Later, when Allison returned home, he took her aside, out of hearing range of Brit.
"So how much of that was scripted and how much was accidental?" he asked her.
"If by 'scripted' you mean that I had it all figured out days ago, very little was scripted. On the other hand, I'll admit that I was looking for opportunities, and made the most of them when I saw them. For instance, Kari tickling you was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself, and Kari falling on top of you was pretty clever as well, although in hindsight it was probably a little risky. You might have hurt yourself."
"Well, whatever you're doing, you're doing it right. Kari and I went from zero to good friends in one day."
"Just remember, ninety percent of it is you. I'm just giving you and her a little nudge. It's really because of the way you act with her that she likes you so much."
"I don't know..." he mumbled, but he enjoyed the compliment.
"Jeff, don't you see? You're wonderful with girls. All you needed was an excuse to meet her, and your charm and good looks did the rest."
"I suppose you're right," he smiled, suddenly feeling great.
That mood lasted all the rest of the day, and into the next. When he met Kari at her place in the morning, she seemed to be in just as good a mood. He hoped it was because she felt the same way about him as he felt about her, but maybe his cheerfulness was just contagious. Either way, he was glad to see her smiling at him.
Again she accompanied him into the weight room. Her father sat him down and brought out his notes of Jeff's favorite machines from yesterday. Using that as a guide, the two of them worked on organizing a workout routine that would keep his heart rate up as he went from machine to machine. Kari threw in some helpful suggestions, like making sure that he didn't do back-to-back sets that worked the same or similar muscle groups. Fortunately there were about the same number of machines for working out the arms as for the legs, so they alternated upper-body and lower-body exercises.
Once they finished drawing up the plan, Allen had him go through it once to see if he liked it or whether they needed to make any changes. It turned out to be just right, so they agreed that that would be his routine from then on.
Unfortunately, he didn't give Jeff and Kari any time alone together that morning, but stayed for the whole workout. Jeff went through the routine several times, only doing half-sets and taking it slow as he memorized it. By the time he was through, he had it down perfectly.
Jeff had actually broken a sweat this time, so Allen showed him where the bathroom was so he could take a quick shower before heading home. He stripped out of his gym clothes, cleaned himself off in the shower, and dressed in his everyday attire.
When they arrived back at the Primdale house, Lissa greeted them at the door.
"So this is the infamous Kari," she grinned.
"Infamous?" asked Kari.
"Yes. I know all about your father's fiendish plan to transform Jeff from a weakling to a strong hunk of a guy. You're obviously his partner in crime."
"Ah, but you're too late," Kari grinned, playing along. "We already have an accomplice right in your own home. Your stepmother."
"Dang!" Lissa said. "You've corrupted her too? Who's next?"
"Well, I've had my eye on little Brit," replied Kari. "I think I just need to get her together with my sister Crystal and she'll be turned to the dark side in no time."
"I guess I've been defeated. Well, you know what they say. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So do you mind if I join the cause? Oh, I'm Jeff's big sister Lissa by the way."
"I kind of figured that. He mentioned he had another sister. So I figured you must either be her, or some other mysterious girl that he keeps locked up in his house for his own diabolical purposes."
"Hey, I got out of that business two months ago," Jeff complained facetiously. "Besides, it was just a hobby. Do you see me talking bad about your hobbies?"
"Okay, now I'm scared to come inside," Kari grinned. "If I do, maybe I'll never come back out."
"Well, that was the original plan," he joked, "but since we're going to put some new equipment downstairs in the rec room, we'll need to move some things into the lab, which leaves no room to work in there. So that puts an end to my experiments for a while. You're perfectly safe."
Kari laughed. "Good," she said. "Because I really do need to get my math scores up." She headed inside, followed by Jeff.
They met Allison downstairs, who handed each of them their tests back, graded. As expected, Kari's score was quite a bit lower than Jeff's.
"I've taken some time to analyze where your weaknesses are, Kari," Allison told her.
"Just tell me how dumb I am and get it over with," said Kari.
"Dumb? Oh, you're far from dumb. In fact, I'd say you're pretty bright. It's actually just what I suspected right from the beginning. I saw this over and over again when I taught school. Did you know that you're not any worse at math than Jeff is?"
