After Hours
Chapter One

I put my car, an older-but-not-quite-old Jetta, into park on the street in front of an apartment building. It was a normal apartment, brownish brick, lots of windows, looked out over a park. Not in an upper-class area of town, but far from being in a lower-class area. It was decidedly middle-class, and there was nothing wrong with that. Locking my car, I jogged up to the door, my ponytail brushing my shoulders with each step.

"Hey, Cade," Jarmaine Bertram greeted me as I walked into my brother's apartment only minutes after parking. Jarmaine was sitting on the couch, looking right at home with a beer in hand, which he raised to me. "Let yourself in, I see.

I nodded. My older brother, Vaughn, and I were close, despite our three-year age gap. I had my own set of keys for the apartment he shared with his childhood best friend and any of their other friends who deemed it fit to hang out all day. Jarmaine being one of them.

"I was bored," I whined as I plopped down next to him, and taking the beer out of his hand, taking a swig.

Jarmaine grinned. "Aw, poor Cady. Elijah not home today?"

Elijah Hart, better known as Lijah to me at least, was my best friend and roommate. We usually had the same days on and off, but today was an exception. And I was suffering for it, suffering enough to head over to my brother's at five, which was crazily early. However, apparently not early enough for Jarmaine to not get his own little party started in the living room.

"No," I answered Jarmaine. "He got called in. It sucks."

"Looks like you went swimming," he observed, taking in my still-damp hair, pulled back into a ponytail. "I'd like to say that the wet 'n sexy look doesn't suit you . . . but it does."

I punched Jarmaine's arm, and grinned. "I know," I said cockily, getting a laugh from him.

"You should know, girl. You're hot," he drawled.

"Hitting on my sister again, Bertram?" my brother's voice asked from the doorway that connected to his kitchen.

I glanced at him, all five feet and nine inches of him, leaning against the door frame, smiling the bright smile that made girls think him hotter than he was. I guess it's a good thing that I'm not vouching for my brother's hotness, being that he is my brother.

Vaughn was pretty short, a bit stocky, but even if I wouldn't say he was hot, I could say that he was good-looking. That's not creepy to say, it's just pride in genetics. Right? He had dark, almost black, hair, and brown eyes, with his famous wide smile. He looked like a good guy with his earnest grin and twinkling eyes. He was a good guy, so it wasn't a case of appearances being misleading. He gave me a quick wink.

"She's hot, Holly, I can't help it," Jarmaine defended himself. Vaughn sent Jarmaine a dirty look before laughing, which caused Jarmaine to break out laughing as well.

"I'm making spaghetti, Cade. Want some?" Vaughn asked me once he had stopped laughing.

I shook my head, auburn-ish bangs falling in my eyes. "No, I'm good. I had a pizza pop before coming over."

"Ah, eating healthy as always, I see. Elijah must not be home."

I grinned winningly at my brother. "See, I can provide for myself."

Vaughn laughed. "Yeah, right. I'm making enough spaghetti for you to have a little, and I'll be very hurt if you don't." He turned back into the kitchen, and Jarmaine turned to me.

"I think you just got threatened, Cady. Vaughn's so responsible. I'm almost jealous."

I laughed. Jarmaine was care-free to the point of no return. "Right. I don't believe you."

He grinned easily. "Okay, so maybe not. But you love me for it, right?"

I nodded. "Of course. Like I'm responsible," I snorted.

He nodded in agreement. "Let me guess. You going out tonight?"

"Yep. Lijah mentioned a party at someone's house, someone James knows."

"James, Elijah's brother? The younger one?" Jarmaine clarified.

"You mean Henry? Fuck no!" I replied, laughing. "Henry's fifteen, Jarmaine. Yeah, like we'd be at that kind of party."

"Hey, don't knock your roots. You were fifteen once."

I fixed Jarmaine with a disbelieving look, and he grinned.

"Okay, okay, so you never would've been to a high school party like that. You wild child, you. And I thought Vaughnie was responsible. But taking an innocent child out partying? Not so responsible."

"Vaughn is responsible, it's Jason that isn't," I pointed out, naming Vaughn's roommate.

Jason Venne, Vaughn's childhood and still-best friend. Jason Venne, now too cool to go by Jason, and instead going simply by Jase. I'd known him way back in the day when he was still nerdy little Jason. Now, of course, he was far from nerdy, and even farther from being little. Not to say that he was huge, but our Jase had definitely done some growing up in his days.

