-Chapter 1-

-The Party-

I lounged in my bed. I had my most comfy sweats and one of Austin's sweatshirts on; reading. It was the first Friday of the summer and my brother was out partying with my best friend. I guess it's not really right to consider him my best friend. Really, he's our friend. It's just that Austin has other friends and Josh is really all I have.

I sighed and put my book on the bedside table. That's not right either. I have other friends too. It's just that I don't talk to them outside of school. Well maybe if I wasn't such a recluse… What seventeen year old girl chooses to sit at home, reading on a Friday night? Especially when two very good looking guys ask her to go out with them.

I slid my glasses from my nose to the top of my head. I was starting to get a headache. Whether from keeping my glasses on when I wasn't reading or where this train of thought was leading I'm not sure. I ran my hands over my face and closed my eyes before moving to rub small circles at my temples. A moment later, I could already feel the pain fading into a memory in the back of my mind.

I did have other friends; I just choose to spend all my time with Austin, Josh, and their friends. Not that I really minded. It's just sometimes I need time to myself. It's hard when everything your friends want to do is draining, both physically and mentally. And even at the mention of anything remotely feminine they all want to run and hide under rocks. Josh is better than the rest and Austin puts up with it to an extent because he's my brother, but the others? They have no tolerance when it comes to cramps and emotions.

"Ugh! Okay, Mackenzie, get off it already! You love them all. You wouldn't exchange what you have with them for the world," I reminded myself aloud. Just then my phone started ringing. I rolled across the bed and stretched over to my bedside table to retrieve it. I was still only half on the bed when I answered the call. Not my smartest idea, but nobody ever claimed I was a genius.

"Well, speak of the devil."

"Aw, Mack, what did I ever do to you?"

"You've done plenty over the years, Josh."

"I meant recently, Mack," Josh replied.

"Yeah, I know," I sighed; Josh waited. It scares me how he knows me better than even I know myself. "I'm just wallowing, I guess. What did you want anyway?"

"Well, I was calling one last time to see if you'd come out with me, but seeing at you're too busy pitying yourself…" he trailed off.

"Since you asked so nicely, I guess I can. It's a little boring here anyway." Suddenly, that bad idea decided to make itself known. My weight shifted and I began slipping off the bed. Somehow, halfway down, I managed to twist and landed solidly on my shoulder. "Ugh, ow. Damnit, that hurts."

"Did you fall?" I could picture the smirk on his face and mentally added the 'again' he refrained from saying out loud.

"Yes, and you could show a little concern about my well being. I rolled off my bed and landed on my shoulder. I could have broken something and all you can say is 'did you fall again'? God, how inconsiderate can you be?" I ranted.

"Hey, I didn't say again. Are you –"

"No, but you were thinking it," I snapped.

"Let me finish. I was going to ask you if you were alright, before you rudely interrupted."

"Yes, I'm fine. That should have been the first thing you asked when you heard a crash," I grumbled, still a little peeved at him and his smugness. Not all of us can be blessed with perfect coordination.

"Nothing's broken?"

"No, Josh. You can stop now. You care. Happy?"

"Yes, now get your butt out of bed. I'll be there in a few minutes to pick you up."

"Fine, I've just got to put on some decent clothes." I hung up and started pulling off clothes and throwing them on a pile in the corner of the room. I pulled on a pair of dark jeans and a deep red tank top. Groaning, I looked in the mirror to see the red mark on my shoulder that matched my shirt. That would definitely be purple tomorrow. I pulled on a black sweater to cover it up and black ballet flats before heading downstairs and out the front door.

xxx

Fifteen minutes later I was getting out of Josh's car and walking up the front steps of Tyler's house. Tyler played on the baseball team with Josh and Austin. He was one of our closest friends.

Just as I reached for the door, it was thrown open and before I knew it I was over somebody's shoulder, watching the room spin around me. Not just somebody's, I knew this shoulder. I was in this predicament way too often. "Tyler, put me down!"

