Isn't She Lovely Page 34

Which really isn’t fair to say. I liked Chris well enough on the few occasions we’ve been forced into each other’s company. It’s not his fault his mother’s a man-eater. A widower-eater.

“Okay, pull your weight, Kendrick. We’ve got a couple more hours before we get there.”

“Tell me again why we’re driving five hours to the middle of nowhere.”

“Because it’s my only chance to see Andrea before she heads back to California. Usually she comes to the city over break, but this year her family rented a summer cabin, so she’s staying there.”

“And she’s a high school friend, right?”

“No. Grade school through middle school. She went to a public school instead of the academy with the rest of us.”

I dig a couple of waters out of the cooler he brought, and hand one to him. “You were friends with public school hooligans?”

“Just the one,” he says with a smile. “We had, like, every class together in eighth grade and got pretty tight, so I guess I stayed in better contact with her than everyone else.”

“Did you date?”

“Nah. I seem to remember a couple of awkward spin-the-bottle kisses, but nothing serious. I guess even back then, I sort of knew Olivia was the one.”

I glance at him in surprise, and I can tell he’s just as surprised as I am at the admission. He hardly ever mentions his ex unless it’s with a scowl. I feel something sour in my stomach and try to tell myself that it’s not jealousy, but I know better. It’s not that I have feelings for Ethan or anything. But I’ve been spending so much time with him that I’d be lying if I said it’s not a little easy to forget that it’s fake.

Apparently I’m destined to be a jealous fake girlfriend. Odd, considering I’ve never before been a jealous real girlfriend.

“Okay, definitely your turn,” Ethan says, looking slightly embarrassed. “Here I am getting all deep, and you’re not doing your part.”

I laugh a little and take a sip of water. “You, deep? Come on, Price. Somehow I don’t think there’s a whole lot of depth hidden under all that polish.”

He doesn’t say anything back, and I glance over at his profile, expecting his easy grin, but he’s not smiling at all. In fact, he looks a little … wounded. It’s the same look he had on his face that night at the frat party when I told him he had no substance. It was an unfair thing to say back then, when I didn’t even know him.

Now that I do know him, I know it was unfair and bitchy.

And completely untrue.

“Hey,” I say quickly, reaching out a hand to touch his arm in apology. “I didn’t mean …”

Ethan lifts his water bottle to his lips before my fingers can make contact, and I pull my hand back. “Sure ya did, Goth. And you’re right. Nothing but money and jokes coming from this side of the car.”

His tone is self-deprecating, and I want to tell him that it’s not true. That I only said he had no depth because I don’t want to get deep. I don’t want to see beyond his money and jokes because over the past few weeks I’ve been catching glimpses of what’s beneath all that pretty-boy stuff, and I don’t think I can handle much more of the kinder version. I’m too worried I could fall for that version of Ethan Price.

But neither do I want him to hide from me.

You can’t have it both ways, Stephanie.

“So, two truths and a lie,” I hear myself say, desperate somehow to make amends. To make us even. To share with him the way he just did with me about Olivia, his mom’s miscarriage, and even his friendship with this Andrea girl.

“One: When I was seven, my parents took me to the emergency room with what they thought was a ruptured appendix. Turns out I was just majorly constipated. Two: There was a girl on my old soccer team that got struck by lightning, and I still get scared to death in thunderstorms, even though I know it’s stupid. Three … My high school boyfriend put a roofie in my drink the same night my mom died.”

I say that last one so quickly that all the words run together, as though I’m rushing the punch line of a joke.

I only wish it were a joke.

I hold my breath for several seconds, not looking at him. I can’t.

The tension in the car is so thick I can’t breathe, and then Ethan breaks it.

“Goddamn it, Stephanie,” he says, slamming his palm against the steering wheel before gripping it so tightly his knuckles turn white. “Tell me that last one is the lie. Tell me.”

I don’t answer. I don’t have to.

“Goddamn it,” he says again, quieter this time.

I shrug and take a long swallow of water as though the bomb I just dropped is no big deal. Which of course it is.

But I’ve had a few years to adjust to what happened, so what’s really weirding me out is the fact that I said it at all. To him. Confiding a few childhood secrets does not warrant me throwing something so huge into a car ride that still has a good two hours left.

I’d give anything to take it back. Anything.

Especially since Ethan looks pissed.

My throat feels a little tight as I realize the magnitude of my misstep. He doesn’t want to know those types of things about me. Nobody wants to know those things about somebody else. Jordan knows, of course. That’s what best friends are for. But that kind of baggage should be saved for friends, therapists, and diaries, not happy-go-lucky fake boyfriends.

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