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Authors: Erin L. Schneider

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BOOK: Summer of Sloane
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I shut the door and lean up against it. There’s a slight chance I may have just said yes to going out with Finn.

And of all things, I actually can’t stop smiling.

I’ve been in Hawaii for almost a week, and like clockwork, a text message has my phone all riled up. I don’t even need to look at the screen to know who it’s from at this hour in the morning.

Tyler. But of course.

If you added up all the texts, e-mails, and voice mails he sends, I’d have more than ten forms of communication from him every day since I got here. But the messages are always the same.
I’m so sorry. I love you. I never meant to hurt you. Will you please talk to me.
Yada, yada, yada. This one’s only slightly different:

I know I screwed up. I miss you. Please talk to me.

I have a funny feeling Tyler’s sleeping about as little as I am, if he’s texting me at eight thirty in the morning, his time. During summer vacation.

There are also several texts from Mick:

Remember spring break in the fifth grade when we walked to the store to buy candy? We’d scraped together as much money as we could. You even searched in the cracks of your couch!

Then, afterward, we stopped at McDonald’s on the way home to get French fries, only to realize we didn’t have enough money left as we stood at the counter.

I was so embarrassed, but you calmly dumped out your entire purse and counted out the exact change we needed, most of it in pennies and lint.

Those were the best French fries. Ever.

If you’d let me, I’d buy us a million orders of fries and we could sit and talk like we used to.

Because I could really use someone to talk to. I miss you.

I know what she’s doing. Trying to get me to think back to all the good times we’ve shared. Like I don’t remember them. Like I could forget.

But it wasn’t me that threw our friendship away. It wasn’t me that decided fifteen years of being best friends was worth destroying. So even without her reminding me of happier times, I’m stuck with it all. I get to remember everything, the good and the bad. And I have absolutely no idea what to do with any of it.

Every text, every e-mail, every voice mail makes me feel something different. It all depends on when I read them and what they say. Today I feel nothing but sad. Sad because of everything that’s happened. Sad because I actually miss Tyler and Mick. Sad because I know Mick is probably dealing with all of this by herself. And sad because I don’t know if I should talk to them or just leave it alone for the summer.

I so desperately want to type a reply as my fingers hover over the keyboard. It takes everything for me to exit out from the screen and throw my phone on the bed, then head out to the kitchen for breakfast. Because I made a promise to myself that this was
summer and neither Mick nor Tyler would suck me back into their crap. And responding to either one of them would be doing exactly that.

Not today.

It’s early and no one’s up yet, but at least it’s a more respectable hour this time. Okay, maybe five thirty in the morning isn’t really respectable, but still, it’s better than the day before.

I still haven’t slept much since I got here, but not for lack of trying. The three-hour time difference from Seattle hasn’t exactly helped, either.

I put a pot of coffee on and rummage through the fridge, but nothing looks good. It seems when sleep decided to run away, it took my appetite with it—and all I’m left with are these chaotic thoughts and a very creative imagination that likes to reenact whatever it wants, regardless of my opinion.

“Hey, kiddo, can’t sleep?” My mom stifles a yawn with a tightly closed fist as she pads her way into the kitchen.

“Guess you could say that.” I grab two mugs from the cabinet, pour the coffee, then dress them with cream.

“It will eventually get better, Sloane, I promise. Maybe it doesn’t seem that way now, but it will.” She tucks a strand of hair behind my ear and takes one of the mugs from my outstretched hand. “So, what’s on the docket today?”

I shrug. “Not much. Hanging out with Mia at the beach. Oh, I might take up a few hours lifeguarding at the pool, you know, maybe teach a few lessons and make some extra cash.” The coffee is good this morning. Only took me three tries to finally get it right.

“I hope you know you don’t need to do that. You’re supposed to be on summer break.” She eyes me over the rim of her coffee mug. This is her “I’m being your mother right now” look. It’s a look that’s been a little out of practice since she moved away from Seattle. Not that I took it seriously when she was there.

