chapter eighteen

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I watch with bated breath as the bowling ball soars towards the pins and hits the target with annoying accuracy. The boy in a perfectly pressed blue button-up shirt spins on his heel and grins at me, his face illuminated by the reflection of the giant disco ball hanging above the lanes.

"How are you so good at this?" I'm practically pouting as I pass by him to grab my neon pink ball. I've barely knocked down any pins and my past three turns were all gutter balls. I'm pretty sure that he could miss every pin for the rest of the game and I still wouldn't have a chance of winning.

"You can still put on the bumpers, I won't judge," Dean says.

I don't have to turn around to know that he's smiling.

I take a deep breath and release it slowly, trying to center myself as I stare down the pins. At this point, I just want to knock one down.

"Do you want some pointers?"

I jump a little at his voice and look over my shoulder to see him walking toward me. His cheeks are slightly flushed and when I nod he stops right next to me, hesitating for a moment before guiding my bowling ball up so that it's aligned with the center of my chest.

"Make sure to keep your thumb in line with the pins," he says, his hands turning the ball slightly so my wrist is angled up and my thumb is in line with my target, "and try to keep it as smooth as you can," he adds, "you kind of fidget before you release and it knocks off the trajectory of the ball," 

I watch as he demonstrates the correct motion for releasing the ball and I nod along, attempting to look like I'm paying attention to his step by step tutorial instead of checking him out.

His blonde hair is styled so that his bangs are pushed back off of his face and his high cheekbones, boyish smile, and ocean blue eyes are more charming than I remember from our diner encounter.

He steps back and motions for me to go ahead, his encouraging smile turns into something decidedly more amused as I give him a thumbs up with the hand not currently holding the ridiculously heavy ball.

"Here goes nothing," I sigh, bringing the ball up to my chest the way he instructed. With one swift movement, I bring my hand back and then propel it forward, keeping my thumb directed toward the pins. The ball hits the lane with a thud and it veers off toward the right and clips the pins at the edge of the formation, knocking down four.

The crash of the ball blends in with the rest of the games in the bowling alley, but I revel in it all the same. It may only be four pins, but it's more than I've managed to get all night and I'm not about to downplay that victory.

Turning on my heel I want to launch into the air in a celebratory dance. If I could do that heel-clicking thing without breaking my ankles I would have, but for my own safety I settle for finger guns pointed at the ceiling as I wiggle my hips.

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