The Good Luck Charm Page 23

“Oh! That’s great! Why didn’t you say anything until now?”

“I haven’t told my parents yet. I want to see if the Hoffmans counteroffer first.”

“Do you think they will?”

“Dunno. I lowballed, so we’ll see if I offend them with my offer.” His dimple appears below his eye, maybe pleased at the idea that he could offend the Hoffmans. We went to school with the kids—they drove expensive cars and acted like they were better than everyone else.

Ethan settling in Forest Lake when he could be in Saint Paul, closer to his teammates, seems significant, but I’m aware his father’s health is a big part of this. It’s not about me. “How long until you find out?”

“They have forty-eight hours, so it’s a wait-and-see.”

“I bet you’ll be happy to have your own place again.”

“Yeah. All I wanted as a kid was to have that basement to myself, and now that I do, I can’t wait to get out of it.”

“Funny how the things we want change, isn’t it?”

“Not everything, though.”

I’m not sure I’m quite ready to dive into what happened in the panic room yet, so I shift away from that topic. “How was practice today?”

“Good. Great even. The routine is kind of a relief, you know? It gives me a place to put my energy that isn’t my dad or finding a house. The team has been really welcoming and it helps that I played with Josh Cooper when I was in LA. And this is familiar.” He motions to the water and then me. “So that makes it easier, too.”

I focus on the coffee cup clutched in my hands. Our unfinished conversation from two days ago hangs heavy between us. Once this door opens, I can’t close it, and I’m not even sure I want to anymore, which is terrifying.

“I’m sorry about the other day. I shouldn’t have pushed you like that, especially not under the circumstances,” he says softly.

“I get why you did.”

“It doesn’t make it okay. I just … want your forgiveness, even if I’m not sure I deserve it.”

I make circles in the water with my toe, watching it ripple out. The water breaks against Ethan’s ankle. “I shouldn’t be holding something over your head that happened eight years ago. We’ve both had a life since then. It’s unfair to keep harboring this anger. Like you said, we were kids.”

“Don’t diminish what I did to you, Lilah. It wasn’t fair. The way I managed the end of us was shitty. You can be angry about that. You should be.”

I set my cup beside me on the dock. “For a long time I was, but holding on to that anger doesn’t do either of us any good.”

His expression turns imploring and hopeful. “You have every right to guard your heart against me. I’ve earned your mistrust, and I’m under no illusion that my apologizing or explaining absolves me of the pain I’ve caused us both.”

“But?” I prompt when his two deep breaths are followed by silence.

He trails his fingers down my cheek. It’s like a blanket in winter, catching static. “Do you feel this the way I do anymore? Still? It seemed like maybe you did when I kissed you.”

“Ethan—” Emotionally, I don’t know if I’m prepared to cross this line again, but physically, my body responds to his touch, warming me from the inside.

“What we had, I think it’s rare. I didn’t understand it back then. I wish I had—maybe it would’ve changed things. I don’t know … ” He trails off, fingertips tracing the contour of my bottom lip. “I know so much has changed and that it won’t ever be the same as it was, but maybe we could try—maybe you could let me try.”

I watch the bob of his throat, the way his tongue sweeps across his lip, and he cups my cheek in his palm. Anticipation makes my breathing shallow as he leans in and I mirror the movement to meet him. My heart might want to fight, but the rest of me wants to give in.

His warm breath washes over my lips, and he stills as the end of his nose brushes against mine. “Can I kiss you?” The words barely carry.

I tip my chin up in response, and then his mouth is on mine, softly, sweetly—at least at first. I taste penance in his gentleness. I feel his regret in the tender way his palm curves along my jaw, and I sense his need for forgiveness in the tentative stroke of his tongue.

As I absorb all of his emotions, I let them tangle and swirl with my own, until need and desire overthrow years of unmanaged anguish. Ethan’s hand skims my side, grazing the swell of my breast before dropping lower to rest on my hip. It’s been years since I’ve felt this kind of rush, the heat of desire detonating, sending a backdraft of want crashing into me.

Ethan must sense it, feel it in the same way I do, because we’re suddenly both scrambling and frenzied. He drags me into his lap, positioning my legs on either side of his hips, hands roaming, skimming the spot on my ribs that always makes me jerk and giggle.

He bites my lip through a smile that fades as soon as I settle over his straining erection. We both groan and he cups my ass, pulling me tight against him. Fire rockets through my veins as I roll my hips, lust quickly spiraling out of control.

The sound of a porch door slamming reminds me that despite dusk having crept in, we’re not alone.

“Ethan, you have a call from Josh.”

I cringe and attempt to scramble out of his lap while he grips my hips to keep me where I am.

“Your mom can see us,” I hiss.

“It’s almost dark. We’re just a blob,” he replies, then calls out, “Can you tell him I’ll call him back?”

“He’ll be right up to take it!” I shout after him. It’s better we stop before it gets out of hand. I don’t know that I’ll have the willpower to say no to him, not when the draw between us is so consuming.

“Okay. I’ll tell him you’ll just be a minute, then?” Jeannie calls back. I can hear the smile in her voice.

“No!” Ethan yells at the same time I say, “Yes.”

“I’ll tell him you’ll call back,” she says with a chuckle. The porch door slams again.

When I try to use his shoulders to push to a stand, Ethan slides his hands under my skirt, fingers dragging over bare skin. “Stay right here with me, Lilah.”

“Isn’t Josh your team captain? Don’t you need to call him back?”

“What I need is to kiss you again.”

“What you need to do is tell me what exactly is happening here.”

“Well, we were making out until we were cockblocked by Josh.”

I’m not sure if he can see my arched brow in the waning sunlight. He slips his hands out from under my dress and cups my face in his palms, caressing my cheeks. His touch is all sweetness, sending a shiver down my spine. “Spend some time with me.”


He nods. “I have a hard time believing I’ve been brought home and all of this”—he gestures to the house—“my dad’s stroke, your divorce, my trade, doesn’t mean something. I don’t expect this to be what it was before, but if you can give me some time to get to know you, then maybe we can be something again.” He looks so hopeful.

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