The Summer of Cotton Candy
A Sweet Seasons Novel
By Debbie Viguié
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Candace Thompson wondered where her life had gone wrong.
Maybe when she was fourteen, she should have babysat her
bratty cousin when her parents asked. Maybe when she was
seven, if she hadn't locked the teacher out of the classroom,
this wouldn't be happening to her. No, maybe her life went all
wrong when she was three and she knocked down the girl with
the pigtails who had stolen Mr. Huggles, her stuffed bear. Yes,
the more she thought about it, that must have been the moment
that started her on the path that led to the special punishment
she was now suffering.
It was the first day of summer vacation, but for Candace, it
might as well have been the last. She sat in a dark dreary office,
signing away her freedom. The decree had come down from
her father: she had to get a job. No job, no cash. No cash, no
movies or hanging with her friends. It didn't matter to him that
if she had a job she wouldn't have time to do the things she
would need the money for.
She took a deep breath as she finished filling out the last
form and handed it across the desk to the recruiter, Lloyd
Peterson, a strange-looking man in a frumpy brown suit whom
she was convinced had to be a perv. Hadn't she seen him on
America's Most Wanted
? She slid down into her seat, willing
herself to be invisible, or at least small enough to slip away
"Candace," he mused, "can I call you Candy?"
"Well ..." She was about to say no. She hated that name.
"Great. So, Candy, what makes you want to work for The
She didn't want to work for The Zone, she just wanted to
enjoy her summer like everybody else. Her father had put his
foot down, though. According to him it was time she learned the
value of work and earning her own way. She had chosen to work
for The Zone because she had absolutely no skills, and working
for a theme park seemed more interesting than flipping burgers.
She sighed and squirmed, refusing to meet the recruiter's
eyes. "I've always dreamed of working for The Zone. I want to
be part of the excitement and help people enjoy themselves
more." It was her rehearsed answer, and she held her breath,
hoping he would buy it.
He stared at her for a long minute before nodding. Picking
up a bright blue folder on his desk, he flipped it open and
cleared his throat. "You realize, of course, that if you wanted
a summer job, you should have started applying months ago,
right?" he asked, staring at her over the tops of his glasses.
She slunk farther down into her chair. She licked her lips
when she realized he expected an answer. "No," she said.
"No? No? Well, you are wrong. In order to get a good summer
job, you should start applying at least in March."
March! All I could think of in March was holding out until
spring break without going postal.
Her eyes were now nearly
level with the edge of his desk. "I just thought, you know, The
Zone needs a lot of employees."
"You are correct, but most of our summer positions have
already been filled."
He stopped and stared at her. She wasn't sure what he
expected her to say, but she was beginning to have the sinking
feeling that her summer would consist of asking people if they
wanted fries with their meal.
Just as she was about to get up to leave, sure that the interview
had come to an end, he spoke. "We do, however, have two
She sat up. "What are they?"
"The first is janitorial."
"You mean those people who go around sweeping up after
everyone?" That might not be so bad. At least I could keep
moving, and nobody ever pays attention to them.
He raised an eyebrow. "Some of our janitorial employees do
that, but not this position. This one is cleaning up the women's
Candace's stomach turned. In her mind she pictured the
high-school bathroom by fourth period, and that was only with
a few hundred users, not thousands. There was no way she was
"Um, and the other one is ...?" she managed to ask as diplomatically
as she could.
"Cotton candy operator."
"I'll take it!" she exclaimed, more loudly than she had
"Good!" Lloyd stood up and opened a drawer in one of his
many filing cabinets. He pulled out a stack of papers two inches
thick and slammed them down on his desk right in front of her.
The desk continued to shake for a moment as though there had
just been an earthquake. "Fill those out."
"Now?" she asked, her mind boggling over the enormity of
the task. She moved slightly so that she was eye level with the
stack, and she could feel her hand begin to cramp up in premature
"Yes, now. You can, however, use the table in the courtyard if
you'd be more comfortable."
The word duh
came to mind, but she bit her tongue and
kept it to herself.
"Yes, sir, thank you. I'll do that," she said instead, scrambling
to her feet and grabbing the stack of papers. She made her way
out of the room as fast as she could, taking a deep breath once
in the hallway.
The hallways around this place are roomier than the offices
she thought to herself as she immediately began to feel less
claustrophobic. She turned around, not sure which way the
courtyard would be. She hadn't seen one on her way in, so it
must be in the other direction.
She came to a T in the hall and craned her neck to the right.
All she could see that way were more offices, so she turned to
the left ...
... and ran straight into a six-foot wall.
"Umph," the wall gasped as Candace's papers went flying in
"I am so sorry," Candace said, realizing that the wall she had
run into was actually a guy, a big guy, a guy with muscles she
could see through his shirt. She looked up and forgot what she
was going to say next. She was staring at the Lone Ranger. He
stood there, larger than life in pale blue, complete with boots
and gun belt. Black wavy hair shone from underneath a white
hat pushed far back on his head. A black mask covered part of
All this was not what stopped her in her tracks, though.
What took her breath away and caused her to stare like an idiot
were his eyes. He had amazing eyes that were bright blue and
crackled like lightning. He stared right through her, and her
heart began to hammer.
He smiled at her, and she felt dizzy. "Are you lost, my lady?"
She nodded, still unable to look away from those piercing
"Here, let me help you," he said, bending down.
For one dizzying moment his face came close to hers, and
she thought he was going to kiss her just like in some movie.
Instead of kissing her, though, he knelt down and began picking
up her papers.
, she said to herself, feeling her cheeks burning. Her
knees began to buckle, and she covered it by quickly dropping
down to her knees and scooping up some of the papers that
had managed to spread themselves across the width of the hall.
"I'm such a klutz," she said.
