Scipio S by Nick Scipio Book 4: Christy
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Chapter 25

The next week passed in the usual blur of routine. Twelve-hour days at work left us tired, but not so exhausted that we couldn’t enjoy our free time. Trip spent his evenings with Wren at the restaurant, while I somehow mustered the energy to spend mine at Angelo’s. The gym was a bit of an escape, since I didn’t have to think about anything more complex than footwork and combinations.

On Friday Trip suggested a quiet night at home. Wren and Colleen were having a girls’ night out with friends, and Trip wanted to talk to me about something. My brain immediately kicked into high gear, but then I did something unusual: I relaxed. I couldn’t do anything until we talked, so why get all worked up? I almost laughed at my composure. Who was I and what had I done with the real Paul Hughes?

After work, we cleaned up and ordered pizzas, which we systematically devoured, crust and all. Finally I asked what he wanted to talk about.

“I don’t really know where to start,” he said.

“Business or personal?”

“Personal.”

“Okay,” I said slowly. “Personal-me or personal-you?”

“Me. Well… you too.”

“Ah. Wren.”

“Right in one. How’d you know?”

I shrugged. “She can be… single-minded.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Is it about what I think?”

“Probably.”

I waited for him to continue, but he did his best statue impression. “Swinging?” I said at last.

He nodded.

“What about it? I mean, you actually have more experience than she does.”

“Yeah, but that isn’t the problem.”

“Okay, so what is?” He hesitated again, so I made an educated guess. “She wants to include another couple—another guy, at least—and you’re not so sure.”

“Right again. In one.”

“Let me see if I understand,” I continued. “You’re fine if Wren has sex with other women, and even doing it yourself—”

“I haven’t actually done it with anyone else.”

I leveled an inquisitor’s stare.

“Well, not all the way.”

“Okay. So, fooling around?”

“Yeah.”

“But you’re okay with the idea. I mean, you don’t think it’s a threat if Wren has sex with another woman. And it isn’t a problem if you do, as long as Wren’s okay with it.”

“More or less.”

“But you don’t want her to have sex with another guy. That sounds fair.”

He winced at my sarcasm. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “It’s a double standard.”

I decided to cut him some slack. “Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s a double standard, but at least you both enjoy it with another woman.”

“Right. And what’s in it for me if she… does it… with another guy?”

“That’s kinda selfish,” I said in mild reproach. “I mean, you want Wren to enjoy herself, right?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“And for you, it can be kinda fun to watch.”

“Okay, but how do you do it? Watch, I mean. Like that time with you and me and Kendall.”

“I dunno. Another guy having sex with my girlfriend doesn’t really bother me.”

“Don’t you feel like less of a man because you can’t keep her happy?”

“Not at all.” I tried to decide on the right analogy. “Think about you and me in business. You’re a better businessman, but I’m a better designer, right?”

“Yeah. So?”

“But you have as much architectural training as I do. Are you ‘less of a man’ because you can’t do what I do?”

“No, of course not.”

“I can’t do what you do either, and it doesn’t bother me.”

“But that’s business. What’s it have to do with… this?”

“It means that nobody’s good at everything all the time.”

“But I should be good enough for her.”

“And I should be better at business,” I replied. “But I’m not. So what? That’s why I have a partner.”

He gave that some thought and applied it to the situation with Wren.

“It doesn’t mean you don’t make her happy,” I told him. “It simply means that sometimes she’d like some variety.”

“I get that,” he said. “Intellectually. But I still don’t know.”

I nodded and let him work through his feelings.

“Does it ever bother you?” he asked. “Knowing that your girlfriend wants to do it with another guy?

“Why should it? It’s just sex. I mean, she loves me.”

“So you’re saying that sex and love aren’t the same thing.”

“You jerk off, don’t you?”

His brow furrowed at the non sequitur. “Yeah,” he said eventually. “Occasionally.”

“That’s sex, isn’t it?”

“I guess.”

“Is it love?”

“Duh. No.”

“And you love your little brothers, right?”

“Of course, but that’s different.”

“Is it?”

“I’d never have sex with them. That’s disgusting.”

“Well, yeah,” I admitted, “it is. But it still proves my point. You can love someone without having sex with them. And you can have sex with someone without loving them.”

“Can you?” he asked. “Really?”

“Sure. Did you love Kendall? The swinger women at camp?”

“Of course not.”

“But you had sex with them.”

“Okay, I get it. Sex and love are different. But I still don’t see how you can watch another guy do it with your girlfriend.”

“You enjoy seeing Wren get off, don’t you? And she gets off with other women, doesn’t she? So what’s the difference if she gets off with a guy?”

He blushed and avoided the obvious answer.

“Semen is just a bodily fluid,” I said, “like pussy juice.”

“Still…” He shuddered. “I don’t know if I want another guy shooting inside her.”

I shrugged philosophically. “You’re worried about sloppy seconds? Yeah, sure, I get it. I don’t like ’em either. Some guys get off on that sort of thing, but not me.”

“Me neither.”

“Okay, then talk to her and set some ground rules. Swinging isn’t some wild free-for-all.”

He thought about it and nodded.

“My parents’ group has rules, and everyone follows them.” Most of the time, I thought, but kept it to myself. “In any case,” I continued, “you can do the same with Wren. You don’t have to give her carte blanche. If she knows you’re uncomfortable with something, she can avoid it and keep you happy.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.”

“Just talk to her beforehand. Also, make sure the other people feel the same, or at least understand.”

He nodded thoughtfully. Then he shook his head and chuckled with a mixture of amusement and disbelief. “Man, before I met you, I never would’ve imagined having this conversation.”

“Good. I’ve expanded your horizons.”

“No shit,” he said with a bemused grin.

“Well, Wren’s done most of it.”

“Yeah, maybe. But you helped a lot, especially tonight. Besides, you’re the one who introduced us to… um… the swinger lifestyle.”

“So you’re a swinger now?” I teased.

“Do you think Wren’s going to let this go until she gets what she wants?”

“No. So you might as well enjoy it. Besides, we’re not talking about just guys. Wren has really good taste in girls too.”

“Yeah, she does.”

“Tell the truth,” I said after a moment, “aren’t you a little excited about swinging for real?”

“Yeah, I guess I am. I wouldn’t be talking to you if I weren’t.”

I nodded.

“At least she asked me first,” he said. “She could’ve gone behind my back or just broken up with me.”

“That’s what love is,” I said. “Commitment. Trust. Sharing.”

He laughed unexpectedly. “I didn’t realize it’d mean sharing her!”

“You don’t have to. Not if you really don’t want to.”

“But that’d be the end of our relationship. Maybe not immediately, but definitely over time.”

“You’re probably right. And a bad friend would tell you not to do it, to say no. Then this so-called friend would be free to date Wren himself.”

He laughed. “You’re still miffed that she chose me instead.”

“Guilty.”

“So this is a win-win for you,” he accused facetiously. “She convinces me, and you get what you want. Or she leaves me, and you get what you want.”

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Only one flaw in your plan,” he said after a moment. “You’re not a bad friend.”

“Dammit! I knew that would come back to bite me.”

We chuckled and then fell silent as he worked through the implications of everything I’d said.

“She does love you,” he said eventually, “but it isn’t the same.”

“No.”

“Isn’t the same at all,” he repeated, more to himself than me.

-----

Wren returned around midnight, alone.

“Colleen went home with a friend,” she said.

I wondered idly if the friend was male or female. “What about your other friends?”

“What?” Her eyes flashed and then narrowed. “I thought you said—”

“Whoa! I did.” I placated her with a grin. “I just didn’t think you’d listen.”

“Ha ha.”

“Seriously, though,” I said, “thanks for not trying to set me up with anyone.”

She nodded and then shifted her attention to Trip. She raised an eyebrow with an unspoken question, which he answered with a nod. That gave me hope more than anything. If they were communicating, they weren’t likely to do anything without the other’s say-so.

We made small talk for a bit, but Wren clearly wanted to hear about our conversation. I didn’t want Trip to feel double-teamed, so I said goodnight and went to bed. I read for about an hour and then turned out the light. I’d nearly fallen asleep when I heard my door open.

“Are you awake?” Wren said quietly.

“Yeah,” I half-lied.

She slipped into the room and closed the door behind her. After a moment’s indecision she came to the side of the bed and sat down.

I tried to read her expression, but couldn’t see her face in the darkness. I settled for body language instead. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. I just…” She sighed. “Thanks for talking to Trip. I think he’s decided to give it a try.”

“That’s good,” I said noncommittally.

“But… I wanted to talk to you first.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. After the matchmaking thing…”

I nodded into the silence.

“You were right. I should’ve asked you first.”

“Thanks.”

“So I’m asking now…”

I laughed. “Isn’t it a bit late?”

“No, I’m asking…” She stared at her hands in her lap. “I know you don’t want to have sex with my friends, but…”

“But…?”

“Does that include me too?”

I almost laughed, but caught myself. “No,” I said softly.

“Oh, thank God. I thought you might’ve… lost interest.”

She’d been close to tears, I realized, so I touched her leg. “I’m still interested,” I said. “Very.” I hesitated a moment and then slid my hand up her bare thigh. I flipped the hem of her T-shirt. “Take this off?”

