“Jonathan,” she corrected and then shook her head. You know what? She worked here too now, and so far she liked it, dammit. It’d been weeks since she’d liked where she was. More than weeks. Way too much more. “And okay, me too,” she said, claiming the place in spite of herself.

Jonathan grinned and blew her a smooch.

“There’s a problem with the electrical,” she told Aidan. “We can’t run two blow-dryers at the same time. A pretty big problem for a salon.”

“Absolutely,” he said easily. “What else?”

“Nothing,” Jonathan said, pulling three sodas out of the mini fridge they kept stocked for clients. “We’re good.”

Lily glared at him. “The private patient room needs some plumbing help. The sink drips.”

“Drips,” Aidan said, taking one of the sodas and popping it open.

“Yes. It’s annoying.”

He smiled. “Annoying.”

“To the client, yes,” she said. “It’s annoying. They’re here to relax and be pampered. A dripping faucet isn’t relaxing.”

“Understood,” he said. “Anything else?”

Huh. She didn’t remember him being this agreeable. “And the lighting. It’s not bright enough in the client room, and too bright and harsh out here.”

Jonathan choked on his soda.

But Aidan just looked at the overhead lighting and nodded. “You also need a new paint job.”

“Yes,” she said, surprised. Huh. Maybe this was going to go a lot easier than she’d imagined. “Thank you,” she said genuinely.

Jonathan was smiling at Aidan like he’d just brought Christmas. “She’s something else, right?” he asked Aidan.

Aidan looked at Lily. “Definitely something else.”

She gave him a long look that made him grin.

Jonathan too. “I’m thinking of putting her in charge just so I don’t have to be.”

Aidan nodded. “I’m sure you’ll be in good hands.”

Well dammit, it was hard to hold on to a good mad with a compliment like that, but she gave it the ol’ college try.

“Get me a list of the work you need done,” Aidan said. “I’ll talk it over with Gray and see what we can do.”

“Maybe we could just deal with Gray directly,” Lily said.

He gave a slow shake of his head. “Why?”

She tried not to notice how his T-shirt had stretched itself nearly beyond its limits to cover his broad shoulders. Or how the shirt was only partially tucked in at his abs. Or that he smelled fantastic. “It’d make things easier,” she said.

“For who?”

She stared at him. Was the air suddenly too thick to breathe or was that just her? “Me,” she admitted.

He cocked his head. “Maybe I’m not interested in making things easier for you,” he said so casually that it took a moment for the words to process. By the time it sank in, he’d changed out the blown fuse and was gone.

Jonathan was still grinning.

“Why are you smiling like that?” she asked, irritated.

“Because this is going to be fun.”

Lily was pretty sure this, whatever this was, was going to be the exact opposite of fun.

Thanks to some idiot throwing a lit cigarette out his window on Highway 74, Aidan and the entire fire department spent the next three days fighting a blaze fifteen miles away on Mt. Rose.

Finally a violent rainstorm rode in like a tumbleweed and saved the day, helping them beat the fire into submission.

When he finally got home, he felt disgusting. He stripped on the way to the bathroom and then stood beneath the showerhead for a full thirty minutes—the best thirty minutes he’d had in days.

He’d no sooner turned off the water and wrapped himself in a towel when his phone buzzed an incoming Facetime call from Gray. He hit ACCEPT and when Gray’s face appeared, Aidan went on the immediate offensive. “No,” he said, before his brother could speak.

“I didn’t even ask you anything.” Gray looked at his bare torso and grimaced. “And Christ, put on some clothes.”

“I just got out of the shower. And you didn’t ask me anything—yet,” Aidan corrected. “I’m just warding you off at the pass.”

“I don’t only call you to get you to do something,” Gray said.

“Yes you do.”

Gray opened his mouth and then shut it. “Shit,” he finally muttered. “Fine. I need you to do something.”

“If it doesn’t involve a beer and then an entire night of sleep, forget about it,” Aidan said.

“It’s Mom.”

The only two words that could have Aidan rustling through his dresser for clean clothes instead of hanging up on his brother. “What is it?” he asked. “She didn’t fall again—”

“No,” Gray said quickly. “Healthwise she’s fine.”

Neither of them liked to talk about Char’s physical limitations. On the night that their father had left, they’d had a big fight. She’d hit him with a frying pan, but then he came after her, and she’d fallen and broken her wrist and hip. They’d both been arrested for battery and assault, and his father had taken off afterward, never to be seen again.

His mom had healed, at least physically, although her hip had never been the same. After she re-injured it last week, the doctor said she was supposed to limit her physical activity for the next month.


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