But it’s as if someone has pushed a button somewhere on his back, because robot Ethan is back and suddenly in motion, stepping forward to offer Billy a confident hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Moving to his side, I loop a casual arm through his. “Hi. I’m Olive.”
“Right, sorry,” he says. “Olive, this is Sophie Sharp. Sophie, this is Olive Torres.” He pauses and everything goes tight between us in anticipation of what comes next. I have the sense of being on the back of a motorcycle, staring over the lip of the canyon, not knowing if he’s going to rev the throttle and send us over the edge. He does: “My wife.”
Sophie’s nostrils flare and for a fraction of a second, she looks positively homicidal. But then the look is gone, and she gives him an easy smile. “Wow! Wife! Amazing!”
The problem with lying about relationships is that humans are fickle, fickle creatures. For all I know Sophie could be the one who ended things, but seeing that Ethan is no longer on the market will make him seem forbidden—and therefore more alluring. I have no idea what happened to end their relationship—nor do I know if he even wants her back—but if he does, I wonder if he realizes the irony that being married has just made it more likely she’ll want him back, too.
She glances at me and then him. “When did this happen?” I’m sure we can all hear how it’s an effort for her to keep her voice from being razor sharp, which just makes it that much more uncomfortable (and awesome).
“Yesterday!” I wiggle my ring finger, and the plain gold band winks in the torchlight.
She looks back at him. “I can’t believe I didn’t hear anything!”
“I mean,” Ethan says, laughing sharply, “we haven’t exactly spoken, Soph.”
And oh. Tension. This is so, so awkward (and juicy). My curiosity is officially piqued.
She gives a coy little pout. “Still! You didn’t tell me. Wow. Ethan—married.”
It’s impossible to miss the way his mouth hardens, his jaw flexes. “Thanks,” he says. “It happened pretty fast.”
“Feels like only moments ago we decided to really do this!” I agree with a hearty smile up at him.
He presses a hard, fast kiss to my cheek, and I force myself not to jerk away like I’ve been slapped with a dead lizard.
“And you’re engaged,” he says, giving the world’s stiffest thumbs-up. “Look at us . . . moving on.”
Sophie is small, thin, and wearing a pretty silk tank top, skinny jeans, and sky-high heels. Her tan comes from a bottle, and I’m guessing her hair color does, too, but that’s really all I can find wrong with her. I try to imagine her in twenty years—vaguely leathery, long red nails curled around a Diet Coke can—but for now she’s still beautiful in a semi-unattainable way that makes me feel dumpy in comparison. It’s easy to imagine her and Ethan side by side on a Christmas card, wrapped in J.Crew cardigans and leaning against their broad stone fireplace.
“Maybe we can go to dinner or something,” she says, and it’s so half-hearted that I actually bark out a laugh before Ethan reaches for my hand and squeezes it.
“Yes,” I say, trying to cover. “Dinner. We have it every day.”
Ethan looks down at me, and I realize he’s not glaring; he’s fighting a laugh.
Billy pipes up with a subject change, similarly cool on the dinner idea. “How long are you here?”
I absolutely cannot stomach another fake dinner, so I go for broke. When Ethan answers “Ten days,” I wrap my arms around his waist and gaze up at him with what I hope is a sexy frown.
“Actually, pumpkin, I’d feel terrible if we planned something and didn’t make it. You know we barely made it out of the room today.” I walk some flirty fingers up his chest, toying with the buttons on the front of his shirt. Wow, it is a veritable wall of muscle under there. “I already shared you tonight. I can’t make any promises for tomorrow.”
Ethan raises a single brow, and I’m wondering if the tension in his expression is because he cannot fathom having sex with me once, let alone continually for an entire afternoon. Pulling himself out of the mental hellscape, he presses a swift kiss to the tip of my nose. “You have a point.”
He turns to Sophie. “Maybe we can play it by ear?”
“Absolutely. You still have my number?”
“I’d imagine so,” he says with a bemused nod.
Sophie takes a couple of steps backward, and her gold heels click like kitten claws on the sidewalk. “Okay, well . . . congrats, and I hope we see you again!”
With a tug she pulls Billy, and they continue their way down the path.
“It was nice meeting you,” I call out before turning back to Ethan. “I might make a terrible wife one day, but at least we know now that I can fake it.”
“I guess everyone needs a goal.”
