Unlikely Allies, page 4
I wanted to die I was so mortified, and my red face made it obvious. Our eyes met and he flashed me a grin, making it clear he knew what I had been expecting. I mentally kicked myself for dropping my guard and giving him the upper hand like that.
“Very good,” Rick proclaimed, cutting through my mental meltdown. “Okay, now switch positions and Mason, you be the victim.”
I bolted upright at his words and swung my legs over the side of the bench, anxious to put a little distance between us so I could gather my wits.
“Okay, beach bunny, don’t forget, it’s three breaths,” Mason mumbled as he laid down. “Wait, did they teach you how to count that high in Beach Bunny 101?” he asked.
I glowered down at him, debating if smothering him would be frowned upon in a lifesaving course.
Ignoring his verbal jab, I placed my hands on his rock hard abs, trying to ignore the way he felt beneath my hands. Now it was payback time. I pushed harder on his stomach than was needed and smiled when he grunted. In quick succession, I did the three pushes on his torso and then moved up for the mock breath. I roughly pinched his nose closed, challenging him to protest. His only response was to grin at me. I completed the motions three more times before turning away in disgust for letting him get so completely under my skin as Rick called our turn to a halt.
“Good job, Kimmie,” he said, slinging an arm around my shoulder. “Of course, next time a light pinch will sufficiently cut off the airflow,” he added, indicating Mason’s beat-red nose.
“Oops, I’ll be more careful next time,” I said, trying to look remorseful.
Rick chuckled, clearly not buying my halfhearted apology. “Right,” he said, patting my back.
I sauntered back to my seat, not sparing Mason another look. I was still embarrassed that he had made me feel so stupid, but I pasted a smile on my face like nothing had happened.
“Talk about sizzle,” Amy whispered as I sat next to her.
“What?” I asked, trying to act like I didn’t have a clue what she was insinuating.
“Please, I saw the way you two looked at each other. I swear I thought he was going to make a move or something,” she whispered as Rick called up another pair to do their demonstration.
“No, he was trying to make me look like a fool,” I whispered back.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, chica. To my eyes, he was definitely getting a lay of the land, if you catch my drift.
I shook my head in denial. “I think the mountain air is muddling your brain. The only thing Mason would like to do to me is throw me off a cliff,” I said, ignoring her dubious expression.
My words appeared to be true as Mason and I continued our verbal battle over the next few days. He criticized everything I did. My first aid skills were “as helpful as a man with his hands tied behind his back and his eyes blindfolded.” He openly mocked me when I stumbled over starting my first campfire in the survival training, and joked that I couldn’t tie my own shoes in knot-tying class. He always seemed to be ready and willing to point out my many flaws. By the time my second full day came to a close, I was ready to either dig a hole and bury him in it, or pack my bags and leave. Only the thought of disappointing Rick held me back. Instead, I decided to just ignore him like he wasn’t alive.
I was lying on my bed, contemplating Mason's death when Amy strolled into our cabin.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
"Wondering what would cause more damage, a paintbrush in the eye or a putty knife shoved up someone's nostril," I answered, scowling at the ceiling.
"Oh, I'm in. Who are we maiming with art supplies? Or need I ask?"
"I swear, I want to superglue his mouth closed," I muttered, swinging my legs off the bed and sitting up.
"You know, there are other ways to harm someone than with crayons and glue sticks," she teased, sitting beside me.
"Ugh, Amy, he's driving me nuts!" I said, running my hands through my hair.
"Face it, girl, there's some sparks between you and Greeky, and they're going to continue to simmer until you do something about it."
"You're a wack," I said laughing at her reference to him. "I do like the name 'Greeky,' though."
"Well, you're the one who said he looked like a Greek god."
"True, too bad he acts like a slug."
"Well, enough of this CW drama. Let's go," she said, tugging on my hand.
"Fine, but I'm bringing glue with me just in case."
She giggled "Death by glue, I can see the fuc... I mean the focking headlines now."
We arrived at the mess hall just in time to see all the guys and Louise carrying stuff out.
"What's going on?" I asked as Amy began to bounce up and down with excitement. "We're having a cookout," she said, heading to the kitchen.
"That's cool," I said, feeling her enthusiasm.
"It is. Hot dogs, marshmallows and ghost stories," she said, with sparkling eyes.
"Really?" I said, raising my eyebrows doubtfully.
"Trust me, chick-a-roo. You haven't heard a really scary story until you hear one of your dad's out here in the woods. Last year he told one that scared the shiznit out of me for weeks."
"Um, Amy, you know they're just stories, right?" I teased, grabbing a couple bottles of ketchup and mustard off the counter.
"Ha, we'll see what tune you're singing later tonight," she said, sashaying out of the kitchen ahead of me.
The bonfire was already burning brightly by the time Amy and I deposited our condiments on the long folding table.
"Hey, Kimmie," Rick said, coming up to join us.
"Hey," I said, smiling at him tentatively. The last few days had been so crazy busy that I really hadn't had much of a chance to be alone with him. I tried not to let it bother me, but I had hoped we'd have more time together.
