“Roger.” I hope that sounds official.
Dillon and Troy move off into the woods and everything gets quiet.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi…
When it’s time, I ease up and fire toward the first red light in the tree.
“LEFT SIDE!” I hear a red tree person scream to his partner.
I keep firing and switch to the other tree. Dang it. Most of my shots are too high.
“I can’t see the shooter!” yells one of them.
“Left bunker. Second is trying to sneak up behind us. Third below you. Alpha, Bravo, Gamma, engage! Engage! Engage! Hit the girl!”
A barrage of balls shoot toward me, splattering the wood, and I duck below cover.
I hear a rustling in the brush behind me and raise my gun.
“Flash!” a deep voice calls out.
“Boo!” I reply.
“You’re supposed to say bang,” Dillon says then drops down next to me as the balls continue to hit our cover.
“Is this the plan?”
“Uh, no. Things are basically FUBAR.”
“Oh, yeah, I agree. We need tequila.” I hear the guys from the trees rustle around. “Will they move in on us?”
“If they’re smart and have the cover. We should go,” he says.
“What about Troy?” I ask.
“Flash,” comes a voice from the bushes.
“Boo,” I say back.
“It’s bang.” Troy leans down to our hiding place.
“I know. Just trying out a new word.”
He smirks at me and looks at his leader. “There are three guys dug in outside our base. Let’s get back, pronto.”
“Take the dark path, the one with the lights out,” replies Dillon. “Run on three.”
I close my eyes.
The guys run with me between them. We dash through thickets and I think I step on something squishy and smelly and big, like maybe a dead possum. Yells sound behind us as the other team closes in.
“Dude! I’m out of paint!” Troy gasps out.
We duck behind a barricade and I look down at my gun. “How do you check?”
I glance up, mortified. Why do I suck at this? Troy glares at me then at the green paint on his foot.
“I’m so sorry!”
“Dammit. At least I’m at the graveyard.” He lets out an exhalation, fist-bumps Dillon, and runs to a bench in the field where all the ‘deceased’ players must be.
Dillon counts the players, contemplating. “Troy makes six of ours out to three of Red Team. We’ve got Sinclair, and they have six players.”
“It’s the Alamo all over again,” I say.
“Sinclair is hiding, so it’s just him and you and me, but we aren’t giving up. Let’s take some red guys out.”
How can he be so confident?
We dart in between trees and end up in a trench. He pops up and scans the horizon. “Incoming!” He ducks as the pop of paintballs detonates around us. He fires back, his shoulders rippling. “I got two. Yeah!”
Me? I killed a spider crawling up my arm. Normally, I’d be doing the spider dance, but I’ve screwed up twice already, so I contained my urge to jump up and run and scream. “So, is this, like, a date?”
He fires more paint. “Totally. Our second. Maybe third if you count the tryouts. Hate it?”
Surprise visits for Romy, now paintball. Is this his version of romance? The thought makes me smirk. He’s different, and I don’t hate it at all.
“I would have asked you to the movies, but wasn’t, um, sure you’d agree. Usually, uh, I meet a girl at the bar and we like each other, and we see each other, ugh…” He looks away. Blows out a breath. “Here I go, spewing crap out of my mouth.” He grimaces. “I’m just…kind of…spontaneous. It’s been known to backfire.”
“No pun intended.”
He looks over the edge of the trench. “Dammit. Sinclair’s in our fort with the flag. He’s surrounded. We’re going right up the middle to assist our man. Ready?”
“As I ever will be. What about the guys shooting at us?”
“Imagine Bigfoot behind you and run. I’ll take care of them.”
I swallow and nod.
“Go!” he yells, and we break into the clearing, dashing toward our basecamp.
“Behind us!” screams one of the red team.
Dillon fires at them and bellows, “Sinclair, help! Now!”
Owen rises out of his bunker and fires on the enemy to cover us. Looking over my shoulder, I watch as green paint splashes around but misses the targets.
“You got their flag?” Owen asks as we hunker down inside the fort.
Dillon growls. “If I did, you’d see it, rookie.”
Owen wipes his face just as a red player slides in from the side and aims his gun at me. I freeze, a deer in the headlights as green paint hits the enemy on the side of his helmet. I wilt in relief.
“Red out,” the player calls out before running off.
“Got ’em.” Dillon grins. “They have three players left.”
“You saved my life,” I say.
“It’s war. Do I get a kiss before I go back into action?” Dillon asks with a grin.