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Beneath a Summer Sky
Author: A.R. Perry

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“Okay.” Scarlett slaps her arm, then glares at her palm. “That’s the fifth mosquito bite in two minutes. Why did I let you drag me up here? I should be sitting by the pool, not getting eaten alive.”

I laugh and lift our bags out of the trunk of my rusty yellow Beetle I named Sunshine, mostly to spite my brother, while savoring the crisp mountain air. Nothing in the world compares to being in the wide-open space in the middle of nowhere.

“Because you couldn’t handle a whole three weeks without me. Plus, it looks good on college applications.”

“But I’m not going to college.” She smacks her leg and holds out her hand. “Six.”

“Your mom isn’t around. No need to say that.”

With a sneer, she takes her bag. “This time I mean it. I want to model. What’s the point?”

“To be the most educated model? Or to have a fallback. Nothing lasts forever, including that gorgeous face of yours.” I poke her puckered cheek as we head toward the counselors’ cabins. While Scarlett grumbles at my side about overpriced textbooks and dorms, I take in the grounds.

Camp Whispering Willow.

Not much changed in the five years since I was a camper. Same long dirt road. Same wooden structures with the obnoxious red doors. Near a dense forest in Southern California, it’s picturesque. Perfect. My ideal summer before senior year hits and I’m bombarded with AP classes and need to face the decisions about what university I want to go to and what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Something I should have decided already, according to my mother—another reason I wanted time away. I would rather spend three weeks up here with a bunch of preteens than an entire summer with her breathing down my neck about this and that and what I should do instead of having fun.

Besides, I’ve dreamed of being a counselor since the year I came as a camper, but their stupid rules said I had to wait until I turned eighteen. Which I did as of seven days ago.

I’m not sure why Scarlett is here though. Her idea of camping is a five-star hotel on the beach with a noon wake-up call and butlers. Judging from how much the mosquitoes love her, I don’t think she’ll last more than two days. Plus, if anyone finds out she gave a fake ID and doesn’t turn eighteen until September, she’ll be gone faster than I can blink.

“Oh my God.” Scarlett digs her nails into my arm, dragging backward until I stop.

“Ow. What?” I pry her painted nails out of my skin and rub at the crescent moon shapes they left. “What the hell is—”

“Dead. I’m dead. God, I knew there was a reason I came with you. When you first mentioned it, I was all ew gross shacks in the woods, but now… This is why I woke up and had a change of heart.”

When all I do is stare at her because I have no clue what the heck she’s talking about or what lit the fire under her butt, she grabs my shoulders and spins me toward the boys’ cabins.

And then everything makes sense.

Shane Novak, my brother Jay’s childhood best friend, is leaning up against a tree talking to the head counselor and owner, Mr. River. Fitting name, I know. He was born to run a camp.

Scarlett’s eyes bulge out of her head when I don’t have the response she was searching for, and I shake my head. I’ve known Shane since I was a small fry chasing my older brother around the yard, begging to be a part of the group. They used to be inseparable—where one was, the other would be a few seconds behind. And for a short while in high school, they included me in all their adventures. The three of us always found the most creative ways to get ourselves in trouble with our parents on any given day.

But then they had a falling-out midway through their senior year, and I was a casualty. Taking my brother’s side was a given even though I had no clue what happened. Not that I got many choices since Shane all but pretended I was invisible in the halls. Shane and I haven’t spoken a single word since that day. It made for an awkward four months. Then Shane moved off to Texas for college and Jay moved into the dorms at UCLA and life went on.

Scarlett moved to town the following year. We became best friends and thoughts of Shane kind of drifted away.

So really, I should have a similar reaction to seeing him, but it wouldn’t be the type Scarlett is hoping for. I’ve seen his smile knock the socks off plenty of girls. Enough times that I’ve developed a resistance to it. Those perfect teeth and adorable dimples have made the strongest of women crumble, and believe me, he wasn’t shy about using the superpower either. It only got worse when he shot up to almost six-three the summer before junior year. Couple that with a face only a perfect combination of DNA could produce, and piercing blue eyes—well, he’s never lacked in the dating department.

“Dear lord, I think my vagina just had a stroke.” Scarlett grabs my arm again, but I shake her off and continue up the path.

“Pull your vagina together. We have to check in.”

She chases after me, a lot more pep in her step compared to a few minutes ago. “Have you gone blind? Are you going to ignore that gorgeous piece of man meat up on the hill?”

I should tell her he’s not some gorgeous stranger—that I used to spend pretty much every waking moment with him. But the look on her face will be so much more delicious when we reunite and I get one of Shane’s famous bear hugs. It’s been years—he has to be over the falling-out by now. He’s going to freak when he realizes we ended up at the same camp.

What a small world.

I jog the rest of the way up the hill, catching Mr. River’s attention first. His face lights with a smile, and when he turns toward us Shane glances my way.

If looks could kill, I would die twice. Once for my body and a second time for my soul.

Every muscle locks up and even from a few feet away I can see the flare of his nostrils and the ticking of his jaw. The only other time I’ve seen him this angry was when my brother smashed his TV when a game of Wii bowling got a little crazy.

My feet falter and I lose the ability to speak.

“Miss Underwood, I’m so glad you made it up safely. An early bird like Mr. Novak, I see.” Mr. River greets me with a smile still in place and motions for me to join them, oblivious to the glare of death Shane is throwing my way.

“And Miss Morse, is it?” He shakes Scarlett’s hand and relieves her of her bag. “A late addition but always welcome. Mr. Novak and I were discussing the curriculum. He had some wonderful ideas to improve a few outings this year.”

I blink. Shane doesn’t. His glare is set in place almost as if he’s scared that if he does blink, he might lose the opportunity to murder me with his eyes.

“This is Mr. Novak’s fourth year helping, so if you have any questions feel free to ask. Think of him as my right-hand man.” Mr. River slaps a palm to Shane’s back and motions to the cabins across the dirt road. “Will you show these ladies where to set up?” He passes Scarlett’s bag to him.

Shane’s jaw clenches again, but he nods and stalks off toward the other set of cabins. My wide eyes meet Scarlett’s and when Mr. River clears his throat, we hustle after Shane.

So, he’s not over the bro breakup. You would think after two years he would have moved on. It’s not as if it was my fault or anything, so I have no idea why he’s taking it out on me.

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