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infatuation

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“Hello, Josette,” Kai drawled. “I was just thinking about you. What’s up?” He’s currently upside down on his bed, feet and legs leaning up against his wall. His roommate, Klaus, had already left to go back home to England for the holidays. He was alone with his thoughts about going back to Portland for Christmas when, as if on cue, Jo called him.

The woman on the other side of the phone tsked. “Were you thinking about the little bet we made over Thanksgiving? Because I was. That’s a crazy coincidence, Malachai. Maybe twins are telepathic. Unless, of course, you forgot about our bet.”

He smiled at the use of his full name, ignoring the blood pumping to his head. “How could I possibly forget?”

The bet. Kai didn’t forget, but he was really hoping that Jo did. When he traveled out west for Thanksgiving, Jo had brought a date. This hadn’t discouraged Kai; in fact, he was happy for his sister. Up until she did what she always did, and got him mad.

“Isn’t Alaric great?” She had said, her elbows atop the kitchen table, hands locked underneath her jaw as Kai loaded the dishes into the dishwasher. Jo was supposed to be helping him.

“Isn’t he a little old for you?”

She scoffed. “He’s 23, Kai.”

“With his name, the way he dresses and speaks? Could have fooled me,” he grabbed the nearest hand towel and dried his hands off. Turning around, he saw his sister’s displeased face. She looked like she had just eaten a load of sour candy. “Jesus, Jo, I'm just kidding. Yes, I like him. He seems like a good guy.” And Kai had meant it. He met all of Jo’s other boyfriends, and all of them were pretentious assholes. Alaric was the first he could actually tolerate.

A smile spread across her face, growing in size as Kai spoke. “Thanks, Kai,” and Jo had meant that, too. Her brother rarely liked anything, so his approval meant quite a bit to her. Yet, slowly, Kai watched as his sister’s smile morphed into something sinister. “Say, isn’t it funny how you’ve never brought a girl home?”

And just like that, the moment was ruined. Kai sighed and turned back around, throwing the towel over his shoulder as he did so. “Is that what this is about?”

Jo shrugged. “Not really. I just like bullying you relentlessly until you get pissed off.”

“Well, have you ever thought there was a reason why I don’t bring any girls around?” He put another plate into the dishwasher. “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be helping me?”

“Oh my God, Kai, are you gay?”

“What? No!”

She stood up, walking over to the sink next to Kai. In a hushed voice, she yells, “Well, that would explain a lot!”

He grabbed the towel that was hanging over his shoulder and threw it onto the counter. “God, Jo, I'm not gay!” His voice grew in volume and Kai immediately knew everyone in the house heard him. He could feel the blood heat up his face in embarrassment.

“Jeez, okay. So you just don’t have good luck with the ladies then?” Jo picked up a plate, rinsed off all the leftover food and handed it to Kai.

“That’s not much of an issue either.” He wanted nothing more than to be removed from this conversation.

“Then what is?”

“Can we just... stop talking about my love life?”

“Maybe it’s your anger management issue. Or your terrible taste in music,” Kai bit his tongue, trying not to prove her point. “Maybe it’s your tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Your overly dark sense of humor...”

“Didn’t realize you were a psychology major now at your big fancy medical school.” Kai interrupted.

“It’s probably your dumb sarcastic demeanor. Or maybe—”

“Everything alright in here?” Alaric asked from the doorway, nursing a glass of bourbon in his hand.

“Oh, just peachy, Ric. Hey, why don’t you help Jo finish cleaning up the kitchen? That’ll butter dad right up!” Kai threw the towel at Alaric and swiftly left the room, plopping himself down on the couch next to his youngest brother, Luke.

His father was in the loveseat, watching the football game and not even acknowledging his presence. Kai soon found out this wasn’t much better than the kitchen.

About fifteen minutes later, Kai’s anger had all but evaporated.

Later that evening, Jo had left to drive Alaric home. Kai was sitting at the kitchen table alone, eating his third slice of pumpkin pie. His younger siblings were sent to bed and it was safe to say that he was exhausted. The kids were already a lot to handle and Jo and her teasing really didn’t help.

It’s not that Kai has trouble with girls. He knows that he’s good looking and can be charismatic when he wants to be, not to mention he’s a pretty good lay; he just has trouble getting them to stay. He’s never had a relationship that has lasted longer than two months, and Jo takes every chance she can to remind him of that.

