YA Indie Carnival: 4/20

I’ve been lucky enough to be included in a group of fantastic indie authors that participate in a weekly Friday blog post with specific topics in mind each week. This week’s (hilarious) theme is 4/20 (check your calendar if you don’t believe me!)–does everyone giggle a little or is that just me? (For those who don’t follow, 4/20 has some sort of connotation with smoking weed). Does your story involve the weed? Mine doesn’t (it will in Book 2 though!), however my characters are heavy drinkers. They like to party and this is one of my favorite character scenes between them all. (It’s not as long a passage as it looks, promise. The formatting just bites on here. Sorry!)

For a quick who’s who-Lucy is the narrator. Delia is her Greek roommate, while Keegan is the guy she’s crushing on. Gabriel, however, has other plans to make things awkward–it’s his favorite thing to do.

(Author’s Note: There are about 2 paragraphs missing from the first section here, only to keep spoilers from you!)

***************************

I took the next week to memorize the grounds, set up hoops and stands for tricks, lit torches when the jugglers’ lighters went out, and other relatively simple tasks. None of it was difficult, but as expected, there was always a lot to do and people to help.

I also spent time hanging out with my new friends, asking lots of questions about them. They accused me on more than one occasion of being too quiet about myself, but I admitted I’d always been more of an observer than participant. I’d adapted to being an introvert. Keegan sat next to me when we were together and occasionally brushed his hand against mine. My palms got all sweaty and my pulsed raced a little faster whenever he smiled at me. Delia just laughed at me when I told her.

Keegan, Nikolas, and I trained in the fields where I taught them what I knew. They could pull fire into their hands quicker than I could, possibly from their aggression, but I trumped them in skill and strength. I could throw more fireballs, command them properly, and absorb them without being thrown back, though Nikolas did manage to knock me over once. They pushed me, urged me to let go of my thoughts more as they felt I held back.

One night after the show, we practiced for a while in the field. Nikolas caught a glance at his watch and halted his moves, the red sparks dying from his hands.

“Hey, it’s midnight, let’s head over to Angel’s,” he called to us.

“Yeah, okay,” Keegan replied.

I gave a little wave. “See you guys tomorrow.”

“You’re coming with us,” Nikolas said to me. His head motioned towards the campers. “Let’s go.”

“I thought Angel’s was a guy thing—poker, cigars, cheap liquor.”

“Usually it is,” Keegan said. We followed Nikolas back to the grounds. “He’s having a small party tonight. His divorce went through yesterday, so he’s in a good mood. Delia and the others are invited, too.”

Nikolas lit a cigarette in his palm. “Finley carried the beer straight to Angel’s.”

“Oh, we don’t have anything in our fridge,” I said. “I don’t want to take anyone else’s beer.”

“Don’t worry, we all chipped in. Finley went and got it. I covered you since Delia refused to steal from your wallet,” Keegan said. He grinned at me and I swiped my hands at my sides to keep them dry.

We walked back to the campers, towards the last one in the far back corner of the living quarters. My jaw almost dropped at Angel’s luxury camper. It was huge, twice the size of Delia’s and mine, with an oversized canopy porch. People played a beer pong game on the long foldout table, while others sat in the scattered camping chairs, drinking beer and laughing.

Delia waved us over to where she stood with Bianca, Finley, and the massive beer pile that towered from the ground.

“Wow, we could build a fort with the cases,” I said as we each grabbed a can from Finley’s outstretched hands.

“How did training go?” Delia asked me.

“Gets better every day,” I said. The boys and Bianca got into a discussion, turning their attention and giving Delia and I a quick moment to catch up.

Delia gave me a little smile, instantly jumping on the one topic she loved to discuss with me lately. “And how are things going with Keegan?”

I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from grinning. “Fine as far as I know. Nothing new to report.”

“You may need to make the first move. He does not seem the type.”

I glanced over at the guys and caught Keegan looking over at me. Delia didn’t miss my blush as I turned back to her and spoke. “Maybe, but I doubt it. By the way, I feel like I’m way too old to be this giggly over a crush.”

She shrugged. “It does not matter how old you are, a possible new romance is always exciting, I think. Is it not nice to have a person show interest in you?”

“Of course it is, but I think I should be more concerned with getting my shit together, right? Making sure I know the acts and having priorities or something.”

Delia rolled her eyes at me. “This is your life now, not simply a job. Priorities are listed within groups—you have a list for work and list for outside of it. They might overlap, but you need to remember it is different for you than ever before. Provided it’s not in the ring, you are allowed distractions.”

“Maybe you’re right, but I still plan on letting him make the first move.”

