This story functions as a sequel, of sorts, to Jealous, but can be read alone. Wendy's beach house is from Nancy Drew Files 27, Most Likely to Die. Includes adult themes, nonexplicit sexual situations, and underage alcohol use.


"You think maybe you could look at one more dress?"

"Come on out," Bess replied. "It better look good, Nan. I can't believe you waited this long."

"We have an entire week before prom," Nancy called back, studying herself in the mirror. She tucked a strand of her red-blond hair behind her ear and bit her lip. "I mean, it's not like I don't have a date."

"Yeah, but you are so not going in that black dress from last year," Bess said. "I mean, not only will you totally end up doing it in the back room if you do, but it is so-- so wrong to wear an old dress when you have your dad's gold card." She banged on the door of Nancy's dressing room. "Now let me see. I have earrings to pick out."

Swinging the door open, Nancy gave a mock gasp. "You mean you don't have your outfit entirely coordinated already?"

Bess put her hand over her mouth. "Nan, that dress is perfect."

"You think?" Nancy twirled slowly, fidgeting with the tag. She was glad Bess had talked her into a few tanning bed visits back when the weather was still grey and miserable. The dress was lavender, spaghetti straps, low-cut satin and a skirt falling all the way to her ankles.

"I definitely think," Bess replied. "That's it, that's totally it. Now buy it."

Ned called that night, and Nancy lay on her bed twisting the phone cord around her finger, the dress hanging on the back of her closet door. "So what'd you do today?"

"Found a dress."

"Dress, dress..." She could almost hear him tapping his index finger on his chin. "Well, you can never have too many dresses..."

"Especially since you're taking me out to wear it," she said, playing along.

"Can't say no to that," he said. "What color is it, so we can coordinate?"

"Lavender."

He was quiet for a minute. "You. Did not. Just say. Lavender."

"I did," she said, a slow smile crossing her face. "Lavender. And I'll be expecting a coordinating corsage. Maybe something in... white lilies?"

"Lavender," Ned groaned under his breath.

"It's not like any of the Omega Chi guys'll be seeing you," Nancy replied. "It's not so bad."

"No, it's not so bad," Ned said. "Especially if you look hot."

"Of course."

"Oh, what am I saying," he replied. "Of course you'll look hot. And..."

"And?"

"I had an idea... you maybe want to do something after?"

"Wendy's having a party, after, at the lake house," Nancy said, playing innocent. "Bess and George and their dates are going."

"I was thinking something more... private."

"Do tell," Nancy purred, and Ned laughed.

--

Ned knocked on the Drews' front door the night of the prom, and Nancy swung the door open and stood silently, taking in her boyfriend, the crisp white shirt, the clean-cut black tux, the corsage in his hands. His cheek gleamed, shaved close, and his eyes glowed as his gaze swept over her.

"You look... great, Nan," he managed. "Beautiful."

She took the lily corsage and strapped it onto her wrist, then put her arms around his shoulders and smiled up at him. "You look great too."

He smiled down at her, and for a moment her awareness of her father's presence, of anyone else's presence, shrank to nearly nothing, under the weight of his gaze. Ned brushed a kiss over the curve of her cheek and pulled back.

Bess cleared her throat. "Okay, guys, I know it's been a full two weeks or something since you've seen each other, but we have entrances to make."

Last year, when she had walked through the balloon arch and into the prom, she had been on Greg Creely's arm. Her eyes narrowed, her heart beating high and strong in her chest, smooth black stretched over her every curve, her hips swaying with her every step. She had responded to everything Greg said with a low laugh while she waited for Ned to walk through the door, into her sphere of influence, and she had not waited long.

Now she was on his arm and she felt that same hard frantic impatience, as they detoured to the photo backdrop and Ned slipped his arms around her waist in the requisite stance and she smiled, slow and easy, at the camera. She had last year's picture framed in silver, but tonight, his hands resting under hers and against her waist, the hard stone of his class ring under her fingers... the flash went off and Nancy blinked. Warm hands against her waist, in a pool of sunlight, and it was gone. Her mouth was dry.

The photographer smiled and motioned that he was finished, and Ned leaned over, his breath moving the tendrils Bess had teased out of Nancy's smooth French twist to painstakingly curl, and kissed her.

The lights were already low when she moved into his arms for their first slow dance. His fingers brushed over the small of her back, and they moved together, barely swaying to the music, the gleaming fabric of her dress swirling at her ankles. His fingertips traced the edge of her gown, the plunging V that revealed the tanned line of her back, and she shivered, moving another inch toward him.

"You having a good time?" Ned leaned down to whisper into her ear.

She swayed against him and grinned. "Fantastic," she replied. "Tell me this dress looks good on me."

"It looks great on you," he whispered, his breath barely moving against her ear, and she shivered again. She reached between them and unbuttoned his black satin vest, slipping her hands beneath and over the crisp starch of his shirt. He sighed and rested his cheek against her hair.

"I'm sure you would have looked good in lavender, too, Ned. Bring out your brown eyes."

She turned around in his arms as another slow dance started. "Look, Nan, I may be secure in my masculinity, but a lavender cummerbund is where I draw the line. That, and a lavender vest. Lavender tie, maybe."

Nancy drew his face down to hers for a kiss. "Guess no coordinating outfits, then."

"Not on your life." He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her up until their faces were even. "Why'd you take your shoes off?" he whispered against her ear before he kissed her earlobe.

