Sisters, Book 5

Sisters, Lesbian Adventure Club: Book 5
ISBN: 1-932014-73-X
(Character Driven, First-Person)

Blurb:
Mess with one of the Dykes Who Dare?
I dare ya! I D Double D dare ya!
You mess with one, you mess with all.

And then to make sure everybody comes out unscathed, they’ll mess with each other. Only in a DWD world would that even make sense, let alone work. But it sure beats knitting!

 

Purchase Links: ebook | paperback

Two sample chapters follow, or you can download a PDF excerpt via this link.

Chapter 1

My eyes scanned the police station parking lot as though I donned an orange jump suit and a SWAT team just learned of my whereabouts. Needless to say, I was edgy.

As a reporter, I had camped out there many times: awaiting a suspect’s release, expecting a news conference, oftentimes twiddling my thumbs while Laura worked a case and hoarded the precious crumbs of information. There were many legitimate occasions.

This was different.

I stretched my neck muscles and then put my hand out the car window to flick my ash. My fidgety brain needed no more coffee, and still, I downed the last two gulps in my Road Swill cup. To my right, a car eased into a spot, and I watched peripherally. To my left, Laura’s and Alison’s cars sat, doing nothing, but in my mind, they did nothing very suspiciously. Finally in my rearview mirror, I saw Susan’s car come to a stop. I raised the window, turned off the engine, and exited. As I locked the car, I stomped my cigarette, and then I inconspicuously slid into the backseat of Susan’s car.

Greetings were exchanged, serious ones, and then, everybody went coldly quiet. Susan was behind the wheel with Laura next to her. Janice sat next to me, and Ginny rounded out the crew.

We drove for about ten minutes, and then Susan maneuvered the car into a parking spot in the alley behind Molly’s Taphouse. As though we had done this slinking around shit a hundred times, we all disembarked, surveyed the area, and then slipped into the dark SUV two spaces away from us. This time, Ginny was behind the wheel, and Susan rode shotgun. I got stuck riding bitch in back with the other two.

"Take 56 East for about thirty miles, Ginny," Laura instructed.

Wordlessly, Ginny did so, and soon city became country. We all relaxed.

"Anybody want some gum?" Susan asked, holding up a pack and shoving a piece into her mouth.

Janice grabbed it just as Ginny announced, "Molly said she’d have a thermos of coffee for us in the back."

Simultaneously, Laura and I twisted around and peered into the space behind us, filled to the brim with duffle bags and other necessities. We finally spied the thermos and foam cups, well out of reach. I slithered over the seat as Laura latched onto the waistband of my pants. She reeled me back in; mission accomplished. Half-filled cups were passed around, and Ginny vowed to avoid potholes.

"So can you tell us where we’re going, Janice?" Ginny asked with a stare via the rearview mirror.

"Can’t tell. It’s a mystery that cost you a hundred bucks, remember? But I’ll tell you that it’s somewhere nice," she replied. "I think we’ll love it."

"Has anybody talked to the girls? I didn’t call Maggie when school let out. I wasn’t sure if I should, being on the lam and all," Susan said with a semblance of a pout, and then she laughed.

Laura answered, "I got them there safely this morning, and I talked to Holly about an hour ago. It sounds like they’re busy being little homemakers."

Ginny’s eyes were in the rearview again. "Is this sneaking around really necessary or just making us feel like we’re flexing our muscles, Laura? Lisa hasn’t done anything, has she, Janice?"

Janice replied first, "We’ve seen absolutely nothing of her since the injunction hearing. I just want it to stay that way. Alison has been so stressed out."

Ginny continued to stare at Laura, awaiting an answer to her initial question.

"It’s muscle-flexing, Ginny, but if it makes Alison feel better, then it’s worth it," she said. "It’s not as if we’ve never done strange things for our get-togethers. It’s supposed to be adventure, right? Besides, we couldn’t go from Point A to Point B even if we tried. Somebody would just have to run in a goddamn circle or something."

That was indeed truthful, and the subsequent laughter proved everyone’s agreement.

While I certainly had not felt anything near what Alison had to have been feeling in the last month, I knew the stress. We had all kept in touch on a daily basis. Alison had been a trooper in court, even telling the judge that Lisa had hit her and that she was terrified. She stood up for herself and showed tremendous courage. We were all proud of her. Throughout the hearing, Lisa had been unusually silent and neither denied nor admitted anything. Subsequently, Alison received a restraining order to keep Lisa at bay for two years. And while that definitely was a major hurdle, I didn’t think it lessened anything that much. Alison went from feeling helpless to being able to wield the power the system had given her, and yet, there was nothing over which to feel powerful. Lisa disappeared into the shadows, but trust did not replace that presence. Uncertainty still lingered.

