He gave me a derisive look. "I don’t think I have anything to say to you."
And there went my temper. I’d gone from gloating to furious all over again. God, I hated this man. I calmly stepped around the counter and slopped my bowl of melting ice cream on top of that hood. "Fuck you very much, sore loser," I said in my sweetest voice.
And walked away.
This was going to be a long, long round in the loser lodge if Owen was here.
I DIDN’T SEE OWEN AGAIN until the next morning, which suited me just fine. Mornings in the Loser Lodge were kind of nice. I woke up around nine, because about that time, the newest camera-crew shift had just cleared out to go film the contestants, and that meant I was in the kitchen alone. I liked the crew well enough, but given the fact that they weren’t really supposed to talk to me? It made meals awkward, so I just avoided them to make things easier.
The kitchen was fully stocked, and the coffee delicious. I puttered around for a few minutes, trying to decide what to cook myself, before settling on eggs and toast. I wasn’t much of a cook at home. Normally I headed out to Dunkin’ Donuts first thing in the morning, grabbed breakfast, and then opened my laptop up to write. I wasn’t used to making my own food, but I figured I couldn’t mess up eggs.
I’d just cracked them in the skillet when I heard a pair of shuffling feet behind me. I turned…and there was my nemesis.
I made a face at him. "Good morning, Sunshine." I focused back on the eggs I was burning, and turned the burner down. Jeez. You wouldn’t think eggs would be so wicked hard to make, but mine were already turning a dark brown around the edges and were still watery in the middle. I focused on my breakfast and not on Owen.
The man had a lot of nerve, showing up in the kitchen in a pair of sleep pants with no shirt on. He had a delicious, smooth brown bare chest that only irritated me even more. Jerk was probably just trying to show it off, which made me like him even less. I rolled my eyes at my eggs. Typical male.
I heard the clink of the coffee pot being moved and whipped around. "What do you think you’re doing?"
Owen stared at me, mid-pour into a coffee mug. "Getting myself coffee?"
"That’s my coffee," I told him. I’d only made enough in the pot for one large cup—mine. "You’d better not be drinking my coffee."
"I’d bettah not?"
"You want my fist in your face?" I told him belligerently. "Cause I’m wicked good with my fists. It’s a Boston thing."
"Like being an a**hole?"
I breathed heavily out of my nose, practically snorting like an angry bull. He was just trying to get my goat. "Put the coffee down, you son of a bitch. I said that’s mine and I meant it."
In disbelief, I watched as he finished pouring the last of the coffee into his mug, and gave me a challenging look. Then, he sat down at the nearby breakfast bar and picked up a newspaper, ignoring my spluttering.
I grabbed my egg skillet and tilted it over his cup. My mushy eggs slid right in with a delicious plop. "There! Now neither of us has coffee. You satisfied?"
Owen got up and gave me a disgusted look with those amber eyes. "Man, you really are a lunatic."
I gave him the finger.
He left the kitchen, and I was left with no coffee, no eggs, and a mess to clean up.
It’s a shame that Luna’s totally my type: blonde hair, blue eyes, short, curvy little body…at least, until she opens her mouth. – Owen MacIntosh, Lodge Home Movies footage
I HID IN MY ROOM for most of the day, flipping through magazines, napping, and jotting down ideas for future scripts. The lodge no longer felt like a safe haven. I’d tried relaxing in the living room, only to find that it made me tense to think that Owen might turn a corner at any minute and see me doing yoga, or writing down script bits. I wrote horror movie scripts for a living, and it was a fun job, but one that was easily misunderstood, considering I wrote myself notes like ‘the termite axes her head off, lots of gore’. The last thing I wanted was to give Owen more ammo to mock me with, so I simply avoided him and hid my notepad.
Had I thought the lodge was boring and miserable before? It was nothing compared to having to stay in your room for fear of seeing the person you loathed the most.
