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By:Lulu Pratt & Simone Sowood

"Admit what?"

I gesture around Bill's Tavern in response to Zane's question. "Admit that I chose a good place," I say.

"It's not awful, but I don't think we're going to find dates here," Zane says.

"That's a good point," I admit, looking around.

We're possibly two of the youngest people in the bar-restaurant, along with two other couples, and clearly we're not going to get any dates from the couples.

"Maybe if we hang out for a bit, a younger crowd will start showing up," Zane suggests.

"We'll stay for another beer, maybe a shot, if we really want to be daring. Then we can go to a bar of your choice," I suggest.

Zane grins. "Another beer, no shot. If there aren't any other single people our own age to talk to, we'll move on and get that shot somewhere else," he counters.

I consider that and nod. There are two or three bars within walking distance of Bill's Tavern, which is really more of a dinner spot anyway. In the worst-case scenario, we can get a cab if we get too tipsy to drive home.

"Did we ever agree on who was going to be the designated driver?" Zane asks.

I shake my head. "You kept insisting that I cheated, and demanding rematches," I say.

"And then we moved onto something else," Zane adds.

"Yep, so we'll have to figure out which one of us is going to stay sober."

"Maybe we could both take it easy?" Zane says, raises an eyebrow. "After all, there's going to be drinking tomorrow night, too."

"That's a good point." I sigh.

We look around the room and make up a story about the fellow patrons.

"You know, I just remembered something," Zane says, cutting through my musings about an old man seated alone at the bar.

"What's that?" I turn my attention back onto Zane.

I have to admit, even in a T-shirt and jeans - for once he's not in an army T-shirt - he looks pretty damn good. Better than that, he looks damn hot.

"I know where I want to go instead."

"You said you remembered something," I point out.

"I remembered how, that year I took off before the army, there was that skinny dipping trip when you were home for spring break," Zane explains.

"Oh God, that," I say, shaking my head as I start to remember it too.

"You chickened out," Zane smirks.

"I didn't chicken out. I had other things to do that night," I insist.

"You chickened out," Zane counters.

"Whatever," I say, rolling my eyes at him.

"Which makes me think we should go to the lake after this," Zane says.

"Why? No one's going to be there," I say.

"We could buy a couple of beers on the way, hang out, sit around and drink," Zane says.

"We're not going to find dates there," I point out.

"At this point I think we've both come to the conclusion we're not looking for a date," Zane counters with a smirk.

"I guess," I say hesitantly.

But there's a little jolt of heat working its way through me, and something about the alcohol makes the blood rush into my face.

"So shall we? I'll pay our tab, and we can head out."

I look at Zane for a long moment. "We split the tab, and then we'll head out," I say.

Zane looks like he's going to argue the point, but he extends his hand and we shake, sealing the deal.



Harper pulls her car up to the little cleared-out area next to the lake we've been coming to since we were old enough to swim, and I look at Harper.

"I still can't believe you chickened out," I say.

"I keep telling you I didn't. I just had something to do that night," Harper insists.

"Well, have you ever gone skinny dipping then? Maybe at that fancy university you went to?"

"I went the very next night, actually," she tells me, smiling.

"What?" My eyes widen and I stare at her.

"The night after you and Julia and all the others went to the lake, I decided it was stupid of me never to go skinny dipping, so I went to the lake by myself," Harper says.

"Thus ruining the entire point of going skinny dipping," I say, shaking my head.

Harper rolls her eyes. "The point of skinny dipping is to go swimming naked," she says.

"It's to do that with other people," I tell her. "The whole point is being with people you're not entirely sure you want to see you naked. Like a cute guy, or that girl you like, or your friends. It's about the rush of being a little bit scared you might get caught, or laughed at."

"It's to be naked in the water," Harper insists.

"Did you ever go skinny dipping with someone?"

I insisted on buying a six-pack as Harper insisted on paying for her half of the bill. The beer is still cold as we get out of the car and walk down along the grassy area leading to the shore of the lake. I think we were maybe three the first time our parents brought us here. All I know is that some of my earliest memories were at this lake.

