The Good Luck Charm Page 33

The damage is long done, though. An apology can’t give me back what he took from me. From Lilah. I drop my bag on the porch and walk across the grass, gaining speed as I go, desperate for an escape from what’s in my head now.

I take the dock at a run, pushing off the edge, arcing in a dive. The cold water is a welcome shock as I go under. I stroke hard and kick fast, propelling myself forward, breaking the surface only when my lungs are screaming for air. I keep pushing, swimming out, creating distance between me and the words that feel like a knife still buried in my chest.

We could’ve been building a future together. Instead, we have years of separation from a history so thick with emotion, so full of love, it’s almost painful to have it back after being without it for so long. And even though my career seems to be on an upswing, I have no idea if I’ll be able to carry this through the season. And if I don’t, what then?

I don’t know when the hourglass on my career is going to run out, but I know I don’t want this to be the end. And if this contract isn’t renewed, what the hell am I going to do? What if I have to move to another city, or worse, back to a farm team—what then? Am I going to up and leave her again? Uproot her life and take her with me? What if she doesn’t want that? We’re still so new again, and I don’t feel like I have the right yet to ask her these questions, to put that kind of pressure on her when she’s just started on a new path for her own life.

When my muscles are aching and my legs feel like rubber, I stop and roll onto my back, staring up at the darkening blue sky. The sun is cresting low on the horizon, and with the fading light, the cold settles beneath my skin, seeping into my bones.

I flip over on my stomach and orient myself, catching Lilah’s silhouette standing on the dock in the distance. I raise a hand to show her I’m okay, and she mirrors the movement, dropping down on the edge of the dock. It takes me a while to get back to her, my adrenaline having waned.

She makes small circles in the water with her feet, the ripples colliding with mine on my approach. “You okay?”

“I don’t like this version of him. I don’t want this to be the one who stays.” It’s not an answer to her question, but it’s an answer all the same.

Lilah sighs. “He’s frustrated. He doesn’t have control. His filter is missing, so he words things in ways that aren’t kind.”

“He’s a mean fucking bastard without it.” I tread water looking up at the sky as pink threads through the clouds. A shiver runs through me, my skin pebbling as the air cools with the loss of the sun.

“You have a right to be angry about what he said, Ethan, but it’s not how he meant it. He’s just worried, about himself, about you, about us.” She pats the dock. “I can go get you a towel. Come on out and sit with me so we can talk.”

I swim to the end of the dock and grab the edge, resting my forehead against her shin. The skin-to-skin contact feels good. I’ve missed her in the short time I was away. It reminded me a lot of when I first left for college, that dull ache in my chest that never seemed to go away, aware it would be weeks before I could touch her again. At least it’s only days now.

“I never listened to him, and the only time I did I made the biggest mistake of my life,” I say to her knees.

She traces the shell of my ear. “You did what you thought was best, Ethan.”

“I did what he told me would be best. I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want to be selfish with you anymore. I thought it was the right thing, and now I find out that all this time we lost could’ve been avoided if I’d just done what I usually do and ignored him.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I think he’s just as angry at himself over it as you are.” Gentle fingers thread through my hair, pushing it back. She keeps doing it, over and over. The sensation is calming, warming.

“I damn well fucking doubt it.” I slide my free hand up the back of her calf and she stills. “Are you okay?” I can’t be the only one shocked by this.

“Yes. I think so. I’m just sad.”

“Why sad?” I lift my head and fit myself between her legs, wrapping my palms around her calves and pulling myself up so I can rest a cheek on her knee. God, I need her in ways I’m not sure she understands.

She regards me with soft affection. I’ve missed being this close to someone, having this kind of effortless connection to another human being. “Because you’re both so intent on either holding or placing blame. Yes, it was a lot of time to lose, but we’re here now, aren’t we?”

“I don’t think I can forgive so easily.”

“I can do that for both of us until you’re ready.” She runs her fingers through my hair again.

“Don’t stop, please.” A wave of goose bumps covers my body.

“You’re cold.”

“It’s warm in the water.” I hoist myself up higher so there’s more contact, wetting her skirt, turning it transparent, making it stick to her skin. She doesn’t stop me when I slide my wet hands under the hem. Instead, she traces the edge of my jaw before returning to my hair.

“I used to love when you did this,” I murmur. “I still do.”

“I know.” This time she runs her nails over my scalp and I shudder. “Why don’t you get out of the water? I’m sure Jeannie will be home soon. You can grab a quick shower and we can go back to my place. Spend some quality time together.”

Instead of using the ladder, I pull myself up into the space between her legs. Lilah leans back on her elbows with a laugh. I lean in and kiss the end of her nose. “Hi.”

“You do realize you’re getting me all wet, right?”

“I love it when you’re wet.”

She snorts and rolls her eyes.

“I’m glad I’m home.” This time I kiss her warm mouth.

“Me, too,” she says against my lips.

“Remember when we used to do this all the time?” She shivers as I kiss along her throat. “Late-night swims. You on the ladder, me between your legs.”

“I remember how many times we almost got caught.”

“That was part of the fun, wasn’t it?” She whimpers when I stretch out on top of her on the dock, my hard-on pressed against her through layers of wet fabric.

“Ethan.” It’s a warning, but she hooks a knee around the back of my leg and arches under me.

“I missed you.” I kiss her again, stroking inside her mouth as I roll my hips.

“I missed us.” A violent shiver rips through her as a cool breeze blows up from the lake, and I realize this probably isn’t the greatest idea.

“Come on—let’s get you out of these wet clothes.” I jump to my feet and extend a hand, pulling her up. We rush back to the house, teeth chattering as the sun sinks below the tree line.

My dad has his tablet with the external keyboard in his lap, brow pulled low as he types with one finger, apparently concentrating so hard he doesn’t notice us until the screen door swings closed with a slam.

He looks from me to Lilah, the front of her outfit soaked, thanks to me. She hugs herself as her teeth clack against each other. His brows pop up. “Happened?”

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