"Oh, Jase," Jarmaine sighed. "What ever will we do with him?"

I shrugged. "What do we need to do with him? It's not like his playboy lifestyle affects any of us, except Vaughn, who doesn't seem to mind. Wow, that speaks highly of my brother, doesn't it?" I laughed. It was true, though. Jase always seemed to have a steady stream of women who walked through his bedroom door as if it were revolving. See: Jase was a man-slut.

"Yeah, like hell that it's true that it doesn't affect us. What about the times you're afraid to come over here because you don't want to run into the latest of his conquests?"

"I think you're confusing that with your apartment, Bert," I replied, using the nickname commonly used for Jarmaine, being that men use last names, and dang-nabbit, men had came up with this nickname. My God. Men.

"Honey, Danny has no conquests, and you're hardly afraid of seeing mine. So that leaves . . . ah, Tobe," Jarmaine declared, sighing. "That Toby."

"It's Tobias, Jarmaine," a voice said, once again coming from the doorway to the kitchen.

Both Jarmaine and I turned to see none other than the subject of our conversation, Tobias Bryant, standing there, leaning against the frame that led into the kitchen. Unlike Vaughn, even a thing as simple as leaning against a door frame looked like an art when Tobias did it. A sexy art.

"Oh, right, he's too grown up to go by Toby anymore. How could I forget?" Jarmaine commented sarcastically. He stood up from his spot. "Hey, want a beer, Cady? You're still cool with being called that, right?"

"Yes, and yes," I answered, grinning as I waved him away.

Jarmaine disappeared into the kitchen, and Tobias took his place on the couch next to me. I took the opportunity to get a good look at Jarmaine's more elusive roommate. Tobias wasn't as tall as Jarmaine's six feet five inch frame, but who was? He was definitely more built than beanpole Bertram. Tobias had messy blond hair that was the perfect length for it to be forever flopping only slightly bur sexily into his teal-blue eyes, and his jaw was strong, complimented by full red lips. Definitely able to get girls. Definitely one for conquests.

He regarded me, his head cocked slightly. "What you looking at?"

"You. Haven't seen you in a while," I answered. It was true, too. As much as I partied with my brother and his entourage of Jase, Jarmaine, and Danny, Tobias had not been included in that entourage in the last couple of weeks.

"I've been busy." With anyone else, such a sentence might have came out with a slightly icy tone. Not with Tobias. His lips went up at the corners, a slight smile. A sexy smile. "Don't worry, I haven't changed. You can stop looking at me so intently now. Not that I mind," he added with a laugh. He was full-out grinning as he plopped down next to me on the couch. "How about you? What's Cadence been up to recently?" he asked easily. Another reason Tobias was able to get girls, no problem: He had charm. Lots of it.

I shrugged. "You know, the usual. Nothing new here."

"Still living in your brother's shadow? Same old Cadence?" Now his face displayed an arrogant smirk, another expression which was pretty at home on his - sexy - face.

"Shut up, Tobias," I said, though it was probably true. After all, I was Cadence Holly, younger sister of Vaughn Holly, and that was the only reason I kept company with these guys. When I was little, I used to follow Vaughn and his friends around. I guess I never really grew out of that habit.

He waved a hand at me, unperturbed. "You know I'm joking, hey, Cadence?"

I decided that such an obvious statement wasn't worthy of a response, and instead ignored that part of what he said. "You're pretty much the only person that always calls me Cadence, you know," I told him.

"Well, it's your name."

"That doesn't stop nicknames, obviously." I smirked at him, and he smirked back.

"Some of us grow out of cutesy nicknames."

"Like Cady and Toby?"

"Like Cady and Toby," he agreed, nodding.

"I don't think I'll ever grow out of that," I declared. "As long as I'm around my brother, Lijah, and Jarmaine, anyway. Oh, and Jase, of course. He's known me as Cady his whole life, pretty much."

Tobias shrugged. "Suit yourself. So what's the not-so-grown up Cadence up to tonight?"

"Party."

"But of course. Where?"

"Why, so you can invite yourself along to pick up girls who don't actually know of your rep?"

"What rep. that's I'm good in bed?" he shot back. His eyes twinkled good-naturedly as he then chuckled. "You know me too well. I need something to do tonight."

"Someone, you mean," I corrected him.

"Naturally. So where's this party?"