"How’s all your training going?" he asked, handing me a stick that had been sharpened on the end with a knife.
"Not bad," I said, not sure how much Mason had told him about my downfalls.
"Not bad? I heard you're doing really well," he said, proudly tugging on a lock of my hair.
"Seriously?" I asked, thinking I was the butt of a joke.
"Yeah, really," he said, chuckling.
"Hey, Rick," Travis called. "We need some help with the storage shed."
"I'll be right there," Rick said over his shoulder, looking back apologetically. "Duty calls. Good job, kid," he added before striding away.
"Thanks," I said to his retreating back.
I looked around for Amy and my eyes collided with Mason's. I had the unsettling feeling that I was once again committing some kind of crime in his eyes. Resisting the urge to stick my tongue out at him, I turned away.
"There you are," Amy said, joining me.
"Sorry, I was chatting with my dad. Do we need to lug more stuff out?"
"No, it's all set up. Come on, it's time to get our bonfire on," she said, mischievously dragging me closer to the fire pit where Rick and Louise were handing out hot dogs to roast.
An hour later, I was stuffed and content as I sat on the ground next to Amy with my back leaning against one of the benches. The cool air teased my back while the fire warmed my face. The camp life was definitely growing on me. Of course, the kids hadn't arrived yet, and I'd be most likely eating those thoughts two days from now.
"Stor-y time, stor-y time," Ryan and Courtney began to chant. The others quickly joined in, including Amy and me.
"Okay, okay," Rick said, laughing. "Let's see, I need a really scary one that'll keep you on your toes," he said, rubbing his hands together, deep in thought.
Travis walked over to the mess hall, hitting a switch that was powering the nighttime lights. The night sky and shadows thrown by the flames combined with the many outdoor noises added to the eerie ambiance. Rick stood in front of the group, looking creepy as the fire’s dancing shadows distorted his features.
"A long time ago, all of this was nothing but ope
"Rumors began to spread like wildfire," Rick continued. "The locals were convinced the area was haunted and the campsite lost its luster for camping until a group of college kids decided they were going to get to the bottom of the rumors." Rick paused for effect. Amy soaked it up, but I couldn't help but smile. I loved ghost stories, and had pretty much seen every horror movie ever made over the years with Carol.
Glancing around, I could see the others watching him intently, and couldn't help thinking what a field day Carol would have if she were here. She was the queen of sneaking up on people and scaring them. As Rick continued the story, my eyes met Mason's across the fire. His expression looked different than I had become used to, almost troubled, as he studied me. I knew I should probably ignore it and look away, but I found myself contemplating why I troubled Mason so much. We continued our staring match for several minutes as Rick droned on until finally, not able to handle the intensity any longer, I finally looked away.
"The next morning all but one camper remained. When asked what had happened to the others, he claimed the trees had come alive. The authorities didn't believe him and feared they had a crazed killer on their hands, so they locked him away. The locals now claim the voices of the victims float through the trees when the wind blows," Rick said, finishing his story.
Amy reached over again and gripped my arm. "I told you he tells some freaky stories," she said, darting her eyes around like she expected to be dragged away at any moment by the trees.
"You don't watch many scary movies, do you?" I asked, smiling at her.
"Hell no, that shitzle would give me nightmares for years," she said dramatically. "Are you telling me you like to watch them?" she asked, shuddering.
"Heck yeah. My friend Carol and I have a weekly ritual where we'll watch a double feature. Most of them are cheesy as hell, but every once in a while we stumble upon a slasher masterpiece," I said enthusiastically.
"You're a freak. You know that? You look all sweet and innocent with your long flowing skirts, but…" she let her voice trail off.
"Don't worry, sweets, I won't kill you in your sleep," I teased, dropping my voice down to a deep whisper.
"Eeeeek. I'm going to have to sleep with one eye open," she griped as Rick joined us.
"So, what did you two think of tonight's story?" he asked, smiling at me.
"Well, Ms. Psycho here loved it," Amy said, looking at me like I had sprouted an extra head.
"Yeah, I'm a bit of horror buff," I admitted.
"That's great! So am I. You must have gotten it from me, because if I remember right, Kate isn't much of a horror fan," he said, sounding pleased about finally finding something we have in common.
"Nope, Mom's not much into the horror scene. I've tried to drag her to Halloween Horror nights at Universal Studios for the last couple years, but she's balked at the last minute every time," I said, laughing.
"Maybe I can fly out and go with you," he said, obviously testing the water on fatherly visits.
"That would be awesome," I said, smiling at him warmly.
"Ready to go to the cabin?" Amy said, pulling on my arm.
"I guess I need to walk baby back to our cabin," I teased.
"Dam... dang straight," she said, fixing her slip.
"That was a close one," Rick teased, making a production of looking for Louise.
"After a story like that, I should get brownie points for my effort," she muttered, dragging me toward our cabin.
