“Remind me why we’re going to this party again?”
Madison laughed from my bed and flipped another page in whatever teen-trash magazine she brought over. Nothing like celebrity gossip and how to get the guy articles to expand intellect. Then again, she never poked fun at me when she caught me reading a romance book. Even if the cover featured an all-muscle dude. Which is precisely why I kept my lips sealed when she pulled it out. We made a pact long ago that we were only allowed to call each other out on crap when it was serious. And her infatuation bordering on obsession with the Hemsworth brothers and the newest lipstick trends didn’t fall into that category.
“You know why. We’re celebrating the end of the year, the beginning of an amazing summer, and the fact that you and I are officially seniors.” Her feet kicked her butt as she let out a squeal.
I scowled at my clothes or maybe at the simplicity of her answer. Of course she saw the party that way. I, on the other hand, saw it as a loud mass of bodies crowded together into a tiny space. Nothing but a group of kids hoping to get into trouble and each other’s pants. Especially since Hunter, the emperor of rule breaking, was throwing it. No doubt with his best friend, King Douche-McGouche right by his side. No way we wouldn’t be breaking some kind of fire marshal code. Or a plethora of other laws. Which was not something I felt comfortable with.
“All anyone ever does is get wasted,” I grumbled as I pulled out a black dress I was certain I wore to my great aunt’s funeral. When I was eleven. A donation to Goodwill would need to go on the summer to-do list.
“Yes, but you’re so good at being designated driver,” she called in the sweetest singsong voice she could muster before I heard her feet hit the hardwood. “Now would you please pick something.”
“All I have is school clothes.”
“What’s wrong with your school clothes?”
I gave a pointed look at her outfit before spinning around to thumb through the same articles of clothing I’d already passed over three times. Madison looked amazing per usual. Her mothers never capped her spending and never approve what she bought beforehand. Total opposite of helicopter parents.
Her chosen party outfit—which I made her wait to change into until my mother left—was a risqué combination of a white frilly crop top that was one sneeze away from showing underboob and denim miniskirt she thought appropriate to pair with black thigh-high leather boots. If I tried to leave the house looking like that, my mother would have a heart attack, then come back to haunt me just to guilt me.
Thus the whole changing after my mother left.
“You look beautiful in everything you wear.”
I snorted, pulling out an emerald green lacy tank top. It would have to do.
“Seriously.” Madison reached into my closet and grabbed a pair of dark-wash skinny jeans. She tossed them to me and leaned against the doorframe. “I have to try harder because I inherited my mother’s short gene and my sperm donor’s buck teeth. At least, I’m assuming I got that from him. I’ve never seen a picture of my mom with braces.” She waved away her own rambling. “Me on the other hand… ‘Member how much I was teased? Now that I fixed the teeth I gotta make sure I leave a better lasting impression.”
I chuckled as I slipped on the jeans, doing a little shimmy to get them over my butt. Speaking of things that were inherited from parents... “That was how many years ago? You got your braces off before you even started high school.”
“Need I remind you we still go to school with kids that do remember? Like that water god that lives next door.”
I wrinkled my nose at the mention of Parker. He had been my neighbor since we were in diapers, and a pain in my ass for the past four years. His recurring attempts to torment me and his perpetual man-whoring ways—including dating several of the girls that ran in our circle—pretty much put a nail in the coffin that would have been our friendship. Not to be judgy mind you. I just figured if he hated me so much he would steer clear of people I sat with at lunch and spent weekends with. Seeing him tongue-screw a girl’s ear in the cafeteria was enough to make me almost lose my lunch. Perhaps my utter look of disgust is what got him off. Just another way to torture me. Though in truth, it had gotten to the point where breathing was enough to set me off.
Like a fly buzzing around that I just couldn’t catch.
A wool sweater on a summer day.
I could go on and on. The point was, he annoyed me beyond words and the thought of my best friend hooking up with him made me want to puke then hold an exorcism to purge her from the almost demonic allure Parker possessed.
“Please don’t talk about him like that, I’m trying really hard to keep dinner down as it is.” I plopped down in my computer chair with a dramatic gag and ran a brush through my hair.
“Oh, come on. Yes, he’s like king of douche town, but you have to admit he’s hot.”
It would never be something I would admit out loud. Never, ever. He was one of those people who ruined their good looks the second they spoke and their inner self showed how ugly they actually were. But in truth, I was grateful for his inability to keep any of his thoughts inside his head. If he ever shut up for more than a few seconds, I would have to admit that he leaned more toward the side of panty-dropping model than he did soul-sucking demon spawn. That would be terrible for my ego. Thankfully for me that day would never come.
