Teardrop Shot

Page 11

So I held back and sat on a bench just outside the gyms. After giving him a few minutes’ head start, I let out a soft sigh and headed down the trail by myself.

If anyone tells you walking down a wooded path by yourself, at night, on an island with no lights is peaceful—they’re lying to you. They’re straight-up bullshitting you, because it wasn’t. I felt like I’d spent half my life at this camp, and even I got freaked out. My phone’s light was a small help, but not much. Visions of deer running at me, ready to spear my chest with their antlers or hoof me to death had me picking up my pace. Then there was the slight whiff of skunk. I was probably imagining it, but by then, I didn’t need to add much more to get to full sprint. And because the path was made of wood chips, I was trying to run while picking up my feet so my toes wouldn’t get caught up on anything.

My knees were rising almost to my chest, making my phone bounce so much that I about clipped myself in the chin with it.

I turned it off, but I could still imagine how ridiculous I would’ve looked to anyone wandering around with night-vision goggles.

And then I started thinking about the time people had snuck onto the island and we’d had to catch them and escort them back off. That had taken a coordinated effort by most of the staff, and tonight was just me.

So now I was running from deer, skunk, and any random island intruders.

I’d been out of breath by the time I got to my cabin, welcomed by the faint odor of fish.

That had been my night, and so far my morning was off to a bang-up start. After chilling myself to the bone because it was seriously cold at five in the morning, I dressed and stuffed a bag full of whatever I grabbed. I wouldn’t have much time to run back here since Keith wanted the courts open almost all day. A few minutes later, after lacing up my sneakers, I hit the path again.

There was still not much light, but my absolute exhaustion pushed all my scary thoughts away. If a deer, skunk, or intruder tried to mess with me, they’d be the stupid one. I was also a little more rational this morning. Daylight tended to bring back the sanity, just a bit. And I was tired. Tired meant I wasn’t a happy Charlie. I needed coffee before dealing with life, hence I’d chosen the best time for my call to the ex dipshit.

That cheered me a bit.

I was almost smiling when I got to the clearing between the gym courts and the main lounge. Keith had said he wanted it open at five am. I was thirty minutes late, but no one was here. I was pretty sure my job was safe. I unlocked the courts and flipped on all the lights.

The air was still crisp. I had slipped on a sweatshirt over my T-shirt and jean shorts, and shivering, I tugged the zipper up. It went up the side, all the way to my neck. I’d thought it was cute and trendy when I bought it, but it pinched my skin now, and I cringed. Oh well. I liked how it looked, so I was keeping it, even if it made me bleed.

I opened the cage, put Forster’s ball up on the rack since I’d left it on the floor, and grabbed the list of inventory.

I started going through everything, but I was yawning so hard that it was making me tear up by the time I got to the relay equipment. That was three minutes later.

I needed coffee. I didn’t care how distrustful Keith was. I was going to leave the courts unlocked (gasp, then hiss), and I was going to get coffee in the main lobby.

Putting a few basketballs outside the cage door, just in case someone showed up, I headed out. The cage was locked up. My bag was with it, hidden in the back with the hockey sticks, and I was just leaving through the back door when I more sensed them than saw them.

Reese Forster and Juan Cartion were jogging down the walking path.

All in gray, Reese had his hood up and head down, with sweatpants hanging low from his narrow hips. They ended around his calves. His shoes were neon yellow—the entire shoe, even his laces.

As the path broke out from the trees, Juan’s head was up, and his eyes met mine.

They weren’t anywhere close to me, but I still stepped back. My back hit the building behind me, and I stayed put, almost the exact same posture I’d taken last night when Forster brought his ball back to the cage.

Like last time, he never looked up.

He and his best friend ran right past me, going around to the front of the gym building and turning down the path that’d take them to the lake.

I’d swear I saw some amusement in Juan Cartion’s gaze, but I wasn’t sure, and after waiting another few seconds—as if they were going to magically run back—I smoothed a hand over my shirt. My heart was beating so fast.

This was ridiculous.

I couldn’t keep almost having a heart attack every time I saw these guys. They were campers. I was staff.

Three weeks, or more like two and a half weeks.

I was on day two and almost pissing my pants at just the thought of seeing Reese Forster.

I needed a trick. Something to help me calm down.

I needed to think of him naked.

My pulse skyrocketed.

Yeah. That wasn’t going to help.

I needed to... I went through some ideas.

Maybe I could just focus on his penis.

Another skip in my pulse. That wasn’t helping, because I thought of why I would see his penis, and whoa boy—I got lightheaded.

Think of him vomiting.

Nope. I just wanted to help clean him up.

Think of him taking a piss.

And there was that penis again.

The same with taking a dump.

He was naked. He was squatting.

There might’ve been a smell, but there was his body in all its glory. I’ve seen pictures of him playing without his shirt. Goooorgeous.

I bit my lip, squelching a groan. So not helping.


That hit me like a bat to my chest.

Everything was gone—the nerves, the flutters, the feeling of just feeling. Thinking of Damian took it all away.

I swallowed over that bark lump. It wasn’t right, or it shouldn’t have been, that just a memory could strip someone of everything.

But it worked.

Owen and Hadley had been running behind on making breakfast when I came in for my coffee. They had a sick kid, so they had to keep taking turns going back to the house to check on little Noah until Owen’s mom got there. They had one of the two houses on the island. Keith had the other. (Boo, hiss) And speaking of Keith…

In another accidental-genius moment, I snagged a pair of radios and put one in the court and the other in the kitchen. Now I would hear if someone showed up, and like Owen and Hadley with their kid, I’d run out to check on the courts. Until then, I stayed in the kitchen to help with the food. The players were starting to trickle in, and I was behind the dish window again, waiting for Keith to show up for his coffee.

It was almost clockwork. Even after all these years.

Ten minutes till we started serving, he breezed in.

Khaki shorts. A green polo shirt. His Boss mug in hand. He filled it up, then entered the kitchen to talk to Owen. Seeing me, he stopped whatever he’d been about to say and blinked a few times.

I wasn’t about to defend myself for not sitting in an empty gym when my two friends had a sick kid and needed help. He was beyond an asshole if he was going to light into me for that. After staring at me a couple more seconds, he turned back to Owen.

Clearing his throat, he asked, “How’s the morning going?”

I tuned them out, going back to washing what dishes I already could.

I was on my third pan when I heard the players coming in.

The Damian effect was still with me. I’d felt it the whole morning since I’d let myself think of him, and it prevented my usual freak-out when the guys came in. I almost felt like a normal person. I was just standing here, doing dishes. No idiotic questions burst out of me like a backward fart, and I hadn’t even felt the usual amount of anger toward Keith when he came in. That would change, but for now, I almost felt melancholy.

As if sensing he was safe, Reese Forster walked in with Juan Cartion right behind him and a couple other players too.

Normal Charlie would’ve categorized every single person. I would’ve taken note of what they were wearing, how they were walking, how I thought they might’ve smelled. All of it.

But melancholy Charlie only looked at him a moment before finishing my pan and putting it through the washer.

See? Normal.

I could do this.

Thoughts of the ex-soulmate who had shattered me were going to be my friend for the next three weeks.

These three weeks were going to suck.

I inhaled, feeling my lungs tremble, and swallowed over a couple knives in my throat. My hands shook slightly when I reached for the next round of dishes, but then I firmed everything. Whatever. I could do this.

It’d been a year. I should’ve dealt with the Damian trauma long before now anyway.

I’d have to look up nearby therapists at this rate—or write my book. Shit. I’d forgotten that was the main excuse for coming out here. Yes. Maybe I should plan to actually work on that thing.

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