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Page 26


He’d lied.

He hadn’t called her, but showed up at the crack of dawn with coffee and donuts and that damn sexy smile. Surprised, and secretly pleased, she’d quickly changed into a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. The entire way here he’d held her hand, caressing the back of her hand with his thumb while making small talk, probably trying to make her comfortable. It had worked. That is until he’d pulled into the makeshift parking lot for the outdoor paintball arena. That’s when she’d started suggesting other alternatives to being chased by a bunch of psychotic men shooting each other with little round balls.

He’d laughed.

The bastard!

Danny sighed, giving up on gently prodding her and took her hand and pulled her towards a large gate marked “Entrance.” Her eyes shifted away from the entrance sign and took in the very large, very detailed sign that was taller than her and attached to the chain-link fence. She started reading the warnings and immediately wished that she hadn’t.

“If this isn’t dangerous then why are there over fifty warnings about death and accidental mutilation?” she demanded, hugging her gun tightly against her chest with one arm as he ignored her concerns and continued to pull her towards a makeshift barrier.

“Take a knee, Tinkerbelle,” Danny said when they’d reached the barrier.

Trembling, she did as he asked, just in time too it would seem since a volley of paintball pellets suddenly came flying at them, slamming into the barrier with several loud whacks. Resisting the natural urge to run back to the entrance and to the safety of the women’s room where she fully planned on hiding for the next two hours, she stayed there while Danny methodically explained how to fire her gun, how to use their surroundings to her advantage and what to do if she got hit.

Unfortunately for her, she was too busy listening to the sounds of paintballs going splat around her and the sounds of grown men running and shouting orders, but it wasn’t enough to hide the sounds of people getting hit and crying out. Yeah, this really wasn’t for her.

“Danny,” she said, licking her lips nervously, “I-”

“Stay here and count to ten, then follow me,” he said, cutting her off before she could give him an excuse to leave. “Stay down and shoot anyone wearing a blue helmet or arm band.”

“But-”

“You’ll be fine,” he said, cutting her off once again, but this time adding a swift kiss that left her stunned. “Remember to stay low.”

And with that, he was gone and she was left kneeling on the ground behind a wooden barrier, in the middle of the woods about to be chased down by a bunch of psychotic men sporting blue armbands.

Nibbling on her bottom lip, she looked wistfully over her shoulder at the entrance. She could wait for him by the gates, she decided, already getting to her feet when someone yelled, “Incoming,” and her world turned red and blue.

*-*-*-*

“You’re banned!” the manager yelled, taking him by surprise, not because he’d never heard those words screamed before, he was a Bradford after all, but because of who the manager of the paintball facility was screaming at.

“Are you kidding me?” his little Tinkerbelle demanded, wiggling wildly over his shoulder to get free. “You’re seriously going to ban me because a few wimps complained?”

“You made over twenty men cry!” the manager shouted, gesturing wildly towards the group of men standing by the first aid station, bitching and whining about their injuries and the fact that his little Tinkerbelle had ignored their surrender and kept shooting.

Damn, he was proud.

“If they couldn’t handle it then they shouldn’t have walked through those gates!” his little warrior shouted, making him smile and the manager’s jaw drop in astonishment.

“Get out!” the manager yelled once he’d managed to get over his shock.

Danny considered arguing with the manager, but he knew that look well enough to know that the man was less than thirty seconds from running for his life and calling the cops. Since he didn’t feel like wasting part of his date dealing with the authorities, he tightened his arms around Tinkerbelle’s legs and walked away, grinning hugely when his little warrior started insulting all the men jumping out of their way.

*-*-*-*

“Are you actually pouting?”

“No!” she mumbled, folding her arms over her chest as she glared ahead. She wasn’t pouting. She was justifiably pissed.

“The ban isn’t going on your permanent record so I wouldn’t worry about it,” Danny explained as he took a turn on Parker Street.

“I’m not worried about it,” she mumbled, glaring straight ahead.

“Then why are you upset?” Danny asked, sounding amused.

“Because I should have won,” she grumbled, contemplating going back there to prove it.

“You did,” he said smoothly, obviously trying to appease her bloodthirsty needs.

“Then why did they end the hunt?” she demanded, looking over to find him grinning hugely. “This isn’t funny!”

“No, no, of course it’s not,” he said, biting back his smile, but she didn’t miss how his damn lips twitched with amusement.

“Where are we going?” she asked, changing the subject before she did something stupid like pout, for real this time.

“I thought we’d grab lunch before the movie,” he said, pulling into the parking lot of a fifties era diner.

“We’re seeing a movie?” she asked, suddenly perking up, not only because it had been a while since she’d been to the movies, or could afford to, but because she’d thought after her……..ummm, little meltdown, that he’d want to end things early. Most guys that she’d gone out with would have ditched her by now. Even Greg would have dropped her off at her house, shaken his head in disbelief and walked off.

“Your choice,” Danny said, shooting her that grin that did funny things to her and a wink.

“That sounds nice,” she said, trying to bite back a smile, failing and not really caring all that much for one simple reason.

She was on a date, a real date. Not that she’d never gone out with a man before, obviously she had, but she’d never been treated like a real date before. Danny wasn’t treating her with indifference, constantly checking the time, or even checking out the really beautiful woman walking in front of the truck. Instead, all of his attention was on her and it was nice.

Before she could open her door he was there, opening it for her and helping her out of the truck. He took her hand into his and together they walked towards the diner that was giving off the most delicious aroma. She hadn’t realized just how hungry she was until that moment, which of course made sense since she’d spent the last three hours building an appetite by hunting down a bunch of big babies in the woods.

“Welcome to Henry’s. How can I……….,” the hostess started to say with a big smile as they walked through the door only to let her words trail off with a frown when her gaze landed on Danny.

“We’d like a table for two,” Danny said, seemingly oblivious of the waitress’s weird greeting.

“Umm,” the waitress mumbled, licking her lips nervously as she stepped away from her station, “I-I’ll go see if we have any tables available.”

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