The next day, I crept down the long hall on careful, silent feet. All of the bedrooms were on the second floor of the lodge, and the floors creaked, so I wanted to make sure Owen didn’t hear me sneaking out. As soon as I made it past the rooms, I headed down the wooden stairs into the main part of the lodge. It was a huge building with a great layout. While the bedrooms were on the second floor loft, the rest of the lodge was completely open. A massive fireplace dominated the back wall, surrounded by floor to ceiling windows. On the far end of the enormous open room, the kitchen area rolled into the section designated as dining. It was clearly a party lodge, meant for a large group of people. The entire place was terrific.
Unless you were trying to avoid someone, and all that open-ness became a bit of a curse.
Still, it was a great lodge, and I was mentally placing my next horror movie here. There were so many great scenes I could do with the lodge alone, and that wasn’t even considering in the whole ‘snowbound’ or ‘Alaska’ factor. It was the perfect research.
When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I stopped in surprise at the massive spread of food on the countertops and the dining tables. That hadn’t been there yesterday.
Owen was standing over a table – dammit – and surveying the food as well. He wasn’t touching anything, just regarding it with a curiously scrutinizing look on his face.
Since I couldn’t avoid him, I stood a little straighter and approached anyhow. "What’s all this?"
He looked over at me, and then turned his attention back toward the spread. "Food."
Jackass. "I noticed. Someone catered all this in here?"
"Guess so." He scratched at his broad chest, and I was pleased to see he was fully clothed this time, at least. He wore jogging pants and a red t-shirt with a cupcake on it. Kinda sissy for a dude, but whatever. I’d store that particular tidbit for ammo later.
I leaned over the table and peered at the food. Cold cut sandwiches had been sliced into triangles with small toothpicks sticking out. There were deviled eggs, dips, chips, chicken wings, cheeses, fruit and veggie trays, and every kind of finger food imaginable. On the table that Owen stood over, there were desserts. I had a massive sweet tooth, so I gravitated toward that table, expecting Owen to slide away once I did.
He didn’t, though. He just stood there, ignoring me, studiously regarding the table.
I wondered what was so fascinating. There was a big creamy looking pie, several puffy little confections with a ton of frosting on them, some cookies, chocolate dipped strawberries, and some other delicious but unidentifiable desserts. "Wow. Looks good."
Owen looked over at me and his mouth turned down. "Are you kidding me? This looks like shit."
"Your version of shit must look really different than mine," I said, reaching for a goopy-looking frosted cupcake with a candy cane sticking out of it. It looked sugary as hell and I was on board for that.
He smacked my hand as I reached for it. "Don’t touch that."
I stopped, shocked. He did not just slap my hand, did he? "Excuse me?"
"Didn’t you read the sign, Boston? Or are you that uneducated that you need me to read it to you?" He pointed at a piece of paper tacked up on a nearby wall and read it aloud. "DO NOT EAT THE CATERED FOOD. IT IS FOR THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER’S VISIT TONIGHT."
I rolled my eyes and reached for the cupcake again. "I’ll rearrange the plate and they’ll never notice it’s gone." I lifted it to my mouth and took a big, messy bite right in front of his incredulous eyes. "Mmmm, soooo good." Actually, it was dry. The icing wasn’t fresh and tasted gritty, and the cake tasted stale. But I’d be damned if I’d let Owen know that. "This is the best cupcake ever," I muttered around the mouthful, lying.
"You are a total ass, Lunatic," he said in a revolted voice. "Seriously."
I f**king hated that nickname almost as much as I hated him. And since my cupcake sucked, I decided to use it for something else. I took the rest of it and shoved it right onto the center of his t-shirt, where the other cupcake was drawn on. "Here, I’ll share."
Owen sucked in a breath and stepped backward, brushing at his shirt. The half-eaten cupcake dropped to the floor between us in a sickly, frosting-covered plop. He stared at me, then down at the cupcake. Then back at me.
I could practically see the wheels turning in his head, and I wasn’t surprised when he reached for one of the nearby fluffy pies. He grabbed one off the table and turned toward me.
