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

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

“No, don’t go.” She sighs. “It’s just that…” She scratches her head and then picks at her face. “I don’t know why you’re here, especially since Mom made it pretty clear that the family was going to disown me.”

“I would never disown you,” I tell her, remembering how we once used to have a good relationship, before boarding school came along and then her drug addiction. “I just… it’s just that… Dad’s sending me off to boarding school,” I blurt out. “The same one that you went to.”

She stays quiet for quite a while, staring at the lightbulb on the coffee table. “Why? What happened?”

I pull a guilty face. “I got caught ditching school.”

She shakes her head and hatred flashes across her face. “Dad is such a f**king a**hole. It’s like you can never screw up. Not once, even if it’s something small. And if you do… if you do, then you no longer exist to him.”

I don’t disagree with her. In fact, I’ve felt pretty nonexistent for most of my life. “What should I do?”

She shrugs. “There’s not much you can do… not until you’re eighteen and can get the f**k away from our parents.”

I slouch in the sofa, staring at the colorful poster on the wall that has a picture of a guitar on it. “How bad is it?”

She picks up a lighter from the coffee table and reaches for the lightbulb. “How bad is what?”

“Boarding school?” I ask, watching her with curiosity. What is she doing? Who is this person sitting beside me? I barely even recognize her.

She puts the lightbulb up to her mouth. “Not any worse than being at home.” She flicks the lighter and starts moving the flame along the glass. I have no idea what she’s doing, but it feels like I should look away. So I do.

“So I can handle it?” I stare at the dark hallway that leads to a door covered with strings of beads. “I mean, going there. It won’t be that bad, right?”

She snorts a laugh and then it’s echoed by a cough. “That all depends on how great you think our home life is.”

“It not that bad,” I say, but the lie is thick in my throat.

She snorts another laugh. “Oh, Lila, don’t kid yourself. Our home life is a bunch of shit based on lies for the public eye. To everyone, we seem like the perfect family, but on the inside—behind closed doors—we live in a hollow shell of a home. No hugs. No kisses. No affection. An unemotional zombie mother who’s obsessed with her beauty and money. An absent father who hates us and prides himself on telling us that all the time, letting us know how much we annoy him just because we exist.” She coughs again, louder, until she hacks something up and then spits it out onto the floor. “It’s like he wants us to be as miserable as his father made him.”

I finally glance back at her and she’s setting the lightbulb down on the table and I notice the air is a little musty. “What is that?” I ask, pointing at it.

“Let’s hope you never find out. Let’s keep hoping you live some kind of rainbows and sunshine life instead of this.”

“But I thought you said things were better out here. That you felt freer.”

“I do feel freer.” She yawns, her eyelids growing heavy. “But I don’t want this version of free for you.”

“But if you don’t like it then why do you do it?”

“Because it makes me happy and all the dark things in the world not so dark.” She drops the lighter on the table, considers something, and then draws her knee onto the couch as she turns to face me. “You want some sisterly advice?”

“Umm…” I glance around at the apartment that I’m fairly certain is littered with drug paraphernalia. “I guess.”

“Live your life, Lila, the way that you want to, not how Dad wants you to or anyone else.” She reaches for the lighter on the table again, her eyelids growing heavier and she begins to ramble, looking dazed and barely coherent. “And if you end up at the boarding school keep clear of the trouble-making guys, the rough-looking, wild, and dangerous ones. They can make you feel really alive and loved and like life can actually mean something. But all they f**king do is use you. And they’ll only bring you down with them. They don’t really love you, Lila. They don’t. Love doesn’t even exist, despite how much you want it to.”

I wonder why she’s telling me this. “Um… okay.”

She never explains further and that is the end of our conversation. She gets up and starts cleaning the house like a robot dosed up on sugar and caffeine. I sit there and watch her, wondering how she got to this point in her life, so ugly and broken—so messed up. Was it because of a guy? One she loved? Is that why she said that thing about love?

A week later I go off to boarding school with her words of wisdom a shadow in my mind, there but barely. The problem is she forgot to warn me about the guys who seem perfect on the outside, the ones who are charming, seemingly unflawed, and make you feel loved for the very first time. She forgot to tell me about the illusion of love and the darkness that comes with it. That eventually when the illusion is gone, the walls close in on you, crush you, and all you’re left with is feeling more unloved and worthless than you did before.


I’m sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by garbage, alcohol bottles, and cigarette butts in probably the shittiest house in the neighborhood, which is saying a lot because there are a lot of shitty houses in this town. It’s dark outside and the guy who owns the place decided to go 1960s hippy style and decorate his entire house with lava lamps. He’s also got a black light so the house has this haunting glow and everyone’s teeth look stupidly white.

