Authors: Anna Katmore
Ethan saw me first. Though he kept talking to Ryan, his eyes focused on me alone. Only when I stopped a couple of feet before him and stared at him did he cut off mid-sentence.
“Okay, explain,” I snapped.
Surprised, Hunter turned to me, too, but I ignored him.
“Explain what exactly?” There was that same dismissive edge in Ethan’s voice as yesterday. As he cocked his head then, a taunting grin replaced his frown. “Sweetness, are you stalking me?”
That caught me off guard and I coughed an outraged laugh. “Oh my
! What’s wrong with you?”
“Excuse me? You’re the one who keeps chatting me up.”
Hunter chuckled. “Susan…” I wouldn’t have paid him any attention, if he hadn’t put an arm around my shoulders, too. “Susan…” he said again and waited until I tilted my head in his direction.
Ryan had all my respect as team captain and I valued him as a really good friend, but right now I wanted to wipe that smirk right off his face. “What?” I snarled.
He put his other hand on my shoulder and turned me to face Ethan again. “Meet Chris.”
“Donovan,” Ethan said.
“Ah right.” I folded my arms over my chest, adopting a cynical look. “And you’re Ethan’s alter ego, or what?”
The guy who looked like Ethan smirked at me. “Brother.”
“Brother…” My face fell.
Ryan leaned closer and whispered into my ear, “Twins.”
“Twins.” A second passed and the information sank in like a hot dog in a bun. “
?” I pivoted to Ryan, banging my head against his chest. “Nooo…” If only I could knock myself out this way.
The duplicate of the nice guy I met Monday afternoon started to shake with laughter. “So you met Ethan? Hell, now I get it.”
I didn’t care if anything made sense to him. He was a jerk for how he’d talked to me yesterday, and I wanted to be as far away from him as I could. And, holy guacamole, I had to find Ethan and sort out this terrible misunderstanding. After all, I still had the live album of Volbeat in my backpack.
“See you later,” I growled at Hunter and said nothing at all to Chris, but turned and trudged off, mentally banging my head on a brick wall for not realizing what was going on. Moments later, though, it hit me that I might not find Ethan or—worse—I might mistake Chris for him again.
To avoid another disaster, I stopped in my tracks, spun around, and walked back to the guys. Hunter was laughing, but Chris still had his eyes on me. I must have made quite the impression. Not a very good one, I was sure.
As I stood in front of him once more—and boy, the brothers did look incredibly alike—I fished a pen from my schoolbag and reached for Chris’s arm. Explaining myself wasn’t going to help me much, I supposed, so without a word, I shoved the sleeve of his white sweatshirt up to his elbow and pulled his forearm to me. Then I scribbled my number on him.
It was funny how he let me write on his skin and didn’t even budge. Maybe my behavior startled him into silence. Good. I suppressed a sneer as I said, “Tell Ethan to call me.” I was about to walk off again when I remembered the CD and fetched that from my backpack, too. I pushed it at his chest. “Give him that and tell him thanks for the latte.”
Chris blinked twice. His eyes were the same cornflower-blue as Ethan’s. Beautiful and captivating. He let a smirk loose that sped up my pulse. “Pleeease,” he drawled.
“Pleeease,” I repeated, faking my sweetest smile. As I turned and walked away, I banged straight into Lisa. My schoolbag slipped from my shoulder and landed on the floor.
“Am I too late?” Lisa whispered as I bent to pick up my backpack.
I made no effort to keep my voice low like hers. “For what?”
“To tell you that this isn’t Ethan and that I figured it all out.”
I straightened and cast a crotchety look over my shoulder at the guys. Chris’s scrutinizing gaze bored into me like a lance. “Yep. Too late.”
IT TOOK UNTIL five o’clock this evening for Ethan to finally call me. I knew it could only be him when an unknown caller ID flashed on my phone, and I picked up with a galloping heart. “Hello?”
“Hey, sweetness,” the guy at the other end said, and with a shudder slithering down my spine I knew I had been wrong. This was not Ethan. He wouldn’t call me
in that wicked drawl.
I moaned, disappointed and twice as frustrated. “Why are you calling me, Chris?”
“Because you gave me your number,” he teased.
“I didn’t give it to
“No? The handwriting on my forearm objects.”
I took off my glasses and rubbed between my eyes, where a hard throbbing had started two seconds ago. “Fine. I didn’t give it to you to
me. Where’s your brother?”
“Last time I checked, he was in his room.”
“Get him on the phone, please, will you?”
“Hmm. That means I have to get up and walk over there. I don’t think I’m in the mood to do that just now.” Was he actually chuckling?
“Then why did you call me?” There was only a heartbeat between that and me banging my head on the keyboard of my computer where I was doing homework.
Chris laughed, and he sounded amazingly sweet when he did. Just like Ethan had when we’d first met. “I told you, because you gave me your number,” he explained.
“Not that again,” I whined.
“Fine.” He paused. “Then maybe to ask you to go out with me?” By the sound of it, a smirk came with that question.
