That he cared enough to ask, coupled with his gruff voice, had her getting there. “Yes,” she said. “Thanks to you.”

“You have enough wood loaded in your place?”

“I do,” she said. Also thanks to him. “I haven’t used too much, I’ve been at work.”

“And apparently doing my mom’s hair while you’re at it,” he said, and spared her a glance.

“She looked pretty tonight, don’t you think?”

He grimaced. “Yeah.”

“And happy.” Lily shook her head. “I can’t believe you and Gray tried to sabotage her date.”

“She’s not ready to go out. She’s …”

“Feeble?” she asked dryly.

He sighed.

Lily found a laugh. “Aidan, she’s fantastic. Really.”

“She’s not ready for a man in her life.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Why not?”

“Yeah, why not? She kicked your father to the curb a long time ago.”

“She’s … frail.”

“Because of her hip? She says it’s feeling better every day. Besides, that shouldn’t keep her from dating.”

“She doesn’t pick the right men.”

She stared at him a moment. “That’s her choice. You realize that, right?” she asked gently. “Doesn’t everyone deserve their own version of a happily-ever-after?”

“Yes,” he said meaningfully, and slid her a look.

“Oh, no,” she said. “We’re not talking about me.”

“We should be.”

“But we’re not.”

They drove in silence. Aidan handled his truck like he handled everything in his life—with easy, effortless confidence. It wasn’t fair at all. He pulled into the lot of her building, and Lily hopped out of the truck practically before he’d stopped. When she turned back to close the door he was there already standing before her, big and rock steady.

“In a hurry?” he asked, brow raised.

“Yes.” In a hurry to not kiss him again.

He smiled. He knew, the bastard, as proven by his next words.

“You don’t trust yourself around me,” he said, sounding way too pleased with himself.

“I trust myself just fine,” she said. “It’s you I don’t trust.”

He laughed, looking smug and … damn. Hot. Extremely hot.

“I’m serious,” she said. “You have this way of mowing over my roadblocks.”

“Are you referring to the present or the past?”

“Both.” She pointed at him. “But we’re not talking about it.”

“Why not?”

Because my sister was in love with you and I can’t … I can’t go there. “Do you think about her?” she asked before she could access her good sense and keep her mouth shut.

“Yes,” he said again, not having to ask who. “I think about her every time I have a call up on Dead Man’s Cliff.” He met her gaze. “And you, Lily. To be honest, mostly I think of you.”

She sucked in a breath at that. She’d thought of him plenty too. But somehow she’d never pictured him thinking of her in return. Shaking her head because it was too much, she took a step back.

He reached out for her, but she lifted her hands to hold him off and shook her head again. “Don’t,” she whispered. “I … can’t.”

And then she walked away. Or maybe ran was more like it, taking the stairs blindly. At the top, her fingers shook so badly she dropped her keys twice before Aidan gently nudged her out of the way and opened her door with his keys before bending to scoop hers off the floor.

“You have keys to my place?” she asked in surprise.

“I have keys to everything.”

Except her heart, she told herself. Nope, he was firmly locked right out of that particular organ. And he’d stay out.

Aidan watched Lily’s heart go to war with her head for a beat before gently nudging her inside.

She slipped out of his jacket and handed it back to him. “Thanks for that. And the ride. Lock the door on your way out?”

“I can’t leave you alone. Not on her birthday.”

“Yes you can. You just walk out the door.”

He gave her a slow shake of his head.

“And you call me stubborn,” she muttered beneath her breath, but he was fluent in Annoyed Female Speak, living with Kenna.

“Do you want to talk about her?” he asked.

“No. Not even a little bit.”

Wrapping his fingers around her upper arm, he pulled her back around to face him when she turned away. He tried to read her expression and went still with a gut-wrenching pit in the bottom of his stomach. “Does this have anything to do with me?”

A sound came from deep in her throat. Pain? Regret? Hard to say as she pulled free and took a step back, staring at him, clearly shocked. “No, of course not. I don’t know why you’d ask me such a thing.”

“Maybe because immediately afterward you took off,” he said. “And when I called you, you clearly didn’t want to talk to me. That was the last I heard from you for a decade until the junk food massacre in the convenience store.”

She closed her eyes. “It’s not you. It’s me. Ashley’s accident. It was all my fault, Aidan.”

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