Aidan reached over and swiped his finger across Mitch’s screen.
Mitch swore, nearly lost the phone out the window, and then turned to glare at Aidan. “You owe me a Candy Crush life.”
“Tell me more about Lily being back.”
“Oh, now you want to talk? You done pouting then?”
When Aidan just gave him the I-can-kick-your-ass gaze, Mitch grinned. “You know you were.”
“It’s all over Facebook,” one of the guys said from the back. “The news about Lily.”
“Aidan forgot his password,” Mitch said. “A year ago.”
Aidan ignored him, mostly because his brain was on overload. Lily. Back in town …
He’d long ago convinced himself that whatever he’d felt for her all those years ago had been just a stupid teenage boy thing.
Seemed he was going to get a chance to test out that theory, ready or not.
Fake it ’til you make it, that had always been Lily Danville’s motto. And it’d always worked too.
Until the day it didn’t.
Which was how she found herself driving through the Colorado Rockies low on gas, money, and dignity.
She really hated when that happened.
But she could throw herself a pity party later. For now it was survival of the fittest—or in her case, not quite as fit as she used to be.
She planned to work on that.
It’d been a damn long time since she’d driven the narrow, curvy highway into Cedar Ridge, ten years to be exact. But she had it memorized, including the dangerous and terrifying S-curve near the top of the pass.
Hundreds of feet of sheer face rock shooting straight up to the limitless blue sky on her left and a stomach-tightening drop-off on her right with nothing but a tiny rail between her and certain death.
Once upon a time, Lily had known every inch of these rugged, isolated peaks, including the most infamous of all of them—Dead Man’s Cliff. Hell, she’d once hiked up the back side of the dangerous peak and then free-climbed down the face with no more gear than her own wits, which, granted, in her teenage years wasn’t saying much.
Luckily, she’d grown up enough to recognize danger. There would be no free-form rock climbing in her near future. Hiking, most definitely. Risking her life? No, thank you.
As she made it over the last summit before coming into town, Lily rolled down her window and sucked in the mountain breeze. Yep, June in the Rockies still smelled like cedar and pine and air so fresh it hurt.
Or maybe the pain came from being back for the first time in a decade. Her gut twisted at the thought and all the implications that came with it. Telling herself that it was hunger and most definitely not grief, she drove into the town proper. There were ten thousand residents scattered across a county that easily had far more wild animals than people. This didn’t include the influx of crazy that went on during ski and board season. During those times, Cedar Ridge’s population could triple in size. Most of the tourists spent their time up on the slopes, though, a five-minute drive and two thousand more vertical feet above town.
Lily had no intention of going any farther up the mountain. At all.
Instead, she pulled into the first of the three gas stations in town and took a glance at herself in her rearview mirror.
Ack. Her hair had started off decent only because she’d flat-ironed all the natural frizz out, but somewhere between California and Colorado she’d gotten hot and had twisted the unruly mess up on top of her head, holding it there with the stylus stick from her tablet. Strands had escaped and rebelled back to their natural habitat of Frizz City.
Hmm. Not exactly runway-ready after two days on the road. But really, who cared? Probably no one would even remember her.
Buoyed by the thought, she stroked a hand down her clothes to smooth out the travel wrinkles. She wore a sundress and cute blazer out of habit, because that’s how they’d done it at the San Diego beauty salon where she’d worked until The Incident. They’d dressed nice to match their upscale clientele, a uniform of sorts.
And now being dressed nice was also her superhero cape. She figured if she looked well put together on the outside, people would assume the inside matched …
For the record, it didn’t.
Stretching after the long drive, she looked down at herself. Crap. She rubbed at the four suspicious stains on her blazer that might or might not be fingerprints directly related to an earlier Cheetos mishap. Note to self—give up Cheetos or buy some wet wipes to keep on her. She shed the blazer and eyed the sundress. Damn. There were two more Cheetos finger spots on a thigh. She licked her thumb and tried to rub them out, but this only made it worse. Apparently some things, like Cheetos finger stains and the searing pain of grief, couldn’t be fixed.
She was shedding her hard-earned urbanness moment by moment, transforming back to the rumpled, come-what-may, adventurous but oblivious mountain girl. She started to get out of the car, but stopped when her cell phone buzzed an incoming call from Jonathan, her childhood best friend.
“You here yet?” he asked.
Physically, yes. Mentally … well, she was working on that. “Sort of,” she said.
“What does that mean?” He paused at her silence. “You know you can do this, right? That you’re one of those rare people who can do whatever they need to?” he asked.
True, she’d learned this very skill at an early age, the hard way. But what she needed felt overwhelming and daunting—something that would get her out of the rut that was her life. “I might have come up against my limits this time,” she admitted in the understatement of the day. Hell, understatement of the year.
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