Chapter 2: Lauren

Breezy carried her Prom dress and overnight bag into Lauren’s room and tossed them on the bed. “I can’t believe you’re still letting Bruce take you to Prom,” she announced.

Lauren’s best friend was actually named Breanne, but she’d just been Breezy ever since they met in elementary school. Standing at the full length mirror in her sliding closet door, Lauren continued silently applying her eye shadow.

“Why didn’t you let me bust in on them last night?”

Lauren glanced in the mirror to see Breezy’s livid anger as spots on her pale cheeks. She was a true redhead, in coloring and in spirit. Seeing her friend rising to her defense caused a weak smile float up for a moment.

“Patience.”

“Screw patience. I want revenge!”

“That’s already taken care of.” Lauren returned to applying her eye makeup. “Go shower and I’ll do your hair. We’re running out of time.”

“We’re going to discuss this,” Breezy warned as she grabbed her robe from the hook behind Lauren’s bedroom door.

Lauren stopped to look at herself in the mirror and sighed. When Breezy had texted the pic of Sammy Deluca leading Bruce by the hand towards her bedroom, it had seemed like the end of the world. Bruce was her first real boyfriend, her first lover, and was now her first heartbreak. His good looks and easy charm had gotten him a first date just after school started and by Christmas break he’d won her heart. All that wasted time and energy, Lauren mused.

Breezy would be relentless until they discussed his betrayal, but Lauren hated how foolish it made her feel. She should have listened when Breezy had warned her. She knew Bruce had a reputation, but Lauren believed him when he said he loved her. Now the truth would come out and everyone would know she was an idiot.

Breezy came back in wearing the robe with her hair up in a towel. Lauren got her hair dryer and brush from the dresser and sat in the middle of the bed.

“Come sit,” Lauren said and patted a spot that faced the mirror.

Her friend shook the towel against her hair while hanging her head upside down, then flung her long auburn locks back as she stood quickly. She sat down on the edge of the bed, giving Lauren a stern look in the mirror.

“So what’s the plan?” Breezy asked.

Lauren turned on the loud hair dryer with a smirk and began to brush out the damp hair with long strokes. Conversation remained impossible until Breezy’s hair was dry.

While her hands were busy, Lauren allowed herself to think about what had happened with Josh. If she hadn’t been reeling from Bruce’s betrayal, she’d never have mustered the nerve to just kiss him like that. And once she found how good he was, her reticence had crumbled.

One truth was undeniable—Bruce sucked in bed. She recognized now that he was a selfish lover. The horror stories about how first times could be painful had lowered her expectations of sex and Bruce had never raised them. His foreplay was just enough to get her cooperative but not enough to get her off. They’d had sex a dozen times since Christmas and she’d had to finish herself off afterwards each time.

Josh oozed a kind of primal honesty about his lust. He didn’t dress it up in fancy words or try to fool her. He’d simply promised orgasms, then proceeded to deliver two of the most powerful she’d ever experienced. Yes, he was a player, but he didn’t lie about it like Bruce had done. And the fact that she had lusted after him for years was just the icing on the cake.

“Tell me whatever you’re thinking about right now,” Breezy demanded as soon as Lauren turned off the hair dryer. “I don’t know what that smile is about but I want to.”

“My revenge,” Lauren chuckled.

“So tell me!” Breezy stood up and put her fists on her hips. “Right now!”

“I was babysitting at the Alexanders’ house last night.”

“Duh, I know.”

“But I didn’t mention Josh came home to do some laundry.”

Breezy’s eyes widened. She knew all about Lauren’s crush because they’d been giggling about him ever since she started babysitting the girls. “Tell me every detail.”

“No,” Lauren said, keeping a straight face. “I don’t kiss and tell.”

That made Breezy’s jaw drop. “Oh. My. God. Please tell me he’s your revenge.”

“I can neither confirm nor deny that statement… yet,” Lauren said. “But I promise you’ll know everything by the time we get back here after Prom tonight.”

They spent their remaining time cutting up and laughing as they dressed. Lauren had picked a snug red dress that matched her nail polish, over black stockings and strappy heels. She twisted her hair on top of her head in an artful pile leaving a few loose strands curling near her ears. Her only jewelry was the gold chain and charm of laurel leaves Bruce had given her at Christmas.