The front door of his childhood home slammed, knocking Kai out of his thoughts. He took another bite of pie. “Did you give Alaric a goodnight kiss for me?” He said, mouth full.

“Ha, ha. What was it you said earlier about not being gay?” Jo opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water, then the cupboards for a fork and a plate.

“Touché,” Kai mumbled.

She sat down next to him and cut herself a piece of the pie, scooping it onto her plate. “Who needs love when you have good old reliable pumpkin pie, right?” She said, shoving a bite into her mouth.

“That’s what I’ve been saying, Josette,” he replied, smiling. Thanksgiving truly was his favorite holiday. In recent years, he was starting to believe it was because of the pumpkin pie.

“That was a joke, Malachai. You’re twenty-one and you’ve never had a serious girlfriend. get a grip.”

“Okay, here we go again,” he said, closing his eyes out of sheer annoyance. “I’ve had serious girlfriends before, they just didn’t get to the ‘meet your parents’ stage.” He stated, hoping his lie wasn’t blatantly obvious.

Jo’s eyebrows raised, her interest piqued. “Really?”

“Yeah, I’ve been going to Whitmore for four years. You seriously think that I'm not capable of getting at least one girl this entire time?” He hadn’t. Kai shifted in his seat but stopped himself once he remembered that’s a sign of lying.

“Yes.” Jo said simply, eating more pie afterward.

“You wound me.”

“Yeah? Good,” she paused to swallow. “So, name one girl you’ve dated.”

Not missing a beat, he said, “Bonnie.”

“How long did that last?” She responded flippantly.

Without thinking, Kai slowly put down his fork and said, “Well, we’ve been dating for about three months, so... ask me that at Christmas.”

Jo’s eyes widened, giving Kai exactly the reaction he was hoping for. “I’ll be damned,” he resumed eating his pie, shrugging. “Hey, is she the same Bonnie you told me about when you were a freshman?”

Kai nodded slowly. “How you remember that is beyond me, but yeah. We’ve been friends for a while and I’ve always liked her so I asked her out,” Jo nodded back, looking down at her plate as she did so. Kai watched her with narrowed eyes. “What? At a loss for words?”

“Yeah, actually. I just can’t believe some poor girl is stuck with your sorry ass. For the time being, though, right?”

Kai barked out a short laugh. “God, you’re ruthless. I think this one might last, though. Things are going swell.”

“And you say Alaric speaks like he’s fifty years old,” she ate her final bite of pie, chewed, swallowed, and looked right at Kai. “But why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, Kai? In a month at Christmas, bring Bonnie home. Let’s see if a relationship of yours can last for once.”

He looked right back into Jo’s eyes. “You’re on.” He stuck out his hand, and Jo shook it. She chuckled and left the kitchen.

For once, Kai lost his appetite for pumpkin pie.

And now, a month later, Kai was stuck between two choices and a hard place:

  1. Tell Jo that he and Bonnie broke up and that she won the bet.
  2. Tell Jo that he and Bonnie will be at Christmas dinner where he’ll accept his winning trophy. (This means he has to convince Bonnie to come with him, or hire a fake Bonnie to come with him.)

“I know a certain habit of yours is forgetting things. I didn’t want something this big to be one of them. So what’s the verdict?”

The mocking tone of her voice alone made the decision for him. “Well, sis, I hope you plan on telling dad that he has to set an extra spot at the table.”

“So she’s coming? The Bonnie Bennett is coming?”

Kai frowned and quickly sat up, his head feeling like it was a bobblehead as he did so. How does she know Bonnie’s last name?  “What?” is all he manages to say as he rubs one of his temples.

“Oh, curiosity got the best of me. I may have stalked her Facebook. Weird, there are no pictures of you two. You’re not even Facebook official.” Her tone is jovial, the words practically dripping with faux nonchalance. 

He pinches the bridge of his nose, restraining a sigh from escaping his mouth. Guess I'm taking the real deal, he thinks. “That’s a little creepy, Jo.”

“You avoided the question.”

“You didn’t even ask one.”

“True. Okay then, why aren’t you Facebook official?”

“This is why,” he says, an exasperated laugh leaving his mouth hastily.

She laughs. “Fair enough. Sorry,” she pauses. “Hey, for the record, I am really happy for you. All bets and teasing aside.”

He smiles genuinely. “Thanks, Jo.”

