He studied her expression for a long moment before opening his mouth to speak, but his phone buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket, eyed the ID, and blew out a breath. “It’s Hud. He needs me.”

This wasn’t the first time she’d seen him drop everything for a Kincaid, and it also wasn’t the first time that she took a beat to marvel at the closeness of his family.

And her lack thereof …

She’d always told herself it was best that way, but there was no denying that a little part of her no longer believed it.

Shoving his phone away, Aidan lifted his gaze to hers again. “This isn’t over,” he said.

She had no idea if that was a promise or a threat, but it didn’t matter.

He gave a mirthless smile, shook his head—probably at both of them—and left her with nothing but her own unsettled thoughts and the taste of him still on her lips.

Chapter 16

Aidan drove straight to The Slippery Slope, which was where Hud had texted him from. He hit the bar and ran into Lenny staring into an empty glass.

“Hey,” Aidan said.

Lenny lifted his head and met his gaze with bleary eyes. Shit. “Thought you stopped drinking,” Aidan said.

Lenny shook his head. “Knew that was coming.” He stood and tossed some money down before he met Aidan’s gaze. “I’ve got two months plus left on my suspension. Seemed like a waste to quit drinking so soon.”

“Lenny—”

“Save it, man.” And then he was gone.

Aidan blew out a breath and searched out Hudson, finding his brother sitting at the other end of the bar nursing a beer and a bad ’tude, staring at his phone.

“Hey, Princess,” Aidan said, taking the seat next to him.

“Call me that one more time and I’ll—” Hudson looked up from his beer and narrowed his eyes. “What’s up with your face?”

Aidan put his hands to it. His face was most definitely still there. “Nothing, why?”

“Your skin looks … smooth.”

Aidan stared at his brother.

Hudson stared back while taking another long pull on his beer. “Yeah, you smell like a chick, but your pores look fantastic.”

“What are you—” Aidan whipped around and searched out the crowd. “Fuck you. Gray put you up to this, right?”

Hudson grinned and with one finger pushed his phone across the bartop, closer to Aidan.

A woman’s tinny voice came out of it. “Aidan Scott Kincaid! I can’t believe you talk to your baby brother that way!”

Aidan sighed and picked up the phone. “Mom, trust me, Princess here is nobody’s baby anything.” He eyed a smug-looking Hudson. “He’s a huge six-foot-four gigantor. And I can’t believe you got him to ask me about my pores.”

“And I can’t believe you tried to ruin my date with Marcus. Did you know that the man won’t sleep with me yet because he says he’s got to do right by my children?” She sputtered with outrage over this. “My children are idiots!”

“Mom.” Aidan pinched the bridge of his nose to try to get rid of the image of his mother sleeping with Marcus. “You don’t need to rush into anything—”

“So I should wait until what, I’m eighty-five and Marcus needs a little blue pill to make his penis work?”

Hudson was laughing his butt off, the jackass.

Jesus. “Okay,” Aidan said to his mom. “I’m going to need you to never again say that word to me. Never.”

His mom sighed. “Give Hudson a kiss for me, okay? Tell him I sent his mama a box of her favorite candies and some of that tea she loves. I hope the ladies at her home make sure she gets it.”

Aidan softened and glanced at Hudson again, whose expression was inscrutable now. It always was when it came to his mom, or anything to do with his past.

If Aidan and Gray thought they’d had a rough childhood, Hudson and Jacob’s past made theirs look like a walk in the park. They’d grown up alone with their mother, who suffered from mental illness. She was on meds now and in special-needs housing, safe at least. “That’s nice of you, Mom,” he said. “So now that that’s out of the way and all is well with my pores, we’re going to have a truce, right?”

“Hmm,” she said. “I’ll consider it. Love you, baby.” She disconnected.

Aidan stared at the phone. “Shit. We’re not going to have a truce.”

“Nope,” Hudson agreed and took another long pull of his beer.

Aidan shook his head. “Can you imagine if she ever decided to use her powers for good? She’d obtain world peace in a few hours.”

“There’s no doubt,” Hudson said.

The bartender came over. Shelly again. “Another one, handsome?” she asked Hudson, completely ignoring Aidan.

“Yeah,” Hudson said with a warm smile. “Thanks, Shel.”

“Suck-up,” Aidan muttered to him beneath his breath.

Shelly graced Aidan with a long look. “Huh. Didn’t figure you for the chemical peel type. Your skin looks annoyingly perfect.”

Hudson grinned. “He just had a facial.”

Aidan gave him a shove that nearly knocked him off his barstool.

Hud winked at Shelly. “He’s had a rough day at the salon. Think you can bring him a beer?”

“Sure,” she said sweetly.

“And you won’t … do anything to it?” Aidan asked.

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