It's summer, sweet summer!
Self-proclaimed Superflirt Dee Barton can't wait to spend the summer months practicing her Nine Rules of Flirting on all the cute guys who come to stay at her family's campground. Why not? Flirting is fun and makes everyone involved feel goodwhich is pretty much the exact opposite of her relationship with her toxic ex-boyfriend, Blaine. Sabrina Owens's summer plans include keeping her over-the-top karaoke DJ mother in check, maintaining her own status as the queen of the popular crowd, and being the perfect girlfriend to Blaine.
Each girl sees the other as the enemy. But when a secret blog embroils them in a frivolous lawsuit, they must team up and embark on a risky, flirt-filled plot to set things right again.
Laura Bowers's new novel is a heartfelt and hilarious story of friendship, family…and flirting!
About the Author
Laura Bowers is the author of Beauty Shop for Rent, which Publishers Weekly called "a delight" in a starred review. She lives with her family in New Windsor, Maryland.
Read an Excerpt
After spending the afternoon checking in campers, tracking down a lost hiker, and foolishly breaking up a water gun fight while—duh—wearing a white T-shirt, I am more than ready to celebrate the last day of school by slipping into a most delightful, most decadent poolside nap.
Natalie and her laptop, however, have other plans.
“Rise and shine, sleeping beauty,” she says, poking my thigh with her big toe. I open my eyes just enough to see her flashing a wicked grin from underneath the umbrella. “Check out this Web site called Wedgie-watch.com, Dee. It’s hilarious!”
Wedgies? Okay, that’s worth being woken up for, even though surfing the Internet isn’t high on my agenda tonight. But Natalie’s wild computer addiction does not yield to sun, swimming, or siestas, so I scoot closer to see a display of very graphic, very torturous wedgies that make my own cheeks clench in pain.
“Uh, Nat, sweetie, how exactly did you find this?”
“I Googled ‘wedgie’ and this came up,” she says, as though it’s totally normal.
“And … why did you Google ‘wedgie’?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Natalie says, picking up her melted cherry snowball. “Why Google anything?”
I grin and lean back in my lounge chair with the warm sun on my face. It is, without a doubt, perfect camping weather. Hot enough to swim, but nippy enough at night to cozy by the fire in a sweatshirt. This is my favorite time of day, when the evening activities kick in and the campground truly comes alive with guests cramming in as much fun as possible before it gets too dark. I love seeing kids zipping by on dusty bikes, determined fishermen casting their lines at the river, volleyball players in a sweaty duel at the sand court, and couples holding hands on their evening stroll.
Natalie groans when the band starts a twangy version of a Beach Boys song. “Ugh, bluegrass. Tell me again why I come here on Friday evenings when it’s my night off ?”
“To be with your bestest, bestest friend?”
“Eh, not really,” she jokes. “You ain’t all that.”
I drop my jaw in mock protest. “What? Oh, please, without me, you’d be at home hanging out in boring chat rooms or reading all those forums.”
She knows I have her on this one. Her latest obsession, besides wedgies, has been a forum dedicated to all things Disney World after her grandmother announced that she’s using her tax refund to take Natalie’s entire family there in August.
Seriously. Talk about one sweet refund.
Her mom and dad are always swamped at their accounting firm and her older brother is spending the summer in Ocean City with his college buddies, so Natalie has taken it upon herself to plan the ultimate Disney itinerary. She hands me the remains of her snowball—she likes them fresh, I like them melted—and says, “Okay, fine. My name is Natalie and I’m a Webaholic; hello, Natalie. But those forums did help me map out where a ton of hidden Mickeys are, so there.”
Hidden Mickeys? Yeah, no clue about that one. I’ve never been to the Magic Kingdom, or on any other real vacation for that matter. There’s always too much work to do, and besides, our campground has its own special kind of magic, so why go on vacations when vacations come here? I am curious about the hidden Mickeys, though, but before I can ask, Jake Bollinger strolls in with the chlorine kit, wearing faded Levi’s and a SAVE A HORSE, RACE A STOCK CAR T-shirt. Like Nat and me, Jake will be a senior at Riverside High next fall. He mostly hangs with the crowd from his auto mechanics class, so we didn’t meet until Mom hired him in April to do odd maintenance chores. She also lets him use one of our empty buildings as a garage for the cute go-kart thingy he races. Just don’t call it cute in front of him. Or a thingy.
They’re apparently not the manliest of terms.
Natalie’s wicked grin returns. She winks at me and says, “Hey, Jake, come check out this dirt bike race on YouTube!”
