For a moment, Ben considers just going back to his own cabin. It's almost two in the morning, after all, and he's still battling a migraine from herding his crew of hyperactive pre-teens through their first week of rope-tugging, rock-climbing, mud-slinging camp activities. Just the thought of dragging more young alphas back to their beds is enough to make his skull give a miserable, splitting throb.
How easy it would be to let the little dickwads (because it's surely someone from his side of camp) have their fun and pretend he didn't see the light blaring out of the pool house from up the hill.
But he knows he can't do that.
With a long-suffering sigh, Ben begins climbing up the grassy hill.
To his relief, the rows of cabins are blissfully dark and silent on either side of the path. No sounds disturb the night beyond the song of the crickets in the woods all around. No sign of any other disobedient campers — aside from whoever the hell is about to get reamed out at the pool up there.
For the dozenth time this week, he wonders why he's even here. He doesn't even like kids. Especially not hormonal preteens barely even days into their own designation.
As he trudges toward the pool house, a large wooden sign cheerfully informs him that he's crossing over the border of Alpha Acres and entering Friendship Frontier, where campers from both sides are permitted to mingle. He can hear a slight splashing coming from the pool there.
Scowling, Ben quickens his pace.
This will be the third time since he arrived here just over a week ago that he's had to kick a group of dumb Alpha boys out of the pool after hours. He's praying they're just swimming. He doesn't even want to think about what he caught one of the older ones doing to an Omega's discarded towel last week.
He shudders all over in distaste. They're a bunch of horny animals. The whole lot of them.
He pushes through the gate to the pool area quietly, somewhat enjoying the thought of scaring the living shit out of the little gremlins. Sometimes it pays to be taller and larger than anyone he knows.
Keeping as quiet as he can manage, he creeps around the pool house that houses the locker and shower areas, moving around the brick building towards the dimly lit pool area.
There are a handful of lights along the walls of the pool. They make it easy to make out the shadowy shape of someone just under the surface of the water as the pool comes into view. He glances around in search of accomplices, but finds no one else.
This person has come here alone.
They haven't noticed him yet, with the way their head turns for breath as they make quick strokes through the water. He can only see their murky shape gliding just under the surface.
Ben prepares himself to threaten them within an inch of their life — to make sure they aren't tempted to leave their cabin after dark for the rest of the summer — but his words become lodged in his throat when his late-night rule breaker breaks through the surface.
Because the delicate shape of the figure emerging in the dim light makes it all too obvious this person doesn't belong to his side of the camp. And as she rises from the pool, water cascading in rivulets down her body, Ben becomes quite certain she isn't even young enough to be a camper.
Something stirs in his gut as he watches her climb up the stairs. Distantly, he is aware he is witnessing something private. Even though he is on night duty — he is quite literally doing his job, god damnit — he is overcome with the powerful sensation that he has no right to be here. Watching this stranger as she stretches, dripping, all over the cement patio.
He should leave. That would be the courteous thing to do. He should turn around and let her have these few moments of stolen privacy — a precious commodity in a camp crawling with dozens of nosy prepubescent children.
Instead, he hears himself call out to her.
"You shouldn't be here."
She freezes, her back still to him. If Ben had any doubt in his mind about whether she was breaking the rules, it vanishes at the look on her face — wide-eyed and fearful, her body completely still.
Like an animal trapped.
The thought comes out of nowhere, leaving him a little stunned. He wonders where it came from — he isn't in the habit of comparing people to prey — but then the breeze shifts, a new scent cuts through the chlorine stench of the pool, and Ben's mind goes completely blank.
An Omega. She's an Omega.
Even from a distance, he can see the way her expression morphs from shock into anger. She whirls around, hands on her hips, clearly unaware of the full-frontal display this provides him of her half-naked body.
"And you shouldn't be spying on people while they swim," she replies coolly, with the sweetest little accent he has ever heard.
His mouth falls open. A flicker of embarrassment sparks inside of him, but it lingers for only a second before he remembers that he is actually allowed to be here. "I wasn't spying," he protests with great aggravation. "I thought you were—" He bites back his explanation, realizing he doesn't owe her one. "It doesn't matter. This is private property. You shouldn't be here."
He is moving slowly toward her. Definitely not leaving, the way he promised himself he would a few moments ago. He isn't entirely sure if it is even a conscious thing — his feet falling one in front of the other in a mechanical fashion until they close the distance between them.
Because it's his job to stay. That's what he tells himself. Not because he wants to get a better look at her. Definitely not.
He is close enough now to make out wide eyes, their color indiscernible, currently tucked under a furrowed brow that only emphasizes how aggravated she is with him. The shape of her mouth, however, does not escape his notice. Not even in the dark.
She must be trespassing. He is certain he would have noticed her at the counselor orientation last weekend. He doesn't think he would forget a mouth like that. It's too full, too soft looking, begging for his teeth to test just how much.
The thought takes him by surprise, and he realizes he's standing only a few feet from her now — just staring at her mouth like some sort of creep.
But it's even harder not to do so when she begins to speak again, even if her words have a bite to them that is only slightly dulled by the lilting quality of her voice.
"I'm well aware of whose property this is. Even before you showed up tossing your weight around and acting like you owned it."
