The Baby Bet - Chapter 2 (Updated May 1st)

So, I’m going to be doing something… new, with this story.

I’m not writing a series of chapters that make up a larger story this time. I’m writing a novel. That’s different!

Namely, it’s different in my writing process. Specifically, because when I’m writing a novel, I don’t always finish everything in order.

As such, this isn’t going to be a totally cohesive story just yet. It’s going to take editing. I’ll be supplementing heavily with author notes, especially when I change continuity. Once the story is ‘done’, I will go back and edit heavily, possibly even redoing entire chapters or sequences.

It should be noted, that this is very much a Work In Progress. Feedback can and will be incorporated. Unlike other stories where I can only retcon things chapter by chapter, here I will be able to fix problems retroactively for the final version.

This is an experiment. I hope you all like it.

For this chapter in particular: Openings are hard, especially when there’s no immediate kink content to hang my hat on. I can’t just rely on, say, a sex scene or a fun diaper scenario to keep interest, and in this case I can’t even use an action scene or something high energy.

It’s difficult. I need to introduce the entire core cast and premise, almost purely through dialog. As such… This chapter is incomplete, and it’s probably going to be replaced, because I don’t know these characters yet. I’ve got a reasonably strong character for Grace and some good ideas for the rest, but I haven’t had a chance to live with them for the length of a novel. Their personalities, quirks, and details about who they are haven’t come to life yet, and so any attempt to introduce them is going to fall flat.

Take this for what it is. An incomplete introduction that’s mostly here to give me a springboard into the rest of the story, like scaffolding around a building that’ll eventually be removed once the structure can stand on its own.

Grace, as in elegance, surveyed the scene. “Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

The kitchen was a wreck; the aftermath of four adults - she wasn’t counting herself - who couldn’t clean up after themselves if their lives depended on it.

She frowned. That wasn’t true. It was the result of three adults who could clean up after themselves (Badly!) and one adult who, she suspected, didn’t know how to wipe his own ass.

Sighing, she rolled up her sleeves, stepped up to the plate, and got to work.

Dishes were the first thing. She had to reorganize the washer to make sure everything would be efficient, but even then it was going to take two loads. Better to get started early.

Someone (It had to be him) had left the cast iron skillet soaking in the sink. She recovered it and dried it quickly, checking for rust.

“Morning, Grace.” Brains, as in smartass, strolled in, a backpack over his shoulder. Hopping over the dustpan on the floor, he navigated to the coffee pot, pouring a quarter of it into his portable thermos.

“Morning, Brains,” Grace replied. “Off to work?”

“Off to work,” he replied, snagging an apple from the basket of fruit on the kitchen table. Taking a bite, he jumped once again to clear the dustpan, waltzing out the back door.

While Grace was bagging up trash, Melody, as in music, found her way in. “I could have helped with that, you know.”

“I was awake, and it needed done,” Grace replied. “I don’t mind.”

“Well, thanks then. Have you eaten?”

“Not yet.”

Melody took that as the indication to start cooking, raiding the fridge for breakfast fixings. It wasn’t anything fancy, just bacon and eggs, but she cooked them up while Grace cleaned. They managed to move around each other in the kitchen without getting in each other’s ways, and before long, three plates of food were set out on the now-clean table.

Grace took a break to eat, pulling up a stool. She used ketchup, Melody doused her eggs in salsa.

“How are things going with Bill?” Grace asked, between bites.

“Oh, I ghosted him.” Melody talked right over a mouthful of food. “He wouldn’t shut up about his band.”

“So?”

Melody’s chewing slowed, and she raised her eyebrows. “When’s the last time you saw someone?”

Grace shook her head, sticking out her middle finger and raising it over her heart. “Wasters Club,” she reminded Melody.

Melody returned the salute, and that was that. The subject was dropped. “Anyways, he was great in the sack, but we’d be done and like five seconds later he’d be talking about how I’d inspired him to write a song, and like- Fuck, dude. We’ve known each other for three days and they’ve only been pleasant when your mouth is shut.”

“Eventually you’ll run out of college guys to bang,” Grace pointed out.

Melody just shrugged. “They make new ones every year.”

Pushing up from the table, she glanced at her plate, then at Grace. Grace just nodded her head. “I’ll get it.”

