His mouth turned up slightly, but his eyes were sad. “I told you I understood better than you could imagine.”
“Two peas in a pod,” I murmured. What had happened in Ezra’s life to bring that haunted look into his eyes? He worked so hard that sometimes I thought he tried to stay busy not just for the money, but also to keep his mind occupied. There were times when I’d watched him work and he’d be intent on the job at hand, but his eyes would be distant, his jaw tight.
“A pair of tortured souls,” he joked lightly, squeezing my hand. I expected him to release it then, but he didn’t, and we sat like that until the sun was long gone and the sand underneath us began to cool.
When his phone beeped, he tensed beside me, and I knew my reaction mirrored his. He cast me a rueful glance as he pulled out his phone and checked it briefly before stuffing it back in his pocket. “I’m really sorry…”
I waved him off. “Don’t be. I’m used to it by now.”
He looked almost hurt by my words. “I hate to leave you, especially tonight. I…I know it couldn’t have been easy for you to tell me about your mom’s death.”
He was right; it wasn’t. He was the only person I’d told. Even Dad thought I’d just been waiting for him to return home. He didn’t seem to think it was strange that I was waiting outside in the middle of a raging storm, but then he’d had more important things on his mind at that moment.
“I wouldn’t leave if I didn’t have to.” Ezra’s eyes were pleading, as if begging me to understand that he didn’t want to leave, he had to. Even though he wouldn’t tell me why.
“It’s okay, Ezra,” I sighed. “Honestly. Go.”
He nodded slowly. He gave my hand another squeeze before releasing it and getting to his feet. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? Maybe we could go to Angelo’s and grab a slice of pizza for lunch.”
“Sure,” I said, forcing a smile. “See you tomorrow.”
He headed off across the sand, and as I watched him go, something in me shifted. I was tired of whatever secret he was keeping. I was tired of spending the entire night wondering where Ezra went and what he did. If he was into something bad, I needed to know sooner than later.
Plus I couldn’t stand the idea of another night by the bonfire with strangers, then going back to my room and sitting there for hours with no company other than a book and the moon. Not after exposing such a raw wound to him. “Ezra,” I called, jumping to my feet. When he looked over his shoulder, I blurted, “Take me with you.”
He stood frozen for a few seconds, then took a step back toward me. “Charlotte…” He stared at me for a long moment, his expression conflicted. Finally he let out a long sigh. “I don’t know if it’s something I want you to be around.”
My stomach dropped. He really was a drug dealer. Before cell phones had become so popular that almost everyone had one, my dad used to joke that they were only for doctors and drug dealers. Ezra never bothered with his phone during the day, but the minute it went off at night, he jumped up and took off.
“Take me with you,” I repeated. I glanced up at my window, imagining myself sitting there for the next few hours, unable to sleep, my mind racing.
He followed my gaze and sighed again as if reading my thoughts. “Fine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”