“So, when are you coming again?”

“Saturday, the 22nd,” he answers. It’s Tuesday night now. He has less than four days to convince Bonnie to be his fake girlfriend for almost three weeks. “Classes start up again on the 14th of January so we’re planning on leaving on the 10th, but at this rate probably way earlier.”

Jo laughs again. “If you or the weather in Portland doesn’t drive her out of here first, I'm sure our family will,” Kai starts laughing with her. “Well, I’ll let you go. It’s late over there and you should rest up for your first big getaway with Bonnie.”

He could hear the smile in her voice. “Hm, yeah, meeting my crazy family. So romantic.”

“Not to mention sleeping in your teenage bedroom.”

Kai grimaces. “Straight from a Nicholas Sparks novel.”

“Bye, Kai.”

“Bye, Josette.” With that, he hangs up and opens his messaging app.

(10:37 p.m.)

Kai:

Bonster, u up?

(10:39 p.m.)

Bonnie:

Yeah, why?

(10:39 p.m.)

Kai:

where are u

 i wanna talk it’s important

(10:40 p.m)

Bonnie:

Library.

(10:43 p.m)

Kai:

nerd

Luckily, the library isn’t that far away from his dorm. He walks the short distance, hugging himself to keep warm. Kai’s eyes are trained on the sidewalk, watching for any sneaky ice that will make him slip and fall. He can see his breath, wispy fog leaving his mouth every time he exhales.

He wonders why Bonnie is at the library this late, he could have sworn it closes relatively early. He finally reaches the building, but to his dismay, the door is locked when he tries to pull it open. Kai tries it a few more times. Giving up, he groans and whips out his phone.

(10:57 p.m.)

Kai:

??????? doors locked

A few seconds later, Bonnie’s face appears behind the glass door, holding a set of keys in her hand. She unlocks it, inviting Kai in. “I thought you sent me on a wild goose chase or something. Why are you here so late?” He walks over to the nearest table and shrugs off his jacket, setting on the back of a chair. Bonnie wanders off to a bookshelf, wherein the aisle a white cart stacked with books is.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I volunteered to lock up and rearrange the shelves and stuff for one of the librarians. They left town for Christmas so, here I am.” She explains, extending her hands out to show the vast sea of books around her.

“Why?” he asks, slowly walking over to her.

She shrugs. “I don’t have anything better to do.”

Distractedly, Kai’s fingers started to trace the spines of all the books. “No Christmas plans again?”

Bonnie shakes her head. “My dad offered to have dinner with my Grams, but it’s so sad and awkward without my mom. I’ve hated it for a while now so I don’t care for it. Neither does he, but he still pretends to.”

Kai knew about Bonnie’s family situation and it never failed to make him feel bad every time it was brought up. He tells her exactly this. “You tell me this every year and it always makes me...” He trails off with a sigh, not finding the right word.

“Guilty. Kai, I don’t want your pity. It’s fine.” She leans over to the cart of books that was parked behind her, searching for a particular one that needed to go back on the shelf.

“It’s not fine, Bonbon. But okay.” He quickly decides its best to leave the conversation there; Kai and Bonnie go from civil conversations to heated arguments in an instant and he could tell this could turn into one easily.

“So what did you want to ask me?” Bonnie questions, placing the book back in its rightful spot on the shelf.

“Do you want the short version or the long version?” He crosses his arms over his chest, trying to stop the anxiety from bubbling up and out of his mouth.

“Hmm, short version.”

He inhales a sharp breath. “Okay, I need you to be my fake girlfriend for two and a half weeks.”

Bonnie drops the book she was currently holding. Dumbfounded, her mouth left agape, the only word she can form is a meekly, “What? ” She regains her composure, then asks, “Kai Parker, are you asking me out?”

“N-No! Fake girlfriend, Bonnie, fake.” He repeats, flailing his arms around him in exasperation. He literally looks like a fish out of water.

“That’s still asking me out!” she retorts, voice raising. “God, please tell me the long version. I need to sit down for this.” Bonnie says, picking up the book she dropped and putting it back onto the cart. She then starts walking past Kai towards the table where his jacket is.

Kai doesn’t sit, though; another one of his bad habits is pacing excessively while he speaks. “Over Thanksgiving, my sister, Jo, got under my skin. She brought home a new boyfriend to meet our family and mocked me about how I haven’t brought a girl home in ages,” he spares Bonnie of the small ‘never brought one home ever’ detail and continues. “So she made a bet that I wouldn’t bring one over for Christmas. I refuse to be the laughingstock over break so, here I am.”