“Thanks, G. Need anything from the store?”

“Dish soap,” Grace suggested. “Thanks.”

Melody left for work, and Grace alone, sweeping up the crud and dirt on the floor.

It wasn’t twenty minutes later that the door opened. Skip, as in playing hookie, was rubbing at their eyes and yawning. “Morning, G.”

Grace glanced up from what she was doing. “Evening, Skip. You’re home late.”

Skip shrugged. “Twelve hours. We’re in the busy season right now.”

“More than busy,” Grace said. “Gonna sleep?”

“In a bit.” Skip strolled through, drinking the rest of the slightly-cooled coffee straight from the pot. “Got some personal work to take care of, first.”

Grace shook her head. “Don’t kill yourself.”

“Can’t. Too busy,” Skip pointed out, wandering out of the kitchen.

Everything, save for the still running dishwasher, was largely cleaned up at this point. Counters wiped down, stove washed, she was done for the morning. Someone would likely trash the place come lunchtime, but that was a problem for later.

She had work to do, so she went to go get her laptop.

I stopped writing here, because I realized that this ‘breakfast around the kitchen table’ situation just wasn’t working for me. It’s slow, and we don’t get to see the characters interact as a group. This is basically what I do when I’m stuck, I leave a note for myself explaining what needs to bridge this to the next chapter, then I come back and redo it once I’m more confident that I can solve the problem. So, with that in mind, here’s the note I left for myself:

Grace continues to go throughout her day. She gets some work done, and eventually we’re eventually going to meet Randy, and get a bit of backstory for the Wasters Club - Namely, a group of friends from highschool, who met through detention and stuck together after graduating, got a house to share, and are unified by a ‘fuck the world’ attitude. End with a segue into a late evening fire in the backyard.

I will try and avoid using these notes when I can, especially since I’ll be posting these chapters publicly, but I can’t promise that they won’t come up again.

As I said above, feedback is enormously appreciated!

Anyways, that’s ‘Chapter 1’, sort of!

If you like this, or any of my other writing, maybe consider subscribing to me over on Patreon! You get early access, as well as the ability to read my exclusive stories. Peculiar Changeling is creating kinky fiction | Patreon

I just started posting a long-form story over there, “Jacqueline”. If The Baby Bet is my cute, romantic, fun writing as a novel, “Jacqueline” is my finest, kinkiest smut as a novel. It’ll be updated once a month, and is visible to my 5$+ subscribers!

All support is greatly appreciated. :slight_smile:

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I’m digging it so far for what it is. Especially the middle finger over the heart expression being a term of endearment, if I understood that part correctly. I’m definitely integrating that into my nonverbal lexicon. I love the tightness of their friendship it implies, and it pulls a bit on my heart strings from days gone by, especially now with the covid quarantine orders being in effect for… a year and a half? It’s like when something happens and you look at each other and you just know for sure exactly how you both are going to react to it. Anyway, I don’t see a lot of stories that explore that kind of unique common sense among friends, and I really appreciate it being a part of the storyline. Thanks for putting this out there, as raw as it is. I really like the insight it provides for anyone, myself included, also practicing their writing skills.

I feel you. About that whole “I don’t know these characters yet,” I feel you.

It’s why I almost never post stuff that isn’t already finished. Once it’s out there, I have a really tough time not being able to go back and change it. Such is true of life, yes, but the characters in life are already established so…

I guess I could say that I think it a good idea to set at least a few parameters for each character. Define them as best you can and try to stick with that. Having your characters too flexible can make them seem inconsistent and less defined as a personality. Simple details or big important stuff, anything consistent will give people a better idea of who that character is so if there’s a sudden change, they notice the significance rather than dismiss it. A calm character having an emotional explosion is worth noting, carries weight. Or a person who doesn’t like being touched; if that’s established, maybe subtly so, then readers will feel their discomfort when they encounter someone who likes to throw an arm over their shoulder and act all buddy-buddy. I even like to go so far as to break down what type of lingo, phrases, terminology, or grammar a person might use in speech. Of course, that’s me. What works for me might not work for you, and my methods are by no means perfected. Just throwing that out there since you’re giving this one to us raw and wriggling.