Breezy had gone for a sheer emerald dress that clung around her shoulders but then hung loose straight down to her bare thighs. Lauren had straightened her curly red mop and pulled it back through a golden tiara that had the same sparkling designs as her gold filigree heels. A dozen gold and emerald bangles on her wrists added elegance and matched the metallic gold nail polish on her fingers and toes.

When they descended the stairs, Bruce, Breezy’s boyfriend Todd, and Lauren’s parents waited speechless. Lauren saw her mom cover her mouth with both hands as she stifled her tears. Her dad watched with a stunned expression of pride. Then everyone burst into spontaneous applause.

Lauren had to fix a smile on her face when Bruce leaned in to kiss her cheek. He wore a dark suit and red tie that matched her dress. Once she’d found her Prom dress, finding a tie that matched the exact shade of red had taken weeks and a dozen different stores. It had seemed so important before. Now the only thing that made his presence bearable was her revenge.

“Come stand in front of the fireplace so we can take your picture,” Mom said as she waved the foursome over. “Breezy, your mother made me swear I’d text her a picture before I let you leave. And I’ll post them all online later for your parents, boys.”

They took pictures of each couple, then more pictures of the four of them together. By the time they got out of the house, Lauren was so flash blind she couldn’t see the handle on the car door. Bruce opened the passenger door for her while Todd opened the rear door for Breezy.

“Thanks,” Lauren said as she sat. She felt Breezy’s hand squeezing her shoulder as the guys went around to get in on the other side.

Across the street at the Alexanders’ house, Lauren saw Josh’s car in the driveway. A part of her wished she could just run over there and let him take her mind of things the way he had the night before, but he’d been clear about what he wanted. No dates, no overnights, no talk of the future. The memory of the pleasure he’d given her made her sigh in frustration.

“Hang in there,” Breezy whispered.

“I’ll be fine,” Lauren whispered back, telling herself as much as Breezy.

“Here we go,” Bruce said as he sat down and put on his seatbelt. “I hope you’re hungry.”

“I’m starved. Where are we going?” Breezy asked.

“Bruce and I decided on that new Brazilian steak house,” Todd said. “I can’t get over how great you both look.”

“Thanks,” Breezy giggled. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

Bruce tried to take Lauren’s hand like usual, but she pulled it away without looking at him. “You okay?” he asked.

“Yup,” she answered as she looked out her window. “How was the party at Sammy’s last night?”

“Fun.” His voice was steady and clear, like he had nothing to hide. “But I was lonely without you.”

Breezy let out an annoyed sigh from the back seat. Lauren wondered how many times Bruce had gone around behind her back.

“What did I miss?” Lauren asked.

“Not much. It was pretty chill, except for Sean getting drunk and throwing up in the back yard.”

Sean was Sammy’s older brother who was home on leave from the Army. Lauren decided to turn up the heat. “It wasn’t that chill. People were posting pics online all last night. I almost felt like I was there.”

Bruce looked over to meet her eyes. She kept her expression blank, but cocked an eyebrow at him. “Yeah?”

“Oh yeah.” If she hadn’t been watching she might have missed him swallowing hard.

“Well, I mostly hung out in the back yard with Sean. Maybe there was more going on inside.”

“No doubt.” Lauren couldn’t look at his smug, lying face any more and turned back to stare out her window. “Where did you say you were again, Breezy?”

“In the kitchen with Jerry and Jonathan.”

“Oh, were you there?” Bruce asked. His voice had lost some of its confidence.

“Uh-huh,” Breezy growled.

“I thought you guys were going out last night.” Bruce sat straighter as he looked in the rearview mirror.

“Naw, the regular delivery guy called in sick and I had to go into work at the last minute,” Todd said. From his light tone, Lauren assumed he hadn’t picked up on the underlying tension in their conversation.

“Oh.” Bruce drove on without another word.

Breezy and Todd had a cute conversation in the backseat while Lauren steamed silently. Their banter reminded Lauren of Josh’s comment about chemistry. They had it in spades. Breezy had confided that she wanted to hook up with Todd at the hotel later. She wasn’t a virgin, but her first time hadn’t been entirely voluntary. Todd knew and had promised to take things as slow as Breezy needed. He was sweet that way.

Lauren thought about Josh’s offhand remark that love wasn’t a feeling. She hadn’t gotten his point at the time. It struck her, as Bruce the Cheater drove them to the restaurant, that loving someone had more to do with how you treated them than how you felt about them. Bruce said he loved her but had slept with Sammy Deluca behind her back and lied about it. No matter how he felt about her, he didn’t really love her or he would never have done that.

