Summer Heat

  Summer Heat

  Cruel Summer, Book 1

  by Rachel Van Dyken

  Copyright © 2018 RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.


  Copyright © 2018 RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  ISBN-13: 978-1-7321428-3-

  Cover Art by Jena Brignola

  Formatting by Jill Sava, Love Affair With Fiction

  Table of Contents

  Front Matter



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Want more RVD?


  About The Author

  Also By Rachel Van Dyken

  To hot summer nights, to summer camps, first loves, loves lost, and second chances. Cheers.

  Senior Year 2014

  I WATCHED THE princess in her glittery tower. My eyes burned with hatred, my anger was barely in check as I pushed the mower back and forth, back and forth.

  One line.

  Two lines.

  Make the lines straight, Marlo.

  Don’t get grass on the cement statues, Marlo.

  You smell like dirt, Marlo.

  I gripped the push mower and let the sound of the engine fuel the blood pumping through my veins as a bead of sweat ran down my right cheek.

  The door slammed.

  Nya, my foster mom, held out a silver tray, the same one I imagined held the silver spoon that was stuck in the princess’s mouth the day she was born. Mom made her way toward me, her gray hair curled with perspiration around her ears. Her black and white uniform looked crisp and ironed.

  She probably did it herself.

  The people she worked for didn’t lift a finger. I imagined when they had to shit they just rang a silver bell, you know, to match the tray and spoon, and asked for a butler to carry them to the marble bathroom big enough to fit my entire house plus two cars.

  “Do not frown,” Nya scolded in a thick Ukrainian accent. Her hands shook a bit as she poured some lemonade into a tall shiny glass. I stopped mowing and walked over, grabbing the clean glass with my dirty hand and slamming back the cold liquid like it was life.

  It dribbled down my chin at about the same time the princess walked out the door and stared.

  I hated her stare almost as much as I hated everything else about her, from her polished toenails up her tan legs, past her slender hips and flat stomach, to the bored expression on her face, the perfect ice queen hair, and even to those crystal blue eyes. I hated it all. And my hate wasn’t something that had just appeared. No, my hate had been tended, it had been watered, it had been pruned. My hate was four years of high school. Four years of her and her friends looking down on me. Four years of facing whispers behind my back. Four years of being shoved into lockers. Four years of random Facebook messages saying I should kill myself.

  Four. Fucking. Years.

  Things should have changed that night.

  They didn’t.

  And now? Now that I could see freedom, college.

  She took the last thing I had.

  A drama scholarship to my school of choice.

  She had the money.

  So why apply?

  I had to stay back one more year in order to afford school, I had to stay back and try for the same scholarship next year.

  I got to mow lawns.

  She opened her mouth like she was going to do something stupid and say sorry.

  I shook my head in warning. Like any words wouldn’t be good enough. After all, words from her mouth were just as empty as her head.

  She’d had her chance last week.

  She’d had her chance at school and looked away.

  She sighed and then slowly walked across the lawn I’d just mowed and toward the garage.

  The engine to her BMW flared to life.

  And then she was gone in a plume of smoke and all my disappointments in life just felt that much worse.

  “Try not to judge her too harshly.” Nya patted my shoulder. “Things aren’t always as we believe them to be.”

  I looked up at their twenty-two-bedroom house and snorted. “Really? Because from this angle it looks exactly how it’s always looked.”

  I swallowed the knot in my throat and handed her back the lemonade.

  “Don’t be a blind fool.” Nya slapped me on the back of the head. I winced and rubbed the spot. While she scowled. “We are all human, we all feel pain, we all have emotions. Judge all you want, Marlon, but a shiny house doesn’t mean we automatically have a happy heart.”

  Guilt gnawed uncomfortably at my chest. “She got my scholarship.” Not just that, she got my dream. My escape. Self-worth. Identity.

  Twenty-two fucking bedrooms.

  “One day…” She chuckled under her breath. “One day you’ll grow up, one day you’ll see what I’ve seen ever since the first day we fostered you into our family, ever since you started working at this house.”

  “That life isn’t fair?” I wondered out loud.

  “The sparkle.” She shrugged. “An old woman notices these things. The way she stares at you, the way you stare at her. One day you’ll regret all this hate. One day she’ll regret all hers.”

  “Is that also the day that zombies take over the planet? Cause I think I’m more prepared for that!”

  “I will pray for the day to come!” She announced excitedly.

  “The zombies?”

  “No, you and Ray.” She grinned. “I will pray hard.”

  “Please don’t,” I said through clenched teeth.

  She started humming.

  Great. Just great.

  I started the lawnmower again. I would never be the princess’s friend. I would never be anything more than a foster kid mowing her lawn and wishing for a better life.