And yeah, I leave notes for myself. Sometimes it’s like you have here, sometimes it’s almost half the story outlined, and sometimes it’s “fuck you, future me, figure it out.”

Now one thing I can assure you. Don’t worry about not getting right into it in terms of smut or kinkiness. Slow burn stories or stories that actually focus on characters are more than welcome.

I like the scene as you have it, and given your other works, I’d trust your ability to take this to interesting places. However, if you’re wondering about drawing in readers, the above still remains true, but I think I’d keep going a bit longer before calling it a chapter.

Anyway, do carry on.

I know exactly what you mean about how difficult it is to make openings work, but you’ve done a great job here so far. Remember, what you’re trying to do here is to establish the characters (Grace, Melody, Brains, Skip and an unknown party) and give the readers a direction and a source of conflict (Grace is frustrated that she is the only one who cleans well and one of their roommates – Brains? – is a total slob.) You’ve also established that Grace and Melody seem to be pretty close. The dialogue sounds out well enough that the characters seem believable. You’re doing great.

The only suggestion I would offer is to work on building Grace’s internal world. What does Grace do? How does her career and her life experience inform the way that she sees the world? Is there a reason she avoids confrontation even when it costs her? That stuff is hard, so I wouldn’t stress over it, but it’s important to keep in mind as you go.

Another thing to consider, and this is something I often struggle with myself, is that you shouldn’t have to feel confined to your character’s stream of consciousness when there’s nothing interesting or relevant happening in her life. You can cut a scene anywhere you like and pick up whenever there’s something you think we need to see, so if breakfast feels boring, then skip it. Summaries can work really well here, and I often don’t feel I utilize them half so well as I should.

I really like the way that you posted a little note in italics, and I totally support your decision to skip over scenes that feel like a drag. I’ve been fussing about this for a story I’ve posted in the Donor’s Lounge–my second chapter had a promising start, but I’ve been stuck on this one scene. I got irritated and skipped ahead to a smuttier scene, wrote it, and now I’m stuck on chapter two and I’m not sure if I want to keep the scene I wrote in advance. I’ll probably keep it, but we’ll see. In any case, I totally support your decision to write your scenes out of order or skip over whatever you feel is bothering you, and I love where you’re going so far.

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Thank you!
Getting that ‘Friend group energy’ is really important to the core of this story, so I think it’s really important that I nail it right out of the gate. I’m glad I’m starting to convey it, it means that this wasn’t a complete misfire of a first chapter!

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I’ve got some of those parameters listed, (Heck, each character is named after a personality trait - albeit sarcastically,) but for me there’s a difference between knowing a character’s traits and really knowing the character. Brains is blunt, speaks his mind, and maybe a bit of a stickler, but I don’t yet have a perfect feel for his voice, his specific mannerisms, etc., and if I try and write it right out of the gate, he’ll just fall into one of my stock character voices, which I don’t really want.

Fleshing out still needs to happen, but for me that’s going to be an exploratory process. A lot of my best characterization moments (IMO) don’t occur to me until I’m already writing the dialogue and realize something.

As for calling it a “Chapter”, well… that’s why I stuck an asterisk in the title. It’s not a full chapter, it’s an incomplete placeholder for where the chapter is going to be. Chapter 2 is going to be more well rounded and complete!

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I think the main issue with this scene is that I’m trying to convey something about Grace’s personality through it, but it’s not coming through as well as I want.

Grace is, as simply as possible, a control freak. Everything has to be just right. She’s self-appointed herself the adult of the Wasters Club, because she thinks that without her the whole house would fall into chaos and the group would dissolve. That’s one of the two main things that I want this chapter to show - the other being the characters’ relationships with one another.

I think, if/when I rewrite this scene, I’ll probably change it to a more chaotic breakfast where everyone is coming and going at once. Open with Grace in an empty kitchen, flood the space with Brains, Melody, and Skip all at the same time, as they trip over each other to get to work, get food as they come home from work, etc., and then disperse, leaving the kitchen a wreck for Grace to clean up. (Then Randy - Or whatever I decide to name him since I’m not a huge fan of the name Randy - comes in after the chaos and we get an introduction to his character.)