“Here we are,” Bruce said as they stopped at the valet stand.

The valet came over and opened both passenger doors. Lauren stood next to Breezy and Todd while Bruce handed over his keys. When he walked up, Lauren saw the tension in his expression. He tried to put his arm around her waist, but Lauren stepped out of his grasp.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” he whispered to her.

She gave him a blank look in response, then turned to the hostess. “Williams party of four,” she said for him.

“You all look so wonderful,” the hostess said with an indulgent smile. “Follow me, please.”

After they were seated and ordered their drinks, Lauren and Breezy gave each other their secret bathroom glance. “Be right back,” Breezy said as they both stood up and walked away from the table.

“He’s dying,” Breezy whispered to her best friend.

“Not fast enough for me,” Lauren sniffed.

“So what’s the plan?” she asked as they stepped through the restroom doorway.

“Step one is for him to admit he slept with Sammy.” She examined her makeup in the mirror, then pulled a red lipstick pencil from her clutch.

Breezy went into a stall and closed the door. “How long are you going to make him grovel?”

“I’m not.” Lauren traced her lips with the lipstick pencil.

“How is that revenge?”

“That comes later.” She pressed her lips together to even the color. At the sound of the flush, Lauren turned around to watch Breezy come up to wash her hands. “You’ll see.”

“You’re killin’ me,” she complained.

“It’ll be worth it. Trust me.” Lauren didn’t know exactly how she’d pull it off, but she was going to make Bruce pay.

When they were walking back to the table, Breezy squeezed Lauren’s arm. “Look.”

She nodded her head off to the left at a group of familiar faces. Some of their single friends had planned to go to the Prom as a group rather than scrounge for dates. Right in the middle of the group, laughing without a care in the world, was Sammy Deluca.

Lauren kept walking for a moment while her stomach churned, then she stopped so fast that Breezy bumped into her. Looking over at the group again, she pasted a wide grin on her face.

“Hey, Breezy, look who’s here,” she exclaimed as she dragged her friend along by the arm. “Wow, y’all look great!”

Those sitting at the table turned to smile at the compliment, some of them standing to hug Lauren and Breezy hello. Sammy had a glint in her eye when she recognized Lauren. Since she was on the opposite side of the table she hadn’t risen to greet them.

“I didn’t know y’all were coming here,” Sammy sang in her overdramatic way. “We missed ya’ at the party last night.”

“Hey! I was there,” Breezy said with mock outrage. “I even saw your brother hurl while I was hanging out in the kitchen.”

“Yeah, he’s gotta get it out of his system before he gets deployed this summer.” Sammy pursed her lips like she was enjoying the flavor of her secret. “Are Bruce and Todd around somewhere?”

“Yeah, we’re sitting over there,” Lauren said and gestured in the direction of the table. “Be sure to come over and say hi.”

“I’ll do that,” Sammy said with barely concealed amusement.

“See y’all at the hotel,” Lauren said to the others as she stepped away, then dropped the fake smile when her back was to their table. “Bitch.”

“He’s so gonna die,” Breezy giggled.

“Still not fast enough.”

Back at the table, Bruce looked like he’d pulled himself together. Both guys stood as their dates returned.

“Y’all wanna go hit the salad bar first?” Todd asked.

“I do,” Breezy said as she took his hand.

“Not me.” Lauren sat and scooted her chair in before Bruce could help her. Then she flipped the service card to green to indicate she was ready for one of the waitstaff to cut her portions off the sword-like skewers of meat they carried from table to table.

“Come on, tell me what’s going on,” Bruce demanded with a little heat in his tone as he sat. They were alone now, so he obviously felt like he didn’t have to pretend he wasn’t annoyed by her cold treatment.

“We ran into Sammy on the way back from the restroom. She said she wanted to come by and say hello, so I told her where we were.” Lauren was careful not to look directly at him, but did watch him from the corner of her eye. His flush and quick glance around the room said more than his words had so far.

“So? You think there’s something going on between us? You’re being paranoid.”

His guilty conscience made him jump to that conclusion, she thought, then squinted at him without responding.

“Lauren, you know I love you. I don’t know where that crazy idea came from.”