He hurries over, only to cringe at what must be the mother of all wedgies on the screen. “Dude, that’s so wrong! You’re sick, Natalie Green. Sick. Both of you are.”
I go into instant flirt mode, dropping my chin and gazing at him through my lashes while seductively running a finger along the side of his arm. “You don’t truly believe that, now, do you, Jake?” I purr. “Not about little ole me.”
A tad over the top, yes, but it’s not like I would flirt for real with Jake. Flirting with campground employees is strictly against the rules … no matter how cute they happen to be. This goes double for Jake’s buddies who hang out at the garage, and I never flirt with anyone from school. Flirting is meant to be fresh. Fun. Spontaneous, with someone you don’t see on a regular basis. Besides, Jake never takes me seriously.
And after what I did last year, every guy at Riverside thinks I’m a total psychotic flake.
Jake leans forward, his battered cowboy hat almost touching my forehead. He gives me a cocky half smile and says, “You really don’t expect me to fall for your bullcrap, do ya, Dee-Dee?”
I hate being called Dee-Dee. It’s Dee. Not Dee-Dee or Didi or Dodo Bird, like this one creep dubbed me in preschool. Just Dee.
It was such a mistake to tell Jake how much it annoyed me when my ex used to call me that. HUGE mistake. But at least I didn’t mention the many other things that Blaine Walker did to annoy me when we dated last spring and summer. Like breaking our dates at the last minute. Or always wanting to hang out with his snotty friends instead of mine. And then there was his wandering eye that I tolerated for five months because Lord forbid I dare sound like a jealous cow, and his habit of accusing me of flirting with his friends if I—Lord forbid—dared to laugh or talk too much.
The most annoying thing? When he dumped me last September with a text message saying how he wanted a “fresh start” for our junior year.
No, that’s a lie.
The most annoying thing is the pathetic way I wanted him back … and what I did that caused everyone at school to think I am a desperate psycho. But whatever. It’s all water under the bridge now. Dirty, nasty, scummy water. So I gaze up at Jake adoringly and say, “I love it when you call me that. Do it again. Dee-Dee.”
He rolls his eyes and heads back to the pool. “Aw, come back, Jake!” Natalie calls out with a giggle. “Don’t let Dee-Dee scare you away.”
“Yeah, Jake, let’s talk about your cute race kart thingy!”
“Bite me, sickos,” he says over his shoulder.
Whatever comeback Natalie has in mind is cut off when the screen door of the main lodge slams open and the Cutson brothers run out with Sponge Bob temporary tattoos on their foreheads and damp swimsuits hanging on their scrawny bodies. Natalie lets out an annoyed huff. “Lyle! Tanner! Stop banging that door, you little creeps!”
The barefoot twins ignore her, wobbling like ducks on the gravel road and throwing their popsicle wrappers on the ground. “Yeah, and pick up that trash,” I add.
Tanner smacks his butt and yells, “Make me!”
Oh, that twerp! Natalie seems tempted to do just that until someone calls out, “Yoo-hoo, girls!” We turn to see Ivy Neville, a retired investment banker and one of our permanent summer guests, walking toward us. She leans her tall frame against the fence and pulls off an outback-style hat that looks like it came straight out of a Cabela’s catalog.
“Hey, Miss Ivy. How’s everything, you need any more help?” I ask.
“Oh, no, girls, take your break, I’m all set up.” She motions toward a fifth-wheel RV parked by the river at a premier site that’s been hers from mid-June to late October for the past three years. When we are closed for the winter, Ivy stays in South Carolina where the warm weather is less harsh on an old woman’s body—her words, not mine. “I just wanted to tell you, Natalie,” she says, smoothing her silver-gray hair, “how nice it was to meet you earlier today, and how thrilled I am to see Dee keeping better company this summer.”
Meaning company other than Blaine, who she wasn’t exactly a fan of.
“And, Dee, I wanted to tell you that the campground looks just lovely!”
A feeling of pride swells in my chest.
My home is lovely. Lovely and charming, with giant oak trees, blooming crepe myrtles, and fifty-five sites woven in among rolling hills, riverbanks, and the flanking mountains I know better than the tops of my favorite flip-flops. Rustic log bathhouses and pavilions surround our eighteenth-century lodge, a row of cozy guest cabins line the trout pond, and on a broad hilltop sits the large cabin my mom and I live in. Everything here is traditional and quaint, unlike Chuck Lambert’s pimped-out RV Resort two miles down the road that’s more theme park than campground, with its coffee café and spa services by request. But, Chuck’s place is always booked solid, and we only reach full capacity on holiday weekends.
