“Fine.” Mitch tossed up his hands. “It’s your face that’s going to be permanently swelled up like the Goodyear blimp.”

Aidan ignored that and the two medics trying to get at him. “Lily.”

“Right here.” She very gently cupped his face. “Don’t be mad, we left Incident Command to be here once they gave the clear.”

“Tell me now,” he demanded.

“You’re bleeding.” She looked at someone at his other side, but Aidan didn’t take his eyes off of her. “He’s bleeding,” she said.

“I know,” Mitch told her. “It’s his stubborn head. But apparently none of us are going anywhere until you two have this out. So maybe you could speed things up a little bit, yeah?”

Again the medics tried to move in, but Aidan grated out through his teeth, “Wait.”

No one backed away, but no one dragged him off, either, which he took to mean he could have his damn minute. “Lily. Tell me now.”

She was still hugging him like it was her job, but she pulled back and stared into his eyes. Hers filled. “I love you.”

Yeah. That was what he needed. His entire body relaxed, and suddenly he could breathe as the knot in his chest loosened. The night was pitch black, and one eye had swollen shut, but he had no trouble seeing the shadow of the men hovering over him, trying to move in. He held on to her tight. “Again,” he said.

Her entire demeanor softened, and she bent over him to kiss him softly. “I love you. Always have. Always will.”

He felt the stupid smile split his face and his already split lip. “Shit.”

She let out a breath. “Okay, so now you’re going to stop growling at your team and let them take care of you,” she said firmly.

Mitch laughed, cutting it off only when Aidan glared at him.

Lily ignored the exchange and scooted back just enough to let the medics take over.

“I’m fine,” he insisted, and got to his feet, holding his arm across his chest funny.

“Damn,” Gray said on a heavily blown-out breath. “You tore the fucker again, didn’t you?”

“Yep,” Mitch answered for him. “Rotator cuff,” he explained to a shocked Lily. “It happened when he kissed the rock.”

“Fuck you,” Aidan said, and dropped back to his knees. “Aw, hell.”

“Aidan!” Lily cried, dropping to her knees, too, facing him.

“I’m okay.” He locked eyes with her and held the eye contact as the medics fussed over him, dabbing at the cuts on his face, carefully restraining his arm and shoulder from movement.

“We’re taking him to General,” one of the medics said to Gray.

“No, I’m fine,” Aidan said again.

“You’re going to the hospital,” Lily said.

“Going to be fun to watch you two butt heads,” Gray said, and Aidan realized both his brothers were leaning over them, shamelessly eavesdropping. “Even more fun will be giving Mom a new couple to obsess over and bug for grandchildren.”

They began the hike back to Incident Command before he could try to kill Gray. Once there, he was taken into the ambulance.

“Let’s get his shirt off,” one of the medics said.

“Women are always saying that to me,” Aidan murmured.

And then the truck was gone, off into the night.

Lily stared at it until it disappeared and still she stood there unmoving.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Her heart was moving. In fact, it was cracking. Because though Aidan had listened to her very carefully and taken in everything she’d said, he hadn’t responded in kind.

Nothing less than she deserved after doing the same thing to him. And if it had hurt him half as much as it hurt her, she didn’t know how she could ever make it up to him.

Hudson grabbed Lily’s hand. Gray took her other side. They led her back to their truck.

“We’re going to the hospital,” she said.

Neither man answered her.

“We are going to the hospital,” she said.

“You’re shaking and frozen. You need a shower and dry clothes,” Gray told her. “And rest.”

“Is that what you would do if Penny was hurt?” she asked. “You’d go home to rest?”

He grimaced.

“Exactly,” she said grimly. “Hospital it is.”

Aidan always marveled over the fact that he could be dead asleep one second and in the next completely awake, a brand-new day. As he shifted into awareness, everything flooded back to him. The rescue. Slamming himself into the wall like a novice. The long hours on the ledge while the storm beat at him and Mitch.


The beeping and antiseptic smell told him he was still in the hospital, but the scent of Lily’s shampoo told him he wasn’t alone.

He opened his eyes and homed in on her like a beacon.

She leapt out of a chair and came to his side. “Hey,” she said, in her throaty morning voice that he loved so much. “You’re awake.”

Which was more than he could say for Hudson, who had his long body sprawled out in another chair, head back, mouth open, snoring lightly.

“He had a rough night, worrying about you,” she said.

Her gaze said she’d had the same rough night, and he shook his head, knowing how hard it must have been reliving the nightmare of Dead Man’s Cliff, where she’d lost Ashley. “You okay?” he asked.

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