I laughed, feeling lighthearted. Camp Unlikely Allies was definitely growing on me.
When Rick found me, I was prepping the art room for the campers' arrival the following day.
"Hey," he said, standing in the doorway, taking in the long skirt I was wearing, despite the cooler morning temperatures. Practical or not, I still had my own style, what could I say? At least I was wearing some leggings and one of the soft long sleeved flannel shirts I was beginning to tolerate. They didn't match my skirt, but I felt much more comfortable.
"Hey yourself," I teased, feeling more at ease with him than I had just three days ago. I gathered my hair into a bun at the nap of my neck, using a pencil to hold it in place. It was easier to work with my hair out of my face while I moved supplies around.
"I need to make a run down the mountain to get some last-minute supplies and thought you might like to go with me," he said, leaning against the door jam.
"Sure," I said, jumping at the chance for a little alone time with him. "Will I be gone long? I just need to know what to tell Amy."
"We'll be gone most the day. It's a shorter trip than coming from the airport, but it'll still take us about three hours to get there."
"Okay, I'll go tell Amy," I said, heading out of the room.
Fifteen minutes later, I met Rick outside by his Ford Expedition.
"Ready?" he asked as we climbed into the vehicle.
"Definitely," I said, ready to see a little civilization. I missed my normal haunts back home.
"Missing the city life?" he teased, pulling down the dirt drive.
"A little, but not as much as I originally thought I would," I said, remembering how I felt when I first arrived.
He arched his eyebrows at me. "Really?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say mountain life is growing on me," I said, watching the passing landscape out the window. I missed most of it the first time because I had slept the majority of the trip up the mountain. I could see why too, the sharp twisty turns and the way my ears kept popping had an almost hypnotizing effect. We had our share of mountains in California, but I pretty much avoided them.
The silence between us lingered on, but didn't feel stilted or awkward.
Finally, after we had been driving for more than an hour, I broke the silence. "It really is pretty here."
"I think so," he answered, almost appreciatively.
"You know, California has some pretty spectacular mountains too. Have you spent much time there?" he asked.
I snorted. "No, Mom and I don't do the outdoors."
"That's a shame," he chuckled.
"I wish we had though," I said after several more minutes of silence. "It's actually kind of inspiring. I'd love to put it on paper."
"What's your normal muse?" he asked.
"Anything really, I guess. Anything I can sketch or paint."
"I've always envied artistic types. I'm strictly a stick figure man."
"Ha, just because you can't sketch doesn't mean you're not an artist. What you do at the camp takes a special touch. You're molding and changing lives and that means something," I said in rush.
"Thanks," he said gruffly, obviously touched at my words.
Our conversation took a more lighthearted turn from then on. I busted a gut when I found out he was a CW nut like me as we compared our favorite shows and characters.
"Don't get me wrong, the books are better, but I think the producers are doing a good job keeping the show interesting," he said as I teased him about liking Vampire Diaries.
"I think it's hilarious you read young adult books," I squeaked, holding back a laugh.
"What? They're great books," he defended himself.
"Hey, I'm not judging you. I just don't think I've ever met a guy who reads the same kind of books I read."
"Well, I didn't start off that way, but I got sucked in by Harry Potter when Mason was twelve, and I guess I've been reading similar stuff ever since. I try to stay away from the mushy romance or sparkly vampire ones though," he said, grinning sheepishly.
"I knew you were a Team Edward kind of girl."
"What!" I teased. "Twilight too?"
"Come on, is there a human being on the planet who doesn't know about Team Edward versus Team Jacob," he said laughing. "Anyway, I only know about them from the female population at the camp for the last three summers."
"Yeah, right," I said. My side was splitting from laughing so hard.
The rest of the drive passed quickly as we compared book titles. I was amazed at the amount of books he had read and took notes on some of his favorites. I made a mental note to allow more time for reading in the future. I enjoyed reading, but it had always taken a backseat to my art.
Rick pulled into the first gas station we ran across when we hit the foothills and I got out to stretch my legs. I was awestruck at the vastness of the mountains we had just left and wished I had the foresight to bring my sketchpad.
"Pretty amazing, right?" he asked, joining me.
"Most definitely. I wish I'd brought my sketchpad," I said wistfully.
"I'm sure we can get you one in there," he said, pointing to the large store hooked to the gas station.
"You think so?" I asked, doubtfully.
"Trust me, this store carries everything but the kitchen sink. We can grab some grub at the restaurant, and you can look out the window and sketch to your heart's content."
"You don't mind?" I asked, bouncing slightly in excitement.
He laughed at my enthusiasm. "Not at all. I need to catch up on some emails," he said, holding up his laptop. "Not having Internet at Camp UA makes it a little tough at times. I'm going to hit the bathroom while you look for a sketchpad. Do you mind holding this?" he asked, holding out his laptop.
A few minutes later, I met him outside the archway that connected the restaurant to the store.
"I found one," I said, holding up the pad gleefully. "And guess what else I found out? They do sell kitchen sinks," I teased.
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