She shivered softly, her eyes closing. "Because I have all night to seduce you," she replied, tracing her fingers over the back of his neck. "And I don't have to steal you back from another girl."

"Trust me, it won't take you all night to seduce me." He put her back down, and she put her arms around his neck. "Another month and you'll be graduated."

"And we'll have all summer," she told him, smiling. "Before you go back to Emerson."

"You decided where you're gonna go?"

She shook her head, the curled strands of hair falling against her cheeks. "Maybe I'll take a year off," she teased him.

"Maybe," he teased her back, leaning down to brush his lips against hers.

Nancy glanced at the edge of the dance floor, where the chaperones stood, making small talk. She tugged his shirt up out of his pants and slipped her fingertips just against the hem, not quite touching his skin, watching his face. His eyelids fluttered down, and she smiled, her heart pounding against her ribs. His hands on her back, fingertips pressed against the edge of her gown.

"Let's duck out of here as soon as we can," he breathed against her mouth.

She returned his kiss, hard. "After the superlatives and the king and queen," she told him. "The senior dance."

He pressed his mouth to hers, his hands sliding to rest at the small of her back. "Sounds almost as bad as waiting for you to finish with cleanup duty last year."

"I did it for you," she said, fluttering her eyelashes at him, madly. "Watching you get crowned king and dancing with that frosted bitch at your prom." She smiled against his neck.

"I know," he murmured, against her throat. "I know. I just want you all to myself."

"You will," she told him, drawing back to gaze up at his face. "I'm not going anywhere, Ned."

She slipped her palms beneath his shirt, onto the hard muscle of his back, ran her fingertips lightly over the inverted arch of the small of his back, then her nails, in a slow deliberate curve. He sipped in a breath, and when she heard him begin to whisper her name, she stole a kiss, slow and hard and perfect. With one palm still pressing against her back, he let the other rest on her hair, tilting his head, his tongue slipping against hers.

His eyes were half-lidded when he pulled back, and even though the DJ had put on a fast song, the two of them didn't move. Nancy let her palms rest, motionless, over his skin another long moment, then pulled them back and started dancing. Ned took a slow deep breath before joining her, slipped his fingers between hers and she swung close to him, their hips brushing, Nancy's lips parting.

"You know what I liked about that black dress?"

Nancy let a slow grin cross her face. "There were quite a few things you liked about that black dress, if I recall," she said, twirling around and twining her arms up around his neck, her back against his chest. He slipped his arms around her waist and they moved in wordless perfect synchrony, her eyes fluttering shut. He wanted her, she could feel it, she could see it in his every glance, her breasts bare and full against the cooler lining of her dress.

He leaned down, his lips brushing her earlobe. "The slit up the side was nice," he said, his hand moving against the smooth twist of her hip, to rest at the side of her upper thigh.

Nancy chuckled under her breath. "See, if we were going to an afterparty," she said, turning her face to meet his, "we could find some back bedroom, and you would not care less about whether there was a slit up the side of this dress."

He looked away, smiling when she raised her arms over her head and swayed against him. "How long until we can get out of here?"

Nancy shrugged and pulled him down to her for a long, slow kiss. He swept her up, holding her close to him, and returned it, hard, insistent, rough. "Don't know," she managed, when she pulled back, flushed. "King and queen haven't even been announced."

"We have to stay for that?"

She laughed. "Maybe for Bess," Nancy returned. "I'm not like you, Ned, I'm not even in the running for the court. I'm not the head cheerleader or the popular girl."

He smiled. "I guess it was just stereotype that made me king my senior year."

"That, and you're smoking hot," she teased him. "The guys all want to be you and the girls all want to do you."

"There's only one girl I'm interested in," he returned, his voice low, and she closed her eyes when he leaned in for another kiss, his lips claiming hers.

Nancy put her corsage back on for the last round of pictures, and was running her index finger between the elastic band and her wrist while she waited for Ned. Bess caught her by the arm and Nancy turned, her eyes sparkling.

"You two about to head out?"

"Yeah," Nancy said. "Are you guys still going to the party at Wendy's? Did you find a ride?"

"Yeah, we'll be fine," Bess teased Nancy. "Go ahead and take the limo. Not like we need all that space anyway."

"Fine," Nancy rolled her eyes, wrapping her arm around Bess in a half hug. "Look, I'll call you guys later."

"Give us the play-by-play?"

"Something like that," Nancy chuckled. "Don't have too much fun tonight, else I'll be jealous."

"Like I won't be," Bess returned. Ned returned and Bess gave him a light punch on the arm. "You treat her right, Nickerson."

"When have I not," Ned replied, mock-wincing as he rubbed his arm. He turned to his girlfriend. "You ready to go?"

Nancy took Ned's tie in her hand and started pulling him toward the door. "You bet," she said, over Bess's smothered laughter.

In the back of the limo, Nancy pushed the heel of her hand against the control, and when the divider was a nanometer from closed Ned attacked her, his tie loose around his neck. She giggled, startled, and melted against the seat as he covered her face in kisses, the slender curve of her throat, the inner slope of her shoulder. Under the layers of jacket and shirt and vest, she could feel the warmth of his flesh, the soft slow spark of contact as his mouth found hers again. She sighed and his fingers were gentle as they stroked over her hair, over the curve of her ear. She tugged the tails of his shirt out of his pants and slipped her palms against the small of his back, and he pressed toward her, their kisses lingering and hard.

