Camp Firefly Falls, Book 17             September 24, 2017           

         Camp Firefly Falls, Book 17   
         September 24, 2017
        
 

Forget Netflix and chill...campfire and thrill. Camp Firefly Falls, a sexy sleepaway summer camp for grownups is ready for you...

Former collegiate track athlete Tori Turner isn’t thrilled when her family schedules her to attend Camp Firefly Falls for Going for the Gold Week without her permission. Yeah, she could use the pick-me-up after calling off her engagement, but come on! Things begin to look up, however, when she runs into her old teammate, Derek Meyerson. They’ve been friends since a disastrous one-night stand made them realize they were better suited as buddies. Except now, thanks to time spent under bright sunshine and in glistening lake water, she’s noticing how broad those shoulders she’d always leaned on are…

After not disclosing his virginity led to the most humiliating experience of his life, Derek was happy to salvage a friendship with Tori. Teaming up with her again to take down their old college rivals is exactly the shot in the arm he needs after another relationship fail. An unexpected kiss has him thinking some crazy thoughts—like maybe it’s time to go from friends to lovers…

Competing in the 100-meter dash is easy, but this time these sprinters will have to decide whether to leave their hearts in the starting blocks or try to win the race for love.

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Chapter One

Partying until the wee hours of the morning after her brother’s wedding wasn’t Tori Turner’s best idea, especially considering she had an early-ass flight home, but could anyone blame her, really?

Her brother, Malcolm, had met the love of his life and had spared no expense in the coordination of their union. The man was too smitten for that. Family, amazing food, and even better music had defined the celebration.

So yeah, she’d shaken her tail feather alongside her sisters and their cousins while the highly-skilled DJ played every R&B and hip-hop hit in the last twenty years. And, if, during the course of the evening, she thought about how she’d missed out on her own wedding reception after calling off the engagement six months ago, that’s where the alcohol came in, which surprise was even better than the music. And she’d never been known for holding her liquor.

So yeah, she was a little hungover. And seriously sleep-deprived as she trudged across the hotel lobby, each step requiring herculean effort. Oh, well. She’d already taken three ibuprofen and planned to do nothing more strenuous than lay out on the fine leather of the limo’s backseat and take a much-deserved nap on the way to the airport. Her two younger sisters, Layla and Bianca, were staying at the resort for a mini-vacation before heading home tomorrow. And her brother and his new wife, Val, were headed to Turks and Caicos for their honeymoon.

She exited the hotel, pulling her suitcase behind her, and glanced around for her ride. At least the sun was cooperating. It hadn’t risen yet, which saved her the indignity of reaching for her sunglasses at 6 a.m. Barely.

“Good morning, Ms. Turner,” said, Jimmy, an old family friend/her limo driver. Malcolm had contracted his company to chauffeur them around for the weekend because, again, her brother had spared no expense.

“You used to hide my Barbies. No need to stand on formality.” Her eyes narrowed. Why did he look fresh as a freakin’ daisy, his uniform pressed, creases sharp? He’d been there last night, watching her knock back glasses of champagne. And tequila.  

He grinned. “Of course, Tomato.”

She shook her head at the childhood nickname. Then winced at the abrupt—even though it wasn’t, really—movement. She was the one who had anointed herself and her sisters, Layla and Bianca, BLT. Malcolm was Mayo, of course.

“Let’s go, Punkin.” He wasn’t the only one who could remember silly nicknames.

His smile disappeared. “Point taken.” He reached for her suitcase. “Here, let me get that.”

“Thanks.” Tori offered up her best attempt at a smile. It was almost too much effort, but her mama had raised her right. She climbed—okay, more like collapsed— into the backseat with a rather undignified groan she couldn’t stop from slipping past her lips. Apparently, she could no longer party like she was twenty-one. Which was super sad, considering she was only twenty-nine.

Jimmy eyed her through the open door with concern.

“I’m okay.” More or less. She’d wait until he closed the door before sprawling all across the seat like a three-year-old who would use whatever available flat surface she could find for a nap. “Tell no one else about this.”

