The gathered audience falls into a unified silence, and my own spell is broken only when the sun is high and bright and the mass of bodies begins to shift in preparation to leave. I don’t want to leave. I want to sit right here, leaning against Ethan, for eternity.
“Excuse me,” Ethan says to a woman in a passing group. “Would you mind taking a photo of me and my girlfriend?”
Okay . . . maybe it’s time to run back to the hotel room.
“Someone explain the physics to me of my suitcase weighing approximately fifty pounds more when I leave than it did when I arrived,” I say. “All I’ve added to it are a couple of T-shirts and a few small pieces of souvenir jewelry.”
Ethan comes over to the side of the bed, pressing a large hand down on my bag and helping me zip it closed, with effort. “I think it’s the weight of your questionable decision to buy Dane an I Got Lei’d in Maui T-shirt.”
“You don’t think he’ll appreciate my dark humor?” I ask. “I mean, my dilemma really is whether I give it to him before or after we tell him we’re sleeping together.”
Shrugging, he pulls the suitcase off the bed and looks over at me. “He’ll either laugh or give you the pouty silent treatment.”
“Frankly, I could deal with either of those options.”
I’m shoving things into my carry-on, so it takes me a few seconds to realize that Ethan hasn’t immediately shot something back at me.
“I’m kidding, Ethan.”
I’ve been able to push this out of my thoughts for the majority of this trip, but reality is poking at our blissful vacation bubble much sooner than I’d like. “Is Dane going to become a thing between us?”
Ethan sits on the edge of the mattress and pulls me between his knees. “I said it before . . . It’s clear you don’t really like him, and he’s my brother.”
“Ethan, he’s fine.”
“Fine. He’s also your brother-in-law.”
I step back, frustrated. “My brother-in-law who was essentially cheating on my sister for two years.”
Ethan closes his eyes, sighing. “There is no way—”
“If he was seeing Trinity with the Mango Butt two years ago, then he was definitely cheating on Ami.”
He takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. “You can’t just go in like a bull in a china shop and throw all this at Ami as soon as we get home.”
“Have some faith in my ability to be subtle,” I say, and when he fights a smile, I add, “I did not choose that bridesmaid dress, for the record.”
“But you did choose the red bikini.”
“Are you complaining?” I ask, grinning.
“Not at all.” His smile fades. “Look, I know you and Ami and your entire family are close in a way that Dane and I aren’t—sure, we travel together, but we don’t really talk about this kind of stuff. I don’t know if it’s our place to get into this. We don’t even know if it’s true.”
“But for argument’s sake, how would you feel if it was, and he was lying to Ami for years?”
Ethan stands, and I have to tilt my head to look up at him. My first instinct is to think he’s annoyed with me, but he isn’t, I guess: he takes my face in his hands and bends to kiss me. “I’d be disappointed, of course. I just have a really hard time thinking he’d do that.”
As usual, my fuse for the Dane conversation has reached its fiery end. Things are already bittersweet today—I don’t want to leave the hotel, but I’m excited to see where things go between us back home—and bringing in the stress of Ami and Dane isn’t going to make anything easier.
I hook a finger under the waistband of his shorts, feeling the warm skin of his navel, tugging him even closer to me. With a smile of understanding, his mouth comes back over mine, urgent now, like we’ve both just become hyperaware of the brutal end to this fairy tale. The way he’s touching me with such familiarity gives me as strong a rush as the sensation of his kiss. I love how smooth and full his lips feel. I love how he spreads his hands when he’s touching me, like he’s trying to feel as much of my skin as he can. We are already dressed and ready to go, but I don’t protest for a single second when he roughly pulls my shirt over my head and reaches back to unhook my bra.
We fall back onto the mattress; he’s careful to not land directly on top of me, but I’ve already grown semi-addicted to the sensation of his weight, to the heat and solidity and sheer size of him. The clothes we’re planning to wear on the plane land in a pile beside the bed and he comes over me, hovering on straight arms propped near my shoulders. Ethan’s gaze roams across every inch of my face.
“Hey, you,” I say.
He grins. “Hey.”
“Look at this. Somehow we ended up naked again.”
A tanned shoulder lifts and drops. “I can see this being a regular problem.”