"So we're going," she began, gasped as he looped his arm up around hers, his fingers sliding over the slender strap holding her dress against her shoulder. "We're going to the hotel."

He nodded, and brushed his mouth against hers, stealing kisses, and she rose to meet him, arching her spine against the seat. "We're going to the hotel," he breathed into her skin. "For a little while. Not long enough."

He kissed her again and speech was meaningless. She ran her fingers through his hair, stripped her corsage off and tossed it next to her on the seat. He leaned back and swung her across his lap, and she kissed him again, her heart beating against her ribs as the limo pulled to a stop.

"What do you mean, we won't be here long enough?" Nancy asked, as she watched the brake lights fade into the darkness, as he laced his fingers between hers and led her to the elevators.

"How could we ever be here long enough," Ned returned, soft laughter in his voice. "I mean I have some other plans for tonight, other than..."

Nancy smiled to herself but made no further comment, as he slid the keycard into the slot and pushed the door open.

When they were alone, really alone, in the penthouse suite, the door was barely shut before they came together without thought or whisper, frantic, clinging, pulling herself up on her toes, pulling down on his shoulders to meet his kiss, his palms finally sliding beneath the fabric at the back of her dress, to cup her bare sides, the backs of her knees against the mattress, his fingers sliding into her hair and it began to fall.

"Ned," she gasped when she pulled back. "Ned."

"Sorry." He wouldn't meet her eyes.

"Not that," she said, and when he looked up, she kissed him again, wrapping her arms tight around his shoulders. He put his arms around her waist and lifted her to meet him, and when she slid back to sit on the bed and he knelt over her, they parted for breath and she gazed up at him, blue eyes half-lidded and hazed with the intoxication of lust.

"This is," he began, and shook his head. "I brought your bag up, and..."

The strap was sliding down her right shoulder and she felt the slow beginning of impatience and longing. She reached up to touch her hair and pulled the pins out of it, letting it fall smooth to brush against her shoulder blades. Ned's voice trailed off and he cupped her cheek in his hand, slipped his fingers through her hair, and before she could, before, she was tilting her head back to accept the kiss he was leaning down to give her.

"What's wrong?" His forehead against hers, their breath ragged. She was so close she could read his pulse in the warm flesh of his throat.

He smiled. Rueful. "This wasn't, quite, what I was thinking..."

"Why not?" She gave him a slow grin and he laughed.

"It's so very unimaginative, isn't it? Prom and a hotel room."

"Imaginative enough," she said. "What, a little skydiving before we come back here and order everything on the room service menu?"

"Not quite," he replied, and kissed her so quickly that her eyelashes were just fluttering when he pulled back. "Let's get changed."

Fifteen minutes later she had removed her makeup, dressed in a powder-blue tank top and tailored black pants, silver gleaming at her throat, the lobes of her ears, her slender wrists. Her lips were glossed and parted softly and when she walked out of the bathroom she took him in, dark stonewash jeans hanging low at his bare waist, his chest a warm brown glow in the soft light from the table lamp. She looped her arms around his neck and jumped up, wrapped her legs around his waist and kissed him, and he returned it, hard.

"It is really, really hard for me to," he began, but she cut him off with another kiss. Her red-gold hair fell in a long smooth wave down over her shoulder blades and he ran his fingers through it. "God, baby, remind me again why we have to leave."

"We don't," she said, her voice pitched low and hushed, her bare forearms against his bare shoulders. "And I mean that with every fiber of my being."

"And most of mine," he said, groaning reluctantly as he lowered her to sit on the bed. He pulled a white t-shirt on, over his head. "But we need to make an appearance."

She pouted, peeking out at him from beneath long black lashes, and then he was pinning her to the bed on her back, his mouth pressed against hers, his tongue. When they parted for breath she gazed up at him, her blue eyes hazed and gleaming, and he made a soft noise before he pushed himself up off the bed to stand again.

"An appearance," she repeated. "Just an appearance."

"Just an appearance," Ned said, pulling another shirt on.

The cab ride over was all amber streetlights alternately flooding over them, as she straddled his waist, pressing kiss after kiss against his mouth, knees pressed against the black leather seats. He tasted so sweet, his palm pressed against the small of her back where her shirt rode up, his thumb hooked under the waistband of her pants. She pulled back a quarter-inch, still tasting his breath, and he chuckled softly, shifting his hips forward. She made a soft faintly amused noise, but he slid back in the seat again, flipping through his wallet.

"Forget something?"

He shook his head and handed her a laminated card, and she studied it in the two-second windows of mild amber light. A fake ID. She had quite a few of these, good for whatever situation she found herself in, but she hadn't brought any of them tonight. Certainly not one that identified her this way.

"Nancy Nickerson," she read aloud, lips still swelled from his kisses. "Twenty-one. Nice. You trying to tell me something?"

"No, the guy who made them for us was being cute," Ned said, his lips curving up. "That okay?"

"I guess I can live with being Nancy Nickerson for a night," she teased him, leaning forward for another kiss. "Are you blushing?"

"No," Ned replied, ducking away.

Nancy reached over, put her palm against his cheek and forced him to face her. "I think it's cute," she said softly. "I like it. Does yours have your own name on it?"

"With my luck it says I'm Erik Estrada," Ned replied, and Nancy had to laugh. "There'll be a lot of guys from Omega Chi here."

"Is that code for, this is going to be a wild frat party which will probably end in a wet t-shirt contest?"

