I have back to back classes and meetings all day today so I was wondering if my favorite nephews would do me a favor and take care of some tasks I won't be able to get to. You all know how to use a hammer, right mates? The girls have been harassing me to fix their bathroom door and replace their shower liners for two weeks now. I left the new hinges and the liners in the chair by the door.
The drill is in the supply closet by the old Vibe cabin bath house. Have I ever told you three how truly brilliant it is to have you here?
Your all time favorite uncle (and boss),
Nate groaned and snatched the post it off of Shane's forehead. "Great, just when I thought we'd have a day off."
"Um, I don't know how to use a drill," Shane said as he took the note from Nate and read over a second time. "Are you sure we need one?"
Jason rolled his eyes. "How else are we going to loosen the old screws and tighten the new ones? Are you gonna use your teeth?"
Shane gritted his teeth and made a disgusted face. "Ouch. I'd rather not, thanks."
"Then we need the drill," Jason said with a chuckle as he patted Shane's shoulder. "It'll take maybe an hour. Tops."
Nate had been looking forward to today. The girls were going to be spending all day at the lake and Ella didn't get in until she felt she'd tanned enough which meant he'd get some alone time with her if he stayed out as well. But now they had tasks to perform for Brown which might mean Ella would have tanned enough by the time they finish and get to the lake. Then again, playing around in the water could be just as fun…
Nate shook the not-so-innocent image that had been forming out of his head and glanced back over at Shane. "Huh? What?"
"I'd really like to get to the lake before I miss Mitchie peeling off her cut off shorts, okay? Can we go?"
Nate grimaced. "I didn't need to know that about you."
"What?" Shane asked defensively. "I like the slow reveal, and the girl has no idea she's hot so it's like a hundred times better."
"Hashtag: Things You Don't Tell Your Brothers," Jason mumbled as he picked up the bag of hinges and the packaged shower liners from the chair. "I'm ready when you guys are."
"We're going to fix the girls cabin in our pajamas?" Nate asked. "I haven't changed clothes yet."
"So?" Jason asked. "It's not like the girls are going to be there. We can do this and then come back and change for the lake. I want to be there as soon as we can too, you know."
"Yeah, cause somebody's got the hots for Caitlyn," Shane said with a smirk. "And I'll give you a hint…it's not Nate."
Jason threw one of the liners at Shane and smirked as Shane fumbled with catching it. "Shut up. Let's get out of here."
Nate sighed and followed his brothers down the path to the girls' cabin. He did not like leaving his cabin while wearing his pajamas. He liked the security of real clothes. They finally reached the cabin and Nate couldn't get inside fast enough. He guessed that Brown told them to leave it unlocked for them. He stepped inside and immediately understood the phrase "feminine touch." The girls' cabin actually felt like a home. Theirs was blank and empty and felt extremely temporary. But the girls had nearly every inch of wall space covered and there were even some paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
This space was well lived in. Jason and Shane headed straight to the bathroom to start working on what they needed to do, but something bright caught his eye from the corner of the room. He turned his head and saw a twinkling strand of lights. They were up underneath a bunk and taped to the wall. Nate walked toward them to get a better look and smiled softly when he noticed the fashion sketches taped just under the lights.
It had to be Ella's bunk.
He saw a purple stegosaurus plush sitting on the bed and knew he was right. Definitely Ella's bunk.
She'd left the lights on, probably by accident if he knew her like he thought he did. Her bed spread was very floral and full of pinks and baby blues. There was an open sewing kit and a container of fabric laying on her bed and he imagined she'd been trying to work on something before one of the other girls had rushed her out the door. He noticed a gummy bear night light was rigged around one of the bunk posts and the switch was hanging down where she could reach it. He knew what that was for. He had a similar set up in his bunk. She probably stayed up working late on her designs the way he stayed up to work on songs.
He leaned forward and took a closer look at the pictures and sketches she'd taped to the wall and his eyes widened when he spotted a very early Connect Three poster among them. He looked scrawny and tiny and…goofy. Why of all the Connect Three posters would Ella put up that one? He quickly looked past it and found a few notes from the girls and Shane taped to her wall. He was going to have to tease Shane later about that. Did that mean he was one of the girls?
