I look at him over the lip of my martini glass. I am so conflicted. I told Ethan—and myself—that I would let this one go. That Ami is a smart woman and knows what she’s getting into. That I am always the buzzkill pessimist.
Dane gets one last freebie, and that’s it.
“We all have stories, Dane,” I tell him evenly. “You and Ethan have yours. Ami and I have ours. We all have them.”
He pops a couple of peanuts into his mouth and grins at me as he chews, mouth open, like he’s just outsmarted me. As irritating as he’s being, I can tell he’s genuinely relieved. If it were anyone else smiling at me like this, I’d feel honored to be so clearly welcomed into the inner circle with just a shift in an expression. But with Dane, it makes me feel slimy, like I’m not supporting my sister by supporting her husband, like I’m betraying her.
“So you like my big brother, huh?” he asks.
The husky quiet of his voice makes me uneasy. “He’s all right, I guess,” I joke.
“He’s pretty great,” he says, and then adds, “even if he isn’t me.”
“I mean,” I say, forcing a dorky grin, “who is? Am I right?”
Dane thanks the bartender when she delivers the fresh beer and then takes a foamy sip, still studying me. “You ever want to mix it up, you let me know.”
My eyes fly to his face, and I feel the way the blood leaves my complexion in a whoosh. There is no way I’m misinterpreting his meaning. “I’m sorry. What?”
“Just a night of fun,” he says, breezily, like he hasn’t just offered to cheat on his wife with her twin sister.
I tap my chin with a finger, feeling my neck heat, my face flush. It’s a struggle to keep my voice even. “You know, I think I’ll take an emphatic pass on sleeping with my brother-in-law.”
He shrugs like it makes no difference to him—and silently confirming that his vague words meant exactly what I thought they meant—but then his eyes are caught on something over my shoulder. I assume Ethan is walking back, because Dane smiles, tilting his chin. “Yeah,” he says as Ethan approaches, “I guess he’s all right.”
I gape at how casually he returns to our earlier conversation.
“Were you two talking about me?” Ethan asks, lowering onto the stool beside me and pressing his smile to my cheek.
“We were,” Dane says. I look at him. There’s not even a warning in his expression, not even any fear that I’ll say something to Ethan about what just happened. By telling him that we all have stories, by implying that I’m not going to press into his past, have I indicated that I’m okay being eternally complicit somehow?
Dane peeks down at his phone when it vibrates on the bar top next to him. “Oh, Ami is running about an hour late.”
I stand, abruptly, robotically. “You know, that’s okay. I’m not the best company tonight. Rain check, guys?”
Dane nods easily, but Ethan looks concerned, reaching out with a hand to stop me. “Hey, hey. You okay?”
“Yeah.” I run a shaking hand through my hair, looking past him. I feel jittery and gross and somehow like I’ve done something unfaithful—to Ethan and my sister. I need to get away from Dane and get some air. “I think I just want to go home and wallow for a bit. You know me.”
He nods like he does know and releases me with a sympathetic smile.
But I suddenly feel like I don’t know anything. I am thunderstruck.
That’s not entirely true. I know some things. For example, I know I lost my job today. And I know that my sister’s husband cheated on her before and is apparently happy to cheat on her again. With her twin. I need to get some clarity and figure out how the hell I’m going to tell Ami about all of this.
I’m halfway to my car when I hear Ethan’s voice calling out to me across the parking lot. Turning, I watch as he carefully makes his way through the slush and the ice and comes to a stop in front of me.
He didn’t bother to put on his coat before following me outside and shivers against the cold. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m not great, honestly, but I’ll be fine.” I think.
“Do you want me to come back to your place with you?”
“No.” I wince, hoping he knows this came out more abruptly than I intended. Attempting to tamp down my anger, I take a deep breath and give him a very wobbly smile; this isn’t his fault. I need to talk to Ami. I need to think and make some sense of how Dane had the balls to say something like that to me with his brother just feet away. I need to figure out what the hell I’m going to do for a job, immediately. I scrape the toe of my boot against a patch of ice. “I think I just need to go home and freak out a little on my own.”
Ethan tilts his head, gaze roaming my face deliberately. “Okay. But if you need me to come over, just text.”