"No," Ned replied, lacing his fingers through hers. "Besides, any contest can wait until we're back in the privacy of our hotel room."

"That a challenge?"

He stole another kiss, his lips lingering over hers. "You're not gonna play nice tonight, are you."

"I am going to be so nice," Nancy said slowly, then peered at him through her lashes, grinning. "I am going to be so nice that you will be dying to get me alone."

"I already am," he replied, kissing her again, hard, as they pulled up in front of the club.

Despite her cool demeanor, her heart was pounding as the bouncer scrutinized her fake ID, then waved both of them in. Ned nodded at the guy, and they ducked into the pounding smoky darkness, thick with the sharp smell of liquor and cologne. Ned maneuvered around the pool tables, his fingers laced with Nancy's as she followed, heading for Howie, who stood a head taller than the rest of the crowd.

"This the girl we've heard so much about?"

"Pretty little thing."

Nancy did the usual round of bashful grin and hearty handshake, Ned's arm wrapped around her waist and her hand keeping his securely at her hip. Most of his frat brothers were flushed with unaccustomed drink, their eyes overbright, loud and boisterous; the three who still seemed sober enough, Mike among them, were grouped around a smoky pool table.

"Think we can play winner?" Nancy nodded at the table, and Ned glanced over.

They wove between bobbing couples, and Nancy was hypersensitive to the appreciative glances other girls were giving her boyfriend. She stopped short and led his arms around her waist, and Ned stumbled along behind her, his breath against her hair.

"Feeling insecure, Drew?"

"Nickerson," she corrected him, with a smile in her voice. "Should I be feeling insecure?"

"Never," he said, and pressed a kiss against the join of her neck and shoulder. "Two beers," he called to the bartender over the din, after he caught his eye, and the bartender nodded, uncapping two and handing them over.

"Good thing we're catching a cab back," Nancy said, tapping the neck of her beer against Ned's. "Cheers."

The dance floor was crowded with a crush of bodies, pulsing with the music, and she pulled him out with her, her skin gleaming, her arms extended over her head. He couldn't take his eyes off her hips, the slow sinuous movement as she swayed to the hard beat of the music. When her pants brushed against the denim stretched across his hips, he inhaled sharply and twined his arms around her waist, dancing close to her, pulling her in.

"They seem nice," she murmured after their first slow, soft kiss.

He chuckled under his breath, his thumbs slipping through her belt loops. "You're just saying that," he mildly accused her, pressing a kiss against the corner of her mouth.

"Well, I don't know half of them," she admitted. "Mike and-- Howie, right?"

"Howie," Ned repeated, nodding, and when his hips suddenly brushed hers she inhaled sharply, a faint blush rising to her cheeks. "We can play this game or we can play another." He brushed back her hair, his breath warm against her ear.

"I have to choose?" she murmured, standing on her tiptoes, laughing when he nipped at her earlobe.

During the next slow dance his fingertips trailed over every inch of her bare skin, his fingers threading through her belt loops, tugging her up to meet him. She pushed herself up and wrapped her legs around his waist, blushing faintly as they moved together, her lips parting, her breath faint and sweet against his ear. He pushed her shirt up until it was gathered just beneath her breasts, and she pressed her face against his shoulder, pressed her lips against the side of his neck, her eyelashes fluttering against his skin.

"Ned?"

He let out a groan only she could hear and let her down gently, as she tugged down her shirt. "Yeah?"

The same boy from earlier glanced between the two of them, then back at Ned. "The table's free."

"One game," she reminded him.

"Oh trust me," Ned returned, reaching out for her hand, "this will be the fastest game of pool you've ever seen."

She couldn't concentrate. She wasn't used to beer and when Ned had his eyes on her, her hands trembled, her shots were off. When her turn came up again, he came up behind her, wrapped his arms around her and led the cue. "Like this," he said. "You know what you're doing."

"Ever considered maybe I wanted you bending me over a pool table?" Nancy asked, wickedly, and the guys within earshot broke off into strangled laughter. The balls cracked together and Nancy stood back, a satisfied smile lighting her face.

When she stood back Ned wrapped his arms around her from behind, bent his face to her cheek. "If that's what you want."

Nancy laid her palm against his cheek and kissed him. "Hey, this is your appearance," she said. "If we're here after this game, we're going out on the dance floor again, and you'll be leaving here," she let her hand slide down his side to rest against his hip, "more excited than you were when you came in."

"That a promise?"

They bowed out after Ned won the game, and after one last dance, a dance that left them trembling, lips swelled from their kisses, her pants suddenly uncomfortably tight. Ned hailed a cab and they were barely inside before he pulled her back into his arms.

She straddled his waist, against worn black leather seats, his arms tight around her waist, her arms tight around his shoulders as they kissed, over and over, tilting their faces, their mouths meeting wet and hot in the dark. Her knees braced against the seat, his fingertips flirting with the back edge of her shirt, against the soft sweat-dampened skin. She pulled back for breath, gasping, tossing her hair back.

He looked down and she rested her forehead against the crown of his head. "We're still, not," he said hesitantly, and even though she couldn't hear the question in his voice, she nodded, reluctantly.

"I'm a tease," she said softly. "I'm sorry."

He reached up and brushed her hair back from her face. "Don't be sorry," he said. "I was the idiot who got the hotel room, and believe me, I don't want to pressure you into anything..."

She gave him a tight smile. "Much as I love you, Nickerson," she said, and shook her head. "I have an idea."

