The place was dark and loud with not much going on. People milled around, leaning close to each other to be heard over the music. They had barely made it inside and thrown their coats on the pile when Marie was snatched off by an already smashed Abby to meet so and so. Left alone in the hallway, Ali headed for the kitchen, the only room that was still well lit, and grabbed a beer. She leaned back against the counter, holding her still unopened bottle and taking in the place.
It was a quaint apartment. Living and dining room along one side, the other half mostly kitchen with stairs leading both up and down by the door in the front. Much as she loved to explore New York architecture, she was sure both the upper and lower levels were party to drunken private affairs that she had absolutely no desire to walk in on.
No one was dancing yet, and she hadn’t drank enough to start it herself. In fact she hadn’t drank at all. She looked down at the still unopened bottle in her hand, debating her next move.
Marie bounced up to her, flushed from the close air and the excitement. She slammed an already empty red plastic cup on the counter and handed another to Ali
“Oh, no you can’t drink that,” she scolded, grabbing the still sealed bottle from Ali’s hand. “There’s a race. We’re on the red team. There’s a keg in the back of the other room. First team done wins.”
“I don’t know. Wins. By the time we finish a keg we’re not really gonna care honestly.”
“Who’s we? We’re not drinking a whole keg by ourselves?”
“You, me, Abby. Some other people. I dunno. Why do you ask so many questions? Just only drink out of the red keg ok?” Marie waved the question away, obviously wanting to focus on other things. “I found us a pair of guys. They’re not models or anything but they’re nice enough. I’ve got dibs on the blond one, I’ve seen him around. I think he’s Abby’s roommate’s ex or something. Anyway it doesn’t matter.”
Ali opened her mouth to protest but Marie showed no signs of stopping. If anything she sped up.
“I know, I know. You’re not into guys at parties. Nobody’s asking you to blow him or anything. Just come talk to him, he’s cute. And I don’t think he knows anyone here either so you guys already have something in common.” Marie paused to take a breath; Ali could tell she was winding up for the big sell. “And you’re like the prettiest girl here. I’d kill to have that body. So for me, you can’t waste that pretty face sitting in here by yourself all night. Please? For me?”she finished, smiling as if that sealed the deal.
Ali rolled her eyes, but spending the next few hours doing something other than sitting alone in the kitchen didn’t sound totally terrible. “Alright,” she conceded. “Where are they?”
Marie almost squealed. She grabbed Ali’s hand and pulled her into dark smoky room. Attendance had picked up but still everyone was huddled in small groups mostly ignoring each other. Marie dragged Ali to the keg with red cups in the back and filled both their cups to the brim, splashing beer onto the floor.
“I think that’s cheating.”
Ali turned around fast, surprised by the masculine voice so close behind her. Two guys stood in the corner. Marie bounced around Ali, spilling more beer as she did. The blond one, Ali guessed he was the one who had spoken, laughed.
“The point is to drink the most, not throw it on the floor.”
Marie shot him her cutest death glare. “Oh don’t worry, I’m gonna drink plenty. You’re just worried you’re gonna lose.”
Ali noticed both guys were holding blue cups. Keg rivals. While Marie and blondie kept at it, Ali leaned against the wall and turned her attention subtly to the other guy. He was taller and well dressed. His clothes were casual but still shouted money. He was pale with dark eyes and close cut dark hair. In all Ali had to admit Marie was right. He was cute. But cute plus money meant he was probably a little too used to getting his way. She decided right then that he was not going to get that from her.
She moved close to Marie to be heard. “I’m gonna go find a couch,” she yelled to her friend. Marie gave her a pointed look at tall guy in the corner who, for all Ali could tell, hadn’t even noticed them. “Couch,” she repeated, backing away slowly.
She had to push her way through the thickening crowd, losing half her beer in the process, but eventually she located a half empty couch in the front room. She had barely sat down when Austin was sitting on the arm of the couch next to her.
“What do you think my chances are with that one over there?” he asked, indicating a sexy, tall, rail-thin blond helping herself to the blue team’s keg.
“Hmm, I’d bet model. Definitely low self-esteem. Probably some daddy issues. She’s on the wrong team though.”
“Gay? How can you tell?”
“No silly.” She raised her glass. “Blue team. Sworn enemies.”
“For you, maybe.” Austin held up his blue plastic cup.
Ali shrugged. “Go get her, tiger.”
Austin straightened up, slicked back his greasy hair with his hands, and winked at her. He swaggered over to the keg. Ali rolled her eyes.
“Seriously though,” she muttered to herself. “Is no one else on the red team? What, am I supposed to drink the whole damn thing by myself?”
“Well, Red Team, you seem to be making good headway. What’s that, half a glass down?”
She looked up to see Tall Guy standing in front of the couch.
“Oh that? No. That’s mostly on the floor by the doorway. I don’t really drink.”