"Oh no you don’t," I said in a warning voice. "Remember, they told us not to touch the food," I mimicked. "And you’re such a good little follower that you should put that down–"
The pie smacked me square in the face, and the world went black for a cold, cream-filled second. Then, it dribbled into my mouth and I tasted lemon and a stale meringue.
That jerkface did not just pie me in the face, did he?
Seething, I wiped at my eyes. Over a f**king cupcake? Oh, this bastard was going down. I squeezed my eyes open to see Owen retreating, clearly about to head back up the stairs.
I grabbed the nearest pie and ran after him.
Mine smacked him in the back of the head, dribbling cherry filling and whipped cream down his neck. He halted in place, and I watched the pie pan flop to the ground, and then the rest of the pie slid down his shoulders. Then, he turned and looked at me with eyes so wild with anger I could see nothing but the whites.
The world was still for one brief second.
Then, we both ran for the dessert table.
It was an ugly food fight. Both Owen and I grabbed whatever we could, flinging it at each other. I got creamed over and over again, but I had good aim, and for every smack that Owen got on me, I returned. His dark skin was spattered with icing and whipped cream, and my shirt was sticking to me from the death of a hundred different desserts. Meanwhile, we tore through the dessert table, smashing dessert after dessert into each other. When that ran out, we moved to the appetizer table and threw handfuls of dip at each other, slinging it with abandon and cussing epithets at each other.
Someone grabbed my arm. "Luna! Luna! Stop!"
I jerked away, my arm—and the floor – so slippery that I nearly took a tumble. I managed to right myself just in time to stare into the face of the producer. He was staring at me with horror.
"He started it," I blurted, and wiped filling from the corner of my eye.
"She’s lying," Owen said. I looked over at him and was pleased to see him smeared with custard, pumpkin, and frosting. He looked like a big drippy snowman that was in the process of melting. I gave him a smug look.
The producer said nothing, simply looked at us and wiped his brow. He was flecked with dessert and dip too, I noticed. Oops. He must have gotten into the way of our war. "Didn’t you guys see the sign?"
"I even read it aloud to Luna," Owen said. "She still decided to throw a cupcake on me."
I stuck my tongue out at him.
"The way I saw it, both of you were throwing equally," the producer said, and shook his head. "God. Now I have to get catering to come back out here." He sighed, then glared at us. "You two. Go get cleaned up and then I want you to clean this shit up. Right now, or you’re both going home and forfeiting your prize money."
I scowled and crossed my arms. That prize money was five grand just for being on the show. "Fine." I shot one last glare at Owen and then stomped upstairs.
"Not so fast," Owen said. "There’s only one shower and I want it first–"
I ran up the stairs.
"Goddamn it," Owen said, and I heard him stomp after me.
I managed to get up the stairs and slide into the bathroom and locked it before he made it to the door. I heard him thud against it, and then he cursed. A moment later, he banged a fist on the door. "Don’t use all the hot water!"
Oh, I’d make sure I would. With an evil smile, I turned the hot water up.
THE NEXT MORNING, THE LODGE was utterly quiet. I frowned, put on the coffee, and padded around the downstairs. There wasn’t the sound of another person anywhere around here. I checked the clock, since they’d confiscated our phones before we came on the show. It was super early, which meant that the camera crew should have been around, just getting ready to leave.
There was no one at all.
Chewing on my lip, I got my coffee and noticed a tray of donuts had been left for us. A very small tray – not enough for a crew full of cameramen. Thoughtful, I grabbed one and headed into the living area of the lodge, plunking myself down on a couch. From here, I had a perfect vantage point of both stairs and lodge doors. If anyone came in or went out, I’d see them.
Of course, the next person I saw was Owen, emerging from his room. I made a face and sipped my coffee, staring out the lodge windows. The snowy ground outside was gorgeous, but looked bitterly cold. Once again, I was thankful I was inside and voted off instead of roughing the elements with nothing but that crinkly blanket thing. Upstairs, I had a real bed with thick quilts and there was a heater in the lodge that ran all day to keep it nice and toasty warm.