Home > The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3)(11)

The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3)(11)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

Everyone’s all wound up on the sidewalks and in the clubs, talking, chatting, smiling, groping the shit out of each other. While I’m throwing my empty cup away, I spot a few girls in ridiculously short dresses. One’s eyeballing me and I think: Now there’s the distraction I’ve been looking for. I shove any emotions out of me before approaching them. Micha used to do this shit with me all the time, which made it easier.

I pick the brunette in a red leather dress for no other reason than she seems more interested in me than the other two. I flirt and I smile at her and we walk up and down the strip together. She keeps running her fingers up and down my chest and batting her eyelashes.

“We should go back to your place,” she finally shouts over the noise as we reach the heart of the casinos.

I nod, but make sure to play by the rules: always let them know where I stand. “We can do that, but just so you know, I just want to fuck. I’m not looking for a relationship.” I’m blunt, but I have to be. The last thing I want is to be misleading and either hurt someone or have them cling on to me.

She grins up at me as she traces my bottom lip with her pinkie nail. “That’s all I want, too.”

About an hour later I’m screwing her in my apartment and there is no meaning behind it. She’s using me and I’m using her. We’re just two shells of people with body heat that have absolutely no substance to them at the moment other than what we’re searching for—peace and calm. I never find it, though. But that might be because I never allow myself to.

Somewhere I lose track of what she looks like and picture her with short black hair, like London, and the more it continues the more she starts to look like Lila. It’s completely messed up and defeats the purpose of hav**g s*x and trying to forget my problems. I don’t want to be thinking of Lila—I don’t want to be thinking of anything. I just want a clear head, and when it’s over I go back to being alone, following my rules so I don’t have to get close to anyone and move on. Let go. Accept the reality that London’s never coming back to me and that she isn’t because I chose to let her walk away.

Once we’re done f**king, she gets up and tells me thanks while getting dressed and thoughts of London drift away as exhaustion overtakes me, yet Lila remains in my head as I wonder what she’s doing right at this moment. I mutter a “you’re welcome” and then she leaves, without giving me her number. I roll over in my bed, feeling alone, yet quietly content on the inside, exactly how I want to be. I glance at the clock and realize it’s only nine o’clock, though. Fuck. What the hell am I supposed to do for the rest of the night?

Shaking my head, I turn over and take my journal out, doing the only thing I can do to pass the time and try not to think about London and the last time I saw her. I can never forget it, how I just walked away from her. I end up writing about the morning when I found out she was gone, even though I promised myself a long time ago to forget about it. But it can’t seem to forget me.

The phone rings. It’s like a song. A very annoying song that has a sullen tune and lyrics full of angst and remorse. I’m not even sure how I know it’s bad news. I just do, and when I answer the phone and hear the sob, I know she’s gone, but not in the way I expected.

She’s gone.

But she’s not.

She’s in between death and life. Lost. Maybe forever. Maybe not. Who knows? No one really seemed to know much, and in the end the real London was gone, her mind always dying, veering closer and closer to death, but right at the last second it fleetingly starts to thrive again before starting the whole process over. She was always half starved, famished, unhealed, yet healed at the same time. It never made sense. None of it did with her.

None of it ever does.

Chapter Three


I love shopping, probably way too much. Spending money and buying clothes, for whatever reason, fills the void inside my heart. My mom used to drag me along with her all the time while she shopped. She’d go on these outrageous spending sprees every time my father would upset her. Instead of confronting him, she’d buy stuff and then put it all on and make herself look pretty. I remember watching her put new dresses on, shoes, and jewelry, and then she’d stand in front of the mirror and admire herself with a smile on her face.

“Don’t I look pretty?” she’d ask me and I’d always nod because she always did look gorgeous and glamorous to me. She’d turn toward me and look me over, like I was a doll, sometimes even letting me try some of her stuff on. “One day, when you’re older, you’ll be as beautiful as me, Lila.”

“But what if I’m not?” I’d asked, because some of the older people around the neighborhood that I’d seen weren’t pretty like my mother. “What if I don’t turn out as pretty as you?”

She clipped on a pair of diamond earrings that shimmered in the light flowing from the chandelier. “You’ll have to make sure you do, Lila. No man wants an ugly woman.”

Even at the young age that I was, I can remember thinking how strange her response was, especially since my teacher was always telling us that beauty lay more on the inside than the outside. Still, something about her words stuck with me and, whenever I get a new outfit and put it on, it temporarily makes me feel beautiful. If only the feeling would just last. Then I could stop spending so much money and wouldn’t be going broke, nor would I have to take the pills. I’ll figure something out, though. One day.