"But you saw my score!" Kari protested.
"Yes, and furthermore, I saw exactly which questions you had problems on. Let me explain it to you. Everyone has problems in certain areas of math. Everyone. Even Jeff, even me. For most people, those problems are fortunately at a high enough level that they're able to still achieve reasonably good grades. You just happen to be unfortunate enough that your problems are in some of the fundamentals, so it holds everything back. It's not that you're not as smart, or that you're worse at math. It's just that you haven't quite grasped some of the basics. Once you do, I wouldn't be surprised if your score jumped ahead of Jeff's."
"Oh gee thanks," Jeff said sarcastically, but he kept a smile on his face.
But Kari had a look of hope in her eyes. "Really?" she asked.
"Really," Allison responded. "The only reason you're behind in math is that the public school system can't really accommodate giving each student the attention they need. An hour of private instruction at the beginning of the school year once your problems were identified would have solved everything. Instead, you've had to suffer through a year of being behind, thinking you're not as smart as the other kids. So now instead of having to make up an hour, you have to make up the whole year. But don't worry. By the end of the summer, you're going to be caught up with the rest of the kids your age. You might even be a little ahead."
"Thank you!" Kari exclaimed, tears in her eyes.
They set to work learning some of the fundamentals of math. To Jeff, it was mostly boring, because he already knew it all. But Kari seemed very interested. She asked a few questions that Jeff thought were stupid, but Allison answered them nonjudgmentally. Even before the end of the first lesson, Kari looked a little more confident. Apparently she was beginning to understand.
That afternoon after the lesson, Jeff and Kari sat in the rec room and watched a movie on the big screen. Lissa and Allison made themselves scarce, but unfortunately Brit had to spoil things by lying down on the floor and watching the movie with them. Jeff would have loved to have some time alone with Kari, but it was not to be, at least not that day. After the movie was over Allison drove Kari back home.
That night, Greg called Allen. They talked for quite a while, then Greg headed upstairs to Jeff's bedroom to talk to him.
"We're going to put some machines down in the rec room," he said. "We'll go over to Allen Williams' house on Saturday to discuss it and make some orders on the Internet."
"Great!" Jeff said enthusiastically. Now that he had gotten over his initial fear, he was actually excited to get into shape. Of course, part of that was to try to impress Kari, but the reason wasn't as important as the action itself.
On Wednesday morning, Jeff began his new routine in the rec room at the Williams house. Kari asked if he minded if she worked in her routine with him, to which he agreed immediately. While it wasn't exactly a date, it was at least an activity that they were doing together, one that would probably become a daily event.
Allen Williams stayed with them the whole time, unfortunately, but Jeff really didn't mind all that much. He was likely to have plenty of time alone with Kari during the summer. Allen commented on Jeff's workout, offering him pointers here and there to help improve the experience.
After Kari and Jeff took a quick shower in separate bathrooms, Allen drove them back to the Primdale house, where Allison had made lunch.
As they were about to head downstairs to the rec room, they encountered Lissa in the hall, who wore her swimsuit and shorts, with a towel draped over her shoulders. "I'm heading out back to the pool," she said.
"I didn't know you had a pool," said Kari excitedly.
"Yeah, it's out back," Lissa told her. "Do you like to swim?"
"I love to swim!"
"Well, bring your swimsuit tomorrow. After you're done with your lesson, we can go swimming."
"Okay!" she agreed. "Jeff, do you like to swim?"
"Sure," he said. "We'll have a pool party."
Somehow he managed to keep from passing out from the thought of seeing Kari in a swimsuit, and Allison accompanied Jeff and Kari downstairs.
The lesson this time was much like last time, with Kari asking several question and Jeff simply content to sit there in her presence. In fact, he was picking up a couple of pointers as well.
After the math lesson, Allison said she needed to take Lissa and Brit shopping, and asked if Kari and Jeff wanted to go too. Jeff made no secret of his dislike for shopping, and Kari decided to stay home with him. The three other girls headed out to the van.
