He pulls me into the water so I’m sitting in the hot tub too, and my nightgown is soaked now but I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. I never knew kissing could be this good.
My arms are at my sides so the jets won’t make my skirt fly up. Peter’s holding my face in his hands, kissing me. “Are you okay?” he whispers. His voice is different: it’s ragged and urgent and vulnerable somehow. He doesn’t sound like the Peter I know; he is not smooth or bored or amused. The way he’s looking at me right now, I know he would do anything I asked, and that’s a strange and powerful feeling.
I wind my arms around his neck. I like the smell of chlorine on his skin. He smells like pool, and summer, and vacations. It’s not like in the movies. It’s better, because it’s real.
“Touch my hair again,” I tell him, and the corners of his mouth turn up.
I lean into him and kiss him. He starts to run his fingers through my hair, and it feels so nice I can’t think straight. It’s better than getting my hair washed at the salon. I move my hands down his back and along his spine, and he shivers and pulls me closer. A boy’s back feels so different than a girl’s back—more muscular, more solid somehow.
In between kisses he says, “It’s past curfew. We should go back inside.”
“I don’t want to,” I say. All I want is to stay and be here, with Peter, in this moment.
“Me either, but I don’t want you to get in trouble,” Peter says. He looks worried, which is so sweet.
Softly, I touch his cheek with the back of my hand. It’s smooth. I could look at his face for hours, it’s so beautiful.
Then I stand up, and immediately I’m shivering. I start wringing the water out of my nightgown, and Peter jumps out of the hot tub and gets his towel, which he wraps around my shoulders. Then he gives me his hand and I step out, teeth chattering. He starts drying me off with the towel, my arms and legs. I sit down to put on my socks and boots. He puts my coat on me last. He zips me right in.
Then we run back inside the lodge. Before he goes to the boys’ side and I go to the girls’ side, I kiss him one more time and I feel like I’m flying.
WHEN I SEE PETER AT the bus the next morning, he’s standing around with all his lacrosse friends, and at first I feel shy and nervous, but then he sees me, and his face breaks into a grin. “C’mere, Covey,” he says, so I go to him and he throws my tote over his shoulder. In my ear he says, “You’re sitting with me, right?”
As we make our way onto the bus, somebody wolf whistles. It seems like people are staring at us, and at first I think it’s just my imagination, but then I see Genevieve look right at me and whisper to Emily Nussbaum. It sends a chill down my spine.
“Genevieve keeps staring at me,” I whisper to Peter.
“It’s because you’re so adorably quirky,” he says, and he rests his hands on my shoulders and gives me a kiss on the cheek, and I forget all about Genevieve.
Peter and I sit in the middle of the bus with Gabe and the lacrosse guys. I wave to Chris so she’ll sit with us, but she’s cozy with Charlie Blanchard. I haven’t had a chance to tell her about last night. When I got back to the room, she was already asleep. This morning, we both overslept and there wasn’t time. I’ll tell her all about it later. But, for now, it’s kind of nice that Peter and I are the only ones who know about it.
The way down the mountain, I share my Pocky sticks with the boys and we play a heated round of Uno, which I also brought.
An hour into the trip, we stop at a rest-stop diner for breakfast. I eat a cinnamon bun, and under the table Peter and I hold hands.
I go to use the bathroom, and there is Genevieve, alone, applying lip gloss with a little brush. I step inside the stall to pee and hope she’ll be gone by the time I come out, but she’s still there. I wash my hands quickly, and then she says, “Did you know that when we were kids, I used to wish I was you?” I freeze. Genevieve snaps her compact shut. “I used to wish your dad was my dad and Margot and Kitty were my sisters. I loved coming over to your house. I would hope and pray that you would invite me to sleep over. I hated being at home with my dad.”
Haltingly, I say, “I-I didn’t know that. I used to like going to your house, because your mom was so nice to me.”
“She really liked you,” Genevieve says.
I screw up all my courage and I ask, “So why did you stop being friends with me?”
Genevieve narrows her eyes at me. “You really don’t know?”
“You kissed Peter that day at my house in seventh grade. You knew I liked him, but you kissed him anyway.” I recoil, and she continues. “I always knew your goody-goody act was fake. It’s no wonder you and my cousin are BFFs now. Although at least Chris owns her sluttiness. She doesn’t put on an act.”
My whole body goes rigid. “What are you talking about?”
She laughs, and it’s chilling how happy she sounds. That’s when I know I’m already dead. I brace myself for whatever mean thing will come out of her mouth, but even still I’m not ready for what comes next.
“I’m talking about how you and Peter had full-on sex in the hot tub last night.”
My mind goes completely blank. I might even black out for a second. I can feel myself sway on my feet. Somebody come quick with the smelling salts; I’m about to faint.
My head is swimming. “Who told you that?” I choke out. “Who said that?”
Genevieve tilts her head to the side. “Everybody?”
“But—but we didn’t—”
“I’m sorry, but I think it’s absolutely disgusting. I mean, sex in a hot tub—a public hot tub—is just . . .” She shudders. “God only knows what kind of stuff is floating around in there now. Families use that hot tub, Lara Jean. There could be a family in there right now.”
Tears are spiking my eyes. “All we did was kiss. I don’t know why people would even say that.”
“Um, because Peter’s telling them you did?”
My whole body goes cold. It’s not true. There’s no way that’s true.
“All the guys think he’s a god ’cause he got sweet little Lara Jean Covey to give it up in the hot tub. Just so you know, the only reason Peter even dated you was to make me jealous. His ego couldn’t take the fact that I dumped him for an older guy. He was using you. If he got free sex out of it, all the better. But he still came running whenever I called. That’s because he loves me. He will never love another girl as much as he loves me.” Whatever she sees in my face must please her, because she smiles. “Now that Blake and I are done . . . well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”