We end up at an outdoor paintball course in Jersey. A woodsy, rural kind of place that’s probably brimming with mosquitos and Lyme disease. When I find out Logan has never played paintball before, I sign us both up.
There’s really no other option.
And our timing is perfect—they’re just about to start a new battle. The worker gathers all the players in a field and divides us into two teams, handing out thin blue and yellow vests to distinguish friend from foe.
Since Logan and I are the oldest players, we both become the team captains. The wide-eyed little faces of Logan’s squad follow him as he marches back and forth in front of them, lecturing like a hot, modern-day Winston Churchill.
“We’ll fight them from the hills, we’ll fight them in the trees. We’ll hunker down in the river and take them out, sniper-style. Save your ammo—fire only when you see the whites of their eyes. Use your heads.”
I turn to my own ragtag crew.
“Use your hearts. We’ll give them everything we’ve got—leave it all on the field. You know what wins battles? Desire! Guts! Today, we’ll all be frigging Rudy!”
A blond boy whispers to his friend, “Who’s Rudy?”
The kid shrugs.
And another raises his hand. “Can we start now? It’s my birthday and I really want to have cake.”
“It’s my birthday too.” I give him a high-five. “Twinning!”
I raise my gun. “And yes, birthday cake will be our spoils of war! Here’s how it’s gonna go.” I point to the giant on the other side of the field. “You see him, the big guy? We converge on him first. Work together to take him down. Cut off the head,” I slice my finger across my neck like I’m beheading myself, “and the old dog dies.”
A skinny kid in glasses makes a grossed-out face. “Why would you kill a dog? Why would you cut its head off?”
And a little girl in braids squeaks, “Mommy! Mommy, I don’t want to play anymore.”
“No,” I try, “that’s not what I—”
But she’s already running into her mom’s arms. The woman picks her up—glaring at me like I’m a demon—and carries her away.
Then a soft voice whispers right against my ear.
“They’re already going AWOL on you, lass? You’re fucked.”
I turn to face the bold, tough Wessconian . . . and he’s so close, I can feel the heat from his hard body, see the small sprigs of stubble on that perfect, gorgeous jaw. My brain stutters, but I find the resolve to tease him.
“Dear God, Logan, are you smiling? Careful—you might pull a muscle in your face.”
And then Logan does something that melts my insides and turns my knees to quivery goo.
And it’s beautiful.
It’s a crime he doesn’t do it more often. Or maybe a blessing. Because Logan St. James is a sexy, stunning man on any given day. But when he laughs?
He swaggers confidently back to his side and I sneer at his retreating form. The uniformed paintball worker blows a whistle and explains the rules. We get seven minutes to hide first. I cock my paintball shotgun with one hand—like Charlize Theron in Fury fucking Road—and lead my team into the wilderness.
“Come on, children. Let’s go be heroes.”
It was a massacre.
We never stood a chance.
In the end, we tried to rush them—overpower them—but we just ended up running into a hail of balls, getting our hearts and guts splattered with blue paint.
But we tried—I think Rudy and Charlize would be proud