She sat forward and pulled the tail from beneath her. Then she crossed her arms without hesitation and lifted the dark fabric. Her breasts swung free. She pulled the shirt the rest of the way off and tossed it aside.

I gently cupped her breast and felt her stiffen with anticipation. “You know I’ve always wanted you,” I said. “That hasn’t changed. You dating Trip…”

“Makes things a lot more complicated,” she finished.

“No kidding. But the wait…”

“Will be worth it.”

“Yeah.”

She sighed. “Just a bit longer.”

“I know. Still…” I caressed her nipple with my thumb.

“I love Trip,” she said, to herself as much as me.

“I know. But part of what I told Trip is that love and sex aren’t the same thing.”

She nodded. “He told me. I already feel that way, but…”

“But…?”

“It’s different with you,” she said, almost a whisper.

“You love me too.”

“Yes.”

“Just not like Trip.”

She shook her head.

I laughed, a bit ruefully. “He knows that I’m still disappointed that you chose him over me.”

“I still have feelings for you, though.”

“I know. That’s what makes it so hard.”

She avoided the subject by moving her hand to the sheet over my erection. “It is hard,” she said with feigned surprise. “So… do you get off on love triangles?”

“Ha! No, I get off on women… especially when they come to my room and play with my dick.”

“Who’s playing? I’m just touching.”

“Do you want to play?”

“We can’t go all the way.”

“I know,” I said. “Even though we both want to.”

“God, yes.” She released my shaft to let me pull back the sheet, but returned almost immediately. “Mmm, nice.”

I pulled her down for a kiss.

Her soft breasts pressed against my chest as her lips found mine. We kissed and felt a mutual flare of arousal, almost uncontrollable.

“I want you so bad,” she said at last, breathless.

I made a sound in my chest, half growl, half yearning.

She slid into bed beside me. Her lips returned to mine as her hand found my cock.

I cupped her ass and pulled her against me.

She began stroking in earnest.

After several intense minutes I groaned, “Where do you want me to come? Your mouth?”

“Uh-uh. Not yet.”

“Oh, okay. Kleenex?”

“You must go through a box a week.”

“It’s your fault! You’ve been throwing women at me all summer.”

“Do you ever think of me when you jerk off?”

“Why torture myself with something I can’t have?”

“You can have me,” she said in a husky whisper, “any way you like.” She increased her tempo and concentrated on making me come. “But for now…”

I barely had time to yank a handful of Kleenex from the box. My cock swelled with the first surge of orgasm, and I frantically handed the wad of tissues over Wren’s shoulder. I wasn’t used to catching with my right hand, so I almost missed the first spurt.

Wren’s breath felt hot on my skin. “That’s it,” she urged, “come for me.”

I arched my back as she coaxed another blast into the tissues. She pumped again and again, milking me until I finally sagged to the mattress. Then she took the come-filled wad of Kleenex and gently cleaned my deflating cock.

I breathed deeply through my nose.

“Next time you can come in my mouth,” she said.

“Promise?”

“Mmm hmm.” She practically vibrated with excitement. “And then I want you to fuck me.”

“You say the sweetest things.”

She laughed and kissed me. “I’d better go.”

I rolled her to her back before she could get away. She hissed in surprise when I probed her pussy. She was well-lubricated, and her lips parted easily. I teased her clit and then buried a finger inside her.

She groaned and tried to squirm away.

“Not yet.” I withdrew my hand and let her breathing return to normal.

“I don’t know if I can wait,” she said at last.

“You’ll survive. And in the meantime…”

“Yeah, I’d better go.”

“You’re going to attack Trip, aren’t you? Whether he’s asleep or not.”

“You have no idea.”

“Oh, I think I do,” I said. “That’s why I’m so eager to fuck you.”

She pulled me down for a kiss. After a moment she slid from beneath me and stood. She found her T-shirt on the floor, turned it right-side out, and thrust her arms through the holes. She looked down at me once she pulled the shirt over her head. Then she calmly ran her fingers through her hair and tugged it free of the neck. “Do I look okay?”

“I’d do you.”

She laughed. “Soon.”

“Soon,” I agreed.

-----

Dad and Erin came home the next day, he from a weeklong series of trips and she from the cruise with our grandparents. Dad was worn out, but Erin entertained us through dinner with stories of Spain, Italy, and Greece. She was still full of energy afterward, so she went dancing with Trip and Wren. I solidified my homebody reputation and told them to have fun without me. I had a quiet evening and went to bed at a disgustingly decent hour.

The next morning I woke early and went for a run, even though it was Sunday. I returned to find Erin leaving the guest bedroom, mussed and carrying her clothes. She managed to look both guilty and defiant, but I couldn’t blame her for doing exactly what I wanted to do. Still, I had fun making her think I disapproved.

Leah also came home that weekend, although I only heard about it when she called Erin. A small part of me felt disappointed that she hadn’t called me instead, but I told myself that she was moving on with her life. She was happy with Mark, so I decided to be happy for her. In any event, she and Erin were planning to fly to camp the next day with Dad, so I wouldn’t have to curb any urges where she was concerned either.

-----

Life returned to normal on Monday. We were still behind schedule, so Trip and Mike made the decision to ask the Franklin men to work evenings and weekends. Jim and I were included, of course, although our “overtime” would only pay if we sold the houses for a profit, preferably a large one.

The crew also finished work on my parents’ hot tub, although Trip and I were so busy that we didn’t have time to christen it properly. I didn’t really have anyone to christen it with, either, but I held out hope that Trip was ready to give swinging a try. Alas, we were working twelve-hour days, seven days a week, and neither of us had the time or energy for any extracurricular fun.

We also reached the point where the realtor could start showing the houses. The rancher was more or less finished, except for the gazebo and backyard landscaping. Trip and Mike wanted to eliminate the former and scale back the latter, but I stuck to my guns, and Jim backed me all the way.

Still, Mike reassigned our crew to help with the Colonial, so Jim and I built the gazebo ourselves. For good measure, we used leftover lumber to add an arbor, which the landscaper planted with climbing roses. We were still working when the realtor scheduled an open house. A surprising number of people showed up. Several were couples who’d heard about it from Wren. She’d been talking us up at the restaurant, apparently. PR in action.

Speaking of Wren, we celebrated her twenty-first birthday with a party in the private dining room at the restaurant. Colleen and a bunch of other friends were there, along with servers and staff who popped in to celebrate with us. I drank too much and barely fended off Colleen’s advances. She didn’t take it personally, though, and I wondered what the hell I was doing. What would it hurt to sleep with her? Fortunately (for both of us), she gave up on me and left with a bad-boy-type bartender.

I was still a little drunk when I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run in the morning. I was more or less sober by the time I finished, but I’d begun to regret every drink from the night before. My hangover reached the dull-ache, queasy-stomach stage about the time I arrived at the house to meet Jim. He laughed at my sorry appearance but had plenty of his own experience with hangovers at work. Instead of giving me grief, he picked up my slack as we finished our final punch list and packed up our tools.

The next day we joined Trip and the crew at the Tudor. We worked like dogs until the end of the month, but Mike still beat us by a day. The Colonial had been a lot more work, but the double-sized crew had given him the edge. We passed inspection on all three houses, of course, but Trip still had to argue with the inspector several times. They went back and forth on codes and amendments. Trip won a few points but conceded the rest, which we promised to fix within twenty-four hours.

On the first of September we closed on two houses, the Colonial and Tudor. I was happy to see them go to couples who were excited to move in with their families. We broke even on the Tudor (barely) and cleared a nice profit on the Colonial, enough to pay bonuses to the men, with a little left over for each of the principals.

We’d planned to close on the rancher the same day, but we still didn’t have a signed contract. Trip and Mike were worried about it, but I took a more sanguine view.

“It’ll sell,” I promised. “And for more than we’re asking.”

“What if it doesn’t?” Mike accused. Then, “Do you know something I don’t?”

“Yes,” I said, and left it that, mostly to annoy him.

Jim gave me a smirk.

He and I had talked to the realtor after one of the showings. Three couples were serious about the rancher, and they were bidding against each other. The realtor was nearly beside herself as the price kept increasing, her commission along with it.

A doctor/lawyer couple eventually made an offer that put an end to the bidding. Trip and Mike knew what was going on by then, but the realtor still managed to surprise us. Trip did a double take when he saw the final offer. Mike stared at the number with his fillings on display. Even Jim and I were stunned.

“We close next Wednesday,” the realtor said. She produced a pen. “Sign here.”

“I guess this means Jim and I won,” I said as Trip signed for us.

“Won what?” the realtor asked, still euphoric.

“We had a little competition, whose house would bring the most profit.”

“Wasn’t even close,” she said. She looked at Trip and Mike. “You owe these guys. The backyard drove the bidding. Everyone wanted it.”

“Well, fuck me,” Mike said in wonder. Then he remembered the realtor. “Uh, pardon my language.”

“Don’t mention it.” She gave him an appraising look.

He turned a brighter shade of red.

We chuckled at his expense, and the realtor winked at me as she turned to go.