"I think a weekend away from it all will be great for everybody," Susan remarked. "Tacking on Friday night is even better. But…" She turned and glared at Janice. "Is this a free weekend, or are the two of you going to jack us around?"

Janice chuckled evilly. "I thought that’s what we were supposed to do. That’s what everybody else does. Why should we break with tradition?"

Ginny continued our trek while we all pondered what the hell they would do to us.

Soon, we entered a small town and requests for food and a potty break boomed. Ginny parked in a spot that gave direct access to a diner, a bakery, and a convenience store. Laura and I talked Janice into getting us doughnuts while we had a cigarette. My request that she pee for me went unheeded.

I noticed Laura continually scan the vicinity. If our sneaking around was so unnecessary, why was she on alert? I couldn’t resist. "Are you watching for Lisa?" I asked her.

"She’s a piece of work, Sutter. An f-ing piece of work."

I asked her to explain, and while she was vague about a lot of things, she did offer, "She’s been living with a woman for about eight years now. The woman has a record longer than my arm—small crap but still crap. Lisa takes off occasionally and lives with other women for months at a time—like she did with Alison—and then she goes back to the woman again. I found out about six of them. I talked to three, and each one said she was abusive."

"Does Alison know?"

"Of course! I told her. I even showed her a picture of the woman she lives with … just in case," she said. "But we’ve taken precautions. I also got Alison to get a new cell phone provider, because Lisa f-ing worked for the one she had. Imagine that." She shook her head. "I think we’re okay, though, but I’m going to keep my eyes peeled."

"Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this then," I suggested.

"Kate, I’m not an idiot," she defended. "I talked to my captain, and I talked to the sheriff up here. We’re covered. And with the way Alison set up this goofy thing of parking our cars all over and faking a club meeting … I don’t think Lisa would have a clue what we’re up to even if she tried to figure it out. We’re going to have an enjoyable weekend."

"Well, half the cars are at our house, and Sam and Charles are staying there for the weekend. They were actually excited about it."

"That’s because they’re going to throw a party in your basement. Get boy germs all over everything." She laughed.

"Gee, thanks for putting that thought in my head."

Eventually, we were headed down the road again, taking two more highways and then several back roads. Just before a fork in the road, Laura had Ginny pull over. The two of us got out and shared a cigarette as Laura watched for cars from behind. When she was satisfied that we had not been followed, she called Holly and told her we’d be there in a few minutes. We piled back in, and Ginny proceeded.

Moments later, we pulled into a gravel driveway by a wooden sign that read: Crappie Cabin. I figured it was either a halfway house for fish or it was run-down and the owner misspelled "crappy." The ensuing view proved me sorely wrong on both counts. An incredible A-frame towered in the distance, and on its deck stood five impatient and smiling women. If Janice called this a mystery, then it meant only one thing: How the hell were we ever supposed to want to leave?

Ginny brought the SUV to a stop next to the car on loan from Charles, and we hightailed it out the doors. I had not seen Claudia since she left for work very early that morning. I missed her terribly.

"Hey, beautiful," she said and gave me a humungous kiss.

I held her for a moment, and then we exchanged swift recaps of my full day and her quarter-day at work.

The city of Granton suddenly seemed a thousand miles away, as did Lisa. We all greeted each other and quickly unpacked the SUV. Then, we got a tour of the place from those who had been there since late morning.

The living room was enormous with a fireplace that took up the entire front wall, floor to roof. Oversized rugs and couches made it quite cozy. Off to its side were a dining room and kitchen, and above that, a loft made its presence known. It was awesome … and ours for the weekend.

"Check this out, chickies," Holly dared as she opened the French doors in the living room. She smiled broadly at me. "See what you think, Kate." She elbowed Claudia, and the jab was quickly reciprocated.

Leery of what they were up to, I slowly entered a large screened-in area. There sat a hot tub and a bar, and… Oh Jesus! On the near end of the room hung a huge circular bed! Like a horizontal dreamcatcher in a giant’s house! Holy shit!

"Dibs!" I screamed as loudly as I could. "Dibs!" It was mine! I would kill for it!

"You can’t call dibs!" Alison yelled. "We already decided sleeping arrangements."

"No way!"

"Yes way!" Maggie corrected. She must have heard my heart shatter because she asked, "What’s it worth to you, dilly?"

"Whatever you want! Whatever you want!" I vowed. "I have to have it, humdinger." I dropped to my knees. "Oh please! Just name your price."