"A good idea?"

"Do I have any other kind?" she asked, laughing. "Why don't we go to Wendy's afterparty?"

"Instead of playing tug of war all night?"

She nodded, tracing her fingertips down his cheek. "If you want to."

He kissed her. "Yeah," he said softly. "Let's do that."

Back in his car, she rolled her window all the way down and turned up his radio until the doors were shaking, and let her arm hang loose at her side, pushed back against the frame by the breeze. He was quiet and she looked over at him, her hair whipped over her face, and she pushed the stray strands back before she darted over to press a kiss against his cheek.

"Tell me you're okay with this."

He glanced over at her. "I'm okay with it," he said, and smiled, and she turned back to the road, satisfied by the tone in his voice.

Bess was in the front yard when Nancy and Ned pulled into the already crowded side yard and parked. "Hey!" she called, happily.

"What are you doing?"

Bess looked back at the four or five other girls, who were holding red plastic tumblers and standing over a tangled web. "Trying to set up the badminton set," she said. "Or something. Playing volleyball with drunk guys got old."

"How could that ever get old?" Ned chuckled.

"So, you two?" Bess asked, once Ned had gone to get the two of them glasses of punch and was outside earshot. "No hotel room?"

"Hotel room, but." Nancy took her hair down and pinned the stray strands back up. "You know."

"No, I don't," Bess said, bumping her shoulder against Nancy's, her eyes gleaming. "You're here instead of there?"

Nancy took the cup of punch Ned offered her a took a sip, then nearly spit it out. "What is this?"

"PJ," Bess laughed. "Drink enough of it and it'll taste like Koolaid."

"Is that how it tastes to you?" Nancy took a more timid sip.

Ned patted her on the back. "Gotta drink up if we're gonna join the drunken volleyball game."

Bess glanced between the two of them. "Last I saw, you had to take off something if you missed your shot," she said. "So, maybe you'll want to wait on that."

Nancy found George halfway in the refrigerator, leaning over and digging in the drawer at the bottom. "Hey," she said.

"Hey," George said, smiling when she saw Nancy. "I thought you two--"

"Yeah," Nancy shrugged, and took another sip of her drink. "Later. What are you doing?"

"Um, some guys decided they wanted to grill burgers, and I couldn't talk them into ordering delivery pizza, so I get to babysit, or see some eyebrows burned off."

"If you're lucky," Nancy said. "Don't let Ned anywhere near them, even when he's sober..."

"I remember," George laughed. "You want to help?"

Nancy looked over her shoulder for Ned, who was in a group of guys around the television, watching a video game. "Sure," she said.

In the backyard, on the strip of sand between the house and the lake, some guys were bringing in armfuls of driftwood, while another was stumbling around with a can of lighter fluid in his hand. Nancy came over and asked if she could have it, and he gave it up only in exchange for the rest of her drink. She handed it to George, who stashed it behind the grill. "You know, by the time I get anything grilled, they'll have forgotten they were even hungry," she said.

"Anything fun happen before Ned and I got here?"

"Patrick and Wendy had an amazing fight," George shrugged. "And there are some people here I swear I've never seen before."

"I'm gonna get some more punch," Nancy said. "You gonna be okay out here?"

"I'll fight 'em off," George laughed, waving Nancy off.

In the kitchen Nancy followed a trail of spilled red liquid to a cooler, which, when she nudged it open, was full of sloshing red punch and chunks of drenched fruit. She dipped out a few pieces of pineapple and melon and dropped those into her cup before filling the rest with liquid.

"Hey, pour me some."

Nancy turned around to see the guy standing behind her. "Hey Don," she said, relaxing. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty good," he said, nodding in thanks when she handed his cup back. "You here alone?"

"No, Ned's... in the living room," she said, glancing in that direction. "I think. I was just helping George with the grill."

Don shrugged, laughing. "Yeah, I'm not going out there until the volleyball game stops."

"I think it's done," she said. "If you want a burger, you might be able to go grab one."

Don opened his mouth to say something else, when the expression in his eyes shifted and he smiled. "Hey Nickerson."

Nancy felt a pair of arms slide around her waist. "Hey Nan, get me another cup?" he said. "Hi Cameron. Good party?"

"Good party," Don agreed. "I'm just gonna... yeah."

Once Don had left the room, Nancy turned around in Ned's arms and handed him his punch. "Let's get away from the cooler before I'm designated punch girl for the night."

"Sounds good," Ned told her, reaching down to kiss her, and when his tongue touched hers the alcohol burned in her mouth. "Let's go..."

She kissed him again, hard, and when he was breathless she said, "Let's go outside and help George with the burgers."

Even without lighter fluid, the boys had managed to build a respectable fire on the driftwood when Nancy and Ned walked out onto the back patio, their hands joined. "Oh no you don't," George laughed when they approached. "Ned, you sit down."

"Fine by me," Ned said, pulling out a wrought iron chair, and once he was seated he tugged Nancy down into his lap. "What're you cooking?"

"Well, I couldn't find Wendy after she stormed off, and I didn't want to cook anything major, so." She gestured at the grill. "I don't think these are gonna end up anything like burgers."

Ned drained the rest of his cup and pulled Nancy's face down to his, kissed her hard. His thumb hooked around the strap of her tank top and nudged it down her shoulder. She slipped her fingers against the back of his neck, into his hair, and leaned into the kiss, returning it hard.

"Guys... I thought you two had a room for that," Bess said, stopping on her way out to the lake.

