“That’s why we don’t tell him. All he needs to know is that my new assistant manager is doing the ordering now.”
She went brows up.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Congrats. You got a promotion.”
“Does this promotion come with a raise?”
“It’s not that kind of promotion,” Jonathan said.
“Uh-huh.” She eyeballed the supply wall, where everything they bought was on display for their customers. She’d been wanting to redo that wall for two weeks. “Okay if I make a few changes to our display then?”
“Fine by me,” Jonathan said. “And if Evan doesn’t like it, we’ll tell him I did it.”
“Yeah, that’s just what Michael told me, and look what happened,” she said. “I was out on my ass so fast my head’s still spinning.”
Jonathan turned her to face him. “Don’t lump me in with that asshole. I’d never throw you to the sharks, not without a rescue plan. Besides, much as I’d like to sleep with you, I won’t. I can’t lose you again.”
“You want to sleep with me?” she asked, surprised. “Since when?”
“Since always.” He laughed. “Have you looked in the mirror? Of course I want to sleep with you. Everyone wants to sleep with you.”
Lily looked into his eyes. He was selfish and self-centered and a bit of a drama queen, but he was also fiercely loyal and fiercely honest to those he loved. “Fine, I’ll take over the ordering. But I’m buying us better coffee.”
“See, I knew you were the right person for the job,” he said.
Lily’s three o’clock arrived. Char Kincaid again.
“I’ve got another date,” she said proudly. “But I can’t do my hair as good as you. I need your help.” She limped a little, leaning on her cane as she sat in Lily’s chair. “Oh, Lord have mercy, it feels great to sit.”
“Your injury acting up?” Lily asked, worried.
“Nah. I had to swim for half an hour this morning to atone for the donuts I ate. I’ve been walking, too, on the easy trails. Need to try to get back in shape before ski season, but I keep working against myself.”
“You still get on the trails? And ski?” Lily asked in surprise as she began to work on Char’s hair.
“Well, sometimes, but only cross-country skiing these days. And of course I have to sneak it in now. Your mama helps me when she’s in town.”
Lily blinked and stopped what she was doing. “My mom comes to Cedar Ridge?”
“Couple times a year at least,” Char said, and frowned. “You didn’t know?”
“No.” She’d had no idea, her mom had never said a word. “We get together and get on the mountain,” Char said. “Not Cedar Ridge, though. My sons would plotz if they thought I was still cross-country skiing. We go to Eagle Mountain.”
Lily could only stare at her. One thing at a time. “But Ashley …,” she said, trailing off.
“What about her?”
“She died on the mountain.”
“Yes,” Char said softly, and squeezed Lily’s hand. “And it was awful and tragic and we all hate that it happened. And trust me, no one’s forgotten about it. But, honey, that was ten years ago. Life goes on.”
“But … how?”
Char’s voice was very gentle now. “By knowing in your gut that Ashley would want you to be happy. She’d want you to live your life, Lily, not just mourn hers.”
Lily swallowed hard. This was true. Ashley would most definitely want Lily to live her life. She’d want her to kick ass at it too. Probably she was sitting up on a cloud somewhere with a stopwatch, timing Lily on her hikes, yelling at her to do it better, go faster.
“When your mom and I walk, we always talk about her,” Char said, smiling as Lily went back to working on her hair. “About how she’s looking down at us, probably annoyed that we stop to smell the wildflowers instead of trying to see which of us is faster.”
Throat tight, Lily laughed in spite of herself. “You both still get on the trails. And ski,” she marveled.
“Well of course we do.” Char narrowed her chocolate-brown eyes, so much like her son’s that Lily found herself a little transfixed. “Why wouldn’t we?”
Lily bit her lower lip.
Char sighed. “Let me guess. My sons are still making it sound like I’m on my deathbed.”
“Well, not …all the way on your deathbed.”
“I swear, those boys … And don’t think that I don’t know it’s mostly Aidan.” She sighed. “He’s the one who saw me so fragile, so hurt …” She visibly shooed off the thought. “You know what? I think I’ve got an idea.”
Lily got a bad feeling as she met Char’s gaze in the mirror’s reflection. “Why do I feel like I should be afraid?”
“Don’t be silly. But I’m going to need you to do something for me.” This was uttered in Char’s full-on Southern accent, making her voice sound like melted butter.
“I want you to call my son in here,” Char said. “And mess with him the way he’s been messing with me.”
Yep, she’d been right to be afraid. “Which son?”
Char smiled. “Don’t make me lump you in with those idiots, honey. You know which son. The one you’re still crushing on.”
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