You’re gonna double down on me, you bastard? A waiter came up offering a skewer of filet mignon. Lauren nodded and told him, “Rare, please.”

He sliced some blood red meat onto her plate. Bruce shook his head when the waiter asked to serve him, then waited until he walked away before speaking again.

“Will you just talk to me,” he begged.

Lauren suddenly knew why he wanted her to talk. Bruce had proven he was a skilled manipulator but he needed to know how much she really knew before he could spin it.

She cut her meat without acknowledging he spoke, silently predicting his next tactic would be to get angry.

“Damn it, Lauren, if you’re gonna be like this all night I’m gonna take you home.”

She allowed her amusement to show as she chewed. Bruce was clearly more worried about Sammy coming to the table than getting her to talk now. When she didn’t say anything, his mouth became a twisted white line that cut across his red face.

“They’re coming back. I’ll tell them I’m taking you home while they finish their meal.” When Lauren didn’t respond he added, “I’m serious.”

She smiled up at Breezy as she sat with two salad plates. “Anything good?” Lauren asked.

“I’ve got some heart of palm and arugula salad, and caviar on those crisp crackers you love. Want some?”

“I’d love a bite of the caviar.” She took a cracker off the plate and relished the light brine flavor.

“Lauren’s not feeling well. I’m gonna take her home while you guys finish here,” Bruce announced as he wiped his mouth and stood.

“Sit down and shut up,” Lauren snapped at him, then waved over a passing waiter with a smile. He cut her some spiced pork before moving away.

“What the fuck is wrong with you tonight,” Bruce growled as he leaned to tower over her. Some of the people around the table began staring at his outburst.

“I apologize for my date,” Lauren whispered to Todd and Breezy. “He thinks I’m an idiot and it makes him crazy.”

I’m crazy?” Bruce sputtered, but before he could finish speaking Sammy walked up to their table.

“Hey y’all,” Sammy sang as she reached out to give Bruce a one-armed hug. He froze with a look of utter panic on his face. “Lauren said you guys were over here.”

Lauren showed her teeth as she smiled. You deserve each other, you bitch. “Bruce is really tense tonight. What in the world did you do to him last night?”

Sammy’s smile faltered. “W-what do you mean?”

“Oh, I know all about it.” Lauren waved like it was no big deal. “I don’t mind if you take him out for a spin, but you need to make sure you change his oil before you give him back.” Then she grinned like they shared an inside joke.

“You don’t mind?” Sammy looked bewildered and Bruce had gone pale. “I thought you guys were serious.”

“No, we’re just friends with benefits.” Lauren fixed Bruce with a piercing stare. “He’s too much of a free spirit to be a one-woman man.”

“Wait… I can explain,” Bruce sputtered.

“No need,” Lauren said. “I was a little surprised at first, but it’s working out really well.” She turned her gaze back to Sammy. “You know Josh Alexander, right?”

“Oh my God, yes,” Sammy chuckled. “He and Sean have been friends for years. I would give my left tit for a night with him.”

“Remind me to give you his number sometime. That man can get all the kinks out, if you know what I mean. After I found out you and Bruce were hooking up last night, Josh showed up at his parents’ house where I was babysitting his little sisters.” Her mouth twitched because Bruce was clenching his jaw so hard it made his temples pulse. “It was the best hour and a half of my life.”

“An hour and a half?” Sammy laughed and clapped. “What did he do for an hour and a half?”

“He made sure I was happy twice before he finished,” Lauren said directly to Bruce.

“Oh, Lauren, I’m so sorry I misjudged you… we definitely need to compare notes,” Sammy said as she shot Bruce a look of pity. “I’m really glad there’s no hard feelings.”

“Sisters before misters,” Lauren said and raised her hand for a high five.

“Preach it!” Sammy slapped her palm and then kissed Bruce’s cheek. “Save me a dance later, lover boy.”

When Sammy swayed back towards her table, Bruce slowly sat back down without meeting anyone’s eyes. Breezy sat with her mouth open in stunned shock. Todd was suppressing a smirk as he glanced between Bruce and Lauren.

“Let me know if you see the guy with the filet again. It was amazing.” Lauren cut the last of the spiced pork loin and fed herself a bite. “The pork is so tender it melts in your mouth.”