Nancy pulled back and glanced at Bess, even through Ned's frustrated groan. "Don't interrupt," she managed, laughing, before Ned pulled her back down to him and kissed her again.

Bess rolled her eyes. "Okay," she said, crossing to stand over the grill with her cousin. "Let's call for pizza and drag these two out to the campfire."

An hour, two slices of pizza, and three glasses of punch later, the flames was dancing in front of Nancy's eyes and some of the more drunk guys were daring each other to get closer and closer to the fire. Bess was making out with a fellow senior she'd had a crush on all year and George had vanished back into the house.

Ned was on his back, pushing Nancy's tank top up her spine by slow degrees. His hands were warm on her skin. "We should go back into the house."

"We should," she agreed, nodding slowly. "This punch tastes freaking great."

"It does," Ned said. "It's awesome. The house."

"Why?" She turned toward him, her eyes slitted from the flames. "Cause, it's getting hot out here. Is that why?"

"It's not hot," he said. "Not down here. Come here."

Nancy lowered herself to the ground, laughing. "It's all spinning."

"What's spinning?"

"Everything," she said, and laughed again, her head pillowed against his shoulder.

"If we were in the hotel room right now."

She turned and looked at him, but found it hard to keep her gaze steady on his. "I'm sorry," she said, very serious. "I'm sorry, I know you wanted to go back there with me, and."

He nodded, then winced. "Yeah," he said. "But we can go in the house."

"And what."

He shrugged. "I don't know," he said.

They climbed to their feet, trying to help each other and laughing, and stumbled back to the house. In the living room the couch and floor were full of teenagers, their mouths agape, as they watched a pornographically violent movie, bullets flying through the air in slow motion and blood spilling all over the place. From her single glance Nancy felt her gorge begin to rise, then squeezed her eyes tight shut and willed herself not to throw up. The den was dark and pulsing with a stereo turned up far too loud, the shelves were shaking, and Ned pulled Nancy through the crush of dancing couples and sandwiched her between him and a wall. She tilted her head back and looked at him lazily, from beneath lowered lids, lifting her arms over her head and swinging her hips with his.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," she nodded slowly. "Yeah. No more punch for a while."

"Deal," he said. He pulled her up into his arms and pinned her against the wall, their faces even, and her eyelashes fluttered down, a slow grin crossing her face. He leaned forward and kissed her, and she pulled at the hem of his shirt, returning the kiss hard. When they pulled apart she tugged his shirt over his head and tossed it to the side, and he looked back at her, his eyebrows raised.

"You feeling okay?"

"I, am feeling, great," she told him, reaching up to kiss him again. She wrapped her legs around his waist as he pressed his hips into hers, his tongue against hers, his fingers sliding around the slim strap of her tank top.

"Nan," he mumbled through their kiss. "I really think we should go back to the hotel room."

She rested her forehead against his when they parted, gasping, and she laughed. "There's no way I can drive right now," she told him.

"I could, maybe," he said.

She shook her head, then winced. "No," she said. "Maybe means no."

He kissed her again, and she slid her arms around his bare shoulders. His palms at the small of her back. "I really, really want to be alone with you."

"We practically are alone," she whispered.

"Not like this," he protested.

She met his gaze for a long moment, then kissed him again, tracing her lips down his chin, his jaw, his neck, and he gasped harshly as she hooked her thumb between them, under the button of his jeans, and tugged slightly. The smooth slide of her nail against his belly. "Alone alone," she said.

He nodded, leaning toward her again, nipping at her earlobe, her neck, before he kissed her again, and she tilted her face to the side, returning it hungrily. His hand slipped up under her shirt, over her abs, and he hooked his thumb just under the elastic band of her bra, pulling it away from her skin.

She pulled back in surprise, her lips red and swelled. "Ned," she said, her voice mildly chastising, but she was smiling. "What do you think you're doing."

"Whatever you'll let me," he replied, and she had to laugh.

After, having shared a dance that was one in name only, Nancy begged off to find a bathroom. She managed to find one after two tries, the first occupied by a girl who had passed out in the bathtub. When she was washing her hands she gazed at herself in the mirror for a long moment before splashing her face with freezing water, until she felt fully aware again.

She could call a cab for them and they could go back to the hotel room, but she was too awake. He was too awake. And she was afraid that if she didn't stop now, she wouldn't. And he couldn't.

She stared at herself another long moment, then nodded at her reflection. "Okay," she said aloud, and took a long breath. "Okay. We sit somewhere until we sober up and then we get in his car and go back to the hotel room and--"

Hotel room. Alone with Ned in a hotel room, and her father not expecting her back until the next morning, and the way she felt right now, she almost didn't want to be sober, she didn't want to lose this pleasant happy buzz humming behind her eyes.

When she came downstairs again a few guys she recognized as senior boys from when she was a freshman were coming through the front door carrying cases of beer, the movie had given way to the video game again, and Ned had a cup in each hand.

"Hey," he said, smiling, when she found him again. "I managed to snag us the last of the punch. It's a lot of fruit, though..."

"Fruit is good, right?" Nancy said, giving him a peck on the cheek as she took a cup.

"Of course," Ned said, dipping his fingers in his own cup and pulling out a chunk of pineapple. Nancy opened her mouth obligingly and he popped it in, his eyes widening when she closed her lips over his finger and thumb.

"So, should it be burning when I swallow?" she said, and he laughed.