I sighed. "Some friend of James's. Lijah's older brother. Lijah's taking me, I don't know where it is." Which, not so subtlety, meant that Tobias couldn't come along to seduce his way into the pants of many unsuspecting girls.

"But I do!" Vaughn yelled as he stepped into the room. "Want a ride, Bryant?"

"Hell yeah, Holly."

My brother nodded at me. "Emily and James are friends. She told me about it."

"What's up with you and Em, anyway, dude?" Jarmaine asked, walking back into the rooms. "This is for you, Cady," he added, tossing me a can of beer.

"Thanks," I said, cracking it open, and taking a sip. Make that a gulp.

Vaughn shrugged in answer to Jarmaine's question. "We're friends. I'm not interested in more, even if she is." I didn't miss the fact that Vaughn didn't meet Jarmaine's eyes as he said that. Not interested, my ass.

"My big brother, the heart-breaker," I cracked.

"Enough, Cade," he said, waving a hand at me. He picked up his phone, and began browsing through the numbers programmed into it. "I'm phoning Elijah for you," he said absently. "He can pick you up from here; I don't want you to drive anywhere with any alcohol in your system."

"I think I can handle it with one beer. My place isn't far, nor is my alcohol tolerance low," I protested.

My brother shot me a withering look, as I knew he would. That was my brother for you, always insisting that any alcohol was too much for me. Given, he had seen me drunk dozens and dozens of times. None of those times were off of one stupid beer, though. He didn't say anything else, but instead put the phone to his ear.

"Hey, Elijah? It's Vaughn. If you're going to that party, you want to pick Cade up from my place? Yeah, she and Jarmaine got an early start on the festivities. Okay, thanks. See you in a bit."

Vaughn hung up the phone, looking self-satisfied. "Easy enough," he said. "Just leave your car here. I work tomorrow, but Jase can pick you up, and bring you here to get it."

"Thanks for volunteering me for that dubious honor," a new voice piped up disdainfully.

I shot a mocking grin at the newcomer. "Nice to see you too, Jase."

He made a face at me. "We should charge you rent."

"Mm-hmm, and how about all the girls you bring home? Should they be charged rent too?" I asked innocently.

"Only for his bed," Jarmaine answered for Jase, squeezing in next to me on the couch. "That is where they spend all their time, no?"

"Enough of you two," Jase stated loudly. "I don't need to defend myself in front of an alcoholic and my best friend's little sister."

"Ouch, Jase. You were only factual for one of those things, and your oversight hurt," Jarmaine whined, placing his hand over his heart. Over-dramatic injury.

"You say that as you nurse your beer," Jase pointed out.

"So?"

"Never mind," Jase said, sighing, and turning away from Jarmaine. "Any plans for tonight, Vaughn? Or are we just hanging out with your sister all night?"

"Love you too, Jason," I piped up from my place on the couch. Jase grinned at me, and turned back to Vaughn.

"Going to a party at a friend of a friend's," Vaughn replied immediately. "You in?"

Jase shrugged. "I've got nothing better to do right now, so why not? Just let me get ready. Five minutes, and I'll be good to go."

"Jase has to go make himself look pretty," I said in a confidential tone to Jarmaine.

"Jase is always pretty," Jarmaine said in a voice louder than mine.

Jase gave the two of us the finger over his shoulder as he walked down the hall to one of the two bedrooms within the apartment.

It was true, though. Jase was pretty. He was tall, just over six feet, I'd suspect, and rockstar-thin. He had long, slim fingers that wouldn't look out of place on a guitar, although I knew for a fact he had never touched a guitar in his life. He used to spike his jet-black hair, but recently it had gotten too long, and he just let it lie so that it curled over the top of his black-framed glasses. I had been amused to see a trace of natural curl in his hair, but by now accepted that it looked good. He had light, icy blue eyes, and similar features to Vaughn, in the sense that everything was in the right place, and of the right size. Everything attractive. Or in Jase's case, since he's not my brother, everything sexy. Or it would've been, if he wasn't almost like my brother.

Jase reappeared about five minutes later, now wearing dark jeans, and a light blue button-down shirt. He was looking down as he zipped up his usual grey-with-black hoodie, and then nodded when he looked up.

"Okay, I'm ready. Let's head'er," he declared.

"Not so fast, buddy," Vaughn spoke up. "Elijah is already on his way to pick up Cadence right now. We'll wait."