She laughed at my groveling. I did not think it was funny. Why, this was a Celestial Symbiotic Slumber Chamber! If that didn’t have "Claudia and Kate" written all over it, nothing did. Okay, nothing probably did, but regardless: Holy frickin’ shit!

Maggie proposed, "You’ll give the dibster whatever she wants … be at her beck and call?" She smiled deviously.

I was a split second from selling my soul to the vegan when it dawned on me. Sometimes I could be slow, but I don’t think I ever quite neared full-stop. I instinctively looked at Claudia, finding her in a fit of laughter, staring at her idiot lover kneeling in front of a taunting friend.

"I already called dibs, honey," she said with an outstretched hand.

"And I’m already at your beck and call. What else is new?" With a grin, I grabbed her hand, pulled myself up, and raced with her to the unbelievable contraption. "It’s been a really long day. Good night, everybody," I proclaimed with a wink at Claudia.

"Sutter, it’s barely six o’clock."

I knew that, but I also knew I wouldn’t object if they all simply bought the bull and left us alone.

"Take it for a quick test drive, you two," Alison conceded. "You have ten minutes. Then, you have to get your butts to the kitchen for supper."

"I’m grilling," Kris boasted.

"Maybe you could borrow Janice’s lotion holster," Susan quipped.

Our detective had to add two cents, "Sorry, Kris, it’s in an evidence bag at the station."

They kept on with the stupidity, and I did my best to ignore them, suddenly feeling very superior.

After discovering the bed’s entryway in the massive array for cords coming from a ceiling anchor, Claudia and I climbed aboard.  Indeed, it was sublimely celestial. I held her in my arms while the whirligig gently rocked us. Being cradled while cradling each other: Damn! Honestly, was there anything better in life? I thought not.

Once we were alone, we simply lay there together, taking in the view of the lake and listening to hoards of birds in the distance. All told, it rejuvenated me.

As instructed, we returned to the house within the alloted time. Busyness had taken over as everyone readied the table with place settings and food. Claudia got tasked with salad tossing, and I received the honors of uncorking wine. When they were seated, I began filling glasses.

"None for me, Kate," Kris said, turning her wine glass upside down. "I’m driving."

"Driving where?" I asked, hoping to hell we were in for the night.

"The pontoon boat!" she replied as though I should have known. "We’re going out on the lake to watch the sunset."

"If we stay on schedule," Janice qualified. "Get eating, everybody!"

Then, I received the same wine glass overturning from Laura. "I’m driving, too," she said with a smirk.

"And where the hell are you driving?"

"I’m going to drive you up a wall. It’s the least I can do."

I did not doubt that; she was well on her way. I stuck my tongue out at her; she responded in kind.

We ate. We drank—well, most of us did. Then, we hopped into the pontoon boat. Kris lazily took us to a superb vantage point, and we simply floated along, the water becoming like liquid copper as the sun made her unhurried descent.

"See, this is perfect," Susan remarked. "Why in God’s name would you want to mess this up by starting some persecutory game? Can’t we for once be Dykes Who Don’t Dare?"

"We have to mess it up," Alison defended. "It’s a requirement for club membership."

Ginny dared, "Well, not doing anything to us would be a first. Novelty should count for something."

Holly, of course, noted that the new moniker would make us "D Double Double D." She reasoned, "With those puppies, I don’t think we could dare do anything, including stand up."

Laughter and a little help from the boat motor propelled us back to shore before darkness overwhelmed.

After we cleaned up the kitchen, Janice and Alison quickly herded us into the living room. All eyes stayed on them as they got a fire going in the fireplace. Soon, their attention turned to us.

Janice began, "We’re not telling you what the game is yet, so don’t even bother asking."

"We thought it might be nice to begin our weekend with a little symbolism and a smudging ceremony. A selfish do-gooder, I guess you could say." Alison offered. As Janice proceeded to distribute paper and pencils, she continued, "We want you to write one worry that’s been weighing on you. Then, we’ll take turns and toss it into the fire. As it burns, try to visualize it leaving up the chimney … even if only for the weekend. I’ll go first just to be nice."

She jotted on her paper, balled it up, and threw it into the flames. "I’ve been obsessing about what I can’t see."

Janice followed suit with her own paper ball pitch. "I’ve been worried about Alison."

With an accusatory glance to Janice as if she somehow cheated, Maggie declared, "I’ve been worried about Susan." Flick.

Susan started laughing as she lobbed. "I’m not as noble as these two. I’ve been worried about myself. I just can’t seem to adjust to school starting again. I hate it, and that’s not like me."

"No kidding!" Kris screeched, adding her homogeneous fuel to the fire.

"Me, too!" Ginny said. "But not as bad as Kris, so I went with Kris as my biggest worry. I think she took on too much this semester." Flick.