He spotted some wrinkled sheet music on the wall as well and recognized them as some of his discards. He smiled softly and wondered what that meant. Why would she dig them out of the trash and save them?
He saw something doodled on a piece of paper and smirked at the cartoon dinosaurs she'd drawn. One was wearing top hat and the other was wearing a veil. Next to it she'd written something in cursive. He squinted to read it and then froze.
Mr. & Mrs. Gray
His brow furrowed. Which brother was she talking about? Oh God, what if it wasn't him? What if it was Jason? Or worse…Shane?
"Yo, snoop dog!" Shane shouted from behind him. Nate jumped and turned with wide eyes. Shane smirked at him. "You see what I did there? You were snooping and I called you snoop dog. Funny right?"
Nate ignored him. "I wasn't snooping."
"Then you were what? Stalking?" Shane asked in amusement.
"She left her lights on. I came over to turn them off," Nate lied.
"Sure you did," Shane said as he rolled his eyes.
"Why does Ella have so many notes from you on her wall?" Nate asked suddenly.
Shane's eyes widened and he grinned. "Why? Are you jealous?"
"No, I just know you have a girlfriend. That's all," Nate said lamely.
"Relax," Shane said with a chuckle. "Ella and I are strictly friends. Sometimes it's easier for her to talk to me than the girls. That's all."
"That makes no sense," Nate said. "Why are you easier to talk to?"
"Because I'm fun? And easy going? I don't know. Ella and I can just…talk easily. There's no real reason for it," Shane told him. "It's not a romantic thing at all, trust me. Ella's like…a kid sister."
"Okay, since you know her so well," Nate said bitingly. "Which one of us does she want to marry?" Nate pointed to the doodle and glared at Shane accusingly.
Shane stared at him blankly before he spoke up in a dull tone. "Dude, you are dumb. I mean you're intelligent, but damn you're dumb."
Nate quirked a brow at him. "Gee, thanks."
"Hey, Jason!" Shane yelled into the bathroom. "Nate just asked me who Ella wants to marry. I think he thinks it me."
Jason didn't say anything but Nate could hear his rolling laughter echoing in the bathroom. Clearly, Nate was missing something.
"I don't get it."
Shane chuckled. "Of course you don't. You wouldn't see the obvious. Dummy."
"Which one of us is it, Shane?" Nate asked irritably.
Shane rolled his eyes again. "Well, let's think about this logically. It's not me and it's not Jason. So that just leaves….who exactly?"
Nate's eyes widened and he slowly pointed to himself. "Me?"
"Yes, you. Come on, bro, wake up. Where have you been all summer?" Shane asked in amusement. "Everyone knows this."
"Everyone?" Nate asked.
"Everyone but you," Shane told him. "Everyone also knows that you're hopelessly in love with her so don't try and deny it now."
"Hey, baby brothers, this door is extremely heavy. Could the two of you possibly take time out of your conversation to come and hold it for me while I do all the work?" Jason's voice called out sarcastically. "I believe it's the least you could do."
Shane rolled his eyes. "Wow, and they say I'm the dramatic one."
"You are," Nate said with a scoff as he walked past Shane toward the bathroom.
Ella bit her bottom lip as she looked around the manmade beach for Nate. He should have been here by now and if she stayed out any longer she was going to be too tan. She didn't really want a tan to begin with, but if she sat out she could have Nate to herself for a few minutes. It was nice. But sitting out was pointless without him here. Ella looked up just in time to see Brown leaving the administration offices and headed toward the Mess Hall kitchen and her brow furrowed.
"Caitlyn," Ella said loudly as she turned toward her friend.
Caitlyn turned from her position on the pier to look at Ella. "Yes?"
"I thought you said Brown was fixing our cabin this morning?"
"He is or said he would be. Why?" Caitlyn asked.
"Because he's over there," Ella said as she pointed to the path that led to the Mess Hall. "And clearly not in our cabin fixing our door."
"Oh no he did not back out of that," Caitlyn said. "We've been waiting for weeks." Caitlyn took a few steps toward Brown before she called out to him loudly. "YO BROWN!"
Ella's eyes widened and she gave Brown a hesitant look. Most adults would not like that. Brown turned and smiled at Caitlyn in amusement as he quirked an eyebrow. Clearly, Brown didn't mind so much.