That left Jeff and Kari alone in the house together. They sat on the couch, talking and joking. To Jeff, this was a dream come true. He had always wished he had the nerve to even talk to her, and now they were sitting and talking like old friends. She was the type of person who was very nice to be with, and he was glad he had this time alone with her.
"So what's the story with your stepmom?" Kari asked him.
"What do you mean?"
"Well first of all, why don't you call her Mom?"
Jeff laughed. "She insisted on that. She says she's too young to be the mother of a couple of teenagers."
"And that's another thing," said Kari. "Isn't she too young to be married to your dad?"
He shrugged. "They don't seem to have any problem with it," he told her.
"I suppose you're right. I guess I really shouldn't pry into your family life."
"Oh, that's okay. It doesn't bother me."
"Of course. Look, Allison will be the first to admit that she's not exactly conventional. And so the situation in our family isn't really conventional either."
"What do you mean?"
"Just that my so-called stepmom is more like a big sister than a mother. She and Lissa are best friends, and she likes to spend time with Brit and me too. So we call her Allison."
"She sounds like a lot of fun. I never had a big sister. Or a brother for that matter."
"I never had a brother either," Jeff smiled.
Kari laughed. "Well, I'd offer to be your brother, but, uh..."
"You're missing the number one requirement."
"Well, I've already got two sisters and someone pretending to be a third, so I don't need any more. On the other hand, you fit in great with the rest of us, so maybe we can make you an honorary Primdale."
"Okay, as long as I can make you an honorary Williams."
"It's a deal. But seriously, you've only been here a couple of days and everyone likes you."
"What about you?"
"My first opinion is positive, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to wait until the next full moon to make sure."
"The next full moon?"
"Yes. In case you turn out to be a werewolf," he joked.
"Oh, you know this from experience, do you?"
"Hey, it wasn't me who brought her home. It was one of Lissa's friends. Oh, wait. I promised I wouldn't tell anyone. Oops."
Kari laughed. "Jeff, I never knew you were so funny."
"Only around potential werewolves."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not a werewolf."
"Oh. I guess that means I have to get serious."
"I'm actually a vampire," she grinned, then bared her teeth as she pounced on him.
Jeff playfully tried to push her away, but she latched onto him too tightly. He tried to get up from the couch, but her weight dragged on him and he ended up toppling to the floor with her on top of him. She lowered her head and aimed her mouth for his neck.
She stopped a couple of inches short, then lifted her head again. "Just kidding," she said.
"Whew!" he breathed in exaggerated relief. "You had me scared there for a second."
"Either you're joking or you're the most gullible person I've ever met."
"Or possibly both," he shrugged. "You know, this is starting to become a habit."
"Every time you come over, you end up on top of me."
"Didn't you know? I like to be on top," she grinned.
"Uh..." he stammered, growing red.
She laughed, then rolled off of him onto the floor. "Sorry, Jeff," she said. "I didn't mean to embarrass you."
"Oh, that's okay," he shrugged. "I'm already so embarrassed by the fact that you can bench-press more than me that this hardly makes a difference."
They continued to lie on the floor for a while, just talking and joking with each other. Jeff was having a great time, and it looked like Kari was too. He wondered if maybe she was beginning to see him as a possible love interest. But no, that was absurd of course. Surely a girl as beautiful and popular as Kari had higher standards than that. Still, just being her friend was nice in its own way.
The girls arrived home a couple of hours later, and Kari stayed for dinner. Afterward, Allison drove her home, leaving Jeff excited about tomorrow.
Jeff woke up in a great mood the next day. The workout and tutoring would be the same as before, but afterward he would get to see Kari in a swimsuit.
He went through the workout routine that morning with that pleasant thought on his mind, and he hardly felt the weights. Kari of course joined him, and Allen sat by as well, but this time he merely watched; Jeff really didn't need any pointers this time.
Afterward, Jeff showered and met Kari and Allen in the living room. Kari wore a tee-shirt and shorts this time, and carried a small duffel bag. He hoped that was her swimsuit in there, or that she was wearing her swimsuit under her outfit and the duffel bag held a change of clothes. Either way, it looked like she remembered the pool.
