The Daydream Cabin by Carolyn Brown

Chapter One

Some school years were just flat-out tougher than others.

“And this is one of them,” Jayden said to herself as she dropped her briefcase and tote bag inside her apartment door, laid her cell phone on the end table, and collapsed on the sofa. She threw a hand over her eyes to block the afternoon sun and dozed off for a well-deserved nap.

She was awakened a few minutes later to her phone ringing right by her ear. Vowing that she might shoot whoever was on the other end, she answered it on the third ring without even checking to see who was calling. If it was a telemarketer, their earwax was about to boil.

“Hello,” she groaned.

“Hello, this is Mary Wilson from the Piney Wood Academy in Alpine, Texas,” a soft voice on the other end said.

Jayden held the phone out from her ear. Her finger was on the way to hit the end button when she remembered that place was where her sister, Skyler, had worked the past couple of years as a counselor for girls who were on probation. She put the phone back to her ear and sat up straight.

“Is this about Skyler?” she asked.

“Yes, in a way, I suppose it is,” Mary answered.

“Is she sick?” Jayden hadn’t talked to her sister since Christmas. They’d exchanged small gifts and had a lunch together like always, and she hadn’t thought she would even hear from Skyler until the next year.

“No, but she was supposed to be here at the end of this week, and she offered your name as an alternative counselor. Our summer session starts next Monday, June first, and she called this morning to say that she was going to Europe with her school’s music group,” Mary said. “We’re a pretty small outfit, so we always ask our team if they know anyone else who might work. We are hoping that you might consider filling in for her this summer.”

Wasn’t that just like her sister to put her down as next of kin and as a person who would take her place without even asking if it was all right? Jayden shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Skyler was the queen of the Bennett family, and Jayden was barely worthy to wipe the mud from her shoes.

“How soon would you have to know?” Jayden wasn’t sure where the words came from. She had thought to respectfully decline the offer from the second the woman told her about it.

“The sooner the better. We’d need to do a little vetting for the county beyond the clearance you get for a school, so we’ll get started. We pay well and give you room and board for eight weeks. Of course, you will share a cabin with three girls, but it doesn’t cost you a dime.” Mary gave her an amount.

She was stunned speechless. So that was why Skyler worked at the camp in the summer—not because she was helping the girls who needed her counseling but for the money. And that was why she could afford so many fancy clothes and shoes. “Can I think about it until tomorrow, and would you email me some material to study about the camp?”

“I’ll be glad to do that, along with the contract, your responsibilities if you take the job, and our website link,” Mary answered. “I’ll be looking forward to your call.”

“Yes, ma’am, and thanks for the offer,” Jayden said. “Bye, now.”

“Have a great day,” Mary said.

The call ended and Jayden fell back on the sofa again, but this time wide awake and ready to strangle her petite, beautiful sister. She jumped up and paced around her small living room floor. At her height and with her long stride, she could make the round in a short time.

And you thought nothing Skyler did could ever surprise you, the pesky voice in her head said, and it was so right.

Skyler had been three years old when Jayden was born, and from day one, she figured her younger sister had come into the world to wait on her. And that was pretty much exactly what Jayden did—most of the time to keep peace in the family, because Skyler could be a real stinker when she didn’t get her way.

Go get my shoes. Get out of my room. Don’t touch my makeup ever again—you’ll never be as pretty as I am. Knock before you come in my door. Don’t you say a word to me unless I ask you a question.

All those barbs came back to haunt her as she continued to pace. Why should she do anything so that Skyler could go to Europe for the summer? She stopped dead in her tracks. Skyler was going. She must already have tickets.

Jayden was still trying to decide what to do when her doorbell rang.

“Dammit!” she swore as she headed that way. “No rest for the wicked, I guess.” She slung the door open to find her sister only a few feet in front of her. Dressed in cute little lace shorty-shorts and a skintight pink tank top with matching wedge-heeled sandals, she smiled at Jayden.

Skyler never wasted smiles. She used those and tears when she wanted something.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” Skyler’s sugar-sweet tone didn’t fool Jayden one bit.

“Of course.” Jayden stepped to the side. “Come right in. Don’t mind the mess. I just finished up my school year and haven’t gotten my things put away. Would you like a bottle of water or a beer?”

“Beer is too fattening for me.” Skyler let her blue eyes travel from Jayden’s toes to the top of her sister’s head. “Have you put on a few pounds since Christmas?”

“Maybe,” Jayden said. “I don’t worry about that. Water, then?”