  Hoping for more was useless.

  A kid like me knew that.

  Abandoned at six.

  Owned by the state for another month.

  Hope and Disney were one in the same.

  A fantasy.

  An epic way to let yourself down.

  Straight lines, Marlon.

  Two lines.

  Three lines.

  Four lines.

  Don’t get grass on the cement, Marlon.

  Ray and I? The princess and the pauper?


  I think we’d rather kill each other.

  Four Years Later

  I NERVOUSLY DRUMMED my fingernails against my denim-clad legs.

  “I’m going to puke,” I announced.

  Nya, my nanny/maid since childhood laughed to herself and pulled the town car around the corner and put it in park. “Just breathe.”

  I hadn’t seen her in a year. The closer it seemed I got to her, the more excuses my parents made that she was too busy to see me. I knew the truth. My stomach knot
ted as I closed my eyes and drew air between my lips, air that smelled like memories, air that tasted like him. Always him.


  “No.” I exhaled and opened my eyes. “But it was a nice try.”

  “You have nothing to be nervous about.” Nya said with a smile. “It’s summer camp not rocket science. Work for two months and then—”

  I tried to keep the tears in.

  It didn’t work.

  She was all I had.

  Thinking about moving to LA without her just felt… wrong. On so many levels. She’d been the one to put Band-Aids over my scrapes when I was little. I still remember the song she used to sing to me when I was a baby and during college would use it as a way to keep my anxiety at bay. The Ukrainian words about protection and love.

  Her precious baby.

  Only I wasn’t hers.

  I was theirs.

  My parents.

  But thinking about them just put me in a bad mood and I was already stressed out enough as it was. I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to prove I was worthy of drama camp.

  And most of all, I wanted to impress the producers, directors, and agents who would be at our camp finale, watching and waiting to see if the counselors were able to put together a show worthy of Hollywood.

  Summer Heat, Camp to the Stars wasn’t just a camp.

  It was the camp you went to, to get seen.

  And it wasn’t just campers.

  The counselors also performed in the production.

  Twenty-two of them had gone on to win Academy Awards later on in life, several others had won Emmy’s. It was a big deal.

  Getting hired had been a nightmare. I half expected them to ask for my first born and a spleen.

  “You think too much,” Nya said simply. “Just enjoy your two months. Oh, and could you do me a favor?”

  “Sure.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and reached for my brand-new Kate Spade, with the black and white polka dots and splashes of pink. It was a gift from my parents for graduating.

  Well, it was the only one I would accept.

  Since giving someone a brand-new G Wagon and a trip to Belize seemed like overkill.

  Nya handed me a worn blue duffel bag. “Will you drop this off with Marlo?”

  My ears started to ring as dread swept through my body. “Marlo? As in your Marlo?”

  “Yours too.” She grinned.

  Yup, definitely going to puke.

  Marlo. The same Marlo that mowed our lawn? The same Marlo half the senior class cheated off of in order to pass calculus?

  Marlo. The guy everyone made fun of because they were just that unhappy with their own measly lives.


  Marlo, the guy I beat out for a scholarship.

  A scholarship I deserved.

  A scholarship I needed, since my parents refused to pay for me to major in drama.

  It was me or him!

  I groaned into my hands.

  The same Marlo who saw me for me. Who I touched…




  You know how people have enemies and then the people you know would drown you in a pool of your own blood if they had the chance? He was the latter. The one person who could ruin my day with a stare. The one person alive that could ruin my life by simply existing. The hate between us was thick.

  And four years had probably done nothing but let it fester into this giant angry red boil that refused to pop.

  “See you in two months!” Nya said cheerfully.

  Wait, she was still here?

  What had I been doing that whole time? Oh, right just envisioning this very uncomfortable situation where I’ll most likely start off on the wrong foot because I always did with Marlo. No matter what I did, I earned a judgmental sneer.


  How many shits was that now?

  “Right.” I nodded numbly then opened my door and walked to the back of the car, Nya was out before I could tell her to stay in the driver’s seat. Maybe it was out of habit that she helped me — a huge part of me hoped it was garnered from some love or affection she had for me.

  Wishful thinking probably.

  “You be good.” She pinched my cheeks; her rouge lipstick made her lips stick out around her paper-thin skin and white long hair. “Make friends and try to enjoy life a little this summer.”

  “Yeah.” I sighed. “I’ll get right on that.”

  “Good girl.” She turned. “Oh!” Her fingers snapped in the air like she almost forgot to tell me something. “You may not recognize Marlo. He’s filled out a bit, spends his free time in the gym, says it feeds his rage.”


  Just. Awesome.


  “Who knows?” She laughed like it was funny.

