Home > Reindeer Games (Games #4.5)

Reindeer Games (Games #4.5)
Author: Jessica Clare

Chapter One

I have this thing in the bag. — Owen MacIntosh, Day 1, Endurance Island: Alaska

 

~~ * * * ~~

 

Three dugout canoes sat in the middle of the frigid bay, surrounded by a dozen cameras (and cameramen) near the shore of the rocky Alaskan beach.

On the shore, the host of Endurance Island, Chip Brubaker, waved a flag emblazoned with the logo of the show. “Welcome to the newest edition of Endurance Island,” he called out to us as we huddled, six contestants to a canoe.

I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to cheer at that. A few scattered people clapped their hands.

Chip glanced at a cue card, and then spoke again, reading a prompt. “This time, our castaways won’t be roughing it on a sexy beach or frolicking in the sand. Instead, they’ll have to face off hungry bears and bitter cold and tons and tons of snow. Stay tuned for this and more in this season’s Endurance Island — Alaska!”

I kept waiting to hear cheers, but there was only silence and the occasional slap of waves against the wooden canoe sides. My teeth chattered and I huddled in the front of the canoe, barely clutching the oar in my hands. The icy mist made my clothes stick to my skin and my boots were sitting in an inch of water that had slopped into the canoe. In short, it was wicked freezing out here.

This sucked.

I was pretty sure when I’d signed up for Endurance Island, I hadn’t signed up for the Alaska edition. If I’d wanted to spend my time up to my ass in snow all winter, I’d be digging out my mom’s front porch for her back in Boston. I’d signed up for sun and sand over the Christmas holidays.

Instead, I’d gotten pine trees, Alaska, and way too much snow. Who had I pissed off to deserve this?

Chip spoke again. “When I give the word, the game will begin.” He raised the flag high in the air, a clear signal to us.

I felt our little canoe shake as people readied their oars.

“The first team to reach the beach will win a special present, including a hot meal for your first night in Alaska. The other two teams will receive matches – since we don’t want you to freeze.” Chip’s white teeth flashed in his face like an army of Chiclets and he raised a big green and red wrapped present high into the air for us to see.

Oh great. Not only was this Endurance Island: Alaska, but I was apparently on the Christmas edition of the show. Visions of elf costumes and reindeer challenges flew through my head, all completely cringe-worthy.

Ugh. I’d hated Christmas ever since my father had died three days prior to it when I was twenty-three. Ever since then? Mom hadn’t given a shit about Christmas, and neither had I. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing to celebrate.

But it was too late to bail on the show, and I wouldn’t have anyhow. I could endure some elfy-Santa bullcrap now and then if it meant getting close to that million dollars they were offering.

I should have guessed it was a Christmas edition when they’d told me that we’d be filming through all of December. But I’d gotten excited instead, because I’d thought they’d ship us out to Bora Bora or something like that. And I should have guessed that this would be a different sort of edition of the show when they’d informed me that the prize money was only one million, instead of the normal two.

I’d just thought they’d gotten a bit cheap on us.

But it all made sense now, and once the pieces had all slid together in my brain…I wish I’d recognized it earlier. The crew kept things so well concealed from us – from our flight in to the gear bags they’d made for us – that I’d had no idea of what was going on until they’d plopped us into a dugout canoe atop some freezing water and told us to start rowing to shore, and handed us fluffy red parkas.

That had been a big freaking hint.

I was taking the whole ‘Christmas edition’ thing better than the redhead on my team, though. She’d been weeping ever since they’d dropped an oar in her hands. My guess was that she’d wanted to do a lot of sauntering around in skimpy bikinis.

“Are you ready, teams?” Chip braced himself over on the beach, his microphoned voice ringing out to us.

A cheer arose. I looked down across the water and saw two more teams in canoes – one in blue, one in yellow. One big mammoth guy in the yellow parka was raising his oar above his head and screaming his enthusiasm like a wild animal. Jesus. I was glad he wasn’t on my team.

“Ready…set…” Chip’s voice rang out over the water.

Everyone tensed.

“GO!”

Eighteen sets of oars plunged into the water. The six people in our red team canoe scrambled, the entire thing shaking with our efforts. I hurried to get my oar lined up, flailing a bit. I’d never rowed before. I was a Boston girl, and I didn’t like the water in winter. I stared at the shore, determined.

At the back, a guy shouted, “Hey…hey! Up there in the front! Why don’t you actually try putting your oar in the damn water? We’ll get a lot further.”

Was he…talking to me?

No fucking way. “What the fuck did he just say?” I bellowed.

“Yeah, hey you. Boston Princess,” the guy said. “Stick your damn o-ah in the wah-tah.”

“Go fuck yourself,” I told him. It was far too early in the game for this shit. I’d barely said two words to anyone, but apparently they were pronounced wrong. Jerks.

Scowling, I looked over at my oar. Son of a…

So it wasn’t really hitting the water. Big flipping deal. I dug in, mentally picturing jackass as the water and constantly slapping my oar across his face.

I got a lot of rowing done that way.

 

~~ * * * ~~

 

By the time we landed on shore, we were in second place. Not terrible, in my opinion, but not first place. Some people on the team clearly weren’t terribly happy with that placement, though. As we all flopped down on the beach from the long row in, we scoped each other out and caught our breath.

One bland looking guy raised his hand, giving us all a friendly look. “This isn’t the Hunger Games, so I figure we can all work together, right? I’m Gary from Ohio.” He pointed at his jacket, which read GARY on the breast and across his back, since Endurance Island liked to clearly label us to make it easier for the audience to tell everyone apart.

The sniffly redhead was sitting next to him, and she gave us all a wobbly smile. “Clarissa, from Los Angeles.”

“You a model?” Gary asked.

She giggled at him and swatted at his arm. “Flatterer!”

My eyes narrowed. That didn’t mean no. I’d have to watch Clarissa. It was clear she was going to play the flirty card.

“I’m Patty,” said another woman, and I immediately sussed her up. Everyone on the show seemed to fall into certain categories, after all. Looks, brains, or entertainment. Patty was clearly going to be entertainment. She had a sweet face, a dainty build, a necklace that said “Number One Mom” and the most godawful feathered mullet I’d ever seen since Billy Ray Cyrus.

Next around the circle was another guy. Small, nerdy. Glasses. Freckles. Ginger. “Kinda funny that your name is Patty,” he said in a voice that seemed far more abrasive than should have come out of the mouth of such a tiny guy. “I’m Pat, too. As in Patrick.” And he pointed at the breast of his pocket. Sure enough, we now had Pat and Patty.

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