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Waking Up to Boys
Chelsea McCormick flew through the air, the cool water of Lake Tahoe stretching endlessly on either side of her. Grasping the boat's towrope with both hands, she squinted in the afternoon sunlight and shifted her hips, hopping from side to side over the boat's wake. As she gathered speed, she took a deep breath and jumped high into the air, grabbing the board between her legs. The lake was a blue blur below her.
For a long, luxurious moment, Chelsea was flying. The Northern California mountains looked like a smudged pastel drawing in the distance. There was nothing in the world she loved more than the heady, soaring feeling of being suspended over the water's surface. She never felt so much like a rebel as she did when she was defying the laws of gravity.
As her board touched down on the other side of the wake, Chelsea let a triumphant grin spread across her face. Everything felt right. Summer was beginning and she was in her favorite place in the world: out in the middle of the lake, wearing her favorite faded blue wetsuit and skimming her green Gator board along the frothy white surface of the wake.
Chelsea thought for the zillionth time how much happier she felt out on the water than on land. Here, she was a wild, graceful creature who could push her body to do even the most difficult feats. But back on land she felt like a too-tall, too-clunky, too-boyish behemoth who towered over all the other girls.
"You done back there?" her dad, Mark McCormick, called from the driver's seat of the boat.
"Never!" Chelsea shouted back at the top of her lungs.
Her dad gave her anapologetic look and pointed at the big waterproof watch on his wrist.
"All right." Chelsea sighed. She knew her dad had to prepare for summer staff orientation at Glitterlake Resort, the sprawling lakeside lodge and recreation complex he owned with her mom, and she'd already kept him out on the water for nearly two hours. Chelsea pulled herself back to the boat using the towrope and collapsed on the seat next to her dad. She ripped off her tinted goggles and squeezed the excess water out of her short brown ponytail.
"You looked good out there, Champ," her dad said, squeezing her shoulder.
"Yeah?" She smiled at the nickname he'd called her ever since she insisted on challenging the boys around the resort to tree-climbing contests when she was five. "How was my stance when I landed that jump? It felt a little wobbly."
"Looked pretty darn amazing," her dad said. "And if it was a little shaky, it was probably my fault for not lining up the wake better for you. But you can land anything, Champ."
He looked at her, grinning eagerly. She knew what he was thinking about: the Challenge. It was all that was on either of their minds ever since they'd learned that Glitterlake was hosting this year's Northwest Extreme Watersports Challenge.
Chelsea stretched her legs out over the boat's fiberglass floor, basking in the afternoon sun as they sped toward shore. Off in the distance, the resort's large windows glinted in the sunlight. From where she was sitting, the main lodge looked like an eagle resting on the crest of the hill—the lobby, dining hall, and reception rooms forming its body, and the east and west sections of guest rooms extending out on either side of it like wings. Gravel paths wound down from the main lodge to the clusters of cabins and waterfront tennis courts. Chelsea knew that behind the main lodge were the state-of-the-art indoor pool and spa, as well as her family's own comfortable home. Back beyond that, down another long gravel path nestled in the trees and tucked safely away at the foot of Pine Mountain, were the staff barracks, which, at that very moment, were probably filling with the last of the summer staffers, who'd be dumping their duffel bags on whatever remaining bunks they could find and noisily chattering about how their winters had gone.
The boat was rapidly approaching the docks adjoining the sandy beach that in just a few short days would be crowded with vacationing honeymooners and families. Now that Chelsea was sitting, she could feel the knots in her thighs from so much physical exertion, and she couldn't wait to get onto the dock and stretch. Maybe she'd even pop into Glitterlake's forty-jet Jacuzzi before the summer staff orientation meeting.
"Well, I know you're tougher on yourself than anyone, Chels," her father inserted into their comfortable silence. "But I just know you've got this summer's Challenge in the bag. I can feel it in my gut." He leaned back a little in his seat, slowing the engine as they got closer to the dock.
Chelsea's heartbeat doubled just thinking about it. The Challenge was held at a different lake each summer, and the day she'd discovered that it was coming to Glitterlake was the most exciting of Chelsea's life. She'd been the first wakeboarder to send in her registration fee, and had spent all winter training and learning new tricks on her snowboard at Sierra Mountain. Not that snowboarding was nearly as rewarding to her as wakeboarding, but she had to stay in shape somehow, and Lake Tahoe was way too cold to brave in the winter.
"I'll be on the water every day until I'm ready." Chelsea heard the determination in her own voice.
Her dad smiled as he straightened out the boat. "That's what I like to hear," he said, turning off the engine and hopping easily onto the dock. He tied off the boat as Chelsea leapt out and began stretching her tight arms over her head.
"Okay, hon," her dad said, turning to head in the direction of the lodge. "I'll see you at the meeting later. Oh, and Champ?" He turned back to face her. Waking Up to Boys. Copyright © by Hailey Abbott. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.