Now Danielle’s eyes narrowed. “What’s that supposed to mean? You think I’m not good enough for him?”

“Not even close,” Chelsea said. “And he’s my date tonight. So back off, heifer. And you might want to back off the cheeseburgers too. Just sayin’.”

Danielle leapt to her feet as well. “Who’s going to make me, you skinny, skank cow?”

That’s when they dove at each other and wrestled around on the floor, fighting like two cats.

Rosa stood there gaping. Jonathan ran in from the private client room, skidded to a halt, and looked horrified. Then he pointed at Lily.

Lily got the message. Deal with this. She pulled the handheld faucet from the hair-washing station and squirted both teens. Worked like a charm.

When they were gone and the mess was cleaned up, Jonathan shook his head. “I should give you a raise for most creative use of a station.”

“You should,” Lily agreed. Not that she’d hold her breath. Jonathan was so tight with his money he squeaked when he walked.

Her next client was a huge, thirty-something lumberjack with a Wild-Man-of-Borneo beard. He requested a shave.

Lily pulled out the clippers to trim the bushy beard but he stopped her.

“My head,” he said.

She looked at his beautiful thick, luscious mane of hair. “You sure?”

He patted the top of his head. “Positive.”

“But—”

“My wife has cancer,” he said, and then he ran a hand over his face. “So yeah, I’m sure,” he said hoarsely. “All of it goes.”

Afterward he tried to pay her, but Lily refused to accept any money from him.

When he’d left, Jonathan came up to her, arms crossed.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ll pay for it out of my till.”

He looked at her for a long beat. “You’re pretty damn amazing, you know that? And you won’t be paying out of your earnings. I’ve got it covered. Because for cancer, anything goes. Always.”

It was six o’clock before Lily left the salon. It’d been a long day, made longer by the way she kept thinking about Aidan. This isn’t over, he’d said. And then there’d been the conversation with her mom.

Forgive yourself.

Promise me.

Lily got into her car, but instead of going home, she parked in the empty clearing at the trailhead to the hiking trails. There she drew in a deep breath and looked at herself in the rearview mirror. “You’re okay,” she told herself.

Her reflection didn’t look convinced.

“You just need to feel Ashley,” she said, testing that theory out loud.

It was the truth. She desperately needed to feel her sister. The first problem with that was that she was still in her work clothes, a sundress and cropped sweater with wedge sandals. Alone in her car with no one nearby, she first looked around for security cameras. Not seeing any, she quickly stripped down to her sports bra and spandex shorts, and then dug into the duffel bag in the backseat for a T-shirt and running shoes.

She got to the exact same spot she’d made it to on her first day back in town before stopping for a break. She sucked in some wind and checked her phone.

No missed calls. And no texts from a certain firefighter …

She sighed. Without water and supplies she knew better than to go much farther. She might be a little unbalanced and a lot messed up, but she wasn’t stupid.

So she went another half mile and then sat on a rock, taking in the view. If she’d been geared up, she’d have had several choices from here—the rest of the hike—another two miles up a near vertical. Or free-climbing down to the river.

She’d done both many times, a long, long time ago.

But it was the cliff that drew her. She walked to the edge and looked down.

A staggering three-hundred-sixty-degree vista of sharp, jagged mountain peaks and the blanket of green forestland that covered them, lined with rivers and tributaries, as far as the eye could see. This wasn’t the exact spot where Ashley had died. That was up about a mile farther. But the view was the same, and in fact from here she could see the face where Ashley had climbed and then fallen to her death.

Lily stared across the chasm at it. She didn’t know what she’d expected to find. A neatly wrapped box of forgiveness? Her sister’s ghost?

She got nothing as she looked at the heart-stopping drop-off from the cliff to the winding river far below, nothing at all but the silent dare.

Climb me. …

“Next time,” she told it.

Chapter 17

After two straight days on a fire out on Eagle Flats, Aidan staggered out of the station when his shift was over, blinking at the bright morning sun.

He turned on his phone and found the usual myriad of messages, including one from a pissed-off Lenny who’d gone to court to fight his DUI to no avail. Aidan texted him back that his job would be waiting for him, no worries there. But Lenny texted back with a “whatever” and had Aidan shaking his head.

He couldn’t give any energy to that right now.

Someone honked, and he turned to see Gray waiting at the curb in one of the utility vehicles that belonged to the resort.

Aidan ambled over to him, and Gray rolled down the window. “Kenna had to borrow your truck for a fucking interview, so I’m your ride.”

“You need to figure out what she can do for the resort, man,” Aidan said. “And quick.”

“Yeah. But when I ask what she wants to do, she just shrugs. I don’t have a lot of year-round positions open for a pissed-off-at-the-world twenty-four-year-old.”

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