“Man-Camp” was originally a chapter in The Matriarch but was removed; the relevant plot points were referred to in Chapter 7. It was all about atmosphere – deer hunters winding down after sunset – and better presented the relationship between Daniel and his buddy Randy at odds over Janiss. Unfortunately, it slowed the book flow and was replaced with an early chapter introducing Ian.

Here it is in its original form; behold the glory of Man-camp!

“You know what? You can burn your own steak! I’ll get there when I get there, maybe not until next weekend!” Daniel jabbed his finger on the touchscreen for emphasis that the conversation had ended.

“She already hung up, didn’t she?” Randy mused.

Daniel nodded. “About a minute ago.”

The other guys at man-camp laughed once more, then went back to other conversations.

A bonfire pushed back the darkness on the hilltop. While half the group sat in lawn chairs around the fire, the rest were where the food was. Two huge grills – one constructed from an oil barrel cut in half with legs attached – were cooking burgers, chicken and ribs. No less than four coolers of ice and alcohol took up the space between them.

“You could, you know,” Randy suggested. “Stay up here this week. She’s never going to give in.”

Daniel pocketed his phone. “It’s not like that. We’ve known each other a long time. It’s not weird.”

“Is it bad?”

“No, and hooking up is how most of our friends get to know each other, not how they end up.”

“Isn’t that why you followed her to college?”

Daniel elbowed Randy in the arm. “I like her. A lot.”

“So you’re in ‘like’ with her. Like a sister?”

“No.” Daniel finished the rest of his drink. “I think she still sees me like a brother, though.”

“That’s a problem, dude.”

“Which I never should have told you about knowing you’d be throwing it in my face.”

Randy laughed and stood up. “Need a fresh one?”

Daniel shook his head, then looked off into the fire. The next thing Daniel knew, Randy had dropped another unopened beer bottle into his lap before he smacked Daniel upside his head.

“She’s still rattling around in there. You know how to get over the last girl, right? Get on the next one.”

Daniel sighed and twisted the bottle cap off. “I think she might be coming around this time.”

“Is that your big life plan?”

“No,” Daniel shrugged. “I have other things I want to do.”

“Like what? Become a professional college student? That’s your job now.”

“I’m… still trying to make up my mind.”

Randy scoffed. “And it makes no difference that her family is loaded?”

No answer.

“Well, you know what you have to do, then.”

Daniel looked at Randy, expecting another stupid remark. “What?”

“Tell her. If she rejects you, then you can finally move on and stop being pathetic.”

“Fuck you.”

Randy chuckled. “See? Now you’re thinking outside of her box.”

Without hesitation, Daniel splashed his beer at Randy. “Oops.”

“You’re wasting beer? My beer?”

Daniel motioned as if he was going to pour the rest into Randy’s lap, then stopped when he noticed everyone was watching. Before either of them moved, someone took both of their beers to hold as chants to start fighting found a chorus.

Randy grinned. “You gonna defend your skinny rich girl’s honor or just sit there like the pussy you are?”

Daniel lunged at Randy, and a time-honored man-camp tradition was fulfilled for another year.