After the last sip of the punch, after the last piece of fruit, the last melon slice, when he linked his fingers around her wrist and pulled her toward the stairs she didn't argue or ask him anything. When they reached the landing he pinned her against the railing and kissed her, hard, and she returned it just as hard.

"Let's find, something," he said, and she nodded, speechless, and the buzz almost had an edge to it. They stifled giggles against their palms when they pushed open bedroom doors and couples sprung apart, crying out protests as the light flooded into the room. But every room was occupied, and Ned was growing frustrated.

They stopped in the upstairs hallway and Nancy leaned against the wall, waiting for a dizzy spell to pass, and laughed when Ned kissed her, started tugging at the hem of her shirt. She glanced up.

"Hey, what's that."

The rope hanging from the ceiling pulled down a set of steep stairs, and when they managed to climb up, laughing the entire way, they found a partially finished attic, dim save moonlight and the floodlight over the patio.

Before she could take a breath he was tugging her shirt over her head and his mouth was on hers. She raised her arms over her head and let him lift it off, and then they were skin to skin, his gasping mouth against hers, her legs around his waist again.

"Ned," she whispered, but she didn't stop, she didn't want to stop. She ran her fingers through his hair and traced her mouth down his neck, over the point of his jaw, against the hard muscle of his shoulder. His fingers plucking at the tight band of lace over her breasts.

"Nan," he whispered, and he rested his forehead against hers, his chin against his chest, the backs of his fingers skimming over her stomach as he led them to the waist of her pants. She sucked in a hard breath and the room was spinning, and her legs fell loose around his waist. His fingers made a slow sure movement and then the button was undone and his lips were pressed in a motionless kiss against her forehead.

"What are we doing," she whispered, and ran a hand through her hair, glancing up to meet his eyes. Sitting in the middle of the floor in Wendy's attic, his face in shadow above hers, her stomach full and sick in her belly. She traced her fingertips down the line of his arm until it met her hip, and then sighed.

He shook his head, faintly. "I'm sorry," he said. "Do you want-- do you need to lay down or something?" He slipped out from under her and she watched him, unable to speak, her eyes gleaming. "If this is anything like our attic, there've gotta be some quilts up here."

Nancy glanced over at her tank top, but didn't bother putting it back on as she joined him in the search. In an old unlocked chest they found a pair of clean, worn quilts and the faint scent of mothballs, and dragged them out into a square of moonlight. A few grains of sand were still clinging to her heels as she let herself fall, with easy grace, down to the quilt, and sat looking up at him.

"Better?"

"I think," she said, and patted the quilt beside her. After a minute he joined her. "I'm starting to feel, like..."

"Yeah," Ned nodded. "I feel it too."

With her pants still unbuttoned she climbed into his lap and wrapped her legs loosely around his waist again, wiggling her toes against the quilt, her arms around his shoulders. "Why are you with me, Ned?"

He laughed, incredulous, and traced his fingertips down the side of her face. "What kind of question is that?"

"I mean..." She looked away, toward the window. They could still vaguely hear the sound of the group around the campfire, singing and shouting and laughter, the bass pounding up through the foundations, but it was all faint, as though they were no longer a part of it. "I mean you could be with anyone," she said. "I'm not the prettiest girl in my class, I'm not the smartest, not the most athletic. Don't have the biggest breasts." She glanced down at her chest, a wry smile on her face.

"You're not the prettiest," Ned said, and kissed her cheek. "You're so much more than pretty, you're beautiful. You're not smart, you're brilliant. Everything you are, everything, you're perfect, and on top of all that, you're the girl I'm in love with."

"But why," she protested, and he stopped her mouth with a kiss that took her breath away and made her forget everything else.

"Because you're Nancy Drew," he laughed at her, when they parted.

She took one last glance over his shoulder and still found nothing there, then led him down to the quilt, onto his back, and reached behind her. She could almost feel the sudden jump in his pulse when the bra slipped off, and she tossed it to join her tank top in the shadows.

"Were those the magic words?"

Despite herself, despite the blood rushing in her ears and the trembling at her fingertips, she had to laugh at him. "No," she shook her head, and saw his hands twitching at his sides, knew he wanted to touch her as she straddled his hips. "Do you actually believe there are magic words?"

He shook his head, his expression slack with wonder. "All I know is that sometimes, sometimes," he reached up and traced his fingertip over her breast, stopping at the warm feather-soft skin. "You know, I don't know why you love me either."

She leaned down, the tips of her breasts sliding over his chest and igniting his every edged nerve, and kissed him lightly. "Because you're Ned Nickerson," she breathed against his mouth. "The hottest player on the Emerson basketball team, most hits on the baseball team, nearly quarterback of the football team, the prom king, the student body president..."

He lightly cupped her breast in his palm and traced his thumb over her, watching her eyes flutter shut. "That's not it," he said. "And you know it."

"Because you're Ned," she said. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Because it all makes sense when I'm with you."

He rolled over with her, until she was pinned underneath him. "Do you remember that time, a few weeks ago, when we were..."

"Yeah," she interrupted as he trailed off, a lazy grin on her face. "I remember."

"Do you..."

She unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans and she could feel him through them, warm, impatient, against her. "Yeah," she said.

"I didn't finish."

"Whatever you were going to say," she replied, and chuckled.

He lowered himself to her and kissed her, clinging, his tongue against hers, as he unzipped her pants and peeled them down her legs. She helped him wrestle them off and then reached for his, tugging his jeans off. When they were in their underwear, she reached over and pulled the other quilt over his back.

