Hangovers and Holidays - Heather Long

Chapter One

White Knuckles


“Water or beer?” I asked Jake as we moved closer to the makeshift bar Kaplan and his buds had set up for the party. The whole point of coming tonight had been to get out and just enjoy being together. It had also been about having fun without the constant demands on our time or hers. Normally, Archie threw the best ravers and we would be the ones hosting. None of us wanted to do that. At least here, we could party and ditch when we felt like it.

“Water,” Jake said firmly, his gaze fixed on the ice chest where the water bottles were. “You can have a beer though.” He was driving. Made sense. Frankie hated beer anyway.

“I’m good with water.” If we wanted something, we could head over to Archie’s place. Though, to be honest, we hadn’t missed having access to it at all at Frankie’s for the last three weeks. I’d rather be with her than drink anyway.

The line was taking for-fucking-ever. Why didn’t they just set it up to grab and go? Then again, there were two guys handling the service and they looked like catering, so maybe that was better. Either way, we were verifying her bottle hadn’t been tampered with before we gave it to her. There was water in a cooler in Jake’s SUV, we could just go grab it and fuck this line.

Archie pushed through the crowd and ignored the scowls as he cut right to where we were. “You guys setting up camp over here?” He had to pitch his voice louder to be heard over the throbbing beat. Kaplan’s stereo system was killer. He scratched at his jaw and rolled his shoulders with a rasp of the dry straw protruding from the wrist of his costume.

“Service with a smile,” Jake retorted drily with a nod to where the pair of caterers took their time passing out drinks. It wasn’t a fully open bar. Cash was exchanging hands. Archie wrinkled his nose.

“Fucking cheap bastard,” he muttered, and I snorted. There was something vaguely amusing about a guy dressed up as a scarecrow bitching about money. Then again, Archie had never had a cash bar at his place for any party he hosted.

I twisted to glance back toward the dancers where I’d last seen Frankie and Bubba. But I couldn’t spot the blue gingham dress or the oversized terrier—the fact that Bubba had put on the furry ears and whiskers had been hilarious. Course, he hadn’t had to take a bath in silver body paint. At least it wasn’t itching so far. I wasn’t holding out hope that would last.

Maybe I could talk Frankie into helping me wash it off later. Granted, she only had one hand, but we could take our time…

“They went outside,” Archie was saying, and I snapped my focus back to him and Jake as the line finally fucking moved and we got four people closer to scoring our drinks. “Cooling off and taking a break from the crowd.”

That made sense. And Arch was giving Bubba some time with Frankie. I’d give him credit, he’d been firm and steady in proving he was in. The attention he showered on her without smothering required walking a fine line, but it was there in his eyes every time he looked at her. I was pretty sure Frankie was the only one who hadn’t noticed, at least not at first. She also had a damn good reason to be distracted, so we didn’t give her shit. Let her forgive Bubba on her own schedule.

“Ten minutes is plenty of time, right?” I snarked, and Jake snorted.

It was more like fifteen by the time we finally made it to the bar and got waters all the way around. Archie dropped a twenty in their jar so they’d give us bottles from the bottom. I wasn’t the only one who double-checked the seals.

Paranoid. That was going to be us from now on.

Drinks in hand, we pushed our way through the crowd toward the door. How many fucking people had Kaplan invited? It was like the entire senior class, a good chunk of the juniors, and plenty of the sophomores were here. It was wall to wall people.

Greg Sanders stopped us on the way to the door. His Dallas Cowboys football jersey serving as his costume made me snort. He was a wide receiver for the team. “Jake, man, I was looking for you.”

“Yeah?” Jake raised his brows, made almost more amusing by the