She’d always thought of herself as so brave. She’d gone out on her own at age eighteen, dependent on no one but herself, and she’d survived.
But it turned out she wasn’t brave at all. She’d locked her heart up tight when it had gotten hurt, and she’d kept it isolated and alone ever since.
Which made her the opposite of brave.
But not Aidan. He didn’t have any walls. Everything he felt or thought was all over him for the world to see.
This made him the bravest person she’d ever known.
And he loved her.
You love him too … She closed her eyes. “I need him,” she whispered.
“We all do,” Hudson said.
Gray grabbed the radio. “Aidan, you copy? It’s Gray. Need verification that you’re breathing. Over.”
The radio crackled and then Aidan’s voice filled the cab. “Last I checked,” he said. “Does someone have eyes on Lily? Is she safe? Over.”
As his unbearably familiar voice washed over her, Lily slapped a hand over her mouth to keep in the relieved sob. He was on the edge, literally a tiny, narrow edge, hanging by nothing but a rope in a thunderstorm that had been deemed so dangerous the other rescuers had retreated, and he wanted to know if she was okay. “I need to talk to him.”
Gray shook his head no.
But she was a woman on a mission and she snatched the radio from his hand. “Aidan,” she said into it, her voice not nearly as calm as his or his brothers’. She blamed the estrogen. “I’m here, I’m fine.” She paused. “Over,” she said awkwardly.
Gray smiled at her like she was cute.
“Define here,” Aidan said, not sounding like he found her cute at all, his voice tight now. “On the mountain? Over.”
“I’m safe. I’m in Gray’s truck.” Needing to get it all out before she choked on it, she sucked in some air. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry I’ve been too scared to do this right. I was afraid of what might happen, how I could get hurt, how you could get hurt. But that’s not the way to live. Things happen. I can’t control everything and I can’t live a half life.”
“No, listen. I’m not going to hold back anymore.” She gulped in a breath, needing to hear him say it was all going to be okay.
She gulped, but she had to finish, she had to put it all out there, like he’d done for her. He deserved that much. “Aidan—”
“No,” he said, cutting her off. “Not here. Not now, not like this. Not because you think I’m in danger.”
“But you are in danger.”
“Gray,” Aidan said. “Get her out of here.”
Gray took the radio from her numb fingers. “No can do, man,” he said into the radio. “She’s not going anywhere, and neither are me and Hud.”
“You’re all sitting ducks out there,” Aidan said. “Take her home or I’ll—”
Gray turned the radio off.
Lily gaped at him.
“He needed a moment to collect himself,” Gray said.
“We’re not leaving,” Lily said.
“We’re not leaving,” Gray confirmed.
“This storm better not go all night,” Hudson muttered, hunkering down in the backseat. “It’s effing cold back here. Hey, Lily, were you going to give him the L-word?”
Lily huddled into herself and went mute. Had she just yearned for family? Because maybe she could do without brothers …
Hudson laughed softly. “You two were made for each other.”
A month ago Lily would have denied that. Hell, even a few days ago she might have squirmed uncomfortably over the notion.
Because she knew it to be true. They were made for each other. Aidan had given her back everything that had been missing from her life. Excitement, thrill, warmth, laughter, heat, heart …
Everything. He gave her everything.
She just hoped she hadn’t realized it too late.
The storm warred directly overhead for three solid hours. Aidan knew this because he counted off every single minute.
And through it all he and Mitch had sat with their backs to the rock, their hoods up, heads down. Their gear was the best of the best, but the storm was crazy wild and no match for any gear.
Rain and seventy-five-mile-an-hour winds beat at them until sometime around midnight.
Then suddenly there was a lessening. And a promising gap without lightning.
And then finally came the radio call that he and Mitch had been waiting for—it was time to get out of this shit.
Aidan couldn’t agree more.
Twenty minutes later, Aidan rounded the top of the cliff, where he was immediately tackled by a bundle in a bright red jacket that was scented like Lily but looked like a wild woman.
They both toppled to the ground.
He sucked in a breath because, son of a bitch, he hurt from the tips of his hair to his toes and everything in between. But the pain faded when Lily clutched him, wrapping herself around him like a monkey.
She was shaking so hard she vibrated. “Guys,” he said to the crew who’d surrounded them. “Give us a minute.”
“No way in hell,” Mitch said. “Let’s get this show on the road. You two lovebirds can kiss and make up later, after we make the hike back to Incident Command.”
“A minute,” Aidan repeated.
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