He paused. “Yeah.”

“I’d like to repay it. Now.”

Crickets.

“So if you could come over,” she said.

“I just got down off the mountain from a rescue, I’m filthy dirty.”

Oh, the images that conjured up in her mind … She shook them off. “It’s okay. It won’t matter for what I have in mind.”

A shorter silence this time, filled with a new kind of tension.

And her nipples went hard. “Aidan? You still there?”

“Your place in ten.”

Her place? What the— Omigod. “No, I’m at the Mane Attraction! I have a treatment I want to give you!”

More crickets.

“Aidan?”

“In ten,” he repeated.

“Okay, good—” But she was talking to dead air. She looked at Char. “He needs to work on his phone etiquette.”

“God himself couldn’t teach those boys of mine phone etiquette. So is he coming?”

“In ten.”

Char smiled wide. “Yep. He likes you.” Her gaze went speculative. “So what’s your stance on children?”

Lily’s mouth fell open.

“Kidding!” Char said, and laughed, the sound a little evil actually.

“He doesn’t like me like that,” Lily said.

“Honey, let me tell you something about my boy. It takes an act of Congress for me to get him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. You follow me?”

Lily was afraid she did but she shook her head no.

“It’s the middle of the day and he’s busier than a priest in a whorehouse. So if he’s coming now, he dropped a million things to do so. For you.”

Oh, God. “Why are we doing this again?” Lily asked desperately.

“Because the mess-ees are going to become the mess-ors.”

Lily stared at Char. Yep. Evil. “Promise me something.”

“Anything,” Char said.

“If you ever get mad at me, you’ll just kill me dead. You won’t pin me to a board and slowly pull off my legs.”

Char laughed again, sounding delighted now. “I’d better get out of here.”

“Wait— What? I thought you wanted to see your son.”

“No, I want you to see my son.”

“But—”

“Just work your magic, get him to talk to you.” Char hugged her. “He needs that, honey. More than you know. He doesn’t have anyone in his life to let go to. Oh, and give him a haircut—or whatever treatment floats your boat. God knows he could use a little TLC. But don’t forget to feed him the old folks home story.” She grinned. “I’ll leave my credit card at the front desk. Make sure to wear that pretty little sign on your forehead.”

“What sign?”

“The one that says, Spill your guts to me.”

Lily was boggled. “I don’t have a—”

“Yes, you do. That’s what makes you such a good cosmetologist. You listen. You care. It’s what he needs, trust me. He doesn’t spill his guts to anyone. Ever.”

“Maybe he doesn’t have any real feelings to spill,” Lily said.

Char laughed again. “Aw, now we both know that’s not even close to true.” She hugged Lily again, winked, and left.

“But what am I supposed to do with him?” she asked Char’s empty chair.

The chair didn’t answer.

Chapter 14

Aidan was exhausted. The night before he hadn’t gotten to bed until midnight, and no sooner had his head hit the pillow than an S&R call had come in.

Two hikers, a newlywed couple from Denver, hadn’t checked back into their honeymoon suite for the night at a local hotel. Earlier in the day, the concierge had sent them on a hike and then had worried that maybe they were lost.

When the couple hadn’t returned by the next morning, their family and friends became concerned as well.

Dispatch had finally gotten a panicked call from the couple themselves, who’d managed to climb high enough to get cell service. They were hopelessly lost, freezing, freaking out, and hungry.

They were told to start a fire to keep warm while S&R worked their way to them.

The couple had called dispatch back twice. They’d had trouble starting a fire. Dispatch walked them through it, instructing them to find something for kindling before carefully stacking the wood correctly to catch fire.

By the time Aidan and Mitch had located them, the couple indeed had found something for kindling. In spite of being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland filled to the brim with pine needles and fallen twigs, they’d been burning their cash.

Aidan had seen people burn their clothes, their supplies … He’d genuinely thought he’d seen it all. But this was a new one, even for him.

And now Lily wanted to see him at the salon, something about returning the favor, which he didn’t care about.

What he did care about was the tone in her voice. Uncertainty. Nerves.

What the hell was up? Sliding his phone into his pocket, he stood up.

Gray and Hudson stared at him.

“Got a thing,” he said.

“You’re in the middle of a thing,” Hudson said. “A management meeting thing.”

Aidan kept heading to the door.

“Hey,” Gray said. “There’s still a few items on the to-do list. What about Lenny?”

Aidan turned back. “He’s pissed.”

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