"And here I was, getting all dressed up for a car ride next to her," Jase remarked dryly, his slow grin appearing on his face when he glanced at me. "Looking good, by the way, Cady. I especially like the shirt."

I made a face at him as he walked over, and picked at the sleeve of the ringer t-shirt I wore. It was brown and tight, emblazoned with the logo of an old local garage. I had paired it with jeans, simple enough. My hair was in the same messy ponytail it had been in all day, the brownish-auburn side-swept bangs falling over my right eyebrow. I had only put on some dark, smudged liner around my hazel eyes. Anything else would look too out of place with my super-casual clothing right now. The fact that I had big eyes, full lips and high cheekbones only made my lack of make-up less of a problem. No, I'm not the type to be modest about my looks. They've gotten me this far in life, might as well admit that right off the bat.

"In fact," Jase continued as I kicked him with my bare foot. "I thought it looked pretty good in my drawer last week. Which was the last time I saw it there," he said pointedly.

I shrugged, and looked up at him, a sly smile coming across my face. "Maybe I liked it too."

He surveyed me again, and shrugged. "I guess it does look better with breasts to fill it out."

"Hey!" Vaughn yelped. "My sister!"

The buzzer beside the door of the apartment rang. I stood up, all too happy to let this testosterone fest continue without me.

"Hello?" I said, pressing the talk button.

"Hey, it's-"

Without waiting for Lijah to finish, I buzzed him up. Within about two minutes, he was knocking on the door. I threw it open, and stepped aside for him to come in. I kissed his cheek, throwing my arms around his neck.

"Hey, Lij," I greeted him.

His hands rubbed my back. "Hey, Cady. Looking good, girl."

"You too," I told him honestly.

Lijah's light brown hair was spiked as if he'd stuck his entire hand in an electrical socket, and his wide blue eyes were also electric, matching his hair style perfectly. Twin dimples framed his rose-petal mouth, and one hand scratched at the tiny lettering that I knew was tattooed behind his left ear, the date of his father's death. Lijah was wearing black skater pants, with the Converse shoes he'd owned since he was seventeen, I knew that for a fact, and a light yellow polo shirt, which would've looked ridiculous on anyone that wasn't Lijah.

He grinned as he stepped back from my embrace. "Yeah? You don't think it's too bumblebee-like?"

I shook my head. "No way. It looks good."

"She'd let you pollinate her flower," Jarmaine cracked.

I glared at him. "That's disgusting. And enough out of you." I turned back to Lijah, tugging on his sleeve. "Let's go."

Lijah obligingly followed me to the door, Vaughn trailing behind him. "Drive safely, Elijah. Don't drink if you're driving home."

"Vaughn, neither of us need reminders of that. Besides, you'll be there, and I'm sure you'll remind both of us of this often," I commented, glaring at my brother who only shrugged.

"Can never be too careful," he defended himself, undaunted.

"Hey, no worries, Vaughn. I'll be good, promise." Lijah grinned. "We'll see you there, dude."

Vaughn, who had turned to head back to the living room, held a hand up in a wave without looking back. Lijah pulled the door open for me.

"After you, miss," he said, bowing with a flourish.

"Thanks, Lij," I said, smiling lightly as I walked out the door in front of him.

He quickly caught up, falling in step beside me. "New shirt? It fits nice."

"It's Jase's," I told him.

He nodded wisely. "Ah. That would have been my second guess. Do you actually own anything that is in your closet now? I mean, does Jase have any clothes left?"

"Being that, yes, I do own a few feminine items such as bras and dresses, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that some things in my closet are not Jase's. As for him, obviously he has clothes left, as I keep finding things to borrow."

"You mean lynch."

I shrugged. "If he asked for them back, I would give them to him."

"Maybe," Lijah added.

I grinned. "Maybe," I agreed. "Some."

Lijah swung his arm around me as I pushed open the door of the building's lobby. "That's my girl," he said, squeezing my shoulder into his armpit. At least I could be quite confident in the fact that Lijah was definitely not the type to forget about deoderant. "Now, is my girl ready to par-tay?"

"Only if you don't ever say 'par-tay' again."

Lijah laughed as he ushered me to his car. "I think I can promise that. Now c'mon, get in the car, and let's get this show on the road."

"Shit-show," I added.

"Well, yeah, in all likelihood," Lijah agreed as if it was obvious. It was, pretty much.

"Even for you, though you promised my brother you'd take care of me?" I asked innocently, batting my eyelashes as Lijah unlocked the car door.

