“He called Gray,” Hud said, pissed. “He couldn’t even bother to call me. What the hell?”

“Told you, we don’t need him.”

Hudson stared at him. “Is that what you told Gray when me and Jacob appeared in Cedar Ridge? That you didn’t need us?”

“How is that anything close to the same thing?” Aidan asked.

“You’re all about family unless it doesn’t suit you. Hypocrite much?”

“Hud, he dumped you guys like you were a bad habit, just like he did us. How are you defending that?”

“I’m not. At all,” Hudson said. “I just think he should have to come back and help us fix his mess.”

“No,” Aidan said flatly.

Hudson let out a long breath of frustration and stalked off. But he only went a few feet before he whipped back around. “You just picked a fight and let me walk.”

“No, you picked the fight. If you want to pout and sulk, who am I to stop you?”

Hudson strode back, eyes narrowed, steam coming out of his ears. “You’re misdirecting.”

“Nice to see your night psych class is coming in handy.”

“And now you’re trying to piss me off.” Hudson stood firm. “Tell me what I’m missing.”

“Drop it,” Aidan said.

“Can’t. You’re my brother,” Hudson said simply.

“Shit.” Aidan stared up at the sky and then dropped his head, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. “Just let it go, all right?”

Hudson’s eyes darkened with temper. “So you trust Gray but not me, is that it?”

“This has nothing to do with trust—”

“Yeah, right,” Hudson said. “Thanks for the reminder that you only do the things that suit you, Aidan.” And this time when he stalked off, he kept going.

Aidan swore and went back to work, but the fight with his brother remained forefront in his mind. It was an unfortunate two whole days later before they got the fire contained. Finally released from duty, Aidan and Mitch drove back into town. Mitch drove while Aidan checked his phone.

“Problem?” Mitch asked when Aidan swore.

Aidan thumbed through his bazillion messages. Gray checking on him. Penny checking on him. His mom checking on him. Kenna checking on him.

Nothing from Hud. Which really fried his ass, because hell no, he wasn’t a damn hypocrite. Family meant everything to him, and Hud damn well knew it. “No,” he said a little too tightly. “No problem.”

“Uh-huh. And you’re full of shit. Is it Kenna?”

Aidan slid him a look. “Kenna?”

“Yeah, you know, your sister?”

“I’m aware of how we’re related, thanks. What I’m unaware of is why my sister would pop into your brain, seeing as the two of you don’t like each other.”

“Who said that?” Mitch asked. “I like her plenty.”

“You do?” Aidan asked.

“Yeah.” And when Aidan slid him a look, Mitch squirmed. “Well, maybe not plenty,” he said. “And some parts more than others.”

Again Aidan looked at him.

And again Mitch squirmed. “Never mind,” he muttered.

Good idea. Because Aidan didn’t have the brainpower for whatever was going on in Mitch’s head at the moment. Whatever it was, it’d have to get in line. He brought up an empty text, typed Hudson’s number in, and … stared at the blank screen. He hit cancel. Shit.

They drove in silence a few minutes, for which Aidan was grateful. He got the feeling Mitch was just as grateful.

“I’m glad I don’t have a wife,” Mitch eventually said, seemingly out of the blue. Aidan followed his logic.

“You mean because we just fought a four-day fire started by a pissed-off wife?” he asked.

“Man, she burned her husband’s ranch to the ground.” Mitch shook his head. “He had to evacuate his hundred horses and nearly killed himself doing it.”

“She was his ex-wife,” Aidan pointed out. “And she was pissed because he dumped her for a woman half her age and then had more kids while ignoring the ones he’d had with her.”

Mitch slid him a look. “And now she’s going to jail without passing Go. And you of all people know how that sucks.”

Yeah, Aidan knew. Hell, he’d been there the night his mom had been arrested as well.

Protecting him.

“So tonight at The Slippery Slope?” Mitch asked when he pulled up in front of Aidan’s place. “Ladies’ night, two for one.” Mitch waggled his brow. “I’m up for a two-for-one. How about you? And just to be clear, you’ll have to get your own two-for-one. I don’t plan on sharing.”

“Good to know,” Aidan said dryly.

“Meet you there?”

“Maybe. I’ve got some work to do at the office, Gray’s been there twenty-four seven. This summer season has been our busiest yet. I need to give him a break so he can go spend time with Penny.” Plus, Aidan needed to try to track down Hudson and … shit. That was another fight just waiting to happen.

“And you?” Mitch asked. “Don’t you want company?”

“I’ll be fine by myself.”

“You know you can go blind from doing that,” Mitch said.

Aidan rolled his eyes but as he opened the car door, they both saw the woman waiting there, watching their approach. Lily.

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