“Lily!” her mom said in delight when Lily rang her back. “Is that you?”
“Hi, Mom, yes it’s me. Are you all right?”
“Of course I am. Why do you ask me that every single time I call you?”
Lily let out a shaky breath and tried to calm her racing heart.
“I don’t know,” she finally said, trying to channel Aidan and sound calm. “Force of habit?”
“Darling, it’s been ten years,” her mom said softly. “You’ve got to let it go. It’s okay to let it go.”
“I have,” Lily said. Lied. “Totally and completely. One hundred percent.”
“Do you mean one hundred percent minus one hundred percent?”
Lily let out a low laugh. “Let’s talk about you, okay? What are you up to?”
“Nice subject change. But because I’m in South Africa I’m going to allow it. Did you know they serve fried caterpillars and sheep heads here as a delicacy?”
“Yummy.” Lily still wasn’t used to the changes in her mom. Once upon a time, Donna Danville had been born and raised right here in Cedar Ridge, Colorado. She’d married and had two kids and worked just about 24/7 at Mt. Rose, never leaving the only town she knew and loved.
Until she’d lost half her family in the span of a single week from hell.
Lily and her mom had had many talks over the years about how Donna wanted Lily to let go of the past enough to move on. Lily always assured her she had, telling her she had a full and happy life in San Diego.
And most of the time Lily even believed her own lies.
Until she’d come back to Cedar Ridge.
Now she knew the truth. She hadn’t let go of the past at all. She’d buried it deep, let it take root, and had even secretly harbored it. “It’s good to talk to you, Mom.”
“Oh, darling, so good.” Over the air came the telltale sniff and Lily’s heart dropped.
“Mom, don’t cry.”
“It’s just so lovely to hear you.” She paused. “I’ve sent you something that I had pulled out of storage, I hope it won’t upset you. But it should arrive today and I wanted to give you a little heads-up about it so you aren’t surprised.”
“What is it?” Lily asked.
“A framed pic of you and Ashley on the mountain. And her favorite scarf. I thought you might want them there in Cedar Ridge. One to keep you warm on the outside, the other to keep you warm inside. In your heart.”
It took Lily a moment to answer because her throat clogged with emotion. She knew the scarf well, she’d been the one to give the baby-blue length of cashmere to Ashley on her seventeenth birthday—her last. “That’s sweet, Mom,” she finally managed, meaning it. “I’ll love them both, thank you.”
“Just do me one favor,” her mom said. “Promise me now that you’re back home, you won’t leave there until you forgive yourself.”
Lily closed her eyes. “Mom—”
“Promise me, Lily Ann, or I swear to you, I’m on the next plane. I’ll get all up in your grill and everything.”
Lily managed a laugh. “All up in my grill?”
“Yes. That’s what all the kids are saying now, right?”
Lily shook her head. “Fine, you win. But, Mom?”
“Stop streaming MTV.”
Lily was smiling when she disconnected and still smiling when a candy bar got waved beneath her nose.
Jonathan dropped it into her lap. “Nice to see you looking happy.”
Lily picked up the candy bar and felt her mouth water. “A bribe?”
“You know me so well.” Jonathan jerked his chin to the reception area. “Passing off another client to you.”
“No problem.” She took a bite of the candy bar. “Omigod, so good. You know, at my old job these were considered the work of the devil and were banned. I’ve been making up for lost time so much my dress was tight this morning.”
“Your old job sucked and so did your boss,” Jonathan said.
“And Lily Pad?”
“You look like hot stuff in that dress.”
She finished her candy bar and hit the reception area. Waiting there were Danielle and Chelsea, two sixteen-year-old BFFs. They wanted matching updos for a rec center teen summer dance, so she took one and Rosa took the other.
“The dance sounds like fun,” Lily said to the girls after they’d each been washed. They were sitting side by side at the stations. “Are you going with anyone?”
“It’s stag,” Chelsea said, the taller, more outspoken one of the two. “But I’m meeting someone there.”
“Me too,” Danielle said smugly as Lily began to do her hair. The girl had a smile that revealed dimples and more than a little trouble.
Over at Rosa’s station, Chelsea’s eyes narrowed in the mirror at Danielle. “Who? Who are you meeting there?”
“I promised not to tell.”
“Why?” Chelsea demanded. “I’m your BFF. You have to tell me. It’s in the manual.”
“Can’t,” Danielle said. “Trevor doesn’t want me to tell anyone so no one gets jealous.” She slapped her hand over her own mouth at the inadvertent slip.
Chelsea pushed Rosa’s hands out of her hair and stood up, hands on hips. “Trevor? You’re meeting Trevor? You?”
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