Authors: Julie Jarnagin
Copyright Â© 2011 by Julie Jarnagin. All rights reserved. Except
for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole
or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means,
now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of
Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box
Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International VersionÂ®. NivÂ®. Copyright Â© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.â¢ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.
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The metal shelf creaked as Cassie Langley teetered on the edge, stretching her fingers to the toolbox just out of reach.
“Let me help you with that.”
Cassie flinched and almost lost her balance. She hadn't heard the man walk into the cafeteria pantry. She wrapped her fingers around a wooden broom handle beside her to regain her balance. “No thank you,” she said without turning to see his face. “I can reach it myself.”
She had managed to run the church camp for the last nine months, supervising the staff, taking care of the grounds, and working with the kids. She didn't need help with a simple task like reaching a toolbox.
She pushed a box of napkins out of her way and waited to hear him leave, but the room was silent except for the rumble of the walk-in freezer. “Is there something I can help you with? Are you lost?”
His footsteps moved closer. “Just looking for a piece of rope.”
She stood on one foot, letting the other lift up behind her as she reached farther for the toolbox. “Rope?”
“I'm a counselor this week. One of the boys in my cabin is trying to play tag football, but his baggy pants keep tripping him up. He needs a belt.”
Her fingers touched the plastic handle. “Got it!” As she pulled the toolbox closer to her, her foot slipped. She reached for the broom handle to keep from falling to the concrete floor.
His hand cupped her elbow and supported her. “Whoa, are you sure you won't let me help you?”
Cassie was losing her patience with this guy. She steadied herself on the shelf. “No thank you. I'm fine.”
She didn't need help, especially from a volunteer who would be gone at the end of the week. Of course, it wasn't this stranger's fault that she was having a tough day.
She took a deep breath. “The rope is in the top drawer by the kitchen sink. Help yourself.”
When he didn't move, she sighed loud enough for him to hear. “I'm fine,” she said. “I've got it. Really.”
As she stepped back off the shelf and pulled the toolbox with her, she felt something snap. Hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, and nails poured out of the box above her head. She yelled and shielded her eyes. Something heavy, possibly a wrench, slammed against her shoulder, narrowly missing her head.
She fell backward, but an arm wrapped around her middle, keeping her from hitting the floor below. A hand took the toolbox.
Her cheeks burned with anger at whoever had put the toolbox back without latching the lid and at the stranger who thought she needed saving.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Cassie pulled away from him. She crouched to the floor and grabbed tools, throwing them back into the box. Her shoulder throbbed. “I'm fine. They're definitely going to hear about this at the staff meeting.”
She looked up, seeing him for the first time as he bent down and reached for a nail that had rolled under a crate of apples. He was handsomeâtoo handsomeâwith chiseled features and tan skin. Like he had walked straight out of a catalog. But she wasn't attracted to the kind of men with big egos and expectations that females would swoon over them.
She reminded herself that this man wasn't her father. She needed to be professional, despite her first impressions of him. “Come on. I'll show you where we keep the rope.”
He let out a chuckle and then sucked air back through his mouth when she looked at him.
Her mouth fell open. “You're laughing at me?”
“No, I'm not laughing at you. I'm just. . .”
She put her hands on her hips as she stood. “Just what?”
“Well, okay, I'm laughing a little, but you're so mad. I tried to help you, but you wouldn't let me.”
She glared at him. “I didn't need your help. I had reached it, but someone left it open.”
He held his hands up in front of him. “I know. I know. I'm sorry.”
She looked up at him. He was tall, almost a foot taller than her own five-foot-three-inch frame.
“I'm Will Overman. You must be Cassie.” He stuck out his hand.
She slipped the screwdriver into her pocket and placed her palm on his. Will's hand covered hers. Their eyes met, but Cassie promised herself she wouldn't fall for his charm, which in her experience usually turned out to be arrogance. A well-worn University of Oklahoma T-shirt stretched across his torso. He had probably spent more time fixing his dark wavy hair than she had spent on her own. Handsome didn't mean much to Cassie.
“I've heard about you,” he said, following her out of the pantry.
She walked faster. “Oh?” If he had heard of her, it could only mean he lived in Wyatt Bend. In a small town, people talked.
The camp was nestled in a canyon not far from Wyatt Bend, Oklahoma, and the people there had always claimed it as their own. They had opinions on everything that happened there, something Cassie still hadn't grown to accept. Growing up, she learned that the more she did on her own, the less she risked being let down by other people.
Beth, the camp cook, had already warned her that word of the changes at the camp had made its way around the local beauty salons and coffee shops.
“You took over after Henry Mason retired,” Will said, as if he was telling her some piece of information never revealed to her. “Everybody loves Henry.”
Henry Mason was a small-town hero, active in the largest church in town, and a member of the school board. What they didn't know was that Cassie was cleaning up everything he hadn't had time for, like keeping the camp afloat, maintaining books, and following all the required codes.
It wasn't that Henry was a bad man; he just didn't care about the details that came with the job. Budgets, bills, and paperwork had obviously fallen to the bottom of his priority list. Cassie had spent the last nine months trying to keep the church board from shutting down Sunset Camp. According to her boss, who spent his days in an office in Oklahoma City running several sites throughout the state, the camp was costing the conference more and more every year, and he struggled to justify the camp's financial losses at the board meetings.
