When we reach the edge of the small clearing, the kid is still there, just hanging out, poking at sticks with his gun. Ethan leans in, his mouth next to my ear. “He’s got a fucking headphone in. How cocky do you have to be to listen to music in the middle of a war zone?”
I pull back to see his face. “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”
His smile is wide. “Oh, yeah.”
Ethan lifts his gun, silently creeping forward with me at his side.
We’re two steps into the clearing when the kid looks up with a sneer, lips curled around a set of heavy braces. He raises his middle finger, and only then do I realize it’s a trap. We don’t turn in time to see his buddy come from behind us, but the next thing I know, my entire ass is purple.
• • •
“I CAN’T BELIEVE HE FLIPPED us off before his buddy shot us,” Ethan growls. “Smug little shit.”
We’re in the relaxation room of the hotel spa, waiting to be called back, and dressed in matching white robes. We are both so sore we didn’t even balk when we remembered what the couple part of a couple’s massage entails: being naked and oiled up in the same room together.
The door opens and a smiling dark-haired woman walks in. We follow her down a long, dimly lit hall to an even darker room. A sunken hot tub bubbles in the center; steam rises invitingly.
Ethan and I make eye contact and then immediately look away. I clutch at my robe, aware that I’m not wearing anything underneath. I thought we’d head straight for the massage tables, enduring only a few quick moments of awkward maneuvering while we slipped under our respective sheets.
“I thought we were just scheduled for massages?” I say.
“Your package comes with time in the whirlpool for a presoak, and then your therapists will meet you.” Her voice is feathery and calm. “Is there anything else I can get you, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas?”
Instinct has me opening my mouth to correct her, but Ethan swoops in.
“I think we’re good,” he says, and smiles his megawatt smile. “Thank you.”
“Enjoy.” She bows, and then quietly closes the door behind her.
The hot tub gurgles between us.
His smile slips away and he looks up at me, grim. “I’m not wearing anything under here,” Gesturing to the ties of his robe, he adds, “I assume you’re equally—”
He considers the steaming water, and his longing is nearly palpable. “Look,” he says, at length. “Do what you’ve got to do, but I can hardly walk. I’m getting in.”
The words are barely out before he tugs at the tie and I get a flash of bare chest. Turning abruptly, I’m suddenly very interested in the table of snacks and bottled waters against the wall. There’s some shuffling and the sound of fabric falling to the ground before he moans, deep and low, “Holy shiiiiiiit.” The sound is like a tuning fork, and a shiver rockets through my body. “Olivier, you have to get in.”
I pick up a little cup of dried fruit, take a nibble. “I’m good.”
“We’re both adults here, and you can’t even see anything. Look.”
I turn and reluctantly glance over my shoulder. He’s right, the bubbling water reaches just below his shoulders, but it’s still a problem. Who knew I had such a thing for collarbones? His mouth tugs up into a smile and he leans back, stretching his arms across the sides and sighing dramatically. “God, this feels amazing.”
Every one of my bruises and sore muscles practically whimpers in reply. The steam is like a set of fingers luring me in. Bubbles, jets, and the subtle scent of lavender everywhere.
“Fine,” I say, “but close your eyes.” He does, but I bet he can still peek. “And cover them, too.” He cups his palm across his eyes, grinning. “With both hands.”
Once he’s sufficiently blinded, I wrestle out of my robe. “When I signed up for this honeymoon, I had no idea it would involve so much nudity.”
Ethan laughs from behind his hands, and I dip my foot into the water. Warmth engulfs me—it’s almost too hot—and I hiss as I sink deeper into the water. It feels unreal, the heat and bubbles all along my skin.
I let out a shaky breath. “Oh God, this feels so good.”
His back straightens.
“You can look. I’m decent,” I say.
He lowers his hands, expression wary. “That’s debatable.”
Jets pulse against my shoulders and the bottoms of my feet. My head lolls to the side. “This feels so good, I don’t even care what you say.”
“Well then, I wish I had the energy to say something really bright.”
I snort out a laugh. I feel drunk. “I am so glad I’m allergic to shellfish.”
Ethan sinks lower into the water. “I know we’re paying the price, but did you have fun today?”