It might be said that revenge was a dish best served cold, but just then Lauren was certain it was much better with rare beef and pork loin. The tension and anger she’d felt all day seemed to evaporate after her vengeful revelation. Telling Sammy made it even better because she would repeat the story all night, likely telling the same people who knew she had hooked up with Bruce at the party. Now instead of Lauren looking like a fool, Bruce would.

“There he is,” Todd said as he waved down the guy with the filet mignon for her. The waiter sliced more of the rare steak into her plate and left her smiling.

“Did you already check into the hotel?” Lauren asked Bruce. When he didn’t answer, she looked over at him. “Bruce?”

His face was red and pinched, but he nodded.

“Good,” Lauren replied. “We can go there to freshen up after dinner.”

Todd managed to salvage the dinner conversation at that point by telling pizza delivery war stories and making Breezy and Lauren laugh. Bruce kept his head down, fuming silently the rest of dinner.

The trip to the hotel from the restaurant was a short one. When they arrived, the guys led them to their adjoining rooms. Bruce remained silent after opening the door to let Lauren in. Her first act was to open their side of the adjoining doors to allow Breezy and Todd to eavesdrop if they wanted. Lauren was a little nervous being in a locked room with Bruce, not that he would actually do anything to her.

She heard Bruce at the bathroom sink before he walked out rubbing a damp washcloth over his face and behind his neck. Lauren kicked off her heels and fell back across the first bed to let her full stomach settle.

“So what happens now?” Bruce asked. All pretense was gone and he looked broken.

“What do you mean? We go dancing.”

“No, I mean after.”

“Well, if you get out of your funk we can come back here for a while or you can just take me home. Todd left his truck here earlier so he can bring Breezy over when they’re done.”

He studied her with a clenched jaw. “You’d still come up here with me?”

“Yeah, but don’t think you’re getting away with that one-pump chump crap anymore. Those days are done. I’m not gonna waste my time being friends when there’s no benefits for me.”

“I thought you loved me,” he said as he shook his head in denial and sat on the bed.

“Foolish me, I did.” It was true. Watching him suffer hurt, but it was also deeply satisfying.

“Being with Sammy didn’t mean anything,” he begged. “I screwed up, okay? Can we please go back to the way things were?”

“You mean back when I was still dumb enough to make a fool of? Or back when we had sex and you left me to finish the job myself? I don’t think so. I know what I’m missing now.”

He clenched his jaw and glared at her. “I don’t believe you.”

“About Josh or in general?”

“Josh,” he spat.

“Well, what can I say? He trims his hairs really short. There’s this cute brown mole on his stomach right above his cock. He’s cut, a little longer and thicker than you, and makes this cute little whimper after he cums.”

“Stop it!” Bruce stood up and stalked around the bed. “God damn it, Lauren, you’re killing me!”

“Yeah? Well that picture I got of you and Sammy at the party last night killed us!” Lauren hated the tears spilling out of her eyes, but she was too angry to stop them. She sat up and leaned forward closer to face him. “And that’s all on you.”

Bruce stopped and stared at her. His usually composed demeanor was now all ragged breaths, clenched fists, and red eyes. His collar was open under the loose tie she’d spent hours looking for. Hours wasted trying to find the perfect shade of red to match her dress. It had become a symbol of her foolishness and naive belief in love.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this,” he murmured and turned for the door.

“Wait,” Lauren said as she hopped off the bed.

“What?” he asked with his hand on the doorknob. Hope flitted across his expression.

“The tie is mine,” she said and watched his hope die.

Bruce yanked at the noose around his neck like it was choking him. Tears welled in his eyes as the knot came apart so the ends could slip out of his collar. Wadding the fabric in his fists, he hurled the twisted ball of silk at her and left.

Lauren stooped to pick up the strip of red silk. By the time she stood up, Breezy and Todd were on either side of her. It wasn’t until the first sob broke that she realized they were holding her up with the red tie clenched in her fists.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Breezy whispered.

Lauren gathered her will to stop crying. There was no point. She had done exactly what she’d planned and Bruce had made his decision accordingly. Opening her eyes wide to blink back the tears, Lauren took a deep breath and hugged her best friend.

“Thank you for being here for me,” she whispered.

“I wouldn’t have missed that for the world,” Breezy said with a touch of awe.

“Remind me never to piss you off,” Todd said as he rubbed his palm against her back.

“Just don’t cheat on my best friend,” Lauren chuckled and turned to hug Todd as well. “You guys get on with your night. I need a little time.”

