31. loose liquor lips.

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Of course, Axel and Isabelle were the first to arrive to our place for the party

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Of course, Axel and Isabelle were the first to arrive to our place for the party. They came armed with a lot of booze. Vodka, rum, whisky, tequila and the requisite beer.

"Happy birthday, E. You're getting old," Axel said with a smirk. "Ready for the tournament next weekend?" He asked, setting up a bar on the kitchen counter, a huge stack of solo cups and bottles upon bottles of liquor in front of him.

How many people were we expecting tonight, anyway? I'd let Axel handle the invitation list, and now I was second-guessing that decision. I'd forgotten who I was dealing with when I asked.

"You know it. You better bring your A-game. The offensive lines run pretty deep for most of those teams," Ethan told him.

"Please," he said. "They'll barely be able to get in our zone, let alone score. But you've been scoring quite a bit lately, huh?"

Isabelle elbowed him. Hard. "Ryan's right here," she hissed. "Cut it out."

I could feel a warm blush creeping across my face. He wasn't wrong, but I chose to ignore his comment and move on to more appropriate subject matter.

"So, when's everyone else coming over?"

"Any time now. I sent out a group text to the team. Sans Hunter, I mean. Hey, did you know Luca dumped Karissa?" Axel asked with a smirk.

Thank god. Ethan's last remaining tie to Alexis had been severed. Now if she would just transfer schools or drop off the face of the planet, we'd be set.

"Can't say I'm sorry to hear it," I admitted.

"Birthday shot," he said, handing us all a shot glass of something clear.

Normally, I wasn't a big shot person but it seemed easier in the moment to humor him. Whatever it was that he gave me, it tasted like what I imagined nail polish remover would.

I shuddered. "That was awful."

"I know," he said with a laugh.

That shot, unfortunately, turned out to be the gateway drink for the evening— for all of us.

It opened the door to some poor decision-making, and things got a little sloppy from there on out. And then more than a little sloppy for some.

As the guys sat clustered around the kitchen table, playing poker, Isabelle and I went out onto the patio. It had been an amazing spring in terms of weather and it was still balmy outside.

"Ryan," Isabelle said in a conspiratorial voice. "You know what we should do? We should sell all of our stuff and go backpacking, the four of us. They say things aren't what matter anyway. It's about the experiences. Travel is what makes people happy. I just read that in Cosmo."

"Tempting offer, Iz," I said. "But it would be hard to fit all of your makeup into a backpack."

Her eyes widened. "Good point. And honestly, I don't even like three-star hotels. Let alone a hostel like backpackers would stay in," she shuddered. "Shared bathrooms. Can you even imagine?"

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