After dropping Scooter off at the main office, Shadow parked the jeep in the parking lot, and then walked up to the barn area. The sight of the thirty-one horses brought a smile to her face, especially when Samba recognized her and trotted over.
"Hey, boy, how ya doing?" The horse snorted his response, blowing warm air on Shadow's face.
"Be right back, baby." She went and grabbed her riding helmet, wrote a note to Pony and returned with Samba's tack in her hands. "I need to go for a ride, you up to it?"
The horse nodded his head as if he understood her question and was answering affirmatively.
She skillfully put the tack on and slipped the bit into the horse's mouth. Swinging her leg over the saddle, she mounted her steed and settled into the saddle.
"Let's head up to T-bone Hill, boy."
She turned the horse off of the camp road about halfway to main camp. A narrow, rocky trail lead up to the highest point within the camp's boundary. She passed trees, bushes and squirrels as she headed up the trail to T-bone. It took her over half an hour to reach the plateau on top of the hill, giving her plenty of time to go on autopilot and sort through her thoughts.
That wası.intense. She thought back to the altercation from earlier that afternoon. Glad the guy didn't have anything more dangerous than a pocket knife. I hope Scooter is okay. She realized that she was more worried then she should have been about the waterfront director. It's not often you make a friend, so better not muck it up.
She thought about her friend and the promise she made to Scooter. She was at a loss as to what to do next; she very much wanted to continue to build a relationship with the blond, but her self doubt played its' trump card.
Maybe she doesn't want your protection. Didn't think about that, did ya? She's got plenty of friends here at camp; surely she doesn't need you.
She reached the top of the hill and looked out over the main camp and the lake. She saw the boat, with the waterfront director behind the wheel, leaving the camp dock. She probably thinks you're an idiot, acting like some hero out to protect her. Dammit. Okay, better to back off now, rather than have her tell you to your face what a waste of her time you are. Stick with what you know-horses.
winds had changed, and the cool breeze from the west brought darker clouds
over the camp. Shit, better get back before it rains. She turned
Samba around and headed back to the barn unaware that since coming back
to camp from Sun-up, the waterfront director had thought of nothing except
her blue-eyed hero.
After being dropped off in main camp Scooter headed into the office, but seeing Silver busy at work, she decided to forego her promise to 'go right into the office and tell the camp director what happened at sun-up marina.' Instead, she grabbed the keys to the boat and headed to the docks.
The motor started
right up, so she tied the bright orange life preserver vest around her
torso and slid into the driver's seat. She passed the floating log boom
that served as a boundary marker for the camp property then increased the
throttle as she speed across the bay.
Another boat passed fairly close to her Bayliner and the occupants waved at Scooter. She waved back and continued heading away from the camp. Out of the bay and into the main lake, she turned the boat to the east, heading toward Gasser Bay. She pulled the boat up to a small deserted fishing dock and tied the boat to the cleat on the dock. It was at this point that she allowed herself to break down.
After a few minutes of uncontrollable sobbing, Scooter was able to gain control of her emotions. Her face hurt, as did her chest, from the crying. I must be a sight right now. She was happy no one could see her. She unzipped her backpack and took out a water bottle. Then she opened the bottle and splashed her face with the water. Feeling more in control of herself, she sat in the driver's seat and allowed her thoughts to ramble freely.
Shadow must think I am such a baby. First I don't defend myself, and then I cry in front of her. Hell of a lot of good my kickboxing class did me. And the way she justı.appearedı. and took care of those men. I don't deserve her protection.
Scooter looked around and realized that the lake was now fairly deserted. She felt the wind cooling her skin and looked up to see the gathering dark clouds overhead.
Gotta get back before it rains. She untied the rope attached to the dock, then turned the boat towards camp and opened the throttle. Feeling the wind through her hair and on her face improved her mood and she relaxed as she drove.
She glanced back to see another boat that was also heading into Windy Bay. It was slowly closing the gap between them and her boat. The other boat looked familiar, but that was no surprise, many families boated here each summer and they were easily recognizable by the veteran camp staff member. But this one was different; it was coming in too fast and seemed to be zeroing in on her boat.
She realized her mistake too late. Shit, it's them. She had only two choices, head back to camp and reveal where she lived, or turn and drive back away from camp.
She turned the boat hard to starboard and headed towards Sun-up Bay. Please, Oscar, please, please be there. The boat behind her turned also, and continued to track her. What the hell was I thinking? Nobody knows where I am, no one but Shadow and Oscar know what happened this afternoon, and I have no idea how much gas I have left.