Delia and I joined the rest of the group and I noticed a new person—a short, very handsome Latino who raised his beer bottle at me in greeting.

“This is Angel,” Keegan said, motioning as he spoke to me.

Angel had the prettiest brown eyes I’d ever seen, with a gold ring circling each iris. They paired nicely with his smooth, deeply tan skin and gelled coif. His height matched mine but I could already tell his ego gave him a few extra inches in confidence.

“And who might you be, chica?” he asked me in low tone accompanied by a strong Spanish accent.

“I’m Lucy. Nice to finally meet you.”

I held out my hand but instead of a shake, he took it with the gentlest touch and kissed the top of it. I glanced at Delia, who hid her smile behind her hand as I raised an eyebrow.

“Lucy, estas muy bonita. It is a pleasure to meet you as well,” Angel said. “I’ve heard several things from Nikolas and Keegan.”

He kept a hold on my hand and those golden brown eyes met mine. For a moment, I felt transfixed, like I was being eased into a bowl of hot chocolate and golden sunshine. Then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up; was he using a gift on me? I reacted without even trying, my skin growing so warm that he instantly dropped my hand. He examined his fingers, gingerly touching each tip as though making sure he hadn’t been burned.

“You are a rare one.” He looked up from his hands to grin at me, showing off a gold tooth. “It’s always unusual when I can’t work my magic on a woman.”

“I didn’t mean to burn you,” I tried but he waved me down.

“Oh, I know, chica. It was your instinct to shut me down. I’m impressed, though I won’t be trying it again.”

“What were you trying to do, anyways?”

“Angel’s an Influencer,” Keegan said. “He can affect people with his touch, like hypnotism.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s with his touch so much as his eyes,” I replied.

Es verdad. I can sometimes…encourage others to do what I want,” Angel said.

“Is that how you got your divorce finalized?” I asked.

Angel laughed a hearty, deep chuckle from his belly. “No, but it is why I got married in the first place. Tonight, however, we celebrate that nightmare’s end.”

“You have a finely tuned bullshit mechanism, Lucy,” Nikolas said with a raise of his beer can at me.

“She is good,” Angel admitted. “Be right back. Necesito mas tequila after that rejection. And to celebrate, of course.”

Angel went inside his camper and Keegan and Nikolas followed after him. Delia talked to Bianca and Finley while I observed everyone. I took a sip of my beer and watched the beer pong game for a moment.

“What he means is that he tricks women into sleeping with him,” a deep voice slipped in my ear. I almost crushed my beer can in surprise, but I made a show of sighing loudly instead. That voice loved to sneak up on me and I would not give him the satisfaction of my shock.

The first few days after the incident at the bar, I’d done my best to avoid Gabriel. With him, I didn’t know whether to say thank you or never mention it again. Then out of the blue, he started popping up everywhere—at lunches and dinners, passing me between tents, always with a smirk or smartass remark about whatever I was doing. Perhaps that was his way of making friends, but it mostly just irritated the shit out of me. I’d told him so, too, but it only encouraged him.

“I don’t really care what he does if it doesn’t directly involve me,” I muttered back to him.

“Sure you do. It’s like lying to a woman to get her into bed.”

“Like your approach is any different,” I said. I turned to face him and he lifted a beer in greeting, smiling at my reply. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Don’t worry, I brought my own beer.” He took a long sip from his can. “Looks like you and Boy Wonder are getting along well.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” I felt a blush creep underneath my skin and I looked down, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

“I’m surprised. You seem like you’d want more of a challenge.”

“Excuse me?” Blush forgotten, I jerked my neck upwards to glare at him.

Gabriel shrugged. “You strike me as the type to move on if things are too easy. You need stimulation to keep your interest.”

“I don’t even—you don’t know anything about me,” I sputtered.

“I’m decent at reading people.”

A small smile twitched his lips as he put a cigarette to them. Before he could reach for his lighter, I threw my palm out, nearly catching his eyebrows on fire with the flame in my hand. Satisfaction coursed through me as his head jerked back in surprise. After a split second, he composed himself, his right eyebrow raised at me as he leaned in to light his smoke. I gave him a tight smile, the flame sizzling as I closed my hand into a fist.

“I wouldn’t waste too much time reading me. I’m not big on jumping to conclusions,” I said.

Gabriel shrugged, putting his cool demeanor back on. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a swell guy. Bit of a bore, though, don’t you think?”

“Even if I was having this conversation with you—and I’m not—Keegan is not a bore and you are extremely rude.” I tried to sip my beer without rolling my eyes and failed.

“Yeah, okay. I think—,” he tried to say, but Nikolas and Keegan’s reappearance interrupted him.

