Home > The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3)(7)

The Temptation of Lila and Ethan (The Secret #3)(7)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

“You’re not bad at all.” She attempts to smooth her hair down with her hand, but it only makes it stick up more. “You just pretend like you are. But deep down, you’re a really nice guy who likes to write in a journal.”

“Hey, I told you that in confidence.” I scowl at her as we make our way up the steps to her second-story apartment. “You were never supposed to utter that aloud.”

She pats her pockets for the keys. “Well, then you never should have told me because I kind of have a big mouth.” Her arms fall to her sides and her eyes scan around her feet and then down the steps behind her. “Crap, I think I lost my keys.”

“Okay… so go ask your landlord to unlock it for you. It’s not that complicated,” I say, shaking my head at her.

“I can’t ask him.”

“Why not?” I lean on the railing, squinting against the sunlight as I assess her.

She lowers her chin, allowing her hair to fall in her face, like she doesn’t want me to see her expression. “Because… if I do… then he’ll ask me for rent.”

“Why?” I ask. “Are you behind on it or something?”

She peers up at me through her eyelashes. “I may or may not have paid the last couple of months,” she discloses, her forehead furrowing.

“Why? You’re not broke.” I hate to say it, but it’s kind of obvious by the fancy clothes she’s always wearing. Hell, she’s got a platinum ring on her finger, for God’s sake.

“But I am,” she insists, crossing her arms over her chest. “My dad canceled all my credit cards a while ago and I have only, like, eight hundred bucks left.”

“Then pay your rent with it.” I gape at her. “Or pawn that ring on your finger.”

Shaking her head, she covers the ring on her hand, looking almost panicked. “No way. This was a gift from someone I used to know.”

“So you’d rather live on the streets than get rid of your gift?” I c*ck my eyebrow at her. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” she says simply, her arms falling to her sides.

I tighten my jaw, growing frustrated. “God damn it. You do this all the time, you know that. You need to start being more responsible…” My eyes widen. Holy f**king Jesus, I sound just like my father. Shit. He’s always lecturing my mom about her flaws. This is the reason why I don’t let myself get into relationships and I’m not in one with Lila, so why am I acting like this?

She laughs scathingly and jabs her finger against my chest. “Oh, and like you are. You get drunk and sleep around and work in construction.”

“Hey, I never claim to be responsible.” I lean in, lowering my voice, trying to shake off the feeling that I’m acting just like my dad. No, this is different. You’re trying to help her, not control her. “But I do work and pay my rent.”

She huffs, stomping her foot and crossing her arms. It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed her temper tantrums when I don’t give in to her, but it still gets on my nerves as bad as the first time I saw her do it. “Ethan, will you please just help me out?”

“How the f**k am I supposed to help you out?” I ask. “Pay your rent so you can get let in? Because I’m not doing that.” But a voice inside my head laughs at me, telling me I’m full of shit. That I would pay it for her if she asks, that I’d do anything for her if she flat out asked me to.

She sticks out her bottom lip and makes me soften just a little. “You can pick the lock,” she suggests, and when I start to frown, she grips the bottom of my shirt and clutches on to it. “Please, please, please. I’ll owe you big time.”

“You already owe me big time, for being a pain in the ass and calling me all the time to come pick you up from random guys’ houses,” I tell her, dragging my hand across my face. “And I don’t want you to owe me. I just want you to get a job or something so you won’t get kicked out of your apartment.”

“Okay, I’ll work on getting some cash.” She bats her damn eyelashes at me intentionally—I can tell because there’s a smirk forming at her lips.

Sighing, I stick out my hand. “Give me one of those pins in your hair.”

She releases my shirt, plucks a pin out of her hair, and hands it to me. Grunting and pretending I’m more annoyed than I really am, I bend down in front of the door and quickly pick the lock. When I shove the door open, she jumps up and down, clapping her hands.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” She throws her arms around my neck and embraces me tightly.

“Don’t thank me,” I tell her, uneasy and kind of turned on, something I always feel whenever she hugs me. Lila is off limits. She’s a friend. Just a friend. It’ll never work out. Relationships never work out. Look at the one that you had. “Just pay your damn rent and quit losing your keys.”

“Yes, boss.” She rushes into the house eagerly, leaving the door open behind her, and hurries toward the hallway. “I’m going to take a quick shower.”

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” I ask, standing in the entryway of her two-bedroom apartment, which is much nicer than mine: painted walls, a crack-free floor, and the carpet isn’t loose. “Sit around here and wait for you? Is that what you want me to do?”

“Don’t pretend like you’re totally not enjoying the idea.” She pauses at the corner of the hall and grins. “Besides, you could just come join me.”