A year ago I was an average guy, going to school, and getting decent grades. Now I’m an almost seventeen-year-old high school drop out who’s sitting in some druggies’ house, unsure how the hell I got here. It feels like I’m abruptly plummeting off a cliff, hanging out with a bunch of people who I barely recognize and who don’t seem to care about anything but getting high and talking about how hard their lives are.

At first the fall was kind of fun and easy, especially turning off my thoughts, because they drive me f**king nuts. But then things descended toward rock bottom and I can feel myself about to splatter against them. I don’t want to be in this deep. Not just because I hate needles. I mean I can stand them to an extent, as long as they’re going in someone else’s body, not mine. This should be enough to keep me out of situations like these, yet here I am watching some guy shoot up right in front of me, for no other reason than I’m kind of curious and can’t seem to find a good enough reason to get up and leave. Plus, there’s London, my one weakness in this world, despite how much I want to deny it. London is the one person who I’ll make dumb choices for, even when I know they’re dumb choices. She’s the reason I broke my no-girlfriend rule.

The owner of the house flicks the needle with his fingers and then aims the tip at his forearm. He opens and closes his hand a few times, pumping his fist, then makes a final fist before he plunges the needle into his forearm, sliding it under his skin, deep into his vein. I wince as his muscles tighten, and then he pulls it out and drops the needle onto the table in front of him next to a spoon. He flops back in the kitchen chair and lets out a moan that seriously creeps me out.

“And that’s how you get high, f**kers,” he says, as his eyes roll into the back of his head. “This seriously feels…” He drifts off, his head flopping to the side.

I’m trying to figure out why I’m still here. I know why I came here. Because of London. I first met her almost a year ago. She’d been really drunk at this party I was at and needed a ride home. Somehow that ended up becoming my job. At first I was pissed and made a point to be an ass the entire drive home. But then she started crying to the point where I thought she was going to pass out, so I pulled the truck over and she immediately took off into the field to the side of us.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I’d muttered, shoving the truck into park. I’ve never done well with crying and for a moment I considered just letting London run and get lost in the dark. After seriously contemplating how big of a douche I was being, I couldn’t just leave her there. Cursing under my breath, I got out of the truck, chased her down, and found her crying in the middle of the field.

“Look, I don’t know what the problem is, but I really need to get you home,” I said, stopping in front of her, working to keep my cool. It was getting late, the sky already gray and I wanted to have time to go back to the party. “So could you please do me a favor and get in the truck?”

She shook her head, hugging her knees closer to her. “Just leave me here.”

“Oh, trust me, I’m seriously considering it.”

“Good.” She buried her face against her knees. “I don’t want to…” She trailed off, wiping her eyes.

I stood there in the middle of the dry grass, trying to figure out what the hell to do—if I should ask questions or keep my mouth shut. I was about to leave her when she started to sob, like these gasping, hyperventilating sobs. I suddenly had a flashback to when I was around eight and my dad went through this phase where he would beat the shit out of me every time he was coming down from his pain medications and I used to curl up in a ball and sob. It really wasn’t a big deal or anything and it only lasted, like, a year, but still, it sucked at the time.

Even though I had no idea why London was crying, I felt a little sympathy for her because there was obviously something going on. “Look, are you okay?” I crouched down in front of her. “Do you want me to take you somewhere else besides home?”

Her tears silenced and when she peeked up at me, she had a cynical look on her face, which surprised the shit out of me. “Like where? Your place? So you can f**k me?”

“No.” I stood up and took a step back because the girl was seriously intense. “I was just trying to help. That’s all. But if you’re going to be a bitch about it then I’ll let you sit here and cry.”

Her eyes stayed on me as she rose to her feet and her sadness gradually shifted to inquisitiveness as her gaze strayed up and down my body. “You’re an a**hole.”

“Thanks,” I muttered, not giving a shit. It wasn’t the first time I’d been called this. In fact, I’d been called a lot worse.

“If you really want to help me,” she said, grabbing ahold of my hand, “then stop talking.”

Before I could respond, she dragged me back to my truck on the side of the road. I thought she was going to pour her heart and soul out to me or something, but instead we climbed into the truck and she took a joint out of her bra. We smoked it and when we were done, she asked me if I wanted to f**k her. As much as I loved sex, there was something about her—sadness in here eyes maybe—that made me hesitate for the first time since I’d started hav**g s*x. Sure, London had a rebellious, skanky kind of look to her, in her tight leather skirt and cl**vage-baring top, but she also looked like she was hurting inside. It felt like she was searching for a way to get rid of the sadness and at the moment it seemed to be sex.

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