“Promise me you’ll come down to the dance.” Breezy had a serious expression as she held Lauren’s eyes.

“I promise.”

Alone in the hotel room at last, Lauren patted her face dry with tissues and got her makeup out of her clutch to repair the tearful damage. It only took a moment to line her eyes again, but the puffy skin would take a little while to recede.

She sat on the bed with her back on the slatted headboard and stared at the blank television screen. It was odd to think Bruce wouldn’t be waiting for her after English anymore. She wondered if he would still try to sit with their friends at lunch. No more rides to the football games or parties either.

It was all the little things she’d miss the most. Kissing someone goodbye. Having someone for doubles with Breezy and Todd. She wasn’t missing Bruce so much. Rather, it was the attention of someone who made her feel special. She didn’t need a boyfriend, exactly, but she’d gotten used to having one around.

She wondered how Josh handled going around without someone special. Did he only go out with his friends or groups? She supposed it was different for a guy, but then she remembered the girl he was seeing. What was her name? He mentioned she was studying to be a lawyer and was too busy for a boyfriend. Lauren wished there was someone she could talk to about how to stay social without being sucked into a steady relationship again.

When her phone dinged, she pulled it out of her clutch assuming it was Breezy nagging her to come dancing. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Josh’s name. She had his cell number as an emergency contact for babysitting and had daydreamed about calling him for years. When she thumbed open his text message it read, u doing ok?

She thought about what to say for a moment before texting back, not really.

Her phone rang a second later. “Hey,” she breathed.

“Sorry for intruding in on your big night, but I was worried about you,” Josh said.

She smiled at the ceiling. Here was a guy who only wanted to have sex being a better friend than her boyfriend. “I’m fine, but Bruce took off when everything came out. I guess sleeping around is only okay if he does it.”

“Sorry to hear that,” he said, but Lauren didn’t think he sounded very sorry. “So no Prom for you? I don’t hear any boom boom music in the background.”

“Maybe later. I’m just sitting in our hotel room for a minute to clear my head.” After she said it, she corrected herself with a sad chuckle. “Well, I guess it’s my hotel room now that he’s gone.”

Josh was quiet for so long that Lauren checked to make sure the call hadn’t dropped. When she put the phone back to her ear he was clearing his throat like he was nervous. “Look, I was thinking.”

Her heart jumped when she guessed what he might say. “Josh, I heard your rules loud and clear last night. You don’t owe me a thing.”

“I saw you leave tonight.” This time he let out the sad chuckle. “You’re so beautiful it hurt. I might not want a girlfriend, but I wanted to kick his ass just so I could take his place for one night.”

His words washed over her like a warm breath. She covered her mouth with her hand but the happy sob still escaped.

“Oh, hey, I didn’t mean to make you cry again,” Josh said with a rising panic in his tone.

She laughed at his worry, sniffing back the tears. “Hearing that made me feel beautiful after a long, ugly night.”

“So I can come get you?”

“Of course,” she sighed. “As long as you’ll give me a ride home later. My curfew is at two.”

Lauren gave him directions and the room number before letting him go. It had only been twenty-four hours since he’d brought her to a satisfying peak, but her body went into overdrive anticipating a repeat performance. It made her feel naughty to be so wet before he’d even touched her. She was grateful to have on panties that were separate from her stockings and garters.

He only took twenty minutes to get there, but it had felt like hours before she heard the quiet knock on the door. When she opened it, Josh stood there looking nervously boyish in a charcoal suit that fit his athletic build perfectly. The white shirt peeking out of the coat was starched flat but lacked a tie. His wonderfully wild hair contrasted with the smooth skin on his cheeks.

His wide eyes left goosebumps everywhere they passed. “Hi.”

Lauren stepped closer and placed a soft kiss on his lips. In heels she was closer to his height so he didn’t have to do more than tilt his head down. “Thanks for doing this for me.”

“My pleasure,” he said, then noticed the red tie she still had in her hands. “Want me to wear that?”

“No,” Lauren said as she ran the soft fabric through her fingers. “It’s okay.”

“But it matches your dress.” He took the tie from her and quickly knotted it around his neck. Then he extended his elbow to her. “Do you have the tickets?”

“I do.” She lifted the small clutch she carried.

“Then let’s go!”

Lauren shut the door and slipped the room key in her clutch. “Just one favor before we get down there.”

