She stared into his fierce gaze, saw the worry there, and realized that if it wasn’t safe for him, it sure as hell wasn’t safe for her.
“He’s going to be okay,” Hud told her. “He’s on a rope and so is Mitch. Trust me, they’re not going to let each other fall. But more importantly, they’re safer than we are. Get back in the truck. I’ll go get a radio and bring it to you. You can talk to him yourself and see. Okay?”
“He’s on a rope?”
She gave the cliff one last stare.
“Okay, yeah.” She let Gray pull her from Hudson’s arms and guide her back to his truck.
He shut her in the passenger side and beeped the locks as he walked around the hood.
She smiled grimly. He didn’t trust her. She didn’t blame him.
When he got in, he relocked the doors, hitting the child lock while he was at it.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” she said.
He said nothing at all, just cranked the heater, pointing the vents at her.
They sat in silence for the few minutes it took Hudson to get back to them. He slid into the backseat and shook like a dog.
“Goddammit, Hud,” Gray bitched.
Hud smiled at Lily, and she knew he was trying to make her feel better. She held out her hand for the radio.
He hesitated. “Okay, but first I need to tell you something. He’s a little injured—”
“Oh, God.” She sucked in a breath and felt her vision go wonky.
Hudson reached forward and slid his hand to the nape of her neck. “Push back against my hand,” he ordered. “Deep breaths, Lily.”
“We’ve got you,” Gray said quickly at her side.
Most of her brain felt consumed by panic, but Gray’s voice and Hudson’s hand on her neck anchored her. They were turned toward her, concentrating on her, gauging her reactions. Probably they were worried she was a flight risk, and they’d be right on that score, but she saw genuine concern in their eyes.
“It’s going to be okay,” Hudson promised.
“You don’t know that.” She felt the hysteria come at her again. “Things aren’t always okay. Things go south.” People die …
“It’s going to be okay,” Hud repeated firmly. “Because I won’t let it be anything other than okay.”
She turned and looked into his eyes, dark with determination. Then she looked at Gray. Matching.
“He’s out there because of me,” she whispered, letting out her biggest fear. “He thought it was me.” Which made her responsible. Again.
“It doesn’t matter who he thought it was,” Gray said. “He’d have gone up there for anyone and you know it. Don’t put this on yourself.”
And then he slid his arm around her and squeezed.
Because they were Aidan’s family and they took care of their own. She’d almost forgotten what that felt like until this very moment, surrounded by two of Aidan’s brothers who’d clearly dropped everything to be here for him. It nearly brought her to tears. It’d been a long time since she’d been part of a family unit. And yeah, she and Ashley had fought like cats and had competed in every little aspect of their lives, but they’d had each other’s backs, always. She missed that. God, she missed that. She purposely hadn’t allowed herself to think about it, but she’d missed this. Belonging to someone. Having someone at her back, unconditionally, no matter what.
And yes, she still had her mom, but that was more peripherally. She had Jonathan, too, and now her clients, all of whom meant something to her, but this … this right here, she’d forgotten how good it felt to be a part of a family.
She might have even gotten all mushy on both Gray and Hudson if she weren’t still so terrified for Aidan.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Hudson reminded her. “You’ve got to believe that. If nothing else, believe in the fact that he’s the most stubborn bastard I know. He isn’t going anywhere. Because I’ll kill him myself if he does. Got it?”
“Got it,” she whispered.
Gray spared his brother a look over his shoulder. “What the hell is wrong with you, dumbass? You don’t tell a woman that you’re going to kill the guy she’s in love with.”
Wait, what? In love with … The fuzziness returned and, from what felt like a long distance, Lily heard Hudson laugh.
“You’re the dumbass,” Hud told Gray. “Telling her she loves him before she even knows she loves him. Good going, man. You’re going to fuck it all up for him before he even knows what’s happening.”
Lily decided one emergency at a time and shoved Gray’s arm away, swiveling in the seat to stare at Hud. “What’s going on out there?”
“Some kid was trying to impress a girl. The idiot got stuck on the ledge—couldn’t go up or down. At least they cited him. Not for climbing while stupid, which should be an actual citation, but for climbing in a no-climbing zone. Aidan and Mitch got him up to the top just as the storm moved in, but before they could do the same, Incident Command ordered the crew on the top to pull back. The threat of getting hit by lightning with all the equipment was just too big.”
“You said he was hurt, what’s his injury?”
“He slipped and swung into the rock face-first.”
“Oh, my God.” She closed her eyes. I love you, Lily … She’d let him tell her his feelings, she’d let them wash over her and heal her and make her happy. And what had she done in return? She’d held back, hoarded her feelings, keeping them to herself.
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