"Hey, I was sixteen. Besides, it's tradition." Julia pouted.

"Not with the guys." That was sotto voce from Anthony.

"Really? You complaining?" I asked. I flipped over the Dare card. Remove one piece of clothing that isn't on your feet. Suddenly, male eyes got more interested.

Our first refusal came at, "Name one thing you'd like done to you in bed that you're too embarrassed to ask for. Julia?"

"You'll never make me talk."

"Ve haff vays of making you talk!" My imitation was pathetic. "Therese?" Encouraged by Julia's response, she also declined. So did Christian.

Anthony blurted, "I'll talk. Butt stuff," flushing as he did.

"By you or to you?" Julia teased and Anthony gave her the finger.

"So you want a finger up your butt?"

That got her double fingers.

Emily sat silently for a long moment. It was the first time I'd see her hesitant about any sexual topic. Finally, "I'll talk. Having a guy rim me when he's going down on me." I saw a couple of eyebrows go up. "No judgment," she added. "It's just a fantasy."

I flipped over the Dare card. Describe giving a French kiss to the person to your left of the same sex.

"What the fuck?" Christian bitched. "Is this whole game about guys doing other guys?"

"Why is it everything automatically about the guys?" Julia asked. Every syllable dripped disdain for his attitude. I didn't say anything; his reaction was predictable to me, but I was clearing out some of the dares early.

Julia turned to Emily. "I don't really know you, but I'd lean in and just barely let my lips press against yours, not touching you with any other part of my body. Then & nbsp;..." She went on to describe in detail a very tender kiss. I can't say it got my nether regions excited because it was too romantic, but I liked that someone was throwing themself into the game. Julia was like that, and she was right, she'd usually been the crazy one.

Attention turned to Therese and Christian.

Therese looked at me, the woman to her left. I saw a tough-girl expression steal onto her face. "I'd push you down on the couch, pin your hands, and not care when you complained you were straight. I'd leave your lips swollen from my teeth." Short, vivid, and to the point. I suddenly wondered whether Therese went both ways or was just messing with my head.

There was a moment of silence, broken by a "Whew!" from Anthony. All eyes turned to Christian.

He looked grumpy, eyed the vodka shot sitting waiting in the middle of the table. He knew those vodkas would go fast later. "Wait, wait, I'll talk." He snatched up his beer to take the obligatory drink. "A deep throat blowjob." He glanced at us four girls with a challenging expression.

Julia shrugged. "Somehow, girls going gnk-gnk-gnk"—she made a semi-gagging sound—"for real has become this bullshit porn thing."

Christian echoed Emily. "No judgment." His eyes met mine, sardonic. He'd been easygoing about oral when we were dating, letting me control the yes or no of it without much pressure once he understood how I felt. Now he was telling me that he had wanted to ask for even more but had been too embarrassed.

If only you knew now & nbsp;... I thought.

"Fuck, marry, kill. Only people partying here tonight. Anthony?"

I was only half-listening as it went around the circle. It wasn't my question, but I liked it because it would be interesting to hear Therese's answer. Instead of paying close attention, I was meeting Julia's eyes and laughing silently as I re-read her Who is this and what have you done & nbsp;... message to me. Then I heard Emily's, "You'll never make me talk."

Huh?

My brain ran through scenarios. Doesn't want to say "Christian" because she thinks it will upset me? That's stupid. Doesn't want to say "Anthony" because she's worried he'll get the wrong idea? That's stupid too; it's just a game, not a real hookup suggestion. One of the other guys? I hadn't seen her paying particular attention to any of them, and why would we care who she named?

My attention was diverted by Christian ending with "Kill: Chips. Oh, definitely Chips." I stuck my tongue out and he responded in kind.

I turned to Therese. My eyebrows went up in a question. Got the balls, girl?

"I'll talk. Fuck: Christian."—she does—"Marry: probably Matt. Kill, same: Chips." She kept her eyes on mine, even stuck out her tongue in imitation, but I knew her peripheral attention was all on the guy to my left, seeing if he reacted. I let the moment hang for just a second, then flipped the Dare card.

Go to the bathroom, take off your underwear, and put it on your head. Wear it on your head for 10 minutes.

Emily frowned. "No way! And who thought up—"

"Improper response. Drink!" Julia commanded. "And it was mine," she added sweetly.

"Julia!"

