Updated: Jun 5
Callie’s heart beat excitedly in her chest as she looked down the slope. It had been years since she stood on fresh powder, waiting eagerly to make her way down the side of the mountain. Even longer since she had done it on a toboggan.
The cold wind whipped at her face, making her sensitive skin burn, but it only made her smile.
“Remind me why you think this is fun?” Dax said beside her, rubbing his gloved hands together.
“Because of the thrill. Flying down the slope with nothing to help you but a rope in your hand and a prayer.”
“Exactly.” Dax scoffed, narrowing his eyes behind his black-rimmed glasses at the people laughing as they made their way to the bottom. “There’s no control. These things should come with brakes.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Callie laughed.
“Are you guys ready?” A man with a black toque and dark green eyes came up, clapping his hand on Dax’s shoulder. “I have to admit, Dax, I couldn’t believe it when I saw your name signed up.”
Dax gave the man a forced smile and mumbled, “I couldn’t believe it either.” Dax looked from the man to Callie, the tension on his face easing. He slipped his arm around Callie’s shoulder, pulling her in closer to him. “Trevor, have you met my girlfriend Callie?”
Callie warmed at his touch and the word ‘girlfriend.’ Leaning into Dax, she stuck her hand out to Trevor. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.” Trevor placed his hand in hers, giving as much of a handshake as he could with thick gloves. “I heard Dax here had a girlfriend. I’m happy to see he brought you home and didn’t hide you in the city.”
Dax groaned as Callie laughed. “I had to see the Winter Festival for myself. I’ve heard so much about it. Plus, I’m determined to get this guy to try more winter sports. It’s a shame to live in British Columbia and not spend time outside. ” Callie shot Dax a wink. She loved the way his cheeks turned pink, and she didn’t think it was because of the cold.
“Well, welcome. I’m happy that you got this guy back home and out of his shell.”
“Okay, guys. I’m not that bad.”
Callie smiled as Dax and Trevor caught up. She learned they went to school together but had lost touch when Dax moved to the city. Trevor owned the steakhouse in town, The Loghouse, which she gathered was something he had talked about doing since high school. Callie watched as they talked, still tucked against him. She loved how she fit tight against him. How she was just short enough to fit under his chin and under his arm. She loved the way he held onto her tighter as he spoke, but also drew her into the conversation so she was a part of it, not just on the outside looking in. Her ex-boyfriend, Maxwell, never did that. He would have her on his arm, but he would never include her, especially if he were talking business. Even that was on the rare occasion he would bring her with him.
Dax made it a point to include her and have her just as much in the conversation as him. Their relationship might be fake, but he’d already treated her better than any of her real boyfriends had.
“Welcome to the First Annual Cedar Valley Falls Toboggan Race!” A voice boomed over the loudspeakers, drawing everyone’s attention. “Please grab your toboggans and make your way to the starting line!”
“That’s us!” Callie said excitedly, rocking back and forth from her heels to her toes.
Dax rolled his eyes and Trevor smiled broadly as he looked between them.
“I’ll leave you to it, then. Good luck!” Trevor laughed as he sent them off with a wave.
“You’re entirely too excited about this,” Dax grumbled as Callie pulled his arm, leading him over to the toboggans set aside for the race.
"And you’re not excited enough!” Grabbing the first one she saw, she turned to find Dax with his arms crossed and a frown on his face. “Oh, come on! Don’t be such a downer. I promise I’m only going to make you do one run.”
Dax eyed her warily, but then dropped his arms. “Fine.”
His acceptance was more out of resignation than acceptance, but Callie would take what she could get. If Dax wanted them to be seen as a couple, being involved in the Winter Festival would be the best way to do that.
If it also meant she got him to loosen up and have a little fun, that was an added bonus.
Finding a spot on the starting line, which was really just the top of the hill with a blue line spray painted in the snow, she placed the toboggan down and climbed on the front, grabbing the rope in front of her. Peering over her shoulder, she found Dax gazing down at her with a perplexed look on his face.
“Just climb on behind me, Dax.” Callie waved her hand to the space behind her as she tucked her legs into the curved wood in front of her.
With a final tentative look down the hill, Dax dropped his shoulders and climbed in behind her. His legs pressed on either side of hers, his arms wrapped around her body as he grabbed onto the rope with her. She leaned back into him, taking in his smell of cedar and citrus, and the warmth of his legs she could feel through their jeans. If she didn’t watch herself, she would find herself forgetting this was all fake and as soon as he went back to Vancouver, their relationship would end.
“Racers, get ready!” the voice announced again through the loudspeakers, causing Dax to stiffen behind her.
“Relax, Dax. It’ll be over before you know it. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one begging me to take you down the hill again.”
“Doubtful.” Dax scoffed.
“On your marks!” The voice announced.
Dax’s tightened his hold on her.
“Relax,” she whispered as the adrenaline in her own body started to ramp up. She hadn’t done something like this in years and she was thrilled to be doing it now. Thrilled to be doing it with Dax.
“Get ready to get us started.” She didn’t take her eyes off the hill as she spoke.
“What? How do I do that?” She didn’t miss the tension in his voice.
“Push off!” Callie yelled with a laugh.
Dax hesitated for a second before he used his arms and legs to push them off, sending them flying down the slope. Callie couldn’t control the bellowing laugh that came out of her as Dax shoved his legs back on the toboggan and wrapped his arms around her. She steered the best she could, focusing on the landscape whizzing past her while also battling the butterflies in her stomach as Dax held onto her.
They started to rush past other couples, gaining momentum as she shifted them both to gain speed. After they were halfway down the hill, she heard Dax’s laugh in her ear, making her even more determined to get them to win.
Looking to her left, she saw Dax’s ex-girlfriend McKenzie and her husband Cal rushing down next to them. They were laughing, and she didn’t miss the gloating smile Cal sent Dax’s way.
“Not on my watch,” Callie said to herself, more determined to win the race.
Bending her knees, she shifted as much weight as she could to the front of the toboggan, praying gravity would make them go faster. Dax’s grip on her tightened the faster they went, but Callie was only focused on the fast-approaching finish line.
Their whole fake relationship had started to help Dax deal with McKenzie’s marriage to Cal. She wasn’t about to let him have one more thing Dax could use to think this Cal-guy was better.
Which he wasn’t.
“Callie, we’re going too fast,” Dax said in her ear. The toboggan started to shake the faster they went. Callie wouldn’t admit that they were getting close to the point where it would be easy to lose control. One little bump could send them tumbling. That wasn’t something she could focus on. All that mattered in that moment was the finish line.
With another breath, they passed the line, earning cheers from the crowd standing at the sidelines. She looked over just in time to see Cal and McKenzie crossing a split second after them. McKenzie laughed as she came to a stop, but Cal only narrowed his eyes at them for a moment before catching himself and putting the fake politician grin on his face.
I need to keep an eye on that one.
With their toboggan slowing, Callie led them over to an open area away from the crowd. As soon as they stopped, Dax pulled Callie up and wrapped his arms around her in a crushing hug.
“We did it! We actually won!” The excitement in Dax’s voice washed away any worrisome thoughts she had about one Cal Smith.
Dax pulled her up from the toboggan, and wrapped his arm around her, laughing as he went. She stilled when his hand lifted from her lower back, tilting her chin up and lowering his lips to hers. Her grip tightened on his shoulders before relaxing into him.
She couldn’t stop the thoughts that whipped through her mind as they kissed.
This is fake.
It’s just to show that he’s moved on from McKenzie.
He’s moving back to Vancouver soon.
Her last thought was the one that made her heart hurt the most.
I want it to be real.