He snickered. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

The moment the door closed, her eyes drifted shut. Yes, a little nap would do just fine…

Something—a bump in the road—jarred her awake sometime later. She sat up. Cocked her head to the side. The little jackhammers had stopped pounding her skull. Progress. She checked her watch. Blinked and raised her arm closer to her eyes. More than an hour had passed since she exited the hotel. The airport was only thirty minutes from the resort. But she was still in the limo. What the…? She smashed the intercom button. “Jimmy, what’s going on? Did we run into traffic or something?”

The partition separating the backseat from the front slid down. She met Jimmy’s gaze in the rearview mirror. He was grinning. “Enjoy your nap?”

She wasn’t amused. “What’s going on?”

“Here.” He slid an envelope over the seat, which landed in her lap.

Tori stared at the innocuous-looking envelope. Her name was written on the front in Layla’s perfect handwriting. Why would her sister write her a note? Her stomach twisted into knots that had nothing to do with the shots of tequila she’d consumed last night. She picked up the envelope and turned it around in her hands two times.

“Get a grip.” She took a deep breath and opened it. She pulled out a piece of cardstock. It was a handwritten note, again in Layla’s handwriting.

 

Tori,

We know you’ve been having a hard time lately, so we wanted to cheer you up a bit by sending you to Camp Firefly Falls for a week. Fun in the outdoors away from the worry of work. Who could ask for more?

 

She could, that’s who. Tori dropped her head back against the seat. She thought she’d been doing a good job of hiding her malaise from her family. Calling off her engagement, doubting she would ever find the love she’d been searching for her whole life, disappointing her father—it was a lot. Still, she showed up to work every day and did her part to make Satisfied Lingerie as successful as possible. Yet this was her reward for her dedication? Banishment? Yes, it was only a week, but who cared? She hadn’t authorized this.

“Jimmy, stop this car right now.”

“Don’t think that’s a good idea. We’re in the middle of traffic.”

Smartass. “Fine. Take me to the airport or drive me all the way back to Boston, since you seem so gung ho to drive.”

He didn’t stop. Or turn around. He did toss another envelope over the seat. Tori snatched it out of mid-air. She didn’t take as much care this time not to rip the envelope as she opened it. She yanked out another neatly written note. Her sister’s handwriting was really starting to annoy her.

 

Yes, it’s true. We knew you would object if we told you about our idea, so we took matters into our own hands. Don’t be mad at Jimmy. Sit back and relax.

P.S. You did it to Malcolm, so you kinda don’t have a leg to stand on.

 

Tori could imagine her sister saying that with her trademark shrug.  Who cared? She’d been the mastermind behind that plot to send their brother to camp last year. She did not appreciate being masterminded. She reached for her purse at her feet and grabbed her phone. Layla would hear about this.

The phone rang five times, then went to voice mail. Her sister wasn’t still asleep. She was avoiding her. So what? She would be heard.

“How could you do this to me?” Tori hissed when the call went to voice mail. “I don’t want to go to camp. I have too much work to do. Call me back. Better yet, call Jimmy and tell him this was all a big mistake.”

She stabbed her finger at the phone to end the call. “Grr.”

That message had not satisfied her. What else could she do? A text. Yes. Layla was more likely to read it than listen to voice mail anyway. She sent her sister a message that conveyed the same sentiment as the voice mail, but with lots of exclamation points. Layla’s response came a few seconds later because, of course, Tori was right about her avoiding her calls.

 

Have fun! We’ll take care of everything at the office. Malcolm agreed it was time to give us more responsibility without the two of you breathing down our necks.

 

That’s all her sister had to say? But Tori hadn’t become the president of the fastest growing lingerie company in the US by giving up easily. She scooted forward. “Hey, Jimmy, whatever my family is paying you, I’ll double it if you take me to the airport.”

He tossed a grin over his shoulder. “Yeah?”

Why wasn’t he taking her seriously? “Yes.”

Her phone chimed with a text. Layla again.

 

Don’t try to bribe Jimmy. He cares about you too and thinks this is a great idea.

 

Tori flopped back against the seat. Ugh. Why were they one step ahead of her? That was usually her position. How had she not seen this coming?  Had she really lost her edge? She gagged at the thought. She was the one who kept the boat moving, who looked out for everyone else.

She was Tori Turner, damn it.

Her phone chimed again. This time with a text from Bianca.

 

We love you. Please accept this gift in the manner in which it was intended.

