Triple Dare

By: Regina Kyle

1


“CADE ALEXANDER HARDESTY! Get your half-naked ass out here before I come back there and strip you myself!”

Cade stared at the outfit in his hands. If you could call a red satin G-string an outfit. Did Ivy seriously expect him to wear this? He figured she’d photograph him in his turnout gear, maybe shirtless with his bunker pants unbuttoned and riding low on his hips. After all, the “Hunks of Burning Love” calendar was an annual institution, featuring Stockton’s finest firefighters in various states of undress, each year for a different charity. This time it was the local animal shelter, a cause he supported 100 percent.

But a G-string? What the hell did she think he was, a Chippendales dancer?

“I’ll be way more than half-naked in this thing.” He dangled the undersized jockstrap from a finger and held it over the top of the changing screen.

“I’m not kidding, Mr. December. I haven’t got all day. Put it on and get out here.”

Cade groaned and kicked off his sneakers.

“You’ve got to the count of three. One...”

He stripped off his T-shirt. “Two...”

His pants and boxer briefs hit the floor.

“Three.”

Cade stepped gingerly into the G-string. Shit. The ridiculous scrap of fabric barely hid anything. He tried adjusting himself without much success.

“Uh, Ivy? We have a problem.”

“Damn straight we do. I distinctly heard myself say ‘three’ and you’re still hiding back there like a whore at a church social.”

Cade chuckled in spite of his predicament. Ivy had always been able to make him laugh. They’d done lots of crazy things together as kids—him, Ivy and his best friend, her twin brother, Gabe. Sticking crayons up their noses in kindergarten. Smoking behind the high school gym. Stealing their football rival’s mascot, an uncooperative goat they tried—and failed—to hide in the Nelsons’ treehouse.

Okay, so the last two had pretty much been him and Ivy. She was fearless, willing to take any dare they threw at her if it meant she could tag along. Hell, she’d even seen him naked. Of course, they’d been six at the time and running through the sprinkler in her backyard.

“All right, big guy. Ready or not, here I come.”

“I’m ready, I’m ready.”

Cade took a deep breath, reminding himself for the hundredth time that this whole thing was for charity, and stepped out from behind the screen.

“Hang on. I almost forgot.” He caught a glimpse of Ivy’s apple bottom as she darted into the tiny office in the corner of the studio. She’d been in there when he arrived, too, yelling out instructions for him to change and wait for her.

He frowned, surveying the room. Wood floor, bare walls, white backdrop, a few umbrella lights. Her camera sat on a tripod in the middle of it all, ready for action. What else could she need? “Forgot what?”

“The final touches to your costume.”

“You mean there’s more to this getup than dental floss?”

“Not exactly.” She emerged from the office with a Santa hat in one hand and a gray-and-white calico kitten in the other, cradled against her chest. But it wasn’t the cat or the hat that had Cade’s attention. It was Ivy.

Holy three-alarm fire.

It’d been twelve years since she’d left Stockton. And almost three since he’d seen her on one of her rare visits home.

Those years had treated her well.

“What are you wearing?” His heart rate kicked up a notch as he took in the short shorts and tight V-necked T-shirt that clung to her lush curves. I Like To Flash People was emblazoned across her breasts. Where the hell were the usual baggy jeans and oversized sweatshirt? Even her hair was different, the normally wild, auburn curls restrained in some sort of messy bun that women seemed to think was sexy. He’d been inclined to disagree, until now.

“A damn sight more than you.” She handed him the kitten and put the hat on his head, adjusting it so it sat at an angle, away from his eyes.

“Don’t blame me. You’re the one who picked this thing.” He plucked at the waistband of his skimpy G-string with his free hand. The kitten squirmed in the other, its soft fur tickling Cade’s palm. He rested it against his shoulder and it burrowed under his chin.

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