"And drink a second time," Therese added, "for naming a conspirator."

Emily sighed and hung her head to acknowledge the fouls. She took her swallows of beer and then said, "Do your worst, Ch—" She broke off, then continued smoothly. "You miserable vomitous mass."

"Princess Bride," Christian hooted while Julia gave her a thumbs-up. Emily tossed back the brimming shot glass of Tito's.

The game continued. Dares like Put 2 ice cubes in your underwear and let them melt had people telling me to "Do your worst." Questions like "When was the last time you peed in your pants or your bed?" had us in stitches as one person or another had to drag their butt across the floor like a dog scratching its ass. As more beer and vodka went in, the accidental fouls became more common. Everyone but me was feeling it, and I was starting to wonder if Anthony was going to make it.

He was certainly awake enough to appreciate the first of the dares I'd put into the pile.

"What is the kinkiest thing you've done this last semester? Christian?"

"I'll talk." He shrugged. "A little making out at a party. Nothing kinky." That confirmed my earlier suspicions. "So, a hand on tits, I guess. Over the shirt."

"Anthony?"

"Not even that. Embry-Riddle is seventy percent men," he mumbled in disgust. He endured the "poor baby" comments without getting upset. "So, kinkiest thing was a date with Mrs. Palmer." No filter: he didn't care that we knew. "But I'm the one living in Daytona Beach come Spring Break," he gloated.

"I'll be crashing on your floor," Therese promised.

"Bed's probably got room."

"In your dreams, Romeo. And by the way, drink for forgetting 'I'll talk.'" She looked back at me. "I'll talk. A guy, nothing weird."

"You have to be more specific," I pronounced, being both judge and jury. "Saying 'a guy' isn't even on the kinky scale."

She flushed a little. "I slept with a guy at college. We didn't do anything kinky."

"So oral? Fucking? Which do you consider kinkier?" Emily, once again surprising my friends, but not me.

Therese's pink got hotter, then tough-girl came back. "Full-on sex backstage one night." She was a theater major.

"Cool!" That was Emily too.

Eyes moved on. Julia's face was red. "You'll never make me talk."

I waited for the "now we have to know" comments to die down and turned to Emily.

I'd put this one in specifically to tease her. She knew it; I could tell. We both knew she wasn't going to tell the actual truth. The first rule of the Loft Game was the first rule of Fight Club. Was she going to obliterate it with: Speaking of Mrs. Palmer, I forced a guy to do that in front of a room full of women? No.

I glanced down at the Dare card on the table, then met her eyes. Willing to risk it? She had one Truth Serum chance left, but she was feeling her alcohol.

Am I going to super regret it? It struck me how easily I read that question on her face. In just a short amount of time, she and I had gotten onto the same wavelength, something I'd only shared with Julia before. Even my little sister was more impenetrable, though that might be because she was a brat. I shrugged to say, Not really.

"You'll never make me talk."

I reached for the card, then pulled back. "Let's go out to the camper."

Emily's expression was puzzled—she didn't know what I was talking about—and the others were slow on the uptake. I flipped the card.

Like I said, Anthony was definitely awake enough to appreciate my first dare. "Holy fuck!"

Remove three pieces of clothing. A pair of socks counts as one. None of us were wearing shoes, my mother's rule in the house. "Do you really want my sister coming down here looking to swipe a drink and we're like that?"

I saw it percolate through both fuzzy and not-so-fuzzy brains. We slid on shoes and out the basement door. "Shoes back off," I commanded as we closed and locked the Airstream door behind us. We flipped the propane heater on high. We were too many for the small dinette, so I dropped the card onto the middle of the carpet and looked around expectantly.

"You two separate," I said to the guys as they both dropped onto the couch, "unless you want us to find out how into each other you are." I waggled the Dare cards. As I expected, the look of alarm appeared first on Christian's face—he was soberer—and he jumped up and moved to where I pointed next to Therese.

The dare. Emily wouldn't back out. She took flashing undies in stride and wasn't going to waste the one remaining shot of vodka she had over that. My gaze moved to Julia. She had one Truth Serum chance left also. But she, too, was feeling hours of beer and champagne and four shots of vodka. Further, there were a couple of cards to go: better to keep an escape route. And, above all, this was Julia, the crazier one of us two.