“Neither do I. Truce?” He held up both hands showing that his blue cup was nowhere in sight. “But for the history books, it looks like Greg was right. Red team cheats. May I?” he indicated the spot next to her on the couch. She shrugged and he sat, leaving a respectful distance between them.
“You know anybody here, Red Team?” he asked.
“Not really. Just Marie and Austin. You met Marie already.”
He leaned in a bit closer to be heard. “The short one that Greg was into?”
“If Greg is the blond one Marie was into.”
Tall Guy smiled. “So who’s Austin? Boyfriend?”
“What makes you think I have a boyfriend? I could be gay.”
“Are you gay?”
Ali glared at him. “No,” she finally conceded.
“Is Austin your boyfriend?”
Her glare deepened. “No.”
He laughed. “Relax, Red Team.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being gay you know,” she stammered, still wanting something to be mad at him for. He wasn’t making it easy.
“Hey, how do you know I’m not gay?”
She cocked an eyebrow, calling his bluff.
“Ok, I’m not. You still haven’t told me who Austin is.”
Ali debated pushing the issue for a moment but gave in and pointed across the room to where Austin was having no luck with the model. Tall Guy cringed.
“What?” Ali asked with some surprise.
“Hmm? Oh, nothing.”
She pushed him lightly on the shoulder. “I saw that look. What?”
“He’s just a poor sucker that’s all.” Ali gave him a blank look. “Picked one of the only girls in this place that isn’t gonna put out tonight.”
“Oh really?” Ali rolled her eyes. “And I bet you think you’re the expert on girls who put out at parties.”
“Well it’s not that hard to figure out,” he shrugged.
She laughed bitterly. “Well hate to break it to you, but you’re not as good as you think if you’re still talking to me.”
“Because you’re not looking for a hook up?”
“No way in hell buddy.”
“Then I was dead on.”
She shifted in her seat to look at him. “So you’re telling me you’re not into sex?”
“Oh I’m into sex,” he smiled. She rolled her eyes but he cut her off before she could respond. “But I’m not into drunk sex with strangers.”
“Well I guess that’s something.”
“You wanna get out of here?”
“God, yes,” she answered. She looked around for Marie but she was nowhere in sight. “Wait, no. I mean yes, but not the way you’re thinking.”
He put his hands up in surrender. “No, I told you, that’s not what I came for.”
“And I told you I don’t trust strange men at parties.”
She started walking toward the kitchen looking for Marie. He made an amused face and followed her, his hands still in the air. “Did you tell me that? I don’t think you said
“Well I’m saying it now, I don’t trust strange men at parties.”
“Then let’s leave the party.”
“Ha. Clever. No.”
She left him at the doorway and pushed her way to the back corner by the mostly untouched red keg. Marie was making out with blondie, who Ali now knew was named Greg. She got as close as she dared and called out to her friend, “I’m heading home. Are you gonna be ok?” Marie never broke lips with Greg as she threw Ali a thumbs up.
She pushed her way back to the front door where she practically ran into tall guy. “What’s your rush, red team?” he asked.
“You don’t even know my name. And I don’t know yours. We’re just Red Team and Tall Guy and that’s really not much to go on now is it?”
She pushed past him and grabbed her coat. He stood still but spun around to face her. “It’s Cole.”
“At least let me walk you home.”
“Thanks, but no.”
“Then how about you come back to my place for a while?”
“Mmm, double no.”
“Well maybe a bar?”
She finished fixing her coat and scarf and headed for the door. “I don’t drink.”
“No, but you must be hungry. Are you hungry?”
She stopped and faced him again.
“Why are you doing this? I bet there’s half a dozen girls in there who would sleep with you tonight.”
He smiled his arrogant annoying smile. “Only half a dozen?”
She made a noise in disgust and pushed the door open.
“No, wait.” He followed her out onto the walk. “I told you, I don’t want that.”
She grunted her disbelief. “All guys want that.”
He smiled. “Alright, I don’t want it like this. I want a girl who’s going to remember who I am in the morning and stick around for breakfast.”
“Oh, right. God forbid she leave without making you breakfast.”
“Actually, I’d make breakfast.”
Ali sighed and looked away. “What’s wrong?” he asked gently.
“I’m trying really hard to hate you and you’re making it very difficult.” She heard him chuckle.
“Let me take you to dinner. We’ll go somewhere crowded, I’ll call you a cab, and then that’s it, you won’t hear from me again. Deal?”
She looked him over for a long time. “What’s your name?” he asked.
She grabbed onto the easier of the two questions. “Ali.”
“Ali,” he repeated. “Can I take you to dinner?”
“Fine,” she said. “Dinner and that’s it.”
THANK YOU so much for reading. I really need feedback on the characters, what you think of them and where you think this will lead, especially Cole. THANKS!!