He's trying very hard not to let his gaze dip down to where the swell of her breasts just peeks out of her swim top. He keeps his attention pointedly fixed instead on her eyes that are still so angry looking.
It makes it a lot easier to ignore the fact that her prickly attitude makes his chest hot.
"It's my job to be here. Just like it's my job to make sure people don't wander around the grounds at all hours of the night where they don't belong."
"Oh?" She raises a brow at him, hands still on her hips. "Is it also your job to keep staring at my tits?"
Ben's not sure what catches him more off-guard — the fact that he's been caught, or the shape of her pretty mouth around such an obscenity. But even stronger than his embarrassment is that same unfamiliar stirring in the pit of his stomach, returning to swell with pleasure at her defiance.
Because she isn't moving to cover herself up. Here he is, fully dressed and crowding her personal space on an abandoned patio, and she is simply standing before him — her body so many miles of wet, freckled skin. Gazing up into his face. She tilts her head, and that scent, that lovely, toe-curling, heart-squeezing scent rolls over him again.
She doesn't smell like she wants him to leave. Ben has never been so sure of anything in his life.
"It could be," he says, very softly. "I would take good care of them, Omega. And the rest of you, too, if you let me."
Ben hardly knows what he's saying — only that his body is drawn to her, moving ever closer. Hypnotized by the curve of her plush bottom lip and the way it moves, ever so slightly, when her breath hitches.
"I've never met an Alpha who could take care of me better than I could take care of myself," she murmurs.
"Well then," Ben says, his voice very low. His gaze dips to the delicate line of her throat as it moves around a swallow. "It's nice to meet you."
Her voice is quieter when it leaves her now. Almost breathless, and he knows he isn't the only one that is being swept up by this.
Whatever this is.
"You seem quite sure. I'm not so certain you could handle me."
His fingers itch with the need to reach out and touch her. She would be so soft under his hands. It would be so very easy to tear off that flimsy scrap of neoprene that barely covers anything on her body.
He doesn't even think she'd mind. He can sense it in the way she leans in slightly.
"There's a lot I can handle." His nostrils flare with the force of his inhalation as he tries to breathe in more of that intoxicating scent. "And you certainly seem like you need handling."
He doesn't miss the slight rise of her height as she presses up on her toes just a fraction. "Wouldn't you like that."
"I don't think I'm the only one."
"Is that so?"
He can feel the warmth of her breath now. It would be nothing to close the distance. To taste her.
She's too close. Far too close. His thoughts are a tangled mess of where he might best spread her out. How she might feel if he buried himself inside her. What sounds she might make.
Her eyes are nearly closed, and her chest rises and falls just as heavily as his, and he doesn't know what's happening but he wants it. He wants it more than anything he's ever wanted in his entire life.
He leans forward, just a bit, he doesn't need much, and it's happening. This is happening. It's going to—
A sharp crash rings out into the night, the sound of the gate opening and slamming shut hitting him like a bucket of freezing water. Ben swears, whirling around, just in time to see four of his rowdiest alphas freeze at the pool's entrance.
"Ah, fuck," one of the boys mutter, "it's Moose."
"My camp name," Ben yells back, "is Supreme Leader! And lights out was three hours ago, Dameron!"
"That's not stopping you from swimming!" Dameron shouts right back at him from across the pool.
"I'm not swimming," Ben says, scowling, "I was just—"
He turns to point to the beautiful trespassing girl standing next to him — but she is gone.
Vanished without a trace.
"Get your asses back to your cabin," Ben growls, rounding on his campers. "If the lights in there aren't off in five minutes, none of you get to compete in the tug-of-war contest for the rest of the week."
If there's anything that a young Alpha enjoys more than games with muddy competition, it's games with knots. Even if they're of the rope variety. The group of boys scramble back down the hill before Ben has the chance to remind them not to call him Moose again.
And then he's alone once more.
Once he's certain they're gone, Ben whips around and begins to check every corner of the pool deck. Where the hell did she go? She didn't sneak past the young Alphas standing near the gate — he certainly would have noticed that — but there's no way she hopped the six-foot fence, either.
After his second lap searching the perimeter of the pool, he wonders if she might have been able to climb the fence — but he's also beginning to suspect that he fabricated the entire encounter in a state of sleep-addled desperation. The camp is approaching the end of its first week, after all, and even though the designations aren't permitted to mingle very much, he's sure he would have noticed this Omega. He would bet his life on it.
Even if she hadn't been an apparition, as increasingly likely as that seems, her sudden disappearance would mean that she had fled. Her first opportunity to run away from him, and she had seized it without thinking twice.
Chest stinging with unexpected hurt, he makes his way toward the gate. It must be approaching three in the morning by now, and he's got yet another long day of head-pounding teenage chaos ahead of him tomorrow. He'll go back to his cabin, toss around on the stiff mattress there for another few hours and hopefully forget all about this mess tomorrow.
Stewing in his disappointment, he almost misses the flash of white terrycloth, thrown haphazardly over a lounge chair.
Ben falters. His nostrils flare. He picks up the towel and holds it to his face, breathing deeply.
Closing his eyes, a smile slowly spreads across his face.
Yes. She was here after all.
And the powerful reminder of her scent, soaked in the cloth of the pool towel, extinguishes his other fear.
Whatever it was that just happened between them, she wanted it too.