"Yeah. I'm sure," I tell him. "One hundred and fifty percent sure."

"Then prove it."

I narrow my eyes at him and wonder what he's up to. "How?"

"Kiss me, Maggie. Right here, right now."



ne kiss," I say, and step closer. "If you're so over me, then it won't be a big deal."

She puts her nose in the air. She has no clue how watching her act like she's a tough chick makes me want to get under her skin even more. I'm not sure of my motives ... I don't want to think about it too hard for fear I might actually come up with answers.

"I don't kiss guys just to prove things," she declares with an attitude I've only seen her put on a few times. "And I especially don't have to prove anything to you."

She doesn't want to admit we've still got something between us. It's simmering beneath the surface of hatred and resentment, or whatever the hell she wants to label it. As much as I want to keep my distance, at the same time I want to see how far I can take it. Testing her is a bad idea; I know that. It's good if she's over me. But I can't resistI've got to know for sure. "What are you afraid of? If you're really done with me then our kiss won't mean anything and you can move on.

"I have moved on, Caleb. But if you really want me to prove it to you, I will."

I paste a mischievous smile on my face. "Bring it on."

The old Maggie would have blushed and stared at the ground in the face of being challenged. The old Maggie would have turned and run. She used to be predictable. Now she's not, and it's throwing me off my game.

The new Maggie, the Maggie who puts me in my place and gets under my skin, reaches out and steadies herself by putting her palm on my chest. She tilts her head back and gazes up at me, her chameleon eyes shining a dark gray in the moonlight. "You shouldn't challenge me," she says.

"I know," I say, careful to keep my voice even and cool.

Having her this close makes my body so aware and alive I have to fight to keep myself in check. My heart is racing and my senses are heightened so much that I can smell her flowery perfume from the short distance between us. I hope and pray she doesn't realize the powerful effect she still has on me. I haven't felt like this since, well, that night in Mrs. Reynolds' gazebo when I wanted her more than I've ever wanted any girl. It ended innocently, but man I wanted to take it to the next level ... or even further.

While I'm sure Maggie can feel my heart beating hard and fast against her palm right now, I try and forget it as she reaches up and weaves her hand in my hair.

"You ready?" I ask in a gravelly voice.

"Sure," she says tentatively as I bend my head down. I want to put my hand on her cheek and feel her soft skin beneath my fingers, or brush away the stray hair that's fallen in her eyes. But I don't. It would be too intimate and break what little control I have. My lips hover over hers, teasing. I want her to want this as much as I do.

"Just don't tell anyone, okay?" she warns, pulling back the slightest bit.

Those words deflate my libido as fast as it was fired up.

Don't tell anyone? Okay, to be honest I'm not surprised she doesn't want to let anyone know about our private little moment of truth or dare. But at the same time her words cut. She doesn't want anyone to know because she likes another guy? Or because she's suddenly embarrassed of being associated with an ex-con? Shit, maybe she really is over me. Reality, like a tidal wave, washes over me.

What the hell am I doing? I can't do this. When we got together back in Paradise, nothing was calculated. It just happened. But now, this entire scene is a challenge, a total setup. Being emotionally involved with any girl, especially Maggie, is the last thing I need. And that's where this is leading to.

Maybe I just need to get laid. Maybe I just need a one night stand with some ditz like Trish in an attempt to wipe Maggie from my thoughts. A one night stand right now would probably restore my sanity.

I take my hands off Maggie and step back. I shrug and give her a cocky glare. "You're right," I say. "This is stupid. You don't have to prove anything to me."

I can't tell if she's relieved or disappointed. It doesn't matter, really. I don't want to wait around while she analyzes what just did, or didn't, happen. I don't want to analyze it, either.

I leave her standing alone and walk toward the fire pit. I hear her call my name but keep going, worried I'll lose my resolve, take back my words, and kiss her like no other guy would. Hurrying down the moonlit, wooded path to increase the distance between us, I finally reach the clearing. The fire is almost out, except for a few stubborn embers.

I sit on one of the benches, which is really just a wooden log tossed on the ground. Less than an hour ago, in this same exact spot, Maggie shared our story. She still doesn't have a clue about what really happened the night of the accident. The story she tells is truth to her, but a total fabrication that I've lived with for a long time now.

I sit by the fire until the last struggling ember dies. When I finally go back to the cabin, all the lights are out except for the few leading to the restrooms. Inside the cabin, everyone seems to be sleeping or, in Trish's case, snoring a barnyard symphony. Even Maggie is out, although her back is to me and I can't see her face. The sheet covering her is moving up and down, slowly and rhythmically, with each breath.

I rummage through my duffle. For a brief moment I wonder where Damon is, then remember he's crashed out in the air-conditioned counselors' cabin with real beds while we're stuck here roughing it "to the max," as Matt had pointed out earlier.

After washing up, I hop on my top bunk, careful not to wake Matt although the metal bunk and springs creak loudly as I settle into the mattress. When I hear Matt stir, I mumble, "Sorry, dude."

"No prob," he whispers. "I wasn't really sleeping any„ way.

