The Good Luck Charm Page 48

“Oh! Does Ethan have any brothers?”

I laugh. “He has two. One is married with children.”

“And the other one?”

“He’s single.”

“Oh my God. That’s awesome news.”

“He’s also thirty-five.”

She flops back on the bed with a pout. “Bummer.”

“Total bummer,” I agree.


By the time my shift ends, my stomach is in knots and I feel like I’m going to vomit. I have an essay due tomorrow and chapters to read. I need to go home and find the energy to finish it, and not in a half-assed way.

I have messages on my phone from my sister and Ethan, and a voicemail from Jeannie. I check the voicemail first. The knot in my stomach tightens a little. Martin has been doing so well recently. I don’t want that progress interrupted, worried how it will affect Ethan and me. The concern is unwarranted, though, since it’s just an invitation for dinner.

Typically I go there on nights when I don’t have class or other engagements if Ethan is away—which means I’m there a couple of times a week. When Ethan’s home and not playing a game and we don’t have plans, he invites them for dinner. It’s been strategic on Ethan’s part, getting them used to his new house—giving his dad that extra beer so getting to the car and going home is too much of a chore, meaning he and Jeannie have to spend the night, which they’ve done a couple of times. Ethan had the pool house renovated so they can have their privacy and we have ours.

I call Jeannie back on my way to the car and tell her I’ll have to take a rain check.

“Ethan’s already here, dear. We’ll have a quick meal and you two can be on your way.”

“I would love to, but I have to work on an assignment due tomorrow. Can we try later in the week?”

“Certainly. Of course. Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine. Just a little preoccupied.” I slip into the driver’s seat.

“Okay, then. I can send Ethan home with something for you. Oh, he’d like to speak with you.”

“Sure.” I get that tight feeling in my throat. I brace myself. Saying no to Ethan has never been easy, and I recognize it won’t be any different this time around. In fact, it might even be harder.

“Hey, baby, you’re not coming for dinner. You not feeling well?”

“I have an assignment to finish tonight, and I’ve barely started it, so I need the time.”

“Dinner won’t take long. You can’t go without a meal.”

“I’ll grab something on the way home.”

There’s silence for a moment. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Two of the worst words in the history of speaking.

“You don’t sound fine.”

“I’m tired and stressed about getting this done.” I bang my head against the back of the seat. Why can’t I come out and say what I need to say? Maybe because I don’t know what exactly it is I need to say. Or maybe I do and I just don’t want to. I’m too much of a pushover for him. It has to stop.

“I’m sorry about last night. I should’ve gone home, but I was just so amped from the game. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

I grip the steering wheel as that sick feeling in my stomach grows. “I think it’s something we need to figure out, though. I can’t be up that late when I have to work the next day and not with this course winding down for the semester.”

“I’ll be better about that. I promise. Maybe I should skip dinner and come to your place? Then we can talk it out?”

It’s like he’s listening but not actually hearing me. “Don’t skip dinner, please. I need the time.”

“So I’ll come over after dinner, then? I can bring some for you so you don’t have to worry about picking something up.” I can almost feel his panic like static on the line.

I should take the night for myself. Focus on the assignment and getting sleep.

“Lilah? After dinner is good? I’ll bring you food.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose and fight with myself not to cave, but I do anyway. I need to set boundaries, and it needs to be tonight. Hopefully having a clock on my free time will help me be more efficient in finishing my assignment. “Come over around eight thirty—that should give me enough time to get this assignment finished.” I hope. I feel like I’m losing my grip on myself and my entire life.

“Sure. Okay. I can do that. Are you sure you’re all right? You sound … I don’t know.”

“I have a lot on my mind.”

“Because of the assignment, or is it something else?” The sharp edge of anxiety makes his voice thick.

“The assignment, work, the media stuff.”

“I should’ve warned you about the interview last night, but it wasn’t on my mind. Is it the PDA stuff? I hope you’re not upset about that. I wasn’t thinking. We can figure out how to deal with that, too, when I come over.”

“We’ll talk about it all later. I’ll see you at eight thirty, okay?”

“Yeah. Okay. Lilah?”


“I love you.”

“I love you, too, Ethan.” But loving him doesn’t mean I should bend for him every time he thinks he needs me.


Merk rushes to the door before there’s even a knock, his customary one-bark greeting signaling Ethan’s arrival. I check the clock. It’s barely past seven thirty. I’ve managed to finish all but one question on the assignment, but I’m still annoyed by his early arrival.

I stay where I am, seated at the kitchen table, books and papers arranged around my laptop.

Ethan comes around the corner, Merk on his heels, sniffing the bouquet of flowers in his right hand and then the bag in his left. He sets the bag beside my textbook. “That’s dinner for you.” Ethan wears a sheepish smile. “Sorry I’m early. I was antsy. I brought you flowers.”

He holds them out, so I take them. I know he’s trying to be sweet, but he’s got to understand flowers aren’t the answer to everything.

“I feel bad about keeping you up last night and about the media circus. Were you okay today?”

If I get into this now, I’ll never finish this fucking assignment. “I’m not ready to talk about that yet. I still have to complete this.” I gesture to the spread on the table.

He rubs the back of his neck, eyes shifting around the table, expression chagrined. “Do you have a lot left? Can I do anything to help?”

“You could not be a distraction—that would be helpful,” I snap and then sigh. “Could you take Merk for a walk?” Merk perks right up, tail wagging excitedly as he pushes his nose into my lap.

“Sure, I can do that,” he says slowly. “Are you still angry with me? For last night?”

I run my hands down my face. “I really need to finish this assignment, Ethan. We can talk when I’m done.”

“Right, okay.” He chews on the inside of his lip, not moving. “I really just wanted to sleep beside you, but then you were wearing those shorts and I was all jacked up from the win … ” He grins a little, which irks me even more. He thinks it’s funny. Cute even.

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