Bonnie narrows her eyes at him, reading the mess of a man that’s laid out in front of her. Her fingers dance across the tabletop, emitting a repetitive noise that would make any person go insane. “Why do I sense you’re not telling me something?”

Sense? " he parrots.

“My Grams totally thinks that I'm psychic. And I sense you missed a detail or two in the story.” Her scrutinizing gaze didn’t leave him. Was she enjoying this?

He stops pacing and purses his lips. Heat floods the back of his neck and even on the tips of his ears, but for some reason not his cheeks. “They’re not important.” He mutters, resuming his nervous tic.

“Come on, Kai, if we’re going to be a couple you have to tell me everything.” She mockingly coos.

“You’re the devil,” he suddenly hates where he stands. He feels vulnerable and on display, like a mannequin at a retail store, so he sits down across from her. “I’ve never brought a girl home. Not even in high school. Jo always brings a guy home, though, which really isn’t something to brag about but she does anyway,” Kai pauses to shrug. “None of my relationships have lasted longer than two months. I lied and told her I was seeing a girl named Bonnie for three months, she said I wouldn’t bring you home at Christmas, I said I would, we shook on it, and here I am.” His face was definitely red now.

“Why me?” Bonnie asked. She was still staring at him, a small smile on her face. Yep, she was definitely enjoying this.

“Your name was the first one that popped into my head. I had a whole plan but about an hour ago, but Jo threw a wrench in them. She fucking stalked my Facebook and found you,” he rolls his eyes in annoyance at the resurface information. “Can’t believe she did that.” He mutters.

“What was your plan?”

“Find a girl on Tinder or Craigslist, tell her that her name was now Bonnie for the next few weeks, have some good old casual sex in my old bed.” He shrugs it off as if that was normal.

Bonnie snorts. “But now Jo knows what I look like and you’re stuck with me.”

“Oh, don’t say it like that. This can be beneficial for both of us, Bonster.” Kai closes his eyes and rubs them hard. He feels so tired.

“How so? Casual sex in your old bed?” She responds, jokingly.

“Possibly. I was thinking maybe I do your laundry for a week, pay for anything you want over there, and whatever else your little heart desires. Fucking your brains out works too.”

Bonnie swallows hard, ignoring the sultry tone of his voice. She couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. “Please, I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last man on earth.” She responds easily, despite the blood rushing to her cheeks.

“Ah, come on, it’s romantic. Going across the country together to where I grew up, pretending to be a couple. We’re already halfway there, might as well seal the deal. Literally.” He laughs at his own joke, head leaning back against the top of the chair as he did so.

So he was kidding. Thank God, Bonnie thinks. “Not happening.”

“Worth a shot. So, what? Are you in or not?” Kai asks, his face borderline serious, which is as serious as he can get.

“Maybe. You have to sweeten the deal a little more.”

“What’re you thinkin’?” His head was now laying in the palm of his left hand, causing his words to slur. She stands abruptly, pushing her chair back as she does so. Kai watches her walk over to the librarian’s desk. Bonnie searches for something, her fingers touching absolutely everything as she looks. He doesn’t even bother to ask her what she’s doing, he prefers watching her instead. But then he feels creepy, so he averts his eyes and closes them instead.

A loud slam causes his eyes to snap open. Bonnie sits back down, smirking at the sight of Kai jumping. “No sleeping,” she says. She’s holding a pen in between her fingers and opens the notebook she slammed onto the table. “We have a contract to write.”

Kai scoffs. “Seriously? We’re getting formal?”

“Yes.” She says simply as if it was obvious.

“Bonnie, we’re pretending to date. And you haven’t even agreed to it.” He replies, furrowing his brows.

“Yeah, because we have to come to terms with our agreement. And talk about rules.” She uncaps the pen and writes in neat cursive, ‘BonKai contract.’

Kai stifles a laugh. “Really? BonKai?”

“What? I think it has a nice ring to it,” She underlines it a few times, ignoring eye contact and continues. “So, I like the idea of you doing my laundry. Only for a week?” She tsks. “I don’t like that idea so much. How about three weeks?”

Kai nods slowly. “That’s fair. That’s how long you’re my girlfriend for anyways. So, that’s fine.” He scratches the back of his neck. My girlfriend.