“Anything,” Josh said as they walked to the elevator.

“Do you know Sammy Deluca?” she asked, worrying how he might take her request.

“Deluca. Sean’s little sister?” he asked.

“Yup.” Lauren pushed the elevator button. “She’s the one who slept with Bruce last night.”

“Man, that doesn’t surprise me. I remember her saying that food always tastes better when it comes from someone else’s plate.”

Lauren lifted her shoulders and looked Josh in the eyes. “She’s had all she’s ever gonna get from me. I know you’re not my boyfriend, but she’s off limits.”

“No worries there,” Josh said. “Even if she wasn’t a buddy’s little sister I wouldn’t be interested in her. Definitely not my type.”

The elevator door opened and they stepped in. “So what is your type?” Lauren asked while he pushed the button for the concourse.

He smirked in their reflection of the closing elevator door. “It’s more about what isn’t my type. People who play games like her are definitely not my type.”

“Good,” Lauren said as the door opened to a crowded area outside the ballroom. “You ready?”

“I got my dancin’ shoes on. Let’s go have some fun.”

The night went like a dream. Because Sammy had been such a good gossip, it seemed like everyone already knew about her trouble with Bruce and didn’t comment on her arriving with Josh. And since Josh had been a popular guy at school, everyone seemed happy to see him again. Breezy and Todd made him welcome, but Breezy kept mouthing Oh my God at Lauren whenever she got out of Josh’s line of sight. And then they danced.

Josh had moves that rocked Lauren to her toes. He wasn’t showy or anything. He just had a masculine style that was easy to dance with and made her feel desired. Every touch sparked heat that melted straight into her panties. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she went to the restroom and took them off. Keeping the damp black lace hidden in her fist, she returned to dance a slow song with Josh. After showing him what was in her hand, she tucked them in his front pants pocket and copped a feel.

His mouth twitched and leaned close to whisper in her ear, “Are you naked under that skirt?”

“Yes.” The feel of her silky dress rubbing against her bare ass made her even wetter.

He clutched her in his arms and slipped his tongue around her ear. “Let’s go back to your room.”

“Please,” she begged. She wanted to climb him like a tree right there on the dance floor, but still had the willpower to let him to lead her away. When they passed Breezy and Todd slow dancing, Lauren flashed her card key and got a grinning thumbs up from Breezy.

They made it as far as the elevator before Josh pushed her against the wall. His hands forced her dress up while he kissed her with a breathless fervor. Chills shot up Lauren’s body when his thumb circled above her sensitive bud. He kissed up her neck, forcing a gasp out of her mouth as she opened herself to his touch.

“God, you’re so wet,” he whispered against her chin.

Lauren could only whimper and cling to his shoulders as he drove two fingers deep inside. He rocked his palm against her mons, pressing hard enough to take her breath away. “Yes!”

The elevator’s ding warned them the doors were about to open. She straightened her dress while Josh sucked his wet fingers as the door opened. The sight of him tasting her made her knees weak but she caught his hand and dragged him down the hallway.

“In a hurry?” he teased.

“I want you,” she said. “Right now.”

“Oh, that’s gonna happen. Count on it,” he said with a happy chuckle.

Her hand trembled as she tried to get the card key in the door. The second attempt got the door open and she pulled him into the room while the door slammed shut behind them. He started with the tie while she worked his belt open. She had his pants down before his shirt was off, but it didn’t take long for him to end up naked while she was still wearing her dress.

When he lifted her suddenly, she shrieked and he laughed. She found herself on her back with Josh crawling on top of her, the tie dangling from in his teeth. It wasn’t clear what he intended, but Lauren was willing to go for just about anything he wanted. Sitting over her legs, Josh pushed her hands up near the headboard and wrapped her wrists with the red tie.

“What are you doing?” she asked with a giggle in her voice.

“I’ll just tie a bow, but I want you to stay like this until I say otherwise.”

The glimmer in his eye promised fun if she would play along. He hadn’t tied her tight, so she gripped the slats to hang on. Josh used his freedom well. He kneed her legs apart and pushed her dress up to run his hands up her stocking clad legs and garters.

“Gorgeous,” he whispered, then bent forward until she couldn’t see what he was doing.

At first he didn’t do more than rub her legs, then she felt his breath on her wet skin. That made her knees rise so she could lift her hips up to his lips. He stayed close enough for her to feel his breath without giving her the touch she craved. That made her pull on the slats until the wood creaked.

