“Sure, Mr. Hamilton. Ethan and I would love that.”
He reaches out and squeezes my shoulder. “Call me Charlie.”
• • •
THE HALLWAY WEAVES AND ELONGATES in front of me. I wish it weren’t just an illusion born from dread, and that it really were five miles to our suite. But it isn’t, and sooner than I’d like, I’m back at the room, half praying that Ethan is out doing something amazing until tomorrow, and half praying that he’s here so we can make it to dinner with Mr. Hamilton.
As soon as I walk in, I see him sitting on the balcony. Why is he in Maui, hanging out in the hotel room? Although, now that I think about it, it sounds lovely. I grow instinctively itchy at the prospect of sharing the homebody gene with him.
At least he’s changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and has his bare feet propped up on the ledge. The wind blows his dark hair all over his head, but I imagine him squinting judgmentally out at the surf, silently telling the waves they could do better.
When I move closer, I see that he’s holding a cocktail in a highball glass. His bare arms are tanned and toned; his legs are surprisingly muscular and seem to go on forever. For some reason I expected that, in shorts and a T-shirt, he’d look like a string bean with awkward limbs bending at odd angles. Maybe it’s because he’s so tall. Or maybe it was just easier to tell myself that only his face could be pretty, and he’d be gnarled and gangly beneath his clothes.
Quite frankly, he’s so well-rounded physically, it’s a little unfair.
I slide open the door as quietly as I can; he looks pretty relaxed. I’m sure he’s thinking about drowning puppies, but I’m not here to judge. At least not until after he’s had dinner with my boss. Then it’s on.
I realize I’ll need to be charming, so I slap a smile on my face. “Hey there.”
He turns, and his blue eyes narrow. “Olivia.”
Wow, I am getting sick of his stupid name game. “What’re you up to, Elijah?”
“Just enjoying the view.”
Well, that’s . . . nice. “I didn’t know you did that.”
He blinks back out to the water. “Did what?”
Ethan laughs incredulously, and it occurs to me that I could stand to up my sweet-talking game a bit. “How was the massage?” he asks.
“Great.” I search for more words that aren’t panicky and groveling. “Super relaxing.”
He glances at me again. “This is what relaxed looks like on you? Wow.” When I don’t say anything else, he asks, “What’s with you? You’re being weirder than usual.”
“I’ve never seen you in shorts before,” I admit. His legs, specifically the muscles on them, are a rather interesting development. Quickly, I work to remove the hint of appreciation in my voice. “Awkward.”
“I mean, it’s not like putting a tray of cleavage on display,” he says, waving a casual hand, “but I’m told shorts are still island appropriate.”
I’m pretty sure that’s another dig on my bridesmaid dress, but I honestly cannot be bothered to chase this one down. “So, funny thing,” I say, pulling up a chair beside him and taking a seat. “You know how, at the airport, I was offered the job at Hamilton?”
He nods, already bored.
“Well, guess who’s here?” I attempt enthusiasm by way of forced jazz hands. “Mr. Hamilton himself!”
Ethan’s head whips my way. And I absolutely get the fear in his eyes: our ability to be completely anonymous has just been hosed. “Here here? At the resort?”
“I ran into him in the spa.” And I add unnecessarily, “In a robe. He hugged me. It was weird. Anyway, sooooo, he invited us to dinner tonight. With his wife.”
He laughs once. “Pass.”
I curl my fingers into fists so I don’t reach over and slap him. But a punch might leave a mark, so I flatten my hands again and sit on them. “The massage therapist called me Mrs. Thomas. In front of Mr. Hamilton.” I pause a beat to see if he gets it. When he doesn’t react, I add, “Do you get what I’m telling you? My new boss thinks I got married.”
Very slowly, Ethan blinks, and then blinks again. “You could have told him we’re just pretending.”
“In front of the staff? No way. Plus, he’s all about integrity and trust! In the moment, it felt like continuing the lie was the better option, but now we’re totally screwed because he thinks I got married.”
“He thinks that because you literally told him you got married.”
“Shut up, Eric, let me think.” I lean in, chewing a fingernail, musing. “It could be okay, right? I mean, for all he knows, it’ll turn out that you’re abusive and I get a quick annulment after this trip. He’ll never know I was being dishonest.” I sit up, hit with an idea. “Ooh! I could tell him you died!”
