"Ethan," Thayer Ryback called from behind. Ever since Sutton told Emma what happened on the ranch, Emma had been trying to get Ethan's side of the story, but he didn't want to talk to her. She'd gone to the trailer, only to have Dan threaten to arrest her for trespassing. She'd tried to intercept him at school, but he hadn't gone. He wasn't answering her calls and Emma didn't know what to do. She'd finally asked Thayer to see what he could find out.
Ethan stopped and turned to face Thayer. The sight of Ethan's fist coming toward his jaw didn't register until he was already on the ground and Ethan was beginning to walk away.
"What the hell, Man?" Thayer responded, making sure his jaw wasn't broken.
"Emma told me what happened between the two of you."
"And what might that be?"
"Don't play dumb, dude. I mean seriously, both of them? What is wrong with you?"
"Ethan, what did I do?"
"Emma told me you guys slept together while I was away."
"Wait, what? Ethan, we didn't. You know I'm in love with Sutton and who are you judge Emma for cheating? You're the one that slept with Sutton."
"I didn't sleep with Sutton. We kissed and it almost came to that, but I stopped and I told Emma that it meant nothing, that Sutton meant nothing to me."
"When did you talk to Emma?"
"The night before my trial. She came to my jail cell and told me about the two of you and how she wasn't sure how she felt anymore."
"That wasn't Emma," Thayer stated, "Emma was with Mads at the country club and before that she was with…"
Thayer suddenly realized who was responsible for all of this, but from Ethan's cold glare, he knew that Ethan hadn't figured it out yet. It wasn't exactly shocking that he hadn't figured that one out. For all he knew, Sutton was still stuck at the ranch. He had no idea she was back in town. Ethan's looked turned quizzical, "Who was she with?"
"Sutton," Thayer stated.
And just like that, Ethan figured out what Thayer had just realized. It was not Emma at the jail cell. It was Sutton, and Ethan telling her that she meant nothing to him had been fuel to her fire. Thayer had come to realize Sutton didn't deal with pain well. Usually she acted like it didn't hurt her, but the way she retaliated gave her away. Her response to pain had always been to inflict it on her attacker and Ethan and Emma were no exception.
"It must've been her at the jail cell," Thayer responded, "Look Ethan, Emma thinks you and Sutton slept together and the reason she's been trying to talk to you is because she wants to know what really happened. She doesn't want to believe Sutton, but she doesn't understand why you're pushing her away if it's not true."
"I've got to talk to her," Ethan realized, "I've got to tell her what Sutton did and make this right. Thayer, I love her and I never meant to hurt her like that."
"I know," Thayer stated, "That's why I would never go after Emma. Her heart belongs to you. I could never get in the way of that."
"Thanks Man. Look, I'm sorry I hit you…again. You didn't deserve it."
"It's cool," Thayer responded, "but right now you need to talk to Emma, before she refuses to talk to you."
Emma sat in Sutton's bedroom, unable to focus on the homework Mads and her were trying to do. Why wouldn't Ethan talk to her? She didn't want to believe Sutton, and it's not like her track record made that difficult, but Ethan's behavior did. Why would he avoid her if it hadn't happened? Why would he tell her that he was counting down the minutes until they could be together and then push her away? Something wasn't right, but Emma didn't know what it might be.
"Hello?" Emma heard Mads voice cut through her thoughts, "Are you even listening to me?"
"What? I'm sorry Mads. I guess I'm just a little distracted."
"Still thinking about Ethan?"
"I don't understand why he wouldn't just tell me what was going on. I've given him every opportunity and he hasn't taken it. I don't want to believe what Sutton said, but he's making that really difficult."
"Well maybe Thayer can get somewhere with him," Mads answered hopefully, "He probably just doesn't know what to say to you about it."
"How about the truth? He told me about the kiss at the Black and White Ball and promised he would be honest with me about everything. Why is he going back on that now, unless…"
"Don't think that way, Emma. Don't let Sutton win, not even in your mind."
"I wish he would just talk to me," Emma cried.
The click of Sutton's window signaled the presence of a visitor. She looked hopefully toward it, thinking it would be Ethan. It wasn't. There standing by the window was Thayer, with a newly forming bruise on his jaw line.
"Oh my god, Thayer. What happened?" Mads questioned her brother, getting up to look at his face.
"It's a long story," Thayer stated, pulling away from her touch, "Emma, I talked to Ethan. This whole thing is a huge misunderstanding. He didn't sleep with Sutton. He kissed her, but it was a mistake and he feels absolutely horrible about it."
"If he didn't sleep with her, then why didn't he just tell me that, and why are you telling me this now?"