Claudia kissed me on the cheek before chucking her wad. "I’ve been worried about Kate."

I knew why. God, did I know why! I whipped my ball of paper as hard as I could. "The Journal is about to lay off five people, but they won’t even say which departments."

"Finish getting your master’s, Kate!" Ginny yelled in an instant. "How many times do I have to tell you?"

Janice jumped to my defense, "Ginny, be nice. Holler at her later, or we’ll throw you in the fire."

I thanked her, and all eyes went to the cop and the artist. Neither of them would say anything; they simply looked at the other one to go first. Finally, Laura smiled, slung her paper, and said, "My love muffin here is not happy, and I can’t seem to fix it."

Holly laughed. Then tears came to her eyes. Then she laughed again. "This is so petty, you guys, especially after listening to you, but … I’m about to turn thirty, and I just can’t stomach the idea."

Everyone, except Maggie, the baby of the family, shrieked those horrid things that ‘older’ people figured they were entitled to say, even if it discounted what someone else was feeling.

"Just wait till you start staring at forty!"

"Just wait till fifty starts staring at you! I hated it!"

"I absolutely refuse to turn sixty. Refuse!"

"I’ll trade with you, Holly."

Holly started laughing again. "But my boobs will sag, you guys!"

"I told you I’d hold them up for you, Hol," Laura proudly said in true pervert fashion and felt no shame about it even in the face of hysterical laughter.

With a swat, Holly retorted, "It’s not funny, Laura. I don’t want to turn thirty."

Laura seized her and drew her close. "Actually, I can’t wait for you to turn thirty, Hol. Then, we’ll both be in our thirties; we’ll be closer. I promise! It’ll just be better."

"And what if it’s not?"

"Then we’re stuck with how it is now, with this very moment, I guess." She kissed her. "Not a bad deal, huh?"

"And you’ll still love me even if my body goes to hell?"

"I guarantee it."

"And you won’t expect me buy polyester and trade in my thongs for briefs?"

Kris put her hand to her mouth with a groan. "Holly dear, please tell me you’re really not this shallow."

Holly’s eyes went wide. "Kris, I’m not that stupid! Don’t you think I know I’m the luckiest one in this room? I’ve got this big shit who loves me to no end, and I love her even more. I’ve got all of you—I love all of you. I’ve got family. I get to paint everyday." Her tears returned. "I told you it was petty. I just want to stop here. I don’t think it could get any better."

Ginny reassured her, "Holly, you won’t spontaneously start decomposing at the stroke of midnight on your birthday. It takes awhile longer than that. Even I still have a way to go."

"And besides, Crawford," Claudia challenged, "if we’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it. It happens to the best of us. It’s part of what makes us sisters. So buck up, shut up, and just do it with some style!"

With a laughing scream of exasperation, Holly crumpled up her paper and shot it at the hearth. "Bye bye, twenty-nine," she called after it. Then, she wrapped her arms around Laura and hung her head on her shoulder.

"Okay, then," Alison said on the verge of laughing.

She proceeded to explain that smudging was a Native American ceremony to cleanse people and places of negativity and bad spirits. She produced a small bundle of what she said was sage and cedar. She held it in the fire until it started smoking. With Janice as her assistant, she taught us how to rub our hands and pull the smoke toward our bodies, focusing on the area most in need of healing. I wasn’t sure which part of me had the biggest need. The projecting brain? The fearful heart? My reporter’s trembling fingers? I pretty much decided to scoop as much as I could, and at the same time, I knew that like Holly, I still had a ton for which to be grateful.

Alison finished the ceremony, after having walked through each room with the smoking bundle. She extinguished it and then lit a bundle of sweetgrass, which she said would bring good spirits. I remembered what Laura had said about us being covered. If we weren’t then, I figured we were now.

Chapter 2

"And now for the game, ladies," Janice said, rubbing her hands together like an evil scientist over bubbling tubes. "Unlike some of us, though, we have no scores to settle. And we don’t want it to be competitive, so we told Kate and Claudia that they could keep the big-boobed bimbo babe for another month."

Alison continued, "So while this is a game, we want nothing but fun. Promise?" Once the nodding was unanimous, she explained, "Last time you all decided that we could make our own laws. But since as a group, we don’t always agree on everything, we decided that one at a time, we’ll each get a chance to make one law that will last for the following hour. You can be as creative or restrictive as you want; just please be nice."

Janice scurried off to the side of the room and unzipped a duffle bag. She withdrew a big plastic cup and then a baby pink cowgirl hat with a silver star badge on the front. It was gaudy ugly, and I doubted it would fit anyone over the age of seven. Uniforms generally elicited respect; this one would garner humiliation only.