Laughing, he did sit me down after a few more rotations, making the mistake of letting me go. I swayed and staggered before finding myself in Tyler's arms again, bridal style this time. I closed my eyes and rested my cheek against his shoulder.

"You know she doesn't have the greatest balance and yet you insist on making it worse by making her dizzy? And then you're stupid enough to let her go?" a very familiar voice clarified.

"Yeah Tyler, you should listen to Austin. What were you thinking?" I said sarcastically, shaking my head at the boys. Did they always have to talk about me like I wasn't right there in front of them, or in this case, in their arms?

"But then I wouldn't have a reason to have my best friend's beautiful sister in my arms." He leaned down then and gave me a big, wet kiss on the cheek. Ugh, somebody had definitely already been drinking.

"Enough, Tyler, God! Do you think you could put me down yet?"

"Nope," he actually popped the 'p' like a taunting little five year old and held me tighter. Like I was stupid enough to squirm. I'd just end up sprawled out on the floor, looking even more like an idiot than I did now. I sighed and crossed my arms over my chest, glaring at the three surrounding me – oddly we were the only ones in sight. They all simply smirked back. "So, to what do we owe the pleasure of the darling Mackenzie gracing us with her presence tonight? Celebrating your official status as a senior, or are you going to miss me that much that you couldn't stay away?"

"You caught me. Even though I'll be spending most of the summer with you at the beach, I put on nice clothes just to come over here. If you play your cards right, you just might get to see the cute little bra and panty set I've got on underneath." I leaned up and gave him a sloppy kiss on the lips to punctuate my point.

It may look sluttish to a bystander, but that's just the way Tyler and I are. We fool around for the hell of it. Just to see people's reactions when we're bored. Austin punched him in the jaw the first time we did it in front of him. I mean, honestly, I've been kissing the guy since I was nine years old. At the end of the night though, I'm still just his best friend's little sister. It's merely for fun. I always keep my clothes on – not saying he does or his hands don't wonder if I let them. The other girls all just assumed that since my best friends were guys that I was sleeping them. Truthfully, I didn't care what they thought, but I was still a virgin.

"Aw, Mack, you're such a tease," Tyler brought me back from my thoughts. The kiss really hadn't lasted that long.

"That's why you love me. Now, put me down," I ordered firmly. He did and I stretched up to kiss his cheek and whispered, "Thank you."

Turning, I saw Austin shake his head before pulling Tyler towards the kitchen. I ran my hands through my long blond waves and continued over to Josh. I mirrored his smirk and looked into his eyes.

He's your typical blue-eyed blond. He stood at 5'10" and stared down at me. He was athletic but he was smaller than Tyler and Austin, who both stood around six feet and were slightly bulkier. He could easily overpower my 110 pound 5'5" frame. Needless to say, I was small, but I was fit. There was amusement in his eyes and his smirk never faltered. After a few seconds I broke under his intense scrutiny. "What?"

"You have too much fun doing that." Typical. Josh is a big believer in the whole 'the eyes are the window to the soul' theory. He basically believes my eyes are a science of their own. I always knew my eyes changed colors, but Josh took it to a new level saying that he could tell exactly what I'm feeling by the tint my gray eyes take on and so far, he's never been wrong. Josh can always tell when I'm faking. When I'm upset, he knows it. Blue generally means I'm annoyed. They turn a solid steel gray color when I'm angry. Josh claims there's a whole scope of colors between blue and steel depending on my level of irritation. He says that's how he knows when he can keep pushing and when to keep his mouth shut. Right now, they must be green. I was having a good time, but I wasn't going to tell him that.

"So? I'm not hurting anybody."

"Yet," his smirk grew. God, sometimes I just wanted to slap it off his face.

"What do you mean 'yet'?" My smile faded as my annoyance grew. Arms crossed, I glared up at him.

