The Good Luck Charm Page 26

Lilah sinks down, smoothing the skirt of her dress.

“I felt … sad. Not because we’re not together anymore, but because I couldn’t love him the way I should’ve. He’s not a bad man. Sometimes he was difficult, but it makes sense now why. I can see things clearly where I couldn’t before.”

I nod, as if I understand, but I don’t. None of my relationships since Lilah have had any real depth, and the few that shifted from strictly casual into real-feelings territory never had the opportunity to grow into something substantial, because I’d moved to another team before they ever could.

Lilah is my relationship baggage and likely the reason why I’ve never gotten as far as she did with anyone else. “You said he was right. Can you tell me what about?”

Lilah blows out a slow breath. “That I never really got over you. That I didn’t move on and I didn’t let him in. That he couldn’t compete with the memory of you.”

“He said this to you in front of his new girlfriend?” That’s one way to end a new relationship fast.

Lilah shakes her head. “No. She went into the grocery store and he stayed to talk for a minute. He wasn’t trying to be mean or hurtful. He mentioned seeing pictures of us together in the local paper. He said he hoped I wouldn’t hold back with you the way I did with him.” She looks up at the ceiling, chin trembling as she fights against tears that want to fall.

I kneel in front of her and clasp her hands in mine. “Listen, baby, he’s probably just having a hard time—”

Lilah gives her head a quick shake. “He’s right. I am holding back, like I did with him. And if I’m honest with myself, I probably never should’ve married him in the first place.”

“Then why did you?”

“Because I thought maybe at some point I could love him back the way he seemed to love me. I wanted to be able to. I thought I tried, but now, looking back … I don’t know. I think I locked my heart away because I was scared to have it broken again, so instead I ended up breaking his.” Tears track down her cheeks and drop to her dress.

“Don’t do that to yourself, Lilah. You can’t own all the blame.”

She pulls her hands from mine to brush away the tears. “But I am to blame. I took what he gave and I never gave back the way he needed me to. I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to jeopardize this, not when you’re right here and wanting to try with me again.”

This is why I’ve been so patient with her. No matter how valid my reason for walking out of her life all those years ago, it doesn’t erase my absence or the pain I caused. I have to earn my place in her life and her heart. “I know you’re afraid. I understand why.”

“The season starts soon. You’ll be away a lot. This whole thing scares me.” She curves her palm along my jaw, and I see the shift in her, the sudden resolve. “But I won’t risk losing you again because I can’t handle my own feelings. I’m going to try my hardest not to safeguard my heart anymore. I know you’re being patient. I know it’s not easy.”

“You say it like you think I’m not tenacious enough to persevere.”

She gives me a real smile. “You’ve always been astoundingly tenacious.”

“I don’t know about that. But for you I’ll be whatever you need me to.” I run my finger from the bridge of her nose to the tip.

She closes her eyes, dragging in an unsteady breath. I give in to the desire to trace the contour of her perfect, pouty bottom lip.

When her eyes open again, the sadness has disappeared, replaced by uncertain longing. Her eyes drop to my mouth, lips parting as I repeat the action.

“Ethan.” It comes out on a breathless sigh. The shift from serious to needy is palpable. “I think you deserve some kind of merit badge for patience. A reward even.”

I tilt my head, returning the smile. “What kinda reward we talkin’ ’bout?”

As intense as the attraction is between us, there’s a playfulness there, too. I missed this about her—the sweet sexiness, the sometimes brazen way she’d taunt me. “The kind we’ll both like.”

I slide my palms along the outside of her thighs until my fingertips reach the hem of her dress. Lilah pulls me closer, until our noses brush. I savor this moment, the short seconds in which the anticipation becomes heady intoxication, where sensation is heightened, and need and desire envelop us.

The press of her fingernails against the back of my neck becomes a sharp sting as I skim the sensitive skin at the back of her knees. A shiver runs through her and she arches, lips barely touching mine. I part her knees, making room for myself between her thighs.

Lilah’s breath comes faster and she drags her palm from my shoulder to my elbow, encouraging me to move my hand higher. The whole time I’m working to process and memorize every single sensation, because this is what I’ve been waiting for.

When our lips meet again, it’s soft and unsure. I taste the faint vanilla of her lip balm and the sweetness of cinnamint toothpaste when her tongue sweeps out. I meet the gentle stroke, that warm, wet tangle tentatively at first. But that tender reconnection quickly unravels as the lightning bolt of lust hits us.

Lilah moans, the hum across my lips shooting straight through to the base of my spine to my cock. She hooks a leg around my hip, seeking to unite more than just our mouths.

Our chests meet, too many layers of fabric preventing the kind of contact both of us are looking for. Lilah tilts her head to the side, angling back, opening wider as I stroke inside her mouth, drowning in the taste of her, the feel of her body melding to mine. I run my hand up her thigh, fingertips grazing lacy fabric, sliding under to grip the swell of her ass and drag her forward so my erection can provide the friction we seek.

I know why she’s been holding back—because this is how we’ve always been together, this frantic desperation, need, and want that overpower, steamrolling logic and reality until it’s about being connected in the most primal, visceral way.

Lilah breaks the kiss long enough to pull my shirt over my head, and then her mouth is fused to mine again, nails raking down my chest, hips pushing hard into mine and dropping just as quickly so she can work my belt buckle free.

I groan into her mouth when she palms me through the fabric. I consider that it might be a good idea to relocate to a bed, but then she pops the button and drags the zipper down, slipping her hand inside.

I pull at the tie behind her neck, and the top of her dress falls to expose a strapless bra. Reaching behind her, I flick the clasp and free her breasts. I want to put my mouth everywhere, touch every part of her, savor her, but we’re both beyond desperate. Lilah shoves her panties over her hips and I sit back on my knees so I can help yank them off. And then I’m right where I want to be again, my erection sliding along soft, smooth skin, wet and hot and so achingly familiar.

“Condom?” I ask between kisses. I fumble for my wallet, stuck in the back pocket of my dress pants—which I’m still wearing.


I lean back enough so I can focus on her face. “You want me to go without?”

“Can you?” Those two words hold a million questions.

I haven’t gone in bare since Lilah. I’ve always been safe. Always taken care of myself and my partners in the years between then and now. “Yes.”

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