I follow Ethan down the path to the dock and we sit on the edge, dangling our feet in the cool water. Summer is fading quickly; the heat and humidity will disappear soon, replaced with fall’s frosty fingers.
“I put in an offer on the Hoffman estate today.” Ethan’s arm brushes my shoulder as he settles beside me on the end of the dock.
“Oh! That’s great! 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 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.”
“For a long time I was, but holding on to that anger doesn’t do either of us any good.”
He licks his lips, imploring and hopeful. “You have every right to guard your heart against me. 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.
About Helena Hunting: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting lives outside of Toronto with her amazing family and her two awesome cats, who think the best place to sleep is her keyboard. She writes all things romance – contemporary, romantic comedy, sports and angsty new adult. For more on Helena and her books, visit HelenaHunting.com.
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