Authors: Kenny Wright
Paul pressed on. “So does the person asking the question need to answer?”
Beth took a seat next to him and wiped down the spill, even though Paul had already taken care of it. I laughed to myself as Paul’s jaw tightened.
I got back to Paul’s question. “Let’s keep it up to the person asking. It’s voluntary.”
Paul’s Type A personality objected, but he let it slide. “Fine.”
“So we ready?” Beth asked.
Amber took a seat on the hearth opposite the fire from me. “Definitely.”
Casey sank into the loveseat by herself, a glass of wine in her hands. “Me too.”
Amber tossed out the first question, and it was directed right at me. “I want to know sex partners. How many? I know Paul’s, and have a hunch on Beth’s, but I’m clueless about you, big boy.”
My body was warmed by more than just the fire. Like I said, this wasn’t an area that Beth and I talked about much, and I was a little ashamed at how slutty I was back in college. I always justified it by my complete lack of action in high school, but that didn’t make the number sound any better.
“Uh…” I glanced at Beth, who just batted her long lashes over at me. “Uh, I don’t know. A lot?”
“What’s a lot mean?” Amber asked. “Don’t tell me you don’t actually know...”
Amber slid across the slate hearth of the fireplace until our hips touched. Her blue eyes were alight. “Paul, how many have you had, again?”
“19.” He gritted his teeth.
“I’m sorry to hear that Jason is just a little bit more of a man than you,” Amber said sweetly, resting her head on my shoulder.
Amber and Paul were back in competition mode. I wondered if they were like this when they were alone, then thought of the two of them upstairs and realized that they probably were.
Then Paul said the worst thing possible. “We’d be tied if I’d slept with your wife, too.”
Here was the problem with goading Paul. He got vindictive and reached for the freshest weapon at his disposal: knowledge of me and Amber.
“What?” Beth swiveled around to look at Paul.
“Oh, your hubby didn’t tell you about the two of them?”
“Really?” Beth turned to stare at me.
My body burned, and it wasn’t just from the proximity to the fire. “It was a long time ago. Before we met.”
I glanced at Paul, who was looking pleased with himself. I hoped he saw the murder in my eyes.
Beth reached out and took a sip of her mulled wine. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t good. When she glanced at me and Amber, I realized how bad this looked. Like love birds in front of the fire.
Beth’s bangs fell across her face as she slowly shook her head. “That explains a lot.”
I glanced at Amber, who looked just as confused as I felt, then back at my wife. Beth was laughing.
“What?” I asked.
“You two are funny. You could have
me, you know. It’s no big deal. Just...you guys always seemed closer than most platonic friendships, you know? Different than Casey and Jace.” She turned to look at the diminutive brunette. “You’re not one of the twenty, are you?”
Casey laughed. “Don’t worry. Jason was too in love with Michelle Thompson to notice a nerdy girl like me.”
“Let’s not go down that road, please,” I mumbled.
“So why didn’t you tell me? Apparently, Amber told Paul.”
“I should have, yeah. Just...never seemed like a good time. And then it was too late, you know?”
As I spoke, Beth set her glass of wine down and crawled into Paul’s lap. Pin-pricks of jealousy tickled my scalp as she whispered into his ear. “Paul, maybe we should punish them. Get your number up to 20?”
My throat tightened. “Beth...”
“Hey, I’m game,” Paul said. I knew they were joking around, but I didn’t like the way his eyes lingered on Beth’s body when she looked over at me. He’d stolen a girl or two from me before, and while things were now much different, I still didn’t like it.
I looked over at Amber, who wasn’t taking the situation nearly as seriously as I was. She just rolled her eyes and looked at Casey. “How about you, Case? Are you more or less experienced than these mansluts?”
A sly smile spread across Casey’s face. “First of all, sheer quantity has nothing to do with being more or less experienced, believe me.” Clear blue eyes shimmered behind her dark glasses. I wondered what secrets she held. I knew that she’d been pretty adventurous in college, but we weren’t the type of friends to exchange sex stories.
Then, she added, “But I’ve also had more than either of them.”
All attention was on her. “How much more?” Amber asked.
She squinted, as if thinking. “I hit 22 in Vegas.” She took a sip of her wine. “But my number was only 19 before I went out there.”
