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   Chapter 12 All's Fair in Love and War

Cuddle Application By Anna Rae Characters: 17923

Updated: 2018-01-10 14:33


"When she says 'fuck you' it means 'I like you.' It's hood girl speak. Learn the language."

~Kevin, Shameless

~~~

The world glitters under the sun. The trees are lush, overflowing with vibrant leaves. The sky is clear, a never-ending canvass of blue stretching in all directions.

Oliver's motorcycle flies past Fran's, and he takes one hand off the handle to place it on my leg, leaning back slightly to yell, "Remember when you almost died via fry inhalation?"

I laugh and hold him tighter around the middle, suddenly realizing how much fun I'm having even though the day has just begun.

We roll into town, Oliver slowing the bike down as we drive through Main Street, the shops bustling with people. The fair is just past Main Street, off of Birch, where the sand starts and circles the lake. For the full weekend, the entire town will be down in this area, eating at food carts parked around, buying summery clothes from the boutiques, and spending endless money on tickets for the rides and games.

It's one of the busiest times of the year.

Oliver slows down as we approach a police officer in the middle of the road that I recognize as Mr. Waterson, a coworker of my dad. He waves us down Birch street and away from the busiest part of town, where cars won't be allowed to enter until after the festivities. It dawns on me that my dad will be working today, walking around in his police uniform and keeping control of the crowds.

I make a mental note to look out for him so Oliver and I can avoid him at all costs.

Little early to meet the parents.

Oliver follows the road down until we reach a field just past the lake, a sign labeled "Free Parking" sitting out front. The bike grumbles and purrs as we slow down, finally huffing to a stop as we pull up next to a red truck. Oliver kicks the stand down and turns the key as I finally get the chance to peel off the pesky helmet.

Oliver gets off first and holds out a hand to help me off. A bustling family passes us, the four kids in various stages of running and skipping to get to the festivities.

"I just have to warn you, " Oliver starts, looking me in the eyes with a blank expression, "I once beat a guy in a cotton candy eating contest, and if it comes down to it, I'm not afraid to crush you as well."

I blink. "Yeah? Well at last year's fair, I chugged an entire bottle of ketchup on a dare and went on the Tilt-A-Wirl right after. Didn't even throw up."

He looks surprised. "You never cease to amaze me, Sorry."

I can't help the grin that surfaces.

"Shall we?" He asks, motioning in the direction of the fair. I nod and we start walking. The sun is high and bright like my anticipation for today.

"So you've lived in Helaci your whole life, right?" Oliver asks me.

"Yep, " I answer easily as we walk out of the field and start down the road. We're a good quarter mile away, but the loud shrieks of fear and excitement can still be heard loud and clear. "My parents were both born here too. They were sort of high school sweethearts."

"Why do you say sort of?" Oliver asks.

"Well, my mom thought my dad was a brainless jock, so she didn't give him a lot of attention during high school." Oliver laughs at this. "But he chased her around like a lovesick puppy, just begging for her attention."

"To no avail, " Oliver smiles.

I laugh. "She wasn't interested until the summer before college, when she signed up to be a lifeguard at the lake and he pretended to drown so she'd save him."

"Oh wow, " Oliver laughs. "That's quite an extreme approach."

The smell of hot dogs and fried desserts wafts through the air as we get closer. Oliver and I step into the sand, prepared to walk around the lake to get to the side housing the carnival rides.

"It worked, though, " I continue. "Now they've been married for nearly twenty years."

I look at his face. He's smiling, but it doesn't reach his eyes.

I'm about to ask about his parents when he grabs my hand, pulling me into a run. "Sky, look! Balloons!"

Laughing, I run with him down the beach, a slight breeze teases the lake, pushing the water up in soft waves. They slide up and greet our feet. Droplets of water fly up onto my legs as I run.

Oliver turns his head and looks back at me. The smile is back, paired with a twinkle in his eyes.

By the time Oliver and I reach the balloon vendor, my hair is in knots behind me and our faces are flushed.

