Home > Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always(11)

Lila and Ethan: Forever and Always(11)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

I stay quiet as he positions the drawing on my finger until he gets it in the right place. Ethan holds my hand the entire time, while staring down at his free hand. The skin around the tattoo is a little red, but other than that it looks perfect.

He’s perfect.

He’s the only person who’s every fully understood me. The only person I’ve ever trusted. The only person who saw who I really am and the potential of what I could become. He loved me in a way that I thought wasn’t possible and that’s what I keep telling myself over and over again as the tattoo artist presses the tip of the needle to my finger.

I’ve gone through a lot over the last eight months or so. I’ve changed for the better. I’ve had a lot of moving, life-changing moments. But this one is different. This one is epic. I can feel it through the blissful pain that makes me hyperaware of what I’m doing. And when I’m finished, I feel genuinely happy even though my finger aches.

“So?” Ethan says as I get up from the chair. He watches me, like he’s waiting for me to say I regret it.

I stare down at my ring finger with a big grin on my face. I’ve always pictured myself with a huge diamond on my ring finger, a carat at least, but now… well, this feels so much better. So much more personal and intimate. Nothing could mark our relationship better than this.

I glance up at him, looking him straight in the eye. “I think it’s perfect.”

He smiles back at me and then slips his fingers through mine. It makes the area of the tattoo sting a little, but there’s no way I’m going to pull back. We pay for the tattoos and walk hand in hand outside to his truck.

“You ready to start our journey back home?” he asks, opening the truck door for me.

I nod as I climb in. “I’m ready for anything.”

There’s a sparkle in his eyes as he leans in, pausing when our lips are only inches apart. “Me too.”

He kisses me passionately before pulling away, blinking his eyes with a dazed look on his face. “We’ll have to go on one of these trips every year,” he says as he starts to shut the door. “Just you and me and the road. Living in a tent and eating camp food again. Taking baths in the pond.” He grins. “Having sex on the shore of a lake, hiding under a blanket.”

I smile, feeling happier than I’ve ever been because I know Ethan will be in my future and that’s all I ever wanted, and as long as I have him, nothing else matters. “Sounds perfect.”

About the Author

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Jessica Sorensen, lives with her husband and three kids. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading and hanging out with her family.

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Please see the next page for a preview of The Temptation of Lila and Ethan.

Chapter 1

Present day…


I’m having a where-the-hell-am-I moment. My arms are flailing, my pulse fitfully racing as I struggle to get my bearings. I open my eyes, but I can’t place a single thing about the room I’m in other than I’m nak*d in a bed, sweaty, and super gross. My head feels like it’s stuck in a fishbowl as I try to recollect where I left my pills, but I can’t even remember where I am. There are photos on the walls, none of anyone I recognize, though. The closet is open and it looks like there’s some kind of football uniform in there. Did I sleep with a football player? No, that doesn’t sound familiar. My gaze slides to the opened condom wrapper on the nightstand and I feel relief wash through me. I’m on birth control and everything, but that only protects from pregnancy. God, I really need to stop doing this.

I’ve become accustomed to these kinds of situations, waking up in unfamiliar places with a headache, panic, and consistent, recognizable shame inside me that I know belongs there, just as much as the air in my lungs and the blood in my heart. I don’t deserve to feel anything better after the decisions and choices that I’ve made. I know what I am on the inside now and I don’t fight it anymore. It’s both liberating and heartbreaking because this is how I have to be—who I am—and it’s sad. But I can smile on the outside, show the world how happy I am, since that’s what’s important, even if I’m dying on the inside.

The routine is very simple and I know it like I know the back of my hand. I open my eyes, take in my surroundings, try to remember something, and then when all else fails, get the hell out of there. I slowly sit up, trying not to wake the guy lying in the bed next to me. He’s got dark brown hair and a pretty sturdy body, but his back is turned to me and my memories are hazy, so I can’t place what he looks like from the front. Maybe that’s for the best, though. Whatever I was looking for with him—love, happiness, a blissful moment of connection—obviously never happened. And I’m at a point in my life where I doubt if it ever will.

Holding my breath, I climb out of bed and slip my dress on, covering myself up, along with the scar winding around my waist, reminding me of why I’m here. I attempt to get the back row of buttons done up, but my fingers are numb, like I was doing something weird with them last night, which could be a possibility. I do have tendency to get a little extreme when I’m that drunk. The fingernails sometimes come out, and back in boarding school I got deemed the slutty biter/screamer. Although, sometimes I wonder if I do it out of pleasure or from the fear that seems to surface when I have sex. And that confusion is his fault. I’ll always hate him for that, even if I thought I loved him and would have done anything for him at the time. But how could I really, when I was way too young to feel love? Even now, I still haven’t felt it and I’m twenty years old.

Leaving my dress unbuttoned, I collect my shoes and tiptoe toward the door. I notice a wad of cash on the nightstand beside the bed and a ring that looks like a football championship ring or something. There’s also a stale sandwich on the dresser and several empty beer glasses.

“Ew, I must have really been drunk,” I mutter, cringing at the food and then double cringing when I catch my untidy appearance in the mirror on the wall.

Making a repulsed face, I slip out of the room, thinking I’ll be out in the hallway of one of the dorm buildings on campus. But I’m in a large, open living room with columns around the walls and picture windows everywhere, letting light easily flow in. The floor is marble and there’s a large white rug spread out. It has to be a condo or something, with how fancy it is, not a dorm.

There are a couple of guys and a girl sitting on a leather couch in the middle of the room, watching a flat-screen television mounted on the wall just beside where I stepped out. I can’t remember anything other than shots, a chic club, a sleek black Mercedes, someone’s hands and lips on me, wishing I could black out, and then I must have gotten what I wanted because after that I remember nothing.

The guys simultaneously look up at me and I notice they’re older, like maybe twenty-four or twenty-five, which makes me feel too young to be here, yet older guys seem to be my thing, at least when I’m drunk.

“Hey.” One of them nods his scruffy chin at me. “You look a little lost.”

“Yep, I’m totally lost.” I force a smile, even though I’m frowning on the inside, and I hold my head high as I do the walk of shame. They start laughing at me and I find myself wishing I were someone sassier, like Ella, my best friend and old roommate. But I’m not. Sure, I can be sassy when the time calls for it, but right now I feel icky, gross, and disgusted with myself because I just woke up, my makeup’s worn off, my hair’s a mess, and my clothes smell like alcohol. Plus I’m crashing. Badly. And I don’t have anything on me to help balance my mood.

I rush across the room and throw open the door. As I step out of the condo, I hear one of them laugh and say something about me being easy and slutty, but I close the door and shut out their voices. I walk down the hall and trot down the stairs to the bottom, where I push the door open and step outside into the sunlight and the lukewarm November air. Being outside makes me feel a little better, except I still can’t recognize where I am. It’s a condo complex—that much I get.

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