Friday night: out with the Boys. We cruise in the nicest cars in town, among them, my jet black Mercedes SL500 roadster. My baby. Marsh and a few other kids drive somewhere behind Jake and me. We drive with no destinations, our usual Friday night agenda before we decide where to go.

The night is warm, summer air still lingering for a few more weeks before the end of September. With the top down, Jake and I don’t talk much as we whip down the road with nothing more than fields in sight. The wind is like waves against our hair and eyes, but our smiles are the widest thing under the velvet night sky.

My cell phone rings. Keeping an eye on the mostly empty road and a hand on the wheel, I fish the phone out of my pocket. Marsh’s cell.

“Who is it?” Jake asks from the passenger seat.

“Marsh,” I say.

I flip the phone open.

“Marsh,” I greet.

“Yo, Caesar. What are we doing?” comes the voice on the other end. “Who’s on your list tonight?”

I grin into the phone.

“I don’t think that’s yo business, man.”

He laughs. “Sure, sure,” he says. “But I gotta know if we’re gonna decide where we’re goin’.”

“I’m thinkin’ Stacy’s party,” I say slyly.

“In Magville? Dang, boy! You got another thing coming, Caesar. You must be crazy to do it with a Magville girlfriend on enemy territory!”

From the passenger’s seat, Jake gives me a look. “Magville?” he says. “Do you have a death wish, man? If you show up in Magivlle you are a dead dictator. No way, Caesar. No way! I am not going over there, and I bet Marsh agrees.”

I grin again.

“Hear that, Marsh?” I say into the phone. “We’re makin’ it a night in Magville.”

Jake shakes his head, but there is a glint in his eye, and he can’t help but laugh.

On the other end of the phone, Brian and the boys whoop in the wild night as we speed out of town.

Half an hour later, we near Stacy Kinder’s house. She lives in a freaking mansion, but then again everyone in Magville is pretty well off. The house is raging, and we hear the noise of the party before we even get onto her street. Jake looks at me expectantly.

“Who’s on the list, Caesar?”

I laugh loudly and it mingles with the roar of the party. He knows he won’t get an answer, but he always asks.

“We’ll see,” I say, wiggling my eyebrows.

He laughs back his approval, and we swerve up against the curb. Cars already litter every available spot, some even parked on Stacy’s lawn. Over the din of screaming and splashing of pool water, I recognize the blaring radio of Marsh’s car just making the turn onto Stacy’s street.

In addition to cars, kids are everywhere: drinking on the roof, hanging out of windows, dancing in the driveway. I slip my keys into my pocket and take in the smell of nighttime air and booze—my two favorite smells in the world. Especially together.

Jake and I cross the lawn to the back of the house, hoping to go unnoticed before slipping in. I could take most of the guys here, but I’d rather wait for Marsh and the boys in case anyone wants to start anything. I kick a Sam Adams and it rolls away from our path. Within a few minutes, Marsh, Dan, Jared, and Matt have joined us. As Dan lights a joint, all six of us round the house to the back where the noise is louder and the smell is stronger.
Stacy is in a red bikini, dancing atop the diving board with some Magville scum I recognize from over the summer. I was thinking of nailing Lindsey Jacobs tonight, but I really hate the shit-for-brains guy Stacy’s dancing with.

So tonight, Stacy is the list.

Dan follows my gaze to Stacy’s bare legs and glances anxiously at the other guys.

“Stacy Kinder, man?” Jake says. “She’s off-limits, even for you. She’s Mike Jennings’s chick. There’s no way.”

“She doesn’t look like she’s with him right now,” I say. “Besides, no one is off-limits for me.”

I do not think. I do not breathe. I am in party mode. I am the Dictator.

The boys feel the change in the air, and they know: No one will stop Caesar. They all grab beers and disperse, leaving me to it. Jake looks like he wants to say something, but Jenna appears and wraps a skinny arm around him, pulling him off somewhere. For once, she’s done something smart.

I take off my shirt and toss it onto a lawn chair. Deal the cards. Stacy looks up from the guy she’s with, and, as we lock eyes, a slow grin crosses her face. Fake him out. She whispers something into the guy’s ear and kisses him as he walks toward the house, a triumphant look on his face. No, loser. Nothing for you tonight.

It’s all me.

Stacy steps off the diving board and comes to my side. I feel nothing but the thrill of the hunt. I take a slow sip of Corona with a cool face. She takes the bottle from my hand and swigs, throwing her long blond hair back. She points a ruby-frosted nail at my bare chest accusingly.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” she teases.

I look down at her.

“What are you going to do about it?” I say. Play the game.

“The question is,” she says slyly, placing my arms around her waist and down the back of her bikini bottoms, “what are you going to do about it?”

I win.