“Have a good weekend,” she called over her shoulder. “I’ll call with the closing details.”

Mike shook his head in disbelief. “Damn, college boy.”

“So you’ll keep me?”

“Keep you? I could kiss you!”

I tried to back away, but Jim blocked my escape. Traitor.

Mike didn’t kiss me after all, but my ribs creaked from the force of his enthusiasm.

“D’you realize,” he said when he put me down, “that you just doubled our profits?”

“Nearly tripled ’em,” Trip said, “if my math is right.”

“Doubled, tripled, even better!”

Mike’s giddiness infected us all, but I still wanted Jim’s opinion.

He gave me a slight bow. Good job. Then a grin. For a college kid.

-----

We threw a big party for the crew and their wives that night, and Wren outdid herself with the planning. She’d reserved a banquet room at her father’s original restaurant, laid out with a huge buffet and open bar. She’d even booked a DJ, who came with his own dance floor, lights, and disco ball.

After dinner Trip made a speech and thanked the men for their hard work. Mike added a few words and then returned the microphone.

“Most of you know,” Trip began, “that we promised bonuses when we sold the houses. Sort of a profit-sharing incentive.” He paused for a round of applause. “But… I have a little bad news. We still haven’t sold the rancher.” He weathered a chorus of groans. “However…”

I realized with a grin that he’d rehearsed his speech before the party, probably with Wren’s help. She had a ringmaster’s natural talent, and her touches showed in his delivery. He let the pause draw out before he produced a stack of white envelopes.

“Good news! We have a signed contract, and we close next week.”

Applause and cheers.

He waited for them to die down before he made a stage-grimace. “These aren’t the bonuses we originally planned.”

Back to groans.

“Jim and Paul decided to stick to the original plan, which is why we couldn’t close on the rancher.”

Men didn’t outright glare, but the mood at the other tables turned cool. Jim and I were sitting with the men from our crew, who instinctively closed ranks. They knew us better than the rest, well enough to know that we hadn’t done anything to sabotage the sale.

“Mike and I wanted to eliminate a couple of things,” Trip went on, “to save time and money. But they overruled us.”

A couple of guys at the other tables realized that Trip was setting them up. They’d worked with Jim and knew he was too sensible to do anything stupid. They might not trust me, but they definitely trusted him. Most of the others still looked resentful, but the clever ones relaxed and watched with smug anticipation.

“They spent the extra money on the landscaping,” Trip explained, “and they went ahead and built the gazebo. They even built a rose arbor.” He realized that resentment would quickly become anger, so he dropped the other shoe. “As a result, we had a three-way bidding war!”

Some of the resentful men were too slow to realize what that meant, but the rest sat up in surprise.

“We haven’t closed yet,” Trip cautioned, “but we have a contract, and the profit is… pretty impressive.” He grinned and waved the envelopes. “So these aren’t what we originally planned. But—”

“Fer cryin’ out loud,” someone hollered, “just tell us.”

“I hope your wallets are big enough, ’cause they’re going to be full!”

The room erupted. The men around Jim and me slapped our backs and beamed at us.

“Paul and Jim should give out the bonuses,” Trip said when the cheers and whistles died down. “What do you think, Mike?”

“Fine by me.” He looked at me and nodded his approval, for more than just the bonuses.

Jim and I made our way to the front of the room, where Trip handed over the microphone.

I cleared my throat nervously. “Trip already said enough for both of us…”

The men laughed and nodded.

“And besides, you’ll probably riot if we don’t end the suspense.”

“You got that right!”

Trip divided the stack of envelopes and handed them to Jim and me. Each had a man’s name in Wren’s neat handwriting. The hubbub grew as Jim and I handed them out. Every envelope contained nearly a month’s pay, in cash, for the man who received it.

Trip gave a cue when we finished, and Wren turned down the room lights. The DJ lit his strobes and dropped the needle on his turntable. The sound of drums and horns filled the room, and I had to laugh at Trip’s music selection.

“Celebration,” of course, by Kool & the Gang.

-----

I woke up with a hangover the next day, but it wasn’t too bad. I hadn’t drunk nearly as much as some of the men. We’d sent a few of them home in cabs, and several couples had spent the night in a nearby hotel.

I skipped my usual run and ate breakfast with Trip and Wren instead. By unspoken agreement we decided to do as little as possible the rest of the day. Not surprisingly, we ended up at Wren’s pool.

Late in the afternoon she rose from her lounge chair and folded her towel. “I need to run to the butcher and market,” she said.

Trip asked what was for dinner.

“Don’t know yet. I’ll see what looks good when I get there. Back in about an hour.” She bent and gave him a kiss and then waved to me.

We watched her go, probably with the same thoughts.

I felt a twinge of guilt for openly admiring my best friend’s girlfriend, but Trip knew how I felt. He also knew that I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize our friendship. Still, he set off alarms when he said he wanted to talk to me.

“Sure,” I said, a bit too mildly. “What’s up?”

He read my expression and actually laughed. “Not about Wren. Things are… I mean, we’re still… moving forward… as far as the ‘you know’ is concerned.”

“Oh. Okay. That’s good.”

“It’s… um… about Erin.”

“My sister Erin?”

“Yeah.” It was his turn to look nervous, and my turn to laugh.

“I’m not the overprotective big brother type,” I said.

“So you know…? About… what happened?”

“Yeah,” I admitted. “I saw her coming out of your room.”

“We thought she left early enough.”

“I woke up at the crack of dawn and went for a run.”

“How come you didn’t say anything?”

I shrugged. “None of my business. I mean, Erin can do what she wants. She’s actually pretty grown-up for seventeen. A lot more than I was at her age.”

“Yeah, but still… she’s your sister.”

“And you’re my best friend. So? No big deal.”

He blinked in disbelief. “Man, sometimes I forget about your upbringing.”

“Yeah, it was different.”

“I’ll say.” He paused to size me up. “So… you’re not upset?”

“That you had sex with Erin?”

“Whoa! I didn’t have sex with her.”

“Why not?”

“I… um… felt guilty. She wanted to, and Wren was all for it, but… I chickened out at the last second.”

“That was dumb.”

He rolled his eyes in frustration. “Are you kidding? You want me to sleep with your sister?”

“If she wants to,” I shrugged. “Like I said, none of my business. Well, it sort of is now, ’cause you brought it up, but really, it’s between you and Erin.”

“So you’d be okay if I… went all the way?”

“Are you kidding? You’d be an idiot not to.”

“I still can’t wrap my head around this.”

“Think about it from my perspective,” I said. “First, Erin can make her own decisions. She doesn’t need my permission for anything. Second, you make Wren happy, so you’re obviously good in bed. And third, you don’t tell the world about your conquests. So yeah,” I finished, “I’d totally be okay if you had sex with Erin.”

“It’s just that…”

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “With most ‘normal’ guys, their sister would be off-limits.” I shrugged. “I’m not like that. Neither is Erin. Yeah, she’s my sister, and I’m always gonna be protective, but she’s also a grown woman—close enough, at least—and she can make her own choices. If she chooses you, go for it.”

He snorted. “That simple, huh?”

“That simple.”

He considered for a moment. “It’s been easy to avoid the issue, since everyone’s at camp. And with us working so hard on the houses…”

I nodded.

“But Wren reminded me that everyone’ll be home tomorrow, and…” He shrugged. “I guess I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”

“Can’t say I blame you.” And I’ve been thinking about Wren a lot. So will you hurry up and make a move already? I covered my thoughts with a deliberately bland expression. “Let’s plan something for Labor Day.”

“Wren’s dad’s having a big party.”

“Okay, then something after.”

He nodded.

“We can christen the hot tub.”

“Yeah, but… what about you?”

A teeny-tiny part of me had been hoping that him having sex with Erin meant I’d finally have a shot at Wren.

“Maybe Wren could call Colleen,” he suggested. “Or someone else?”

I didn’t hide my disappointment very well. “I don’t need help to get laid.”

“No, I didn’t mean it like that!”

“Then how did you mean it?”

“Look, I’m just not ready for you and Wren to… you know.”

I took a deep breath and accepted reality. “Yeah, okay.”

“Sorry, dude. I know you want to… go all the way. But…” He shrugged helplessly.

I wanted to mock him for his choice of words, but it wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t grown up in a swinger family, hadn’t been raised to think about sex as a normal part of life.

He echoed my thoughts: “You’ve had years to figure this stuff out. I’ve only had a couple of months. Cut me some slack, okay?”

“Yeah, sorry. I guess I’m just frustrated. And I don’t want a one-night stand or pity sex.”

“I get it.” He paused for a moment and worked through a moral conundrum. “Look, maybe this is none of my business, but I’m gonna say it anyway. Let’s invite Leah and Mark.”

My eyebrows shot up.

“A little birdie told us they wanna have a threesome with you.”

“Little birdie?”

“Okay, Erin.”

“Duh! But how does she know?”

“Leah probably told her. Hold on… how do you know?”

“Seriously? Leah and I have been lovers a long time, and friends longer than that. She tells me stuff. It’s called sharing, remember? And trust?”

“So you’re not upset that I know?”