 

Tori’s heart melted. Bianca was her baby, even if she wasn’t a baby anymore, the one she always looked out for. 

She replied to the message.

 

Fine. I’m going.

 

She would go and not be a spoiled brat about it. Maybe. She would try. Some. Maybe. Then she’d go home and wreak havoc on the people who thought they knew her better than she knew herself.

Her eyes fluttered. But first, another nap.

***

“Rise and shine, Tori.”

The words penetrated her foggy brain. Her eyes blinked open. And immediately slammed shut again when blinding sunshine pierced through her forehead to her skull. Jimmy had opened the door to the evil outside. Her hangover was still hanging on.

“Now, now, none of that,” Jimmy said. His words and tone were kind, but the same could not be said for the firm hand forcibly jiggling her arm.

She groaned. “Oh, all right.”

Why had her siblings let her stay up so late and drink so much knowing they had this fiasco planned for her? She swung her legs to the floorboard and grabbed her purse. Jimmy held out a hand and helped her out of the car. She dug in her purse for her sunglasses and slipped them on. The sun became a muted intrusion rather than the evil bastard she knew it to really be.

Jimmy clapped his hands. “Okay, here’s the deal. Here’s your suitcase.” He stepped aside. A red carryon was at his side. It was not the black suitcase she’d given him at the resort. Her sisters really had thought of everything. “Here’s a bottle of Gatorade. Drink it. It’ll help you recover.” He grinned. “You’ll probably be drinking a lot of it this week.”

Tori frowned. What was that supposed to mean?

 I’ll be back in a week to pick you up,” he continued, growing more animated. “Don’t have too much fun.”

“Eh.” His jolliness was not needed. She still felt sluggish, her brain running about thirty miles per hour slower than it usually did. The nap had helped, but it wasn’t the full night’s rest she needed. Rest she probably wasn’t going to get until nighttime if full participation on the first day of camp was required. A camp she couldn’t leave if she didn’t want to disappoint her sisters. Hip, hip hooray. She opened the sports drink and guzzled it.

Jimmy saluted, disappeared into the limo, and left. Leaving her in the middle of Camp Firefly Falls, summer camp for adults. Yippee. She wasn’t opposed to camping. She loved the outdoors, sunshine on her face, the wind whipping through her hair. She just thought if she ever came here it would be on her own terms and not because her family felt sorry for her.

A woman in shorts and a blue tank top emerged from the woods. Her jog slowed to a walk when she spotted Tori. She glanced at the departing vehicle. “Fancy ride.”

“Yeah, my family thought I should arrive in style,” Tori said.

 “Well, let me be the first to welcome you to Camp Firefly Falls. I’m the owner, Heather Tully.” Tori took her proffered hand in a firm handshake. “I’m Tori Turner.”

 “Let’s get you checked in.”

“Thanks.” Tori followed the blonde to a large building she recalled as the main lodge. She’d done a ton of research on the place last year before sending her brother here. A few tables were manned by staffers. Tori headed to the table with the “Last Names R-Z” sign.

The worker, redhead in his mid-twenties with the freckles of someone who spent most of his time outdoors, gave her a quick once-over. “You okay? Rough night?”

Tori barely held back a groan. What must she look like? She glanced down. Her shirt and khakis were hopelessly wrinkled. Her hair was probably standing all over the place. She’d run a comb through it that morning, but laying down in the limo almost certainly hadn’t helped to preserve the curls the hairstylist had spent an hour perfecting before her brother’s nuptials. “I was at a wedding last night.”

A light of understanding entered his eyes. “Ah, I see. Had some fun? The fun will continue here. Welcome to Going for the Gold Week!”

She nodded like she understood what he was talking about. He was being so chipper. So chipper. And loud. So loud. Was he yelling? Probably not, but her brain wasn’t in any shape to process stimuli correctly.

He held out a manila envelope. “You’ll find your room assignment and the brochure for this week’s activities inside, including the times for your already scheduled events, which start tomorrow. You’ll have the opportunity later to sign up for any additional events you want to participate in. We wanted to give everyone a day to let the competitive spirit to kick in. Be sure to wear your chosen colors tonight!”

Scheduled events? Chosen colors? Tonight? What was he talking about?

He beamed, clearly waiting for her to join in his excitement.

She pushed her lips upward. “Umm, yeah, okay.”