The two women met each other's eyes and nodded. Unlike the Loft Game, there was no putting yourself on display. Socks, shirts, and pants got shucked in rapid succession and then the two plopped back down in their seats. Of course, with no table in the middle, the view was clear.

"Holy fuck!" Anthony repeated himself. "What if you'd gotten that 'take one piece of clothing off' earlier?"

"We'd be seeing tits," Christian said.

"Or drunker women," Emily retorted. She gestured toward the remaining shot glass. Christian tilted his head in acknowledgment that that was also a possibility.

"And who says there's not another strip dare in my hand?" I put in.

"Is there?" Emily's voice was curious, not confrontational.

"The dares are secret until—" Julia was protesting as I cut in.

"Yes."

"Holy fuck!" Anthony's vocabulary was shrinking along with the number of brain cells in his head.

Emily looked at Therese, still fully clothed, and dismissed her as probably safe. She turned to my high school best friend. "Whaddya say, girl? In this like sisters?"

Julia did a gut check, then nodded. Emily's eyes returned to mine. She grinned a "do your worst" kind of grin: friendly but straight out of the card games we'd been playing for months. I looked over at Julia. Her gaze wasn't much different.

"Remember where this game goes," Julia said. I did. Emily didn't know what that meant, but she knew from the tone that it probably spelled trouble for me. It would be good-natured because this was just a game, but still trouble—and by extension, maybe some amusement for her.

"You know what Brey said to me a few weeks ago?" I asked. "She said, 'You're either over showing your boobs or you shouldn't be in the game.'"

There was silence. Emily's grin acknowledged the secret we shared, and Julia's acknowledged the spirit of that even if she didn't know the context. I'm sure the guys were thanking their lucky stars they'd come to my party and not one of the other ones in town. I figured Therese, who was maybe not quite three sheets to the wind, but definitely two, was trying to read the room.

I set a Dare card down, then read the next question. There were two questions left, both of them mine. "What is the worst thing you've ever done to someone in this game?" I saw some faces tense.

"Evil," Julia muttered.

I waited for someone to volunteer. Emily did; she had almost no history with these people to be embarrassed about. "Sandbagged Chips in a pickup game of strip poker so she had to kiss the guys after losing." She looked over at me. "You asked," she said innocently.

The others looked shocked. I was laughing, however. We both knew it hadn't been a real sandbagging; I'd been in on it. It was close to breaking the rules of the Loft Game, but strip poker games weren't unheard of in college. Everyone would assume it was just a slightly crazy dorm night, not a club.

Julia was in hysterics, saying "ohmygod" over and over. Finally, she caught her breath. "What have you done with my friend?" she asked me.

"Same ol' me. Maybe just a little more so." That got a half-drunk, half-giggling, half-speculative look. "Your answer?" I prompted her.

She looked around the four of us she'd known. "Was a serious-as-fuck cock tease with Anthony after Christa's party last year." Anthony's half-coherent groan caused us all to laugh again.

"Drink. Wrong words," I said. I turned to Christian and raised an eyebrow.

"You'll never make me talk, and do your worst." He swallowed the vodka, leaving me to wonder if I had been the target of whatever the worst thing he'd done to one of us was. Did he cheat on me? I pushed the thoughts aside as Anthony didn't say a word, just swallowed his last vodka.

"Double drink. Words missed twice." Anthony chugged the last of his beer.

I turned to Therese, the real target of this question. She knew it. I saw the deer-in-headlights look as she stared back at me. The silence dragged.

"Admit it or take your chances with payback," I finally said to her, wondering if the guys would know what we were talking about.

She glanced down at the Dare card lying face down on the floor. She licked her lips. The tension built as people—even drunk people—realized this wasn't some lighthearted question.

She was out of vodka shots—I wasn't stupid about choosing my moment. She could quit and be labeled a quitter. But our group didn't take it well if you let someone else get screwed and then bailed when it was your turn; it was close to cheating in our book. She couldn't lie; she knew I'd call bullshit. She could 'fess up, or she could take her chances. I waited, letting her twist.

"After prom sophomore year, I told some people that we'd played Truth or Dare & nbsp;..."

I filled the silence of her pause. "Ironic, huh?"

She got it over in a rush. "I said Chips told us she slept with every guy she went out with."

I heard the soft "fuuuuuck" from Emily. The expressions on the guys' faces told me that they'd had known exactly what our exchange was about, that they'd heard the whispers back then.

