Pierce called Winona over. “Can you line up some shots of tequila for us, please?”
Taylor shuddered. She and tequila didn’t mix so well, and he knew it. “What are you doing?”
He pushed over the wedges of lime and the saltshaker. “Proving I’m right. We each ask the other a question. If you get it wrong, you take a shot. Last one standing wins.”
The challenge stirred her blood. God, she hated to lose. She’d always been a competitive cutthroat. Once, she lost a Monopoly game to Avery and threw the board across the room, calling her a cheat. She’d been locked in her room for the rest of the weekend in punishment. “Fine. I go first.”
He waved a hand in the air. “Go ahead.”
Oh, this was going to be fun. “What’s the name of the guy I lost my virginity to?”
He rolled his eyes. “Like I’d ever forget bumbling Bill Hayderson.”
She tried to hide her surprise with a breezy tone. Remembering names was not one of Pierce’s best skills. “Very good. That was just a warm-up. Go.”
“What was the word I missed in the state spelling bee competition?”
She tried not to smile smugly. “Piquant. You spelled it with a kw because you never even studied the list they gave out for practice.”
Annoyance skittered over his face. “No need to expound on the answers. Your turn.”
“Whose invitation did I turn down for prom?”
“Riley Vanwigner. Are you really going to keep asking me name questions, or will this get more interesting?”
“As you’ve mentioned, no need to expound on answers. Just go,” she shot back.
“Fine. Why did I get punished and forced to miss the Foo Fighters concert?”
“Easy. You skipped first period to go to McDonald’s for breakfast, and your mom found out.”
He smiled slowly. Then pushed the shot in front of her. “Drink.”
She blinked. “What do you mean? That’s what you told me!”
“It’s because she was cleaning my room and found my stash of weed and nonfeminist magazines.”
Taylor gasped. “That’s not fair! You lied to me, so I didn’t know the real truth!”
“If you didn’t know I’d lied, you don’t know me well enough. Drink.”
Irritation nipped at her nerves. He wanted to bend the rules? Fine. She could play dirty. Taylor snapped back the shot, licked her salt-laden hand, and sucked on the lime. Hard.
Ugh. Tequila was evil. It was time for revenge.
“Why did I have to ditch you at the beach party on Memorial Day weekend senior year?”
His smug look made her want to scream. “You got your period.”
She pointed to the shot glass. “Drink.”
“What? Why would you lie about your period?”
“Because I wanted to hook up with your friend Nate, and I knew you’d be pissed if you found out.”
His jaw dropped. “Are you kidding me? You both lied to me? That’s messed up.”
“Ask if I care. Drink.”
He glowered and took the shot. A sizzle of energy hummed between them. They leaned toward each other, challenge sparking the air. “Nice to finally learn the truth. Who knows what else I’ll discover tonight?” he drawled, gaze narrowing on her face.
She gave him her famous shark smile that usually scared the hell out of everyone, including her sisters. “Bring it,” she said softly.
The questions fired rapidly between them. The stakes rose as they began to dredge up ridiculous details and various occasions on which they’d lied to each other. Nothing mattered except beating the other.
Another round of shots disappeared, but Taylor refused to admit she was past tipsy and now tried desperately to focus. “Let’s switch it up. I’ll say a statement I believe is true. If it is, you drink. If it’s not, I drink.”
He signaled for more tequila. “This is the final knockout round. Winner takes all.”
It was her turn. She tried to think of the worst thing her best friend would want to hide. “You weren’t able to give Penny Rickerson an orgasm the first time you had sex.”
She sensed victory when his skin paled. He muttered a curse, glared, and took a drink. Taylor tried not to scream with glee. Three left.
“When you came in second place for the division championship in girls’ track, you locked yourself in the bathroom and cried, even though you denied it multiple times.”
The frustration at losing by a second to the bratty Brianna, prom queen who was voted “most likely to succeed,” still poked raw. She’d sworn on a thousand Bibles that she didn’t care. Damn, she should’ve known he’d suspected she’d sobbed in a women’s stall for a solid fifteen minutes.
Taylor refused to say anything. She just took the shot.
It was time to go all in. Blinking rapidly at his fuzzy image, she licked her lips and took the risk. “You’ve had a dirty sex dream about me.”
His quickly indrawn breath gave her a savage sense of satisfaction. She’d always wondered, but now the truth lay out there, naked and raw for all to see. Taylor wondered if she’d regret asking the question, then quickly dismissed the worry. What could possibly happen between them? They were rock solid, even with this competition.
For a few moments, Pierce did nothing. Just sat on his stool, staring at her with an odd expression, but it was probably the tequila messing with her vision.
He took the third shot.
Anticipation tangled inside as she waited for the final takedown. Nerves exploded in her belly. She needed to win this. Being able to gleefully claim victory in the “who knows the other one better” game would be a trophy for a lifetime.
“You worry you’ll never be able to love a man the way your sisters do. All in. Heart and soul.” He hesitated, as if he was almost fearful of pushing it too far, but the alcohol and the bar and the shadows didn’t allow it. “You’re afraid something’s wrong with you.”
She jerked back. Her hand knocked the last shot glass over, and she watched as the tequila slowly spread across the bar. Their gazes met and locked.
Some woman was singing Adele’s “Hello” and trying to belt out the high note, but it sounded like a sick animal dying in the woods. The lights flashed, and Winona made the announcement of last call. Someone was vaping—illegally—and the sweet smoke drifted in the air, turning Taylor’s stomach.