Kicking Eternity by Ann Lee Miller


Excerpt from Chapter One

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Raine pushed the beads on her African bracelet back and forth like the balls on an abacus. Her stomach kneaded, gurgled. She could almost feel sweat dampen her upper lip.

Drew’s forehead creased as he stared at her. Fluorescent tubes hummed overhead in the night air. Shouts and back-slapping ricocheted around the Canteen porch in the sticky-sweet scent of orange blossoms. If she wasn’t fighting to keep her dinner down, she’d tell him where they’d met.

His frown melted into a smile of recognition. “Rainey. Hey. Welcome to Triple S Camp.”

She bristled at the nickname her brothers used to irritate her. “It’s Raine.

“I remember you as Rainey from the skit you did in junior high youth group. You cried all over the place—a pun on your name.”

“That was my total acting career… and ancient history. Better off forgotten. Please.”

“Sure, Rainey, whatever you say.”

“Drew!”

“You remember my name.”

“You weren’t exactly low profile either.” She, like every girl in the youth group, had spent way too much time mooning at the high-school-Drew hunched over his guitar.

Jesse, the camp director, gave a shrill blast on his whistle. “Welcome to New Smyrna Beach Surf and Sailing Camp orientation.”

The noise ratcheted down. Thirty staffers in aquamarine shirts settled onto the benches lining the porch.

Raine swallowed and unclenched her fingers from the camp handbook. She refused to heave like she had at college orientation four years ago. Her thumb ran over the ridges in her palm where the spiral wire had dug into the flesh. Why had she never been to camp like any normal kid?

A guy in surf shorts and flip-flops came up the steps laughing with the girl beside him. Sun-white cords of hair, crimped like he’d worn braids, brushed his thick shoulders. He caught Raine staring. The interest crackling in his blue gaze jolted through her.

She let her chin-length hair fall like a dark curtain between them. A guy was one complication she didn’t need this summer, not whenAfricawas nearly in her grasp.

Jesse, who’d hired her, dragged a podium across the porch to the snack bar window. He cleared his throat. Out of the corner of her eye, Raine saw the surfer and the girl take seats halfway around the porch.

Jesse read the camp rules and Raine highlighted them with a pink marker. His voice blended with the drone of the crickets. As he launched into the sailing rules, her stomach calmed.

Across the dirt road, yellow floodlights bathed a wall of the dark dining hall. The camp office and cabins flanked the building like dark-skinned children marching in a row all the way to the hulking gym. She hadAfricaon the brain.

Drew’s elbow jarred her ribs. “Rainey, introduce yourself,” he whispered.

She sprang to her feet. “I’m Raine—” She just stopped herself from saying Rainey. “Zigler. I’ll be teaching Bible.” She shot a glare at Drew and sat down with a thump. Was that a snicker coming from somewhere near the snack bar?

Drew’s knee creaked as he rose. “Drew Martin, Rec Director.”

As the adrenalin ebbed, her attention strayed back to the moonlit village of forest-green structures with tarpaper roofs bleached gray by the Florida sun. This would be her home for the next three months. Please, God, I need some friends.

The surfer stood. “I’m Cal Koomer, teaching art for the third summer in a row. Someday I’m going to get a life.”

Laughter rippled through the counselors. With a grinCalslouched onto the bench. His eyes traveled over Raine like she was a Wooster custom surfboard he was thinking about buying.

Her breath caught in her throat, and she looked away.

“AlyLogan.” Cal’s friend wore slacks and a button-down blouse. “I’m the college intern in the camp office.”

Wait, wasn’t Aly her roommate’s name?

After Jesse instructed them on navigating the septic system and handed out the night watch rotation, chatter swelled around Raine.

Drew let out a low whistle. “You’re the hotshot Bible teacher fresh out of college?”

“I’ve been teaching Sunday school for years. It’s not a big deal.”

“I thought the Bible was a big deal.”

“Of course I think the Bible is important or I wouldn’t focus my life on it.” Shyness clipped her words. She’d pay money about now to relax and make normal conversation.

Yellow flecks danced in his eyes. “Just checking.”

His teasing buzzed annoyance through her. “After camp, I’ll be teaching Bible in an orphanage a couple hours outside Entebbe,Uganda.”

Drew’s golden brows stretched into McDonald’s arches.

Well now, that was better.

The sun-browned kid thwacked Drew’s arm and pushed his Dakine surf cap up on his forehead. “Boss-man, dude—”

Drew turned to talk to his assistant.

Raine twisted the colored beads in her rawhide bracelet. She felt ten again, sitting alone on the edge of Aqua Park Pool while everyone else swam with friends. Her palms sweated. Insects circled between the lights and the rafters. She had to get away from here.

A clear shot to the steps off the porch opened up and she darted for them. Someone stepped in her way and she barreled into him.

A thick hand clamped onto her arm. “Whoa, girl!” Cal.

“I’m sorry. What a klutz—”

“Are you okay? Break anything? Need a blood transfusion? Mouth to mouth?”

A nervous laugh tumbled out of her lips. “I’m fine. Fine. Really. You can let go now.”

“I think you look a little rocky.” He grinned at her before he dropped his hand.

Her skin tingled where his grip had been. The citrus scent of Cal’s still-damp hair filled her nostrils. She took a small step back, her leg bumped a bench.

Aly shot a glance at Cal. “There he is.” She spun away, her waist-length ponytail arcing behind her.

Calswatted Aly’s shoulder blade. “Stay out of trouble.”

Aly waved him off and charged toward a guy who could have modeled for Ocean Pacific.

Calshook his head. “Aly can spot a user at a hundred yards.”

“A user?” Did he mean heroin, crack, crystal meth, or something else altogether?

“Never mind. Let me guess, you were homeschooled.” His tone said she didn’t have a clue about how the rest of the world lived.

She had way more than a clue, but she let it slide. “How did you know?”

“Jesse’s my brother. Awesome source of info on the new hires.”

She peered across the porch at the camp director.Caland Jesse sported similar Roman noses.

People filtered off the porch. A group stood under the gazebo debating whether affection for Twilight would impair one’s spiritual life. Several yards away, Aly pulled the clip from her hair and shook it free. Ocean Pacific’s eyes locked on the strands.

Raine needed to say something, anything. Or escape. She glanced over her shoulder at Drew, but he still talked with his assistant. She turned toward the steps. “See you around.”

# # #

Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives. 

Special Giveaway: Leave a comment below and receive a free ebook of Kicking Eternity!

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