“And we’re back,” Nikolas announced. He glanced at Gabriel. “Oh, hey man. What’s up?”

“Just talking to Lucy here,” Gabriel replied. He turned back to me. “Say, weren’t you talking about your training with the guys?”

I gaped at him. “What? No.”

“Well, I saw you guys a couple days ago in the field. Who did the fireball that got the volunteer firefighters to come check on us? I hear Sheffield had a time sending them away without letting them further into the grounds in the middle of the day.”

Gabriel looked at Nikolas expectantly, but Nikolas shrugged and waved his beer in my direction.

“Lucy’s fireball. I don’t manage anything that big or it could get out of hand.”

“Oh, but Lucy can control it,” Gabriel said. He gave me a sideways look as a sly little smile crossed his face. I narrowed my eyes at him to stop.

“She’s good, that’s all there is to it,” Keegan said.

“Word around the grounds is that you’re the best one here since…well, since your dad,” Gabriel said.

“I don’t care what anyone says. We’re all working our asses off,” I said. I drained the rest of my alcohol, crushing the beer can in my hand while giving Gabriel a dirty look. He threw me a cocky grin, which nearly set my hands on fire. I turned to Keegan.

“Enough work talk. Wanna team up for the next round?” I asked, motioning to the beer pong table. He nodded, finishing his own drink. “Nik, Fin, let’s play each other. Bring beers with us?”

Finley saluted at me, grabbing a case and taking it over to the table with Nikolas. Without another glance at Gabriel, I looped my arm through Keegan’s, who looked surprised but very pleased. I turned on my heel so hard my long hair swung around my shoulders as we walked to the table. While we waited for our turn to play, I caught Delia smirking at me as she talked with Bianca.

The first round, Nikolas and Finley had no trouble beating us. Keegan performed admirably, but I’d never played so it took me a while to warm up to the table. Luckily, no one lined up after us, so the second and third rounds went much better. I saw Gabriel mingling with everyone, but his eyes often met mine when I found him in the crowd. I ignored him, instead yelling at the guys to miss the cups and cheering when we sunk one.

As it turned out, I really liked being competitive in beer pong. We did a lot of shit-talking and I was definitely buzzed, so I felt braver. Keegan carried us most of the way, but when I sunk the winning cup on the last game, I was so excited I could hardly stand it.

“I can’t believe I got it! We won two in a row!” I jumped up and down for a moment while the guys laughed at me. Keegan gave me a huge smile and high-fived me, but in my very excited, slightly drunken haze, I nearly tackled him in a hug.

“Oops, sorry,” I mumbled as I realized my arms were around him. “I have no idea what came over me.”

“Trust me, it’s okay,” he said, squeezing me. He let go and set me back on the ground. My face felt as though it were on fire; hell, maybe it was and I was too drunk to realize it. My hands flew to my warm face in embarrassment, but no fire appeared.

Nikolas and Finley high-fived me and we took a much emptier beer case back to our group of friends. Brooklyn and Renata now joined us and I waved at both of them in greeting. I noticed Gabriel wandering through the small groups of people and I couldn’t help but think he looked a little lonely. I caught his eye as he slid between two guys discussing sports; he didn’t strike me as a people person, so the idea he might actually only be here for company made me feel a little bad for him. Instead of rolling my eyes or glaring at him, I made a silly face and stuck my tongue out. Caught off guard by my sudden personality change, he actually laughed and made his way over to us.

“Good games,” Delia said. “Congratulations to Lucy, who won the last cup!”

“Beginner’s luck, I think,” I said. “Keegan did most of the work.”

“We both played well,” he said. He surprised me by draping an arm over my shoulders and I knew if I looked at Delia, I’d either start giggling or burst into flames. As Gabriel walked up, I saw his eyes briefly dart to Keegan’s arm over me. His grin faded as his eyes met mine. I lifted an eyebrow at him in question but his face shifted back into his normal, cocky smirk. I knew the next time he opened his mouth, it would be some smarmy, asshole comment, probably specifically aimed at my own embarrassment. I counted to three before he spoke.

“Cheers to the happy couple,” Gabriel said, lifting his beer can at me. Keegan’s arm tensed on my shoulder. I inhaled sharply, and perhaps it was all the beer I’d had, but I made my mind up to stay cool. I shrugged, doing my best to keep a passive expression.

“We’re a good team,” I said. I took my empty can and aimed for the trash bin that stood six or seven feet away; miraculously, I sunk it right into the bin.