"Who can sleep when we've got Trish the fuckin' bulldozer in here with us?" Lenny cries out, then growls in frustration.

As if on cue, Trish's snoring increases in tone and volume. It's not one of those heavy breathing jobs, either. First she starts gurgling as if she's storing phlegm in the back of her throat. Then she lets out a symphony of snorting and gurgling noises I've never in my life heard before, even from a guy.

Lenny, who's sleeping above Trish, leans down to look at her. "Trish, shut the fuck up!" he practically yells.

Trish doesn't stir. She does stop snoring for half a second, but then starts up again, even louder than before.

"I can suffocate her with my pillow," Lenny offers as an option.

Matt sits up. "I hear if you put someone's hand in warm water while they're sleeping they stop snoring."

"That's to make someone pee in their bed," I tell him.

"Does it really work?" Lenny asks, obviously excited. "We should try it. Who's got a bucket?"

"You're kidding, right?" Maggie chimes in from below in a low whisper. "You can't do that."

A big snort comes out of Trish's open mouth. Lenny sits up, grabs both sides of the top bunk, and starts rocking the bed from side to side.

"Don't do that!" Maggie shrieks.

Hearing Maggie shrieking makes me jump off the bed just in time to see Lenny and Trish's bunk start to tip over. As the metal is about to crash on metal, I reach out and grab the bed frame before it collides with Maggie's bunk and Maggie. Her leg is damaged enough as it is. My leg stops Trish, but it's too late for Lenny, who falls with a huge thump.

Trish slowly slides down my leg and lands ass-first in a puddle of tangled sheets on the floor. She looks up, startled and scared. For a girl who I assume prides herself on looking tough as nails, startled and scared doesn't fit.

"What happened?" she asks, her eyes wide as I make sure her bed is upright and stable again. She stands, then rubs her butt a few times before scooping up her sheets and pillow.

It's obvious Lenny isn't gonna explain, so I offer a quick explanation. "Your bed fell over. Go back to sleep."

"How did it fall over?" she asks, dumping her armload back onto the bed.

"Holy shit, that was awesome!" Lenny cries out from the floor. He's laughing, as if scaring the girls half to death was crazy fun. He's a moron.

"Dude, get a grip," I tell him.

Trish narrows her eyes at Lenny. "Did you tip the bunk on purpose?"

"You were snoring like a fuckin' pig, Trish. I tried to wake you, but you sleep like the dead. I was doin' us all a favor."

Like an attack dog, Trish lunges at Lenny. I catch her just in time and hold her back. "You're an asshole!" she yells at Lenny.

"Tell me what I don't know," Lenny responds, then snorts loudly like a pig to piss her off. If he didn't notice, the girl has some scary-ass fingernails. They're long, they're pointy, they're digging into my arms now, and I have no doubt Trish will use them as weapons the first chance she gets. The last thing I would do is set her off and have those claws come out slashing.

"Trish, don't let him get to you," Maggie says calmly as she gets between Trish and Lenny. Maggie is wearing a pink tank top and matching pajama bottoms that cover just about everything. I'm all too aware that if Trish lunges again, Maggie could easily fall and hurt her leg. "Caleb, let her go."

I release Trish slowly, ready to grab her again if I sense she's about to pounce. Maggie stays between her and Lenny, who finally stops laughing.

Everyone is awake now, all of us glaring at Lenny.

"You losers have no sense of humor," Lenny complains. He moons us with his hairy ass before stomping out of the cabin.

Erin shrieks, then pulls her sheet above her head.

"I'm not sleeping below that jerk," Trish declares.

"I'll sleep below him," I offer. "Take my bed." Trish seems too tired and pissed to be thankful as she climbs onto my mattress.

I sit on the rumpled pile of bedding on Trish's bed and realize now I'll be sleeping right next to Maggie. I look at her. I didn't notice before, but now it's plain to see that Maggie isn't wearing a bra. While I'm sitting on the bunk and she's standing next to me her breasts are at eye level. I hear her suck in a breath.

She points to my hand and whispers, "You're bleeding."

I look down. Sure enough, blood is dripping off the back of my hand. I guess when I stuck my hand between the metal bunks it got cut. I wipe the blood off on my shorts. "It's not a big deal."

Maggie furrows her eyebrows as she pulls a towel out of her suitcase and hands it to me. "Here."

"I'm not messing up your towel with my blood," I tell her, tossing it back.

She catches it with one hand, then rolls her eyes and sighs. "You can stop playing the hero at any time, you know."

"You think I'm a hero?"

"No comment," she says as she grabs my wrist and pulls my hand toward her so she can examine the cut. Her face is tense and stern as she dabs her towel on my hand. Reaching into her backpack, she pulls out a water bottle. She pours water on the towel, then continues to clean the cut. It stings, but I don't make a sound. I can't even remember the last time someone actually took care of me, and it feels foreign. I shift on the bed, feeling uncomfortable. I'm used to being alone and taking care of myself. I've never played the needy guy before, and I'm not about to now. Especially in front of Maggie.