I roll my eyes, suppressing a smile. “I’ve already told you a thousand times that you can’t handle me, baby.” I bite down on my tongue on the baby slipup. I don’t use endearing terms with women. Ever. My dad used to use them on my mom when he was trying to kiss up to her after he beat her and she’d always let him butter her up. It made me hate affectionate terms and affection in general.

She turns around and puts her hands on her hips, arching her eyebrows. “And vice versa.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it,” I say, because I picture Lila as being extremely bossy and orderly in bed and I like women who get caught up in the moment, who love to do things without thinking about them first and who can completely and utterly let go of everything going on in the world. Who don’t care if they have money or material things. I like women who are like London. The problem is, she seems to be the only one of her kind and she no longer exists.

Lila laughs and I roll my eyes again, feigning annoyance. Then I chuckle when she sticks out her tongue and I have to bite on my own because the movement draws all my attention to her mouth. Despite the no-touching rule I made, I still can’t help but picture the many things I’d like her to do with her mouth that would require a lot of touching.

Once she vanishes down the hall, I get comfortable on the sofa and start channel surfing, but I can find only three channels and I wonder if she hasn’t paid her satellite bill either.

“Damn it, Lila,” I mutter and then take my phone out of my pocket. I think about just calling Micha and asking him to ask Ella, Lila’s best friend, to call Lila because she’s obviously gotten in over her head, but then it just seems weird and makes me seem like I’m scared of Ella, so I call her myself.

She answers after two rings and I can tell from her tone of voice that she’s trying to figure out why I’m calling her. “Ethan?” she asks warily. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” I say. “Or maybe… I don’t know… it all kind of depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“On whether you’ve talked to Lila lately or not.”

“I haven’t heard from her in, like, a week,” she says. “I texted her the other day, asking her how she was, and she said she was fine.”

“Well, I think she was lying to you.” I slump back in the sofa and something pokes me in the back. “Maybe you should call her.” I reach around behind my back and pull out an empty prescription bottle. The label’s ripped off so I can’t tell what it was for. I wouldn’t think anything of it, but I used to keep my drugs in something similar and it gets me wondering. No, there’s no way Lila would be doing drugs. She’s way too f**king preppy. I twist off the cap, glance inside, and then take a sniff. It doesn’t smell like anything I’m familiar with. Shaking my head, I put the lid on and toss it onto the table in front of me.

“I’ve actually really needed to call her,” Ella replies. “Because I’ve been meaning to tell her… something…”

“You’re being weird,” I point out, kicking my feet up on the table.

“Yeah, I know,” she admits. “But I’m being like that for a reason.”

“Well, if you have a reason then I guess we’re okay,” I joke sarcastically with a heavy sigh. Ella and I have always had this issue with each other, due to the fact that it always felt like she was interfering in Micha’s and my friendship. We’re not as bad as we used to be, but our clashing personalities will always sort of hinder us from being good friends. “Look, can you just call her and talk to her?”

“Is she there now?”

“Yeah, but she’s in the shower.”

“And where are you?” There’s insinuation in her tone.

“Sitting on the couch.” I click the television off with the remote. “Where else would I be?”

“I don’t know.” She pauses and I know whatever she’s about to say is going to irritate me. “In the shower with her or watching her take one.”

“Well, I’m not,” I say dryly, more offended than I probably should be. “Look, just call her, okay? I’m going to go.”

“Fine,” she mutters. “God, you’re in a bad mood.”

I’m not sure who hangs up first, but we probably do it at the same time. I’m about to put my phone away when I get a text. I’m guessing it’s Micha, because I figure Ella went and told him that I was being a jerk, but I’m surprised to find that it’s from London’s mom, Rae. I haven’t talked to her in more than seven or eight months, around the time I decided to give a go at living my lonely wanderer dream, living my life to the fullest, mainly because Rae had called me and reminded me of everything that happened, the stuff I’ve tried to forget—the life I tried to forget, yet I always feel imprisoned by it. But when I hit the road, there was the whole Micha and Ella drama. Micha was boozing it up, going completely f**king crazy because he thought Ella cheated on him. I remember when I got the call from Lila telling me what was up.

“You need to go to New York, now,” she’d said.

“Um, no thanks,” I’d replied. “I’m trying to escape people, not go to a city packed with way too many of them.”

“I don’t care what you want,” she said, sound like a spoiled brat, which she did a lot. Then she proceeded to tell me how Ella had told her, after multiple shots, that she’d only told Micha she’d cheated on him because she thought it was the only way he’d let her go. That he was too good for her and her insanity and deserved someone better.

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