Bonnie nods back and writes it down. “What’s the plan for transportation?”

“My dad got me an open round trip plane ticket thingy last month; We have an arrangement that I pay for Thanksgiving, he pays for Christmas. But the airport is an hour away from home so I usually take a rental car and drive it there,” he sighs. “If you pay for the ticket I can pay you back. In real money or in personal favors, whatever you prefer.” He finishes with a smirk.

That earns a trademarked Bonnie Bennett scoff. “Right. Yeah, I can pay for it. You can do what you mentioned before and buy me literally anything I want in Portland. And here.” She smiles at the thought of Kai being weighed down by tons of shopping bags and writes it down.

He nods, briefly wondering how on Earth he was going to pay for this. “Anything else?”

“Don’t tell Elena and Caroline about this. Or anyone else for that matter.” She begins jotting this down, too.

Kai frowns. “Fine. But can I ask why?”

Bonnie fidgets. “Our situation is a little hard to explain. And they’ll tease me about it. Among other things.”

He squints at her, watching her intently as she shifts in her seat uncomfortably. “Bonnie. We’re about to be in a relationship. You have to tell me everything. It’s what couples do.” He says slowly in an overly sincere voice like he was talking to a child.

She chuckles. “Care and Elena... they keep telling me I should ask you out. Or just sleep with you.”

Kai can’t help the huge grin that spreads across his face as he breaks out into a laughing fit. Bonnie just watches him, growing more embarrassed by the second. He notices this and tries to stop himself. “I'm not laughing at you,” he pauses to catch his breath. “Klaus says the same shit to me. All the time. It’s just funny to think that Caroline and Klaus plot our lives together at night. Like the fucking Parent Trap.” He bursts into another fit of giggles.

Bonnie starts laughing too, slowly growing in volume until she’s wheezing for air. In turn, this only makes them laugh harder.

Once they’ve calmed down, she finishes writing the sentence. “Is that it?” he asks, sniffling and wiping a tear from his eye.

She sighs contently. “I think so. Now for rules,” she continues writing down a shitload of rules. Nearly ten minutes pass by the time she’s done. Kai pretends to not be offended that she didn’t even ask him what he thought of them before she wrote them down. “Anything you wanna add?”

The list reads:

BONKAI CONTRACT

Terms:

  1. Kai does Bonnie’s laundry for three weeks.
  2. Bonnie pays for her plane ticket; Kai pays her back with food, clothes, etc.
  3. No telling their friends.
  4. Practice before leaving so they aren’t blind and look terrible in front of Kai’s family.

Rules:

  1. NO KISSING. Cheek kisses are allowed for show.
  2. Hand holding is allowed.
  3. NO BEDSHARING. Kai will sleep on the floor.
  4. No pet names (unless the situation allows it)
  5. Keep domesticity to the minimum.

He reads it over, chuckling every now and then. “I like the addition to term number four, That’s a good idea, Bon.” Kai picks up the pen and scribbles:

  1. No falling in love.

Bonnie laughs and rolls her eyes once she reads it. “I really don’t think that’s going to be an issue, Kai, but okay.” He shrugs, a smile lingering on his face. Bonnie was drawing something again, and Kai couldn’t help but sigh. “Oh, calm down. They’re not rules.” She slides the notepad back over to him.

“Seriously?” He asks. When she just blinks at him, he sighs and reads in a deep voice: “I, Bonnie Bennett, hereby agree to be,” he pauses. “I'm assuming I have to sign here,” Bonnie nods and he quickly signs the paper. He continues in his announcer's voice. “To be Malachai Parker’s fake girlfriend for two and a half weeks. I, Bonnie Bennett, will adhere and follow every single rule, and if I don’t, there will be severe consequences,” he sees the giant blank line ahead and scribbles his name again. “Severe consequences? That’s kind of hot,” before Bonnie has a chance to get a word out, he continues. “I, Malachai Parker, will also blah, blah, blah... more consequences... what’s the date? Signy sign... and done!”

Bonnie sighs. “Alright, then,” she extends her hand out. “Let’s shake on it, Mr. Parker.”

He smiles down at her hand. “This counts as hand-holding. Does the jury allow it?”

“Yes, jackass, just shake it. I wanna go home.”

He shakes her hand firmly, trying to ignore how natural and good her hand felt in his.