"Because I feel absolutely horrible for making you feel this way," Ethan stated, climbing through the window, "Emma, things got out of hand on the ranch and I tried to push Sutton away, but that only made her pull me in closer. She opened up to me. She told me she loved me and that she wished she could have me back and then she put her hand on my cheek and we kissed. I didn't stop her at first. I missed you and for a moment I forgot who I was with, but then I remembered and I stopped her before it went any farther. I felt sick about what I'd done and the only thing I wanted was to come back here and tell you exactly what happened. I wanted to tell you that it was a mistake and that she means nothing to me. I love you, Emma, and I will do anything to make this up to you."
"Answer me this, Ethan," Emma demanded, trying to maintain her composure, "If that's what you wanted to do, then why didn't you? Why did you shut me out at your trial? Why did you ask Dan to send me away? Why wouldn't you talk to me? I had to hear it from Sutton and I didn't want to believe her, but your actions weren't exactly dissuading."
"I wasn't avoiding you because of what happened with Sutton," Ethan muttered.
"Then why were you?"
Ethan glanced at Mads and Thayer as if silently willing them to leave. Emma wasn't sure she wanted them to go, but she had a feeling that Ethan wouldn't talk until they had. He wanted her to hear this from him without any sort of interruption.
"Could you guys wait in the living room? No one's home besides us, so Thayer you can wait with Mads."
Mads looked reluctant to leave Emma alone, but Emma willed her to go. Mads nodded, as if she understood what Emma was trying to convey and Thayer pulled her out of the room. As the door clicked closed behind them, Emma turned back to Ethan.
"I didn't realize that Sutton was already back in town," Ethan started, "I'd left her on the ranch and hadn't expected you to manage to get her back here so quickly. The night before my trial, I had a visitor and I thought it was you."
"Sutton visited you in jail?"
"She came in, pretending to be you, and Theresa managed to get us some time alone. At that point, I told her what she already knew. Then when she tried to sound like she understood that we had a history I stopped her. I told her that what had happened was a mistake, that it didn't mean anything, and that she meant nothing to me."
"And after telling you that she was still in love with you that must've been hard for her to swallow."
"She told me that something had happened while I was gone. She told me that you and Thayer had slept together."
"And you believed her?"
"I shouldn't have," Ethan stated, "I didn't want to, but I thought it was you and one of the things I love about you is how honest you are. I thought Sutton was still at the ranch and I couldn't fathom how she would've known about the meeting even if she were in town without you knowing about it too. Emma, I was avoiding you, because I thought you'd cheated on me."
"Were you really in a position to judge me for that, even if it were true? You did kiss my twin sister, your ex-girlfriend, and couldn't tell us apart."
"Sutton made it seem like you didn't think it was as much of a mistake as it should've been. She made you sound confused and unsure of what you wanted. Emma, you know how jealous I get, especially when it's Thayer. I was emotional and I let it cloud my judgment, but not anymore. I will never let Sutton get that close again and I will never doubt your love for me again."
"Oh my god," Emma stated, realizing something horrible, "No wonder she's been pushing me to leave. She orchestrated all of this to get you back. She knew how much I cared about you and that something like this would hurt me more than anything. She hoped it would get me to leave Phoenix before we had a chance to talk."
"It almost worked, didn't it?"
"Not really," Emma stated, "I have too many connections here that I don't want to lose. Mads, Laurel, even Thayer, as a friend of course. It would hurt to have to see you, but I was willing to endure that pain for them. That's what Sutton doesn't understand. She doesn't understand just how important family is to me."
"Or how persistent you could be in finding out the truth," Ethan hinted, "If you hadn't sent Thayer to talk to me. We might not be talking right now."
"You're the one that gave him that bruise," Emma realized.
"I hit him over sleeping with Sutton and she doesn't mean anything to me. I was willing to kill him for sleeping with you."
"That's…creepy," Emma stated, "I know never to cheat on you."
"Not that you would," Ethan stated, "I know that now and I won't ever forget."
Ethan pulled her in and gently pecked her lips with his. He tried to pull away, but Emma pulled him back in. He might've kissed her twin sister, but he'd been honest with her. If it ever happened again, she might have a different reaction, but right now she wanted Ethan to hold her in his arms and show her that he still loved her. She wanted to know that not even Sutton could tear them apart.
A/N: Thanks to all of you who have reviewed my writing in the past. I really do take your suggestions into consideration and if they make sense I make changes. I feel like this might be one of those fictions so if any of you don't like the way I took something feel free to let me know and if I agree with you I'll change it. I hope you enjoy this latest version I've written.