Maybe it’s the fact that the hot water has left me more Jell-O than sore muscles and bruises, but I actually did. “Even considering I had to throw away my favorite tennis shoes and can barely sit? Yeah, I did. You?”
“I did. Actually, aside from the whole Sophie thing, this vacation hasn’t been completely terrible.”
I peek at him through one eye. “Whoa, easy on the flattery.”
“You know what I mean. I thought I’d hang by myself at the pool, eat too much, and head home with a tan. I thought I’d tolerate you.”
“I feel like I should be offended by that, but . . . same, really.”
“Which is why it’s so crazy to be here.” Ethan motions around us before stretching to reach a pair of bottled waters on the ledge of the tub. My eyes follow the movement, the way the muscles of his back bunch and then lengthen, the way droplets of water roll off his skin. So much skin. “God, your sister would freak if she could see us now.”
I blink back to attention, reaching for the bottle he hands me. “My sister?”
“My sister thinks you’re cool.”
“She . . . really?”
“Yeah. She hates all the trips you and Dane go on, but she doesn’t get my Ethan hate.”
“Huh,” he says, considering this.
“But don’t worry, I’m not going to tell her I’ve enjoyed small snippets of your company. A smug Ami is the worst Ami.”
“You don’t think she’ll be able to tell? Don’t you guys have some kind of twin telepathy or something?”
I laugh as I twist open my water. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no.”
“What’s it like having a twin?”
“What’s it’s like not having a twin?” I reply, and he laughs.
Ethan must be warm because he slides back a little before moving to a different bench inside the hot tub, one that’s a little higher and leaves more skin exposed to the air.
The problem, you see, is that it also leaves more skin exposed to me.
A lot more.
I see shoulders, collarbones, chest . . . and when he reaches up to push his hair off his forehead, I’m shown several inches of abs below his nipples.
“Have you guys always been so . . .” He trails off, waving a lazy hand like I know what he’s asking.
And I do. “Different? Yeah. According to my mom, since we were babies. Which is good, because trying to keep up with Ami would have driven me insane by now.”
“She’s definitely a lot. Is it weird now that she’s married?”
“It’s been different since she met Dane, but that was bound to happen, you know? Ami’s life is plugging along like it’s supposed to. I’m the one who stalled out somewhere.”
“But that’s all about to change. That’s got to be exciting.”
“It is.” It’s strange to be talking about this stuff with Ethan, but his questions seem genuine, his interest sincere. He makes me want to talk, to ask questions. “You know, I don’t think I know what you do for a living. Something with math? You showed up to Ami’s birthday party in a suit and tie, but I just assumed you’d evicted some orphans or put small mom-and-pop shops out of business.”
Ethan rolls his eyes. “I’m a digital identification planner for a research company.”
“That sounds made up. Like in Father of the Bride when she tells Steve Martin that her fiancé is an independent communications consultant, and he says that’s code for ‘unemployed.’ ”
He laughs over the top of his water bottle. “We can’t all have jobs as self-explanatory as ‘drug dealer.’ ”
“Specifically,” he says, “I specialize in budgetary analysis and breakdown, but in simple terms I tell my company how much each of our clients should spend on digital advertising.”
“Is that fancy for ‘Boost this Facebook post! Put that much on Twitter!’?”
“Yes, Olive” he says dryly. “That’s often what it is. Mostly, you’re right, it’s a lot of math.”
I scrunch up my face. “Hard pass.”
He lets loose a shy smile that rattles my bones. “Honestly? I’ve always loved geeking out about numbers and data, but this is next level.”
“And you seriously dig it?”
He shrugs, lifting a distractingly muscular shoulder. “I always wanted a job where I could just play around with numbers all day, looking at them in different ways, try to crack algorithms and anticipate patterns—this job lets me do all of that. I know it sounds super geeky, but I genuinely enjoy it.”
Huh. My job has always just been a job. I love talking science, but I don’t always love the sales aspect of the position. Basically, I tolerate it because it’s what I’ve been trained to do and I’m good at it. But Ethan talking about his job is surprisingly hot. Or maybe it’s just the water, which continues to bubble between us. The heat is making me drowsy, slightly light-headed.