But for now, I’ll just move on to the next scene and ‘fix it in post’. :smiley:

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Writing and posting stories as you are writing them is always a tricky thing. Over the years of posting stories on here (and its predecessors), I have found what works for me. I always prefer to be 2 chapters ahead of the readers. For example, I won’t post chapter 1 until I am working on chapter 3. This approach has saved me a lot of times, especially on the novel-length stories. This became especially important when writing R.O.O.M. for I would need to go back and make changes to the unpublished finished chapter as worked on the next one. Like at least one other person has stated, it is harder to go back and make changes to something that has already been put out to the readers.

Character development is a slow process. No one likes an info dump. As the author, you know a lot about a character, but the reader finds out over time. To be honest, you will too as you develop the story more. A muse has a way of altering the original perceptions the author had for a character.

Your approach to writing a story is right. Get down a few things, put comments in to guide trouble spots as you go back later to address them, and jotting down a few notes in places that will help future chapters. That all being said, most people do not do that in the public eye. Most prefer a little more polish on a chapter before posting it. There is nothing wrong with doing it the way you are. I am sure there will be several people interested to seeing the process, but be aware there will be others that don’t. It looks more like you are jotting down notes to help you create an outline for a story. If someone wants to just read a story, the notes become an annoyance, causing the person to stop reading further update. But I will state again, there is nothing wrong with doing it your way, just not the way I would do it.

Character Development, Show don’t tell, and avoiding info dumps are all things that create good stories. I wish you luck on your journey.

P.S. - I have several unfinished stories that would be good for this site. Two of them are over 60 pages long. Until I am more certain I have a path to a conclusion, I will not post them. I hate posting a story and not finishing it (and when others do it to us readers). So yes, I try to stay 2 chapters ahead of the readers, but that does not mean I start posting as soon as I reach chapter 3 of a story. You find what works for you. I am just sharing what works for me.

Teekabell

I’m not expecting everyone to be on board with this method of posting! If people don’t want to read while it’s being created, that’s totally fine - and expected. The finished story will be posted once it gets done.

This is an experiment. I’m pretty experienced with posting my stories around, but even if I get a couple chapter buffer ahead of readers, that doesn’t necessarily give me the same freedom I want to edit plot events or just keep things smooth like I really want. I’m not going to post like this with all of my stories, but for this one, I’m more than willing to experiment and see how it goes. :slight_smile:

We’ve got a proper chapter this time! No half-finished outlines with a ‘Finish this later!’ note on it!

Other than the introduction here, this chapter doesn’t have any author notes. It should work without any explanations provided for context, since it’s pretty much complete and I don’t need to retcon anything.

At the end of the previous chapter, there will be a segue where Grace walks into the backyard to join her friends, who are having a bonfire in their back yard.

Oh, and in the notes for the last chapter, I mentioned a character named ‘Randy’ who was going to show up later. He’s been renamed to ‘Pierce’ but is otherwise unchanged.

As always, feedback on this story is especially appreciated!

“… Bullshit!”

The fire was rolling by the time Grace walked out back, a six pack of cold beers in tow. Their back yard had precisely five chairs - one for each of them, and not a single extra.

Just the way things should be.

Pulling cans one at a time from the plastic rings, Grace started passing them out.

“You’re just in time,” Pierce said, leaning forward in his chair to grab one.

“You’ve been bemoaning that your beer was empty for ten minutes,” Brains pointed out.

“And if it’d been eleven minutes,” Pierce said, cracking open the can and taking a long pull before finishing his sentence. “Then I’d have had to go inside and get another one.”

Drinks distributed, Grace set aside the single extra beer and tossed the plastic rings into the fire. “So what’s bullshit?”

“Hmm?” Melody asked, looking up from the fire.

“You were shouting ‘Bullshit’ when I walked back here,” Grace explained. “What, did Skip claim they weren’t working enough hours?”

“Well,” Skip started to say, “I know there’s some slack that could be-”

The whole club piped up in harmony. “ No.”

“But that’s not it,” Brains added. “Pierce was just saying he’d make a great dad.”

Grace raised her eyebrows. “Hah! No way.”

“Hey, come on,” Pierce said, putting up his hands defensively. “I’m not saying I want a little rug rat, but if I had to. You should see me with my nephews!”

“You don’t have to take care of your nephews,” Melody pointed out.

“I babysit,” Pierce countered.

