A Halloween Excerpt from Sweat

Elle checked her reflection one last time. Claire and Tori had already gone out to the living room to set up, but Elle couldn’t stop fidgeting with her costume. She had decided on somewhere between her normal conservative self and Claire’s insistence that Halloween costumes should be sexy. She’d picked up a short white dress from a thrift store and paired it with white feather wings. She had bought a white corset-and-garter set, complete with white fishnets, to surprise Ryan later. The top of the garter hooks peeked out just below her dress line. She was nervous — and eager — for Ryan to see her.

“Elle, get out here!” Claire yelled from the other room.

Elle took a deep breath and timidly walked out of Claire’s doorway into the living room.

“Holy shit!” Tori said as her mouth hung open.

“She cleans up well, doesn’t she?” Claire asked with a look of pride.

Tori handed Elle a glass of wine. “My brother is one lucky guy.”

Heat engulfed Elle’s face at all the attention, and she took a large drink of her wine. She had never dated someone with a sibling who was part of the same crowd. Elle liked Tori but still wasn’t sure how to be friends with her. The girl was smart and confident and, like her brother, she was fiercely loyal.

Tori was dressed as a racecar driver in a full body suit that didn’t show any skin but showed off every single one of her hard-earned curves.

“Are you and Ryan doing a couple’s costume?” Claire asked as she pulled wine bottles from the pantry and placed them on the counter.

Elle opened a case of Heineken, knowing that was Ryan’s drink of choice.

“No. He won’t even tell me what he’s going as!”

She had been surprised Ryan was dressing up for Halloween, but it was adorable to see him so excited about it.

“The boys always get pretty into it. Their creativity never ceases to surprise me.”

“I can’t believe you’re going as a naughty nurse.” Elle giggled as Claire grabbed her stethoscope from her pocket and placed it around her neck, completing the outfit. “Isn’t that sort of like turning on your own kind?”

“It’s been so long since I went to nursing school, I’m not sure people will remember and get the irony of it,” Claire said.

Surveying the overflowing supply of beer and wine in the kitchen, Elle raised her eyebrows. “How many people are coming to this pre-party? This is a lot of booze.”

“Why? You think we need more?” Claire asked deadpan before they both erupted into laughter.

Tori sighed from the living room, staring down at the phone in her hand.

“Are you texting Luke?” Claire asked, raising her voice and getting Tori’s attention.

“Yeah, they’re just a couple blocks away,” Tori said without raising her eyes.

“How’s he holding up?” Claire asked.

Tori looked up and shrugged. “He says he’s having fun.”

“Does he not like Ryan? I thought they were all friends,” Elle asked.

“They get along fine, but Ryan is determined to make Luke one of the group,” Tori said as she returned to typing on her phone.

“I don’t think Chris will ever let that happen,” Claire mumbled then laughed as she walked by Elle to the door.

Elle wondered why Chris would have an issue with Luke, but Claire opened the door, and the thought was lost. The boys were hilarious dressed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Ryan looked happier and younger than Elle had ever seen him.

When he walked around the corner and saw her, he stopped in his tracks, causing Jake to run into him from behind.

“What the hell, man?” Jake said as he readjusted his purple mask. Then he glanced at Elle, exaggerated a double-take, and laughed. “You’re a lucky man,” he said as he patted Ryan on the back and went around him.

Elle blushed as Ryan continued to stare at her.

He closed the distance between them in one large step and crushed her up against the counter. “What are you wearing?” he growled.

“I’m an angel. See?” Elle turned to show him the wings on her back.

“That you are, but my thoughts are far from angelic right now.” He slid his hands around her back and to the bottom of her dress, and grazed a rough hand over her garter and up toward the lacy thong.

“Alright, you two, it’s show time,” Claire said, holding out two shot glasses.

The look in Ryan’s eyes told her he was ready to drag her home right then, but Elle knew Claire would never let them get away that easily. She took a steadying breath and grabbed Ryan’s hand. Surely they could manage to socialize for a few hours before they snuck out.

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