"I'm only saying. You're going to break somebody's heart someday. Either you or Tyler is going to realize you fell hard eventually. It's only a matter of time." Josh shrugged like he had just told me it might rain, not that one day I'm going to be the cause of somebody else's misery, possibly one of my closest friends.

"Um, okay," I said sarcastically. "We all know it's just physical. Harmless flirting. I mean, Tyler's hot, but I could never actually have romantic feelings for him." My eyebrows furrowed at the thought. It was just very odd to think about. Tyler and I walking together holding hands, going on dates? Weird.

"You keep telling yourself that."

"Ugh, why do you have to be so difficult? Whatever. I'm not arguing about it. I don't feel like fighting with you tonight. I need a drink."

I had no more than turned in the direction of the kitchen when a smug voice whispered in my ear, "Don't drink the punch."

Already anticipating his grin, I turned back around and glared. "This isn't my first party, Joshua. And it definitely isn't my first one as your designated driver. Keys?" I held my hand out, palm up.

"Ah, but it is your first party in awhile. I just thought you might be a little rusty."

"Stop being a smartass. Keys?" I asked again, more insistent.

"I only wanted you to come out with me tonight, but if you insist." Finally he placed his keys in my hand.

"Thank you," I replied curtly and spun on my heal. I could hear him laughing until the kitchen door swung shut behind me, separating us.

xxx

It was still early in the night, only about 1:30 or so. I was on the makeshift dance floor, formerly the living room. I was currently dancing with some random guy from the local college. I vaguely knew of him from around. All I knew for sure was that he was hot and a decent dance partner.

"I'm gonna get a drink," I told him and left. I grabbed a cup and poured myself the first nonalcoholic drink I could find. I downed it in about two swallows before returning to dance.

About twenty minutes later, I excused myself to the bathroom. I was beginning to feel kind of lightheaded. In the light of the bathroom I realized my eyes were off. They were slightly glazed over like I have been drinking. But, I hadn't been drinking. I tried to stay calm as I stumbled back out into the hallway to find Josh, Austin, Tyler, somebody I knew and trusted. Falling to pieces wouldn't do me any good right now. Everything was starting to go fuzzy, but I still had some control, enough to keep thinking rationally. For now. Somebody had done something to me. There had been numerous opportunities. I didn't even know where to begin.

Everything was growing more unclear by the minute and I was starting to panic. I had completely abandoned my search for somebody and decided to go to Josh's car and wait instead, realizing too late he had parked at the end of the alley behind Tyler's house.

I kept pushing myself even when everything began to spin and I was tripping over every little pebble on the way. Finally I reached the car and had to concentrate extremely hard to get the key in the lock. I ended up dropping the keys. Before I could bend down to pick them up I heard the crunch of gravel behind me. I spun around and had to clutch at the car to stay upright. "Josh?" I whispered. I didn't have time to scream – not that anybody would have heard me way out here with the music turned up so loud – because the person came at me and whatever drug I was on had taken its full effect. I was defenseless when a large hand covered my mouth. There were no lights around us and only Josh's car was parked back here. There was no hope of somebody interrupting what this person had in store for me besides Josh, but he'd probably been drinking and I had no luck finding him earlier. He was off somewhere doing God-knows-what with whom. I could end up dying here tonight and the last conversation I had with my best friend was a semi argument. I was a bitch to him and I might never get a chance to apologize. He'd never know that I actually did have fun at this stupid party. I must have begun to cry, I realized as I was gasping for breath. I barely noticed the pain in my head before everything went black.

AN: Ok, so new story. The big question is: what do you think? I'd like some feedback please. What did you like, what didn't you like?

-Ashley

P.S. I'm still working on I Love You, Baby, I'm just a little stuck. Don't think I gave up on that one just because I'm writing this one. I plan to update them both as often as I can, but I want to apologize in advance if I fall behind. This one's good for a few chapters though. After I get a few reviews, I'll post the next chapter ;) REVIEW!