Ethan kisses me again and pulls back to say more, but his eyes flitter over my shoulder and his entire demeanor changes. “Holy shit.”
The words sound echoey, from a distance, multiplied. I turn to see what he’s gaping at and my stomach absolutely plummets: Ami and Dane are standing only a few yards away, holding a WELCOME HOME FROM OUR HONEYMOON! sign. Now I understand what I’ve heard; Ami and Ethan spoke the same words, at the same time.
There is a riot in my brain: just my luck. I’m temporarily unable to decide what to process first: the fact that my sister is here, that she saw me kissing Ethan, that Dane saw me kissing Ethan, or the reality that—even eleven days after they were knocked down by a toxin—they both still look positively horrible. I think Ami has lost over ten pounds, and Dane has likely lost more. The gray sheen to Ami’s complexion hasn’t entirely gone away, and her clothes sag on her frame.
And here we are, tanned, rested, and making out in baggage claim.
“What am I seeing?” Ami says, dropping her half of the sign in shock.
I’m sure I’ll examine my reaction later, but given that I can’t tell whether she’s excited or angry right now, I let go of Ethan’s hand and take a step away from him. I wonder how it looks to her: I left for her honeymoon, paid almost nothing, suffered not at all, and came home kissing the man I was supposed to hate—and never once mentioned any of this to her on the phone or in texts. “Nothing, we were just saying goodbye.”
“Were you kissing?” she asks, brown eyes saucer-wide.
Ethan tosses out a confident “Yes” just as I state an emphatic “No.”
He looks down at me, smirking at how easily that lie came out of me. I can tell he is more proud of my smoothness than he is annoyed by my answer.
“Okay, yes,” I amend. “We were kissing. But we didn’t know you were going to be here. We were going to tell you guys tomorrow.”
“Tell us what, exactly?” Ami asks.
Ethan takes this one readily and slides his arm around my shoulder, pulling me close. “That we’re together.”
For the first time, I get a good look at Dane. He’s staring directly at Ethan, his eyes narrowed like he’s trying to beam words into his brother’s cranium. I try to tamp down my reaction, knowing it’s probably just my own read on the situation, but his glare looks a lot like What did you tell her?
“It’s cool,” Ethan says calmly, and my resolution to mind my own beeswax returns, heightened by the potent mix of adrenaline in my blood.
“Everything is very cool,” I say, too loudly, and give Dane a dramatic, and probably ill-advised, wink. “Super cool.”
I am a maniac.
He bursts out laughing and finally breaks the ice, stepping forward to hug me first, and then his brother. Ami continues to stare at me in shock, and then slowly shuffles over. She feels like a skeleton in my arms.
“Dude, are you two really a thing now?” Dane asks his brother.
“We are,” Ethan tells him.
“I think I can approve it at this point,” Dane says, smiling and nodding at each of us like a benevolent boss.
“Um,” I say, “that’s . . . good?”
Ami still has not relaxed her expression one bit. “How did this even happen?”
I shrug, wincing. “I hated him until I didn’t?”
“That’s actually a very accurate synopsis.” Ethan slides an arm around my shoulders again.
My sister shakes her head slowly, gaping at the two of us in turn. “I don’t know whether to be happy or horrified. Is this the apocalypse? Is that what’s happening?”
“We could totally trade twins sometime,” Dane says to Ethan, and then erupts into a fratty laugh.
My smile droops. “That would . . .” I shake my head emphatically. “No thank you.”
“Oh my God, shut up, honey,” Ami says, laughing and hitting his shoulder. “You are so gross.”
Everyone laughs except me, and I realize it too late, so my ha-ha-ha comes out like a pull-string toy.
But I think that’s my problem with Dane, in a nutshell: he’s gross. And unfortunately, my sister loves him, I’ve been hooking up with his brother, and not five minutes ago I gave Dane the all-clear wink. I made my decision; I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to put on my big-girl pants and deal.
I wanted to stay in Maui. I wanted to stay in bed with Ethan for weeks, and listen to the ocean while I fell asleep. But even so, the moment I’m back in my apartment, I want to kiss every piece of my furniture and touch every single thing I’ve missed for the past ten days. My couch has never looked so inviting. My television is way better than the one we had in the suite. My bed is fluffy and clean, and I can’t wait until it’s dark enough to justify taking a running leap into my pillows. I am a homebody, through and through, and there’s nothing like being home.