“I will.” I pull my lips between my teeth, resisting the urge to tell him to come with me and be my sounding board. But I know that won’t work. “I’ll be terrible company tonight, but it’s still going to be weird sleeping alone in my own bed. You’ve ruined me.”
I can tell he likes this. He takes a step forward and bends to kiss me, deepening it gently, a tiny, sweet taste. When he pulls back, he runs a finger across my forehead. He’s so sweet. It’s started snowing again and the flakes flutter down to land on his shoulders, the back of his hand, the tips of his lashes. “You left really suddenly,” he says, and I’m not surprised that he can’t let it go. I’m acting like a maniac. “What happened when I was in the bathroom?”
I take a deep breath and slowly blow it out. “Dane said something kind of shitty.”
Ethan leans the tiniest bit away from me. It’s such a subtle gesture, I wonder if he even notices that he did it. “What did he say?”
“Why don’t we talk about this later?” I ask. “It’s freezing.”
“You can’t just say something like that and then call a rain check.” He reaches for my hand, but doesn’t squeeze it in his. “What happened?”
I tuck my chin into my coat, wishing I could disappear into it entirely, like a portable blanket fort. “He hit on me.”
A blast of wind whips across the front of the building, ruffling the front of Ethan’s hair. He’s looking at me so intently he doesn’t even wince at the cold.
“What do you mean, like . . .” He frowns. “Like, touched you?”
“No.” I shake my head. “He suggested Ami and I trade brothers for a little fun.” I have the urge to laugh, because saying it out loud makes it sound completely ridiculous. Who the hell does that? Who hits on his brother’s girlfriend, who is also his wife’s sister? When Ethan doesn’t say anything, I repeat it more slowly. “He wanted me to let him know if we ever wanted to mix it up, Ethan.”
A beat of silence.
And then Ethan’s expression turns quizzical. “ ‘Mix it up’ doesn’t necessarily mean, like, trade partners.”
Stay calm, Olive. I give him a meaningful stare and count to ten in my head. “Yeah. It does.”
His expression straightens again, and a hint of protectiveness creeps into his voice. “Okay, granted his sense of humor isn’t always appropriate, but Dane wouldn’t—”
“I realize this is shocking on a number of levels, but I do know what someone hitting on me looks like.”
He steps away, clearly frustrated. With me. “I know Dane is immature sometimes and sort of self-centered, but he wouldn’t do that.”
“Just like he wouldn’t lie to Ami for God knows how long while he banged whoever he wanted?”
Ethan’s face has turned a deep red. “I thought we agreed that we don’t know the situation there. It’s possible Ami already knows.”
“Well, have you asked him?”
“Why would I?” he says, hands waving in front of him like what I’m suggesting isn’t just unnecessary, it’s preposterous. “Olive. We agreed to let that go.”
“That was before he propositioned me while you were in the bathroom!” I stare at him, willing him to have some kind of reaction to this, but he’s just closed up on me, his face unreadable. “Have you considered that you’ve put him on some kind of pedestal—though for the life of me, I can’t understand why—and are incapable of seeing he’s a total sleaze?”
Ethan flinches, and now I feel bad. Dane is his brother. My instinct is to apologize, but the words are stuck in my throat, blocked by the enormous relief of finally saying what I think.
“Have you considered you’re seeing what you want to see?”
I straighten. “What is that supposed to mean? That I want Dane to hit on me?”
He’s shaking and I’m not sure if it’s from cold or anger. “It means that maybe you’re pissed off about losing your job, and you’re in the habit of being bitter about everything Ami has that you don’t, and you’re not objective about any of this.”
This feels like a physical punch to my stomach, and I take an instinctive step back.
Flames. On the side of my face . . .
His shoulders fall immediately. “Shit. I didn’t mean—”
“Yes, you did.” I turn around and keep walking to my car. His footsteps across the salted sidewalk follow.
“Olive, wait. Come on. Don’t just walk away.”
I pull out my keys and fling open the door with so much force, the hinges groan in protest.
I slam the door and with shaking hands and numb fingers, jam my key into the ignition. His words are drowned out by the sound of the engine struggling to turn over. Finally it catches, and I shift into reverse, backing up. He walks alongside me; hand on the roof of the car as he pleads for my attention. It’s so cold I can see my breath in front of my face, but I don’t feel a thing. My ears are full of static.