“You need some makeup. And lucky for you…” Madison picked her backpack up from the floor and rummaged around until she came out with a blue paisley makeup bag.
“Aren’t I being tortured enough with you dragging me to this party?”
“Would you shut up already and admit it’s going to be fun? Hunter’s parents are out of town and the whole class plus some recently graduated seniors are going to be there. You know what that means? College boys. And I haven’t dated one of those yet.”
I laughed and flinch away as Madison tried to attack me with a black eyeliner. Madison had a list of boys she intended to date before graduating. And by date she meant hook up with. Chalk it up to being ignored for the first part of puberty, but the girl was on a roll. She’d already dated a boy from pretty much every sports team our school had. Then dropped them the moment she got bored.
Or so she said. My theory was that she never wanted to get too close. A feeling I knew well.
* * *
Twenty minutes later Madison grinned at me like a Cheshire cat as I frantically blinked, struggling and failing to get my eyes to stop watering. It happened every time I wore eye makeup. Within fifteen minutes I looked like a damn raccoon. No clue why I kept letting her torture me.
Madison sighed as she tucked a tissue into my hand. “I was really hoping your eyes would cooperate tonight.”
“No such luck.” I wiped away as much as I could. After a few passes my eyes stopped freaking out, and I retained a modest amount of the black gunk she lined them with. Better than her last attempt.
I snagged a pair of black wedges from my closet before heading to the door. “Let’s get this nightmare over with.”
My mom was out at her book club so I left her a note on our refrigerator chalkboard that I’d gone out with Madison and would be back by curfew. I didn’t want to text her because she would ask a thousand questions and I might have left out the fact that we’re going to a party. My mom was pretty reserved, and I already knew it would just turn into an argument. It wasn’t as if she even had to worry anyway. I had managed to evade the illicit drugs and alcohol she always rambled on about. In fact, I tended to be DD most of the time.
As I locked my front door, I caught a shadowed figure out of the corner of my eye in the driveway over standing next to the red Eclipse Parker got for his sixteenth birthday from a car auction. Total steal. Or so I heard.
Madison bumped me with her shoulder and bit her lip in the stupid flirty bordering on sexual way she did when someone caught her eye. “Would it be cheating if I revisit the swim team? I know I swore to one per team, but that boy makes me question my convictions.”
“Hey 4.0.” A deep voice called from behind me.
Freaking Parker Hayes.
I tossed my keys into my purse, choking down a groan. All it ever did was egg him on anyway.
“You know calling her smart isn’t really an insult, right?” Madison called from my side. “My girl is going to get into any college she wants with grades like hers.”
“And I’ll get into any college I want, full ride just because I’m awesome.” Parker’s hands bounced off his chest in a way that made me think he was challenging the world to go against his word.
“Way to flaunt your lack of intelligence, Parker. Don’t most colleges have a rule about maintaining a certain GPA while on a sports scholarship? I’ll be amazed if you’re not working at the local gas station by your second year,” I bit back with a sneer.
Parker smirked and leaned against the driver side door of the car I shared with my mom, blocking my escape. “I love it when you talk nerdy to me. Tell me again why more boys aren’t falling all over you with that know-it-all attitude?”
“Can you move?” I crossed my arms over my chest and sent him the best death glare I could muster.
“Where you ladies headed, the library?” He ran a hand through his floppy hair, pushing it off his forehead.
He needed a damn haircut. For some reason I couldn’t stop the image of me attacking him with clippers from popping into my head.
I might have done that once when we were kids as retribution for getting gum in my hair. He just laughed after, sucking all the fun out of it.
“We’re going to Hunter’s party and I’m already late,” I growled, trying and failing to make him understand that I wanted him to go. Far, far away from me.
His mouth popped open in mock surprise. “Well, me too. How about we all carpool? That way I for sure have a safe ride home with Captain DD.”
“Go to hell, Parker.” I bumped him with my hip but he didn’t budge.
“Man, it’s going to take a lot of schmoozing to get me to rate this ride higher than a one star.”
“I’m not a damn car service!” I tried to slip my hand behind him, figuring if I could pull the door open I could dislodge him, but all he did was press his lower back harder onto the door and my hand.
“That’s not what I hear. Every time you go to a party, you mom out and end up giving half the class a ride home. I figured I’d jump the line. And since we live so close…” He leaned into me, raising an eyebrow.
Madison propped the passenger door open, giving me a pleading look. “Just give him a ride, Lil, we’re already late.”
Late my ass. She just wanted to flirt the whole drive.
