“Everything has changed and yet, I am more me than I’ve ever been.” – Iain Thomas
“Don’t even think about ordering any of that raw shit.” I scrunched up my nose in disgust, looking up at Ethan.
“That raw shit has a name you know.” He laughed, bending down and planting a lingering kiss on my cheek. “It’s called sashimi.”
“I’m all for trying new things, and I love sushi as much as the next person, but there is no way in hell I’m eating raw fish.” I retort quickly, shaking my head. “It’s just not happening.”
Ethan and I were waiting for a table to open up at a local sushi place not too far from my apartment. It seemed all we ever did was go out to eat, but there was only so much you could do when it was below freezing outside, and he was at work until 7 PM.
“You’re just picky, McKenzie,” Ethan muttered over my shoulder.
“Not picky enough,” I grumbled, leaning into him and allowing him to wrap his arms around me. “I settled for you, didn’t I?”
“What was that?” Even though I was no longer facing him, I could hear the smirk in his voice.
“Nothing!” I giggled as I felt his hot breath on the crook of my neck.
"McKenzie?” Both Ethan and I whipped our heads to the sound of the voice.
I knew we should have just gotten take out, I thought as my eyes landed on a familiar pair of blue eyes. “Justin.” I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. Behind me, I felt Ethan stiffen and his hold on me tighten.
Justin blinked a couple of times, his eyes moving between Ethan and me until they finally settled on me. “How are you?” He asked, stepping closer. He was holding a carryout bag in one hand, and his car keys in the other.
“Good,” I replied, my gaze fixated on the hostess behind him. He’s not an idiot. He’s pretty smart actually, but taking a hint was never one of Justin’s strong suits.
There were over two and a half million people living in Chicago at this very moment. Two and a half million. What were the chances of me running into the one person I did not want to see. Higher than you would expect, apparently.
Ethan must have picked up on my discomfort because he extended his hand towards Justin. “I’m Ethan.” His tone was clipped, authoritative, and extremely sexy.
Justin continued to eye Ethan strangely, before finally shaking his hand. “Kenz, I was wondering if I could talk to you for a sec.” He brought his attention to me once again. “You kind of stormed out the last time I saw you...”
Yes, I wonder why.
“There’s nothing to talk about, Justin.” I sighed, finally meeting his gaze.
“I know that the situation with Erika took you by sur –”
“No –” I held my hand up, stopping him before he could say anything else. “Whatever happened, happened. It’s in the past. There’s no sense in dragging anything out when both of us have moved on. Hell, there’s no need for you to talk to me when you see me next time. I am perfectly content pretending like we’re two strangers.”
“Kenz, that’s not what I want.” Justin pleaded, and he looked like he was about to take another step towards me but at the last minute changed his mind.
“Yeah well, we can’t all have what we want, now can we?” I let out a sarcastic laugh. Pulling away from Ethan, I began stalking towards the hostess, determined to take our food to go now. As I was walking away, I heard Ethan say, “Piece of advice dude, don’t wait until you’ve lost her to try and make things right.”
After giving the hostess our order, Ethan and I stepped aside to wait. “Are you okay?” He asked softly, scanning my face.
“I’m fine.” I playfully rolled my eyes and bumped his shoulder. “I’m a tough cookie, remember?”
I was fine.
I wasn’t lying.
I wasn’t bottling up my emotions.
And I wasn’t hiding anymore.
That was the truth.
If this happened three months ago, my reaction probably would have been a different one. According to Caryn, I was still harboring some anger and resentment towards Justin because I blamed him for the time I feel I wasted.
She’s not exactly wrong, but she’s also not one hundred percent spot on either. Sure, a part of me blamed Justin for making me settle down so early, but I was also to blame. I had my doubts from the very beginning, and I should have just said no to his proposal instead of holding on to the hope that things would change.
That I would change.
Running into him didn’t bother me, I mean it was bound to happen when you live in the same city, frequent the same restaurants and still have friends in common. No – what bothered me was the way he approached me like we were longtime friends who hadn’t run into each other in years.
Almost as if he was holding on to the hope that we could rekindle whatever we had.
“Stop worrying!” I reassured Ethan, pressing myself against his body and wrapping my arms around his waist. He planted his hands on my hips before sliding them into the back pockets of my jeans. I felt a blush creep onto my face, but it was gone as soon as it came and I felt myself relaxing under his touch.
“You’re a survivor, McKenzie.” He peers down at me, his eyes searching mine. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
The old McKenzie would have sooner crawled under a rock than display this kind of PDA in public, but the new McKenzie didn’t give a single fuck. Let them stare, I thought as I peeked at him sheepishly under my eyelashes.
“If you had just listened to me and picked up the food like I asked you to.” I teased, lifting one hand to poke his side. “All of this could have been avoided. We could already be eating, and you could have been watching your hockey game while I scrolled through Instagram and daydreamed about a vacation on an island somewhere.”
“You know,” He bit his lip with a smirk. “That vacation doesn’t have to be just a daydream.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’m going to tell your father to cut you off.”
“Very funny.” He gave me a dry smile, shaking his head. Just then, the hostess called our number.
Picking up the brown paper bag with our food, I took my credit card out from the back of my phone case and was just about to hand it to the hostess when Ethan swatted my hand away. “What do you think you’re doing?” I cocked an eyebrow.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He retorted, pulling out his wallet.
Not this again, I rolled my eyes.
“I think I’m paying.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am.”
