Apparently, Aidan only had enough energy to spare for a growl. Then he went on with his steady stream of swearing, directing it at Hudson.
Hudson just kept calmly stitching. “You know safety means everything to him, right? That he rarely gets hurt and if he does it’s only because he’s put someone else’s safety first?”
Lily realized he was talking to her, and she stared at him.
“And he’s never out there alone, doing something he shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “He’s got Mitch or me at his back. We won’t let anything happen to him.”
She swallowed hard at the realization of what he was trying to tell her, that Aidan wasn’t going to do anything like climb Dead Man’s Cliff on his own without ropes and fall to his death.
She nodded, and Hud gave her a reassuring smile and went back to stitching, and then finally, after what seemed like hours but was really only twenty minutes, tied off the last stitch. Leaning over Aidan, he very gently added some ointment, and then carefully covered the entire injury with gauze and wrapping. His hands moved efficiently and professionally, and yet there was an affection and care very clear in every single touch.
When he was done, he kept a steadying hand on Aidan and said his name quietly.
Aidan opened his eyes and looked at him.
“Where to?” Hudson asked. “Because I’m about to drug you, and you’re going to stay horizontal for twelve hours.”
“I’m going to kick your ass.”
“Maybe tomorrow.” Hudson twisted to Lily, took the ice water and cool washcloth, and turned back to Aidan. He ran the cool cloth over Aidan’s face before tossing it aside and handing his brother the glass.
Aidan downed it in what seemed like two gulps.
“More?” Hudson asked quietly.
Hudson rolled his eyes and turned to Lily. “He’s good.”
She gave a small smile.
“He staying here with you?” Hudson asked her.
She glanced at Aidan, who was watching her from those melting brown eyes. “Yes.”
“He thinks he’s ‘good,’” Hudson warned. “But he’s full of shit. He’s dehydrated from working the fire, so keep him in fluids.”
“And his injury?”
“He’s had worse. Just keep him down as long as you can. And good luck with that, by the way.” Hudson headed to the door.
Lily followed him. “Are you sure he’s going to be okay?”
“Physically, yeah. He’s running a pint low, but sleep is all he really needs.”
“What about … not physically?”
At the front door, Hudson paused and turned to look at her. “Not physically?”
“Yeah.” She spoke low enough for only him to hear. “You know, mentally.”
Hudson studied her a moment and then spoke just as quietly. “I think you’ve got him all twisted up. Again.”
“Again?” she repeated.
“Look, you left Cedar Ridge for some damn good reasons. I get it. You needed off the mountain. But you left a hole in him, Lily, one he’s never quite closed.”
“My leaving here had nothing to do with him,” she said.
He lifted a hand to stop her from saying anything more, not that she would have. “Like I said, I get it,” he said. “But I also get that you’re only here until something else comes along. For his sake, I hope that’s soon. Because the longer you stay, Lily, the harder it will be on him when you go again.”
She stared at him, so intense, so protective of his older brother, and she missed that bond she’d once had with Ashley like she’d miss a limb if it got cut off. “You’re making a lot of assumptions,” she said.
“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe not. Just don’t hurt him again, Lily.”
“I don’t intend to.”
Hudson searched her gaze and, not looking relieved in the slightest, he nodded at her and left.
Lily locked up, got another glass of water and a plate of cheese and crackers—look at her playing nurse—and headed back to the bed where she stopped to eyeball her patient.
He was in the exact same position as when they’d left him a few moments ago, flat on his back, arms stretched above his head.
One minute Aidan was dreaming about Lily falling off the mountain the same way Ashley had, and the next he was wide awake. Heart pumping, he looked around. Given the darkness of the room it was the middle of the night. Unsettled, still shaken, he lay on his back in a bed that wasn’t his with a woman who wasn’t his snuggled in at his side. Lily had thrown one of her legs over his, her hand low on his belly.
And damn, in that moment it sure felt like she was his.
He’d been here with her for more than twenty-four hours. He had an arm around her, an arm that was half numb, his hand settled all possessively over her ass.
He really wished he could feel that hand.
Willing the blood back into his extremity, he squeezed experimentally and Lily shifted with a soft sigh.
Then went utterly still. Slowly, she lifted up to look down into his face. “How are you doing?” she asked.
He thought about it. His side ached, but not bad, considering. He owed Hud. “Never better.”
She bit her lower lip. “I’m all over you,” she said. “I’m sorry—”
“I like it.”
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