I failed to control my irritated groan. All I really wanted to do was choke the life out of him with my bare hands. Instead, I found myself nodding. “Fine. Whatever.”
Parker grinned in his stupid cocky way and slid off my door. I slammed it shut a little harder than I needed to, causing Madison to glance my way. With a giant smile on her face.
Hunter lived right up the road in a new age schmancy smart house in a division that even after five years was only partially finished. The developers failed to think about costs beforehand. Not many people could afford the ridiculous price tag. It didn’t stop them from tearing down our favorite park though…
Thankfully for me the proximity meant I only had to endure the flirty conversation between Madison and Parker for a short while. By the time we got to the party, I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and get lost in the crowd. Parker kept his digs to a minimum, maybe he was scared I’d finally snap and send the car off the side of the road. Maybe he was too busy chatting up my traitor of a best friend. In any event, I made it through the drive with minimal homicidal thoughts.
Parker hopped out of the car at the same time as me, bouncing on the balls of his feet before leaning over the door into my personal space. “Thanks for the ride, peaches.” He pinched my chin between his thumb and forefinger and all my suppressed rage toward him boiled up, reaching an internal flash point. “I’ll let you know if I need a ride home. That is, if I don’t find a hotter option in there.”
And with that he jogged up the driveway, leaving me stewing in all the thoughts I wanted to say out loud that he robbed me of.
“We’re ditching him, right?” Madison asked as she joined me on the other side of the car.
She giggled and linked her arm through mine. “I think he has a thing for you.”
“Excuse me?” I nearly tripped on the cobblestone leading up to Hunter’s front door.
“He totally has the hots for you. All that teasing is repressed lust.”
“What did I tell you about saying disgusting things when it comes to Parker?”
“I’m just saying is all.”
Madison’s terrible commentary came to an abrupt end as we stepped into the house and were swallowed up by the thumping bass of some dance music that sounded the same as every other dance track I had ever heard. Bodies filled the foyer and spilled into every room. Lots of hands-on flirting. The potent smell of alcohol and other herbal refreshments.
About as bad as I anticipated.
Madison grabbed my hand and dragged me through the mass of bodies to the kitchen. I had half a mind to dig my heels in and insist on leaving, but the few lusty looks a couple of the guys from our class threw her way convinced me to stay. She would need a DD and possibly a bodyguard to beat them off.
The kitchen island was lined with plastic shot glasses overflowing with a bright-colored substance. In the middle sat a giant glass bowl filled with red liquid and to the side was a keg.
“How do they get all this alcohol?” I shouted over the music.
Madison simply shrugged her shoulders and grabbed one of the shot glasses. Now that I was closer I recognized it as Jell-O.
She let the gel fall into her mouth and gave me a wink. Just as I suspected, she only wanted me to come so she could get hammered and still have a ride home.
Well, screw that.
Feeling disobedient, I cocked my head and grabbed a red cup. Her eyebrows shot up as I dipped it into whatever punch concoction filled the glass bowl. Of course, I didn’t plan on drinking it, I just loved the look on her face when I did something she didn’t expect.
Instead of being mad though she bounced up and down with a squeal and snagged another Jell-O shot.
“Don’t tell me Captain DD is drinking?” Parker called as he strode into the kitchen with one of his other jock friends, Aiden, in tow. I was pretty sure he was the one Madison had a drunken hookup with right before school let out. By the way her eyes narrowed, I was almost one hundred percent sure.
I rolled my eyes and took a sip out of pure defiance of the title I’d been given. You’d think they would all be happy that I made sure they didn’t die or get a DUI on their record, which would prevent them from playing college sports. I was also wondering why at a party of this size, Parker stood by my side instead of finding his next girl victim.
“You’re by the alcohol, genius,” Parker said, accurately reading my thoughts. They must have been plastered all over my face again. I tend to not be able to hide them very well around him.
Somehow, it still doesn’t scare him off.
“Hey, Madison,” Aiden said as he grabbed two Jell-O shots, passing her one.
“Not gonna happen,” she yelled over the music.
I watched his smile fall for a millisecond before he shrugged. But that small reaction told me that maybe he liked her a hell of a lot more than he let on. And of all the guys she dated, he was far from the worst. Nice even.
I made a mental note to dig a little deeper. If she felt anything toward him, there was a chance I could persuade her into dating exclusively and give up her man crusade.
Her eyes caught one of the guys from track-and-field two seconds later.
There goes that idea…
“So, DD…” Parker leaned into me, hand settling on my hip.
My molars almost cracked from the pressure I pushed into them in order to keep from landing a kick square in his balls.