Ivy studies me fondly. “And you remind me more of your father every year. Lord, I miss that man. How are things, kiddo, you and your momma getting on okay?”
Just like that, my good mood melts like Natalie’s snowball.
You’d think after fifteen months it’d get easier.
You’d think I could hear people talk about Dad without feeling like someone rammed a stick of firewood into my stomach. Instead, each condolence only brings back the unbelievable truth that a man as dynamic and healthy as John Barton could have a heart attack, one that caused him to crash his truck and die instantly.
I still force myself to put on a practiced, polite smile and tell her that we are fine, just fine, because no one likes a drama queen. And no one, not even Ivy, needs to know Mom and I are barely making ends meet. Except for Natalie, of course. She knows everything, because she works here, and, well, I can’t imagine not telling her everything. She waits until Ivy leaves and asks, “You okay? Want to talk about it?”
No, not really.
And the evening is simply too pretty to be sad.
“Good,” Natalie says with a devious glint. “Because I spy with my naughty little eye someone who I’ll bet one box of oh so delicious Skinny Cow Fudge Bars will put some joy on that pretty face of yours.”
This is why I love Natalie—she always says the right thing at just the right time. I personally believe she should be a psychiatrist instead of a journalist, but Natalie has a low tolerance for whiners. And my, my, she’s playing the Skinny Cow card? Wow, she’s not fooling around. I scan the area and then point to a guy at the putt-putt course who is trying to mess up his father’s shot. “Him?”
She pretends to yawn. “Oh, snore, you’re boring me, Dee.”
Strike one. And I know she isn’t talking about Jake, so I shift my attention to the game going on at the basketball court.
“Cold, cold, very cold,” Natalie teases.
Strike two. In the full-hook-up section, a divorced father is draping a pink bathing suit over a makeshift clothesline that dips like a swayback mare. No cute guys there, just two little girls blowing bubbles and a messy site littered with Barbie bikes, pool noodles, and inner tubes. A few rows over, the Swains’ site is sterile in comparison, with their streamlined motor home, posh lounge chairs, and ground mats all in coordinated shades of beige. The awning shakes when the door opens and Roxanne Swain stomps out wearing cargo shorts, a baggy black T-shirt, and a NASCAR cap over her dyed red hair. When her parents checked in for the summer a few days ago, I invited her to go hiking, but she shot me down faster than the Cutsons once emptied the pool by trying to resuscitate a dead fish. When she glances our way, though, I can’t stop myself from giving her a small wave.
No reply. Roxanne only glares at me like I’m a whitehead about to pop before flopping down on a lounge chair and putting on her headphones.
“Cold, frigid cold—the girl must pee ice cubes,” Natalie says before noticing the concern on my face. “Oh, for the love of Dooney and Bourke Disney bags, stop looking at her with that camp counselor expression. Honestly, Dee, you worry too much. You’re not responsible for everyone’s happiness.”
“I know. It’s just that she’s been here for a few days and hasn’t talked with—”
The pool gate opens. All thoughts of Roxanne evaporate as a guy who can only be described as Brad Pitt in his glory, Thelma and Louise days strolls in, with shiny chestnut hair, full lips, and board shorts hanging sexily low on his hips.
“Told you,” Natalie singsongs as he strides past us to an empty chair. He pulls off his shirt to reveal a flat, muscular stomach that causes Natalie to swoon with a deep, contented sigh. “Thank you, thank you, strange guy, whoever you are.”
Thank you indeed. I nudge Natalie’s arm. “Go on, do the pool trick, Miss N.”
“No thanks,” she says, nudging me back.
“Because. You’re better at it.”
Argh. If it weren’t for her laptop, I’d dunk her in the pool. She’s like those cartoon dogs that will speak to their owner, but clam up around anyone else. Not that I own her—God, no, or that she’s a dog. Natalie has gorgeous dark hair, killer lips, and a gymnast-lithe build, but even though she’s outrageous and bold around me, she chokes when a cute guy is around. She has no problem instigating me, however, as proven by the way she clasps her hands behind her head and says, “Go for it, Superflirt, I dare you.”
“Ooo, a challenge! Fine, then, pool trick it is.”
I strike a silly Marilyn Monroe pose and take off my sunglasses, spitting my gum into her outstretched palm before stepping to the deep end. As I curl my toes over the concrete edge, I pull my blond hair out of its ponytail, letting it fall to my waist. Once Natalie gives the signal, I jump, twisting when my feet touch bottom so his face is the first thing I see when I surface. I hold his gaze for one extra beat before swimming to the ladder, slowly pulling myself up, and slooowly walking back while squeezing water from my hair and—oopsie!—dropping my hair elastic.