He smirked at me. "Whatever works to head off Vaughn's lectures before they start, Cady."

I grinned. "Well-played, my friend. Besides, it's on you now if I do something stupid. You were supposed to be my chaperone, so you'd have to deal with Vaughn," I pointed out.

Lijah made a face. "The things I do for you," he muttered, starting the car. "You'll owe me someday."

I reached over, squeezing his shoulder. "Yeah, sure, of course. Now let's go."

He grinned, but obediently pulled his car out of the parking spot. Party in T minus fifteen minutes. And counting.

- - - - - - - - - -

The scene at the house was nothing special. Cars lined the street on both sides, careful not to block any driveways. The house itself was a big brown one, with lights on in every window I could see, and silhouettes of people taking up window space.

Lijah had briefed me on the way over: The house belonged to a guy named Mark, who was a friend of James's from way back in high school, one of the few friends he'd stayed in touch with. Mark had red hair, and even if I saw him, I didn't have to acknowledge him in any special way, even though he was our host. Besides, Lijah had added, Mark would probably be a bit boozed up by this point already. Either way, it was good to at least have an idea who your host was. That's just manners.

"Okay, Cady, all set?" Liijah asked me, pressing the lock button on the driver's side door before shutting it.

I nodded, looking at the house. "Yep. How'd you get such a good parking spot anyway?"

Lijah shrugged, grinning as he looked at the spot no more than thirty feet from Mark's driveway. "Someone must've ran out to make a beer run or something. Suckers." He grinned, and I laughed.

"C'mon," I said, beginning to walk up the walkway. "Do we have to knock?"

Lijah shrugged again. "Nah. Let's just go in," he said as he pushed open the house's door.

I followed him in, noting that indeed, nobody cared that there were new arrivals or that we had just let ourselves in. Whoo, par-tay.

A tall gorgeous blond girl stood up from the couch, making a whooping noise. "Cade!" she called, making a beeline to me, and wrapping lithe arms around my neck.

"Hey, Stella. Didn't know you'd be here," I greeted her, smiling. Despite my height of 5'7", Stella still stood at least a couple inches taller than me.

"Me neither," she laughed. "But it turned out that this guy I went on a date with last week was all psyched to bring me. So I came. But not with him," she finished, blue eyes overflowing with laughter.

Stella McIntyre is gorgeous in that model way. She's tall and slender, with long dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and smooth, tanned skin. Guys absolutely love her. They always want to show her off, the classic beauty that she is. If there's a party, of course they ask her, hoping that their friends will see her. Tonight, it seems, the friends will definitely see her. But not with the guy who wants to be seen.

She turned to Lijah. "Hey, Elijah," she said in greeting, her voice a light rasp.

Lijah nodded back at her. "Hey, Stella. How's it going?"

She shrugged. "All right. Danny, Britt, and I just got here maybe twenty minutes ago so you know. Nothing too exciting."

"Yet," I added.

Stella flashed me a bright grin. "Yet," she agreed, laughing.

I craned my neck, looking around the room. "Where is Britt, anyway? I haven't seen her for like a week."

Stella rolled her eyes. "Yeah, if your name isn't Danny, then that makes sense. She's on the couch over there. With Danny," she added unnecessarily. Danny Sinclair was the third roommate of the Jarmaine-Tobias-Danny trio, and the boyfriend of the third member of mine and Stella's own triumvirate. See, I wouldn't be able to exonerate myself from my brother's social circle even if I tried.

"I can tell you with certainty that she definitely picked the best out of the three. I mean, if I had to date one of Tobias, Jarmaine, or Danny, then Danny is definitely the lesser of the three semi-evils." I pointed a finger at the grinning Lijah. "And no, you cannot tell any of them that!"

He shrugged. "Hey, you said it, not me."

"Shut up, Lij."

He leaned in to quickly kiss my cheek. "I'll take that as my cue to go find some of my own guys. I'm pretty sure my social standing will go down once I'm seen downgrading from you two beauties to those apes, but alas!" Lijah said dramatically, his eyes glimmering with mirth. That's Lijah for you.

"Okay. Bye," I said, hugging him lightly, which he returned.

"Can I trust you to either find your own ride home or find me? Despite how I'm supposed to look out for you, I mean." The good humor didn't leave his eyes.

I laughed at this dig towards Vaughn's more protective tendencies. "Yeah, I think I can handle that. I'll see you around, Lij."