“Not really. Just surprised.”

“Okay, so back to my original suggestion: let’s invite them.”

“We can,” I said cautiously, “but I’m not sure how to go about it. I mean, we haven’t even met Mark.”

“No problem,” Trip said reasonably. “Wren’ll do it. That’s how it works in your parents’ group, right? The women usually arrange things? She’ll talk to Erin. Then they’ll talk to Leah.”

“Okay, but… when? Everyone comes home tomorrow. And Labor Day is Monday.”

“Dude, this is Wren we’re talking about.”

I laughed. “No kidding.”

“Hey, I’m learning how this works.”

“And doing a pretty good job of it.”

“I always do.” He dropped the bravado and grew sober. “Look,” he said, “I know you and Wren want to… have sex. It’s all she talks about sometimes. Believe it or not, I want the same thing. But…!” He held up a hand. “I need to take things one step at a time. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Cheer up. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“Bad example,” I said. “Rome never stopped building.”

“Yeah, but they had a lot of orgies!”

-----

My family returned the next day, while I was at the gym. I was cleaning out my locker and saying goodbye to friends and sparring partners. Dwayne was sorry to see me go, but he’d known all along that I was only in town for the summer. I wished him luck with his career and promised to stop by the gym whenever I could.

Back home I found the usual post-camp bustle: Mom doing laundry, Dad working on the car, and Erin on the phone. Check, check, and check. I grabbed a drink from the fridge and went looking for Trip, but Mom intercepted me first. She gave me a hug and then held me at arm’s length.

“What happened to you?”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You look like a POW. I can see your cheekbones. Didn’t you eat?”

“Yeah, lots. But construction is hard work. And between that and running and boxing—”

“Boxing? You took up boxing?

I suddenly realized how long it had been since I’d talked to her. “I needed something to keep me active,” I explained. “I don’t ever wanna be pudgy again.”

“But you’ve gone to the other extreme. There isn’t an ounce of fat on you!”

“There isn’t supposed to be.”

“Too thin isn’t healthy either.”

“I’m not exactly thin,” I protested, and puffed up my chest to prove it.

She rolled her eyes. “Men! There’s more to life than muscles.”

“Tell that to Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

He isn’t my son. Now, go help your dad with the car. I need to go grocery shopping if I want to put some meat on your bones.”

“I don’t need any more ‘meat on my bones,’” I muttered.

Mom pretended not to hear and shooed me toward the garage.

In all honesty, I had noticed the changes. I’d only lost about fifteen pounds of actual weight, but most of my clothes felt way too large, and I’d had to tighten my belt almost two notches. I didn’t see any changes in my face, but perhaps it was a bit more angular than before. Still, I preferred too thin over too fat.

Dad was only changing the oil and spark plugs, so he’d almost finished by the time I offered to help. Trip and Wren pulled into the driveway a few minutes later, right as we closed the hood. We exchanged small talk before Wren asked if my mom was home.

“Don’t you mean Erin?”

She grinned. “Eventually. But I wanna talk to your mom first.”

“She’s probably in the kitchen,” Dad said. He hooked a thumb in that direction. “Or the laundry room.”

Wren thanked him and went inside.

“Would you mind moving your car?” Dad asked Trip. “I need to give the old girl a test drive.” He patted the station wagon fondly.

“Don’t let Mom hear you call it that.”

“Son,” Dad said dryly, “the words ‘old girl’ aren’t part of my vocabulary when she’s around.”

“Smart,” Trip said with a grin.

“Mmm hmm,” Dad agreed. Then he wiped his hands on a rag and slid behind the wheel of the car.

Trip moved his Impala, and Dad pulled out of the garage.

“What’s up with Wren?” I asked Trip once he returned.

“She wants some pointers from your mom. Swinger etiquette, so to speak.”

“So… she thought it was a good idea? To invite Leah and Mark?”

Trip snorted a laugh. “What do you think?”

-----

The Hilliard party was the usual shindig, a catered backyard barbecue with a diverse guest list. Wren’s cousin Scarlett had moved to Savannah with Mitch (now her fiancé), but I met her younger brother, Ashley, fourteen. He and his friends were as obnoxious as I’d probably been at that age, so we didn’t spend much time with them.

I also met Wren’s mother’s “special friend,” her words. She was a stylish woman in her early forties in a rose-pink summer dress. She wore a wedding ring, and I overheard her talking about her children, so I never would have suspected that she and Helen were a couple. Still, they orbited each other with an unconscious togetherness, which reminded me of my own parents. Love follows its own rules sometimes.

Wren’s dad also had a special friend at the party, although he was more circumspect about it. Wren pointed her out. She was with a group from the steakhouse. She never actually spent any time with him, but she never let him stray from her sight either. She was in her late twenties, svelte and brunette, dressed in white capri pants and a blouse belted at the waist. Her outfit was fairly conservative, but it clung to her in all the right places and made her stand out in the crowd.

“I’m sure she thinks she’s the next Mrs. Hilliard,” Wren said.

“But she won’t be?” Erin said.

Wren shook her head. “My parents’ll never get a divorce.”

“Why not?”

“They still love each other. They probably haven’t had sex since I was conceived, but that doesn’t change how they feel. Besides, Mom’s part of the business as much as Dad is. She supported him in culinary school and used her savings to help open the first restaurant. It was her idea to open more, and she worked in them until I was thirteen.

“They’d have to split everything in a divorce.” Wren shrugged with an admission, “I guess they’re partners more than lovers. So they have an arrangement: Mom has Lydia, and Dad has his bimbos.”

Wren wasn’t giving the current “bimbo” enough credit, but I didn’t say anything. The woman was actually the catering and bar manager at the steakhouse, and Arnold Hilliard didn’t hire idiots. I also didn’t think he’d promote someone just because he was sleeping with her. He certainly wouldn’t be the first guy to make that mistake, but I’d never seen any evidence of it.

“Still,” Erin said, “it seems kinda weird that they don’t have sex. With each other, I mean.”

“Your parents do things one way, mine do it another. They’ve made it work for twenty-plus years, though.”

“Yeah, I see what you mean.”

Wren smiled. “Trip and I want to do things more like y’all.”

“I certainly hope so,” Erin said with a laugh. “He’s running out of excuses.”

“Seriously,” Trip deadpanned to me, “is it always like this?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Speaking of which…,” Wren said, “when are Leah and Mark s’posed to be here?”

“Any time now,” Erin said. “They had to do something with his mom and step-dad.”

Right on cue, Leah and Mark entered the backyard through the side gate. They looked a little uncertain until Wren stood and beckoned them over.

“Welcome to Chez Hilliard,” she said.

Leah introduced Mark around the group, and I sized him up before she got to me. He was about my height, maybe an inch shorter, with dark hair and blue eyes. He wore light blue shorts and a red-striped Izod shirt with the collar popped.

He smiled as he shook my hand. His grip was firm without being a challenge, like he didn’t have anything to prove and knew it. He met my eyes and smiled, friendly and amused at the same time.

“Nice to finally meet you,” he said. “Leah’s told me so much about you. Although… you don’t look anything like the guy from the movie.”

“Huh?”

The Outsiders. Ponyboy.” He grinned. “That’s what Leah calls you sometimes.”

Her eyes widened in disbelief.

I must have turned four shades of red, because everyone had a good laugh at my expense.

“She calls him that for a different reason,” Erin explained with a grin.

“Yeah, I kinda figured,” Mark said. “But still, I expected him to look the part.”

“Oh,” Wren said, “he does.”

My cheeks heated again. “Do you mind if we change the subject?”

“We can talk about my johnson if you want,” Mark suggested, “but it isn’t that impressive.”

I think it’s very impressive,” Leah said.

Erin nodded. “It’s pretty nice.”

“Wait a minute!” I blurted. “How do you know?”

She gave me a “Seriously?” look.

“Ooh,” Wren added, “am I the only one who hasn’t seen? I can’t wait!”

“It really isn’t all that special,” Mark demurred. “Pretty average, I’d say.”

“We’ll be the judge of that,” Wren said.

It’s was Trip’s turn to blush. “Yeah, let’s change the subject. I mean, we just met the guy, and already we’re talking about his… you know.”

“We could talk about yours instead,” Wren teased.

Erin chirped, “Yes, please.”

“What in God’s name have I gotten myself into?” Trip asked the world in general.

“A night of fun and adventure,” Wren said. She laughed and hooked her arm through his. Then she gestured for Erin to join them. “Let’s hit the bar and fetch drinks for everyone.”

“Seriously,” Mark said to me when they’d gone, “nice to meet you. Leah really has told me a lot about you. The Ponyboy thing was just a joke to break the ice.”

“Well, you broke it.”

“Sorry, man, I didn’t mean it like that. Are you upset?”

“Nah, it’s okay.”

“It’s just that from everything Leah’s told me, you seem like a really cool guy. I guess I was trying to impress you.”

“Impress me? What for?”

“To be friends.”

I looked at him and realized that he was serious. “Just take care of Leah,” I said, “and we’ll get along fine.”

He smiled and put his arm around her shoulder, affectionate and comfortable and completely unconcerned. “My pleasure.”