Surprisingly, Crystal joined them this time.
"Oh, I forgot," Kari said. "Jeff, Crystal said she wanted to come over and swim too, and I said I'd ask you."
Jeff glanced down at the girl. She wore a pleading look in her eyes. He knew that look; it was the same one that Brit used on him whenever she wanted something. It usually worked.
"You know, I could be mean and tell you that you have to sit through a math lesson with us first," he grinned. "But I guess I can introduce you to my little sister and you two can go do what girls your age do."
"On second thought," said Kari, "is it really a good idea to get those two together?"
"Why not?" asked Crystal.
"I'm just thinking that could be a little..."
"Dangerous?" suggested Jeff.
"I was going to go with 'apocalyptic,'" Kari laughed.
"Oh, great. Not only are you stronger than me, now you've out-vocabularied me as well," Jeff jokingly mumbled.
"So Crystal," said Kari, "if you come over, you have to promise that you and Brit won't destroy the world."
"Oh, you're no fun," Crystal complained.
"Okay, then in that case, you have to at least wait until the end of summer."
"That's fine," Crystal replied. "I wouldn't want to destroy the world until the vacation is over anyway."
They all climbed into the car and Allen drove them back to Jeff's house. Jeff opened the door and led them inside.
"Wow!" Crystal exclaimed. "You have a nice house!"
Jeff shrugged. "Hey Brit!" he yelled up the stairs.
"Jeff, don't yell in the house!" Lissa yelled from the dining room table.
"Lissa, don't yell in the house!" Brit yelled from up in her room. Allison, who was sitting on the living room sofa, just rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation.
Brit appeared at the top of the stairs.
"Come here, Brit," Jeff said. "I'd like you to meet someone."
"Oh hi, Crystal," Brit smiled, coming down the stairs.
"You two know each other?" asked Kari.
"I don't think we've ever met," Crystal said, "but I know who she is."
"We do go to school together after all," Brit added.
"Anyway," said Jeff, "Crystal wanted to come over and play in the pool with us after the math lesson, so we were wondering if you wouldn't mind babysitting her until we're ready."
"Oh very funny," said Crystal. "I'm older than Brit."
"Only by a few months," Brit insisted.
"Okay Crystal, so you babysit her," said Jeff.
"How about we babysit each other?" Brit suggested.
"Sounds fine with me," Crystal replied.
"Let's go up to my room."
The girls scampered up the stairs and disappeared down the hall. Allison got up from the couch and came over to Jeff and Kari. "Crystal looks just like you," she told Kari.
"Yeah, you'd think we're sisters or something," Kari grinned.
"All right, are you ready to start?"
"Sure," Kari shrugged, and the three of them headed down the stairs to the rec room.
Jeff couldn't concentrate on the lesson, as he was still daydreaming about Kari in a swimsuit. He just wanted the lesson to end so they could go out back and jump into the pool. Unfortunately, as is the case in such situations, time seemed to drag on for an eternity. It was almost a relief when Allison passed out the daily test over what they had learned that day. Jeff, in fact, hadn't learned anything, but fortunately it was still in the fundamentals, so he was able to answer all of the questions without really trying.
Lissa peeked her head down the stairs just as they finished the tests. "Are you done, Kari?" she asked.
Kari handed the test to Allison and asked, "Am I done?"
"You're done," Allison replied. "Go have fun."
"Come on," Lissa told her. "You can change into your swimsuit in my bathroom. Jeff, are you coming out with us?"
"Sure," he smiled.
The three of them headed up the stairs, where Jeff disappeared into his room while Kari and Lissa continued down the hall to hers. He quickly stripped down and put on his swim trunks, then threw his tee-shirt back on and made a quick stop in the bathroom to grab a towel. He knocked on the other door, and Brit opened it. She and Crystal were already changed into their swimsuits as well. Both wore simple one-piece suits. Brit's was green and Crystal's was blue.
"I guess that means you're coming out to the pool with us," he said.
"You're coming out too?" Brit complained. "Oh, great."
"Hey, that's not very nice."
"I'm just kidding, Jeff. It will be fun, even if you're there."