"Two, please, " Oliver says to the man, pulling out his wallet and handing over a dollar. I inspect the balloons. They're various animals, a floating zoo in the sky.

"I want the tiger, " I say, pointing.

"The lion and the tiger, " Oliver requests, and to me he whispers, "and bear, oh my."

I laugh as he takes the balloons. "You got pretty excited there."

We start walking away, stepping near to the entrance of the fair. The sun's gotten hotter, beating down, and I'm thankful for the slight breeze.

"About the balloons?" He asks, handing me mine. I curl the string around my fingers and nod. "Oh yeah, I'm a big balloon guy."

"Oh, so like a fetish?" I smile.

"A balloon fetish, yes." Then his face gets more serious. "Actually me and my mom used to go to the fair every summer, and the first thing we'd do is get balloons. Kind of a tradition I suppose."

There's a line to the ticket booth and we

.

"Well that was fun, " Oliver says. "No one threw up though."

"Isn't that a good thing?" I ask, biting my bottom lip. He glances at it, a hungry look in his eyes.

Good. Two can play this game.

"So, " he starts slowly, distracted. "How about some fries."

I smirk. "What - so I can have another near death experience? No thanks."

He laughs.

"Oliver!"

He and I both turn our heads towards the voice. A group of guys is walking our way, all four of them dressed like they're in some motor gang. I smile politely as the one in front looks at me. His hair is long, down to his shoulders, and pitch black. His face is attractive except for the cigarette lodged between his lips. He's dressed entirely in black - v-neck, jeans, leather jacket - all the way down to the combat boots encasing his feet.

It's seventy-five degrees.

He catches me staring and his eyebrows shoot up. Turning to Oliver, he says, "She's cute."

The guy next to him gives me a long look. Eyes such a light blue they look startling, they move from my chest and glide their way down my body. Feathers ruffled, I take a step back. "She's got a name, too."

Oliver smirks, and puts a protective arm around me. He points to the guy, "Neck, meet Skylar, " then to me, "Skylar, meet Neck."

I shrug off Oliver's arm and debate holding my hand out for a handshake. I cross my arms instead.

Who is this guy?

"Neck, " I start. "Interesting. Why not foot? Or toe?"

"Ear, perhaps, " Oliver joins in. Neck smirks at him.

"Says you, Judissius, " he retorts.

Judissius?

Oliver gives Neck a friendly shove. "Oh, hop off."

Neck laughs and shoves him back. "Aren't you wondering why I'm here."

Oliver glances at me, like he's not comfortable discussing it in my presence. My spine prickles with an uncomfortable feeling.

"Assuming it's business related, " is all Oliver says. He turns to me, and I force a smile onto my face.

Business.

Not exactly the date I'd pictured.

"Neck and I met in boarding school before I transferred here my sophomore year, " Oliver says. "I was top of the class and he got expelled for smoking weed in the bathroom." The three guys in Neck's entourage laugh.

"For fucks sake, Jude, " Neck rolls his eyes. "You're making me sound bad." He wiggles the cigarette still stuck in his lips. It's not even lit.

I'm actually impressed he's been able to speak without it flying out into the dirt.

"Sorry if the facts sound bad, my friend, " Oliver says. The expression on his face looks off, like he's trying to distract from the reason Neck showed up in the first place.

I can feel a bead of sweat on my forehead, a byproduct of all the heat. I reach my arm up to lift it away. "So, Neck, " I start. "What was this guy like in school?"

"Oh, " Oliver drawls. "We don't need to share all those boring stories." He reaches a hand out to me. "Skylar, we must be going. Our date's only just begun."

He takes my hand and starts walking deeper into the fair.

"Fine, Jude, " Neck calls after us. I look back as Oliver marches forward. "I'll meet you at your place then. We still got things to discuss."

I don't have a chance to ask any questions because Oliver is still yanking me away. I take one look back at Neck and his crew before we round the Merry-Go-Round. Neck's face is unreadable as he reaches into his pocket, fishes out a lighter, and finally lights his cigarette. As he takes the first drawl, his eyes meet mine.

He winks.

And I thought I had everything figured out about Oliver Manning. How wrong I was.

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