"Yes, Ms. Gellar?" Brown asked with a smirk.
"Um, you said you were finally gonna fix our cabin this morning. What's up with that?" Caitlyn asked.
"I didn't say I was going to fix it personally. I've got my best nephews on it," Brown said with a chuckle. "Jason's very handy with power tools. They'll get it done."
Ella paled and gulped. "Oh God, did you say…nephews? You mean the guys are in our cabin right now?"
Brown nodded. "Your door should be working again soon, loves. But I've got to go. I'll see all of you at lunch." Ella stared at Brown's back in horror as he left.
"Oh God, Oh God," Ella said with wide panicked eyes.
"What?" Caitlyn asked with a furrowed brow. "What's the big deal?"
"Caitlyn, think about what he just said. Nate is in our cabin. Where my bed is. Get it yet?" Ella asked.
"Oh! Oh!" Caitlyn exclaimed. "The Ella Cave!"
"What about the Ella Cave?" Mitchie asked as she joined them.
"The guys are fixing our cabin so it's possible Nate could have seen the Cave," Caitlyn said.
"Oh no, oh no! All that music he threw away is taped to my wall! And the poster!" Ella said as her cheeks flushed and she paced in front of them.
"Maybe he didn't notice?" Mitchie suggested.
"That's possible; this is Nate we're talking about after all. He tends to miss the obvious," Caitlyn agreed.
Ella stopped pacing and suddenly turned white as a sheet. "I taped a new cartoon sketch to my wall this morning."
"Which one?" Mitchie asked.
"The dinosaur bride and groom," Ella said slowly.
Caitlyn's eyes widened and she tried not to grin in amusement. "The one that had Mr. and Mrs. Gray written out beside of it."
Ella nodded wordlessly. "Unfortunately."
"Okay," Caitlyn said brightly. "Here's what we're gonna do. I'm going to go to the cabin and keep Nate from looking at the cave—"
"No, you won't," Ella said as she rolled her eyes. "I heard Brown, you know. Jason has power tools. You're going to go and watch him. Admit it."
Caitlyn avoided Ella's eyes and grinned slightly. Mitchie rolled her eyes and chuckled. "I'll go with her. That way if she gets distracted I'll be there to cover for her."
"If he's seen it I swear I'm going to die of embarrassment," Ella said as she covered her face in her hands.
"I'm sure you'll live," Mitchie said as she smiled in encouragement and patted Ella's shoulder. She then turned to Caitlyn. "Alright, Cait, let's go."
"Good morning, ladies!"
The girls turned slowly to see Shane leading Jason and Nate toward them. Ella's eyes widened and she immediately turned and ran for the pier. Mitchie and Caitlyn shared a look and sighed. She didn't even know if Nate had seen it yet and she was already too afraid to face him.
Shane looked between everyone in confusion. "Was it something I said?"
"Your bathroom door is fixed and we replaced your shower liners," Jason told them. "You should be set now. No thanks to these two."
Caitlyn smirked and looked very impressed. "So, uh, you did all of that work yourself?"
"Yeah, I had to take a shower when we got back to the cabin. I was extremely sweaty and gross."
Caitlyn blinked at him as she pictured a hot and sweaty Jason. "Oh, really?"
"Yes, you might need to get somebody to look at your windows. They don't open very easily. It was very stuffy," Jason told her as he ran a hand through his curls. "I had to take off my shirt."
Caitlyn bit her bottom lip and her face started to flush. "Oh, That's, um—I'm sorry."
"That's alright, but I'm definitely ready to swim now. How about you?" Jason asked her with a friendly smile.
Caitlyn felt her face continue to heat up as Jason peeled off his shirt and tossed it into the backpack he brought with him. She gulped and cleared her throat. "Definitely, yes. Let's…swim."
Mitchie smirked at her friend as Jason's shirtless state continued to fluster her. "The lake's behind you, Cait. You can't swim on land."
She turned and glared at Mitchie. "I know that. Thank you."
"You looked kinda lost," Mitchie said with a grin. "Just thought I'd help you out."
Caitlyn rolled her eyes and grabbed Jason's arm. "Let's go, Jase. You can put your towel next to mine. I'm over here."
