And then she crawled into the shower, where she had herself a nice, private cry. When she was done, she turned off the water and stared at herself in the mirror. She was bruising from head to toe, her damn hands hurt, and her knees hurt and so did her butt. She was still staring at herself when someone clicked open the bathroom door and made her jump nearly right out of her towel.
“Hey, I locked my front door!”
He set a red duffel bag on the counter. It had a white cross on it and read: first aid.
“And the bathroom door,” she added.
He narrowed his eyes. “Were you crying?”
Looking pained, he let her have the lie as he gestured to the closed commode. “Sit.”
She instantly put her hands to her backside. No way was she going to be sitting. Maybe not ever again.
He stared at her, clearly trying to decide whether to force her or not. And maybe also worried she’d start crying again. She was tempted.
Instead of waiting for him to figure it all out, she brushed past him, nose high. “I’m busy.”
“Yeah, busy healing. Now if you won’t sit, then lie down.” He dropped his bag on the bed.
She decided to put up with his annoying boorish behavior, because she figured he had Band-Aids in his bag and she didn’t have any.
So she very carefully sat on the bed, sucked in a breath at the pressure on her sore butt, and came to the conclusion that he was right. Lying down seemed like the way to go. She lay back.
Without another word, Aidan perched a hip on the bed and went to work, doctoring up both knees first.
She hissed out a breath when he sprayed antiseptic over the abraded skin. “Hurts.”
He lifted his head and met her gaze. “You fell down the stairs without a peep, but this hurts?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“How about the baby bunny?” he asked. “You want to talk about that?”
She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Fine,” he said. “Let’s talk about why you’re mad at me.”
“I’m not mad,” she said. Lied. But there was no way she’d explain that the anger was really self-directed and came from wanting him again. And not just a silly crush want, either, but much, much more. She couldn’t have that conversation because the wanting was mutual, she knew that much. Just as she knew it couldn’t go anywhere. Aidan and his lifestyle—putting his neck out on the mountain daily—would kill her.
He shook his head, but he bent over and kissed the Band-Aids over her knees, one after the other.
She didn’t say a word, couldn’t because the breath had backed up in her throat again. How the hell was she supposed to hold on to her mad if he was going to be sweet?
Then he went to work on her palms. After he finished the first one he brought it up to his mouth and gently pressed his lips to the bandage there, too, and damn if she didn’t feel all her defenses crumbling down. “What are you doing?” she asked, her voice annoyingly breathless.
“Kissing it and making it better.” A wicked light came into his eyes and she began to realize that “sweet” might be the wrong adjective, and when he spoke, she knew it for sure.
“Now turn over,” he said.
Aidan watched Lily sputter with indignation and anger, and both looked good on her. A damn sight better than the misery and pain of a few minutes before.
Or the sadness from the other day. Yeah, that one had nearly killed him. He didn’t know exactly when or where or how but one thing was clear—he was no longer guarding himself against her.
But if he’d softened, Lily had actually seemed to go the opposite route. The closer they got, the more she pushed him away.
“I’m happy to have you kiss my ass,” she said, eyes still flashing. “Theoretically.”
“I prefer literally,” he said.
She let out a low laugh and tipped her head up, staring at the ceiling. “What are you doing here, Aidan?”
“Told you. Lenny called me.”
“And so you came running to the rescue.”
“It’s what I do,” he said.
“Right. Your job.”
“I’m sensing sarcasm,” he said.
“And irritation,” she said. “Don’t forget that one.”
“Look, I get that you don’t like the idea of being just a job to me,” he said, “but we both know you don’t want to be anything more either.”
At that, she rolled off the bed. Hugging her towel to herself, she limped to the closet. And though it was the size of a pea she shut herself in there.
Rustling sounds came from within and then a thump—an elbow hitting the wall?—and a muffled “Dammit!”
Picturing her in there, possibly dropping her towel, struggling naked in that small space, had his amusement fading, replaced by something far more difficult to ignore. “Tell me something,” he said to the door. “Rescue aside, why are you mad at me?”
The rustling stopped.
Everything stopped. It seemed as if she was not even breathing in there. “Lily?”
The closet door opened slowly. She’d ditched the towel for a sundress, this one peach with a snug bodice and filmy, loose skirt that fell to midthigh. She strode toward him, her bandaged hands on her breasts holding the bodice in place.
He sucked in a breath, staring down at her as time switched to slow-mo. She licked her lips and they parted … and he couldn’t believe it. She was coming at him, half dressed, her eyes soft, her mouth … God, that mouth. He wanted it on him. He wanted that more than he wanted anything in the world … And then that mouth started moving. She was talking, and he had to force himself to tune in to her words.
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