“I hope like hell it hurt them when you left,” he said.

So did she …

“Did you like it there?” he asked. “San Diego?”

She’d thought so. Until she’d come back here. She hadn’t realized in all those years that she’d never really felt like she was home. “I missed the snow.”

He chuckled. “Can’t tell by the car you’re driving.”

“Yes, well, you always were a car snob.” She paused. “And I don’t plan to still be around by the time I need four-wheel drive.”

“You just got here,” he said. “In a hurry to leave already?”

“I’m only here until a permanent job comes through. I’m looking at this as a little break.”

“From the bad press you mean.”

She sighed. She shouldn’t be surprised he’d heard.

His smile faded. “You get a bum rap, Lily?”

She met his gaze, extremely tired of dancing around this subject. “Are you asking me if I ratted out one of my clients for money?”

He shook his head. “I know you wouldn’t rat out anyone.”

The words, unwavering, sucked the air from her lungs. “You don’t know me anymore,” she reminded him.

“I know enough.” This was said with steely certainty.

The blind faith in her actually made her throat burn. Her eyes, too, and for a moment she couldn’t speak, afraid she’d burst into pathetic tears. “But it was me,” she said softly. “My boss asked me to leak it in order to get the salon’s name in the press. But it backfired and so …” She shrugged.

“And so you took the fall for it.”

She nodded.

“So your boss was a real stand-up sort of person, then.”

She’d thought so, at first. Michael had run the salon, been her friend, her sometime lover, and sometimes her boyfriend. And not only hadn’t he stood at her back, he’d fired her and then blacklisted her as well. “It’s actually done a lot,” she said. “Where a celebrity calls ahead and wants their arrival or departure noted in the press. It keeps them in the public eye and relevant.”

Aidan never took his eyes off of her. “So then why didn’t your boss come clean? She could’ve saved you a lot of problems by doing so.”

“He. Michael,” she corrected. “And I don’t know, other than Michael turned out to be someone other than I thought.”

He studied her a moment. “This guy was more than your boss.”

This startled her.

“Turns out I can still read you,” he said quietly.

“Lucky me.”

“So you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“Other than I hate snakes and you saw me in my PJs? Nothing.” She lifted her chin and defied him to contradict her.

She should have known better. Like Ashley, he’d never met a challenge he didn’t face head-on.

He moved toward her, right into her personal space.

She took a step back and came up against the wall.

This didn’t stop him. He kept his forward momentum until they were toe to toe. And then while she was still standing there a little dumbfounded and also something else, something that felt uncomfortably close to sheer, unadulterated lust, he put his hands on the wall on either side of her head.

This both escalated her heart rate and stopped her lungs from operating. “Um—”

“You had your chance to tell me what’s wrong with you,” he said. “You passed. Now I’m going to tell you what’s wrong with me.”

Oh, God. Talking would be a bad idea. As for a good idea, she had only one, and before she could consider the consequences, she gripped his shirt, hauled him down, and kissed him.

He stilled for a single beat and then got on board quick, pulling her in, sinking a hand into her hair to tilt her head to the angle he wanted, and taking over the kiss.

The next thing she was aware of was the sound of her own aroused moan, and she jerked free.

The corner of his mouth quirked. “Did you just kiss me to shut me up?” he asked.

She blew out a sigh. “It made a lot more sense in my head.”

He grinned, one of those really great grins that made something low in her belly quiver. Needing some space, she pushed him, even though her instincts were telling her to pull him in tighter instead of pushing him away.

“Back to what’s wrong with me,” he said, still looking amused. “It’s you.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but he set a finger against her lips. “My turn,” he said, and lowered his head and kissed her.

And oh. Oh, damn … There were some men who just knew how to kiss, the kind of kiss that could send a woman reeling. The kind of kiss that could take away problems and awareness and … and everything. The kind of kiss that could shatter her into a trillion little pieces. The kind of kiss that somehow both calmed her body and soul even as it wound her up for more.

Aidan was that kind of kisser. Shocking, really, to also realize that in between their first kiss all those years ago and now, that there’d been nothing like it for her.

Aidan pulled back a fraction of an inch, opened his eyes, and stared into hers.

She stared back because wow. Good. So damn good, and for one glorious moment there she’d let her lips cling to his, let the memories of him and all that he’d meant to her wash over her.

And those memories had all been … epic.

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