“And when it was Hudson’s turn?”

He beamed with remembered pride. “That was my gig. I sent him a pair of women’s bikini panties. Pink. Satin.” He narrowed his eyes in on her as she burst out laughing. “You think this is funny?” he asked.

“I do.”

“Hmm,” he said, and before she could figure out what that hmm meant, he’d pulled her right into the water, clothes and all.

Chapter 22

Hauling Lily’s laughing ass into the water with him felt great, and since the past four days had been one shit show after another, Aidan needed this. Needed a good time.

His plan had been to hit the sack and sleep away as much of the adrenaline and exhaustion as he could. But then he’d found a present waiting for him, a present in the form of this sweet, sexy, perfect-for-him woman, all wet and warm and …

Sputtering with outrage.

“You dunked me!” She gasped, swiping the water from her face.

“Yeah.” He moved in closer. For years after she’d first left Cedar Ridge he’d felt an emptiness, and regrets. He’d wanted her, but she hadn’t wanted him back. He couldn’t have her and that was that.

He’d moved on.

He’d told himself so. He’d moved on and had done okay for himself in the women department, unlike his brothers, remaining mostly unscathed by love and unattached by choice.

Then Lily had driven back into town and blasted right through his brick walls in a way no one else had ever managed.

That she’d done it so effortlessly terrified him.

He liked to be in control. Needed to be in control. It’s how he and Gray had managed to keep it together, they’d stepped up to head of household, gathering in all the innocent pawns—their mom, Hudson and Jacob and their mom, and also Kenna—and they’d created a family. A fucked-up family, but blood nevertheless.

But being one of the two who’d held it together all these years also meant that the buck stopped with him and Gray. It meant staying tough, putting his own needs and feelings aside, and that was fine but also … lonely.

Gray had always had Penny.

But Aidan didn’t have that kind of a connection, and yeah, that’d been by choice, but he’d been wrong about that. He knew it now. He was sick of being alone, and if he was being honest, he’d felt that way for a while now. The part that was new was that he wanted to not be alone with … Lily.

The question was, had he convinced her yet that she might be starting to feel the same way? He hoped so. Taking a chance, he slid his arms around her, hauling her into him.

She looked down at herself in shock. “I’m all wet.”

“Just the way I like you.”

With steam rising all around them, vanishing like tendrils of fog into the night above, she stared into his eyes and then at his mouth. “You’re having fun at my expense?”

“It was my turn.”

Her dress had suctioned itself to her skin. And being the palest of blues, it had also gone sheer. The effect was more erotic than if she’d been naked, and he couldn’t tear his eyes off of her. “Christ, Lily, you’re the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.” He nudged a wet spaghetti strap off her shoulder.

“You dunked me,” she repeated, apparently still stuck on that thought.

“Yeah. Felt good. You feel good.” He encouraged her other strap to fall as well.

“What are you doing?”

“We obviously need to do this more often so you aren’t confused,” he said, still bent to his task of getting her naked.

She swiped water from her face. “What if my dress is dry clean only?”

“I’ll apologize and buy you a new one.” With her still in his arms he turned and pinned her against the tile. He knew he had her when her eyes ran down his chest and abs and then into the swirling water for the rest of him and her breathing changed. He fought the urge to crush his mouth to hers, needing her to want him as badly as he wanted her.

“I didn’t think we’d be doing this again,” she said.


“Because …” She paused and that’s when he knew. She was most definitely feeling the same as he was, and she was still scared. They weren’t just having fun, or exorcising ghosts. They weren’t just scratching an itch. It was more, far more, and he wanted her to say it. “Because what?” he asked, pressing a thigh between hers.

“Because it wasn’t just sex,” she whispered, eyes heated. “Was it?”

Eyes on hers, he slowly shook his head, getting even harder when she rocked into him. “No, it wasn’t.”

“I’m not ready for what this is,” she said breathlessly.

“What do you think this is?”

She opened her mouth and then closed it, either unable or unwilling to define it.

“Lily, whatever you think is happening between us, it’s under control,” he said, meaning to reassure her. But he knew that though he meant those words, the truth was he had no control over his feelings for her. He was in love, she was leaving, and he couldn’t do a damn thing about that.

She stared at him for a long beat. “I won’t want to stop,” she whispered.

Thank Christ, he thought as a groan shuddered through him. He lowered his head, skimming his lips up her throat, along her jaw to her ear, wanting her to do that thing where she hissed out a breath and clutched at him like he was the only anchor in a spinning world.

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