Janice said, "We’ll draw names, and our sheriff gets to wear the hat and set one law for the hour. Any questions?"

"How about a couple of examples of laws? That might help me," Maggie suggested.

"Um… For the next hour, everybody has to talk backwards … or speak with a British accent … or both," Janice said with a laugh.

Alison tried, "Pick an activity, a game, a theme, or a topic."

"Okay, I get it. Let’s go for it," Maggie said.

Janice held the cup out in front of Alison, and she made the draw. She raised the paper and announced, "Laura."

Everyone, and I mean even Holly, released a momentous groan and bent over with head in hands.

"For shit’s sake, you guys! Doesn’t anyone trust me?"

"No!" bellowed its way up to the rafters, but Laura remained unshaken and undeterred.

Susan challenged, "Are you two sure you didn’t set this up like Holly and Laura set up the color drawing to screw Maggie and me to the wall?"

They swore they didn’t. Randomness, as lethal as a drive-by shooting: Laura was sheriff.

The look on her face gave away the immense delight she took in merely entertaining ideas. "Truth or Dare!" she finally declared.

Oh shit!

"No way!" Claudia yelled. "You always pick that one, and you pick it for only one reason!"

"Cool it, Kitterman! I’m the sheriff! Show a little respect," Laura shouted back at her, and then she turned to Janice and Alison. "Where’s that silly hat?" Janice handed it to her, and she hopelessly tried to get it to fit her ego-bloated head. "Does this hat and badge give me the authority to arrest? Claudia’s being disrespectful of the uniform."

They both shook their heads, but Janice said to Claudia, "She is the sheriff, Claudia. You have to obey the law."

"I’m not afraid of the law," she explained, and I knew trouble brewed. "I’m afraid of Kate. She puts the dare in Dykes Who Dare. That’s the only reason the jerk ever picks this game! If you ask Kate what color her eyes are or if she’d rather not answer and instead run through a wall of fire, she’ll run through the f-ing fire!"

Okay, yeah, so maybe I had a itty-bitty problem with dares. There was just something about the word itself that made me desperate to know what the dare was and then do whatever the hell it was. It was that whole human nature thing, I figured, like how being told you can’t do something only makes you want to do it more.

Claudia suddenly leaned within a fraction of an inch of my face. "Promise me, Kate," she breathed forcefully. "Promise that whatever she asks, you’ll answer the question and not take the dare."

"What if I can’t answer the question?"

"Answer it anyway."

"What if I want to know what the dare is?"

"Answer the question anyway."

"What if I promise and then have to break it?"

"You can’t. I trust you too much."

"Shit! Laura pick something else!"

"No way. I’m the sheriff in these here parts." She laughed heartily.

"Honey," Claudia pleaded, "you know she’ll humiliate you. Just promise me."

"She’ll humiliate me with the question, too."

"Yes, but you won’t have done anything stupid. Do you remember how long it took before you could go back to Road Swill after she dared you to go through the line wearing your bra and panties on the outside of your clothes? Do you remember the tar and feathering disaster with the honey and packing peanuts? Do you remember—"

"Yes!" I remembered, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop laughing. Neither could anyone else, but I doubted that they knew they were just as vulnerable.

"Then promise me."

"Okay. … Okay!" I hoped to hell I didn’t regret it.

Laura still laughed. I wanted to slap her. The frickin’ pink-hatted sheriff was even more motivated after Claudia’s little intervention. I guessed I would find trouble no matter what happened.

Claudia scooted me forward on the couch and then straddled me from behind. She tightly wrapped her arms around my stomach to hold me in place. That precaution simply increased Laura’s motivation yet again. I prayed Claudia would recognize her part in all this if there was trouble from which I needed to be extricated.

"Kitterman!" Laura yelled with a wide, wide inhuman smile. "Who’s the sexiest woman in the room? Truth or dare?"

"That’s the best you’ve got? That’s too easy. Truth. It’s Kate."

Without a second’s passage, she asked, "Sutter, who’s the sexiest woman in the room? Truth or dare?"

Claudia was right. This was far too easy. "Truth. Claudia is the sexiest," I answered effortlessly and without any temptation to want to know what the dare was. Well, almost, anyway.

"Kitterman," Laura called again. "Who’s the second sexiest woman in the room? Truth or dare?"

Uh oh!

"Another easy one," she spat. "Truth. I am, you shithead!"

"Sutter, who’s the second sexiest woman in the room? Truth or dare?"