“What?” This was so unexpected that I jerked around in my swivel chair and slammed my knee on the desk. Ow, crap, that hurt. Thank God it was my good knee. The pain came and faded quickly. “You must be kidding me.”
“Nope. Why would I?” Was he teasing me again?
“Because I want to talk to your brother and not you, to begin with. And aren’t you supposed to be dating Laura?”
He hummed into my ear. “Who’s Laura?”
“Asian supermodel? Long black hair?” I pointed out with an annoyed snarl.
“Oh, you mean Lauren? Well, I did date her yesterday. And I might again sometime. But there’s always a free spot in my calendar to squeeze you in, sweetness.”
“Are you actually mental?”
“I hope not,” he answered with the same seriousness that I had put in my voice. “Why? Are you not a safe girl to date?”
girl to date, just not for you, dumbass!”
“Aw, don’t say that, little Sue. You don’t know me yet.”
“And God willing, I never will. Please, go get Ethan now and stop wasting my time.”
Chris laughed again. It was so loud I had to pull the phone away from my ear. “All right, you win. But tell you what,” he said. “If it doesn't work out between you and Ethan, which I know it won’t, you let me take you on a date. Deal?”
There was only one answer to give. “When hell freezes over.”
His voice turned serious—too much so for the next line to pass as a casual remark. “That happens more often than you think, sweetness.”
An odd chill started at the back of my neck and spread way down into my limbs. The strangest thing was, the chill didn’t feel at all uncomfortable.
I heard some rustling at the other end of the line, a knock, and the faint sound of a door being opened. “Call for you,” Chris said, but from a distance now. More rustling and a smack followed.
“Hello?” Ethan said moments later. I wondered if Chris had tossed him the phone.
“By the way, she said thanks for the latte!” I could hear Chris’s last comment, followed by his chuckle and a door slamming shut.
“Hi, Ethan. It’s me. Susan.” I felt so awkward I could burn a hole in my chair from embarrassment.
“Hey, Susan,” he said, with surprise ringing all the way from his house to mine. A moment of silence passed. Then a deep breath—my breath—and finally a laugh from the other end. “You’re welcome.”
I frowned at the stack of books on my desk. “Welcome for what?”
“For the latte. I guess it’s what you ordered at Charlie’s yesterday, right?”
“Um, well. Yeah.” Charlie’s… Did I have to apologize now? But how could I have known they were twins? They were the ones who had messed around with me. Heck, Ethan should have figured all that out way before me—before I made a complete idiot of myself. “It’s not my fault that you have a twin, Charlie Brown,” I blurted out and rose from my chair. Walking to the window, I gazed at the street below.
“Ah, so it’s mine?” Ethan laughed at me, the same sweet sound I’d heard from his brother a minute ago. “I don’t see how exactly I could have prevented
“You could have tried in an embryonic stage.”
“And kick my brother out of my mom’s womb? Yeah, I would have liked that.”
“You could have told me,” I said a little calmer now, but more sulkily, and swirled around, facing my room instead of the sun outside.
“There was no reason to. It usually doesn't come up as the first thing I say when talking to a cute girl.”
He thought I was cute? I squeezed my eyes shut and suppressed a silly little squeal. My hand curled so tightly around the phone, I was surprised it didn't crack.
“Susan? Are you there?”
“Um, yeah. Yeah, of course.” Dammit, he’d heard the smile in my voice. It made him chuckle.
“Hey, I was thinking…” he drawled, and all I heard was:
Go out with me, go out with me!
“Maybe you want to hang out a little. Today. You know, to make good for standing me up yesterday.” There was a teasing note in his voice.
When I said nothing—because, frankly, I was too giddy from his request—he continued, “I can come over to your place, if you’d like that. Or you can come over to mine.”
It was five o’clock, my mom was home, and my dad would be here in another ten minutes. They hadn’t had a chance to finish the fight that started yesterday with Dad’s call about coming home late, so that would be flashing over our house like a sign of doom for the rest of the evening. I didn’t want Ethan to get here and find himself in the middle of my daily horror show.
“I think I’ll come to yours. My folks are a little busy tonight.” I hurried across the room, tripped over my own feet in my excitement, which was spreading throughout my entire body, and fell against the door. My cell dropped to the floor with a clang. Crap!
Picking up the phone and wildly cursing at myself in a voiceless stream of f-words, I heard Ethan’s laugh. “Susan? Did you just hurt yourself?”
Rubbing my head, I moaned, “Only a little.” Maybe I’d pop a chill pill before I left. Stumbling around his house this way was not an option for making up for our missed first date. “Give me your address, and I’ll be there in ten.”
I jotted down his addy in the back of
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
, which was the first thing I grabbed in my current state of mega-nervousness. After I hung up, I went downstairs to ask my mom for her car.
“Where are you going?”
“Be home by seven.” She lifted her finger in my face with the keys dangling from her hand. “And no forgetting about it again!” She only said that because of my excited flush.