He laughed. Normally he would try for some pithy comeback, but he was in too much of a good mood to argue with her right now.
They met Lissa and Kari in the hall. Both girls wore shorts over the bottom half of their swimsuits and carried towels.
"What do you think, Jeff?" asked Kari, spreading her arms and turning slowly around in a circle.
"Very nice," he said, which was an understatement. While it didn't show any more skin than Lissa's, for some reason it seemed to show off her figure very well. It was bright pink trimmed with black around all of the edges. Jeff found himself admiring her very pleasing shape. For a fourteen-year-old girl, she certainly had a nice body.
"Notice the straps in the back," Lissa told him.
Kari turned around to show him. The straps crossed in the back, forming an "X" across her shoulder blades.
"So?" he asked.
"So it's not going to be as easy to pull it down," Lissa giggled, and Kari joined in.
"You didn't tell her about that incident last year, did you?" he groaned.
"Hey, it was more embarrassing for me than it was for you," she said.
"Besides, it was just an accident," said Kari. Well, at least Lissa hadn't told her that he did it on purpose. And if Lissa could laugh it off and it didn't bother Kari, then he might as well not let it bother him.
"Does Jeff like to pull down girls' swimsuits?" Crystal grinned.
"I wouldn't pull yours down even if you begged me!" he told her.
"He only does it to his sisters," Brit explained.
"No, I only do it to girls who have boobs," he replied. Brit started growing red. It was the first time in recent memory that he had actually gotten the better of her.
The five of them headed down the stairs, where they met Allison in the hall, who had also changed into a swimsuit.
Jeff was in heaven. Now both of the girls he had been lusting after were scantily dressed in front of him. He had to admit, Allison had the best figure of all of them, but part of that was because she was the only one fully mature. The other girls were all just adolescents.
"You don't mind, do you?" she asked. "I know teenagers don't like a chaperone, but--"
"You're not a chaperone," Lissa insisted. "Everyone in favor of making Allison an honorary teenager?"
They all raised their hands.
"Looks like it's unanimous," Lissa said.
"Thanks," Allison grinned.
She made one stop in the kitchen before following them out. She had made up a pitcher of lemonade that morning and stuck it in the fridge, so she grabbed it along with six glasses and went with the others out the back door and down the stairs to the pool deck.
Jeff claimed one of the deck chairs by putting his towel and his shirt on it, then headed to the far end of the pool where there was a ladder into the deep end. He could go down the stairs in the shallow end, but he preferred to just get right in, getting the shock of the cold water over with at once.
Before he reached the ladder though, he heard a couple of pairs of feet pattering behind him. Too late, he saw Crystal and Brit run up alongside him, then they both bumped him. He lost his footing and tumbled into the water. He went under for a second, then rose back up, sputtering and laughing.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Jeff," said Crystal with a grin. "I wasn't looking where I was going."
Brit laughed. "I was," she said.
"That was perfect, you two," said Kari, walking up to them. "You forgot about Jeff's secret weapon, though."
"What's that?" asked Brit.
"Me," Kari replied, then pushed Brit into the pool as well.
Immediately Crystal attacked her, trying to push her in, but Kari grabbed hold of her arm and they both came tumbling into the water.
Lissa and Allison walked over to the edge of the pool, staring down at the kids who had started in on trying to dunk each other.
"You know, if I were an adult," said Allison, "I would say that roughhousing like that is dangerous. But since you made me an honorary teenager..."
She suddenly put her hand behind Lissa's back and pushed. Lissa shrieked as she toppled over the edge into the water.
"Looks like I win," said Allison with a triumphant grin.
"Well we can't have that," said Jeff, heading for the ladder. Allison quickly dashed toward the other side of the pool. However, Lissa was already moving toward the shallow end and the stairs to cut her off. Kari followed Jeff toward the ladder, and Crystal and Brit went to the stairs. A moment later, Allison found herself surrounded by all of the kids, who closed in on her from both directions.
She suddenly jumped off of the deck and into the pool, disappearing under for just a second, then rising back up again. "Looks like I still win," she taunted them.
They couldn't let it go at that. All of the kids jumped into the pool after her, then waded over until they surrounded her on every side. Once again they closed in. This time she had nowhere to run. They all pounced on her and pulled her under.