“It’s only a few hours a week, Mom. No big deal. And besides, everyone else is working this summer—including you. I’m so bored by myself.” I have her there, and she knows it.

“I’m sorry, Sloane, I promised we’d spend more time together, and I haven’t exactly stuck to that.”

“It’s okay, Mom, I know how slammed you’ve been, really. And at least this job will give me something to do, something to keep me busy.”

She takes another sip of coffee then nods her understanding. “Well, I guess a couple hours a week might be a good thing, but please remember this is your summer, okay?” She brushes a kiss across my forehead and leaves to get ready for work, and I head back to my own room, gripping my coffee cup in my one good hand.

My other hand doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did last week. Most of the swelling has gone down—at least what I can see from my fingers that poke out from the cast. But the skin is still this lovely shade of a purple swirl, mixed with a tinge of green. What’s worse is undoubtedly what will be found underneath the cast when it finally comes off. I was already a pasty shade of white, but after several weeks in the Hawaiian sun, it will take forever for my arm to catch up to the rest of me.

“Mornin’.” Penn is sleepy-eyed with hair all askew as he emerges from his room. Seems I’m not the only one having issues with the time difference.

Wearing a pair of loose-fitting basketball shorts, he leans up against the doorjamb and crosses his arms over a chest that’s already a much darker shade than it was a few days before. He yawns, takes my mug of coffee, and settles it under his nose.

“Get any sleep?” he asks.

“Dude, get your own coffee.” I snag the mug back right as he’s about to take a sip.

“I guess I’ll take that as a no?” He rubs at his face, then takes a deep breath. “He called again last night.”

By “him,” I know he means Tyler. “Yeah, well, he called me, too. And e-mailed. And texted. Join the club.”

“All I’m saying is, you know at some point I’m gonna have to talk to him.”

I wave a hand nonchalantly in his direction, like I don’t care. I think I’m the only one that’s fooled. “Feel free to talk to him, Penn, whatever. But you know the rules. I have zero intentions of hearing one word from that asshole. Not one.”

“And I have no intentions of playing counselor or messenger to the unhappy couple…I mean, the two of you.” He frowns. Clearly he’s not quite used to Tyler and me no longer being a couple. He’s not the only one.

But who am I kidding? Of course I want Penn to tell me all about their conversation when it actually happens and Penn knows that, too. How much Tyler misses me, how big a mistake he made, how much he loves me and wants me back, how he could’ve done this to me. Because having Penn hear it in person might seem more real than the voice mails, e-mails, and text messages Tyler’s been leaving for me. Because Penn would be able to tell if his best friend were lying. And my brother wouldn’t stand for that.

“So in other news…I’m headed down to that new hotel in Waikiki in a few hours to interview for a guard position—you know, the one next to the Hilton? Care to join me?” I know he’ll say yes, but I also know he’ll make me work for it. “They’re looking for more than one guard if you’re interested.”

My brother has been around a pool as long as I have. He practically breathes through gills. So it’s a good thing I already sent over both of our résumés yesterday and almost immediately got a call from their HR department that they wanted to meet the two of us this morning.

“Are you kidding me? A job? Did someone not tell you we’re on summer vacation?”

“Oh, come on, Penn. Think of all those hot girls in bikinis, fresh ones rotating in every week. And all of them will be at the mercy of you, your fine muscles, and your aquatic supremacy.” I really hope my innocent look is working. Penn only rolls his eyes.

“We haven’t even been here a week and you’re already bored?” By the way I blow out my breath, he knows he’s on the right track. “Sure, I’ll go with you. But I’m only doing it for the hot girls and their right to experience a proper breaststroke.”

I spit out my coffee as Penn flicks at pretend dust on his flexed bicep without missing a beat.

Taking a cue from him, I roll my eyes and leave him standing there, saunter into my room, and grab a gossip mag off my coffee table. Think I’ll sit out on the lanai until the world wakes up.

