The Good Luck Charm Page 50

I want to take away his fear, but I can’t. “I didn’t plan this, not any of it, especially not the part where I fall in love with you again. I can’t take this on for you. I can’t be the reason you succeed or fail. You have to believe in you as much as I do.”

“You don’t want to do this,” Ethan says softly.

I run a finger down the bridge of his nose, wishing the action could calm us both. “Of course I don’t. But I need some time and space to focus on my own life, independent of you. It doesn’t do me any good to lose my own dream so you can have yours. It just sets us up for failure all over again.”

chapter nineteen




Breaks are the beginning of the end.

At least that’s what every single break I’ve ever initiated led to. So it makes sense that I’m panicking, because as much as the good luck charm comment wasn’t meant exactly how Lilah took it, I can understand why she did. And now that I’m being forced to reflect on my own actions, I see why she interpreted it that way.

I’ve spent the months we’ve been dating re-creating every single good memory as a reminder of what we used to have in an attempt to rebuild this relationship. And it worked. I love her. She loves me. This is the best season I’ve had since I was drafted. So I don’t want to accept her need for space.

“I need you.” The words are out before I can consider their potential damage and how they affirm exactly why she’s asking for space.

Her hand lifts and then falls to her side, fists clenching and releasing. “You don’t. At least not to play the way you have been. It’s not me, Ethan. I’m not the reason. I can’t be. I won’t take that on for you.”

I backpedal, trying to rephrase it in a way that’s less overwhelming for her. “I need you in my life.”

“This”—she motions between us—“it’s consuming. When I’m with you, nothing else matters. I can’t find balance, and that’s what I need right now. I need to find a way to have you in my life without losing myself again.”

“I want to fix this.” I’m worried about not sleeping beside her, not kissing her before a home game, not speaking to her before an away one. She’s right. I’ve built her into my pattern of pregame rituals, at home games and away ones. I’ve dominated her life and made her the center of mine. But not in a good way, if she wants this space.

She strokes my cheek, eyes shining with the promise of tears yet to fall. “I know you do. There aren’t any magic words, Ethan. I need time to focus on what’s important to me, outside of you. This can’t be like last time, where my whole world seemed like it ended when you went away, and then again when we broke up. I’m not that girl anymore, and I don’t want to be her again.”

“I loved that girl.” I run a finger down the bridge of her nose. “I love this woman even more.”

She smiles sadly and ducks her head. Two tears wet the cushion in front of her. I draw her to me, wrapping her in my arms. She doesn’t fight me, so I keep her close, dropping my face into the crook between her neck and her shoulder.

“I want to find a way to change your mind,” I murmur.

She laughs and then sniffles. “I know.”

“But I also understand doing that won’t make things better for you.”

She disengages from my embrace, swiping away her tears. “Not for either of us, Ethan.”

I curve my palm against her cheek, wiping away the ones that follow. This feels wrong. I don’t want to lose what we have. I don’t want to give her up for any length of time, but she’s resolved. I’m still selfish enough to take one more thing from her before I leave.

“Ethan.” Her trembling fingers wrap around my wrist.

“I’m just going to kiss you and then I’ll go, okay?”

The sound she makes is more whimper than word, but she doesn’t pull away as I slide my fingers into her hair, cup the back of her neck, and angle her head to the side. I stroke inside her mouth, memorizing the taste of her, afraid this is going to be the last time I ever get to do this. I need her more than she understands, but I can’t tell her that or I’ll make things worse.

I wrap an arm around her waist, pulling her tight up against me, and she comes willingly. Her moan is despondent, and her grip on my shoulders tightens as I deepen the kiss, my own fear channeling into this connection I’ve fought so hard to bring back and keep in my life.

But I realize she’s right. In a way, I believe I can’t succeed without her. I also know that if I push, she might relent, but it will come with a price. I can’t risk her putting all the walls back up that I’ve torn down, one brick at a time. So I slow the kiss, loosen my grip, and release her, even though it makes my chest feel like it’s splitting open.

“I should leave now?” I mean for it to be a statement, but it comes out a question instead.

Lilah nods, fingers at her lips, eyes still full of tears. It goes against every inclination I have to show myself out. But I do. Because I love her enough to give her whatever time she thinks she needs.


I’ve been sleeping like shit post–Lilah break. Days creep by in reverse. Time drags and life tastes plastic without her. Last night I drank too many beers so I could crash, which means I’m sloppy on the ice during practice. I’m trying to get my head out of my ass and gain control of the puck, but I’m all over the place, missing stupid shots. In my frustration, I take a turn too fast and roll my ankle, slam into the boards, and land on my ass.

“Shit. Fuck.” I lie there, staring up at the steel beams above me, hating life.

Josh comes to a stop beside me, ice spraying out beside him. He holds out a hand. “You all right, man? You’re off today.”

“Tell me about it.” I take the offered palm, testing my ankle as he pulls me up.

“Kase. Hit the bench,” Coach calls out.

“I’m fine.”

“Bench, Kase. Now.” He points to the empty space beside him.

Josh claps me on the back of the neck and knocks his helmet against mine. “You need to check your ankle out. We’re too close to the playoffs to lose one of our best players, yeah?”

I nod and skate over to the bench, testing the ache. It’s the same ankle I rolled a while back. I’m suddenly terrified I’ve fucked it up and that I’ll be out for the rest of the season and everything will be screwed. I’ll lose my whole season. All because Lilah broke up with me. Because I suffocated her. Because I forced her to need space.

I drop down on the bench, gritting my teeth against my frustration.

“Let’s have a look at the ankle.”

“It’s fine. I just rolled it.”

He arches a brow. I don’t say anything else. Instead I unlace my skate and let the team doctor do his job. “Looks fine, but I’m going to suggest cold and heat therapy tonight, and no more ice time today.”

“It’s really fine. I’m good to play.”

Coach’s lips flatten into a line. “I’d rather have you warming the bench during practice than on game day, so enjoy a few minutes of downtime. It looks like you need it today.”

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