"Cold?"

She shook her head, even though it was starting to spin again. "Someone... we're at an an after prom party and we're practically naked, and if we were in a movie someone would walk in right about now and I'd have to figure out where my clothes were and--"

He silenced her with another kiss, this one alternately deep and light, teasing and claiming, her hand drifting up to rest against the back of his neck. She lifted one bent knee, lazily, and touched it to his hip, and he pulled back a hair's breadth, his lips swelled from the pressure of their kiss, his eyes closed. She looped her lower leg over the small of his back

"You said," he whispered, but his voice trailed off as his fingertips nudged under the elastic of her panties.

She tilted her head back and claimed another kiss, her breath warm against his mouth as he hooked his fingers under, against the plane of her abs. "Please," she whispered.

His weight pressed her down, his palm cupping the base of her skull against the floor beneath them, and his fingers curled in over her abs until she moaned in frustration, her legs falling open beneath him. In the warm dim tent between their bodies she pushed down his boxers and stroked her palm hesitantly down the length of his arousal, and he closed his eyes and let his forehead fall against the quilt next to her head.

"Nan," he said, warningly, his lips brushing her ear. "I told you."

"You told me," she whispered back, and he felt her hips shift, until his fingertips were just against the curls between her thighs. "You told me that this was how you wanted me to touch you."

He buried his face against her neck and she felt his teeth press against her flesh, and his fingers trembled as they slipped between her thighs. She gasped and tilted her head back and he nipped at her neck, and she was slick and wet beneath his touch, his wrist pulling her panties tight against the small of her back. She stroked him and her touch was timid, slow, the faintest cool brush over his flesh, growing more firm and sure with each caress.

"Nan," he groaned, his tongue flicking over her skin, as he traced a line down her chest. He slipped his fingers out of her and hooked both hands under the elastic, drawing it down half an inch, and she cried out in frustration, trembling under him. He kissed her belly button and she pushed herself up on her elbows, tossing her hair back. Her skin was pale and milk-smooth in the moonlight, her cheeks flushed, chest heaving.

"What do you want," he breathed, his brown eyes hazed with arousal as they met hers. "Because I know what I want."

After a long moment, her every heartbeat pounding clearly in her temple, she broke their gaze and let her own drift down, until her breathing was more even, until her trembling was faint. She reached for him and pulled him to her, until they lay side by side, gazing at each other, her fingers stroking his cheek. "We can't," she whispered.

He nodded. "I know we can't," he said, and his voice was hoarse.

She kissed him, gently, and he rolled over onto his back, pulling her on top of him. He was tense with frustration and longing, and she could feel it in his arms, in the insistence of his kiss.

When she pulled back, she rested her forehead against his. "You know I love you, right."

He chuckled under her, and let his palm drift over her hair. "I know," he said. "And I love you."

"Maybe we should go to sleep," she breathed.

He reached down and pulled the blanket over both of them, then cradled his head in his folded arm and looped the other around her. "Are you all right?" he whispered.

"I feel dizzy and a little sick and I want--" She shook her head. "It doesn't matter what I want," she said, and slipped her arm over his side. "I need to sleep."

He kissed her forehead. "Then sleep," he whispered. "I'll be here."

--

In the morning she felt sick, and her stomach wouldn't stop rolling. After a miserable series of dry heaves, her skin gone pale and beaded with cool sweat, it began to pass, and she wiped her face with the washcloth Ned had found for her, then looked over at Bess, who was leaning against the lip of the tub, her hair hanging down in her face.

"I think-- I feel a little better," she whispered.

Bess lifted a wing of blond hair and glared at Nancy. "Kill me now," she said. "Find a gun or an ax or something and get Ned to kill me."

After Ned refused to perform a mercy killing, the three of them climbed into Ned's car, Bess miserable in the backseat. In the five minutes between the highway and her house, she brushed copious amounts of foundation over the circles under her eyes and pulled her hair back into a ponytail.

"Do I look okay?"

Nancy glanced back at her. "You look like you were awake all night."

"As long as that's all." Bess tucked her dress over her arm and climbed out of the car. "Call me later, Nan."

"Sure thing," Nancy said, waving as Bess vanished into her parents' house. Then she turned to Ned. "I'm not even going to bother asking how I look."

"Good," Ned said, but he was smiling as he brushed his fingertips over her cheek. "Just go straight to bed when you get home and you'll be fine."

"That sounds like the best idea I've heard all day."

He left her on her front porch staring after him, the taste of his lingering kiss still on her lips, the memory of the warm press of their flesh as they slept. Her father was at his office, and Hannah came out of the kitchen to greet her, taking the dress out of her hands.

"Good night?"

"It was," Nancy paused, a soft smile on her lips. "Yes. It was a good night. I'm just feeling a little... I think I'm gonna go upstairs for a while."

Hannah gave her a knowing look before she vanished back into the kitchen, but she was smiling.

Once Nancy was back in her own bed, her head cradled in her elbow, she stared at the phone until she gave up in defeat and lifted it to her ear.

"Doctor's office."

"Hi, I was wondering whether you had any time available this afternoon?"

"We might," the receptionist replied, over the machine hum and fluorescent buzz. "Just a checkup?"

"A checkup, and..." Nancy twisted the phone cord around her finger, her face flushing softly.

"And I'd like to talk to the doctor about birth control."