Pulling my hands off his body, I shake them out at my sides. “God, why did you kiss my nose? We did not discuss that.”
“I must have thought you were okay with it once you started feeling me up.”
I scoff at that, setting off again at an acceptable distance behind them toward the hotel. “I got us out of another dinner. If it weren’t for me you’d spend tomorrow night across from Malibu Barbie and Daryl Dixon. You’re welcome.”
“Your boss leaves and now my ex-girlfriend is here?” Ethan takes out his frustration in a series of long strides I have to jog to keep up with. “Have we earned a spot in the eighth circle of hell? Now we have to keep this stupid act up the entire time.”
“I have to admit to feeling partly responsible here. If something is going well and I’m around, look out. Win a free trip? Boss shows up. Boss goes home? Accomplice’s ex-girlfriend appears out of nowhere.”
He pulls open the door, and I am met with a blast of refrigerated air and the soothing gurgle-bubble of the lobby fountain.
“I’m a black cat,” I remind him. “A broken mirror.”
“Don’t be ludicrous.” He pulls out another penny—still not that one—and flicks it off his thumb into the splashing water. “Luck doesn’t work that way.”
“Please explain to me how luck really works, Ethan,” I drawl, following the trajectory of the coin.
He ignores this.
“Anyway,” I say, “this resort is huge. It’s like, forty acres and has nine swimming pools. I bet we don’t even see Simba and Daryl again.”
Ethan lets a reluctant half smile slip free. “You’re right.”
“Of course I am. But I’m also exhausted.” I walk across the lobby and press the button to call the elevator. “I say we turn in and start fresh in the morning.”
The doors open, and we step inside, side by side but so far apart.
I press the button for the top floor. “And thanks to Miss Sophie I have a giant bed waiting for me.”
His expression reflected in the glass doors is a lot less smug than it was a few hours ago.
Once we’re back in the room, it feels about half as big as it did when we arrived, and I’m sure that is entirely due to the fact that clothing will be coming off soon as we get ready for bed. I am not ready.
Ethan tosses his wallet and key card onto the counter. I swear the sound of the items landing on the marble is like a cymbal crash.
“What?” he says in response to my dramatic startle.
“Nothing. Just.” I point to his stuff. “Jeez.”
He stares at me for a lingering beat before seeming to decide whatever I’m going on about isn’t worth it, and turns to toe his shoes off near the door. I walk across the room, and my feet on the carpet sound like boots crunching through knee-high grass. Is this a joke? Is every sound amplified in here?
What if I have to go to the bathroom? Do I turn on the shower to muffle the sounds? What if he farts in his sleep, and I can hear it?
What if I do?
It’s like a death march, following him down the short hallway to the bedroom. Once there, Ethan wordlessly moves to one dresser and I move to the other. It’s the quiet routine of a comfortable married couple, made super weird by the knowledge that we’re both ready to crawl out of our skins from the tension.
The massive bed looms like the Grim Reaper between us.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s only one shower,” he says.
“I did, yeah.”
While the second bathroom is simple, with a toilet and small sink, the master bathroom is palatial. The shower is as big as my kitchen back in Minneapolis, and the bathtub should come with a diving board.
I dig through my drawer, praying that, in the mad dash packing post-weddingpocalypse, I remembered pajamas. I really didn’t realize until now how much time I spend in nothing but my underwear at home.
“Do you usually do it at night?” he asks.
I spin around. “Uh, pardon?”
Ethan sighs the deep, weary sigh of a long-suffering ghoul. “Shower, Oscar.”
“Oh.” I press my pajamas to my chest. “Yes. I shower at night.”
“Would you like to go first?”
“Since I have the bedroom,” I say, “why don’t you go first?” Lest this sound too generous, I add, “Then you can get out of my space.”
“Such a caretaker, you.”
He steps around me to the bathroom, closing the door behind him with a solid click. Even with the bedroom’s balcony doors shut, I can hear the sound of the tide coming in, the waves crashing against the shore. But it’s not so loud that I don’t also hear the rustle of fabric as Ethan undresses and drops his clothes onto the bathroom floor, his footsteps as he walks barefoot across the tile, or the soft groan he makes when he moves under the warm spray of water.
Flustered, I jog immediately to the balcony door and step outside until he’s finished. Honestly, I’d only want to listen to that if he was drowning in there.