Shit! It wasn’t me. I knew that for damn certain. Images of the others started traipsing through my mind, and then an intense heat overtook my face. I had never thought of them like that. But, what did "sexy" actually mean? Where was my thesaurus when I really needed it? I scoured my brain. Desirable. Hot. Titillating. Erotic. Beddable. Arousing. Bootylicious. Holy shit!

Claudia poked me. "Answer, Kate."

"I’m thinking," I replied.

"What do you mean you’re thinking?"

"I’m trying to answer the question."

"Say it’s you!"

"It’s not me, though."

"Say it’s you!"

"It’s not the truth."

"Then who—" She shot to her feet on the couch, nearly wobbling me face-first to the floor. Suddenly, her hand plastered itself over my mouth and stayed there while she wailed, "She’ll take the dare! She’ll take the dare! You’re a shithead, Laura! A goddamn shithead! She’ll take the dare!"

I figured everybody was laughing at Claudia and her foiled plan, but I couldn’t see with my head tilted by her fierce, silencing hand.

Laura announced, "Sutter, strip, run nekkid to the lake, and do the biggest, baddest cannonball ever witnessed by a large mouth bass."

"Strip, Kate!" Claudia frantically ordered, still refusing to remove her hand from my mouth. "You’re going for a swim with the fishies."

With her hand still over my mouth, she maneuvered me out the front door where I began to shed my clothes. Stripping didn’t bother me. A jump in the lake didn’t either. Determining if I was in trouble or not—that was another story.

In all my naked glory, I stood on the deck ready to do the deed. Claudia finally released my face from her clutches and grabbed my hand. I thought she was going to make the dash with me. Instead, "Kitterman!" rang out. "I’m not through with you."

Claudia ordered, "Go, honey! Just get it over with, and don’t do anything more stupid than this."

"I did not break my promise," I defended at the first opportunity.

"I know. Just go. Be careful. I’ll be there with a towel as soon as I can."

I ran like hell into the chilly September night, over gravel, stones, and rocks, through dirt and sand, on pine needles, sticks, and leaves. Despite what it did to my feet, it was actually a very liberating feeling. I rather liked it.

I zoomed down the long pier and then figured my bare ass caused a tidal wave somewhere up the shoreline.

Surprisingly, the water proved far warmer than the air, so I just bobbed around for a time, enjoying the moon on the water and dreading the frigid run back to the cabin.

But abruptly, nothing else in life mattered.

Claudia flew down the pier and performed her own naked cannonball. When she surfaced, she swam to me, spouting, "Who’s the third sexiest woman in the goddamn room! I hate her, Kate. I just hate her." She glommed onto me, fuming but laughing.

"Yes, but here we are … naked … slippery … alone … in a moonlit lake." I kissed her and pulled her close, paddling legs and all. "We can’t hate her that much, can we?"

See, but we could.

Not more than five minutes later, a naked Maggie suddenly launched from pier’s end. Despite her lean frame, she made a bigger splash than Claudia did and probably me, too, had I been able to witness my own. With her face barely above the water, she gurgle-ranted, "She is such a shithead! You’re not supposed to look at your friends and figure their sexiness factor. It’s just not civilized."

We were all laughing as we swam to the pier and held onto its edge. I imagined a one-eyed, one-legged, pink-hatted pirate in the living room repeatedly lighting the fuse of a cannon. With a mighty "Arr!" and a nearly thirty-year-old parrot by her side, she’d turn a friend into a projectile and fire her into the lake.

"Susan said she’d make sure the door to the porch is unlocked so we can warm up in the hot tub," Maggie said as she tried to catch her breath. "She’ll leave towels, too."

"Heads up! Heeeeeads uuuuup!"

Note to self: When a naked woman is flying overhead preparing to cannonball, do not, under any circumstances, look up.

Janice hit the water and promptly swam near us. "Why the hell do we invite her to these things? Are we stupid?"

And then, the pirate moved onto rapid-fire.

In bared-assed, half-assed fashion, Kris lumbered her way to the pier. One of her arms pretended to be a bra, the other a small, small bikini bottom. Her head whipped side-to-side, fearing onlookers. "Watch out, girls! I’ll make one heck of a wave!" she cried through nervous laughter. Then, she took the leap of faithlessness.

Susan came next. Her gait seemed more like she ran in fear for her life. Maybe she did. Plunge. Surface. Swim. Bitch.

Then, another sequence of desperate action verbs ran its course. Plunge. Surface. Swim. Bitch. Alison joined the crew hanging onto the side of the pier. We were a pod of untrained seals waiting to see what the unrestrained trainer would do next.

It was down to Ginny and Holly. We wagered that Ginny wouldn’t stick herself in the pirate’s cannon without a fight. We wagered that Laura wouldn’t want to—much less dare—turn Holly into a cannonball. Snickering, we kept vigil.

