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Authors: Janna Watts,Jolene Perry

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BOOK: 10 Weeks
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“Thanks, but I’m gonna stop by and talk to Alex.”

Jo shakes her head. “I’m not sure why you mess with him. He’s so reclusive. He barely talks to any of us.”

I raise a shoulder. “He talks to me. And I’ve known him forever. Don’t you think he gets lonely out here with all these girls?”

Sam
snorts. “No. I bet he spends every night masturbating in that tiny cabin. It’s kind of skeevy if you ask me. What guy signs on to teach windsurfing and be maintenance and security at an all girls’ camp? That has pedophile written all over it.”

Anger whips through me. “Shut up. He’s not like that. Don’t start saying stuff like that or he’ll get fired.”

Sam
turns and looks at me. “Whoa. I was just kidding. Jesus. Don’t be so sensitive.”

I raise my chin. “He’s my friend. I’d defend the two of you in the same way.”

Sam
shrugs and sits back. “Whatever.”

I’m not sure why I care so much what they think about Alex. He doesn’t seem to. I’m sure it’s not the first time that rumors of pedophile have been bandied about. But somehow, it bugs the crap out of me that my best friends would even think that about him.

They drop me off at the front of his tiny one-room cabin. I’ve only been inside one time last summer when I ne
eded to grab some tools
to fix an uneven archery target.

It looks different in the dark and I actually stand outside his cabin for several minutes breathing deep before I knock on his door.

“Come in,” he calls.

I push open the door and he’s sitting on his bed with his legs stretched in front of him, reading a book.

“Kay-Kay. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

I take three steps into the tiny room and realize there are no chairs. I drop to the floor and cross my long legs beneath me. “You don’t go out?”

He tilts his head. “I go out. Just not all the time. The Little Minnow doesn’t have quite the same appeal to me that it does to you all.”

I worry my bottom lip. “You’re weird this summer.”

“We’ve been here four days. That’s hardly a summer.” His brows go up and his blond hair falls over his forehead as he shifts to see me better.

I look him over. He’s barefoot. I’m not sure why I notice this
,
but suddenly the room feels smaller.

“You’re still weird.”

He puts his book
on the floor
and slings his legs to the side of the bed. “Weird how?”

“You don’t volley back.”

“What?”

“I’ve been tossing out all these innuendos when we play chess and you don’t volley back. Last summer, you volleyed back.”

He chuckles. “Ah. Hmm… I don’t know. Guess it doesn’t feel the same.”

My gaze slides up to meet his and a pit drops into my stomach. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No.”

I uncross my legs and stretch them out in front of me. He looks at them for a second and we both release a breath. It’s suddenly hot and
awkward,
and I’m not sure I should be in this small cabin.

“Do you still want to be friends with me?”

He drags his hands through his hair and rises from his bed. “Of course.”

I stand up. He’s only a few inches taller than me but he’s built. Thick with muscles he really has no business having. “Okay. So I guess I’ll go.”

He moves to the door and puts his hand on the knob. “Yeah. Probably a good idea.”

“Do the walk with me tomorrow,” I say in a rush.

“What?”

“I’m doing the fifty-
mile walk with a bunch of campers. Two miles a day for twenty-five days. Come with me tomorrow.”

He shakes his head. “Not the best idea.”

“Why not?” I put my hands on my hips. I know what he’s going to say before he even does
,
but I force it out of him anyway.

“Because people will say stuff if they see me with you. That’s how rumors start. You don’t want to get mixed up with that.” He swings the door open, and part of me feels like he’s ignoring the obvious, or at the very least dismissing what I want to talk about.

I lift my chin. “I don’t give a shit about any of that. You’re my friend and I want you to take a walk with me. So come.”

He shakes his head. “You’re stubborn. And you don’t get it.”

“No.” I step toward him. “I get it. I just don’t care. I’m nineteen. I can be friends with whoever I want.”

He lifts his hand and for a second, I think he’s going to touch my face, but then he drops it and sighs.
“You’re still such a girl.”

“Fuck off. I won’t let anyone tell me who can and can’t be in my life. I had enough of that in high school. I’m an adult. Meet me on the walk.”

He shakes his head
again
and doesn’t say anything. I glare at him and stomp out of the cabin. Stupid Alex. Stupid rumors. Stupid me for wanting them to be a little true.

Chapter Three

I’m lacing up my shoes at way too early o’clock in the morning when I’m nudged from behind.

Alex.

He came. With a goofy grin and a ridiculous hat and hiking shoes on. Hiking shoes for a two-mile walk.

“You’re overdressed,” I say.

He eyes my tank top and runner shorts. “You’re underdressed.”

I wink. “Hoping I might get lucky.”

He shifts his eyes to the gaggle of campers behind me. “Careful, Kay-Kay.”

I shrug. What are they gonna do? Fire me? They barely pay me anything to sleep in a cabin for nine weeks with six ten-year olds and teach archery five hours a day. Good luck finding my replacement.

“Are you ready, girls?” I call out. I
move
to the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. “It’s exactly two miles from this spot to the end of the camp road and back. Jo’s gonna be at the back of the group so if any of you get tired, just hang with her and you can loop back with those of us in the front.”

Jo’s in her
Women Who Run Rule The World
tee and I can tell she’s pissed that she has to take the tail end of the group. I don’t care. If Alex and I lead, we’ll get to
have a real conversation. The
girls won’t be able to keep up with us.

