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Fake Dating in a Small Town - Chapter Three


Dax’s heart pumped wildly in his chest.

I’m kissing Callie. Right now. She’s in my arms and I’m kissing her.


He hadn’t thought much past staying on the toboggan and crossing the finish line.

That, and not crashing into a tree.

When he realized they had won, causing Cal to send him a glare that would have normally caused his chest to burn, he had been so elated he didn’t think. He just reacted, and his gut instinct was to take Callie into his arms and kiss her. It was then he noticed everything else had faded away. He could no longer hear the roar of the small crowd that had gathered, nor could he feel the heated glare Cal shot at him as McKenzie pouted about losing.

No, the only thing that existed was Callie.

“Dax! Callie! Congratulations!” Trevor gave Dax a hard pat on the shoulder, making him pull back from his kiss. “Dax, I never thought I’d ever see you move so fast down a mountain.”

“Yeah, well, things change, I guess.” Dax couldn’t break eye contact with Callie.

The radiant smile on Callie’s face told him she was just as affected as he was.

“Come on, let’s get you over to the table and get your prize!” Trevor laughed as he walked away from them.

“You did it!” Callie explained, gripping Dax’s arms.

We did it,” he corrected, unable to get the dumbfounded smile off his face.

“Yes, but you got on that toboggan and you rode it like you wanted to win, Dax! You got out of your comfort zone and if I heard you correctly, you even had fun while you were doing it!”

“I don’t know if I’d go so far to say that I had fun, but it was…an experience.”

“I heard you laughing. Don’t you dare try to pretend that didn’t happen,” she laughed, placing her hand on his arm.

Her smiling face drew him in again, making him almost forget they were expected at the winner’s table. It wasn’t until Dax saw Trevor’s questioning look over Callie’s shoulder that he remembered they had people waiting for them.

“I admit nothing.” The corner of his mouth ticked up into a small smile as he placed her hand in the crook of his elbow and walked her toward a waiting Trevor.

“Daxy! I didn’t know you liked to toboggan? Is that some new skill you picked up in the big city?” McKenzie asked as she hovered around the table behind Trevor, clinging to Cal’s arm, The sneer still on his face.

“No, definitely not a skill.” Dax grumbles, trying to suppress the cringe at the use of his childhood nickname. Again.

“Maybe not, but he sure did amazing! Didn’t you, Dax?” Callie asked, emphasizing his name. “I mean, it was such a surprise when you practically begged me to sign up. That New Year's resolution list of yours is sure making us do a bunch of new things, isn’t it?” To anyone else, the look on her face would be pure excitement, but Dax knew it was a plea to play along.

“Uh, yeah.” Dax didn’t know what else to say as he looked between an expectant Callie and a confused McKenzie.

“Resolutions? You never made resolutions before,” McKenzie stated, her eyebrow raised.

“Well, people change. What can I say? He’s all about trying new things and I’m just happy I’ve been here to support him along the way.”

“Really now? What other things have you been trying there, Daxy?” Cal asked.

Dax started to sweat at the look of disbelief on Cal’s face. While he didn’t know the man, he had a feeling he knew Callie’s words were a stretch of the truth.

“Oh, well, let’s see…” Callie tapped a gloved finger from her free hand on her lips. “We’ve started going on road trips. I’ve even taught him the importance of getting the best gas station candy.”

Mckenzie’s face puckered. Dax knew how much she hated gas stations and wouldn’t even think about eating the food that came from them.

“And now we can cross tobogganing off our list,” Callie finished, looking up at him.

“Yeah.” Again, one word was all he could get out.

“And what a way to do it!” Trevor said excitedly, clapping Dax on the back. Lifting a mic to his mouth, he continued. “Thank you, everyone, for joining our second annual Cedar Valley Falls Toboggan Race! We are excited to announce our winners are Dax Marshall and Callie…” Trevor looked at her with a questioning look.

“Griffith,” Callie whispered.