After sufficiently humbling her, they let her go. She stood there in the water, soaking wet and laughing.
Jeff, of course, loved it. Not only did her glistening skin look so lovely as the water ran down it, but her laughing tended to jiggle her breasts. He tried not to stare, but for the rest of the day he made it a point to glance over in her direction whenever she laughed.
Brit suddenly jumped on his back. "Give me a piggy-back ride!" she insisted.
"Aren't you too old for that?" he asked.
"What, are you afraid Kari will see how weak you are? You can't even hold up your little tiny sister?"
As if to prove her point, Crystal jumped on Kari's back the same way. She scrambled up until she was sitting on Kari's shoulders.
"Oh, all right," Jeff conceded. Brit climbed up and slipped her legs over his shoulders just like Crystal. Jeff grabbed hold of her feet.
"Better watch out," Kari warned them. "When we do this in the pool, it's not just a piggy-back ride, it's a battle."
"What do you mean?"
"Whoever knocks the other team over first wins," Crystal explained as Kari approached them menacingly. Brit giggled nervously, but Jeff wasn't about to back down from a challenge. He waded right up to Kari and Crystal.
The two girls on top began to push each other as Jeff and Kari tried to remain on their feet. Jeff turned sideways and slammed his shoulder gently into Kari, and she responded by pushing him back. They were having so much fun that they didn't see the hidden threat until it was too late. Allison came up behind Jeff and Lissa came up behind Kari, and together the older girls grabbed hold of Crystal and Brit and pulled them backward. Jeff found himself losing his balance, toppling over into the water.
He came up spluttering and saw that Kari and Crystal had suffered a similar fate.
"That's not fair!" Crystal protested.
"It wouldn't be fair if we did it to only one of the teams," Lissa told her with a grin. "But we did it to both, so it's perfectly fair."
"Then I guess so is this," said Kari, and attacked her. Crystal joined in.
Jeff wasn't about to pass up this opportunity, so he grabbed Allison and tried to pull her under the water. Brit got on the other side to aid him. Allison squealed playfully and tried to get away. But two against one was too much for her, and she ended up falling backward. She managed to grab both Brit and Jeff, and the three of them went under together.
Lissa had suffered a similar fate, and a minute later all six people stood there completely drenched.
"Okay, enough with these violent games," said Lissa.
"Just because you got dunked," Brit told her.
"Basically, yes," Lissa laughed. "I just think we should play something that doesn't involve trying to drown each other."
"But this was my chance to murder Jeff and make it look like an accident," Brit complained.
"Never mind that. I'll help you plot his death later."
"Okay," Brit grinned.
"Allison, save me!" he pleaded.
"How many times do I have to tell you, Lissa?" said Allison. "You're not allowed to commit murder until you're eighteen."
"I suppose I can wait. It's not much more than a year away," Lissa smiled. "Sorry, Jeff. It will have to wait until next summer."
"Oh, good. A reprieve. Kari, I don't suppose your dad would like to adopt me, would he? Say, around... August third next year?"
"I like that idea!" Crystal said. "I've always wanted to have a big brother."
"What's wrong with having a big sister?" Kari demanded.
"Boys are so much more fun to torture. Which do you prefer, Jeff? The iron maiden or the rack?"
"I prefer to run away screaming like a baby," he told her.
"Oh, I'm just kidding. The most I would ever do is pull your fingernails out with pliers."
"Kari, tell your dad to get that sister of yours to a psychiatrist, quick!"
"We tried it," Kari shrugged. "Unfortunately, she beheaded him on the third session."
"Not to change the subject," said Jeff, "but I think it's time to change the subject."
"I take it you don't like violence?" asked Kari.
"Not when I'm the victim. So anyway, who's up for a game of tag?"
"As long as you're it," said Brit.
"Fine," he replied, then touched her on the shoulder. "Now you're it."
"Hey!" she complained, but he was already running away.
The six of them chased each other all over the pool. Crystal and Brit, being the smallest and the quickest, managed to avoid being touched more than anyone else, but they too had their turns. Kari seemed to always tag Jeff, and after the third time, Brit pointed it out.