"Does somebody need to go after Ella?" Nate asked.
"Yes," Mitchie answered honestly. "You do. Dummy."
Shane laughed loudly. "Hey! That's what I called him! This is why we date."
Mitchie smiled and laughed at him. "I hope there's more to it than that."
"Yes, there's also the way you shimmy off those cut off shorts which I'm glad to see I haven't missed yet," Shane said as he grabbed Mitchie's hand and pulled her close. He wrapped her arm around her waist.
Mitchie rolled her eyes and smacked Shane's chest lightly. "You're a jerk."
"But you love me for it."
"Unfortunately," Mitchie said with a grin.
Shane turned back to Nate before he and Mitchie walked away. "I'd better see you have a chat with Ella in the next few minutes, dude. Or I'll have to find away to make it happen, and you don't want that. Trust me."
Nate scoffed at him and clicked his tongue in irritation. "I'll talk to her. No need to force me."
"Good," Shane said with a nod. "See you later, brother."
"Bye, Nate," Mitchie said as Shane led her away. "Be careful with Ella, alright? I wouldn't want to have to hurt you."
His eyebrows rose at that. Mitchie never threatened anyone. Let alone her friends. "O—okay."
Once Nate was alone he made his way toward the pier and found Ella sitting on the edge of it with her feet hanging over. He cleared his throat to let her know he was there and then sat down next to her. He smiled warmly at her. "Are you not gonna tan today?"
"You're late, remember? I've already sat out in the sun plenty," Ella answered hesitantly. She seemed nervous and he had a feeling he knew why.
"So, listen, I really didn't mean to snoop earlier," Nate said quietly. "But I saw your bunk. With all the posters and pictures and…drawings."
He saw Ella tense and she quickly looked away from him. "Um, you know, we shouldn't waste the day. I think I want to swim."
She stood up and backed up on the pier a bit and he realized she was planning to jump in. "Wait, Ella I was hoping that we could—"
He cut his sentence off as she ignored him and took a running jump off the end of the pier.
He huffed and stared at the splash she made in the water. "—talk."
He never saw Ella come up and he got a little worried at first, but he knew Ella was a strong swimmer. There's no way she was in any danger. He tried to peer into the water and couldn't see her and so he then turned to look through the cracks in the wood on the pier. He smirked when he saw her holding onto one of the support beams under the pier. He knew her too well. She was hiding which meant she didn't want to hear whatever it was he had to say about her bunk and her wall. But she needed to hear it and he needed to know.
He sighed as he took off his shirt and threw it aside. He slipped off his flip flops and took off his watch before he took a running jump into the water as well. He made his way under the pier and toward Ella. When she saw him she gasped and then took a deep breath like she was about to go under and swim away from him again. He reached out his hand and grasped her upper arm before she could. Her eyes landed on his hand and then made their way up his arm until they met his eyes head on.
"Ella, stop running away and talk to me," Nate said in a pleading tone.
"I don't want to!" She exclaimed. "I'm totally mortified! You were never supposed to see the Cave! I mean the poster, the music, and the…the dinosaur drawing was never supposed to be seen by you. Ever."
"The Cave?" Nate asked with a grin.
She blushed and Nate couldn't help but notice how genuinely pretty that blush looked on her. "The girls call it my 'Ella Cave'. It's kinda my retreat. My space to work on what I want to work on or relax the way I want to."
"Well, for the record, I really liked The Cave," He said with a smirk. "It's very you."
"Thank you," She muttered nervously.
"I just wanted to know which Gray brother is supposed to be your mister, that's all. You can tell me Ells. I won't tell anyone," He promised. Shane had said it was him, but he still wasn't sure. He needed to hear it from her.
She stared at him for a long moment before she finally spoke again. "What?"
"What?" Nate asked cluelessly.
"Nate, I stole rejected pieces of sheet music from the rehearsal cabins usually immediately after you left them. There were pictures of you and me all over my wall and that poster—God, how many hints do you need?" Ella asked with a quirked brow.
"I don't need a hint," Nate said as he blushed. "I need confirmation. An answer."
She bit her bottom lip and turned to face him fully. "You kind of know, don't you?"