“Well, how was that?” I ask Natalie, after stretching out on my chair.
She presses a finger against her cheek. “Hmm, not bad. You could’ve stayed underwater longer, and—call me fussy—paused for a bikini top adjustment, but that hair toss was legendary. He watched you the entire way back and … Oh, wait for it … Wait for it…”
A deep voice beside me says, “Excuse me, but I think you dropped this.”
Ha. Pool trick.
Works every time.
I swiftly move on to FLIRT RULE #1: Smile, and make a show of grabbing my now-bare wrist. “Thanks! That’s so sweet of you.”
He does this cute, boyish shuffle and smiles in return with—adorable!—dimples so deep you could stick your finger in them. “Oh, um, no problem…”
RULE #2: Be confident. “This is Natalie, and I’m Dee Barton,” I tell him, making my name sound intriguing even though I hate it. My father named me after his mother, Madeline Dee Barton, thinking she’d finally approve of his marriage if she had a namesake. Yeah, that didn’t exactly work out. My grandmother has hated Mom from day one, and even though I look just like my dad, her feelings apply to me as well.
Especially now that he’s gone.
The guy cocks his head to the side and furrows his brow in concentration. “Barton, that sounds familiar. Oh—do your parents own the campground?”
“Yes, my mother does.”
Please don’t ask about my father.
He doesn’t, which is no surprise. Guys don’t care about those things. Blaine certainly never did. Whenever I mentioned my dad, he would shrug and say, “Yeah, that sucks.” It was a good lesson on what guys want to talk about and what they don’t, so I move the conversation along by nodding toward his chair. “So, you’re a Boston fan?”
“What?” He seems confused until he remembers his Red Sox beach towel. “Oh, yeah! Awesome, you’re a Sox fan as well?”
RULE #3: Be interested. “A lot of people are,” I coyly say, except for me, seeing as how my loyalty will always be with the Baltimore Orioles.
His hypnotic dimples deepen. “Cool, you watching the game tonight?”
Uh, dude, being interested does not mean cheering for the Red Sox. His dimples aren’t that cute. “Mmm, no, we’re going to shoot pool tonight,” I say, before hitting him with RULE #4: Make eye contact by holding his gaze for three whole seconds.
One … two … three.
“Mind if I join you?” he asks.
Sorry, Red Sox, you lose. We make plans to meet in the rec room later, but before I can skip to RULE #7: Know when to walk away, a look of recognition crosses his face. “Wait. Dee Barton. Oh, man, are you the chick who wrote that letter?”
My smile fades.
He’s from my school. And he knows about the letter.
A crushing ache swells in my stomach and I suddenly feel like I’m back in class with girls snickering and guys saying, “Take me back, Blaine, I’ll do anything, ANYTHING.” Why did I do it? Why did I send Blaine all those pathetic texts after we broke up? And when they went unanswered, why did I pour all of my heartbreak into a desperate two-page please don’t say it’s over letter? Blaine never even bothered to respond. Instead, on my seventeenth birthday a week later, I saw him kissing Sabrina Owens by his Mercedes after school. On my birthday! And Sabrina Owens of all people, one of the nastiest girls in all of Riverside, Maryland, who did respond to my letter.
By making copies for nearly everyone.
Devastation. Humiliation. Mortification. There simply aren’t enough “ation” words to fully convey my embarrassment. I wanted to die. And to be honest, I might have even briefly considered the option had it not been for Natalie.
Thank God for Natalie.
We first met in ninth grade, after we were the only freshmen to make varsity softball—me because I was the fastest runner and she because her parents are the coach’s accountants. Unlike the others on our team, I never held this against her, and she never held it against me when I quit playing after my father died, but we didn’t become close until after the letter disaster. She understood what I was going through, seeing as how Sabrina once took a picture of her picking dead skin off her nose that had everyone calling her Nose-Pick Natalie for weeks. She listened to stories about my dad without ever saying “That sucks,” like when I talked about his love for Simon & Garfunkel songs and how he’d never pull his truck over to the side of the road if a bad rainstorm came along. Instead, he’d crank up “Bridge over Troubled Water” and say, “Life’s full of storms, Dee, so when one hits, just hold the wheel tight and keep driving.” It was a policy Natalie and I had decided to adopt, and last Halloween, when she dared me to flirt with an exceptionally cute football player, a new Dee was born.
Her name is Superflirt.
And Superflirt knows how to handle this guy.
I shift to a more flattering position and shoo an imaginary fly from my leg. “Oh, please, you didn’t think that letter was real, now, did you?”