I liked him already.

-----

We hung around the party for another couple of hours before we said our goodbyes and left. Erin climbed into the car with Trip and Wren, and Leah invited me to join her and Mark. His car was new, a Datsun 280ZX, and it had bucket seats, so we couldn’t all sit together in the front. Leah insisted on climbing into the back, although she sat forward and stuck her head between the seats. She mostly grinned and bounced with excitement on the short drive from Wren’s house to ours.

My parents were at the Coulters’ for a private party with some of their Atlanta swinger friends, so our little group would have the house to ourselves until midnight. Wren had already stocked the refrigerator with food and the pantry with alcohol, so she and Erin busied themselves in the kitchen. Trip and I took the cover off the hot tub and started the pump.

“It’ll take a while to heat up,” I said. “I probably should’ve done it this morning.”

“Nah,” Mark said, “it’s cool.” Then he laughed when he realized what he’d said.

“Probably a little too cool,” I said, “if you know what I mean.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Leah said. “I know how to heat things up.” She ran a finger between the swell of her breasts and then unfastened her wide fabric belt. She tossed it onto a chair and reached for the top button of her dress.

Trip shifted a bit uncomfortably but didn’t look away. Mark and I simply watched with appreciation. I’d seen Leah undress a thousand times, but I still enjoyed it. Mark glanced at me once, although he didn’t seem bothered that his girlfriend was taking off her clothes in front of two other guys.

Leah opened the front of her dress to show us her dark, crinkled nipples. She had very faint tan lines on her breasts, from when she’d had to wear a bikini around Mark’s father. She pushed the dress over her hips and then draped it on the chair with her belt. Her panties followed a moment later.

She struck a pose and arched an eyebrow. Did we like what we saw?

“You know we do,” I said aloud.

“But I want you to say it.”

I chuckled instead.

“You’re gorgeous,” Mark said for all three of us.

“Amazing,” Trip added.

“Yeah,” I teased, “what they said.”

Her dark eyes flashed and then narrowed to a glare.

Wren and Erin saved me from her pique when they came out of the house with a large bucket of ice between them.

Trip and I jumped immediately. “Here,” he said, and took a handle from her, “we got it.”

“Will you help us with the drinks?” Wren asked. “No, wait. Take your clothes off first. Then help us.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, only half-mocking.

They went back inside, and I stepped out of the way to let Leah pass.

“In a minute,” she said coolly. “It’s been a while since I’ve had three guys to myself. I wanna watch.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mark said to her in a perfect imitation of Trip. Then he pulled off his shirt and began unfastening his shorts without hesitation.

Color me impressed, I thought. He was definitely comfortable in his own skin. Add his general good looks and easygoing attitude, and I could see why girls succumbed to his charms. Leah was lucky to have met him, I thought. He was exactly what she needed, although it pained me to admit that I wasn’t.

“I still can’t get used to this part,” Trip said as he kicked off his shoes and socks.

“What?” Mark asked. “Undressing in front of people?”

“No,” Trip said, a trifle irritated, “having girls ogle us instead of the other way around.”

“What’s good for the goose…,” Mark said.

“He’s right,” I added. “I mean, if we want to look at them, it’s only fair if they do the same.”

“Yeah, I know,” Trip said, “but it still makes me feel like a piece of meat.”

Leah laughed. “Now you know how we feel.”

“I didn’t say it was rational, or even fair, but it’s how I feel.”

“If it makes you feel any better,” Leah said, “you’re a really nice piece of meat. Especially, ahem, your meat.”

Trip paused as he unbuckled his belt. He pursed his lips and then sighed in resignation.

“What?” Leah said, all faux-innocence.

“You do that to me every time.”

“Do what?”

“You know,” he said, and finished taking off his shorts and underwear. His erection sprang free.

I glanced at Mark to see his reaction, but he didn’t seem fazed.

Trip looked at Leah with a clear challenge. “Happy?”

“Yes, thank you,” she said, warm instead of mocking.

“She does the same to me,” Mark said.

“But you’re her boyfriend. She’s supposed to do it to you.”

“She also does it to guys she likes. And… um… dude, she really likes you.”

Trip’s eyebrows shot up. He’d heard the same thing from Leah, but hearing it from Mark drove the point home.

“Matter of fact,” Mark added, “I’ve heard almost as much about you as I have about this guy.”

Trip looked even more surprised. “Seriously?”

“Mmm hmm. About how you stuck up for her when the whole bikini thing blew up at camp. And when you helped her with that douchebag Gary.”

“That was mostly Wren and Paul,” Trip said.

“Maybe,” Mark said, “but you’re still part of her clique.”

Trip scoffed.

“She told me about the wire outfits and jewelry. Not just the pictures, but everything else. Like how your attitude is becoming more like hers and Paul’s. I mean, isn’t that what tonight’s about?” he finished. “Trying new things?”

“Jesus,” Trip said softly, “she has told you a lot.”

“Yep.”

“That’s what couples do,” I said quietly. “Trust and sharing.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, not that again!”

“What can I say? He’s right.”

Wren chose that moment to open the patio door. “Hey, naked men, are you going to help or what?”

“Yes, ma’am,” we said in unison.

-----

We’d eaten our fill of barbecue at the first party, so none of us were really hungry. But Wren didn’t want us drinking on empty stomachs, so she’d made a couple of “simple hors d’oeuvres.” Her idea of simple was a lot more elaborate than mine.

She asked us to take out the drinks, so Trip, Mark, and I loaded up with four-packs of wine coolers. The girls followed us out with the food. They arranged everything on the patio table while we plunged bottles into the ice. When we were done I decided to tease Wren.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?”

She frantically scanned the array of food. Then she shot a look at the drinks. Her brow wrinkled in concentration.

I flipped the skirt of her dress. “Isn’t this supposed to be a nudist party?”

“No fair! I was really worried.”

“Well, get over it. Everything looks amazing. Except you and Erin.” I grinned. “You’re a little overdressed. You’d look much better nude.”

“Ha ha,” she mocked. “Very funny.”

“Hey,” I shot back, “you’re the one who likes looking at us. Fair is fair. Our turn. Now strip.”

“Are you going to let him talk to me like that?” she asked Trip.

He held up his hands. “I just work here.”

I took the opportunity to study Mark while he watched Wren and Erin. He wasn’t as muscular as me, and I didn’t think he played sports, but he wasn’t pudgy. His pubic hair was dark and naturally sparse. His dick looked about average, although looks could be deceiving. I’d seen guys with three soft inches grow into eight hard ones, and other guys with five inches, soft or hard.

The girls finished undressing, so I turned my attention to them. I’d seen Wren the most lately, but I never really tired of looking at her. I felt a small pang of regret that she’d chosen Trip over me, but it was tempered by excitement at the prospect of having sex with her. Sooner rather than later, I hoped.

Her breasts were full and round, her skin dark from sunbathing by the pool. She kept her pubic hair nicely trimmed along her bikini lines, although she wasn’t as tan there, since she wore bottoms whenever her dad was home.

Leah was girlishly slim, with small, firm breasts, a flat stomach, and narrow hips. Her tan was the darkest, except where she shaved her pubic hair and habitually wore bikini bottoms. My eyes lingered on her smooth mons, and I imagined spreading her open later, first with my fingers and then with my cock.

I finally glanced at Erin and was struck by how much she’d changed over the years. Part of me would always think of her as my bratty little sister, skinny and coltish. But her breasts and hips had filled in, and now she looked more like our mother. She even trimmed her bush into a similar wedge.

My eyes swept over her again, and I noticed something odd: tan lines. I couldn’t remember the last time she’d had them. They were faint, but I could still make out the lighter triangles on her breasts and a more distinct one around her bush. She’d had to wear a bikini on the cruise, of course, and the lines hadn’t faded yet, even after time at camp.

“I just noticed something,” I said, as I surveyed the group, “we all have tan lines.”

Mark’s were the most pronounced, since he wasn’t a nudist, but Trip and I came close. We had farmer tans from working outside all summer. I felt weird because of it, which was a bit silly.

Erin echoed my thoughts. “Looks odd, doesn’t it?”

“Totally goofy,” I said. “I mean, I don’t get tan like the rest of you, but this is too white.”

“That’s okay,” Wren said, “we don’t really care about your tan.”

“I dunno,” Mark said, “tan lines are kinda cool.”

I scoffed, “How?”

“Because you’re seeing something other people don’t, ’cause it’s usually covered.”

“Well, I kinda like no tan lines,” Wren countered.

“Of course you do,” Trip said.

You never complained about me going nude.”

“Um… no, dear. I’m just saying that you’re different.”

“I’m an exhibitionist, you mean? So what if I am? I wish you were more of one sometimes.”

“Whoa,” I said, “my turn to object. Women’s bodies are made to be appreciated. Men’s are kinda weird. Besides, most guys are really squeamish about seeing another guy’s parts.”

“Present company excluded?” Mark said.

“Obviously. I mean, I grew up in a nudist family. What’s your excuse?”

He shrugged. “I guess I never really thought about it. I mean, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal to see another guy’s dick.”

