“So am I,” Gray said grimly.
“He says he’s quit drinking. I’m trying to keep an eye on him. So is Mitch.”
“Listen,” Gray said, “it might be easier if I take over Lenny watch.”
“I brought him on board, I’ll take responsibility.”
There was a long silence during which Gray and Hudson gave each other a long look.
“What?” Aidan snapped.
“Lenny’s a friend of yours,” Gray said. “That’s what. And he’s an alcoholic. Not your fault, by the way. So you don’t have to take responsibility for him.”
“I said I’d do it,” Aidan said.
Gray looked at him for a beat. “Fine. Moving on to Dad.” A muscle in his jaw ticked. “Hudson still wants to track him down.”
This gave Aidan a gut ache. Track him down? Christ. Just the thought brought a tidal wave of memories. It’d been hot as hell that night he’d found his dad cheating. He could remember the sweat pouring down his face after having the shit beat out of him. Nearly passing out walking home to his mom. But what he remembered most was the look on his mom’s face when he told her his dad was cheating on her. Which had been nothing compared to her expression when she discovered Richard had laid his hands on Aidan. He’d never intended for her to know that. Had wished she hadn’t figured it out. Because as he’d known it would, it just about killed her.
And then Richard had shown up and that was when Char clocked him with her frying pan …
Gray had been away at camp. He had no idea that a thirteen-year-old Aidan had been the catalyst for the fight. No one but Char knew. Shortly after that, she’d found out about the other kids Richard had deserted, which further cemented her hatred of the man who’d never lived up to his own responsibilities.
One year later the twins had shown up in Cedar Ridge, and Char, being a better person than anyone Aidan had ever known, had taken them in as hers. And then Kenna had come along a few years later.
Aidan had been doubly resolved to keep what had happened between him and Richard a secret after that. Hud and Jacob were so messed up from taking care of their mom instead of the other way around, the last thing Aidan wanted to do was destroy any fantasy memory they had of their dad as well. And then there was Gray. If he ever found out, Aidan probably wouldn’t be able to keep Gray from hunting Richard down and killing him.
Nope, the secret was still his alone to keep. “I told you to forget it,” he said to Hud. “We don’t need him. We never have.”
“Yes, we do,” Hudson said. “He got us in this mess, and he can figure a way to get us out. His fault, his problem.”
“His fault,” Aidan agreed. “But our problem. Trust me, bringing in the man who’s abandoned everything and everyone in his life will be a joke. We’ve never been able to count on him, how much help do you really expect him to be? No, we do this as always—on our own.”
While he and Hudson were going back and forth, they lost Gray, who was staring down at his phone, shaking his head.
“Seriously?” Hudson asked him.
“I’m still listening,” Gray said, but thumbed something on his phone.
Two seconds later his phone buzzed again. He looked pained as he read the response.
“Care to share with the class?” Aidan asked banally.
Gray turned his phone to reveal the text conversation:
Penny: PROBLEM. Spider in the clean laundry basket and now it’s gone. I have to burn down the house.
Penny: You’re not grasping the severity of this situation. The spider is huge and it’s going to eat the cat.
Gray: Then the spider will rightfully take our cat’s place and become our beloved spider cat.
Penny: This is on you. And remember that thing I said you could do to me tonight? It’s off the table.
Hudson grabbed Gray’s phone and executed a three-pointer into the trash.
“What the hell?” Gray said.
“We’re talking about finding Dad,” Hud said. “I want to and Aidan doesn’t. You’re the tiebreaker.”
Aidan gave Gray a long look that said, Side with me or I’ll kick your ass.
Gray ignored him to look at Hudson. “Shelve it.”
“Shelve it,” Gray repeated. “For now.”
At this, Aidan relaxed marginally. Because Hud had different memories of their dad than he did. Hud had seen a different side of the man. He’d been too little to remember anything bad, he only knew him as Absent Dad. And apparently there’d been one early birthday memory that Hud had held on to, when Richard had brought Hud and Jacob bikes.
There was no way in hell that Aidan was going to ruin that memory with the reality that was their father.
Plus, the guy wasn’t just a deadbeat dad and an asshole, but also unpredictable, not to mention uncontrollable. If they got him here and he found Kenna, complete with all the buckets of money she’d earned in sponsorships and endorsements during her snowboarding years, he’d find a way to bleed her dry too—even though Gray had managed to convince Kenna to lock her money up in long-term investments. It’d been a hard sell, because Kenna had wanted to give them the money to put toward saving the resort. Gray had refused to use her hard-won money to save their asses, and Aidan agreed.
If they were going down, she wasn’t going down with them. “Subject closed,” he said now to Hud.
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