“Promise.” I crossed my heart and headed out with one last check of myself in the mirror. My hair was in a perfect ponytail, skin a healthy pink—too pink—no leftovers from lunch between my teeth, and there were no stains of any sort on my light green tee.
Ethan, here I come!
Taking a deep breath, I sank behind the wheel of my mom’s car and stalled the engine twice before I got my nervous foot to dose the gas just right to drive off. Now I knew why the girls all had anxiety attacks before their first dates. Not that this was really a date, it was merely
hanging out with Ethan
. Alone. At his place. A snicker escaped me, which didn’t matter because no one was there to call me a nutcase. Heck, I was so going to title this a date later when I called Sam and told her everything about it.
Ethan’s house, though small and squeezed in between equally sized bungalows, was easy enough to find. They didn’t have an exclusive drive or a garage to park their cars, but from where I stood, the white bungalow with the dark brown roof, windows, and door looked cozy and inviting. And my CD was playing somewhere in that house. A smirk slipped to my lips. I rang the doorbell and waited while the first line of
Ode to Joy
played out, drowning out my music.
When the door opened, I found myself face to face with a woman who looked set to run me over like a bus. She pushed her arms through the sleeves of a beige trench coat, slipped into a pair of black pumps, flicked her amber hair over her shoulder, gave me a smile, and slid the strap of her purse up her arm, all at the same time.
“Hello, sweetie, what can I do for you?”
Uh, did I look like a Girl Scout trying to sell cookies? I swallowed, feeling the nervous pit in my stomach again. “I’m Susan. Is Ethan home?” Immediately, I wanted to slap myself for that question. He was listening to my music and he’d told me to come over not fifteen minutes ago, so of course he was home. But honestly, what else was I to say?
“Yes, he’s in his room.” She shouted over her shoulder, “Ethan!” Then she grabbed a scarf that was way overdoing her attire considering there was just a light breeze today, but it complemented her outfit, which had me thinking she was going to an important meeting. She left me standing in the entrance, excusing herself. Obviously, she was running late.
The door slammed shut behind me, but there was no sign of Ethan. In fact, the music was all that was to be heard for the next twenty seconds. I felt a little stupid being left alone in this house and considered walking outside to ring the bell once more. Eventually, I shook my head and tracked the sound down the hallway to the back of the house.
There were two doors next to each other at this part of the bungalow. One of them must lead to Chris’s room. A shudder skittered down my spine at the memory of our chat on the phone. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to tell from which room the music was coming, so I knocked on that door and when no one answered, I hesitantly entered. No wonder Ethan didn’t hear me. The loud music blasted away my every thought as soon as I opened the door.
Sprawled in a comfy chair close to the wide, square window that must be overlooking their garden, Ethan was reading what looked like a textbook for Spanish class, because there was a smiling boy wearing a sombrero and shouting
in a speech balloon on it. Immediately, drool formed in the corner of my mouth because, oh my freaking Jesus, he was wearing sweats.
sweats—totally with nothing on top and no shoes or socks either. He knew I would be coming, so was he doing this on purpose to set my heart in a flutter for a greeting? If so, he’d totally succeeded.
Ethan didn’t hear my hoarse “hi,” nor did he notice me standing in his room. I had to reopen and slam the door to get his attention, but when he looked up, his lips formed a smile. Not instantly. It took him a couple of seconds to get rid of that frown, so I guessed the textbook was really captivating and I’d just ripped him out of some serious studying for finals or something.
Ethan didn’t say anything. It wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway with the volume turned up like he was trying to give a bunch of aliens a signal. He rose from his chair, put his textbook away, and lowered the volume of the music, his eyes glued on me all that time.
When the room was quiet enough for us to hear our own voices, I said rather fast because of my nerves as I gushed over his toned body, “Um, hi. Sorry for breaking into your room…sort of.” I shrugged. “Your mom let me in.”
Ethan came toward me—slowly, I’d like to add, like some sort of tiger on a prowl. He still said nothing, so I blabbered on, and not only because it gave me something to do other than staring at his oh-so-naked chest where a set of two silver chains glinted. “She called you but with that noise fending off the cats and dogs of the neighborhood, I get it that you didn’t hear—”
Ethan placed his hand over my mouth, cutting me off mid-sentence. He put his index finger in front of his lips in a sexy
gesture. The urge to plant a kiss on his palm took hold, but I managed to resist. What would that have made me look like? A horny dork?
His blue eyes raked over me for a moment, and all I could do was swallow hard. What was his plan? Maybe his brother was napping next door and he didn’t want to wake him.
Yeah, sure, with the music blasting the roof away just a second ago.
My ragged breath was dampening the back of his hand as I tried to keep from swooning by breathing deeply through my nose.
Ethan took his hand away from my lips. “I didn’t expect you to jump at my offer so fast…especially after you turned me down so mercilessly on the phone.”
What in the world— My brows furrowed to a baffled V, then it dawned on me and I groaned. “Nooo. Chris?”