"Yes, Shane lectured me and called me a dummy when it didn't immediately click, but now I think I know," Nate admitted. "I just want to hear it from you."
"Oh good lord, really?" Ella asked. "Okay, fine. It's you, Nate. You're the Mr. Gray on the drawing and you're the one I'm bordering on stalking. You're the one I sit out of the water for. I don't even like how I look with a tan. I just stay out so…so that I can have you to myself for a bit. Okay? Is that the answer you wanted?"
Nate slowly moved toward her in the water. It was only up to his shoulders so he could still stand. It made it very easy to move into Ella's personal space. She back away from him and pressed her back against the pier support beam she'd been holding onto earlier. He placed a hand on either of her shoulders and grinned at her. "You don't like to tan?"
"No," Ella said with a gulp as her eyes flickered between his lips and and his eyes. "I don't."
"You know, I actually don't like watching the JRs while Jason's on break," Nate told her with a smirk.
"No, I don't, but his break is during your class with them so I volunteered," Nate admitted.
"You volunteered because it was my class?" Ella asked with a small smile.
"You know that I'm awkward with kids at best, Ells. Why else would I do that?"
"To be nice to Jason?" Ella asked. "That's what I always told myself, at least."
"And you know that bag of sequins that went missing from the wardrobe cabin a few weeks ago?" Nate asked.
Ella's brow furrowed and she nodded. "Yes, I looked for them everywhere."
Nate pulled a hand off the beam and pointed to himself while he smiled at her with a guilty expression.
"Wait, what?" Ella asked with a chuckle.
"I stole them," Nate said as his cheeks flushed.
"What did you want with sequins?" Ella asked with a smile.
"They just made me think of you," Nate told her. "So I took them. I didn't think you'd miss them and then when you did I was too embarrassed to turn them in."
Ella visibly relaxed and leaned against the beam with a smile. "That's cute."
"I also spent hours trying to figure out the chords to several Huey Lewis songs," Nate said as he placed his hand back on the beam.
"You hate Huey Lewis," Ella said as she smiled up at him.
"I don't hate him. I just don't like him as much as you do," Nate told her with a smirk.
"But you learned how to play some of their songs for me?" Ella asked as her eyes twinkled in amusement.
He nodded. "They're your favorite, aren't they?"
"Yes, that would be why everyone teases me about it. Wouldn't it?" Ella asked sarcastically.
Nate laughed lightly. "Yes, it would be."
"So, you're just as much of a pathetic stalker as I am?" Ella asked as she bit her bottom lip nervously.
"It would appear so," Nate said with a smile. "Then again, according to my brothers I have a tendency to stalk girls I like. So, I think that's expected of me."
"You promise the Ella Cave didn't freak you out?" Ella asked worriedly.
Nate leaned toward her until his lips were hovering just above hers and smiled warmly. "No, it didn't freak me out."
"Are you sure?" Ella asked quietly.
"I'm sure," Nate answered before closed the small distance between them and kissed her lips softly.
It seemed to take Ella a minute to process what was happening but once she did her response was extremely eager. Her arms went around his neck and she pulled him closer. They'd both forgotten they were wearing swimwear until they felt bare skin against bare skin. Ella's stomach brushed against Nate's chest and Ella felt chills spread up and down her body followed by a warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of her stomach. That was definitely new.
Nate had Ella completely pinned to the beam as he deepened the kiss. He moved his hands from the beam and placed them under the water on Ella's bare waist. She took in a sharp breath and tightened her arms around his neck in response. The more Nate became aware that Ella was only clothed in an extremely tiny bikini the more he realized just how dangerous Ella was. At least to him. But It was a kind of danger that he was really enjoying.
There was a loud bang on the pier above them and they jumped apart. They heard a chuckle before a familiar voice spoke up.
"Hands above the water line, mate. First Jason and Caitlyn and now you two. Teenagers and your hormones. I expect you both to be out from under the pier in five minutes. Clear?"
Nate and Ella's faces turned completely red and they nodded before they answered him.
Ella and Nate slowly came out from under the pier as Brown walked away and found Shane, Mitchie, Jason and Caitlyn all smirking at them.
"About damn time, you guys," Caitlyn said with a chuckle. "Seriously."