My phone beeps with another incoming text and I’m relieved to see that it’s Mia:

Have to work in an hour, off @ 2. We still on to meet up at the beach?

U bet! I’ve got a swim lesson with Luce until 2:30. I’ll head over right after. Cool?

C U then!

A few hours later, Penn and I swing our shiny new convertible around the loop to the front entrance of the hotel. Two guys dressed in all white open both of our doors.

“Welcome to the Echelon,” the valet that’s holding my door says with a polite nod. “Checking in?”

“Oh, no, just visiting, thanks.”

My brother hands the keys over, then heads around the front of the car to join me. The lobby is impressive. Small rivers with koi fish are recessed into the floor and weave various paths toward the front desk, concierge, and elevators, and on to the shops and pool beyond. The expansive wall behind the check-in counter is embedded with thousands of rocks. Water cascades over them, with a tranquil hum that’s mesmerizing. And the smell. It’s lavender with a hint of vanilla, and with one sniff, I feel like I’ve entered a spa.

It smells expensive but relaxing all at the same time. And it’s exactly what I need.

After two hours, two interviews, and more paperwork than I would have guessed was needed for a summer job, both Penn and I are newly employed at the Echelon Hotel. Ms. Evans, head of HR, motions toward a lifeguard on duty as we walk out to the pool area.

“This is Logan Wolfe, our head lifeguard here at the Echelon. Logan, this is Penn and Sloane McIntyre.”

Logan is a few years older than us, but I’m instantly on alert. Because not only is he a little too California surfer boy for my tastes—with the dark tan and bleach-blond hair—but he looks very much like Tyler.

“Hey, it’s really nice to meet you.” He stretches out a hand to shake mine, sees the cast, fumbles, then shakes Penn’s hand instead. “It’s gonna be great to have the two of you on board.” He’s all dimples and a goofy grin and immediately my hackles go down.

“Penn will be with you on deck here at the pool, but I’ve set Sloane up over at the activities counter until her cast comes off,” Ms. Evans confirms. She points to a tiki hut out near the beach, not far from the pool. “Logan can arrange your scheduling needs and will also get you set up with uniforms. Unless you have anything else, it was a pleasure to meet you both. Welcome to the Echelon.” She hands us each a business card, then clicks away in her heels.

“Wow, I’m so glad I wore my nice swim trunks. That must’ve been what sealed the deal.” With a look that’s all boy, Penn watches the retreating form of Ms. Evans as she disappears back into the lobby. Fighting the urge to shove him into the pool, I follow Logan into the back office.

Armed with our new attire, Logan gives us a tour, including the shack where I’ll be working, and introduces us to a few of our fellow coworkers back out by the pool.

And that’s when I see him.

Stretched out on a lounge chair a few feet away, Finn is reading a magazine, occasionally smiling at the many girls at the pool who are trying to get his attention. But then he zeros in on me, like he somehow felt me looking his way. He’s sitting next to a bottle blonde with a barely-there bikini and miles and miles of tanned, gorgeous skin, slick with suntan oil. She tilts her head down a bit, and I can tell by the way she narrows her eyes that she’s staring at me over the rim of her sunglasses.

Yeah, you should so be worried about all this,
I think as I stare down at the bulbous monstrosity of a cast on my arm.

Logan looks in the direction I was staring. “You two know each other?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that.” Before I can explain, Finn is already up and on his way over. I can’t stop staring at his tattoo…or his bare chest. Hell, it’s like my eyes are magnetically connected to the well-defined hip bone just above his swim trunks.

“Hey, you. I texted you this morning. Thanks for the reply.” He places one hand over his heart in mock heartache and shades his eyes with the other.

“You did?” I pull out my phone and see I missed two texts from him, another few from Tyler, and one from Mick. “Oops,
. Guess it’s been a little bit of a busy morning.”

BOOK: Summer of Sloane
3.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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