“Yeah,” Trip said, “but you don’t want anyone to think you’re a fag.”

I felt a sudden rush of anger. “Pick another word,” I snapped. “I don’t like that one.”

“‘Fag’?”

“Yeah. It’s rude. You wouldn’t call Wren’s mom a dyke, would you?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then don’t call a gay guy a fag.”

“Whoa, calm down. What’s gotten into you all of a sudden?”

“Long story,” I said. “But they’re just like us.”

“Homos? Like hell!”

“No,” Mark said, “I think I agree with him. I know a couple of gay guys, and they’re just regular guys. But they also have to hide their… habits.”

“What’s that have to do with us?” Trip asked, almost belligerently.

“Do you tell people that you’re a swinger?” Mark replied.

“No,” Trip said. “So?”

“The point is,” Wren said gently, “we’re a lot like gays and lesbians. We didn’t choose to be this way, and we have to hide it from society.”

I chose to be this way,” Trip argued.

“But you did it because you love me.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t make me anything like them.”

“It sort of does,” Mark said. He held up his hands quickly. “No offense. But think about it…”

I picked up the thread. “Gays and lesbians and swingers don’t fit what most people think of as ‘normal.’ Nudists too, for that matter, but it’s more acceptable because it isn’t about sex.”

Mark nodded.

“So we have to hide our lifestyle. We have to find other people like us. We have to be careful what we say in public, how we behave. And most of us worry what would happen if people found out.”

Erin, Leah, and Wren nodded immediately.

“So that’s why I don’t like it when you use the word ‘fag,’” I said. “Hearing you say it makes me think of what people would say about me if they knew. You know? ’Cause I’m not all that different. I don’t like men, but I like sex with multiple people, and I don’t have a problem if my girlfriend does the same. Monogamy is boring.”

“Amen, brother,” Erin said under her breath.

Most of us nodded.

“Yeah, okay,” Trip said at last, “I get it. I won’t say… that word. But what should I call ’em? Queers? Homos? Fairies?”

“Trip!” Wren cried.

He held up his hands and laughed. “Just kidding!”

We fell silent after the seriousness of the past few minutes.

“To answer your question,” Mark said into the void, “no, I’m not worried that people will think I’m gay. I know I’m not, so it doesn’t matter what they think.”

“And what about us?” Erin asked Trip. “Me and Leah and Wren? We like men and women, but you don’t seem to have a problem with that.”

“Well, no, but that’s ’cause it’s… sexy.”

Erin snorted. “Do you know what kind of trouble Leah and I would be in if word got out at school that we like girls? Our reputations’d be ruined.”

Leah nodded emphatically.

“I wish I could say we don’t care what others think,” Erin said, “but we obviously do.”

“Yeah,” Mark admitted, “I care too, but not enough to change…” He shrugged when he couldn’t find the right word. “Who I am, I guess.”

“Which is why you don’t mind seeing another guy’s dick,” I said.

“Exactly.”

“Not even a hard-on.”

“Right again.”

Leah didn’t say anything, but she reached down and clasped his hand.

“And we actually like it,” Erin said. “Seeing your hard-ons. We also like boobs and butts and bushes. But I’m glad you think that’s sexy.”

“All right,” Trip said, “I get it. I guess I’m just not like you all.”

“You’re more like us than you used to be,” Wren said.

“You are,” Leah added.

“And we like you this way,” Erin finished. She touched his arm and then stretched up to kiss his cheek. “It’s very…” She grinned. “Sexy.”

He blushed.

“Okay,” I said at last, “that was a really heavy discussion.”

“No kidding.”

“I dunno about you guys,” Mark said, “but I could use a drink.”

“Hear, hear!”

“C’mon,” Erin said, “let’s take our clothes inside and fetch towels first.”

When we returned we draped our towels over the patio chairs to keep them from chafing. The wine coolers weren’t quite cold enough, but no one seemed to mind. We all needed to restore our buzz.

“This is nice,” Trip said after a couple of minutes. He held up his bottle and saluted Wren. “You’re an awesome hostess and an amazing girlfriend.”

“Thank you.”

“I really mean that.”

“I know you do,” she said. “Especially ’cause of tonight.”

He blushed and contemplated his drink.

Erin giggled. “He makes a really cute face when he’s flustered.”

“You should see the one he makes when he comes,” Wren said.

Trip took a hasty swig of wine cooler.

“I can’t wait,” Erin said. “My head was buried in his lap the last time.”

“And I think you were between my legs the first time,” Wren said.

“Mmm hmm. We were in a sixty-nine the next time. He was doing you from behind, so I couldn’t see his face.”

“You had a really good view of his balls, though.”

“True. They get all nice and crinkly when he comes.”

Trip downed the last of his cooler. “I’m gonna need a lot more of these,” he said to no one in particular. He stood to fetch another, and none of us were surprised to see his erection. He returned with two bottles.

“Much better,” he said after he drank half of the first. Then he burped politely and slouched in his chair. “Sorry, guys,” he said to Mark and me, “but you’re on your own tonight.” He gestured at Wren and Erin. “I’ll have my hands full.”

“You poor thing,” I teased.

“Do you think we should arrange a signal?” Mark said. “You know, in case we need to rescue him?”

“One if by land, two if by sea?”

“Something like that. Knock once for yes, twice for no, lots of times for ‘go the hell away!’”

Wren almost spewed her wine cooler. She coughed and recovered, but not before we all had a good laugh.

“Nice one,” she said at last.

“And what about you?” Mark asked Leah. “Will you have your hands full tonight?”

“Not my hands,” she said, and gave him a smoldering look.

Wren laughed. “Oh, touché!”

After that we drank and ate and talked for a while, until Erin blithely reached into Trip’s lap and began fondling him. Mark looked a little surprised, although not as shocked as Trip.

“All right,” I said, “everybody ready to take this party to the hot tub?” I switched the pump to high, and the water churned with bubbles.

We held our drinks up and waded into the warmth of the tub. Leah sat next to me, with Mark on her other side. Her hand immediately found my penis. She set her drink aside and reached into his lap as well. He and I made eye contact, and I waited for him to react. He simply nodded, so I relaxed and let Leah’s fingers work their magic.

Across the tub, Trip sat between Wren and Erin with his arms around them and his head back. Erin’s arm moved as she stroked him, while Wren kissed his neck and chest. They continued for a few minutes, and I enjoyed the view when the girls flashed a nipple or an entire breast.

Leah was watching too, and getting more excited by the minute. She eventually straddled my lap and looked into my eyes. Her lips parted and I kissed her. I belatedly remembered Mark, but he didn’t seem to care. Some mischievous part of me decided to test his commitment, and I pulled Leah against me. She moaned when my tongue invaded her mouth and sparred with hers.

Beneath the water I cupped her ass and pressed her pussy against the base of my erection. Then I reached between her legs and fingered her. Our tongues danced, and I could feel her desire building. We finally broke the kiss and gazed at each other with heat and lust.

“Ready for more?” I prompted.

Her eyes flashed.

“That’s what we’re here for, baby,” Mark told her.

I climbed out of the water and sat on the warm brick coping. Leah immediately moved between my legs. I caught Mark looking at my erection, but he wasn’t the least bit embarrassed when he glanced up and saw me watching.

Leah moved my cock out of the way so she could kiss my balls. Then she worked her way up the shaft until she reached the crown. She swirled her tongue around it, and I shuddered at the thought of what she was about to do. My dick hadn’t felt a woman’s mouth in far too long, and I was a little worried about how long I’d last. Leah began fellating me slowly, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on not coming too quickly.

I wasn’t very successful, and Leah sensed that I was getting close. She moaned and increased her pace. She enjoyed the taste of come more than the blowjob itself, I thought. Her sisters and mother were the same, although I was the opposite. Sure, I liked to come, but I preferred everything leading up to it, the sights, sounds, and sensations. I even liked watching other guys get a blowjob, which was part of why I liked being a swinger.

Mark’s voice pulled me back to the real world. “Yeah, baby,” he urged Leah, “make him come.”

I obliged and rewarded her with liquid aphrodisiac. She moaned and held still as I spewed semen into her mouth. Once I finished, she milked the remaining come out of my shaft.

“Lemme see,” Mark said, excited.

She opened her mouth and displayed a pool of milky white liquid. Then she rolled it around on her tongue. She closed her eyes and breathed through her nose, and I realized that she was playing with herself. Mark was too, although I couldn’t see anything besides the motion under the water.

I slid behind Leah and wrapped my arms around her. My semi-hard cock nestled in the crack of her ass. I replaced her fingers with mine and felt the slippery heat of her arousal. Then I cupped a breast and tweaked the nipple. She moaned but didn’t close her mouth. I learned why a moment later.

Mark levered himself upright and stepped onto the seat. “Better watch out,” he said.

A detached part of my brain studied his erection. He’d said it was average, and it was, medium-sized with a slight upward curve. I couldn’t see details because his hand was in the way, but I noticed that his balls were drawn tight against his body, in spite of the heat of the water.

The practical part of my brain finally realized what was going on. Mark was aiming his dick at Leah’s open mouth. My head was next to hers, putting me squarely in the blast zone. His warning echoed in my ears. My brain sent signals that nearly gave me whiplash.

