She gave him a nudge toward her empty chair. “There’s no way. Sit.”

“Don’t you have to wash it first?”

She turned to look at him, but he didn’t seem to be up to anything, so she led him to the wash station and cranked the hot water. She had just wet his head and run her fingers through his silky hair when the radio at his hip crackled.

“Is that you?” she asked.

He reached down and cranked up the volume, listened for a minute, and then shook his head. “No. Not my unit.”

She let out a breath. She’d given thought to what his life as a firefighter meant to her—terror. But she’d not thought about what it meant for him, being on call, constantly at the ready to literally jump into the fire, carrying the burden of all the responsibilities that went with it, like saving lives.

On a good day she felt overwhelmed by her life. She couldn’t even imagine carrying the weight he did. Reaching over him, she pumped some shampoo into her hand.

His gaze ran the length of her arm just over his head and then met her gaze.

His eyes were hot.

Ignoring both him and her reaction to him, she sudsed him up. His eyes drifted shut, and his entire body relaxed. As she gave him a scalp massage, he let out a low groan from deep in his throat.

“You have great hands,” he said.

She should have known it. He had managed to con her into a skull massage. She held her tongue until she finished and brought him back to her station. Standing behind him, she ran her fingers through his wet hair. His perfectly cut wet hair that was so evenly matched on both sides she could have used it to set a ruler. Then, hands on hips, head tilted, she met his gaze in the mirror.

“Busted,” he said, not looking the least bit embarrassed or sorry.

“You could have just asked for a wash,” she said.

“Nah, this was way more fun.”

She opened her mouth but his radio went off again, and though his eyes remained on her, he was clearly concentrating on the radio and the garbled words she could barely make out.

Then suddenly he stood, all joking and good humor gone from his gaze. “Gotta go,” he said.

“You’re still wet.”

“No worries.” He shook his head like a big dog and then, shoving his hand into his pocket, came up with cash.

Lily pushed his hand away. “No.”

“I pay my debts.”

“Not this time,” she said.

His eyes landed on hers as one of his hands slid to the nape of her neck. “Think of me.” Lowering his head he gave her one quick, hard kiss. “Later,” he said against her mouth, and then he was gone.

“Good sweet baby Jesus,” Jonathan said from the hall behind her.

She turned to find him fanning himself. “It’s not what you think,” she said.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “Because what I think is that man is sex on two legs. He wears that firefighter uniform like nobody’s business. Well, except maybe his brother Hudson. Cuz Hudson looks pretty damn fine in his as well. I mean, when he strides toward me with that gun on his hip …” Jonathan gave a full body shiver.

“Going back to work now,” she said with an eye roll, and did just as Aidan had suggested—thought of him.

That night, back at her place, Lily found herself on edge. Did Aidan’s “later” mean tonight? She had no idea.

Normally her after-work routine consisted of a hot shower and PJs, but she stayed up late in her sundress, makeup still on. No need to scare the man unnecessarily.

But Aidan didn’t show, and this left her torn between relief and unease.

Unease won, and she called his mom. “I know it’s late,” Lily said quickly, “but I—”

“Oh, honey, I got the styling cream,” Char said. “Thank you so much for that. I should’ve called you, I’m sorry.”

“I’m not calling about that, I was wondering …” She grimaced. “Is everything okay?”

“Of course. My hair’s so much better than okay, it’s fantastic. Marcus can’t keep his fingers out of it—”

“I meant with Aidan,” Lily said. “He got called away today on a fire and he didn’t get back. At least, I don’t think he did.”

“No, you’re right, he’s still out. I got a text from Gray.” Char paused, softening her voice. “You should know he’s often out for days without a word. We just have to trust him, Lily. He’s the best at what he does.”

“I’m not— I mean, I don’t—” She blew out a breath. “It’s not what you think,” she said for the second time that day. And for the second time that day she got the same response.

“Are you sure?”

Chapter 21

The fire started out on a 10,000-acre horse ranch, which backed up to the base of Mt. Hennessy. This meant it threatened hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland if they couldn’t contain it quickly.

By noon the following day Aidan, Mitch, and the rest of the crew still didn’t have a handle on it thanks to an unseasonably hot day and forty-five-mile-an-hour winds. When the flames jumped the highway and started to climb the mountain, they called in reinforcements.

Aidan ran into Hudson at the incident command post. They’d arrested the arsonist, who was currently cooling her heels in county on a million-dollar bail.

Which isn’t what Hudson wanted to discuss. Nope, he wanted to discuss their dad. Perfect. Just what Aidan wanted to do.

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