Rick asked me a question, but stopped when he spotted me ogling the guy in front of me. His face spread into a wide smile. “Mason, son, come meet my daughter,” he said, slinging an arm around my shoulder.
My stomach dropped to my toes. Did he say, son?
I stared in disbelief at Mr. I’m-Too-Sexy-For-My-Own-Good in front of me in disbelief. Mom had neglected to tell me that Rick had a son too. The bile rose in my throat, and I don’t know if I was more embarrassed or angry about ogling my half brother. Would Mom’s half-truths never end?
“Hi,” I said, trying not to sound as stupid as I felt at the moment.
He swept his eyes disdainfully down my frame, taking in my long flowing sundress that was completely inappropriate for the mountain conditions. “You won’t find any waves out here, beach bunny,” he taunted.
“Excuse me?” I said, caught off guard. Was he seriously judging me? He was the show-off, standing around with no shirt on, trying to impress everyone. I opened my mouth to shoot off a catty comeback when Rick intervened.
“Kimmie wasn’t aware we were so high up in the mountains,” he said, offering an explanation I felt was highly unnecessary.
“Kimmie?” Mason said, smirking at me.
r-ly,” I said, dragging out my name like I would if I were talking to a two-year-old.
“Well, this isn’t awkward,” Rick said, darting his eyes between us. Ordinarily, I would have laughed at his outright bluntness. It was nice to know we shared that trait.
“Sorry,” I said, trying to ease the tension. “I guess Mom forgot to mention I had a half brother, among other things.”
“Oh, we don’t share blood, beach bunny,” Mason said, like the mere idea was distasteful.
“Come again?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t misunderstanding him.
“Mason came here as foster kid when he was ten and pretty much never left,” Rick said, proudly slapping Mason on the back.
Well, that was a relief. Not because I was just gawking at him, but because I had the strong desire to jump off a cliff at the idea of actually being related to such an arrogant ass. Still, I have to admit, I felt a little uncharacteristically jealous over the bond they seemed to share that was never an option for me. I knew that was irrational considering we were all practically adults, but I kind of felt like a kid with my nose pressed to the window of a candy store while all the other kids got to pick out a treat.
“Little old to be a camper, aren’t you—or do they go by maturity level around here?” I asked in a sugarcoated voice.
Rick swept his gaze between Mason and me, obviously catching the hostility that seemed to vibrate between us. “Mason is the best counselor/all-around-handyman I could ever ask for.”
“Yep, see beach bunny, some of us actually work for a living,” Mason said before sauntering off to resume his work.
I was left sputtering in his wake as he sank his ax into the tree stump and pulled his t-shirt off the nearby branch where it was hanging.
“Okay, so, that wasn’t the way I expected that to go,” Rick said, puzzled by the way we had reacted.
“Sorry, I’m just not used to being around arrogant guys,” I said, passing the buck off on Mason.
“Well, he’s usually not like that. He’s usually very courteous to girls,” Rick said, scratching the light hair that covered his face.
“I guess I bring out the worse in him,” I said, feeling bad for spoiling the moment for Rick. This wasn’t exactly the first impression I wanted to make.
He nodded, still looking confused and a little bit hurt. I followed meekly behind him, suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of homesickness. What the hell was I doing here? This wasn’t my element. I knew nothing about the people I would be spending the next six weeks of my life with. I’d already alienated myself with one, and followed that by disappointing the father I had known all of five hours. I felt like an epic failure.
“This will be your dorm,” Rick said, pushing open the heavy wooden door open with his foot. I dragged my suitcase up the two shallow wooden steps and crossed through the doorway to take in my surroundings. The interior was as rough and rugged as the exterior. Six sets of bunk beds lined three of the walls. Tall unfinished wardrobes stood between each set while two more flanked the wall by the door we had entered. Two solitary twin beds sat in the center of the room.
“Bathroom is there,” Rick said, pointing to the narrow space between a set of the bunk beds and wardrobes. “The girls get the bunks and counselors get these beds,” Rick added, placing my suitcases on one of the twin beds.
I looked around, unsure of my role in the scheme of things. “Um, I’m really not all that good around kids,” I said, deciding to come clean before I was entrusted with a cabin full of girls.
“I’m sure you’ll be a natural,” Rick said, patting my back. “There’s still a few days before the campers arrive. We’ll run you through some basic courses before they get here, CPR, first aid and a few survival classes that I make all the counselors take each year. It’s imperative to know the basic survival tips for the region you’ll be camping in,” he added before heading out the door.