“We’re gonna play a game of truth or dare downstairs. Want to join?”
“Not if my life depended on it. And get your hand off me.”
He smirked, unmoved by the malice in my voice, and pivoted away, taking a sip of his drink.
“Truth or dare?” Madison squealed at my side. “I haven’t played that since—”
“You had metal teeth and spoke with a lisp?” Parker cut her off.
I elbowed his side, but he only laughed, his lips hovering over the edge of the cup. Madison flipped him off and clutched my hand with a bit too much enthusiasm.
“I’m good.” I took another sip of the drink. It wasn’t entirely bad, but I needed to break away from the group so I could dump it. I didn’t plan on getting drunk and I wholeheartedly planned on following through being DD for whoever needed it.
“Scared you’ll have to admit your feelings for me?” Parker grinned, biting the edge of the cup.
Why did girls fall for that?
“The lust for murder your very presence instills in me?”
“Can’t you just talk normal for once?”
“Oh I’m sorry…let me make it easier for you. Girl no like you. You big jerk.”
“Why are you flirting with him?” Madison attempted to whisper in my ear. The shots must have hit her faster than she expected because half the room heard her, judging by the glances and smirks.
“Yeah, 4.0, why are you flirting with me?” Parker’s cocky grin was back.
“I’m not!” I pushed Madison off me but she only giggled, catching herself on a barstool.
“Let’s play.” Madison took my hand and jerked me toward the living room. I had been in Hunter’s house several times mostly for parties—once for a study group—so I knew where she was taking me. Down to the man cave as it’s so absurdly named.
I gave in with a growl and allowed her to drag me out of the kitchen. As we passed a table in the hall I set my drink down. No way in hell would I have that handy. Knowing Parker or pretty much any other person at these types of events, they would just dare me to drink the whole thing and then we would be stuck till I sobered up.
Madison let go of me to use the banister for balance as we made our way downstairs. The music wasn’t as loud down on the lower level. Or as crowded. At least I could hear myself think again.
A group of kids huddled on the couch playing some fighting game on the giant flat screen TV. Two kids shrieked, playing a rather uncoordinated game of air hockey—seriously, who has an air hockey table in their house? The group that Madison made her way to sat in a small circle. Some on Lovesacs others on the floor.
My heart skipped an uneven a beat when I realized I really, really didn’t want to do this. I was nowhere near an open book. Madison had been my only close friend since middle school and there was no way I wanted to share anything personal with this group of kids. Which only left me with dare and I couldn’t even fathom what their drunk brains would come up with.
Madison plopped down on the ground, patting the carpet next to her. Parker and Aiden weren’t far behind as I sat cross-legged on the floor. I was happy I chose jeans. Madison looked uncomfortable as hell with her legs off to the side tucked under so that no one got a peek at her goods.
Parker sat across from me and raised an eyebrow that I read as a challenge right as the host of the party walked in carrying a clear bottle of what I could only assume was alcohol. He pushed a kid out of the Lovesac to my right and sat down.
“Alright, you all know the rules. If at any point you refuse a truth you take one shot. You refuse a dare and it’s two shots. And I’ve upped the ante. This is Everclear. It will knock you on your ass quicker than the punch upstairs.”
I gulped and narrowed a glare at Madison. “Did you know about this?”
She smirked and straightened her skirt feigning innocence.
I was going to kill her.
Or relieve her of the best friend title.
“Okay, the last person to have sex gets to start.” Hunter looked around the circle of faces until the girl next to Parker cleared her throat.
“About ten minutes ago,” she offered, keeping her eyes downcast.
“Nice.” Parker sent her a wink, which caused her to laugh and shake her head.
It really wasn’t that funny. Something told me they hooked up at least once judging from the red color to her cheeks and the fit of giggles.
“Okay, since Parker likes to be the center of attention…” she said. “Truth or dare?”
“Dare, of course.”
“Give me your best striptease for two minutes.”
“Please, I thought you were more original than that, Em.” Parker jumped up and pointed at Hunter. “Give me a good song.”
Hunter quickly scrolled through his phone before a thumping beat blared out of his speakers. I buried my face in my clammy hands as Parker started gyrating to the song. Madison whooped from beside me then the rest of the group joined in. I peeked through my fingers long enough to see Parker shirtless and his abs rippling with whatever hip roll he was doing. That would be an image I could never wipe from my head. Even if mental bleach was a thing, I would be scarred.
“Yeah, baby!” Madison hollered.
Pure torture. Worse than I thought when Madison first demanded I come. It wasn’t as if I hated these people—except Parker—but they had never been my crowd. I was too introverted for this crap.