In the middle of sipping her beer, Grace shook her head and raised a finger. “N…” Gulp. “No, no. You keep an eye on them for a couple hours when your sister’s busy. That barely counts.”

Sitting back, Pierce spread out his arms and relaxed as though he’d already won the argument. “Still! They love me.”

“Yeah, because you’re the fun uncle. You don’t have to cook meals, or plan around their day, or put them to bed, or any of that shit. You just show up for a couple hours of playtime.” Grace shook her head and put on a comically deep voice. “‘Oh, I’m Pierce, I’d be a great dad for three whole hours before I got bored!’ Fuck off with that. I’ve seen your room.”

Melody and Skip chuckled, but Pierce frowned and sat forward. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“When’s the last time you made your bed?” Grace asked.

“Why should I? I think it’s just as comfortable unmade,” Pierce said, already draining his can of beer, which got swiftly replaced.

“How would you know, Pierce?” Melody chimed in. “You haven’t slept in a made bed since your mommy stopped doing the chores for you.”

“My mo-” Pierce’s tone started to rise, but he shook his head and just flipped Melody off.

“Got it, sorry,” Melody said, apologetically.

The point being.” Grace got everyone’s attention, steering the conversation back to her point. “You do the bare minimum to get things to a point where you’re okay with it. How’s that gonna work out when you have a whole entire other human to look after, who can’t give you a chore chart to micromanage what they need from you?”

“I’d be a good dad,” Pierce said, simply.

Grace found that her beer was mostly empty, and finished it off, raising her arm and squinting at the recycling bin fifteen feet away. “Come on…” Chucking it, the can hit the back wall of the bin, bouncing squarely inside. “Three points!”

“Probably two points, you’re barely at a free throw line,” Brains pointed out. “Still a good shot, though. Sitting down and everything.”

Grace reached for another beer, and found the extra can from the six pack already claimed. “Okay, y’all know the rules. You take the last beer, you get the next pack.”

“I’ll get it in a minute,” Pierce said. “Once this one’s empty.”

Rolling her eyes, Grace got to her feet, trudging back to the kitchen. She didn’t want to wait until Pierce finished his beer, walked inside, took a piss, made a sandwich, took a nap, watched the extended editions of Lord of the Rings-

Getting it herself was just faster.

By the time she got back out, the conversation had moved on. Skip was relaying an anecdote from work, or maybe telling a filthy joke. Given their line of work, it was kind of hard to tell one from the other sometimes, but either way there was a racoon involved.

The evening slipped on. Grace’s aim towards the recycling bin got a little better after two beers, and then started to drop off steeply after four.

“Hey, Melody,” Grace said under her breath, leaning over in her seat. “Who’re you texting?”

“This guy, Rich,” Melody replied, quietly, looking down at her phone. “He’s got a boat. I think. I guess he goes to some fancy university a little north of here.”

“Is he your type?”

“Is ‘rich’ a type?” Melody paused, then added, “Because he’s got money, not-”

Grace shook her head. “I got it.”

“And that!” Brains declared, almost-but-not-quite shouting as he stood upright on his chair. “Is how you make a beer can disappear!”

“You just wanted to drink my beer!” Skip complained, grabbing an empty can from the ground and chucking it at Brains. The shot went wide, hitting the tall privacy fence a few paces away.

“And that’s the last beer out here,” Pierce said. “Who’s got the next pack?”

“It was Skip’s beer,” Brains declared.

“Brains drank it,” Skip rebutted.

“I’ll get it,” Grace groaned, getting to her feet.

She paused to get the can that had bounced from the fence, depositing it in the recycling bin on her way inside, and grabbing a bag of chips on the way out.

Sitting down, she found a gap in the conversation and started telling a story she’d been wanting to relay all evening. “Okay, so, there’s this client I’m working for. Huge neat freak, anal-retentive-type-”

“You should talk,” Pierce snorted.

“You think everyone’s a neat freak.”

“I meant about the anal retention.”

“You’re right, I do have experience with guys who have their heads up their ass all the time,” Grace rolled her eyes. “So anyways, he sends me this email…”

It was a winding tale full of twists and turns, mostly involving increasingly pedantic and frustrating corrections to layout, which Grace had responded to with matching pedantry and specificity until the issue got dropped and the layout she preferred got used. Not something she’d brag too much about, except that she’d found out that day that the client was thrilled with the results, and was bragging about it, having completely forgotten that the design was her idea.