“Please,” she begged, then felt a single soft kiss on the top of her slit. “Yes!”

“Have you been good enough for this?” He slowly licked up her core and made her hips rise in response.

“Yes, I’ve been good. Please, I need your mouth.”

“I don’t know. You might have to show me how good you can be first.”

“I’ll do anything,” she begged.

Josh sat up and pushed her knees down. “Anything?”

“Yes.” She met his eyes with a wicked grin. Josh knee walked over her hips and eased his wet cock closer to her mouth. “Oh yes,” she purred and opened her mouth.

She had given her share of oral pleasure to Bruce and a few others. It had always been about giving something special to someone she loved, but now she wanted to have him this way. His cock was beautiful to her, thick and pale with a pink head. It had given her more pleasure than any other cock in the world.

She bent closer to reach the tip with her tongue. It was tempting to let go of the headboard so she could pull his hips closer with her hands, but she allowed him to tease her. He rubbed the tip along her lips, staying just out of her reach. She was salivating like he was dessert before he gave her a real taste.

When his head slipped past her lips he let out a shuddering murmur. “So good.”

Using her tongue, she licked the underside while he gently fucked her mouth. He tasted of salt and soap, but his scent really drove her wild. It was the clean musk that forced her lips tight around his shaft so she could suck him closer. He reached behind her head to help hold her up and ease the strain on her neck.

She kept her lips tight and her tongue moving, allowing him to fuck her mouth at the pace he wanted. The slick flavor built quickly. She wanted more and made hungry noises to let him know. He was staring down at her with a wide smile.

“I’m gonna cum,” he whispered through a moan. “Do you want it?”

She hummed louder and nodded her head, using her eyes on his to communicate how much. He caressed her hair while holding her head up, then closed his eyes and stopped moving. She kept her tongue sliding along the bottom of his head and sucked harder to bring him off. He shivered, then she felt the first warm burst in her mouth as he groaned.

He tasted sweeter than she expected, with none of the bitterness that had made her previous experiences less than pleasant. Swallowing fast, she kept the last few pulses in her mouth until he withdrew. She cupped her tongue and extended it for him to see before she swallowed it as well.

“You taste so good,” she confessed. Having him like that, with her hands tied above her head, had made her even hotter. Her hips moved on their own just to rub against the fabric of her dress.

“And you’ve been so good,” he said as he moved back. “I think you need a reward.”

The words and her helpless state made her whimper. “I swear I’m gonna cum even if you don’t touch me. I’ve never been this crazy hot before.”

He just smiled as he moved back between her legs. Slipping his arms under her thighs, he lifted her knees and pushed them apart with his shoulders. This time there was no teasing. He licked her open deeply and she whined at the pleasure. Licking turned to sucking just as she was losing control. In the final moments he had his lips locked around her swollen bud while his tongue teased her to a crying finish.

He kept kissing her in less sensitive places as she came down from the peak. Her hands ached from how hard she had gripped the slats, but the rest of her body felt like it was floating.

“You have a beautiful pussy,” he said. “The inner lips are long enough to suck without getting the way. And your clit is perfect for licking.”

“My clitty loves your mouth,” she sighed.

“We made a mess on your dress,” he warned with a little worry in his tone.

“Fuck it,” she giggled. “Come up here and kiss me.”

He crawled up until he could release the bow tying her to the bed, then pulled her over onto his chest. She turned her face up and kissed his damp cheeks and lips.

“I’m gonna need to get you home soon for your curfew,” he said. “I don’t think I have another one in me, but I’m happy to help you again if you want.”

“No,” she sighed, smiling at his offer. “I think you teased my brains out that time.”

“It’s a good look on you,” he chuckled.

Lauren turned her head to look at him, the question burning out before she could call it back. “Can we still be friends after this?”

Josh smiled and ran his fingers through her hair. “I’d like that.”

“No lies. No secrets. Just this sometimes.” She didn’t want to ruin what they’d started, but she had to be clear. They might have broken the rule about going on dates, but they still had two rules left to keep her heart safe. “Right?”

He had a curious expression as he studied her face. It might have been longing or maybe fear. “Yes,” he whispered.

She inched closer and kissed him deeply to seal the deal. “Then please take me home,” she said out loud before adding silently, before I’m tempted to break the rule about spending the night.

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