It works. Sort of. After staring at my legs, the guy hooks a thumb into the waist of his board shorts and says, “Yeah, I guess no one would be stupid enough to write like that.”
Ouch. Despite my efforts to hold the wheel tight, my throat feels as though I inhaled an inner tube. I can’t think of anything clever or flirty to say, so I just sit there like a dumb lump until Natalie comes to my rescue. “Dude, some woman is waving at you from the putt-putt course. Is she your mother?”
Thankfully, it is. The guy excuses himself with one of those catch you later salutes. Oh, yay, I’m so looking forward to that. Natalie rolls her head toward me once he’s gone and says, “Want a Skinny Cow?”
“No, I need a Skinny Cow.”
We stand, wrapping towels around our waists before heading toward the lodge. The feel of water from my wet hair trickling down my back in the most delightful way instantly lifts my spirits as Natalie links her arm in mine. “Well, that last part was a smidge unexpected, but all in all the pool trick was very successful today!”
Someone snorts behind us.
I turn to see Jake frowning at me while digging in his pockets for a set of keys. “Yeah, real slick trick, Dee,” he says. “Just like the one you pulled last weekend—and the weekend before that—and what else? Oh, yeah, the weekend before that.”
My face flushes with shame as Jake unlocks the storage shed door and steps inside. But seriously, why do I always feel like a total sleaze whenever Jake talks like that? I didn’t do anything bad. I mean, what’s wrong with flirting? It’s harmless. It makes people feel good. And why should I care about his opinion, anyway?
I worry too much, over stuff like whether or not I was good enough for Blaine, who brought out the worst in me both during and after our relationship. Over my grandmother, Madeline, who I will never be good enough for. Over Chuck Lambert, who’d love to put us out of business. Screw it. It’s summer. For the next three months, I’m only going to worry about Mom, the campground, and Natalie. Forget about Madeline. Forget about Blaine, who’s better suited to a jerk like Sabrina Owens, anyway, and forget about Roxanne with all her whitehead-popping glares.
As for Jake—
“Hey, let me use your cell,” I say to Nat as we step onto the porch that is scratched and worn by an endless stream of guests. She shakes her head at my perpetual habit of forgetting to charge my phone as I scroll through her contacts and hit his name with an angry jab.
“By the way, Jake? Up yours.”
“Took you long enough,” he replies before hanging up.
Natalie tosses the phone back in her tote and asks, “Feel better?”
“Wait here, then.” She ducks into the store. I sit on a porch swing and watch two boys sword fighting with tree branches. As the sweet smell of hickory burning in a campfire drifts by on a gentle breeze and one of the boys suffers an agonizing death with a branch tucked under his armpit, Natalie returns and hands me not one, but two Skinny Cows.
Yes, now I feel better.
Text copyright © 2012 by Laura Bowers
Table of Contents
The Superflirt Chronicles. Friday, June 11,
The Superflirt Chronicles. Sunday, June 13,
The Superflirt Chronicles. Saturday, June 19,
The Superflirt Chronicles. Saturday evening, June 19,
The Superflirt Chronicles. Sunday, June 20,
The Superflirt Chronicles. Thursday, June 24,
The Superflirt Chronicles. Tuesday, July 6,
The Superflirt Chronicles. Saturday, July 24,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just Flirt is like an afternoon spent by the pool with your girlfriends, alot of gossip, flirting and fun. There are more twists and turns in this plot to keep you interested and I for one loved all the characters in this book. Some are predictable, but there is a good message even though things might look bad for a time, everything works out in the end. This is a cute, fun and very fast read, perfect for getting away from the cold of winter and back to the lazy days of summer.
This lighthearted novel was more than fun to read. A snow storm could be pouring flakes from the sky, but a reader only feels summer heat and sunshine. Two girls are the main characters of this book. They imagine each other as villains and are only connected by a scumbag boyfriend, Blaine, and petty lawsuit. The novel describes their journey as they become stronger and independent. A funny blog and friends help them grow into adults. Dee has never minded spending her summers working for her family business, a campground. She has plenty of opportunity to flirt, swim, and have fun. This summer will be different, however. Sabrina believes her boyfriend Blaine is great. He may not be attentive, or very polite, but Sabrina is prom queen, and Blaine is her king. A blog is also gaining fame, the Superflirt Chronicles, and some people described seem oddly familiar... Any woman would enjoy reading this book. Ages fourteen and up are appropriate readers for this novel. Bowers wrote Just Flirt to be humorous and fun. Readers will enjoy the girls’ funny friends and exaggerated family members. This is a book that can be read again and again.