Undertow

Undertow by Elizabeth O'Roark

Book: Undertow by Elizabeth O'Roark Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth O'Roark
about what that will do to property values! All those houses that are a block from the beach become, for all practical purposes, a mile away.”
    “It’s not like my parents plan to sell it anyway, so who cares?” she argues.
    I’m stunned by her ambivalence, and by the degree of self-interest that surrounds me. Not a single person here cares to consider how this will impact anyone but them.
    “Let it go, Maura,” booms Graham. “There’s no way they can win.”
    “They could bring a lawsuit against Old Cove,” I suggest.
    Graham snorts. “Sure, until they run out of money.” His point being that they can only sue as long as they can afford to sue, and the families of Old Cove can afford it for a hell of a lot longer than anyone else.
    Ethan tickles me and leans down to kiss my ear. “What a little do-gooder you are, Maura. Your grandpa would be proud.” I let the discussion go, wondering vaguely what my grandfather would think of me with Ethan. I’m kind of glad I’ll never know.
    **
    As soon as we leave Ethan starts groping me.
    “Ethan,” I laugh, disengaging myself. “I think this is going to be a very hard summer for you.”
    “Literally,” he jokes, pressing his crotch briefly against my thigh. “Come on. We’ll just walk on the beach.”
    “I’m not having sex with you out there,” I warn.
    “What a dirty mind you have. I just want to walk,” he laughs.
    The second we’re on the beach he’s got his hand up my dress, his tongue in my mouth. I’ve been sleeping with him for nearly two months, but my unwillingness to do this with him here, now, is so overwhelming I can barely put words to it.
    “This isn’t like any walking I’ve done before,” I complain, pushing him away.
    “Maura, you’re killing me,” he says, reaching for me again.
    “Please, Ethan,” I beg, holding him off.
    He throws his hands up. “Okay, okay! If this is just a ploy to get a ring on your finger by the end of summer it’s working,” he laughs.
    The joke falls with a sick thud in my stomach. There is so much implied there, but mostly I don’t laugh because I don’t think he was joking.
    He walks me to the back door. I stand on the steps where I once kissed Nate, on a night just like this. Ethan cups my jaw with his hand. “My parents want you to come for dinner tomorrow,” he says.
    My heart beats rapidly, and it’s not from excitement. “I’m going to Heather’s,” I lie, so quickly and so poorly that I have to assume he knows, but he shows no sign of it.
    He pouts. “I drove all the way down here to see you and you’re ditching me for Heather?”
    “I’ll see you at the beach tomorrow,” I remind him.
    “I guess I’ll have to settle for that,” he says unhappily.
    “I’m sorry,” I say, and I mean it. I feel bad that I am freaked out by this. Ethan Mayhew is the guy that every girl I know wants, the guy that my whole family wants me to marry, but here I am reluctant to go meet his parents, suddenly so unnerved by physical contact that I can barely function.
    “I’ll forgive you,” he murmurs, tugging at my waist and bringing his mouth next to mine, “If you promise to make it up to me.”
    I am spared making a promise that I’m not sure I can keep by Nate, who seems to materialize out of thin air. “Hey Ethan,” he says, as if they’ve just run into each other at the diner. As if he and Ethan are friends and not two people who’ve barely exchanged a word in over a decade. “Maura.” He says my name with decidedly less civility.
    Ethan steps back in surprise, releasing my waist with clear reluctance. “Hey Nate,” he says. He is being perfectly polite, but I hear the strain in his voice. I wonder which element of this is troubling him – that Nate is his cousin? That Nate is my ex? “How’s it going?”
    This should be Nate’s cue to go, to give us a meaningful look that tells us he knows he’s interrupted something. Nate has never been clueless, but he makes no move to

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