“Callie Griffith!” He gave the crowd a moment with their applause before continuing. “You’ve won a romantic dinner for two at the Cedar Valley Lodge!” The crowd cheered again.

Dax nodded to Trevor as he accepted the envelope from his friend’s outstretched hand. Turning to Callie, he leaned down to her ear and whispered. “Do you want to get out of here?”

He hoped she understood the desperation in his voice. He’d had his fun racing down the hill with her. That was, once he overcame his fear of going headfirst into a tree, but now that the attention was solely on them, he needed to get out. He never liked big crowds, and having them all converge on them to congratulate them was too much.

She looked up at him with a wide smile on her face, which dipped slightly when she met his eyes. “Are you okay?”

“This is just… a lot.”

Callie brought her gloved hand up to Dax’s cheek, cupping it softly. “Whatever you need. Lead the way.”

Dax couldn’t stop the smile on his own face at her understanding. She might be the complete opposite of him in feeling comfortable around others, but she was also compassionate enough to know when he needed to leave. For that, he was thankful.

Dax kissed her on the side of her head before lacing his fingers with hers. They said their quick goodbyes, gift card tightly in hand, as they made their way back to Callie’s car.

“So, where should I go?” she asked as she started her car.

“I think I know just the place.”


“So you wanted to get away from the town, so you brought us to the diner?” Callie asked, looking up at the building in front of them through the windshield.

“Well, yes, but as you saw, most people are at the festival, not here. I figured it would be safe. Plus, Mindy knows what table I like, and it’s a little hidden.”

“Well, aren’t you a man of mystery,” she laughed, reaching for the door handle.

“Wait.” Dax placed his hand on her arm, stilling her movement. “I just want to say thank you.”

“For what?” She turned to him, confusion written on her face.

“For understanding.” He took a deep breath, glancing down the street before them before bringing his attention back to her and continuing. “I don’t like big crowds.”

“I never would have guessed,” she laughed.

“Or having a bunch of attention on me.”

“What? You? No!” she gasped, clutching her chest with her free hand dramatically with a smile. “Dax, there’s no need to thank me. I could tell you weren’t loving the attention, and we left. It’s no big deal. The most important part is that you took the chance and got on that toboggan. And we won!”

“Yeah, we did.”

“How’s the place we won that dinner at, anyway? Is it any good?”

“Only the best restaurant in town.” He gave her a shy smile, his cheeks tinged pink. “I mean, keep in mind this is a small town so it might not be like all the fancy restaurants in Vancouver…” He felt himself rambling, but he couldn’t stop.

“Dax, I don’t need fancy, remember? I’m not even from Vancouver. Plus, even if I was, that’s not me. I much prefer Cedar Valley Falls to the big city.”


“Yeah, really.” A wide smile crossed his face at her words. Every moment with her just reminds him of why he didn’t want their relationship to be fake. It felt like he knew why he hadn’t been dating—he’d been waiting for Callie.

But this was all fake.

As much as he didn’t want it to be, it was. He was going back to Vancouver and she would go back to Kamloops. It didn’t matter that he felt closer to her than anyone else. It also didn’t matter that they had the perfect kiss at the town’s well, or that everyone thought they were together and the perfect couple. He knew the truth, and he would do well to remember that.

“We should get inside. You know, before someone spots us,” Dax said, clearing his throat.

“Hey, are you okay?”

“Uh, yeah.” He didn’t even believe his own words, but they were the best he had at the moment.

He peeled himself out of her car, avoiding her gaze as he took her hand and led her into the diner.

“Hey, Dax! Are you looking for your booth?” Mindy, the diner’s longtime server yelled from behind the counter.

“Hi, Mindy. Yes, please. If it’s available,” Dax replied.

“I think you’re okay,” Mindy laughed. “Take a seat and I’ll be right with ya.”

Dax looked around, seeing that they were the only ones in the diner.

“You really weren’t kidding,” Callie said in awe beside him.