Eventually, a fully-clothed Ginny appeared. Her stride was one of supremacy. She peered down at us all. "You’ve just got to know how to handle Laura," she boasted. After we pummeled her with questions, she said, "Manipulate her! It’s the only way." She paused to laugh. "I took the dare, started heading to the door, and then told her that while I’d surely follow through, I couldn’t swim. She caved, and you are all wet and shivering. Amazing, isn’t it?"

"You lied, Ginny!" Alison bellowed. "You swim three times a week at the Y!"

Claudia made a huge gasp sound. "Truth or Dare and you lied! Get in here, Ginny, or we’re telling!"

"Yeah, come on in, Gin," Kris coaxed. "It’s actually rather warm. I’ll catch you."

Her head scanned the area. "Do I really have to show the raccoons that I’m the sexiest one of this group?" After receiving assurances to the contrary, she took off her shoes and jumped to a waiting partner.

"Here, fishy, fishy, fishy!" Laura’s voice eventually came calling.

We ducked our heads below the pier but still managed to spy Holly and Laura walking hand in hand in our direction. As soon as they arrived, we all lowered out of sight, listening to their footsteps on the wooden planks above our heads.

"Here’s somebody’s shoes," Laura noted. "Where are you shitheads?"

They stood in silence for a moment, and then, Holly called out, "Come on, chickies. Where are you? This isn’t funny. Are you okay?"

After that successful implantation of guilt, our heads made their appearance, and giggling began anew.

"Oh my God, look at you guys!" Holly exclaimed. "Is it cold, chickies?"

"No," Susan said. "We were just seeing whose teeth could sound the most like a typewriter."

"Give me your cell phone, babe!" Holly requested with a laugh. "I need the flashlight. I’ve got to see them better."

Laura retrieved her cell from her back pocket and handed it to her. Holly depressed a button, and a bit of light made her giggle harder as she shone it on us. "Your lips are blue." Then, I saw her wink at Claudia.

"Nobody said you had to spend the whole weekend in the lake," Laura pointed out. "You can get out anytime. I don’t need any more sheriff time to clean up this town. You’re safe again."

Holly suddenly marveled at the moonlight on the water. "Isn’t it beautiful, babe?" she gushed. "It’s so romantic! At least if you don’t notice the weird school of fish staring at us. Don’t look at us, fishies!" She pulled Laura close to her and then covertly made a clearing gesture to those of us at the front of the pier. "Let’s pretend we’re alone in the moonlight, Laura. Just you and me. Kiss me, babe," she begged as she stretched her arm down and handed off Laura’s phone to Janice.

The lot of us knew we were in for a rare treat and did our best not to destroy the opportunity with alarming laughter. We slowly cleared the area at the front and waited most impatiently.

They kissed. I would have bet my life it was those nibbling kisses Holly knew how to use on Laura. And then, her hand came up slightly at her side and formed a fist. A thumb came up … an index finger. When that pinkie cocked, Holly heaved with all of her might, and the two of them plunged into the lake.

"Holly Crawford!" Laura wailed upon surfacing. "You are in so much trouble!"

Holly simply giggled and said, "Kiss me more, babe."

And the detective turned sheriff turned pirate turned drowned rat did so. Very willingly, I might add.

For us, that was our cue to freeze our asses off in a mad dash for the hot tub. We slogged ashore and then ran, screaming and groaning and cussing like sailors from a capsized boat. Half of us aimed for the porch. Half of us darted toward the front door.

"Pick another name from the cup on your way by, Al," Janice shouted. "And if Holly’s name comes out, cheat and grab a different one."

The mob surrounded the hot tub, moaning at it, climbing onto it as though it was a long lost lover. Then, the sounds of satiation followed as we slid into it. It was warm. It was salvation.

Alison was the last to arrive. She declared, "Ginny, you’re the new sheriff." She threw her leg over the hot tub’s side.

"That little metal thing there says, ‘Capacity: 7,’" Maggie astutely informed with a point of her index finger.

"That’s just tough shit. There are eight of us."

"Who the hell cares? The eight of us have to weigh less than seven people."

"Why would they make it an odd number? That’s just stupid."

"Get in, Alison!"

"The worst it will do is flood the room."

Alison slid in, and we all watched the water level rise, but it didn’t overflow.

"Aren’t these things supposed to shoot water around?"

"My own bathtub has more action than this!"

"How come it’s not whirling?"

"Hit the frickin’ button!"

With a slap, we were cookin’! And then, the water eddied dangerously near the top.

"Oh my God, this feels good!"

"Ahhhh!"