“Okay, okay,” Pierce said, as she finished up telling the story. “Here’s what I’m still hung up on, though. You think…” He paused, sipping his beer.

“Oh, hell, not this again,” Melody rolled her eyes.

“He brought this up while you were in the bathroom, too,” Brains added, giving context to Grace that she would otherwise have lacked.

“You think I’m irresponsible!” Pierce said. “Like I don’t pay my bills on time and get my chores done, same as everyone else.”

“Yeah, uh, if I remind you, ” Grace said. “Otherwise it’s always done late.”

“Not late, just barely-on-time!” Pierce protested. “If you want it done sooner, make the deadline sooner! Otherwise, I’ll get it done when I want to.”

“We’re not arguing about chores tonight ,” Melody said. “It’s Friday. This isn’t how we’re gonna spend our night.”

“No, I’m not arguing about chores, I’m saying that I’m responsible,” Pierce said. “I could totally watch a kid. I’d be great at it.”

“Bulllll-” Grace said, really dragging out the ‘L’. “Shit. You know how much work that is?”

“Yeah, I do!” Pierce stood up, dramatically counting off on his fingers. “You gotta change their diapers, feed ‘em, put ‘em to bed every night, bathe ‘em, dress ‘em, and make sure they don’t stick their fingers into electrical sockets. Boom. Easy.”

“I think you’re missing some stuff on that list,” Brains said. “And that’s only for kids of a very specific age.”

“Well I’d learn!”

“You wouldn’t even do that much,” Grace shot. “You’d be begging for someone else to take the little shit after the first diaper change.”

“I’ve been around crap,” Pierce said.

“And you’d really wait hand and foot like that on someone else?” Grace threw up her arms, sloshing a little beer out of the can she was holding. “No way.”

“I would!”

“No, you wouldn’t!”

“Screw you, I would!”

“Then prove it!”

“How?”

Grace blinked. She hadn’t thought that far ahead.

(When did I stand up?)

(When did things get so spinny?)

She shook her head. “Fuckin… Fuck you. We wouldn’t put a kid through that, it’d be torture.”

“You’re just backing down because you know I’d be great and you don’t want to admit it!”

(Asshole.)

“Fine! I’ll do it, just to shut you up!”

“Huh?”

It was Pierce’s turn to be taken aback. “What?”

“I would bet you one hundred dollars that you wouldn’t last one day if you had to do all that shit you listed for another person,” Grace said. “So do it to me. Make me a damn meal for once, instead of just coming in and swiping whatever someone else already cooked.”

“And what about the other shit? The diapers?” Pierce asked.

“You’ve seen my ass naked,” Grace said. (I’m drunk.) “I don’t care.” (I should stop talking.) “Fuck you.”

“No way,” Pierce said.

“Hah!”

“Not for a hundred bucks.” Shaking his head, his shaggy hair swished back and forth in the firelight, as though he were trying to get rid of a pesky mosquito, not coming up with an idea. “And not for a day. I will outlast the shit out of you. You’d get sick of shitting your pants years before I’d get sick of taking care of a kid.”

“If not for a hundred bucks, then what?”

“Chores,” Pierce snapped. “Loser does the winner’s house chores for a year.”

“Fine!”

“Fine!”

“FIN-”

“Wasters!” Melody shouted, raising her fist over her heart in a middle finger salute. “You two, drop this shit right now. We are not fighting.

“We’re not figh-” Grace started.

“Come ooon,” Skip groaned. “You think we’d buy that? Drop it, Grace. Drop it, Pierce. You’re both very responsible grown-ups.”

Grace started to come up with a retort, but her head was fuzzy.

(How many beers have I had?)

She looked over to the recycling bin, trying to count the cans on the ground. Some of them weren’t hers, though, but…

(Nine? Ten?)

Sitting down in her chair so that her head would stop spinning, Grace grabbed the last beer from the latest six pack.

“You took the last-” Brains started.

Nope.” Grace cracked open the can. “Okay, dropping it. I’m sorry.”

The fire was silent for a moment, until Brains said, “You all want to play Mafia?”

The whole club piped up in harmony. “ No.”

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