Staying silent, he led her to the back of the diner, letting go of her hand only to slide into the booth’s red leather seat.

Callie took a moment to take off her jacket before sliding in across from him. He grabbed his menu, his eyes glossing over the words.

“Hey,” Callie said, pulling the menu down onto the table. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” he said, fiddling with the packets of sugar on the table.

“Don’t start lying to me now, Dax. Something happened in the car and I don’t know what it is.”

“Well, if it isn’t our town’s toboggan winners!” Mindy said, walking up to the table with a coffeepot in her hand. “Coffee, Dax?”

“Please.” He took the upturned mug in front of him and flipped it around.

“What can I get you, hun?” Mindy asked as she poured Dax’s coffee.

“A peppermint tea, please,” Callie said, shooting Dax an inquisitive look. “How did you know about the race?”

“Oh, honey. This is Cedar Valley Falls. I had the play-by-play as you two were shooting down the mountain. No one could believe Dax here got onto the back of one.” She laughed, the slight laugh lines around her eyes becoming more apparent. She was a little older than him, and they have never run in the same circles, but she had always been nice to him, even when everything was going down with McKenzie.

“I should have figured that,” Callie laughed.

“I’ll be right back with you tea. I’ll take your order when I get back.” Mindy strolled off, leaving them alone once again.

“Spill it,” Callie said, giving him a hard look.

“Look, it’s nothing. Really. I guess I’m just overwhelmed with everything from today.” There was no way he was going to tell her she’s making him want to break every rule he’d ever placed for himself. He wanted to make what they had real. He wanted to have her by his side and even push him out of his comfort zone. Maybe not all the time with things like flying down a mountain, but she made him want to be more adventurous and to try new things. But only if he could do them with her.

He even made himself question whether he belonged in Vancouver or if maybe it was time he came home to Cedar Valley Falls. That was something he wasn’t ready to spend a lot of time thinking about.

“Alright, I’ll drop it for now.” She shifted her focus to the menu. “What do you recommend?”

“Well, you can never go wrong with the burger. It’s a staple here.”

“Oh! A BLT with a side of poutine? I’m sold!” Callie exclaimed excitedly.

“Did I hear the BLT with the poutine? You’re my kind of girl.” Mindy smiled as she walked up, sliding a small metal teapot with a paper-wrapped bag on the side of the small plate in front of Callie. “Sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier. I’m Mindy.”

“Callie,” she replied with a smile.

“I’m surprised Dax has never brought you in here before. He’s in here most nights working away at the booth. He says he likes it because it’s hard for people to see in unless they walk by. I think he likes it because it’s the closest to the kitchen, so he gets his food fast.”

Callie and Mindy laughed together. Dax found himself unable to stop himself from joining in. “I’ll neither confirm, nor deny, that, Mindy.”

“Well, you can’t blame him either way for that. And I live in Kamloops, which is why I haven’t been in with him until now. It’s been hard to get away.”

“Well, no bother. Welcome to Cedar Valley Falls. I hope we see more of you.”

“Me, too.” Callie’s cheeks turned pink as she shot Dax a look, but he wasn’t able to read what the look meant.

“We have Callie’s order. What about you, Dax? Your usual?”

“Uh, yeah. The cheeseburger and fries, please.”

“Coming right up.” Mindy took their menus and walked off once more.

Callie placed her elbow on the table, her chin resting on her closed hand. Her eyes were wide with mischief, and he didn’t know if he was ready for what she was going to say next.

“So, Dax, tell me. What’s our next adventure?”

Dax picked up his coffee mug and took a big sip, letting the hot, rich liquid give him a moment to decide how he was going to answer.

He wanted to hide away in his rented room until people forgot their pretend relationship. But the look in her eyes made him want to try. It made him want to do whatever she suggested, because it meant he got to spend more time with her.

He couldn’t let himself have too much time to think about it. Instead, he just went with the first thing to come to mind. “What do you suggest?”

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