The Good Luck Charm Page 15

The kitchen is spectacular, and I’m immediately glad I didn’t wait in the foyer. I grew up in an older four-bedroom house. Carmen and I shared a bedroom growing up, but with my mom working late shifts as I got older and Carmen’s involvement in after-school sports I often ended up going to the Kases’ after school and staying there. No one ever questioned my sleeping on an inflatable mattress on the floor in Ethan’s bedroom, which was twice the size of the one I shared with my sister. When I was too old to stay in there with him, he’d sleep in the living room on the pullout sofa. I never considered the sacrifice in that until I had to spend a night on the uncomfortable, lumpy, thin mattress myself.

Our kitchen was small and felt crowded with more than two bodies in it. Dinner was always a race, especially with four older brothers and an older sister. If you weren’t quick enough, you’d miss out on all the good things.

This kitchen is the opposite of that. The appliances are state-of-the-art, stainless steel without a single fingerprint marring the shiny metal and endless granite counters.

I spin around and motion to the wall of windows and the French doors leading to the backyard, which is hardly a “yard.” Beyond the natural-stone patio is a huge swimming pool, and a path of stones marks the way to the lake, where a boathouse and a massive dock sprawl out into the water. “Look at this view.”

“Let’s save the backyard for last.” Ethan nods toward the foyer and I follow him through a formal dining room with a table that seats twelve comfortably, and a living room that seems to be designed to hold the same. This is definitely a house meant for entertaining. Maybe that’s why he wants it, so he can throw hockey parties here with his new teammates. I wonder if puck bunnies get invites to those kinds of parties. The possibility irks me.

The second floor has its own private sitting room and deck that boasts the same view of the lake as the kitchen, except from a higher vantage point.

Each bedroom has a private bathroom. They’re a little outdated, as if the owners cared most about the kitchen and the dining room, which are the only parts of the house that seem to have been updated in the last twenty years. My skin grows hot when we step into the master suite, and the back of Ethan’s hand skims my hip. The space is huge and lavish. I laugh at the painting on the wall opposite the bed.

Ethan’s eyebrows lift along with the curve of his lips. “That’s a little cliché, isn’t it?”

The massive white-and-pink flower is far more vagina inspired than it is rose or daisies.

“Just a little.”

I brush past him to stand in front of the French doors leading to a balcony with yet another stunning view of the lake. To the right of the pool is a second small house—and it’s probably bigger than the one I live in.

“Are you really thinking about buying this place? Why such a big house? For parties?” I voice my earlier thought, frustrated by my bitter tone.

He opens the French doors and I follow him out onto the balcony. “It’s the pool house I’m actually interested in. This place is undervalued because the owners haven’t updated it, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen with my dad, so I want to have space for them if I need it.”

“You’d buy this house so your parents can move into the pool house?”

Ethan shrugs. “It’s a thought. I want to have the space for Dylan and his family, and for my parents’ friends if they came to visit.”

“What if you get traded again? Won’t you have to sell it?” My throat tightens at the possibility that Ethan’s return will be brief. Part of the reason I’m so hesitant to allow this friendship is the fear that he’ll come back into my life long enough for me to care about him again, and then he’ll be off to another city in another state.

“I’ll probably be here permanently if I can’t up my game this year.”

I note the tightness of his jaw and the frustration shadowing his eyes.

“Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Not having to move from city to city, I mean?”

“They sent me home for a reason, Lilah.”

“I don’t understand.”

His smile is rueful. “If I don’t pick it up and play well, better than I have been, this could be my last season.”

“So this is your ‘in case I fail’ house? That’s a little fatalist of you, isn’t it?” I’m pushing his buttons, something I used to do when he’d play street hockey, or any kind of hockey with his friends in lieu of studying for tests.

Back then we were both reasonable about his prospects with the NHL—how short most careers were. And here he is, telling me his might be over. He’s not even twenty-eight yet. Life has hardly even started and he’s looking at the end of his dream when I’m starting to pursue my own.

“I’m sorry—that was uncalled for.”

His jaw works for a few seconds. “I’m trying to be realistic. I’m buying a house because I need a place to live that isn’t my parents’ basement. I’m looking at this one in particular because it’s a sound investment, and because my parents could easily live here without us driving each other insane. Even if this season goes well, I have no idea what’s coming next, so I want to be prepared for anything.”

I don’t ask any of the questions I want to, like what happens if he does do well this season? Will Minnesota extend his contract? Will he still be traded? Does he plan to come back here for good when his career in the NHL does eventually end?

“I guess that makes sense.” I step away from the balcony and Ethan, suddenly aware of how close we’re standing. “Why don’t we check out the basement?”

chapter seven




Ethan follows me down the hall to the stairs. The basement has high ceilings and a walkout to a patio in the backyard.

Ethan immediately checks out the home movie theater and bank of arcade games. The last door on the left seems to be a cold cellar at first glance. A closer look at the shelves reveals not food, but bottles upon bottles of wine.

The space is probably bigger than my bedroom, but the walls are concrete, and there don’t seem to be any windows. It’s not cold, but not the same temperature as the rest of the house, either. Along one wall are several tall fridges, which hold more bottles. I’m not a fan of closed spaces, especially ones without windows, but I’m curious, and I’m not alone, so I step inside despite the shiver that runs down my spine.

“These people are serious wine aficionados.” I run my fingers along the bottles. I’m more of a margarita girl, but I’ll drink wine if the occasion calls for it. I note another door at the far end of the wine cellar, but it doesn’t have a handle. That’s weird. I wonder if it’s some kind of huge safe, and if so, what the hell is in it?

“Hey, Ethan, come look at this!” I call out as I spin around. I crash into his chest, grabbing hold of his forearms to steady myself. “Christ, when did you become so stealthy?”

“Back when I used to sneak up to my room to sleep with you after my parents fell asleep.” His wide palms rest on my waist. He’s always been so much bigger than me—it made me feel delicate when we were younger, strangely feminine when, in reality, I was more of an athletic tomboy.

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