The Good Luck Charm Page 22

Her lips are pursed and her cheeks are flushed. I bet she’s been drinking.

“Are you here for a reason, or were you planning to stand on my front porch and stare at my mouth?”

I fight a grin, glad she hasn’t lost the sass I always loved. I meet her hazel glare. “It wasn’t part of my plan, or my reason for stopping by.”

“My sister’s here, so … ” She trails off, not opening the door any farther. Clearly I’m not getting an invitation to come inside.

“Right. Of course. I wanted to drop this off. You can share or keep them to yourself—whatever you prefer.” I hold out the bag of candy and the card.

Lilah regards the offering before she reaches out slowly and takes it from me. “You brought me candy?”

“The flower shop wasn’t open; candy was the next best thing.”

“But why buy me candy at all?”

“To apologize for kissing you when I shouldn’t have.”

She lifts the bag, inspecting it. “Where in the world did you find honey licorice beehives, and God … There are a ton of Hot Lips in here.” She graces me with a small smile. “These were all my favorites.”

“Except for Sour Keys, because they were out. I don’t know if you like any of that stuff anymore or if you hate it like you seem to want to hate me, but I’d like another chance to find out, Lilah. I know I put a lot on you tonight and that you probably need some time, but I just want to know you again. I promise I’ll keep my tongue to myself from now on, unless otherwise requested.”

I’d apologize again, but I’m actually not all that sorry I kissed her. It confirmed what I already suspected, that the chemistry between us is still there. It gives me hope that if I’m careful, this friendship could eventually become more.

Lilah rolls her eyes, and her cheeks flush pink, but that small smile grows a little.

Instead of pushing my luck, I take a step back. “I’m going to go now.”

It takes an extraordinary amount of restraint not to say anything else, to turn around and walk back to my truck with my hands jammed into my pockets and the tip of my tongue caught between my teeth.

“Ethan?” Lilah’s voice is barely audible.

I turn but stay where I am, halfway between my truck and her door.

“Thank you for this.” She clutches the bag close to her chest.

It’s progress, like a quarter of a second shaved off my skating sprints—little gains that individually don’t seem like much but over time add up to something significant.

chapter ten




Everything okay?” Carmen calls from the patio.

“Everything’s fine.” I watch Ethan get into his truck—which is already running—and drive away before I head back outside, still holding the bag of candies and the card.

I flop into the chair and toss the candies on the side table, trading it for my margarita on the rocks. I have a rare late shift tomorrow, so I don’t have to be up early. Still, it’s my second drink, so I should switch to water after this, since Merk gets up at five thirty no matter what.

Carmen’s smile grows as she nabs the bag. “What’s this?”

“A bag of candy.” I state the obvious, flipping the card between my fingers. My name is written in Ethan’s rushed scrawl in what appears to be blue colored pencil.

“He bought you a bag of Hot Lips?”

“Among other things.” I fight a smile as I slide my finger along the edge of the envelope, careful not to tear it. Inside is a card with a sunset on the water. I flip it open.

The same messy scrawl in blue colored pencil covers the inside. This is exactly the kind of note I’d expect from Ethan.


I promise to keep my tongue to myself in the future. For now, these are the only hot lips I’ll force on you.



PS. Your lips are still my favorite part of you.

“What does it say?” Carmen grabs for the card, but I hold it out of her reach. “I will eat every single one of these Hot Lips unless you show me what he wrote.”

I hug the card to my chest. “You would not.”

“Would, too.”

“You hate Hot Lips,” I argue.

“I’ll still eat them.” She scoops a handful of candy from the bag, as if to demonstrate her seriousness.

“And then barf.”

“Just show me the damn card, or I’ll dump the whole bag on the ground.” She holds it up threateningly.

“Okay, okay!” I toss the card at her. “Now, gimme the candy.”

She laughs and passes it to me. I covetously cradle it in my lap. I may be conflicted about Ethan, but I won’t waste a bag of my favorite candies over it.

“Is this written in colored pencil?”

“Yup.” I hide behind my glass so she can’t see my scowl turn into a smile.

She’s quiet as she reads the card. When she’s done, she sets it on her lap and gives me an arched eyebrow. “Are you going to give him a chance?”

“I already said yes to being friends.”

“And you want it to stay platonic?” She motions to the Hot Lips.

“I don’t know that it can be more than that. He’ll be traveling in a few weeks, so he won’t even be in town half the time.” I drop my head and give Carmen the truth I don’t want to face with Ethan. “When his contract is up in a year, he’ll be off to some other city, in some other state, unless Minnesota renews. I’m scared if I let him back into my world, he’ll walk right out of it all over again.” I have a life here, people I care about, a job I love, and a plan for my future. I was willing to follow him anywhere once, but now there’s so much more to lose than just my heart.

“Or maybe he doesn’t get traded and he stays. It kind of seems like that’s what he’s planning for, doesn’t it?”

“Maybe.” My worry is what he’s planning for me. Us. I might not want to admit it, but as much as we’ve changed, the connection between us is still very much the same.


Two days later I find myself folding my hands around a travel coffee mug. “Come down to the water with me.” Ethan’s lips are at my ear, his voice soft.

While it’s phrased as a statement, it comes out more like a question.

Martin is sitting in his lounger watching TV, and Jeannie is on the couch folding laundry. Progress is slow with Martin, but every step forward is a positive.

Ever since the kiss and our conversation, Ethan has given me space and time to process. Both things I needed. “Okay.”

Ethan’s smile is nervous and pleasantly surprised. “We’re going down to the lake for a bit, Mom.”

Jeannie looks up from the towel in her lap and smiles. “You kids have fun.”

I follow Ethan down the path to the dock and we sit on the edge, dangling our feet in the cool water. Summer is fading quickly; the heat and humidity will disappear soon, replaced with fall’s frosty fingers.

“I put in an offer on the Hoffman estate today.” Ethan’s arm brushes my shoulder as he settles beside me on the end of the dock.

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