The music abruptly ended. “Time,” Hunter shouted.
I let out a premature breath as Parker sat back down. Topless. He fist-bumped Hunter then draped his shirt around his neck. My eyes jerked away, trying but failing not to notice his rather nice six-pack.
Nope. Bad thoughts.
I shook my head.
If that was the kind of dare I was in store for, there was no way in hell I planned on choosing that.
“So, Lily, truth or dare?”
I blinked a few times before I realized Parker was talking to me. “T-truth.” The words flew out before my brain caught up to who I was speaking to.
He smiled like that was the response he was looking for. I opened my mouth to change my answer, but it was too late. “What’s the hottest fantasy you have when you go to solo town?”
“What?” My voice came out in a high-pitched squeal. Not a sound I think I ever made before. Heat raced up from my neck to my cheeks no doubt turning them an unattractive shade of red.
“You heard me.”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“Come on… Buffin’ the muffin. Flicking the bean. Playin’ the clitar.”
My mouth dropped open at his crude descriptions. Nope. No way was I answering that.
Hunter shook the bottle of alcohol in the air and Madison shot me a wide-eyed look. Yeah, I was trapped.
“Pretty much all you want here is masturbation material for yourself, am I right?”
“I do,” Hunter called with a grin that immediately prompted whistling from the other guys. “Out with it or take a shot.”
I let out a strangled groan. Parker was just trying to make me as uncomfortable as possible. Well, screw him. “No grand fantasy. Just me and the showerhead when the moment strikes.”
“Me too!” Em—the girl who got a lap dance leaned across divide with a raised hand to give me a high five. I obliged for the sake of moving on.
“That’s hot.” Hunter took a drink from his cup and motioned to me. “Your turn, Lil.”
“Fine, Hunter, truth or dare?”
I looked around the room for some inspiration. Spying a table of chips over in the corner, I got up and jogged to it. I returned with a jar of salsa in my hand. “Eat this whole thing.”
“Child’s play!” He snagged the jar from me, nearly spilling his drink all over my shoes in the process. Within an impressive two minutes and minimal gagging he finished off the jar.
Hunter burped, dragging the back of his hand across his mouth, and focused on Madison. “Truth or dare.”
“At the risk of giving y’all more masturbation material, dare.”
“Switch your clothes with Lily.”
My eyes went wide. “What? No!”
Madison pouted at my side. “Come on, Lil, I don’t wanna take a shot of that crap, I have work tomorrow and I would prefer not to have my head in a toilet.”
“Pick someone else then.”
“That’s not the dare.” Hunter jiggled the bottle again.
“Please.” Madison puppy-whimpered at my side.
It was a low play, and she knew it. I couldn’t say no to that stupid face.
Hunter pointed behind us. “Bathroom’s behind you.”
I shot him a glare before stepping over to the bathroom with Madison on my heels. Once the door was closed, I turned my glare on her.
“Oh, come on, we’ll change before we leave. Your mom will never see you in this.”
“And if it ends up on social media?”
Madison opened the door and poked her head out. “No pictures!”
I heard the unmistakable sound of boos from the group as she closed the door. “I’m going to kill you.”
Three minutes later I stared at myself in the mirror, trying my hardest to pull the skirt down. Madison stood several inches shorter than me and the skirt was already pushing boundaries on her. On me, it looked downright vulgar.
After a series of banging on the door from one of the impatient players, she dragged me out and toward the group. Hunter whistled and Parker’s eyebrows shot up so fast they looked like they were about to fly off his head.
“I’m not sitting on the ground in this so you’re gonna need to give me that Lovesac.” I nudged Hunter with my foot and he fell out of the beanbag with his hands covering his chest.
“Never thought I’d see the day where you wore anything besides jeans, Lily.” Parker said, seeming to have recovered his senses. “I always thought you had tentacles growing under there.” He poked my ankle and I kick his hand away.
“Nope, just legs you’ll only ever see again in your dreams so soak it up.” I sat carefully in the beanbag, making sure that the skirt didn’t rise up any farther.
“My turn!” Madison called and smiled my direction.
“There are other people playing!” I pushed away Parker as he righted himself and tried to lay his head in my lap.
“Truth or dare, Lil,” she said it in her sweet singsong voice. One that either spelled mayhem or actual sweetness. It could go either way with her.
No way I was choosing truth again, so I figured I would go with dare. She wouldn’t screw me over.
Her grin got bigger and instantly I knew she was leaning toward mayhem. “I dare you to date Parker for the summer.”