She spared another glance behind her. Forget about running out of gas. I may have just run out of time. She came into the 'no wake zone' but she never slowed down; neither did the boat behind her. Come on just a half-mile more. She could see the lights of the marina store in the distance. Please, please, please. It became a mantra in her brain.
She turned around again, but the other boat was gone. Whereı? She slowed as she came into the dock area. Oscar was waiting, broom in hand, on the center dock.
"What's got you running like a bat out of hell?" He shouted over the motor of the boat. "I'm sweeping the porch and see you careening in here like your life depends on it."
Her hands shook as she turned off the motor. Thank you, thank you, thank you God. Oscar came over to her boat as she weakly tossed him the rope. He tied the boat to the dock then came over to help her get out of the vessel.
"Half-pint, what's going on with you?"
"Oscar, thank you for being here. I think you scared them off."
"Scared who off? There wasn't anyone but you."
"NO! They were just there, chasing me, I swear!"
He pulled the shorter woman into a bear hug. "Kid, I don't know what's going on, but let's go up to the store and get some hot chocolate. It's gonna storm soon; you cant be out on the lake when it's raining."
They walked up the ramp to the store, Oscar's protective arm wrapped around Scooter's shoulders.
As he unlocked the door, they heard the chatter of the scanner. The harbor police were reporting and arrest of two intoxicated boaters near Sun-up Bay. The description matched the boat that was following her and a shiver ran up Scooter's spine. They might have been stopped today, but now they knew what her boat looked like and that she was a local on the lake. They would be back, of that she was sure.
Sitting on the stool behind the store counter, she accepted the mug of hot chocolate that the older man handed to her. "Looks like you were right, Short Stuff. Glad the police caught them before they caught you. Same guys from this afternoon?"
"I think so. God, I swear I am losing my mind."
"Nah, you're not going to drop your basket anytime soon, kid. They shook you up good. I don't blame ya for feeling a bit nuts." He patted her knee then walked over to his desk. Returning with a cordless phone, he offered it to her. "Why don't you call camp and ask someone to come pick ya up?"
She dialed the number and heard the familiar voice of the camp cook answer at the other end. "Good evening, Camp Echo, this is Jo."
Scooter felt the tears hot on her cheeks. Could I cry anymore today? "Hi, Jo."
"Scooter, what's wrong?"
"How could you tellı? Oh, never mind. Hey, I'm at Sun-up, could you ask someone to come pick me up?" Scooter heard the patter of rain on the metal roof of the store. "I can't come back in the boat."
"Sure, let me see who I can find. Hang on."
The phone was set down and Scooter could hear Jo chatting with other people. She could recognize the camp director's voice as well as that of the ranger's son, Tex.
A minute later, the cook's voice came over the line. "Scoot, hold on, Tex and I will be right there to get you."
"Thank you, Jo. I'm inside the store with Oscar."
"Okay, babe, just sit tight."
Removing her apron, Jo signaled to Tex that she was ready. The approached the camp truck. Tex opened the door for the cook and held his hand out to help her step up into the high vehicle.
Wow, he's nice. And pretty green eyes, too. Glad he was around when Scooter called.
The truck rumbled to life and headed down the road out of camp.
The storm had begun in earnest by the time the three staff returned from Sun-up Bay. As they pulled into main camp, Jo noticed the small stream paralleling the road leading down to the lake.
"We'd better make a run for it, Scoot. We're gonna get soaked no matter what."
Turning to the driver, Jo flashed him a big smile. "Thanks, Tex. I owe ya one."
The two women climbed out of the truck and ran towards the lodge. Bounding up the stairs, Scooter noticed the big black dog that was under the wooden staircase. "Hi, Indy. Try and stay dry, girl."
The breezeway door slammed behind them as they entered the lodge.
"Come into the kitchen with me, I have some clean dish towels we can use to dry off with." The cook lead the way, her shoes squeaking as she crossed the floor.
"Oh, no," realization dawned on the lifeguard, "did you miss serving dinner because of me?"
"No worries, the rest of the kitchen staff took care of it. The chili and cornbread were already finished, they just had to make a salad and mix up the lemonade. Any luck and there will be some left over for us."
Luck was with them, and they were able to scrape together enough food to satisfy their hunger.
I'm full, and I'm almost dry." Scooter assessed her physical condition.
"Guess I better biff before training starts up again."
A fire crackled in the stone fireplace's hearth. More for beauty than heat, the fire created an ambiance of coziness and warmth.
The staff members were sprawled around the room, thick photocopied booklets opened in front of them.
Silver continued talking, reviewing the Personnel Policies that staff were required to read.
"Okay, next sectionıI call it the Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll part."
