“I don’t want him anywhere near my mom. He screwed her over when he left.”

“And you,” she said quietly.

“No, I wanted him gone.” He tightened his grip, keeping his face hidden. “I wanted him dead.”

“I’m sorry, Aidan.”

“Don’t be. You didn’t do anything.”

“I’m sorry for your bad memories.”

“Yeah, well, we both have those.”

Yes, but she had a feeling his were even darker than hers. She held him tighter.

He gave her another long moment, and then he pulled back and looked into her face. “You were in a hurry.”

“Yeah, I’m running a little late.” She watched the small smile flirt at the corners of his mouth and felt her face heat. “Listen, I’m not so great with this whole morning-after-quickie stuff, so I’m just going to …” She gestured to the door, but he slid a hand to her waist to stop her.

“We talked about this,” he said. “It’s more than a quickie.”

On some level she knew he was right. It just wasn’t a level she could fully access right now. “Aidan—”

“Yeah, and you know it,” he said, and took her mouth. Tender, soft, his lips coaxed more than a kiss from her, until she felt open to him and willing to give him everything she had. Somewhere in the dim recesses of her mind she heard her purse fall to the ground, but she didn’t care. This had sneaked up on her. He’d sneaked up on her. Quiet and strong, he wanted her to believe things she’d never been able to believe before.

Believe and trust …

“You’re stronger than you think,” he said softly, making her realize she’d spoken out loud. “You’ve always been stronger than you think.”

She stared up into his fathomless gaze, hoping that was true. He looked so sure as he met her gaze. She could use some of that confidence. “What do you want from me?” she blurted out.

He picked up her purse and handed it over. “Worried?”

“A little.” She paused. “Or, you know, a lot.”

His smile was warm and made her throat tighten. “This,” he said, and put a hand over her heart. “I want this.”

Oh. Well, if that was all …

He kissed her once more and then opened the door to the salon for her, giving her a little nudge in. “Have a good one,” he said, and he was gone.

Just like that, as if he hadn’t only a second ago made a bid for her heart. She shook her head to clear it and walked through the salon, taking a big sip of her coffee.

Jonathan spoke without looking up from his laptop. “You’re ten minutes late. There’s only two acceptable excuses for being late. A life-or-death situation, or morning sex.”

Lily choked on her coffee.

Jonathan looked up. “Holy shit,” he said. “Ding-dong, we have a winner at door number two. You got morning sex, you lucky bitch.”

Lily stopped and inspected herself in one of the mirrors. “No way could you tell that by just looking at me.”

“Yes, way,” he said. “And I want to hear every single detail, including size and expertise, but for now get the towels out and start up the register.”

“I thought that was Rosa’s job.”

Rosa popped her head out from the back. “Nope. The person who gets morning sex has to do the shit jobs so the rest of us feel better about our sexless lives.”

Jonathan nodded. “It’s in the employee handbook.”

Lily shook her head. “Fine,” she said, heading to the back. “But no one’s getting any details out of me.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Lenny asked.

Lily hadn’t noticed him in her hurry, but he was standing right there. In his T-shirt and jeans low slung thanks to his tool belt, he had sawdust in his hair and all over her floor. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Just put in some new shelves. Gray said I could handle your list of requested renovations as a side job.”

She looked the shelves over and nodded approvingly. “They look great. Let me grab a broom and sweep up the sawdust before any clients get here.”

“No worries,” he said. “I’ll clean up after myself. I’m a full-service contractor. So about that promise …”

Baffled, she shook her head. “What promise?”

“You said you’d think about going out with me.”

No, she hadn’t. She’d been careful not to lead him on. “Lenny—”

He smiled. “You going to break my heart, sugar?”

She rolled her eyes. “We both know I couldn’t do that.”

“Don’t underestimate yourself.”

There was something different about him today from the last time she’d seen him. His cheeks had a lot of color, and his eyes were glassy. She might have thought he was sick except for one thing—she could smell liquor on him. “Have you been drinking?”

“Is that against the law?” he asked.

“It’s not even nine thirty.”

“But it’s five o’clock somewhere.”

“You’re on the job,” she said quietly.

His smile was a bit tight now. “You going to rat me out, Lily? Wouldn’t be the first time you told on someone, would it?”

She narrowed her eyes at the reference to what had happened at her last job. “Maybe you should just go.”

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