The rest of the night was a bit hazy, but I laughed a lot and didn’t make a fool of myself, so I considered it a success. It was around three in the morning and a final count at eight beers that I finally decided to call it quits.  Delia wanted to stay and play more beer pong and while I’d hoped Keegan would walk me home, he was nowhere to be found. I started walking the long journey back to my camper, all three pathways over.

I’d only crossed the first intersecting path when a voice called out my name. I turned, smiling in my excitement to see Keegan. When the figure came into focus, however, I found a tall, hot blonde standing in front of me instead.

“Lucy, wait up,” Gabriel said.

“What do you want?” I blurted out. My body swayed a little.

“I’ll walk you to bed.”

An amused snort escaped me. “Right, I’m sure that’s exactly what I’d let happen, you sneak your way into my bed.”

“Worth a shot.”

He grinned, keeping his cigarette in his teeth as he searched his pockets for a lighter. I reached my hand up to light it for him. He leaned forward to meet me, but in my drunken stupor I managed to knock the cigarette from his lips. We both reached down to retrieve it and wound up knocking heads.

“Son of a bitch!” I cried, my hands slapping against my head. I nearly gave myself a black eye with my slow reflexes.

“Sorry,” we both mumbled to each other, massaging our foreheads.

He leaned forward again and this time I lit his cigarette without any bodily trauma. We turned and walked for a few steps before my stupid drunken brain made me stumble. He caught my elbow and held on. I looked up into his blue eyes and forgot to keep my mouth shut.

“It’s too bad you’re so hot,” I mumbled. I kept my eyes on the ground to prevent tripping up again. Or maybe it was to keep from looking in his eyes and ripping his shirt off, I couldn’t be sure.

“Why is that?” Drunk or not, his smug expression was easy for me to read. The smile didn’t reach his eyes, but I could hear it in his pleased tone.

“’Cause you’re a total jackass.”

“Well, I think that’s a little rude.”

“Doesn’t make it untrue.”

I hiccupped. His hand still gripped my elbow and I pulled away. Once again, I ignored the rush of heat on my skin where he’d touched me.

“Did you have fun tonight?” he asked.

I gave him a suspicious look, but he maintained a straight face, so I answered him. “Yes, I had lots of fun. I’m not really used to drinking, though.”

“I figured.”

I stopped dead in my tracks, my hand slapping onto the arm not holding his cigarette. “You did? Oh, god, am I obvious? I didn’t want to be that girl!”

He looked from his arm to my face for a moment and my eyes grew bigger in panic. When he finally spoke, he sounded surprised.

“I can’t tell if you’re fucking with me or not. Are you genuinely worried that people know you’re drunk?”

“So I am that obvious! Oh, man.” My cheeks flushed in embarrassment. I resumed the walk to my camper while Gabriel’s chuckle floated after me.

“If it matters, you’re doing a pretty good job of not seeming that drunk. For someone who clearly doesn’t drink,” he said.

I huffed and kept walking, all the way up to my camper door. Gabriel caught my wrist right before I reached for the doorknob. I turned to face him. Standing on the first step, we were almost at eye level. I became a little distracted by his long eyelashes looking down at me. His hand didn’t leave my wrist.

“You should drink lots of water and pop some aspirin,” he said in a low tone that sent shivers down my back.

“Thanks for the tip.” My eyes refused to leave his and I nearly drowned in the sea of blue.

Gabriel came in to stand as close as possible to me, his body lightly pressing against mine. Heat flooded through me and I resisted the urge to jump him. This was bad. In this state of mind, I might not be able to refuse.

As soon as the thought crossed my mind, the corners of his mouth turned upward and he took a small step away.

“Good night, Lucy.”

Gabriel took another step back and I had a full view of him in his dark jeans and black tee. The camp lights gleamed off his blonde hair. Despite him being covered in shadows, I could still feel his eyes on me.

I managed to get in the camper and when I turned around, he was gone. I shut the door, changed, and got into bed. Then I got up again and poured myself a large glass of water and took some aspirin.

I didn’t fall asleep immediately. Instead, Gabriel’s deep eyes and soft touch flooded my thoughts. He was too smooth, too skilled, too used to sweet-talking any woman he wanted. With his ego and sarcasm, he couldn’t be taken seriously. Why couldn’t I get him out of my head?

Perhaps I shouldn’t have admitted his good looks. It seemed to only encourage him. Alcohol, it seemed, was not great for my normal filters.

**************************

So, readers, what did you think? Lucy’s not what we’d call a hard partier, though I have some antics up my sleeves for the next book for her. I hope you enjoyed a sneak peek scene at Gifted!

And check out all the great authors participating in our YA Indie Carnival and their ideas of this week’s theme here!

2 thoughts on “YA Indie Carnival: 4/20

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