“Not me,” Hudson said, nudging the harness at Aidan. “You know I don’t do criers. This one has your name all over it.”
Aidan snatched the harness. “What makes you think I do criers?”
“Have you met the women you date? Teri, Breanne, Molly, Shelly—” Hudson ticked off Adrian’s exes on his fingers.
“I never dated Shelly,” Aidan said, slapping Hudson’s helping hands away.
“Banged then,” Hudson said.
Aidan straightened the harness and narrowed his eyes at Hudson. “And how is it you get to escape all the crazy?”
“It’s a talent I picked up by watching you and doing the opposite,” Hudson said.
The rest of the team arrived. As Hudson belayed him down, Aidan kept his eyes on the girl. “Keep your head down,” he told her. “Don’t look up or you’ll get rock dust in your eyes.”
So of course she promptly looked up and got rock dust in her eyes. She screamed and slid down another few feet. “Omigod, I’m losing my grip! I—”
Aidan snatched her just as she let go. “Got ya.”
Still screaming, she managed to climb his body, gripping him with both arms and legs like a monkey.
Déjà vu …
“Shannon,” he said firmly while keeping his voice purposely low so that she’d have to strain to hear, theoretically shutting up in the process. “I’ve got you. You’re safe.”
She stopped screaming. With a noisy sniff, she met his gaze, her face puffy and mascara ravaged, as the team pulled them up. “Are you married?” she asked.
“Do you want to be?”
By the time they got Shannon down to the base of the mountain, a rather large crowd had gathered. Any rescue on Dead Man’s Cliff was always big news in Cedar Ridge. Other than that time the Housewives of Beverly Hills had come through town complete with their television camera crews, Cedar Ridge’s biggest claim to fame was the cliff and the lives it claimed.
The group of Shannon’s sorority sisters looked worried, and for good reason. They were probably about to get their asses handed to them in a sling.
You play, you pay, Aidan thought, knowing it all too well. He and his brothers had been pulling shit on each other forever.
“Remember when Gray locked us in the Cat?” Hudson asked, obviously thinking along the same vein. “We found the keys and drove it into town in the middle of the night in the snowstorm from hell. Good times.”
“Good times?” Aidan asked. “We nearly went to juvie for grand theft. We would have if my mom hadn’t made Gray stand up before the judge and tell how he’d locked us in.”
Hudson grinned wide. “We all got our asses handed to us on that one. It was fun.”
“We were grounded for months,” Aidan reminded him.
“Yeah. Together.” Hudson shrugged. “I had the time of my life. You let me drive, remember?”
Yeah, Aidan remembered. Mostly because Hud had nearly killed them on Pine Pass Road when they’d narrowly avoided more than one tree. But he knew that compared to Hudson and Jacob’s rough childhood, nearly going to jail as a cocky fourteen-year-old with his big brothers at his back might indeed have been the time of his life.
They made their way through the crowd, but Aidan stopped short at the sight of the woman standing off to the side of the others, chewing on her thumbnail, a haunted expression on her face.
His chest squeezed. Nothing about this woman should reach him, nothing, and yet he couldn’t seem to help himself. It was the kiss—stupidity at its finest. He’d gotten a taste of her, and it was messing with his head. “Don’t do it, Kincaid,” he muttered.
“Do what?” Hud asked, and followed Aidan’s gaze. “Ah. That’s what.”
“Give me a minute.” Ignoring the instincts that had kept him alive on more than one occasion, and despite being exhausted, starving, and on his last ounce of energy, Aidan walked over to Lily. “Hey,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
She looked away, but not before he caught the flash of worry she’d been masking. The rescue had brought back horrific memories for her, of that he had no doubt.
“Just wanted to make sure everyone was okay,” she finally said.
She sounded calm, but he could feel the tension simmering beneath the surface. He felt for her and the nightmares this mountain must bring. “We got her,” he said, voice softer now, feeling things when he didn’t want to. Way too many things. “She’s going to be okay.”
She nodded. “Good.”
Walk away. You’ve done your duty, now get the hell away from her. “How about you?” he asked instead. “You going to be okay?”
More like she’d always had to be. Their gazes held for a single heated, tension-filled beat, and that’s when he knew something else as well—he was all kinds of screwed. Upside down, sideways … every which way, because just as she had in the past, Lily drew him in with those eyes, her voice, the outer toughness she showed the world, the inner vulnerability she did her best to hide.
And damn if he didn’t want to kiss her and then drag her back to his place caveman-style and show them both what they’d been missing out on. He tried to remind himself that their time, if they’d ever had one, had long since passed. Which was proven when, without another word, she broke eye contact and walked away.
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