He wondered whether Lily was still hardy and durable. Not that it mattered. He’d been there, bought the T-shirt, and gotten left behind, not for the first time either. The first time it had been his father who’d left. But Aidan had a steep learning curve and worked hard never to repeat a mistake.
Allowing himself to care about Lily again would be just that—a big mistake.
Lightning flashed, followed by another rumble of thunder that had the road beneath his tires trembling. The other vehicles on the road kept as steady as he did. Yep, durable stock in these parts. And Aidan and his family were just about as durable as they came. People said they were untamable and born troublemakers.
They’d be right on all counts.
He rolled up his window, because the evening air held a sharp chill now, a reminder that spring had barely left and could make a reappearance in an instant. The season had been particularly heavy and wet this year, leaving the mountains lush and green and thick with new growth. Once things dried up, it was going to be a hell of a fire season.
Not that there was any other job he’d prefer. Maybe it was the adrenaline junkie in him, maybe it was just his need for fast-paced action and nonstop adventure, but he thrilled to the insanity that was wildland firefighting.
He drove through the resort’s lower parking lot past the employee housing and offices, which made him think of Lenny. He’d tried calling him again to check on him, make sure he was okay.
Lenny had ignored the call.
Aidan continued on past the base building that held the mountain café, their equipment rental and sales shop, a general store, and the beauty salon. He turned onto the private service road that circled the resort. His truck bumped along on the dirt road, up past the lodge that housed ski and avalanche patrol, first aid, and the ski school to the very last building.
Originally the three-story log cabin had been the ski lodge. Built in 1920, it held plenty of personality and old rustic charm—emphasis on old. In other words, it was a true POS. There’d been a reason his family had abandoned it for a new ski lodge, but because it was a historic building they hadn’t been allowed to tear it down.
So Aidan and his siblings had made it their home—or as close to a home as any of them had ever had.
Not that it was ever as cozy as the word home implied. They were the Kincaids, after all, and there wasn’t much coziness about Aidan or his pack of wild siblings. Although they were a lot less feral than they used to be.
Cedar Ridge Resort had gone into a tailspin after their dad had started traveling a lot back when Aidan was two years old. Then around the time Aidan became a surly teenager, the truth had come out. Richard Kincaid hadn’t been traveling for business, he’d married another woman and started a second family.
And then a third.
To say that discovery of this had been hard on their mom was an understatement. When the dust had cleared, Richard was gone. He’d walked away from all of them.
Char had done her best to keep the resort going, but her injuries had never completely healed quite right, which made managing on the mountain tough. Plus, she’d had her hands full trying to get the wild, rebellious boys under her roof through school without killing any of them or letting them kill each other. The twins had shown up when they were twelve, and Kenna, from a third family of Richard’s, came a few years later, just before her twelfth birthday, for the ski circuit. The kids, all of them, had been her priority, and she’d done the best she could.
Gray had taken over for her as soon as he could, gathering in all the wayward half siblings.
They’d all stuck together—except for Jacob, who’d taken off at age eighteen and joined the army. He hadn’t been seen or heard from since, a fact that drove Hudson nuts.
In the meantime, Gray, along with his Midas touch and business degree, had worked his ass off. Not to mention pushed, prodded, and bullied the rest of them into doing the same. It’d taken a lot of blood and sweat and maybe a few tears—not that any of them would admit to such a weakness—but they were operating in the black.
It was a start. And Gray was still cracking the whip hard, coming down on everyone around him. Always had, probably always would. He was the toughest son of a bitch Aidan knew, and he had only one weakness.
A five-foot-two domino named Penny.
Okay, so they all had a weakness for Penny, as she’d long ago worked her nosy self into each of their hearts.
The entire lot of them were like a pack of kittens, they couldn’t stand to be together but they couldn’t stand to be apart either. In the end, secretly starving for togetherness while fighting daily, they’d divided the building up for all of them into four living quarters. Aidan and Hudson were on the bottom floor. Kenna had taken half the second floor, the other half being full of all the crap they’d accumulated over the years. The third story was for the marrieds, Gray and Penny.
Char lived in a small condo in the town proper and rarely ventured up here to the resort because it brought back bad memories for her. Aidan had the same bad memories, but he was good at locking his shit down tight.
He parked his truck and jogged up the front steps. He keyed his way in and walked through the foyer, shedding his sweatshirt and shoes as he went.
They used what was formerly the lodge’s lobby as a living room/secondary office/great room, and the large room was most definitely lived in. The huge, overstuffed and battered leather couches in a wide V in front of a wood-burning stove held a variety of different remotes and several throw blankets, not one of them folded. There was also a flat-screen TV, a sound system, and two dead potted plants gifted to Aidan by an ex who’d been attempting to domesticate him.
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