“Wow.” Beth wiggled a little in Paul’s lap, and I wondered what she felt there. “And here I thought my ten was pretty high.”
After hearing all these numbers, her ten should have sounded low—
have, but didn’t. I knew my wife was active before me, but not
active. I did the quick math. We’d started dating toward the end of her sophomore year and had been exclusive ever since; she was nineteen. To have nine guys before me was something I couldn’t wrap my head around.
I met Beth’s eyes. She was smiling, but I could see the concern on her face.
I love you
, she mouthed. I mouthed it back, still feeling uncertain.
Amber blew out a sigh. “Well, that was enlightening.”
“What about you? You going to answer?” Casey asked.
The blonde laughed. “I think I’m going to pass, but you guys are making me feel like a saint in this room.”
Beth seemed more interested in Casey’s number than not hearing Amber’s. “So Vegas lived up to its name?”
“Oh yeah. You just have to go into it with the right mindset.”
I cleared my head and focused on Paul. He still had a chatting Beth in his lap and I didn’t like it. “Refill, man?” I asked, hoping to get him up.
He just held his cup out to me and grinned. “Sure, I’d love another.”
Jealousy tickled up the back of my neck—especially since Beth didn’t even seem to notice when he put his hand on her hip. I clenched my jaw and grabbed the Solo cup from him.
“Fine. Everyone else get your refills. When I’m back, I get the next question.”
The scene was close to the same when I got back. Beth had slid into a recliner on the sofa, but her feet were still propped in Paul’s lap. Amber was still by the fire and Casey still on the loveseat. I thought about breaking up the Paul/Beth combo and sitting between them, but went right back to the fire.
I decided to go for a more insidious payback.
I locked eyes with Paul. “Tell me about a fantasy that you have, but I don’t know about.”
I saw the instant doubt flicker in his eyes. The worry. He was wondering if I knew something, if I knew of his little fantasy: that despite all that bravado he put on, deep down, he wanted to be cuckolded.
“Okay...” he said slowly. He pulled his eyes away from me, glanced at Amber briefly, then settled on my wife.
“Well played,” Amber softy whispered, barely audible to my ear. Amber knew I knew? Interesting...
“A fantasy that I’ve never revealed to you,” Paul repeated. At first, I thought he was stalling for time. Then I realized he was looking at Beth. “I know you were joking just now, but...but my fantasy’s you. From the second Jason introduced me to you... He’s a lucky man.”
The room was silent but for the crackle and pop of the fire behind me. He wasn’t bullshitting. Like the epiphany that must have hit Beth when she learned about me and Amber, suddenly, so many things made sense. The way his voice softened when talking just with her. The way he would watch her from across the room. So many little things...
And me? An ugly possessiveness seized me. Beth wasn’t in his lap anymore, but all of a sudden, all those touches, hugs, and the seemingly innocent flirtations came thundering back. How innocent had they been? I saw green in the darkening living room.
“Well...” Beth said. Few things truly left her speechless. “Um...”
“So this is a little awkward,” Casey added.
“That’s not very funny, Paul,” Amber said. I heard fire in her words.
Paul looked over at Amber, his face hardening. The growing shadows gave an edge to his beer commercial handsomeness—the Dude in him had a dark side. “Jason wanted to hear about a fantasy he didn’t know. Judging from his reaction, he didn’t know that one.”
Amber went on. “And me? Were you going to tell me you’ve got the hots for my best friend?”
“Only if you got enough drinks in me and we played a party game.”
Amber didn’t even bother addressing Paul. She looked over at Beth. “I’m really sorry about this. We’re having a bit of a...thing now. I don’t know.”
Beth glanced quickly at me, checking to see if I was okay, then did what I loved her for: she broke the ice with hardly any effort. “Well, that means I’m that much closer to my own secret fantasy. I’ve never been with two men.”
I wanted to leap across the room and kiss her.
Then I realized what she’d just confessed and my jaw dropped.
“Oh, you should definitely try that,” Casey added, further dispelling the heavy scene. “It can be intense, but so, so good.”
All eyes turned on Casey now, who was cleaning her glasses with the bottom of her shirt. She looked up, set her dark frames back on, and pretended to see us there for the first time. “What?”
