The Good Luck Charm Page 17

In my panic I didn’t even consider that an option. I feel around on the floor for my purse but remember I left it on the counter in the kitchen. Fat lot of good that does me when I’m stuck in here.

Ethan bumps around in the dark until bright light suddenly fills the room. At least now I can see where we’re trapped.

I frown as I take in the space. One wall is lined with shelves containing a variety of canned and packaged food. Everything is neatly organized, labels facing out. I count six cases of water, two cases of ginger ale, which I find odd, and an endless supply of crackers, dried fruit, nuts, and other snacks on top of all the canned food. Under the shelves are totes labeled bedding, clothing, and toiletries. “Is this a bunker?”

“I think it’s a panic room,” Ethan replies. “Look at this.”

“Well, that’s fitting,” I mumble, and spin on my butt to check out the other side of the space. The sudden movement makes me dizzy, and I’m forced to put my head between my knees again.

Ethan crouches in front of me and his palms smooth down my shins. “Hey, you okay? You need me to distract you again?”

“Don’t make fun of me.” I blindly smack at him, connecting weakly with his arm. He shifts his hold on my legs, fingertips pressing into my calves, kneading gently. I’m pushed into the past—he was always like this with me, touchy, sweet. He took care of me when no one else did.

“I’m not. I’m sorry we’re stuck in here. We’ll be out soon, okay?”

He starts to remove his hands, but I press my palms to the back of them. “Just let me breathe for a few more seconds.”

“There’s an intercom system and cameras that seem to feed to the whole house. It’s actually pretty weird, to be honest. I had no idea the Hoffmans were paranoid, or part of the mob, or whatever would cause someone to build something so elaborate inside a wine cellar,” he says.

I keep breathing, reminding myself that I’m safe and Ethan is with me. “Was it even on the house layout?”

“I don’t think so. I’m not sure a panic room is much of a selling feature. How you doing?” He brushes my hair back, twisting it out of the way so it’s not hanging in my face, then sweeps his knuckle from the bridge of my nose to the tip. I hum at the sensation. It’s been so long since anyone other than me has done that. I missed the feeling.

“I’m okay. I’m sorry I freaked out.”

He runs his palms up and down my arms. “You don’t have to apologize. I know how confinement makes you feel. Can you look at me?” He touches his finger to my chin, and I lift my head slowly. “There we go. There’s my girl. What time did Carmen say she’d be here?”

“Seven thirty, I think. My phone’s in the kitchen.”

“There isn’t any reception in here.”


“It’s a dead zone.” Ethan cringes at his choice of words. “Take another breath. We can watch the cameras and use the intercom when she gets here.”

“What if she’s late?”

“Don’t worry—I’m good at distracting you.”

“You’re not kissing me again.”

He gives me one of his smirky grins. “That wasn’t what I was referring to, but it’s interesting that’s where your head went.”

I give him a look, but I’m still sitting on the floor with my knees pulled to my chest, so I’m unsure how effective it is.

“Why don’t we check this place out while we wait?” He holds out a hand and I accept it, as much to help me to my feet as an excuse to maintain the physical connection.

I’m still a little unsteady, so I grab his shirt with one hand and his forearm with the other to keep upright. I loathe this weakness in me. I try not to think about our current confinement. Instead I focus on Ethan’s palm making slow circles on my back, thumb brushing my skin when he passes under my hair to the V-cut back of my dress. His head drops, and I feel the warmth of his breath on my cheek and the soft brush of his nose in my hair.

“Just keep breathing.”

“You’re making it difficult.” I put my hands on his chest to push away, but his palm is still on my back, keeping me close.

“I’m just trying to keep you calm.”

“By kissing me.”

“Can you honestly tell me you don’t feel this?” He runs gentle fingers up the length of my arm.

My body betrays me, goose bumps rising on my skin. I step out of his reach. “It doesn’t matter what I feel. You left me.”

“I know and I’m sorry. We were kids, Lilah.”

“I spent my whole life loving you and I got nothing for eight years. Now you want what? To see if things are still the same? They’re not.”

“Some things are.” He moves in close again and brushes his thumb over my bottom lip.

I twist my head away. “You can’t do this. You can’t force me into this discussion when I’m already trapped.”

“You keep dodging this, Lilah. How can I explain when you won’t even give me the chance?”

“An apology won’t make the past disappear.” I pace the perimeter of the room, looking for something that will get me out of here, away from this attraction and all the conflicting emotions that come with being near this man. I hit the button on the wall, the one that closed the door initially. A keypad lights up, so obviously it requires a passcode, which we don’t have.

“Who the fuck made up a stupid system that locks you in a goddamn room?” The panic is starting to set in again.

“Someone paranoid. Lilah—” He reaches out, but when I hold up a hand, he stops, arm dropping to his side. “Just give me a chance to explain why.”

I spin around, anger finally overriding the panic, frustrated at his insistence that we talk about this now, that I’m stuck in here with him, that he’s kissed me, and that despite the adrenaline and the fear, I liked it and want it to happen again.

“What part do you want to explain? Why you broke up with me like a coward over the phone and I never saw you again until you were forced to move back here? Why you stopped talking to me? Why all of a sudden you seem so interested in being my friend again, or whatever you want to call this?” I gesture wildly between us.

“I want to explain all of it. Just give me a chance.”

“Nothing you say is going to change the past.”

“It could change the future, though.”

My chest tightens, so many possibilities unfolding with that one truth.

“One minute we were making plans for our future and the next you were out of my life completely,” I say softly.

“I’m sorry for a lot of things, Lilah, but I’m the most sorry about how things ended.”

“So am I.” I pull out a storage bin and sit down, my legs still shaky.

He pulls one out too and settles beside me, close but not touching. “Remember how hard it was that first semester I was in college? How tough it was to get used to only seeing each other a couple of times a month instead of every day?”

His absence left a hole in my world. I’d been so bereft at first, missing the person who’d been my constant since I was in kindergarten. “We managed.” Barely.

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