"Not at all. How could you expect to run into something
when you're not looking where you're going?"
She glanced up quickly, stunned at the rebuke. Then she
noticed that he was grinning from ear to ear. They both burst
"That should do it," he said finally, handing her the last sheet
of paper. His fingers brushed hers, and she felt her stomach do
"So, where are you headed?"
"Um, um," she stammered for a moment, her mind going
"I take it you're filling these out?" he said, tapping the stack
She nodded, relieved as she remembered, "Something was
said about a courtyard that had a table."
"I'll show you where it is."
She fell into step with him, and he led her down the corridor.
They made three quick turns in a row and arrived at a door
leading out to what truly was a small courtyard.
"There you go," he said, holding the door open for her. She
walked outside into the sun and plunked her papers down onto
"I live to serve."
She couldn't think of something witty to say, so she just
stared at him.
He winked at her. "I'll see you around."
Then he turned and left. She sank down into the chair, her
knees feeling weak. "Who was that masked man?"
* * *
Four hours and three phone calls to her father later, Candace
finished filling out the application. She stacked up the tax
forms, identity forms, nondisclosure forms, noncompetition
agreements, and receipt-of-employee-handbook forms. And
with a snort, she put the background check and financial disclosure
form on top of the whole stack. She was seventeen,
and she had no finances to disclose. She'd had a momentary
panic about the background check until she realized they were
looking for things like a criminal background or drug use and
wouldn't be interested in the fact that she'd had detention
twice in seventh grade.
She flipped back through the employee handbook. It was
over a hundred pages long. After reading through it, she realized
that The Zone had a policy and procedure for absolutely
everything. They even had three different emergency-evacuation
plans, depending on whether it was fire, weapons problems,
or natural disasters. Clearly the people who worked on the
handbook were paranoid, and now, after reading it, so was she.
She dragged herself to her feet, her stomach angrily reminding
her that lunch had been hours before and she had missed it.
She miraculously made her way back through the maze of corridors
to Mr. Peterson's office. He was speaking on the phone,
so she stood in the doorway until he looked up and saw her.
He hung up the phone. "Come in, Candy. I take it you're
She nodded, handing him the stack.
"Excellent. Well, I'll take a look at all these. I'm sure they're in
order. Let me just get copies of your driver's license and social
She fished them out of her purse and handed them to him.
He left the office for a minute and then returned with photocopies.
He handed her cards back to her.
"Okay, you'll start orientation tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" she asked.
"Yes, is there a problem with that?" he asked sharply.
"I just thought I'd have a couple of days before—"
"Tomorrow's our last orientation class for the summer. It's
either tomorrow or never."
an option, no matter how much she wanted it
to be. A vision of a certain masked man flitted briefly through
her mind. Then again, maybe this wasn't going to be so bad
"Tomorrow. Tomorrow is fine for me," she said.
"Report to the lobby at seven forty a.m."
There went any hope she had of sleeping in, probably forever.
She sighed and nodded.
* * *
"What do you mean you have to be home early tonight?"
Candace's best friend, Tamara Wilcox, huffed over the phone. "I
thought we were hanging out?"
"We can still hang. I just need to get some sleep. I have
to start work early in the morning," Candace explained. She
flipped onto her back and braced her legs against the wall next
to her bed.
There was only silence on the other end of the phone.
"Tam, you still there?"
"Uh-huh. Meet me at Starbucks."
"Can't. I'm getting a job to earn summer spending money,
and Dad won't give me an advance."
"I'm buying. Just get your butt over here."
* * *
Ten minutes later Candace was sitting down at a corner table
where Tamara was already waiting for her. Without a word,
Tamara slid a grande hot chocolate with a shot of raspberry
across the table to her.
Candace blew through the tiny opening in the lid like she
always did. Tonight, though, the whistling sound it produced
didn't make her smile. She was too busy trying to avoid looking
at the daggers in Tamara's eyes.
"So, you're ditching me for the summer?"
"No, just five days a week. I should be free evenings and
"Did they guarantee that?"
"Well, no, but they said it would likely be that. They couldn't
expect me to work during church, you know?"
Tamara crossed her arms over her chest, a sure sign she
wasn't buying it. "And what about youth group? Even if they
don't make you work Sunday morning they're going to make
you work Friday nights."
"I should be free evenings," Candace said, slinking down
into her seat and hating that she was repeating herself. Somehow,
it sounded less plausible than it had earlier in the recruiter's
"And if you're not? It's bad enough you're going to be blowing
off church and youth group, but what about me? I'm your
best friend. What kind of summer am I going to have without
"Come on, no matter what hours I get, it will only be thirty-five
a week. We can still do all kinds of stuff. And I'll have the
money to pay for it," Candace said with a sigh. It was amazing
sometimes how Tamara could turn anyone's pain into her own.
Tamara uncrossed her arms and leaned forward, tapping
one perfectly manicured nail on the table. "You know, if money
is the issue, I can take care of that."
Candace stared at her. Tamara was rich. Her whole family
was. Her monthly allowance was more than some people made
in a year. Candace knew she was serious, and it was a tempting
"I can't," she said at last, tears of frustration filling her eyes.
"My dad would kill me."
Tamara sat back, a disappointed look on her face. "Oh, is
he pulling that rite-of-passage, learn-the-value-of-work crap on
Candace nodded and wiped her eyes with the back of her
hand. "Yeah, he'd freak if I backed out. And I don't think you're
prepared to pay for my college tuition."
Tamara laughed. "Would it get you to bail on this whole
Candace scowled. "He's my dad. What can I do?"
"Nothing," Tamara said, shaking her head. "Parents are so
Excerpted from The Summer of Cotton Candy
by Debbie Viguié
Copyright © 2008 by Debbie Viguié.
Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.