This feeling lasts about thirty minutes. Because after I’ve unpacked, I check my fridge and realize there’s nothing in there, so if I want to eat, I have to either order crappy delivery food, or put my pants back on and leave the house.
I sprawl in the middle of the living room on my fluffy faux-fur rug and groan at the ceiling. If I’d gone to Ethan’s, I could have made him go get me food.
The doorbell rings. I ignore it because my family would just waltz right in like they own the place, and nine times out of ten it’s my upstairs neighbor Jack, a fiftysomething guy who pays way too close attention to my comings and goings. But then it rings again, which a few seconds later is followed by a knock. Jack never rings twice, and he never knocks.
Standing, I peek through the peephole and see a chiseled jaw, a long, muscular neck. I’ve missed that neck. Ethan! My heart reacts before my brain does—leaping happily into my throat—and so when I pull the door open with a grin, it takes a beat to remember that I’m not wearing pants.
Ethan smiles at me and then his eyes drop to my lower half and he makes the same seductive expression I know I’m directing at the bag of food he’s carrying.
“You missed me,” I say, taking the Chinese takeout from his hand.
I smirk at him over my shoulder. “You should probably get used to it. I mostly behaved myself at the hotel, but ninety-nine percent of the time I’m home I’m in my underwear.”
He raises a brow and tilts his head toward the hallway I’m sure he’s guessed leads to my bedroom. I get it—in a movie we would be crashing against the wall, passionately pinballing our way down the hall toward the bed because we missed each other so much after an hour apart, but in truth, that airport run-in was stressful as hell, I am starving, and this takeout smells amazing.
“Garlic chicken first, sex second.”
I get all fluttery inside—and I am not normally a swooner—when he smiles at the way I’m diving into the food he brought. He kisses my forehead and then turns, easily finding my silverware drawer and grabbing us both some chopsticks. We stand in the kitchen, eating chicken out of the containers. Something inside me uncoils because I was happy to be home, but now I’m giddy. I feel more myself with him than without, and that happened so fast, it’s dizzying.
“My fridge was empty,” he tells me. “Figured yours was, too, and it was only a matter of time before you came to my door because you were so lonely.”
I shove a mouthful of noodles in my mouth and speak around them: “Yeah, that sounds like me.”
“So needy,” he agrees, laughing.
I watch him tuck into the Mongolian beef and give myself a few quiet seconds to stare at the face I’ve missed for the past hour. “I like that you just showed up,” I tell him.
“Good.” He chews and swallows. “I was pretty sure you would, but there was a twenty percent chance you’d be like, ‘Get the hell out of my apartment, I need to do a fancy bath tonight.’ ”
“Oh, I definitely want a fancy bath.”
“But after the food and sex.”
I nod. “Right.”
“I’ll snoop around your apartment while you’re doing that. I’m not a bath guy.”
This makes me laugh. “Do you think this feels so easy because we hated each other first?” I ask.
He shrugs, digging into the container for a giant piece of beef.
“We’re a week in,” I say, “and I’m pantsless and eating greasy food in front of you.”
“I mean, I saw you in that bridesmaid dress. Everything else is an improvement.”
“I take it back,” I tell him. “I still hate you.”
Ethan comes over, bends and kisses my nose. “Sure.”
The mood shifts. So many times I’ve gone from uneasy to angry with him, but now it’s from happy to heated. He slides the food onto the counter behind me, cupping my face.
When he’s only an inch away, I whisper, “I just realized you and I shared a container of food and it didn’t gross you out.”
He kisses me and then rolls his eyes, moving his mouth to my cheek, my jaw, my neck. “I told you, I don’t mind sharing. It’s”—kiss—“about”—kiss—“buffets. And. I. Was. Right.”
“Well, I’m forever grateful that you’re such a weirdo.”
Ethan nods, kissing my jaw. “That was the best honeymoon I’ve ever been on.”
I pull his mouth back to mine and then hop up on him, relieved that he anticipates he’ll need to catch me, and lift my chin toward the bedroom. “That way.”
• • •
ONCE ETHAN AND I DISCOVER that we live only two miles apart, you’d think we’d find a way to alternate between apartments at night. You’d be wrong. Clearly I am terrible at compromise, because from Wednesday night when we return home, to Monday morning when I begin my new job, Ethan spends every night at my place.