’ll never understand the workings of those puny brains of theirs.
“Let’s go start the party!” Dean shouts, possibly trying to prevent some more attacks in front of the cameras. I can see the man’s sly smile and just knows that he has some excellent footage already and the night is still young. The boys never disappoint, always giving the press something to speculate about.
We get in the cars and because of my BFF, or rather my EX-best friend, and her big mouth, I’m sitting in Damion’s truck with him and Luke. She squashed me in here and he took off so fast that I couldn’t do anything but go with the flow. I don’t even know where Ren is at this moment.
“How’s your back?” I’m trying to make conversation, not sure how to talk to my frenemy that I hate with so much passion it almost seems like love. We never really sit down and talk all alone, cause firstly I hate him and secondly my brothers are always around, so I don’t know much about him. I mean, I’ve seen all his races on television, and that he’s a risk-taker, I know his favorite color is black, that he hates brussel sprouts, but loves to eat hot dogs from the Bacon Dog Cart, he is very active and likes any sport like surfing, skateboarding and wall climbing in his spare time, he loves the outdoors and camping, he almost had a perfect GPA score, he’s a dog person, and he sleeps in the nude.
But that doesn’t mean I know anything about him. And I for sure as hell is not a stalker if that’s what you’re thinking, no it’s just things I’ve picked up over the years.
“I felt worse.” He smiles at me and I sigh. Why does he have to be so freaking good-looking? I mean, just look at that face! No wonder girls fall at his feet all the time. Luke starts babbling like a little baboon, still engulfed by the excitement from winning, and I’m glad as it gives me the excuse to stare out the window. I don’t want to talk to Damion too much, scared that I might get trapped in a situation where I’ll make the mistake of misinterpreting hate for love again. And playing the game of love with THIS guy can not end well for anyone. I’m already strung out whenever he’s around, and when he touches me it’s as if I have a fever, and I even act crazy. But like I said, love and hate are one and the same, I’ve googled it and Google doesn’t lie.
“You know, we never really had a one-on-one talk like this after our trip to the Boardwalk.” Damion suddenly says, and I wonder if he’s insane. We’ve hardly said anything the whole trip so far. Luke has done all the talking. I keep quiet, waiting for him to continue cause I don’t know what to say to him. I got a hell of a lot to say to Kiara about stuffing me in this car when I see her though. I don’t even want to think about what Ren must think about this.
“You’re worried about what your little boyfriend is going to think?” He pulls his eyes and smiles wickedly, dragging out the word ‘boyfriend’ sarcastically. I gasp wondering if he can read minds or something.
“I can read you like a magazine, angel.” I frown at him, his eyes on the road. Then I look at Luke’s entertained face and he slowly lifts his shoulders and pouts his mouth.
“That guy is all wrong for you, you know.” Eyes still on the road, but his voice dipped an inch onto the deeper side.
“Oh sorry I didn’t know you’re an expert on how I should live my life … just let me get my notebook so I can take notes.” My voice is cold and I hope he can hear the hate laced in it. The arrogance of this man is astronomical.
“Well, he’s cheating on you for one … maybe put that in your notebook.” He also sounds cold now and it bothers me more than what he’s saying.
“You’re a dick, but being one doesn’t make yours bigger,” I shout, forgetting that Luke is on the back seat.
“Oh, I don’t have any problem with my ba-donk-a-donk’s size, angel. But please don’t hold back on the insults.” I frown at the word he uses for his penis and knows it must be because of Luke.
“Go to hell!” I’m sure my one eye is twitching.
“Been there, done that, even got the scars to prove it.” He’s not even shaken, and here I am mad as a leprechaun.
“I hate you!” I turn my back at him as much as I can manage in my seat. We drive for what feels like hours in silence, and it’s as if the absence of noise in the car is almost deafening. Why would he say that about Ren? Does he know something I don’t? No, Ren would not do that.
“I’ve figured it out,” Luke breaks the loud silence, and I turn to look at him. Damion glances in the rearview mirror.
“You two are secretly in love and you’re both too stupid to admit it.” He gives a large proud grin as if he just figured out the undisclosed meaning of the universe.
“Gmf! Sorry to burst your bubble Luke, but your brother isn’t capable of loving a girl, he has no heart. I think he might even be a monster.”
“You know, love can be deceiving, just like rumors. And monsters can be real.” Damion mumbles, taking his eyes off the road to look at me and a flame shoots from them to burn my core. What does he mean by that? I’m still trying to figure it out when Luke gives one of his quirky but rather brilliant thoughts.
“So Mel, you don’t like my brother then?” Luke asks softly as if he’s disappointed. I chose to throw Damion’s words back at him.
“Well, I’ve been there, done that, even got the dragon to prove it. He’s not my Prince Charming that’s for sure.” I steal a secret glance at him and notice his face going pale.
“So you want a fairytale?” Where does this kid come from? And between him and his brother, I don’t even get time to take a breath before they slam me with a mind-changing fact.
“Not so much, but I want something real. Not a one-day prince that will just rip out my heart the next day.” I know Damion will get the meaning behind the words. He’s not your normal knight in shining armor on a white horse, no he’s more of a demon in jeans on a black bike, and instead of saving you, he will destroy you.
“You need a good guy and not a prince then,” Luke says, taking my hand in his and all I can do is smile at him. This little nut-head crawled into my heart and stuck himself there. Damion just shakes his head, giving a soft laugh as if he finds it funny. He turns the Bonny Tyler song on the radio up as if he doesn’t want to listen to us anymore.
‘Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods … ’ Perfect … now I’m sure I’m gonna get stuck with an ogre in my life … so much for fairytales.
‘Isn’t there a white night upon a fiery steed …’