Until the end.
Finding her sanity, she pushed him again. For a beat he didn’t move, just looked into her eyes.
And then, on his own terms, he stepped back.
She pointed at him. “That was …”
He arched a brow.
“Never mind what it was,” she said. “We aren’t going there.”
His smile was grim and utterly without mockery. “Agreed.” But then he hauled her up to her toes and kissed her again.
And only when she was a panting, whimpering mass of jelly did he finally let her go.
“What was that?” she managed.
“Hell if I know.” He shoved his fingers through his hair, looking uncharacteristically baffled.
She stared at him, a little startled to realize he was no more eager for this than she. Had she done what she hadn’t imagined she could, hurt him when she’d left? “Then we won’t make the mistake of repeating it,” she said, shocked to find the words hard to say. Once there’d been nothing she’d wanted more than him, and she’d really believed it could happen.
But then Ashley had died and Lily hadn’t been able to find her footing in an upside-down world. She’d walked away from Cedar Ridge and Aidan, and it had hurt nearly as much as losing Ashley had. She didn’t want to go through anything like that, not ever again. So she opened the front door in a silent invitation for him to leave.
He didn’t. He just met her gaze, his own hooded, giving nothing away of what he was thinking. “I know you’re so stubborn that you’ll freeze to death before asking for help,” he said. “But I’m going to ask anyway—do you need anything else?”
“No,” she said abruptly, and then sighed. “No,” she repeated, softer now. “Thanks.”
He held her gaze, shook his head, and then he was gone.
She closed the door behind him and settled a few hard-earned pieces of wood into the stove.
And that’s when she realized. She did need something—matches. But Aidan had been right, she’d freeze to death before opening the door and catching him on the way to his truck to ask if he had any. Nope, she’d have to relive kissing Aidan to keep her warm until she got to the store. The thought heated her just as well as any fire.
Aidan’s cell went off in the middle of a really great dream where he had the kiss with Lily playing on repeat. And damn, she’d tasted as sweet as he’d remembered. It’d nearly killed him to pull away.
He loved the way she’d held still after, staring at him in shock and wonder, how her tongue had come out to lick her lower lip as if trying to make the taste of him last.
He’d had to force himself to let go of her. But in his dream he didn’t have to let go. And she didn’t push him away either. Nope, instead she pushed him down onto her bed and—
His phone buzzed again. Damn. Reaching out in the dark, he squinted at the screen. Incoming text calling him for an S&R—a missing camper.
He dressed and ran into Hudson at the front door, hair crazy wild, his eyes hooded from sleep.
“Hey, Princess,” Aidan said. “You look like shit.”
Hudson flipped him off as they jogged out to Aidan’s truck and hit the road, driving straight into a wall of fog in the still-dark morning.
“Zero visibility,” Hudson said, looking at his weather app.
“No shit,” Aidan said, looking out the windshield.
Hudson handed him a granola bar.
“What’s this crap?” Aidan asked.
“Just eat it before I cram it down your grumpy-ass throat.”
Aidan ate the granola bar. Not because of Hud’s threat but because he was starving. And when he was done he tossed the wrapper at Hud’s head.
Hud caught it without taking his eyes off his phone. Impressive. The guy had been a skinny and sickly eleven-year-old kid when his mother brought him and Jacob to Cedar Ridge. Char, suffering in her own right, had taken them in, since it was clear their mother wasn’t mentally stable enough to handle them. From that day forward Hud had followed Gray and Aidan around with hero worship in his eyes. Unused to any sort of outdoor lifestyle, he’d often ended up hurt and stuck indoors. Char, who’d loved them all equally, had a soft spot for Hud. She’d babied him, earning him the nickname Princess.
Hudson had grown a couple of feet and a whole bunch of muscle since then, but, to his eternal frustration, the nickname had stuck.
“You really do look like shit,” Aidan said.
“I was online all night,” Hudson admitted.
Aidan knew Hud had been searching in earnest for his twin brother, Jacob. Not that they’d found hide nor hair of him.
More recently, and for more complicated reasons, Hudson had also been searching for their dad, much to Aidan’s frustration. He didn’t want that asshole within a thousand miles of here. “Please tell me you were up all night watching that cartoon porn again and not searching for Dad.”
In the way he’d been doing since he was a kid, Hudson set his jaw. And the big brother in Aidan sighed, knowing he’d come up against the brick wall that was Hudson’s stubbornness. “We’ve been over this, man. We don’t need him.”
“We do,” Hudson said. “And it’s not porn, it’s called anime. It’s an art form.”
Aidan shook his head. “Whatever. Just concentrate on finding Jacob. Forget Dad.”
“I can do both.”
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