"Bye, babe. Nice to see you, Stella!" he called over his shoulder as he went off to find his buddies.

Stella smiled. "You too." She turned to me, her smile turning more mischievous as she regarded me. "Now, let me grab you a drink. Or better yet, send Danny in search of a drink, chivalrous male that he is. C'mon."

Stella grabbed my hand, and pulled me into the living room, back to the couch where she had apparently been sitting with Britt Way and Danny Sinclair. Another guy was sitting on Danny's other side, chatting to him, a guy I didn't recognize.

Britt smiled as she saw me. "Hey, Cadence!" she squealed. She pushed Danny lightly. "You've got to move over. Stella's back, and she brought Cade."

Danny glanced at me, and nodded. "Hey," he said. "How's it going?"

"Good. Your roommates are on their way. I'm surprised you didn't tell them about this party."

Danny shrugged. "I was invited by Britt, who was invited by Stella, who was invited by some guy. I figured if I invited anyone, that'd be too many degrees of separation for the host to handle. Besides, it's gonna be a big one. The odds that Tobias and Jarmaine wouldn't find out? Pretty slim."

I nodded, sliding down next to Stella, and leaning across her and Britt to talk to Danny. "Yeah, being that they found out. Vaughn's bringing the crew over soon."

"Good to know. Hey, have you met Derrick? He's just about to go grab us some drinks, aren't you, buddy?" Danny said, switching topics and grinning at his friend beside him, who shrugged.

"Sure. But you're coming with."

Danny stood obligingly. "Be right back."

I was all too happy to wait patiently for Danny to return when I felt a drink being pressed into my hand. I looked up into Jase's icy eyes, then to the cup in my hand, and back to Jase.

"Here," he said, a slight smile on his face. "I heard a rumor that you liked the drinks I made up." Jase, a restaurant manager, did make some pretty amazing drinks, which I had mentioned in passing to Jarmaine a few days ago. Apparently Jarmaine had sent this news Jase's way. Jase raised an eyebrow at me. "Enjoy." Like that, he was gone.

Stella was watching him go with interest. "Who was that? Was that your brother's roommate?"

I nodded. "Yep. Jase Venne."

"And he gave you a drink."

"He makes up a bunch of his own drinks, and they're usually pretty good. I guess word kinda got around that I felt that way," I explained. I took a sip, and considered the taste..

"Not too great?" Stella asked, laughing. Britt laughed too, wrinkling her tiny nose.

"What is it?" she asked.

I peered into the cup. "I don't know. It's strong, whatever it is. Good though."

"Strong equals good? That's our girl," Stella said, turning to Britt with a laugh. "She'll polish off whatever the boys bring back too, I'd bet."

I shrugged. "Probably."

Stella regarded me coolly. "Well then. I'll see you at work tomorrow, because good luck remembering tonight."

- - - - - - - - - - -

"Cady, come on," a voice was saying to me. My arms were being pulled. "Come on. Don't make me lift you."

I looked up, and saw blue. Really, really light blue. Jason. "Oh. Hi. It's you."

"Yes, it's me. Now come on. Vaughn's somewhere, I don't know where, and Elijah is smashed in the basement, so I called a cab. We're going home, and so is Jarmaine. He's already out there, so it's your turn. Stand with me. I know you can walk. You were dancing, like, ten minutes ago. Cady, let's go."

He lifted at my arms again, and I stood, wobbling a bit as I tried to focus in on his face. He put his arm around my waist, and led me to the door, only a mildly grim look on his face. At the bottom of the driveway, just as he had said, was a bright yellow taxi. Jase opened the door, and eased me in, next to Jarmaine who was leaning against the opposite window, eyes glassy.

His head slowly moved to look at me. "Hey. Cady. Cool."

Jase rolled his eyes as he got in beside me, and closed the door, nodding to the cabbie, who began driving. "Jarmaine is absolutely gone. He's sleeping on the couch tonight with a garbage can beside him."

"Yeah?" I said.

"Yeah," Jase answered, nodding vigorously. "I'm putting the damn garbage can beside him."

"Where am I sleeping?"

Jase sighed. "In my bed, I suppose. I'll take the chair. God knows you need a bed more than me tonight. Liked my drink, did you?" he asked with a hint of his familiar smirk on his face.

I nodded. "It was just the start!"

"I bet," he said dryly. "Maybe I'll teach you the secret recipe someday."