"Do you like putting your hands on my brother?" she asked in a teasing voice.
"Only because he's the only challenge," Kari replied. "The rest of you are all too slow."
"Yeah," said Kari, jumping toward her with an evil grin. Brit squealed and dashed away, narrowly missing being tagged.
The game continued for about half an hour, after which Jeff decided to get out of the pool to dry off. He sat down in one of the deck chairs, poured himself a glass of lemonade, and lay back.
A moment later Kari joined him on one side and Allison on the other, leaving Lissa and the two younger girls still in the pool. Jeff offered to pour Allison and Kari each a glass of lemonade, which they graciously accepted.
It felt nice to be relaxing next to two beauties like that. Both Kari and Allison looked incredibly sexy wet, and even better wet and reclining. He didn't allow himself to stare at them, however, but closed his eyes and basked in the warmth of the sun.
That lasted only about five minutes. He gasped in shock as a torrent of cold water landed on him. He sat up with an angry look on his face and stared toward the pool. Brit and Crystal stood there in the water, both grinning at him and both pointing to each other.
They looked so silly and in reality, the situation was so absurd that he just had to laugh. "I guess since I don't know who did it, I'll have to punish you both. That will be fun. I've never tortured two girls at the same time."
"Hey, I'm the torturer," Crystal insisted.
"Good. You can show me some of your methods so I can use them on you."
"Come on," Brit told Crystal. "Let's get out of here. With Jeff, you never know if he's serious or not." They hurried to the other side of the pool.
He spent the next twenty minutes drying off in the heat of the sun, this time keeping an eye on the pool. Brit and Crystal didn't try anything more, so he dried relatively quickly. It was getting late, so he grabbed his shirt and towel and headed for the house.
"Jeff, can I talk to you for a minute?" asked Kari, hurrying up behind him.
"In private?" she asked.
"Ooh!" Brit and Crystal called out in unison.
"I didn't mean it like that!" Kari said, a little embarrassed.
"Kari likes Jeff!" Crystal taunted.
"Yuck! Don't insult me," Kari replied, though with a grin to let Jeff know it was all in fun.
"Yeah, don't insult her," he agreed, in a similarly playful tone. "I mean... don't... um..."
"For once in his life, Jeff is right," teased Brit. "He would be an insult to any girl that liked him."
"Come on," Kari told him before he had time to get mad at her. "I don't think we're going to get a moment's peace with those two around." Ignoring the whistles and catcalls from the girls, they climbed the steps and headed inside the house.
Once they were out of sight of the pool area, Kari suddenly threw her arms around him. Jeff, caught off his guard, merely stood there for about twenty seconds, before finally putting his arms around her waist. He couldn't believe how good it felt to be hugging Kari, especially with nothing between them but the thin fabric of her swimsuit.
"Um... if you don't mind my asking, what's that for?" said Jeff.
Kari drew away. "I just wanted to thank you," she said.
"Thank me? For what?"
"For making Crystal and me feel at home."
"I wasn't the only one, you know."
"I know. But it's mostly you."
"What do you mean?"
Kari suddenly looked a little embarrassed. "It's just that... well... I mean, Crystal seems to like you a lot."
"So much she wants to pull my fingernails out with pliers."
"Oh, you know she just likes to tease. She feels comfortable with you. Like a big brother, just like she said."
"I think it's just Brit being a bad influence on her. Or maybe Crystal's being a bad influence on Brit. Maybe you were right about them being... what was it you called it?"
Kari smiled. "I just like to see my sister having fun, that's all. Look, Crystal's at that age when she's starting to get interested in boys. And some of the boys she spends time with... well, let's just say I don't really trust them. It's good to know that she's having fun with someone as nice as you."
"So what about you? Are you having fun?"
"I'm having lots of fun. You know what, Jeff? I'm glad I didn't get good grades in math."
"Oh, you're just saying that. I know you'd rather be spending time with your friends."
"You're my friends," she insisted.
"Thanks, Kari. That means a lot to me."
She flashed him a smile, then headed upstairs to the bathroom to change.