Always.

To get themselves out of the financial mess they could have gone the corporate route and sold out, getting stockholders—but none of them were all that fond of institutions or rules. So, by unanimous decision, they’d gone the hard route.

Status quo for a Kincaid.

Probably today’s so-called board meeting would also be status quo—which meant it’d be Gray and Aidan and their half brother Hudson yelling at each other while their half sister, Kenna, watched YouTube on her phone. But just as Aidan pulled into the lodge’s parking lot, his cell buzzed.

An S&R call, which had him pumping his fist, because only one thing could get him out of the meeting and he now had it.

A lost mountain climber on Palisade Peak.

Aidan responded to the text with his ETA and put the truck into gear again. Halfway back to town was the local fire station, which they shared with the county’s S&R team.

Aidan’s home away from home.

Within five minutes he was geared up and heading out with his unit. He’d cleared his mind of everything, the board meeting, his ongoing concern about his mom and her physical health, and especially the sexy blast from his past in a deceptively soft, beautiful package named Lily Danville, and got down to the only constant in his life—work.

Chapter 5

Lily drove up Pine Pass Road, her heart thumping harder and heavier with each beat. For the hundredth time she glanced down at the address on her GPS, saw she was still going the right way, and kept at it, jaw tight.

The thing about GPS, it didn’t really reveal hills and valleys. Everything looked deceptively flat on the screen. She’d seen the name of the street and assumed the salon was the one she remembered being downtown.

She’d been wrong.

So wrong, she thought, gut quivering as the elevation climbed and she began to suspect her final destination.

She hadn’t been on this mountain in a long time, or any mountain as a matter of fact. Not a single one since that terrible day when Ashley had died.

And then her dad.

Which had been reason number one and reason number two for leaving Colorado.

But her problems went far deeper than regrets or avoiding her old stomping grounds. What she hadn’t realized, what Jonathan had failed to mention, was that it appeared the Mane Attraction hair salon wasn’t in town at all but part of the Cedar Ridge Resort.

As in on the mountain.

But that wasn’t even the real problem. Nope, that honor went to Aidan Kincaid himself, reason number three for her leaving this place and never looking back.

And now she was on his family’s property.

It’s temporary, she reminded herself. This job, being here, it’s only until you get a call back on your resume for another job anywhere other than here. Still she pulled over and called Jonathan. “You were vague about the salon’s exact location,” she said, with what she thought was remarkable calm. “It’s not the one downtown.”

“No. That place went out of business five years ago.”

“I’m going to the resort, aren’t I?” she said.

“Yep.”

She put a hand to her pounding heart. “Oh, my God. Jonathan, I can’t. You know I can’t.” But even as she said it, she knew she had to. She’d sent out approximately thirty resumes over the past few weeks and though she stalked her email hourly, she had nothing else on tap. Nothing, nada, zip.

She also knew why. Yes, she’d managed to claw and fight her way to the very top of the food chain at one of San Diego’s premier salons, but she’d also had it all ripped from her with shocking ease.

Thanks to trusting her boss, who had asked her to leak some “confidential” client information to the press about a celebrity, a big celebrity—one known for her gorgeous hair. They’d done it before, lots of times. It was common practice. So she never thought twice about it—until it had backfired and she’d taken the fall. And thanks to the paparazzi fallout, no matter how great her resume looked, she’d been forced to move two states over, all the way back to Colorado, before she could get another job. A temporary—and pity—offering from the only person she’d kept in touch with here in Cedar Ridge.

Jonathan, who happened to run Mane Attraction.

“Now, you listen to me,” he said very gently, very calmly—clearly a man used to dealing with hysterical women. “You know you’re good. The very best cosmetologist I know. And I need the very best, Lily Pad. Granted, it’s not a manager position like you had, because that’s my job. But I need you while Cassandra’s off to have her baby. It’ll be a walk in the park for you compared to the clientele and work you’ve been doing in San Diego, and by the time Cass is ready to come back, hopefully you’ll have heard back on a permanent job somewhere you actually want to be.”

“But—”

“But for now you’re here,” he said. “I’m all you’ve got, and not to be a complete dickwad, but I’m going to make the most of that. I need you.”

She closed her eyes. “I ran into him.”

“Who?” Jonathan asked and then gasped dramatically. “No.”

“Yes.”

“And it was no big deal because you’re all done up California-style, right? You’re wearing fab clothes and makeup, looking totally irresistible so that he rues the day he let you go, yeah?”

Lily blew out a sigh.

“I’m reading volumes into that sigh, Lily Pad.”

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