Home > Lila and [email protected] and Always (The Secret #4.5)

Lila and [email protected] and Always (The Secret #4.5)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

Chapter 1

Lila


There are four things I’ve learned about the outdoors over the last month since Ethan and I first began our cross-country road trip: (1) It always feels cold living outdoors, even when it’s July and we’re in Virginia; (2) the mountains seem to breed pine needles and dirt; (3) the camping food (heavy sigh)… I’m not even sure what to say about it. Pop-Tarts and fruit snacks that don’t even taste like fruit. Beans in a can—gross. And s’mores; they’re nothing but burnt marshmallows, crackers, and messy chocolate that makes me wish I was eating the delicious s’mores cake made by Delina’s Bakery and Simple Cakes that was on the corner of the street I grew up on. The chocolate there was divine.

There is one thing, though, that I can certainly admit is a plus about being outdoors—and it’s the fourth thing I’ve learned during this trip and the one thing that I’ll miss when we head back to Vegas tomorrow—the beauty of the night sky. Nothing I’ve ever seen before can compare to it. It’s so open and full of stars and the moon is so bluntly bright, way more than in the city, since there’s no city lights to outshine it. It’s simplistically beautiful. Plus Ethan loves looking at the stars and being with him while he lies on the ground and stares up at them makes me love the sight even more… Okay, so maybe I’ve learned five things and have one more thing that I’ll miss: (5) Being with Ethan all the time—as long as Ethan’s with me, I’m fine with being cold, getting covered in pine needles, and eating beans straight from a can. I could do all those things with him forever.

I just wish I knew that he felt the same way. But I don’t know what he thinks about our future because he doesn’t like talking about it and it makes me sad and bummed out whenever I think about the unknown that lies before me. About him and I and where we’ll end up.

“What are you thinking about?” Ethan asks as he holds a stick with a marshmallow attached to the end of it, heating it just above the fire. It’s his third one and it seems like he’s never going to stop, like he’s never going to get enough of getting his fingers sticky.

“How gross melted marshmallows are,” I tell him the partial truth, relaxing back on my hands. I’m sitting on a log and my hair hasn’t been washed in days. There’s a tent behind me, a cooler to the side of me, and campfire in front of me, blowing smoke in my face. And when I rub my thumb across my forearm, a layer of black comes off. Not one of my finest moments, but with the way Ethan’s looking at me—with want and love in his eyes—it makes me feel very attractive, even in a hoodie and dirt-stained jeans.

Ethan cocks a dark eyebrow at me, his black hair falling into his eyes as he leans down to pick up a piece of wood by his feet and toss it into the fire. “Only you would be thinking that,” he says over the crackle of the flames as he stretches his legs out and relaxes back against the cooler. He continues to roast the marshmallow in the fire, the outer part turning black and smoking. I don’t say anything about him burning it, because I know that’s how he likes them. Instead I just watch him, feeling myself warm inside like the melted goo on the end of his stick as he chews on his lip and observes the flames.

He’s so sexy, even when he hasn’t showered in days. The unshaven face, torn jeans, and wrinkled black T-shirt work so well on him. Plus his tattoos… God he’s so gorgeous, all grungy and manly. I could practically have an orgasm just looking at him.

Suddenly he smirks at me, totally busting me for checking him out, and I blink my gaze off him and focus back on the conversation.

“What do you mean only I would think that?” I ask, tucking a strand of my chin-length blond and black hair behind my ear. “Lots of people don’t like melted marshmallows.”

“Not true. A lot of people like them,” he says, rotating the stick in his hand. “You just have weird taste in food.” A teasing look rises on his face as he grins. “Or maybe I should just say bad taste in food.”

Scowling, I reach over to the bag of marshmallows between us, pick one up, and throw it at him. It’s dark enough that he has a hard time seeing me and it ends up pegging him in the forehead. I laugh as I dust the dirt off my hands and sit up straight, feeling a little bit better.

“You’re going to pay for that one,” Ethan warns, and through the glow of the fire, his eyes look as black as the smoldering wood. He removes the stick from the flames as he gets to his feet. After blowing on it a few times, he carefully plucks the marshmallow from the end of the stick and mushes it between his fingers. At first I think he’s going to eat it, but instead he winds around the fire pit between us, heading toward me.

“Don’t even think about it.” I start to get to my feet but by the time I stand up, he’s within arm’s reach. I stumble back, shaking my head. “Don’t,” I plead as he stretches his hand out toward me, the gooey marshmallow all over his fingers inching closer to my face. “Please, I don’t want to get sticky.”

“I think you need to get sticky.” He takes another step toward me and I match his movement, stepping back, my heels bumping against a log on the ground.

“Ethan, I swear to God, please don’t,” I plead with my hands out in front of me. “They taste so gross and my mouth will feel gross for the rest of the night.”

He sighs, lowering his hand to his side. “I won’t just as long as you tell me what you were really thinking about earlier,” he says. I open my mouth to lie to him again, but he holds up his hand. “And don’t tell me marshmallows, because I know that’s not true. You had that look on your face, the one you get when you’re thinking about something that upsets you.”

I frown at the fact that he can read me that well and I don’t want to tell him what I was thinking about. How I’m worried about our future because I have no idea what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, whether we’ll be together or whether he even wants to be with me in the future since he refuses to talk about it. I know he loves me and sometimes I think he can’t even help it. Ethan’s never been one for planning much of anything and I think talking about our future means he’d be planning for the future. I also think he might be scared of what we might become if we did commit—what would happen to our relationship.

“You’ve been so mopey ever since Chicago,” he adds through my silence.

My frown deepens. He’s right. I have been really mopey ever since we visited Ella and Micha in Chicago. Micha had been there for a few days playing at a concert. Seeing Ella and Micha again made me start really wondering about my future with Ethan.

It was Ella and Micha’s six-month anniversary as husband and wife and they seemed so happy. It makes me sad, because even though I’m happy with my relationship with Ethan, I want to be his forever, and Ethan has already made it pretty clear how he feels about weddings and marriage and all that “ridiculous nonsense” (his words not mine).

It’s not like I want to get married today or even in a year because I don’t. I’m not ready for that yet, but I want to know that five or ten years down the road we could be standing up in front of a minister, saying our “I dos.” That we could end up having what Ella and Micha have.

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