He chuckled. “Yeah… better safe than sorry.”

I didn’t abandon Leah entirely, but moved to the side and continued playing with her from there. I had a front row seat as Mark aimed the head of his cock at her lower lip. A moment later he groaned and shot a thick jet of come into her already full mouth. He followed up with smaller spurts and a gush or two that landed on her chin.

“God, that’s sexy,” he said.

I didn’t know whether to be shocked or aroused, so I chose the latter.

Leah closed her eyes and had to swallow twice before she got it all down. Then she wiped up the stray sperm and licked it off her fingers. I belatedly realized that I’d stopped rubbing her clit, so I picked up where I’d left off. She stiffened and came almost immediately, but just as quickly pushed my hand away. She leaned toward me, and I steadied her as she rode the tide of orgasm.

I wondered if Trip or the girls had seen her mouthful of semen, but they weren’t paying a bit of attention. Instead, Trip was sitting on the side of the tub, propped on his arms, his eyes closed. Wren and Erin were sucking his cock in turns. Wren pulled back when he was ready to come.

“Come on my tits.” She presented her water-slick chest.

Trip stood on the seat just like Mark had. He cupped his balls with his left hand and used the right to pump his shaft. Wren moved closer and cupped her breasts. He came with an explosive grunt. His first spurt hit her squarely in the neck and ran down her chest. His next one splashed across her collarbone. She squeezed her breasts together, and he aimed the remaining gushes into her cleavage.

He staggered a bit and sat down abruptly, off balance from the force of his orgasm. Wren turned to Erin and offered her come-covered breasts. Erin grinned and began licking the pearly drops from Wren’s tan skin. She finished with her nipples, and planted a kiss on each for good measure.

Erin wiped come from her lips and then grinned. “I still didn’t get a good look at his face.”

“Next time,” Trip promised. “Just give me a few minutes to recover.” He slid into the water and reached for his wine cooler. It was empty, so he groaned and hoisted himself back out of the tub. “Anyone else need one?”

“Yes, please.”

“I’m good.”

“No, thanks.”

“Sure.”

He returned and handed out bottles.

I opened mine and thrust it into the air. “To the three swordsmen.”

“The three swordsmen!”

The girls rolled their eyes.

“What’s that make us,” Wren asked dryly, “the three sheaths?”

“Hey,” I said, “if the sword fits…”

“Well, I don’t know,” she mused. “Dear,” she asked Trip, “do you think I should let him put his sword in my sheath?”

“Maybe. Is he worthy?”

“He’ll have to prove himself.”

“Oh?” I said. “And how should I do that? Rescue a fair maiden?”

“No maidens here,” Erin muttered.

“Thank God for that!” Trip said.

We laughed.

“So,” I said into the silence after, “if I can’t find a maiden to rescue, what should I do?”

“Have to find a princess instead,” Trip said.

Wren stared at him. Her father called her that, and Trip sometimes used it against her. Not this time, though.

“And then what?” I prompted.

“Seduce her, of course.”

My jaw dropped. “Seriously?”

“It’s what I’d do.”

“And by ‘seduce her,’ you mean…?”

“Put your sword in her sheath. Duh.” He turned to Wren. “He should’ve figured this out by now.”

“He’s a bit slow on the uptake,” Erin said.

“So I noticed.”

Leah came to my defense. “He isn’t slow. He simply can’t think right now. His little head is empty.”

Wren laughed. “Is that his excuse?”

“Mmm hmm. I sucked his brains out.”

“She did,” Mark said matter-of-factly. “I saw it.”

The others laughed, but Wren and I shared a silent question. Had Trip just made The Decision? Did he really mean it? Tonight?

“I need another one of these,” he said, and held up his empty cooler bottle.

“Don’t get too far ahead of us,” Wren cautioned.

“I won’t.” He plucked a wine cooler from the ice bucket and drank deep. Then he scooped a couple of crackers through the pâté. “Mmm, dis is good,” he said around a mouthful. He washed it down with the rest of his cooler.

“Oh, dear,” Wren muttered.

“Distract him?” Erin asked quietly.

“Probably should.”

“Oh, Trip,” Erin said sweetly, “I’m feeling a bit tired. Do you mind if I lie down… in your bed?”

“Like Goldilocks?” Trip joked.

“Just like that,” Erin said. “Except this Goldilocks is naked and horny.”

Wren’s expression mirrored mine. “Why don’t we stay out here?” she suggested.

“Roar!” Trip bellowed. “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?”

I glared daggers at Erin, but she wasn’t paying attention.

“Oh, no,” she begged playfully, “please don’t hurt me. I’ll do anything.”

Wren tried to hide an annoyed look.

I suppressed my own pique and watched helplessly.

Trip roared again. “Come over here, Goldilocks, and bring your friend too.”

“Let’s stay out here,” Wren suggested again. “One big party where everyone can have fun.”

“No, you go on,” Leah said. “We’ll be fine.”

I sighed in resignation and caught Wren’s eye. Another time, I said silently, and flicked my eyes toward the house.

She nodded reluctantly and climbed out of the tub. Then she feigned a smile for Trip. “Oh, Mister Bear, you can’t possibly ravish both of us.”

“I can ravish four of you! But since there’s only two, I’ll ravish you twice. Roar!”

Erin laughed. “My, what a big dick you have.”

That’s “Little Red Riding Hood,” I thought irritably, but kept it to myself.

Trip shifted gears like only a drunk could do. “The better to fuck you with.”

I began tallying drinks in my head. He’d gone through the better part of two four-packs in a couple of hours. That explained a lot. It wasn’t falling-down drunk, but it was a lot more than simply buzzed.

Leah smiled once the others were gone. “Now I have you all to myself.”

“Oh?” I said, half distracted and still a bit irked. “And what do you plan to do with us?”

“Let you ravish me, of course.”

I took a deep breath and decided to make the most of the situation. “Can you handle both of us?”

“Over and over and over.”

“Then we’d better get started.”

“Not here.” She wrinkled her nose. “Too much chlorine. Makes everything taste funny.”

“My bed?” I suggested. “By way of the shower to rinse off?”

“Yes, please.”

As we dried off, Mark said, “Hey… um… I wanna thank you for something.”

“Me?”

“Yeah. Thanks for being so good to Leah. You’re like her brother, friend, and sort-of boyfriend, all rolled into one.”

“My pleasure,” I said. “Literally.”

“Thanks for asking her to shave her pussy, too. I went gaga when she first showed me. Still do. Makes me hard just thinking about it.”

“Uh… you’re welcome.”

“And finally, thanks for being so cool about everything. Not just tonight, but about me and Leah, me and Erin, and everything else. I know you hardly know me, but it’s nice to meet another guy like… well… you know.”

In my mind I heard what he’d meant to say, “another guy like me.”

He relaxed when he saw that I understood.

Leah missed the whole subtext, of course. She wasn’t a guy.

“I knew you’d like each other,” she said into the silence. “But if you don’t mind, I really wanna get started.”

Mark and I shared a grin. “Yes, ma’am,” we said together.

“After you,” I added, and gestured toward my bedroom. “I believe you know the way.”

Mark followed and I brought up the rear. Leah climbed onto the bed and lay on her back, ready to be ravished.

“Be my guest,” Mark told me.

Instead of climbing between her legs, I nudged them apart and lay between them. Her pussy smelled like soap and the sweet-musty scent of arousal. I kissed the soft skin of her inner thighs. Then I trailed a line of kisses closer to her slit and felt her shiver with anticipation.

Mark climbed onto the bed and scooted toward her head. I looked up her body and saw her take his dick in her mouth. He was already hard, and I watched for a moment as her lips moved over his shaft. Then I returned my attention to her pussy, where I flicked my tongue against her slit. I closed my eyes and opened my other senses so I could enjoy the tang of her arousal and the satin texture of her skin on my cheeks.

Her outer labia parted under my lips and tongue, and she gasped when I sucked her inner lips. Then I tongued her clitoral hood and felt the little bead itself. I teased it gently, rolling it around and making her squirm.

After a moment I sucked her entire clit into my mouth, hood and all. She moaned and thrust her hips at me. I released the little nubbin and started licking. I swirled my tongue around her clit at the top of each stroke but made sure not to touch it directly. She writhed and tried to get me to return, but I was having too much fun teasing her.

I took my time and slowly worked her into a frenzy. I couldn’t keep her on the edge forever, so I slid a finger in into her and then added a second. My fingertips traced the slight ridges of her inner walls. A moment later she clamped her thighs around my head and moaned in pleasure. I rubbed her G-spot again and sucked her clit.

Heat and moisture flooded my mouth. Her pussy gripped my fingers, and I teased her clit until the very last moment. She quivered from the force of her orgasm. I rode out her spasms and made sure not to overstimulate her. I let her breathing return to almost normal before I slowly withdrew my fingers.

“That was hot,” Mark said when I came up for air.

“Thanks.” I rose to my knees and scooted forward. Leah started to protest when I lifted her legs over my thighs, but I forestalled her with a hand. “I won’t,” I promised. “Not yet. You’re probably too sensitive.”