“I’m revoking my dinner invitation if you don’t let me pay,” I smirked, standing my ground. Ethan always paid. The first few times it was cute and whatnot, but it had gotten to the point where I felt bad going out to eat with him. I was an independent woman, and I had plenty of money myself. The least he could do was humor me once in a while so I wouldn’t feel like such a gold digger.
“McKenzie.” He gritted, shooting me a sharp glare.
“Yes?” I smiled at him sweetly, knowing I was on the verge of winning this.
“We’ve talked about this before.”
“No – you’ve talked about this before and I’ve objected every time.” I poked his chest. “So unless you want to take your raw fish home and watch the game alone, I suggest you put your wallet away.”
Turning back to the waitress, she was watching our entire exchange with amusement. When I lifted my hand again to give her the credit card, Ethan didn’t stop me. However, I’m pretty sure I did hear him mumbling something along the lines of calling ahead and paying in advance next time under his breath.
“So that was your ex, huh?” Ethan asked, picking up a California roll with his chopsticks.
“Yup. That’s Justin.” I nodded, replying to Taylor’s text from earlier. She was officially moving back to Chicago in a few weeks, and had plans to come into town next weekend to look at apartments. “I met yours. It’s only fair you met mine.”
“Don’t remind me.” He groaned, giving me a sideways glance before gluing his eyes back on the TV. One of the players in the blue uniform had just gotten slammed into the plexiglass, and by the look on Ethan’s face, it was one of the players on the team he was rooting for.
“It’s fine.” I laughed, reaching for my water bottle. “I probably could have handled that situation a whole lot better. But in my defense, it just took me by surprise.”
“I really am sorry about how I handled that.” Ethan shifted, turning to face me. “I should have told you from the very beginning I was going through a divorce.”
“Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.” I shrugged, my tone playful. Ethan on the other hand didn’t find my comment as funny, judging from his murderous glare.
“Oh come on!” I giggled. “That was funny.”
“You’re not as funny as you think you are, Cupcake.” He chuckled, a smile cracking.
“Let’s just agree to disagree, and not keep any more secrets in the future.” I continued to hold his gaze.
“Only if you pinky promise.” My lips tugged upward, and I chewed the inside of my cheek. Ethan blinked, his eyes darting between my face and my outstretched pinky.
“What are we, five years old?” Surprise flashed in his eyes when he realized I was serious, but not before he burst out laughing.
“It’s not a deal until you pinky promise.” I deadpanned, motioning to my hand.
“You’re serious.” Ethan scoffed, shaking his head. Despite his protests, he brought his hand to meet mine, and his right pinky wrapped around my own.
Pulling my hand back, I smiled triumphantly and pulled my knees under me so that I could shift my weight. Placing one knee on either side of Ethan’s hips and wrapping my arms around his neck, I was straddling him. “And you’re cute when you’re confused.”
My lips crashed against his in a lingering kiss, and our mouths moved together in sync. His mouth slanted over mine as he kissed me back, swiping his tongue over and around mine – exploring every inch he could reach. While his mouth occupied mine, his hands traveled lower to cup my ass, his fingers roughly digging into my flesh as we tried to eliminate as much space between us as possible.
When it became clear both of us needed air, Ethan lowered his head, planting a row of kisses down my neck. My head fell back and my eyelids fluttered as I surrendered to his touch – the ache in between my legs becoming increasingly more prominent. His lips continued to work their way up my neck until they landed just below the ear, leaving behind a trail of open-mouthed kisses.
Then, Ethan’s phone went off, causing both of us to pull apart. With me still straddling him, he leaned forward and picked up his phone.
“Tell them the workday ends at 5 PM.” I panted, repositioning myself in his lap. His hand quickly darted to my waist, holding me in place. I could feel his hardening cock grow bigger against my thigh, and a shiver that ran through my spine.
“It’s my lawyer.” He replied, quickly typing something before throwing the phone on the couch and returning his attention to me.
“Please don’t tell me Stacy is back in the picture, because I don’t think I could handle that right now.” I looked up at him pleadingly, only half-joking.
There were only so many exes I could handle in a given day.
“No, no – nothing like that.” He shook his head, leaning back against the couch. “He was just informing me that the paperwork for the divorce went through. Stacy signed everything, and all that’s left is for the judge to grant the divorce.”
“How’d you get her to sign them?” I nibbled on my bottom lip. She didn’t strike me as the type of person to just give up so easily.
“I agreed to increase her settlement.”
“What?” I asked, taken off guard. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I wanted her out of my life.” His eyes shift back to the TV for a brief moment before finding mine again. “I didn’t want her coming around here anymore, causing trouble.”
“You shouldn’t have done that, Ethan.” I closed my eyes, shaking my head quietly.
“It’s just money.” He rolled his eyes, his voice calm and soothing. “I would triple her settlement if it meant she would leave me alone for good. Leave us alone.” I nodded, getting lost in the way his hardened green eyes swirled with specks of gold.
“Now come here,” Ethan’s voice had gone low with desire, and he forced my chin downward to meet his wet lips. His tongue rubbed delicately against mine, sending shivers down my spine. The pressure of his lips alternated between rough and light, stroking and nipping at my lips. He groaned into my mouth when I gently tugged on his hair and deliberately moved my hips in his lap.
“You’re horny.” My breathing had become shallow, and despite my eyes being shut, all of my other senses were in overdrive. Ethan didn’t reply. Instead, I was rewarded with his grip on my waist tightening and a deep laugh as his hands moved towards the buttons on my jeans.
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