That comment caught the attention of most of the staff, including Shadow.
director stood in front of a dry erase board and wrote the five words on
"Sex- if you do it, don't do it here. It has no place in a camp environment. I don't care if you are straight, gay, bi or like to do it with the fish. If you find someone else on staff that you think is worth getting to know, as more than a friend, then you need to practice restraint for ten weeks, at least while you are on camp property. What you do on your weekend breaks or once camp is over is nobody's business. But, while you are at camp and on staff, then Personnel Policies have to be followed."
Silver took a drink of water and let her words sink in as the staff members processed her mini-lecture. This stuff is so dry, hope I can keep them awake. But they have to understand; I've seen good staff fired for not following these rules. I don't want to lose anybody this year for violating policies.
"Let's move on. Drugsı no illegal drugs or alcohol are allowed on camp property. Smoking cigarettes is allowed only on the back porch next to the staff room, and only out of view of the campers." She continued on, covering every key policy that the staff would need to know.
Shadow found her attention wandering again. And, not surprisingly her eyes searched until she found the blond lifeguard who was sitting next to Pax on the other side of the room. She still looks upset. Well, she'll probably chat with Pax or Jo about it. Not like she'll come to me. I don't do the sensitive chats. She forced her attention to focus back on the director.
Scooter glanced up from her booklet. She had heard the same speech for seven years and had practically memorized the book. Yeah, yeah, no sex, no drugs or alcohol, only play your radio in the staff room, She looked around the room at the glassy eyed staff who were trying to focus on the training. Can't blame Silver, this stuff is important, but it's soooo dry.
Outside of the Lodge it was anything but dry. The wind had been followed by rain. The rain had been followed by thunder, which had been followed by lightning. The summer storm continued to grow stronger and the shutters of the staff room windows banged against the building.
Scooter continued scanning the room until she saw her hero sitting across the room. Safe, that's how she makes me feel. Wonder how she would feel about me following her around like a puppy dog this summer. Probably not, she seems more like the loner kind.
Silver had asked her a question. Scooter realized this because the whole room was looking at her and she had missed the director's comments. "Sorry, could you say that again?"
"I asked what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?" What does ice cream have to do with anything? Think fast, Scooter.
"Um, chocolate chip?"
"Are you asking me or is that your question?" The director teased the blushing woman.
"My answer?" Why does this happen to me? And why is it always in front of Shadow?
The director accepted her answer and asked the same question of the other staff members.
"Okay, everyone raise your right hand." The staff all complied. "Turn it around and pat yourself on the back. You have just endured the driest part of staff training. Thank you for paying attention. As your reward, we have a fabulous dessert for you. Follow me to the dining room."
The staff members stood, glad to stretch their bodies out as assorted pops and groans could be heard throughout the room. The all followed the director to the dining hall, where there was a clean twelve-foot rain gutter full of ice cream. On top of the assorted flavors of ice cream were a variety of toppings. Hot fudge, caramel, fresh fruit slices, candy sprinkles, nuts and whipped cream covered the mounds of ice cream.
Each staff member was handed a bowl and a spoon, then they were encouraged to find a part of the sundae that they liked and to dig in. "If you are allergic to nuts, we have a smaller sundae in the kitchen that is totally nut-free." One of the German staff headed towards the smaller treat.
The staff members filled their bowls with the surprise dessert. Pony made sure to get a lot of whipped cream in her bowl. Walking by Shadow, she stuck her finger in the bowl and came up with a dollop of the cold whipped substance. Casually, she wiped her finger onto Shadow's cheek, leaving a streak of white on the tanned skin.
"Hey! What theı?" She was about to retaliate when she noticed Jo watching her and shaking her head quickly from side to side. "You are so lucky, Pony. But watch your back, cause I owe you one." Shadow wiped the whipped cream from her face and licked it from her fingers.
"Good night everybody. Sleep well." The camp director stood and said her goodbyes. "Tomorrow is more fun, including games and boating, so get plenty of sleep."
The staff helped to clean up from the giant sundae, and then they slowly dispersed, heading to their tents. Scooter stood to leave, then gathering her nerve, walked over to Shadow who was standing and talking with Pony.
"Good night Shadow." And before she could back out of it, she gave the barn manager a hug. "Thank you, hero. Sleep well."
Shadow was too shocked to return the embrace. By the time she had her wits about her, the lifeguard was gone. Her body still felt the warmth of the shorter woman's hug. Huh, maybe she does want me around after all. Shadow knew that she would sleep very well that night, though it might take her awhile to fall asleep. There was a lot to think about and she wasn't sure where to begin.