She nodded.

“I’m just going to play until you’re ready.” I stroked my hard-on with one hand and used the other to caress her thighs.

Mark watched idly. He seemed a lot more passive than me, and that probably suited Leah better. She and I had similar personalities, which sometimes led to clashes of will. She wouldn’t have that problem with him. A couple of thoughts clicked into place, and I realized that her parents had the same kind of relationship. Chris wasn’t a milquetoast, but Elizabeth definitely had the dominant personality.

Once Leah was ready, I set the tip of my cock at her opening. I slid into her and groaned at the heat. Then my hips met her thighs, and I paused to admire the sight of her smooth labia around the base of my shaft.

Leah craned her neck and stretched toward Mark’s cock. She captured the tip and began moving her head back and forth. I did the same with my hips. Her inner labia hugged my shaft and then folded inward when I thrust into her. We continued like that for several minutes, until I realized that I was monopolizing her pussy.

“You wanna switch?” I asked Mark.

“Sure.”

“You like doggie?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

I withdrew completely and patted Leah on the flank. “Roll over.”

Mark knee-walked to the foot of the bed, while I moved to the head. I propped a couple of pillows behind me and spread my legs to give Leah access. She moaned as she tasted herself on my cock, and then moaned again when Mark entered her from behind.

He took his time and fucked her gently for several minutes. Then he began pounding her in earnest. I thought he was going to come inside her, but he pulled out at the last moment and clamped fingers around the base of his shaft.

Leah spun and immediately caught his cock in her mouth. He released his grip, and she moaned in surprise at the force of his ejaculation. After he finished, she held the come in her mouth for a moment before she swallowed.

She didn’t seem eager to release his dick, so I gently tugged her into position on all fours. I scooted behind her and rubbed my cock through her slippery channel. She pushed against me as I entered her from behind. Mark and I shared a look over her back. He nodded silently and then closed his eyes to enjoy her mouth.

We switched positions several times over the next hour. Mark came again, and I thought he was done after Leah sucked him dry. But he recovered while I pounded her in missionary, and was hard again by the time I pulled out and filled her mouth with a huge load.

Mark replaced me between Leah’s legs while she greedily sucked the remaining semen from my shaft. He fucked her slowly and teased her clit until she came from the combination.

I could have gone for round three, but decided to watch instead. Mark waited for her to recover from her orgasm before he started thrusting again. He fucked her with steadily more powerful strokes, and she cried out with another mini-climax.

Eventually Mark lay forward and supported himself on his elbows. Leah wrapped her legs around him and drew his head down for a kiss. They rocked together until he finally stiffened and filled her with come. Neither moved for several minutes as they enjoyed their private afterglow.

I felt like a third wheel more than ever.

-----

“I don’t know about you guys,” Mark said later, “but I could use a drink. Water this time. Still have to drive.”

I looked at the bedside clock and realized that it was after eleven.

“You all start school tomorrow, don’t you?” I said.

Leah grimaced. “Don’t remind me.”

“What,” Mark teased, “you’re not ready for another glorious year at Riverwood High?”

“Please! You’re the popular one.”

He shrugged and didn’t deny it. “You’re my girlfriend, so you are too.”

“It doesn’t work like that.”

“Sure it does.”

“You really believe that, don’t you?”

“Baby,” he said earnestly, “trust me, you’re popular.”

“Because of you?” she asked, with more scorn than I thought he deserved.

“No,” he said calmly, “because you’re pretty and fun and really smart. You weren’t part of the in-crowd before because most of them are too stuck-up to realize how awesome you are.”

She blinked in surprise.

“There are lots of really cool people at school,” he said, “but the popular people won’t have anything to do with ’em ’cause they’re geeks or stoners or just… normal. Or it’s ’cause they don’t wear the right clothes and drive the right cars.”

“And you do?”

“Well, yeah. But that’s not what makes me popular. I don’t give a crap about that stuff. I only care about people and who they are for real, on the inside. That’s why Gary and his crowd can’t stand me. I see through their act.

“But it’s also why I’m friends with most of the school,” he continued. “So Gary can’t make me march to his tune and can’t cut me down either, ’cause half the school would turn against him.” He chuckled. “It really annoys him.”

“Is that why you asked me out, because it would annoy him?”

“Maybe a little,” Mark admitted. “But I had my eye on you since I moved here. You’re beautiful and smart, but kind of a loner, a bit of a rebel. You could’ve been popular based on your looks alone, but you weren’t. So I wanted to know why.”

“Have you figured me out yet?” she asked tartly.

“A bit,” he said with a grin, “but not completely. You’re the deepest, most complex, most interesting girl I’ve ever met.”

And that, I thought wistfully, is why she loves you.

As if to prove my point, she threw her arms around him and kissed him.

See?

-----

My parents came home shortly after Mark and Leah left.

“Have a good night?” I asked.

Mom nodded without going into detail. “You?”

“Yeah. Not quite what I was hoping for, but that’s life.”

“It is,” she said.

“How was the hot tub?” Dad asked.

“Nice. You’re gonna like it.”

He looked a question at Mom.

“Absolutely not. It’s late, and I have to get up early with Erin tomorrow. It’s the first day of school.”

“Oh, that’s right!”

“So, off to bed, Mr. Hughes.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I laughed. “Long story,” I said to their curious looks. “And it probably won’t seem funny if you weren’t there.”

Mom nodded and kissed my cheek before they headed to bed.

Wren emerged from the guest bedroom a few moments later. She was nude, which shouldn’t have surprised me but did.

“I heard your voice,” she said. “I came out to clean up. I was hoping to do it before your parents came home, but…”

“They didn’t seem to mind. But since you’re up, I’ll help.”

We played a little grab-ass while we cleaned, but nothing too serious. We restored the house to normal in about twenty minutes. While Wren finished in the kitchen, I hauled out two clinking bags of garbage. Then I started to close down the hot tub.

Wren stuck her head out the patio door. “Is it still warm?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I thought we might…”

“Sure.” I followed her into the tub and settled onto the bench next to her.

“Sorry things got away from us tonight. I thought we might…”

“Yeah, me too.” I shrugged. “How’d it go with Trip and Erin?”

“Fine. He more or less climbed between her legs and humped till he came.”

“Sounds romantic.”

“He was drunk. Give him a break. After that he took care of us rather nicely. Several times, in fact. So there.”

I grinned. “Fair enough.”

“How’d it go with you all?”

“About the same. Leah and Mark had fun. He’s a pretty cool guy.”

“Laid back.”

“Very. Not at all like you or me.”

“No. We’re definitely Type A. But he’s probably what Leah needs. You and she…?” She shook her head. “She isn’t right for you.”

“Let me know if you ever find someone who is.”

“Oh, I will,” she said coyly.

“Not Colleen.”

“Oh, God, no! You need someone like Mark, only more so.”

“And female.”

“Duh.” She turned thoughtful again. “I have an idea…”

“Oh?”

“Be patient. I need to think it through.”

“Take your time,” I said sarcastically.

“Poor baby,” she teased, “are you lonely?”

“You know I am.” I stood to leave.

“Wait! I’m sorry. You’re right. I shouldn’t’ve said it.”

“Yeah, okay. Sorry. I guess I’m just a little grumpy about tonight.”

“I know. Me too.”

I couldn’t make out her expression in the light from the waning moon, but I sensed her hesitation.

“I… have an idea,” she said at last.

“Okay.”

“Tonight didn’t happen like we wanted, so let’s try again.”

“How? I mean, with everyone home, we don’t really have that much privacy. Not for a full-blown orgy. My parents are liberal and all, but…”

“I thought of that.”

“And…?”

“Let’s go to camp. We have time. Registration doesn’t start for two weeks. We’ll invite the others and try again.”

“Won’t work,” I said. “They start school tomorrow.”

“They can miss a few days. We can’t go until Wednesday anyway, after you close on the house. So… what? They’d miss Thursday and Friday? Big deal.”

“It might be. You remember high school. They have six classes a day.”

“So? It’s the first week of school. No one is serious yet.”

“Erin is taking a bunch of AP classes. Leah too. Those get serious pretty quick.”

“If you don’t want to go,” Wren said petulantly, “just say so.”

“Whoa! Now who’s grumpy?”

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry.”

I laughed to defuse the tension. “Sexual frustration is making us crazy.”

“No kidding.”

“Listen,” I told her, “camp sounds like a great idea. But I don’t see how we can get the others to go on such short notice, especially with school and all.”

“We can ask.”

“Yeah, we can, but…”

“Let me talk to them tomorrow. I’m pretty convincing.”

“And the sun’s pretty hot.”

“So you think I can do it?”

“I think you can do anything,” I said truthfully. “You’re like a force of nature when you set your mind to something.”

“Yeah, right, a regular Mount St. Helens.”

“Mount St. Hilliard,” I corrected, “ready to erupt.”

She laughed. “Yep.”

“And I’m definitely ready.”

“To erupt? Where?”

“In you, on you, anywhere near you.”

She laughed again and kissed my cheek. “Let’s make the camp thing work. I don’t wanna go back to school until you screw my brains out.”

-----

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