Ethan just stares at me.
“We went snorkeling,” I say, frowning now. “Sadly, you never came back to the boat.”
“What?” I ask. “It’s not like you’re ever going to see him again after tonight. You don’t need him to like you. Or, you know, know you continue to exist.”
“You seem pretty sure I’m coming to dinner.”
I put on my sweetest expression. I cross my legs and then uncross them. I lean forward, bat my lashes and smile. “Please, Ethan? I know this is a huge ask.”
He leans away. “Do you have something in your eye?”
My shoulders sink, and I groan. I can’t believe I’m going to say this. “I’ll give up the bedroom if you come tonight and play the part.”
He chews his lip, thinking. “So we have to pretend to be married? Like, touching and . . . warm?”
Ethan spits out the word warm like most people would say dismemberment.
“It would mean everything to me.” I think I’ve got him. I scoot my chair just a little closer. “I promise I’ll be the best fake wife you ever had.”
He lifts his drink and finishes it. I definitely do not notice how long and defined his throat looks as he swallows. “Fine. I’ll go.”
I nearly melt in relief. “Thank you so much, oh my God.”
“But I get the bedroom.”
MR. HAMILTON IS HERE AND I TOLD HIM I’M MARRIED AND IDK WHY? NOW I HAVE TO PRETEND TO BE MARRIED TO ETHAN FOR AN ENTIRE DINNER AND I’LL PROBABLY BE FIRED AND HAVE TO SLEEP IN YOUR BATHTUB BECAUSE I’M A TERRIBLE LIAR.
AMI THIS IS A TWIN EMERGENCY
I don’t have any fluids left in my body
I’ve been with mom nonstop for over 36 hours
If I don’t die from this I might need someone to kill me. Or her.
BUT I’M FREAKING OUT
Your new boss is at the resort? In Maui??
He’s here for his anniversary.
Someone called me Mrs. Thomas and I apparently lost my mind.
People are going to be calling you Mrs. Thomas the whole time.
You better get used to it. And calm down. You can do this.
Have we met? I absolutely cannot do this.
Just keep your answers simple.
When you get nervous you look guilty
Omg that’s exactly what Ethan said
Who knew Ethan was so smart
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to throw up for the 50th time today
Don’t waste my trip
I stare down at my phone, wishing my sister were here. I knew this was all too good to be true. I type out another quick message telling her to call me tonight and let me know how she’s feeling, and then I text Diego.
Teach me how to lie
Who is this
FINE. Who are we lying to?
My new boss.
Please don’t ask.
Just tell me how you managed to date those twins w/o either of them finding out.
Teach me, Yoda.
First, only lie when you need to and keep it simple.
You always overexplain and it’s secondhand embarrassing.
Know your story going in
Don’t try to make it up on the fly. God you’re so bad at that
Don’t fidget and def don’t touch your face. You do that too. Just sit still
Oh, and if you can, touch them.
It creates a sense of intimacy and makes them want to take their pants off instead of asking you questions
Ew this is my boss!
I’m just saying it couldn’t hurt
You’re a scientist. Do some research.
I glance up from my Google search at the sound of a knock.
“Not to be all cliché and husbandy and hassle you about being late”—there’s a pause and I can practically see Ethan frowning down at his watch from the other side of the door—“but it’s almost six.”
“I know.” I manage to keep the shouted version of my reply contained to the inside of my head. After Ethan agreed to dinner, I sprinted to the bedroom to try on every article of clothing I brought with me, before texting my sister and Diego in a panic. The room is a disaster, and I’m not sure I’m any more ready to do this now than I was an hour ago. I am a mess.
Ethan’s voice carries through the door again, closer this time. “ ‘I know’ as in I’m almost ready, or ‘I know’ as in I know how to tell time, kindly fuck off?”
Both, if we’re being honest. “The first.”
Ethan knocks. “Okay if I come in my room?”
My room. I open the door and let him in, feeling delighted by the mess I’m leaving behind me.
Ethan steps in. He’s about to meet my boss and spend the next few hours lying his face off, and he’s in black jeans and a Surly Brewery T-shirt. He looks like he’s going out to dinner at Chili’s, not having dinner with the wife’s new boss. His calm exterior only amplifies my panic because of course he’s not worried; he has nothing to lose. The dread in my stomach blooms. Ethan has this, I absolutely do not.