“Problem, perfection. Tomato, tomahto.”
His flash of a laughing grin fades quickly, and the way his eyes search my face looks like he’s going to say something more. I wonder if he can read my thoughts, how I’m silently begging him to not bring up Dane or everything that could screw this up back home, and thankfully he doesn’t. He just carefully lowers over me, groaning quietly when my legs come up along his sides.
He knows what I like already, I think, skirting my hands down his back as he starts to move. He’s been paying attention this entire time, hasn’t he? I wish I could go back in time and see him through these new eyes.
• • •
THRIFTY JET SEEMED HORRIFYINGLY LOW-BUDGET on the way here, but on the flight home, the tight quarters are a convenient excuse to wrap my arm around Ethan’s and spend several hours huffing the lingering smell of the ocean on his skin. Even he seems calmer on this flight: after being tense and monosyllabic at takeoff, once we’re in the air, he wraps a big hand around my thigh and falls asleep resting his cheek against the crown of my head.
If, two weeks ago, someone had shown me a photograph of us right now, I think I might have died of shock.
Would I have believed the look on my face—the giddy, sex-sated grin I can’t seem to wipe clean? Would I have trusted the calm, adoring way he watches me? I haven’t felt like this before—this type of intense, free-falling happiness that doesn’t carry with it any unease or uncertainty about me and Ethan and what we’re feeling. I’ve never adored someone with such heated abandon, and something tells me he hasn’t, either.
My uncertainty is all about what waits for us at home—specifically, what sort of rift any drama between Dane and Ami will cause between us all.
So then I have to ask myself: Is it worth saying anything to my sister? Should I let bygones be bygones? Should I take a novel approach and not leap to the worst conclusion but have a little faith instead? I mean, maybe she knows all this already, anyway, and they’ve worked through it. Maybe finding out that I know Dane wasn’t monogamous early on would only embarrass her and make her constantly self-conscious or defensive when I’m around them both.
I look up at Ethan, who’s still asleep, and it hits me that just because I think I know what’s going on, it doesn’t mean I really do. This guy right here is the perfect example. I thought I knew exactly who he was, and I was completely wrong. Is it possible there are sides to my twin I don’t know at all, too? I gently shake him awake, and he inhales, stretching, before looking down at me. It’s like a punch to the chest how much I like his face.
“Hey,” he says, voice gravelly. “What’s up? You okay?”
“I like your face,” I tell him.
“I’m glad you wanted to tell me that this very moment.”
“And,” I say, smiling nervously, “I know we don’t like this topic, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to not say anything to Ami about Dane. I’m not even going to ask her whether she knew.”
Ethan’s face relaxes, and he leans forward, kissing my forehead. “Okay, cool.”
“Things are going so great for all of us right now—”
“I mean, yes,” he cuts in with a laugh, “except for the ciguatera toxin that caused them to miss their honeymoon.”
“Except for that.” I wave a faux-casual hand. “Anyway, things are going well, and I should just let the past be in the past.”
“Totally.” He kisses me once and leans back, smiling with his eyes closed.
“I just wanted to let you know.”
“I’m glad you did.”
“Okay, go back to sleep.”
• • •
THE PLAN: ONCE WE LAND, we’ll grab our bags, share a cab back to Minneapolis, and each spend the night at our respective home. We’ve already agreed the cab will drop me off at my apartment building in Dinkytown—so he can see me get in safely—before taking him to Loring Park. I’m sure it will be weird to sleep alone, but we agreed to meet up for breakfast, at which point I am positive that I will maul him instead of doing what we’d planned to do: figure out how and when to tell Ami and Dane about us.
Everything about this end of the trip stands out for how starkly different it is from the beginning. We aren’t uncomfortable. We’re holding hands, walking through the airport terminal, bickering lightly about which one of us is going to give in first and show up at the other’s doorstep.
He bends at the luggage carousel, planting a kiss on my mouth. “You could just come over now and save yourself the trip later.”
“Or you could.”
“But my bed is really great,” he argues. “It’s big, firm but not hard . . .”
I immediately see where all our future problems lie: we are both stubborn homebodies. “Yeah, but I want to get in my own bathtub and use every single bath product I own and have missed for these past ten days.”