Unlikely Allies - Page 20

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Rick put two of his fingers in his mouth and blew out a shrill whistle that rang out around us. The guys stopped wrestling and straightened up their clothes, but I saw the original instigator nudge Mason one last time, earning him a stern look from Rick.

"Mason is right. The trails are labeled from easy to hard for a reason. Falling off the mountain may seem like a far-fetched idea, but the conditions along the trails can become dangerous from weather conditions and erosion. Even expert guides have been known to get injured on these trails. So, once again, the two expert trails are for our fifteen-year-old campers only, and only after they have completed every other trail with an average score of an eight or better.

"Score?" I whispered to Amy.

"Yeah, Rick came up with a checklist of certain things he expects the campers to accomplish with each trail they take. It rates you by aptness, speed and general knowledge of your surroundings. Most of the girls really don't care and never make it to the harder trails, but to the guys, it's like the Holy Grail or something," she whispered loudly to me, earning us a glare from Mason.

Without thinking, I stuck my tongue out at him, earning giggles from Parker and the blonde camper, Grace, who had asked me about Rick earlier.

"That’s mature," Amy teased, smiling at me.

"I can't help it, he brings out the worst in me," I grumbled, slouching down on the rough bench underneath me. I refrained from wiggling around. With my luck lately, I’d find a way to get a splinter in my ass for sure.

Rick closed up the opening comments by handing out schedules for the campers. I grabbed one of them and saw that I was scheduled to do arts and crafts in one-hour blocks. I had one session before lunch and three afterward.

"I'm off to row with the munchkins," Amy quipped, pointing toward the canoes by the lake.

"You teach rowing?" I asked, surprised. I somehow expected that to be Mason's forte.

"When it's cooler, like it is this summer, I do rowing. When it's warmer, I do swim lessons. By the way the weather seems to be acting this summer, I don't see a whole lot of opportunities for getting in the water."

"That's cool. I would have expected rowing to be more Mason's kind of thing," I admitted.

"LOL, I could see that. God knows the guy has the pecks and arms for it, but he teaches archery and is a guide," she said before loping off for the lake.

I made my way to the mess hall where the art room was located. Anxiety began to set in as I went through a mental checklist, reviewing everything I had spent the previous day setting up to my liking. At least I had an impressive amount of supplies at my disposal and had planned different projects that would take several days to complete.

My first group arrived as I was pulling out the necessary supplies for the day. It was the older boys, definitely the most intimidating group I would have. They were only three years younger than me, and it was obvious I was being blatantly checked out. I expected to hear some kind of innuendos, but at least they were remaining respectful, even though I could feel all their eyes watching every move I made. I couldn't help wondering if that was due to Rick.

"Okay, so today I thought we’d work with clay," I said, indicating the chunks of burnt orange-colored clay I had set on each table. "I've worked with this kind of clay before and it's pretty cool because it doesn't require baking to set..." My words were cut off when one of the boys chucked a rolled-up ball of the clay at his friend across the room. I knew I needed to say something, but it seemed awkward getting onto someone so close to my age. I was debating the best approach in my head to let him know I was in charge when another blob of clay flew across the room, nearly pegging me in the cheek. Before I could get a word out, an all-out clay war erupted among the rowdy boys who were all trying to tag each other. A boy across the room picked up one of the folding chairs to use as a shield and another climbed on top of the table for more accuracy. I ducked under the table, out of the line of fire after a small piece pelted me in the forehead. I knew I'd suck at this, I thought to myself as the shrieking and whooping hit painful decibels.

A loud piercing whistle broke up the noise of the room and I peeked out from under my hiding place. Rick was standing in the doorway, looking anything but happy. "What the blazing hell is going on in here?" he asked to the now silent room.

"Dude, Trent totally started it..." a short shaggy-haired kid said, pointing to the tall kid on the far side of the room.

"What the F, Paul, I thought you had my back," Trent shouted, glaring at Paul.

"This is NOT the kind of behavior I'm looking for from you guys. I'm all for screwing around, but when supplies and furniture are compromised, that's not cool. Folks spend their hard-earned money to make sure this camp is functional and you show your respect by climbing on it like it’s playground equipment," Rick said in a stern "don't mess with me" kind of voice.

Brushing dust off the knees of my skirt, I stood up, embarrassed to be caught looking like an imbecile.

"Kimberly, can I see you out here for a moment," Rick asked, sounding slightly disappointed.

"Um, sure, Rick," I said, feeling defensive from the look on his face. I tried to tell him I wasn't good at this sort of thing. This was not my fault, I couldn't help thinking as I closed the door smartly behind us.

I looked up defiantly, ready to tell him this whole thing was his fault for entrusting a complete novice with the job. My insolence, however, deflated like a balloon as he just stood there in silence, studying me.

"I'm sorry," I said, cracking under the pressure. "The situation just got out of control. I'm not used to telling kids near my age what to do," I added as I scuffed the toe of my shoe against the doorjamb.

"I know I shoved you into this position. I wanted you to learn to love the camp as much as I do in the short amount of time you will be here. I can see now I was unfair in assuming you'd want to be a part of this," he said, sweeping his hands out to indicate the space surrounding us. "I can make arrangements and get your position replaced, but you might have to still camp out in one of the cabins if you don't mind," he added.

My stomach dropped. He doesn't think I have it in me to do this, I thought despairingly. Only day one and I had shattered his faith in me and stomped on his dreams. All I could think about were my complaints that now seemed insignificant when I looked into his hurt eyes.

"I can do this, Rick," I said with more bravado than I had felt since my plane had landed days ago. I would show him I had it in me or die trying, a silent voice mocked me.

"Are you sure? I'd understand if you wanted an out. I know I kind of sprang all of this on you."

"I'm positive," I said, meaning it for the first time.

Tags: Tiffany King Romance
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