"Doesn't that contradict it being secret?"

Jase shrugged. "Yeah. Whatever."

He was silent, looking out his window, until we pulled up next to the apartment building. He sighed again, and looked at me. "Cady? Are you okay enough to help me with Jarmaine?"

I looked at my hands and nodded. "Yeah. I think so."

"Good." Jase paid the cabbie, and we began the daunting task of getting Jarmaine out of the car, and up the stairs to the apartment.

Draping his arms around our shoulders, we could almost get Jarmaine moving. His groans let us know that he wasn't totally passed out, and his feet would shuffle, but that was about all the help we could get from Jarmaine.

After about a ten minute struggle, we finally deposited Jarmaine on the the couch, and Jase grabbed an old blanket, throwing it over Jarmaine. We stood and surveyed our accomplishment. Jarmaine's mouth hung open, letting out a raspy snore.

Jase grimaced. "Lovely. You go find an old shirt of Vaughn's or mine, I don't care, and climb into bed. I'm getting this ass a garbage can. I'll be right in."

"'Kay," I said, nodding. I padded down the hallway, into Jase's room. I'd kicked off my shoes at the door, and was now barefoot. Crashing in Jason's bed sounded just about perfect right about now.

Jase's room was the mess it always was. He may have been quite meticulously groomed himself, but his room was another story. I opened Jase's closet, and found an old button-down shirt, white with fine, light blue lines crossing it. The cuffs were frayed, and that was all I needed to see to decide that Jase would not mind me sleeping in this one.

I stripped off my jeans and Jase's t-shirt, throwing them into a pile on the floor beside the chair. My bra soon followed, and I began to button up my chosen pajama shirt. A light knock on the door interrupted me.

"Cady? You decent?"

"One second!" I called, rushing to button up the rest of the shirt.

I pulled open the door, and Jase stepped in, looking at me with a smile on his face.

"What?" I demanded.

"You look good," he said simply. He moved to the bed, and pulled back the sheets. "Okay. Hop in, and I'll grab the light."

I obliged, and Jase moved to the light switch. A second later the room was plunged into darkness. I could hear Jase rustling around on the right of the bed, around the area of the chair. A second later I heard a muffled thump, obviously Jase plopping down on the chair.

We were silent for a few minutes, but I found my eyes staying open, wide and focused on nothing but dark.

"Jase?" I asked.

"Yeah, Cady?" he replied tiredly.

"You want to sleep in the bed?"

"No, it's yours tonight. Don't worry about it."

"But it's your bed. Come on, Jason, I feel bad stealing your bed from you," I protested.

I could practically hear the smirk in his voice when he spoke. "Oh, now you feel guilty about stealing my bed. You grew a conscience between the last billion times and now?"

"Yes," I snapped. "Now get into your damn bed."

"I'm good."

"Jason," I said strictly. "C'mon, share the bed. It's not a big deal.

"Yep, not a big deal when your brother beats me to a bloody pulp for sleeping with his sister. Not at all."

I frowned at him, well aware that he couldn't see me in the dark. "Sleeping in the platonic, non-sexual sense. And besides, he loves you more than me. He would beat me up."

Jase laughed. "Yeah, right," he said, but I could hear him rustling around as if he was getting up from the chair. The sheets were pulled back a bit from my side, and then the bed creaked as Jase laid down next to me.

"Happy?"

"Mm-hmm. Now I don't have to feel guilty about stealing your bed."

"Along with my clothes," he added with a chuckle, moving around to get comfortable. "Besides, it's not like this isn't weird," he said, an obvious note of sarcasm in his voice.

"It isn't, though. You're just Jase."

He laughed. "Okay, go to sleep. I'll wait to hear your brilliant logic on that in the morning when you don't remember why I'm in bed with you. Until then, get some sleep, Cady."

I nodded. "Okay," I said contently. "G'night."

"Night."

- - - - - - - - - -

So here it is. The (slightly) revised first chapter of what used to be called The First Five Times. There aren't many big changes in this first chapter, but there will be more noticeable changes later on, although most of the revisions are just tightening stuff up and whatnot. I probably won't be posting much for a while, but here's a little preview, to (hopefully!) whet your appetitie. Mean? Maybe, but at least you know I'm working on something, right? Anyway, let me know what you think, since it's probably been so long since you've read this that you forgot it even existed, heh. Thanks for reading everyone!