This was painfully accurate. “I had to go like that, had to cut the ties or I couldn’t have done it,” she said softly. “I just couldn’t stay here and face … everything.”

“That’s my point, Lily. You didn’t have to go it alone.”

Said the guy who’d always had a pack of siblings to pull together for support. But she realized there was something more, something he hadn’t said.

He’d felt abandoned by her, which was a very real issue for him since he’d been abandoned cruelly before. “Aidan—”

“No one but you blamed you,” he said, clearly not intending to let this be about him. “Do I need to repeat that?”

“That’s not quite true.”

“Yes it is—”

“No,” she said. “I appreciate you saying that, really, I do, but at Ashley’s funeral, my dad—” She broke off and closed her eyes, and just like that she was back there. Sitting in the front row next to her sobbing mother as she met the gaze of her dad, his eyes burning with fury.

At her.

And then in the next moment he was clutching his heart and falling to the ground.

He’d died there, mad at her.

She opened her eyes. “My dad blamed me.”

Aidan shook his head and reached for her. “No—”

“He did, Aidan. I saw it in his eyes. And then he had the heart attack.”

“I was there,” he said, “at the funeral. He was devastated, yes. And angry at fate or whatever, but not you. Lily—”

She quickly turned away to get a damp, warm cloth to clean him up—and to give herself a moment to fight the tears threatening to fall. She remembered Aidan trying to talk to her beforehand and her being unable to speak about what had happened. About the fact that she was leaving. About anything, really. She’d been consumed by the need to go. He’d seen that, and they’d had some angry words that night, and she knew now in hindsight that she’d hurt him badly. It was a wonder he talked to her these days at all, which was a visceral reminder that he wasn’t a man to repeat his mistakes. No matter what she wished for in the deep, dark of the night, she knew he’d never trust her with his heart again.

“Even if you believed what happened to Ashley was your fault,” he said behind her, with devastating gentleness, “even if your dad blamed you and you had to get out of town, you didn’t have to stop what was happening between you and me.”

Standing with her back still to him, she closed her eyes, her chest aching so that she could hardly speak. “That’s the thing,” she whispered, denying what her heart wanted to believe was true. “Nothing was happening between you and me. Not really.”


“It’s true. There was nothing between us—”

His hands settled on her shoulders. He’d gotten up from the bed and turned her around to face him, making her gasp in surprise. “Aidan—”

He yanked her in and covered her mouth with his.

This was no soft, gentle, nice-to-be-kissing-you-again kiss. This was a no holds barred, hard body plastered to a much softer one, tongues clashing, hands fighting for purchase, and rough groans cutting the air.

When he pulled back, it was only an inch to speak. “Yeah,” he said roughly. “You’re right. There’s nothing between us. Nothing but heat and fire and crazy need.”

“And coconut and cucumber,” she said, licking her lips.

He swore and took the cloth, turning to the mirror to wipe his face himself.

“Okay, maybe,” she said softly to his broad back. “Maybe there’s … something.” Her entire body was humming and throbbing with that something. “But it’s still not going anywhere.”

“Why the hell not?” he asked, sounding mystified. “I don’t know about you, but this”—he gestured between them—“doesn’t just happen for me.”

She gave a rough laugh. “What are you talking about? It happens to you, always. All the time. Women love you, Aidan. And you love them back. Hell, it was happening with my—” She clamped her mouth shut, horrified it had almost run off without her brain’s permission.

But Aidan hadn’t gotten the memo. “With who?”

“Forget it.”

“I don’t think so,” he said quietly. “Tell me.”

She closed her eyes and went to war with herself. He’d shared something of himself with her, and she owed him the same in return. It was past time to face this. Face him. “Ashley.”

When there was no immediate response, she opened her eyes and found him staring at her.

“You’re wrong,” he said flatly. “There was nothing between Ashley and me, not like you’re thinking.”

“She liked you. A lot.”

He went very still. “I didn’t know that.”

Lily believed him. But that didn’t change the fact that this was one thing she refused to take from Ashley, dead or alive. She backed away and opened the door because suddenly the room was way too small and intimate.

Aidan immediately closed it. “Lily,” he said very quietly. “Tell me you didn’t leave and then not talk to me for ten years because you thought I had something going on with your sister.”

“That’s not it.”

“Then what?”

“We competed over everything, Aidan. And I usually won. The things she really wanted, I took from her. I won’t take this.”

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