"I want it!"

"Is it supposed to blast me there? Oh my good God!"

"Yesssss!"

"Come to mama!"

"Oo! Oo! Oo!"

Ginny shot to her feet. "Since you’re all naked and I’m the sheriff, I say: Everybody put your hands on the surface where I can see them. And dispense with the vulgar moaning, please. This is a hot tub not a sex toy! Geesh!" She sat down, only to shoot back up with a shriek.

"Sorry, Gin!" a goosing Kris said and then lost it laughing.

Ginny swatted her and cautiously eased back down.

We sat squashed in a tight ring that barely allowed for breathing. Our hands floated in the center as though we were trying to channel the dead at a seance. But slowly, warmth started to return. That horrid blue tinge to the skin began to fade. Our teeth stopped typing.

"For shit’s sake!" Laura screeched upon entering. "This is a witches’ brew if ever I saw one. Should I find a big spoon and stir you all like an evil potion? Eye of a Sutter. Butt hair of a Kitterman. Toenail of a—"

"Behave, Laura! I’m sheriff now!" Ginny hollered. "My law says that you will wait on us hand and foot for the next hour."

"You’ve got to be kidding!"

"What’ll it be, girls? Wine or hot chocolate?"

Wine swiftly won out.

"What about me, chickies?" Holly whined. "I wasn’t a brute. Can I come in? Please?"

We conferred and agreed that Holly was innocent for a change. In fact, she had done us a favor, and adding her to the mix—or evil potion—would serve to further aggravate Laura. With our assent, she hurriedly removed her wet shoes and pants. Laura stared, mouth agape.

"Where am I going to fit, chickies?"

We all raised our hands from the center. After some tricky negotiating, she filled the spot and caused the water to rise completely to the top.

"Okay, nobody move or laugh!"

See, there you have it! If you’re told not to do something, you instinctively need to do it. We all instantaneously fidgeted and then started laughing. Sheets of water began spilling onto the floor. By the time it leveled out, Laura distributed glasses of wine to us and would soon receive orders for snacks, pajamas, sweatpants, cheese, more wine, toothbrushes, towels, and a foot massage.

In due course, we ran low on energy, which resulted in a shortage of laughter and coherent conversation. The process of settling down for the night began. Sweats and pajamas were donned. Wet clothes were hung, and piles of abandoned clothes were brought in from the deck. Holly and Claudia brought the fire back to a roar. Laura and I had a smoke on the deck, where she made a couple secretive phone calls outside my earshot. After we went back in, she checked every door and window at least three times.

Maggie, Susan, Ginny, Kris, Janice, and Alison headed up to the three loft bedrooms. Alison informed us that we’d be taking the pontoon at nine to a restaurant down the lake for breakfast. Then, she double-checked, "Holly and Laura, are you sure you don’t want a bedroom? Janice and I would be happy with the living room."

"I called dibs on the bear skin rug in front of the fireplace," Holly reassured. "Dibs is dibs, right, Kate?"

I was about to answer, but instead, all eyes went to our little vegan. She owned a horribly pained expression, perhaps saying a silent prayer for a fallen bear.

"It’s okay, Maggie," Laura said very seriously. "I checked the rug. It has a tag that says, ‘Made in China by sweatshop children for twelve cents an hour.’ That should make your animal-loving heart feel better."

Somehow, I didn’t think it did. Nonetheless, she gave a cursory smile, and they all finished their ascent.

Claudia and I set up camp in our whirligig bed, tossing pillows and spreading out our sleeping bag. Excitedly, we slid into it as though it would take us off on an excursion. We settled in and listened intently to the wails and yodels of loons on the lake.

"Can I come in?" Laura quietly called from the door.

We gave her the go-ahead, and she neared us. "A low of forty-two tonight. Here’s an extra blanket just in case." She shoved it inside our heavenly craft. Then, she said, "I’d feel better with the two of you out here if we left the door to the living room open. Is that okay?"

Again, we gave her the go-head. She checked the outside door once more and then headed back. Before she exited, she added, "We’re right in here by the fire if you need anything or get cold. And, Sutter … don’t go sneaking outside for a smoke without me. You know how that makes me feel left out. … Good night, you two. Sleep good."

We remained in silence for a moment, and then Claudia whispered, "She’s worried."

"We’ll be okay," I reassured the both of us. "Alison asphyxiated every evil in the world, Laura’s got us covered, and I suspect her guys have her covered."

"That’s true! If Alison did away with all evil and Laura’s still here, we’re in good shape."

We started rocking until we got the Celestial Symbiotic Slumber Chamber to take over the task for us. We held each other and tried to head off on that excursion.