deeper into the bag. He was still a little wet from her tears. It was the only way Alison could get to sleep these days.
âWhat are you doing here?â Alison gulped. She was trying to sound fierce or accusing. Instead she sounded like a surprised kid in a sleeping bag.
âWe just stopped by for a little private after-party,â Kelly said casually.
Oh, no. Kelly said âwe.â As that idea sank in, Chadâs face appeared at Kellyâs side. Then Tomâs. They looked surprised to see her, and worse, they looked like they felt sorry for her.
Alison struggled to stand up but was too wrapped in her bag. She fell over, caught herself, and ended up crawling across the floor to kick free.
âSmooth.â Kellyâs giggles echoed in Alisonâs ears.
Taking a deep breath, Alison stood up. She wasnât going down without a fight. âHi, guys,â she said casually. âI didnât realize this was a sleepover.â
âItâs not,â Kelly said snidely.
âPool party, then?â Alison kept smiling. She reached into her bag and pulled out her swimsuit. Her cousin looked a little stunnedâlike sheâd been expecting Alison to just lie there and be humiliated.
As she slipped into the bathroom and closed the door, Alisonâs heart was pounding. Kellyhad the upper hand when they were at school, but this was family turf and Alison was determined to hold her own.
She pulled her hair into a short ponytail and adjusted her tankini, grateful she had shoved it into her duffel. It had broad brown and green stripes. It looked great on her and she knew it. She emerged from the bathroom ready to make a splash. Kelly, Chad, and Tom were still fully dressed and standing by the door.
âSo, Chip, how about a dip?â Alison punched Tom lightly on the shoulder as she squeezed past him into the warm, dark night air. It was an old joke between her and Kelly. Without pausing to see if anyone was going to join her, Alison walked to the diving board and climbed the short ladder. She stood for a moment near the steps, then took three long strides, jumped once, arced out over the water, and sliced into it with barely a splash. She knew it was a good dive as soon as she left the board and was grateful for all the swimming lessons her mother had insisted upon. When she pulled herself up at the side of the pool, Tom was clapping. Kelly shushed him, but Alison bowed her head and held up ahand, soaking in the applause. âYou should see my cannonball.â She laughed.
âThat sounds like a challenge.â Tom looked at Alison slyly and started loosening his tie.
Kelly gave Tom a withering look. âYouâre not going in.â
If he heard her, Tom did not let on. He marched to the diving board in his boxer shorts, jumped once on the end, tucked his knees, and smacked down into the water, sending up a mini tidal wave. Kelly stepped out of the way of the splash, but Chad got soaked.
âDude, you did not just do that.â Chad was smiling as he looked at his dripping pants. âMight as well go in now.â He shrugged apologetically at Kelly and pulled off his jacket and shirt.
Alison hid her smile. Two down. âCome on in, Kel, the waterâs fine,â Alison coaxed. Kicking off from the side of the pool, she did a perfect backstroke toward the hot tub.
âFine.â Kelly turned in a huff. Alison knew this was not going as Kelly had planned. She also knew there was no way Kelly would get in the pool in her underwear. She kept a suitin the pool house. âBut Iâm only getting in the hot tub.â
âThereâs a hot tub?â Tom asked.
âYup,â Alison called from across the pool. She slid into the water and fired the jets. It was so hot she had to catch her breath. But it felt greatâalmost as good as making Kelly do something she didnât want to.
âOw. Ow. Ow. How can you stand this heat?â Tom
R.J. Washburn, Ron Washburn