Cassie couldn't imagine the camp closing, especially after it had touched so many lives, including her own.
Will followed her through the kitchen. “Do you ever hear from Henry?”
“Every now and then,” Cassie said. “He likes Arizona.”
Will leaned against the giant stainless-steel utility sink. “Good for him. We really miss him at church.”
Cassie found the rope exactly where she had told him it would be. She tossed it at him, and he caught it as it hit his chest. Pulling a screwdriver from the deep pocket of her cargo pants, she said, “I have to go. I need to open someone's suitcase.”
“Hang on,” Will said. “I have a question for you.”
The glint in his eye told her he was teasing her. “Okay.”
Mimicking her, he crossed his arms. “Why do you keep the toolbox on the top shelf of the pantry behind those huge boxes? Are you hiding something in there?”
She rolled her eyes. “If you must know, a few months ago a girl found a screwdriver in one of the drawers. After her counselors fell asleep, she removed the screen window by her bunk and snuck out to meet a boy.”
“Wow. She went to a lot of work.”
Cassie wiped a smudge off the oven with the hem of her shirt. “You have to give some of them points for creativity.”
Will ducked under the pot rack that hung beside the giant gas stove. “Why didn't she go out the door?”
Obviously Will was an amateur when it came to the art of sneaking out of cabins. He was going to be in for a long week of volunteering. “Do you think we don't have a good reason for not greasing the squeaky hinges? Have you ever heard one of those doors open?”
The light from the windows reflected off a silver cross on the chain around his neck. He smiled a broad smile and pointed at her. “They don't know who they're up against, do they?”
“They don't know I was a camper once, too, and an expert at sneaking out to the bonfire site,” she said, a little embarrassed to admit it to a stranger.
Eyes bright and wide, he nodded. “Ah, you probably blazed the trail for some of them. Do you have any tips for my survival this week?”
Before Cassie could answer, something outside the window caught her eye. Beth marched across the lawn toward the cafeteria. Her telltale crimson cheeks revealed something had her riled. “I have to go.”
Cassie's long ponytail swung as she spun around to the screen door. “It looks like I have work to do.”
“Can I help?”
Cassie laughed as she walked outside. “No thank you.”
Cassie sat beside Beth, who had collapsed on the wooden bench in front of the game hall.
“What's wrong? Is it one of the kids?” Cassie asked.
Beth shook her head. “No, nothing like that.”
A weight lifted off Cassie's chest, knowing there wouldn't be a trip to the emergency room. “Well?”
“Only a canceled delivery, but without that food, I'll have to rearrange my entire menu.”
A camp counselor wearing overalls and pigtails pulled the rope to ring the huge bell in the middle of the yard. Excited campers flooded the gravel road to the cabins, girls to the right, boys to the left.
“Plus, you won't believe who's here this week,” she said.
Cassie used her unpolished nail to scrape off a heart drawn on the arm of the bench. “A bunch of teenagers who are going to be the death of me?”
Beth pushed a piece of short blond hair away from her eyes. “I'm serious.”
Beth was a bit of a drama queen. The chaos usually involved a man, but Cassie loved her big heart. Cassie sat up and crossed her ankles. “I'm sorry. I'm listening. What's going on?”
“I was helping some counselors set up a check-in table, and I saw. . .” Will walked out of the kitchen.
He waved at Cassie with a sly smile and turned to walk toward the boys' cabins.
“That's Will Overman. What's the problem?” The scenario
formed in Cassie's mind. “Oh no. Do you have a crush on
him? Did you date him? Did he dump you?”
“Would you stop and listen to me?” Beth said.
Cassie bit her bottom lip.
“He's Will Overman of Overman Real Estate.”
Cassie stared at her, trying to understand. “And?”
“Do you ever read the local paper?”
The pace of life in a small town had been a culture shock when Cassie moved from Albuquerque. “Don't have time. Besides, it's all family reunions and updates on the crops.”
“You need to listen to town gossip a little more.” Beth leaned close to Cassie. “The Overmans are loaded. Will's dad, Leonard, and his sons are responsible for the tourism boom in town. They bought a bunch of property around the state park and built cabins for people coming from the city.”
“That doesn't sound too bad. Don't we need to get started on dinner?”
Beth's chin dropped to her chest. “Will works for the family business. I can't believe he took off an entire week to come here. Maybe they're looking to buy more land. Maybe they heard someone was selling in the canyon.”
“You think Will and his family want to buy our canyon?”
“Why not?” Beth asked.
“That's crazy. . . . Isn't it?”
“You've said yourself Mr. Hartley has threatened to shut us down. Word can get out pretty quickly. Maybe he's here scouting.”
“Like a spy?”
Beth shrugged. “It could happen.”
What if Will had been snooping in the kitchen? Maybe he was planning to turn the camp into a resort. The room with the Ping-Pong table would be turned into a spa and the cafeteria into a restaurant with white tablecloths and votives on tiny tables.
Cassie chased the thoughts out of her mind. “Will seems pretty harmless.”
Beth looked behind her and then leaned in close again. “I've heard his father has had his eye on this camp for years, ever since he made so much money on the campgrounds south of town. He had meetings at the church headquarters in Oklahoma City, but they turned him down.”
Cassie shielded her eyes from the sun.
“Be careful around him,” Beth said. “His family is powerful.”