Beth spoke for us all. “You’re full of surprises.”
“Good. That’s the way I like it.” There was so much mischief in that smile.
To me, Beth said, “I’m starting to see why you like her.”
Casey laughed. “Oh, Jace liked me ‘cause I let him copy answers on tests.”
“Not true!” I denied.
“Oh? You would have passed Granderson’s pre-cal midterm without my help?”
“I was...” Shit, this whole time I thought I was getting away with something. “Fine, whatever. You’re the smart one.”
“And the sexy one,” Casey added.
Amber got involved, this time with a barb at Paul, of course. “I thought that’s the title Paul always claimed in your trio.”
Casey and I responded as one. “He did.” And everyone but Paul laughed.
Paul gritted his teeth. “Aren’t we answering questions here? So Beth? That’s really your fantasy? A threesome with two guys?”
When the focus shifted back to Beth, she blushed enough to see in the waning light. “That’s one that Jason doesn’t know about. Yeah. I have lots of fantasies.”
Paul pressed, as intense as ever. “Any specific guys in mind?”
“Taylor Lautner and Zac Efron would be yummy.”
Despite the flip response, she kept shooting me glances, checking that I was cool with it.
I was. Just surprised to learn something new about her. We were pretty open with each other about our fantasies, but she was right, I’d never heard this one. I thought of her shared kiss with Amber—and her nine past lovers—and wondered what other secrets she had.
Her blush deepened under my thoughtful stare.
She cleared her throat and looked at Casey. “So what about you, Case? Do you even have any fantasies left?”
Casey laughed good-naturedly. “God, Beth. You make me sound like a slut.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”
“Don’t worry about it. I probably was.” She rolled her eyes. “Am? I don’t know. College and the year after were definitely pretty crazy.”
“Based on your 22, I’d say,” Beth said, regarding my old friend in a new light. I’d always presented her as my nerdy high school friend and as innocent and naive as me, but despite looking pretty much the same, she’d apparently done a lot of
in the past seven years.
“So a fantasy that I have that I haven’t already fulfilled and Jason doesn’t know about... Well, I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai.”
We all laughed, even Paul, which was good to see.
“But I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for, is it, Jace?”
“You can answer however you like. We’re free to judge you if we think the answer’s lame.”
“Well, we wouldn’t want that, would we? Okay, well, I’ve always wanted to watch a couple have sex.”
“I’d definitely recommend it,” I blurted. My clumsy attempt to be witty was entirely fueled by beer, and where Casey and Beth had managed to diffuse potential awkwardness with their revelations, mine added to it. And as if I was on a mission to make things as uncomfortable as possible for me, I turned to look at Amber as I said it. I looked away, but it was too late.
“So Mr. Voyeur had more experience than just with Beth?” Amber asked beside me.
“I may not have Casey’s experience, but I’ve been around.” I was so focused on being defensive that it took me a moment to process what she’d said:
I looked back at Beth. “You told her?”
At least Beth had the grace to look repentant. “Girl talk.”
Paul came alive. “What are you three talking about?”
Casey looked just as interested.
Good, at least they hadn’t told Paul.
Beth saved me. “It’s not important. And it’s Amber’s turn to answer.”
“Oh, this one’s going to be good. Right, Paul?”
Paul looked at Amber sideways before realization dawned on him. “Amber…”
Amber ignored him. “For you to really understand, you need some background. Despite what you all probably think of me, I’ve always been a relationship girl.”
“You’ve just had a lot of relationships,” I said.
“I’ve had a few. But not as many as you probably think. I’ve never cheated on a lover. Never had a one night stand. Never woke up in a stranger’s bed...” She paused. Paul fidgeted a little. “Thing is, I’d never been all that curious. I figured I could have most guys I was interested in, so why bother with that whole bar scene, you know?”
“At least you’re modest,” I said, nudging her hip.
“Hey, I’m being honest here! So anyway, a few months ago, Paul and I took a trip down to Cancun. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort—you know, drinks, meals, all of that came complimentary. It was paradise—literally. The only little hiccup was that Paul had to call in for a meeting on the second day. So I decided to go down and hang out by the pool bar. No sense in wasting the day listening to him drone on and on.”