Way to look sophisticated, Dana.
I forced a smile and told myself to get over it. Not only had Ethan and I had more, um, intimate encounters before, but I had absolutely no reason to be nervous around him. At least, so I told myself.
“Nope. Not a thing.”
Ethan rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right. That’s why you look like you want to jump out of your chair and run.”
That shook me out of my little bout of self-pity. “I do not!”
I narrowed my eyes at him. For the moment, his smile looked normal, like the friendly smile he’d used to devastating effect before the Erlking had come into his life. But then he seemed to remember himself, and the smile wilted.
“Sorry,” I said. “I guess I’m obsessing a bit about this trip to Faerie.” It made as good an excuse as any.
Ethan nodded and picked up his menu. This time, he was the one deliberately avoiding my eyes. “It’s going to be a fun time all right. You, me, Kimber, and Keane all hanging out together twenty-four/seven.”
I snorted. “That’s what you think is most disturbing about this whole thing? That the four of us are going to be spending so much time together? I’m more worried about stuff like, oh, you know, dying a slow and horrible death.”
The look in Ethan’s eyes hardened. “You’re not going to die,” he said, reaching across the table to take my hand in his. The touch made my belly flutter again. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you.” He grimaced. “And neither is anyone else.”
I squeezed Ethan’s hand and smiled. “Thanks. I know you’ll all do your best. And maybe I’m getting myself all worked up over nothing. Maybe it’ll end up being as safe as a school trip.”
The look on Ethan’s face told me he didn’t believe that any more than I did. The waiter chose that moment to come over and take our orders. Neither one of us had done more than glance at the menu, but Ethan knew what he wanted, and I made a snap decision, more interested in Ethan’s comment about our traveling companions.
“Do you think it’s a bad idea for all four of us to go?” I asked when the waiter was out of earshot. “Are you and Keane going to try to kill each other before the first day’s travel is through?”
To say Ethan and Keane disliked each other was an understatement. Ethan, for whatever reason, was jealous of the time I spent with Keane. Time I spent getting my butt kicked, not making out or anything, but Ethan didn’t seem to make the distinction. And apparently, Ethan had stolen Keane’s girlfriend when they were in high school, so Keane hated him. I didn’t know whether anyone but me realized Kimber was into Keane, but I’d bet if the boys found out, it wouldn’t help the situation. So far, I’d never been around Ethan and Keane together, but I’d be shocked if sparks didn’t fly.
Ethan scowled at me. “Having the two of us so close together is a recipe for disaster. But I won’t start anything if he doesn’t.”
And didn’t that just fill me with confidence?
“This trip is going to be miserable enough without you two going all MMA on us.”
Ethan cocked his head to the side. “MMA?”
“Mixed Martial Arts. I guess that’s a U.S. thing, huh?” Or maybe just a human thing. I suspected the Fae might find MMA … undignified.
“I guess. What is it?”
I shrugged. “Some fighting thing. Lots of blood and testosterone. Not my cup of tea.”
Ethan grinned, but the expression didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m not a complete idiot, you know. Keane teaches self-defense for a living. I’m not about to ‘go all MMA’ on him. Not unless I want to have my ass handed to me.”
Ah. That was what was chafing Ethan. He might be a magical prodigy and everyone’s golden boy, but he knew Keane could take him in a physical fight. Boys and their egos.
“We’ll find a way to get along,” Ethan assured me. “You should have all the protection you can get, and I’m sure Keane is a good man to have in a fight.” There was an edge in his voice, like it was practically killing him to admit that. I must have made some kind of face, because Ethan reached out and gave my shoulder a squeeze.
“It won’t be so bad,” Ethan said. “Even if tensions run a little high, you should be looking forward to your first look at Faerie. It’s a pretty cool place.”
“What could be more fun than traveling in a place where creatures like Water Witches and Spriggans live?” I grumbled.
“Water Witches and Spriggans are both Unseelie,” Ethan reminded me. “We’ll be traveling through Seelie territory.”
“Oh, yeah, and all the creatures of the Seelie Court are sweetness and light.”
He smiled sheepishly. “Well, no. But they’re unlikely to bother Prince Henry.”
I was far from convinced, though I resisted the urge to say so. This was supposed to be a romantic night out, and so far I’d spent most of it whining and complaining. Real attractive.
Ethan’s hand found mine under the table. Our fingers twined. It was a simple touch, but it sent a pleasant shiver through me anyway. Our eyes met and locked, and the rest of the world seemed to fade away. His thumb stroked gently over my knuckles, and I wished that after we were done with dinner, we could have some quiet time together, just the two of us.
But, of course, that wasn’t going to happen. If I was lucky, I might get a goodnight kiss, but with Finn watching our every move, it would be a chaste, G-rated kiss that wouldn’t even begin to satisfy our hunger.