"If you want to get technical, when we were babies and came here, I skinny dipped, by your definition," Harper says.

It's starting to get dark, and there are only a handful of safety lights, enough to walk back from the shore. A couple more illuminate the water, more to make sure people know it's there than anything else.

"That doesn't count either," I tell her.

"Why not? You said it's swimming naked with other people," Harper insists. She's got that prissy, hot-librarian look again, and it actually turns me on, just a little bit.

"You don't get the thrill when you're a baby because when you're a baby you have no idea that being naked is supposed to be, like … " I don't want to say ‘wrong' but it's something along those lines.

"It's supposed to be private, you mean," Harper says. She sits down on the edge of the grass and I join her.

I open two of the beers and hand one to her.

"Right. It needs to be something where you're not sure you can go through with it," I say.

"I don't accept your definition," Harper tells me.

I snort and take a sip of my beer. I'm not usually into anything fancy, beer-wise, but whatever the stuff is that Harper chose at the gas station, it's pretty good, in spite of sounding fussy.

"That's probably because you've never done it, right?" I look at her and hold her gaze until she blushes.

"I just haven't wanted to," Harper tells me in that pert voice again.

It drives me short of crazy to hear it, it makes me want to take her hair down, touch her all over, make her loosen up a bit. I've never had that reaction to her before in my life, and it kind of scares me, but at the same time I have to admit it thrills me too.

"Okay. Then here's what we need to do; get naked and get in the lake," I say.

"What?" The word comes out of Harper almost in a shriek.

"I am challenging you to a bet. I bet that you won't skinny dip with me tonight, here, right now."

"That's a stupid bet," Harper protests.

"It's a great bet, because either I get to see a naked woman or I get fifty bucks," I tell her.

"It's a stupid bet because …  because you don't bet on that kind of thing. It's a dare, not a bet," she insists. In the pale glow of the safety lights I can see her blushing deeper and deeper red.

"Then I dare you to go skinny dipping with me tonight, or I'll tell everyone we both still know that you flirted with me," I say.

Harper's quiet for a few seconds and I wonder if I've done something wrong.

"You really want to see me naked, huh?"

She puts down her barely touched beer, stands up and turns to face me.

"I just want to see you do something you're not entirely comfortable doing," I say.

"Right," Harper counters, her voice sarcastic.

"Well, are you going to do it or not?" I say as I cross my arms over my chest.

"If I'm going to do it, you have to too," Harper says. "I'm not going to swim naked and get caught all on my lonesome."

"Oh, I'll come along," I tell her. It's a warm night out, and I actually wouldn't mind going for a swim, even if I didn't have the added bonus of Harper naked in front of me.

We both start stripping down and I can't help but start to get just a bit hard from the sight of Harper's body, more and more of it showing as she takes everything off, right up close to me. I take off my boxers last, and hopefully before Harper can spot my erection standing at least at half-mast, I rush into the water.



I follow Zane into the water and let out a little shriek that I quickly try to muffle as the cold swirls around me, sapping my body of its heat. I hadn't even thought I was that warm.

"See? This is totally different from going swimming in the raw by yourself," Zane tells me, and I feel myself blushing even as I roll my eyes.

"It's not that different at all," I say, wading out deeper into the water.

I remember that Zane is actually a really good swimmer. He was a lifeguard at one point when we'd been in high school and I'm sure the army has only improved his skills further.

I'm grateful for the fact that the light isn't very strong away from the shore, and I can at least pretend like Zane hasn't seen that much of me naked and not for that long. I did catch sight of his cock starting to harden right before he ran for the water, and that sight gave me the strangest thrill.

"Come on, you have to admit that you're at least a little intrigued," Zane says, and he's only a few feet away from me. Even if I can't see him below about his chest I can only imagine that he's probably still sporting the half-erection. That the water, cool as it is, couldn't have possibly done much to shut down the reflex.