"We all knew it was you," Julia said, "and it was a pretty shitty thing to do."

Therese nodded; she seemed almost close to crying. "I'm sorry."

"Is that it?" I prompted. It wasn't. I saw the eyes grow wide again; then she rallied.

"No, but you said the worst. I think that's the worst."

I mulled that over.

In my book, the nude, headless pic she'd taken off the web and sent to Max as being "someone you know just texted this to a guy she's interested in and doesn't want you to know she did it" might have been worse. The fact that it was literally the truth didn't change the fact that the implication was one hundred percent something else. I'll always wonder if Max believed my protests and if the post-graduation breakup was really just him going off to college. I struggled to be objective.

I guess if she does think it's the worst & nbsp;...

Maybe it was. I had three more years with the people who had heard I was a slut. Max never told anyone about the picture. "Okay, I'll accept that." Everyone in the room knew there was more to the story, but I wasn't going to say.

"I'm sorry," Therese repeated.

"Well, you owe her, big time," Julia pronounced. "And drink for wrong words."

That banal instruction brought a snort of almost-laughter. Anthony's immediate "I need a fuckin' pee" turned it full-blown. Others felt the need too. There was a drunken debate on whether Julia and Emily could redress to run to the house—it was forbidden to use the camper's toilet off-season.

I issued a judgment. "Parents plus it's freezing out there. They can."

Therese didn't go. "I'm sorry," she repeated when we were alone. "Really."

I shrugged. I didn't super forgive her.

"What did you mean, 'play your cards right'?" she asked.

"You want Christian; everyone can tell." At her nervous look, I shook my head. "It doesn't bother me. I meant play your cards right, and the evening might end okay for you."

"How do I—"

"Admit you want him—which you sort of did on Fuck, Marry, Kill. Then answer that last question so everyone knows you owe me later."

"Why?"

"You'll see." That got me an even-more-nervous look.

"What if I hadn't answered? What if I took the dare?"

I flipped the Dare card. Tell the person of the opposite gender nearest to you exactly how far you'd go with them in bed if you were drunk enough. I saw the look of shock. Christian was seated closest to her. And if some of us knew how she felt, there would have been cries of "bullshit" if she lied.

Finally, she said, "And that's all you meant?"

"Well, if you want to spice it up a little, refuse the next question," I laughed. She didn't get it. Then she did—I'd said there was another strip card in the deck. She looked animated for a second, tried to hide it.

That amused me. You don't think I'm doing this for you, do you?

Julia pushed back through the door. We sat in awkward silence until I broke it with, "You're supposed to be in your underwear," and then repeated it when Emily came back.

It was time to spring my last little snare.

"What is the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you in sex?"

Emily's "farted while a guy was down there" had us all choking with laughter and crying, "eww!"

Julia's story about a guy's encounter with her tampon string & nbsp;... when she gave a side-eye at Anthony, who was far too hammered to even notice, the gales of laughter erupted at his expense. His befuddled "whazzo funny?" actually caused my side to start hurting as laughter redoubled and everyone pointed at him & nbsp;... then drank because they did.

His answer was an unintelligible ramble about some woman; another person, gender undeterminable; and a police officer who might have been a women, but maybe not. We all let the incoherence slide; he couldn't manage better.

"You'll never make me talk." That was Therese.

Shit, the girl does have a pair! Or wants him that bad.

But it was Christian's answer I was waiting for. I knew he'd never see it coming, never think to think of it.

"The time Chips and I got caught by her sister in their living room, and I had my hand inside her shirt." The joking tone wasn't truly sheepish. It was trying to draw me into the embarrassment; it was my boob his hand had been on, after all. It was also a boy in the cookie jar but knowing his cuteness would let him get away with being naughty. So predictable.

I waited for the teasing to die.

"I call bullshit on that answer." My tone—dead serious—stopped the merriment.

"What?" Variations on that question went around the circle.

"I call bullshit," I repeated. I locked eyes with him, willing him to remember. I could see when he did, when the eyes turned from puzzled and amused, to unease, to pleading.

"You promised," he half-mouthed, too quiet for anyone to hear who wasn't reading his lips.

"Yes, I did," I said to the puzzlement of everyone else. "But you should have said, 'You'll never make me talk,' and then drunk the fuckin' Kool-Aid." I nodded my chin at the two shot glasses of vodka he still had in front of him.

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