Playing Her Secret Crush(4)

By: Casey Griffin

“Sugarplum, time for a Combo Attack.” Dark_Prince sprinted across the screen. “Slingshot me up there.”

Katie saw the ogre grab Dark_Prince in a meaty hand and throw him like a javelin straight at the dragon. Alex’s grunt came through her headphones like it was really him sailing through the air.

It sent shivers down Katie’s spine. He was coming to save her. Or, if he didn’t make it in time, at least he’d avenge her.

The dragon responded with a snort that said bring it on. Smoke obscured Katie’s screen, threatening the hellfire to come. Hanging before the entrance to the inferno, she feared that wasn’t something she’d bounce back from.

She was going to die. Everything she’d worked so hard for would be lost. Over two years of gameplay, of painstakingly leveling up, of honing her skills, all gone. She’d have to start over again from level one!

A second later, Dark_Prince appeared, leaping toward her through the smoggy air. As he fell, he twisted and slashed his sword downward, stabbing it through the dragon’s neck. It sank into the soft flesh over its throbbing heartbeat.

Black blood sprayed out in a gross sloshing sound. As the elf dropped to the ground, he dragged the blade down the dragon’s neck, filleting its throat.

The beast coughed, like Katie’s uncle Doug choking on his own cigarette. It convulsed and shook as smoke puffed out in dark, billowing clouds. The violent shudders shook her fairy free, and she flew to safety.

Their target now obvious, together they made quick work of the dragon. When it finally fell, it cleared the way to a cave that led deep inside of the Dwarf Mountains. They’d done it!

Sugarplum did a happy dance, shaking his pelt-covered booty. Pizzalover downed her mana potion like a celebratory drink to recover her powers, and Dark_Prince wasted no time picking through the loot dropped by the dragon: priceless scales, rusty armor from fallen knights, rubies, and gold.

With a few clicks of her mouse, Katie cast a healing spell. It fell over her and the team in a sparkle of pink.

“Do you guys want to keep going?” Trevor asked. “I don’t want to stop now that we’ve opened up the new area. The God Sword is somewhere in these mountains. I just know it.”

“Aww,” Penny whined. “I’ve got chores to do. But Mom says if I get them done really quick, I can play more later.”

“Great,” Alex said. “Let’s all meet in a couple of hours.”

“See you guys later,” Trevor said.

The others signed out of the game and disappeared in little puffs of smoke, leaving Katie and Alex alone.

“So, are you coming over now?” Katie asked. She hoped he didn’t hear the nervous hitch in her voice.

“Just can’t get enough of me hanging around this summer?” he teased.

She snorted. “What do you mean? You’ve hardly been around. You know, between Gillian and Lucy and Mia and that other one.” She counted them off on her fingers, trying to work from the top of the cheerleader pyramid down. “Oh, and don’t forget that date with Audrey. She’s still messaging me, by the way, asking why you haven’t returned any of her calls.”

He groaned. “What did you tell her?”

“That you’ve been in Spain running with the bulls.”

He laughed. “Thanks. I can always count on you.”

“Well, I had to make it sound plausible,” she joked—sort of. Thanks to his carpe diem attitude, he was always trying to find new ways to get a rush.

“I’ll see you soon,” he said.

“Sure thing.”

Katie began gnawing on her lip before she remembered her lipstick. She took a calming breath. Don’t be stupid. It’s only Alex. He was just her friend, and she needed his opinion on her New Look. No big deal.

Signing out of the game, she stripped out of her faded jeans and Marvel T-shirt and whipped open her closet. From its depths, she pulled out the little bag she’d been stashing all summer. Her secret weapon for The Plan to get noticed: a new, lacy red pushup bra.

Not that anyone would see it was lacy, or red, for that matter. Or would they? Eventually, maybe…but she was getting way ahead of herself.

The point was she was going to know she was wearing it. It would make her feel confident, like all those Victoria’s Secret models. And magazines always said the sexiest feature on a woman was confidence. If only that had come in a bottle at the cosmetics counter, too.

Katie riffled through her closet until she found her new red dress. She cut off the price tags and slipped it on over her new bra. Stepping in front of the mirror, she scrutinized how it hung.

“Looking good,” she told her reflection, because she was trying Step two: Act confident. If she repeated her positive affirmations enough, she’d hopefully start to believe them, and others would see it, too—specifically the guys at school.