  It wasn’t.

  I was pretty sure I knew who said rage was directed at, but maybe he’d taken up hating other people? Dogs? Horses? Maybe another enemy had risen up and taken on the cause!

  Maybe I was completely home free!

  And exaggerating.

  I frowned and waved Nya off as I took my bags and the small duffel down the sidewalk toward the main lodge for registration.

  Honestly, four years is a long time to hold a grudge.

  So what? Nya said he still managed to start school that same year and was in an even better program than I was at my college! According to her, he was a star, a regular Marlon Brando, considering his name was Marlon and that he’d had glasses and the skinniest body I’d ever seen, I highly doubted the physical comparison was the same, but still.

  If my professors one state over even knew about him?

  Then he was just fine.

  Scholarship, schmolarship.

  I was actually feeling better the more I walked.

  Maybe it was the cramped car.

  Or the emotional trauma of leaving Nya for two months after just reconnecting again after graduation.

  I sucked in a breath of pine and dirt and grinned as my heels clicked against the hard surface of the lodge floor. High school kids were lounging everywhere. Immediately, I could see the cliques.

  The cool drama kids were all wearing black and drinking lattes. Sigh.

  The ones who were forced here by parents were huddled in a corner staring at their phones, probably flirting with the idea of calling 911 for rescue.

  And another group of rich kids — like recognizes like — rested lazily across the three leather sofas nearest to the snack bar, wearing aviators and enough cologne or perfume to choke a person.

  The registration desk was right behind them.

  I quickly made my way over, dropped my bags, and straightened my tank over my leather leggings. I held out my hand to the first available guy with a black shirt that said staff. “Hi, I’m—”

  He looked up.

  His icy blue eyes locked on mine with such intensity my jaw went a little slack.

  He. Was. Beautiful.

  His stare was striking, like he was measuring me and found me wanting. His messy brown hair was tucked beneath a backward Yankees baseball cap, and his jaw was so thick and chiseled I wondered if he did one of those weird chin exercises to really pump up the veins in his neck because. Dayum.

  He sighed like my breathing was his greatest disappointment — scratch that, my existence.

  “Um…” I put my hand down. “I, um, my name’s—”

  “Ray, as in you have a ray of sunshine sticking out of your ass, De Lato. Graduated summa cum laude from Carnegie Mellon, you like pedicures, small useless things like spray tans, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you stopped production because you broke a nail, am I missing anything?” He stood and placed his hands against the table. He towered over me by at least six inches.

  “Okay I don’t know who the hell you think you are—”

  He smiled.

  A beautifully cruel straight white toothed smile that had my girly parts doing a hoedown before I could tell them to shut
the hell up and fight back. “Interesting.”

  I ignored his nice smile and massive body and the muscles contracting near his forearms, and sweet God, who knew triceps could stretch a shirt like that? Not this girl? Where did they make them like this? Iowa? How did I find more? Ones without severe personality flaws and chips on their shoulders like him.

  “Look.” I flashed my most confident smile. “I’m new this year. One of the counselors dropped out, and I was able to get in last minute as staff.”

  “I’m aware.”

  “Oh.” I gulped. “Well, I wasn’t sure, so I just thought—”

  “Brax.” Rude hot guy held a packet in the air. “Can you make sure Ray has her schedule and put her in the blue cabin?”

  Brax’s eyebrows shot all the way up to his black beanie. His reddish-brown hair curled near his shoulders, and his eyelashes were so long I was envious. He wasn’t as tall or built as rude guy, but he was friendly looking and at least didn’t scowl every time I looked in his direction. “Sure, boss.”

  “B-boss?” I just had to repeat.

  “Director.” He grinned. “Actually.”

  “For the summer?” I gulped.

  Brax and the rest of the table snickered.

  “Of the entire camp,” he said politely. “I hope you enjoy your time here Ray — I know I for one… can’t wait.”

  Brax walked around the table. “Here, let me help you with your bags.”

  “Brax, this isn’t the Hilton. She can carry her own damn bags. Be quick about it, I need you both back at HQ for a meeting.”

  “On it.” He nodded and strode out of the lodge. I could barely keep up with him as I teetered on my tall high heels.

  “So, I don’t know what you did to piss off one of the most cheerful guys I know, but I would figure out a way to fix it and fast,” Brax said in a low tone.

  “I wish I knew!” I was out of breath keeping up with him, and then he just stopped and pointed. “Wait, what’s that?”

  “Blue cabin. Your home for the next two months.”

  “It’s on stilts.” I gulped. “And it looks like it hasn’t been lived in, in—”

  “We call it the parent trap cabin because it looks identical to that creepy cabin in the movie where the girls are sent off away from all society and safety.”

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