I strap on the first aid pack and start the hike up the hill. Alex is next to me and within five minutes, the girls have fallen behind. I slow my pace.

“How come you changed your mind?”

He shrugs. “Sounded like you could use the help.”

“That’s not why you came.”

He doesn’t say anything, just stares through the
trees tunneling the camp road. Finally, he nudges me with his elbow and asks,
“Were you serious about maybe not coming back next year?”

“Were you?”

He grins and a part of me wants to drag him in the woods and straddle him. This is bad. I know this is bad
,
but the thought is already in my brain. There’s nothing I can do about it now.

“Yeah. I’ve about outgrown girls’ camp.”

“How come you started in the first place?”

I’ve always wondered this. He and I started the same year. I remember one night when I was so homesick for my mom and dad and my cat I thought I might run away, he took me in a ride in his golf cart and told me he missed home too. He was thirty then. Seemed so old and wise. The next day, he left me a whittled wooden cat on my bunk. He never said anything about it. Neither did I. But I still have it.

He clears his throat and looks behind us. The campers are still at least fifty feet back.
“I didn’t want to be alone that summer. Or any summer really. They needed help. Seemed like as good a place as any to work.”

“Huh.”

There’s more to this, but Alex isn’t exactly the most forthcoming guy. I’ve known him long
enough to realize
the other
parts of his story
will
trickle out
on his time frame, not mine
.

“I might get my teaching certificate after I major in English,” I say because I don’t know any other way to keep him talking.

“Yeah. You’d be a good teacher. I mean if you can gain control of that mouth.”

I grin. “I think you like my mouth just fine.”

He grunts and I bump into him. He bumps me back
,
and I both love and hate the butterflies fluttering around my stomach. When he’s next to me, it’s everything. But when I’m in my cabin or with the girls, all I can think is:
He’s twice your age, plus two.
I am so far out of my league, it’s not even funny. But it doesn’t matter. I can’t stop watching him. Bumping into him.

The girls catch up to us
,
and Alex moves away from me. One of the girls, a precocious twelve-year old named Rachel, starts to give Alex crap about being the only guy
under fifty
at an all girls’ camp. He plays along and it occurs to me that he’s probably heard this for ten years. Now, I’m even more intrigued about why he would sign on for this as opposed to summer school or some
other job he could get for
the summer. Or
why he wouldn’t work at
the boys’ cam
p on the other side of the lake.

Alex leaves me at the end of the walk
,
and I think he’s not even gonna say goodbye, but at the last second, he turns around and mumbles, “I’ll see you here tomorrow” and it’s so perfect that I can’t stop myself from blowing him an overdramatic kiss.

“You like him,” Jo says when we’re walking back up to the dining hall on our way to breakfast.

“He’s a good friend.”

“No,” she says. “Last year he was a good friend. This year you’re different
about him
.”

I shrug. “He’s too old for me.”

“Yeah, he is. It’s not gonna stop you though, huh?”

I shake my head and grin. “Probably not.”

“This isn’t a daddy replacement, is it?”
She cocks a brow, but the gesture doesn’t sit with her light red hair, round face and freckles. She’s like Holly Hobby in person—with bigger muscles because the girl can run.

“Ew, no. Don’t be gross.”

Jo flips her braid over her shoulder. “I’m just saying. Your dad marries a woman who basically ins
ists he cut
you and your sister off. Your mom starts dating her boss who is seventeen years older than her. Freud woul
d have a field day with this whole situation
.”

“He doesn’t look like he’s forty.”

Jo nods. “True. But it doesn’t change the fact that he
is
forty
.”

She’s right, of course. I know better, but it doesn’t stop me from accidentally on purpose following him when he buses his tray in the dining hall. Or asking him if he wants to give me a windsurfing lesson during our free hour instead of playing chess.

Jo catches me again on the way back to my cabin. “Kay-Kay, watch yourself. This can only end in a
big
mess.”

I nod and return with my campers to my cabin. I throw on my archery clothes over a bikini and as I head down to my first class, all I can hear is the beating of my heart in tandem with my steps.
And
a
whisper in the back of my brain:
Alex. Alex. Alex.

Chapter Four

It takes four hundred years for my free hour to come. It’s possible I’ve let young girls shoot at small game for all that I can remember of my classes. I’m out of my clothes and knee deep in the water before Alex sees me.

His eyes bug out and he quickly drops his sunglasses down from the top of his head, but it’s too late. I’ve seen him see me. Every arrow I’ve shot all year and every mile I’ve run is suddenly
completely
worth it. I undo my dark hair from its braid and shake it out. Now, I’m just fucking with him and he knows it.

“Come on, beauty queen, let’s get you on this board,” he says.

I dive under the water and come up next to him. He slides his hands around my hips and hoists me onto the board.

“You need to work on your balance first,” he says from the water beside me.

“I have excellent balance. I’m an archer. We’re all about balance.” Before I can say anything else, he jostles the board and I tumble off.

“Asshole, what are you doing?”

He laughs and my heart stutters. The frickin’ laugh. Jesus.

“I’m testing your balance. Now get back up there.”

I shimmy on to the board
,
but it’s much less graceful without his hands helping me up. I slowly stand and have to take a minute to adjust my bikini top.
I smirk at him.
“Quit checking me out. There are young children present.”

He shakes his head. “Perhaps you should wear
something more appropriate next time
.”

BOOK: 10 Weeks
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