His smile broadened at her pitiful effort. She took the envelope and exited the lodge. Sheer nosiness had her yanking the envelope open and tugging out the papers inside. What exactly had her sisters and brother signed her up for? She read the first page.

 

Welcome to Camp Firefly Falls! Ever dreamed of being an Olympic athlete? Ever wondered what it would be like to wear a gold medal around your neck while your national anthem played? Well, we’ve replaced national anthem with personal anthem, but the rest we’ve got covered. 100-meter dashes on the track and in the pool, archery, trampoline, rowing, etc.

 

Oh.” Her lips split into a wide grin. Her siblings knew her well. She loved the Olympics, especially the Summer Games. She’d once dreamed of competing in the Olympics. She’d run on her college track team. She’d been pretty good, too. Not best in the world good, but good enough to make the conference finals. A race she’d never gotten to run because of a freak accident during practice a week before the championships. She’d landed wrong after clearing a hurdle, spraining her ACL, and that was all she wrote. She’d been devastated, of course, but had moved on to grad school and a career she loved.

Still, she loved the Olympics. The competition. The athletes’ stories. The hard work. The triumphs. The perseverance. The dedication. She checked her event schedule. Her sisters had signed her up to run the 110 meter hurdles, her specialty in college.

 She flipped to the next page in the packet. A map of the camp and her room assignment. She had a roommate, which made sense. When they were planning Malcolm’s trip, they’d debated about whether to give him the full camp experience or pay the exorbitant amount to ensure he would have a cabin to himself. She, of course, had said that if she was going to camp, she would want the full experience. And her siblings had remembered. Of course, they had.

She consulted the map one more time before setting off to find her temporary digs. She intercepted a few curious looks from other campers. She gave them all a dignified nod. What else could she do? As soon as she got to her cabin, she’d take a shower and change into some camp appropriate clothes. If she had to be here for a week, the least she could do was be presentable.

Tori ambled because she was tired and, okay, because this place was beautiful. Thick, leafy trees surrounded her. Between the leaves, she glimpsed a lake in the distance. Birds darted from branch to branch. Even better, the fresh air was working to clear her head. She looked to the left and spotted some campers with archery equipment already getting some practice in.

She turned her attention back to the path.  And stopped. A man was ahead of her about thirty feet. A tall dude. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, which was A-OK with her. Skin the color of chestnut. Broad shoulders.  He raised a water bottle to his lips, which sent all his back muscles into motion. Who knew backs could be so sexy? Fine Jogger was hot. Droolworthy.

Okay, maybe this week was picking up. She felt twinges of…what was that again? Attraction, something she’d almost forgotten she could feel. Her hormones had lain dormant since she called off her engagement. And probably before that, if she was honest with herself.

The good news? He broke into a jog, which accentuated all those lovely back muscles working in unison. The bad news? He was jogging away from her. She sped up. It had been way too long since she’d had a chance to ogle a man in person, and she couldn’t let this opportunity slip away. She just couldn’t be obvious. She took a quick look around. She was alone. Good. She didn’t feel like sharing. Or being exposed as the camp creeper.

Her eyes slipped lower to his perfectly round butt. Red shorts hung low, but fit his high ass like they couldn’t believe their good luck at being able to adhere to such perfection.

She kept a good pace, neither too fast, nor too slow. Just close enough that she could watch all those muscles in motion. She was so busy mentally tracing the muscles with her tongue she didn’t see the rock in the middle of the trail. Her toe stubbed it. Hard.

“Ahh,” she cried out and held out her hands as the ground came up to meet her in slow motion like in the movies. But she couldn’t push pause to stop the horror that awaited her. She tumbled to the ground, her chin taking the brunt of the fall, the hard dirt and twigs digging into her skin. “Oww!”

She lay there, stunned.

“Are you okay?” someone called from above her. Not someone. A man.

“Great,” she mumbled. Her chin hurt, Fine Jogger had witnessed her embarrassment, and now he’d come to check on her, which completed her personal wheel of embarrassment. The urge to bury her face in the ground and never get up swept through her, but that would be an extra spin on the wheel of embarrassment because Fine Jogger would inevitably stay and insist on helping her up and see her face covered in nature’s makeup. 

“Hey, are you okay? Tori? Is that you?”