“Seriously, Lila,” Ethan complains as he follows me through the mall. He’s been in a downer mood the last few times we’ve hung out, but today he’s extremely down because he hates shopping. “No more shopping. I can’t take it anymore.”

He’s got a loose pair of jeans on that are frayed at the bottom and there’s a hole in the hem of his green-and-black plaid shirt. He has an array of leather bands on his wrist, all of which look handmade. If only he’d try to dress nicely, then he’d be so sexy it’d be impossible for any girl to turn him down. Not like a lot do. “It’s not that bad,” I say, weaving around the shirt section in the men’s department. I’m on a shopping high, not to mention the fact that I popped three pills before I left. I feel euphorically happy at the moment, so happy in fact that I think my smile might be real. “We’ve been out for only, like, a few hours.”

He exaggeratedly widens his eyes as he turns his wrist toward himself to check the time on his watch. “We’ve been out for a few too many hours then.”

I rummage through the clearance rack because Ethan will never buy anything that’s not on sale. “I’m sorry, but I hate riding the bus and I needed to go shopping.”

He sighs, letting his hand drop to his side. He’s carrying my bags for me, which I’m secretly smiling about. He didn’t even say anything when I handed them to him, as if he’s gotten used to the fact that I’m going to ask him to help carry them. “Fine, but can you please hurry up? I have things to do.”

I slip a hanger off the rack and check the tag on the shirt. It’s a little high-priced for him, but I’m going to try anyway, because it’s this light shade of pale pink and I love, love the color. “What things?”

He shrugs. “Anything besides shopping.”

I hold the shirt up to him. “You should totally get this. It’ll bring out the color in your eyes.” I dazzle him with a sunny smile.

He sticks out his tongue and makes a gagging face. “The only time I would ever wear a shirt like this is if for some insane reason I wanted to get my ass kicked.”

“It’s not that bad,” I say, angling my head to the side as I position it higher on his chest.

“It’s pink.” His expression is neutral.

“A pretty pink,” I point out, grinning at him.

He just stares at me.

“Oh fine, whatever.” I roll my eyes, but smile as I put the shirt back where I found it and turn to face him. “I try to help, but you never let me. You could dress so much nicer.” I flick the hole in his shirt with my finger.

“I don’t need to dress nicer,” he says. “What I need is to get the hell out of here. I hate shopping, malls, crowded places where everyone is acting all money crazy. Besides,” he says and arches his eyebrows, “have you even paid your rent yet?”

“Yes,” I lie, frustrated with him for ruining my cheery mood created from the perfect balance of pills and new clothes. I hurry around him, though, hoping he won’t notice my abrupt sunken mood.

His fingers wrap around my arm and stop me from going any farther. “Lila.”

I roll my head back as I let out a frustrated sigh. “Oh, fine. I haven’t yet, but I will.”

“With what money?”

“Money that I have.”

He holds on to my arm, refusing to let go. “You’re being cryptic.”

That’s because I don’t have an answer. I crane my neck and look at him. “Look, I’m going to pay it. In fact, these clothes I’m buying are so I can go apply for jobs.” A huge lie, but I don’t want him hassling me when I’m actually feeling good inside.

He doesn’t look like he believes me, but he lets go of my arm. “Do me a favor, pay for the stuff you have and then come with me somewhere.”

I have a few shirts draped over my arm and a skirt. “Where?”

“Somewhere I want to go,” he says, leaning his elbow on the rack next to him. “I figure if I can spend the day shopping then you can spend some time doing what I want to do.”

“It’s not a strip club, is it?”

“Would it matter?” he asks curiously. “Would you go with me if I wanted to go to a strip club?”

I can feel my cheeks heat, which doesn’t happen that often. “I don’t know. Can’t I get herpes or something just from going in there?”

He snorts a laugh. “That depends on what you’re touching.”

My cheeks flame hotter, something only Ethan is capable of causing. “I won’t be touching anything.”

He eyes me over quizzically and then his eyes darken. “But you’d go with me, then?”

I bite on my lip. I’m not sure why, but the idea of going to a strip club with him seems naughty and kind of sexy. I can picture him getting turned on and the look on his face would be totally hot. Jesus. I’m getting hot just thinking about it. “I’m going to go pay for my clothes.” I hastily head for the cash register, dodging the subject.

His laughter hits my back and I have the urge to wind around and slap his arm or something. Honestly, what I have the urge to do to him should never be done in the middle of a store. It would be something that could happen only in the bedroom. His bedroom probably, since I’m going to end up getting evicted from mine.

Crap. What am I going to do? As the pressure of reality crashes on to my shoulders, I almost put the clothes back because I know I shouldn’t be buying them. But then I think about how good I’ll look in them and how, really, my looks are all I have. So I put the clothes on the counter, doing exactly what I was taught to do.

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