Lydia Kincaid could pull a pint of Guinness so perfect her Irish ancestors would weep tears of appreciation, but fine dining? Forget about it.
â€śThe customer is disappointed in the sear on these scallops,â€ť she told the sous-chef, setting the plate down.
â€śIn what way?â€ť
â€śHell if I know. They look like all the other scallops.â€ť Lydia had a hairpin sticking into her scalp, and it took every bit of her willpower not to poke at it. Her dark hair was too long, thick and wavy to be confined into a chic little bun, but it was part of the dress code. And going home with a headache every night was just part of the job. â€śTen bucks says if I wait three minutes, then pop that same plate in the microwave for fifteen seconds and take it out to her, sheâ€™ll gush over how the sear is so perfect now.â€ť
â€śIf I see you microwaving scallops, Iâ€™ll make sure the only food you ever get to touch in this city again is fast food.â€ť
Lydia rolled her eyes, having heard that threat many times before, and accepted a fresh plate of scallops from the line cook. The sous-chef just sniffed loudly and dumped the unacceptable batch in the garbage, plate and all. She was pretty sure the guy spent all his off time watching reality television chefs throw tantrums.
Three hours later, Lydia was in her car and letting her hair down. She dropped the bobby pins and elastic bands into her cup holder to fish out before her next shift and then used both hands to shake her hair out and massage her scalp.
She hated her job. Maybe some of it stemmed from the disparity between the cold formality of this restaurant and the warm and loud world sheâ€™d come from, but she also flat-out wasnâ€™t very good at it. The foods perplexed her and, according to the kitchen manager, her tableside manner lacked polish. Two years hadnâ€™t yet managed to put a shine on her. The tips were usually good, though, and living in Concord, New Hampshire cost less than living in Boston, but it still wasnâ€™t cheap.
Sheâ€™d just put her car in gear when she heard the siren in the distance. With her foot still on the brake, she watched as the fire engine came into viewâ€”red lights flashing through the dark nightâ€”and sped past.
With a sigh, she shifted her foot to the gas pedal. She didnâ€™t need to hold her breath anymore. Didnâ€™t need to find the closest scanner. Nobody she loved was on that truck so, while she said a quick prayer for their safety, they were faceless strangers and life wasnâ€™t temporarily suspended.
And that was why sheâ€™d keep trying to please people who wouldnâ€™t know a good scallop sear if it bit them on the ass and taking shit from the sous-chef. That job financed her new life here in New Hampshire, including a decent apartment she shared with a roommate, and it was a nice enough life that she wasnâ€™t tempted to go home.
Her life wasnâ€™t perfect. It had certainly been lacking in sex and friendship lately, but she wasnâ€™t going backward just because the road was longer or harder than sheâ€™d thought. She wanted something different and she was going to keep working toward it.
Thanks to the miracle of an apartment building with an off-street parking lot, Lydia had a dedicated parking spot waiting for her. It was another reason she put up with customers who nitpicked their entrĂ©es just because they were paying so much for them.
Her roommate worked at a sports bar and wouldnâ€™t be home for another couple of hours, so Lydia took a quick shower and put on her sweats. Sheâ€™d just curled up on the sofa with the remote and a couple of the cookies her blessed-with-a-great-metabolism roommate had freshly baked when her cell phone rang.
She knew before looking at the caller ID it would be her sister. Not many people called her, and none late at night. â€śHey, Ashley. Whatâ€™s up?â€ť
â€śMy marriage is over.â€ť
Lydia couldnâ€™t wrap her mind around the words at first. Had something happened to Danny? But she hadnâ€™t said that. She said it was over. â€śWhat do you mean itâ€™s over?â€ť
â€śI told him I wasnâ€™t sure I wanted to be married to him anymore and that I needed some space. He didnâ€™t even say anything. He just packed up a couple of bags and left.â€ť
â€śOh my God, Ashley.â€ť Lydia sank onto the edge of her bed, stunned. â€śWhere did this even come from?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve been unhappy for a while. I just didnâ€™t tell anybody.â€ť Her sister sighed, the sound hollow and discouraged over the phone. â€śLike a moron, I thought I could talk to him about it. Instead, he left.â€ť
â€śWhy have you been unhappy? Dammit, Ashley, what is going on? Did he cheat? I swear to God if he stepped outâ€”â€ť
â€śNo. He didnâ€™t cheat. And itâ€™s too much for me talk about now.â€ť
â€śIf you had been talking to me all along, it wouldnâ€™t be too much now. You canâ€™t call me and tell me your marriage is over and then tell me you donâ€™t want to talk about it.â€ť
â€śI know, but itâ€™sâ€¦itâ€™s too much. I called to talk to you about the bar.â€ť
Uh-oh. Alarm bells went off in Lydiaâ€™s mind, but there was no way she could extricate herself from the conversation without being a shitty sister.
â€śI need you to come back and help Dad,â€ť Ashley said, and Lydia dropped her head back against the sofa cushion, stifling a groan. â€śI need some time off.â€ť
â€śI have a job, Ashley. And an apartment.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ve told me a bunch of times that you hate your job.â€ť
She couldnâ€™t deny that since a conversation rarely passed between them without mention of that fact.
â€śAnd itâ€™s waiting tables,â€ť Ashley continued. â€śItâ€™s not like Iâ€™m asking you to take a hiatus from some fancy career path.â€ť
That was bitchy, even for Ashley, but Lydia decided to give her a pass. She didnâ€™t know what had gone wrong in their marriage, but she did know Ashley loved Danny Walsh with every fiber of her being, so she had to be a wreck.
â€śI canâ€™t leave Shelly high and dry,â€ť Lydia said in a calm, reasonable tone. â€śThis is a great apartment and Iâ€™m lucky to have it. It has off-street parking and my space has my apartment number in it. Itâ€™s literally only mine.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t be at the bar, Lydia. You know how it is there. Everybodyâ€™s got a comment or some advice to give, and I have to hear every five minutes what a great guy Danny is and why canâ€™t I just give him another chance?â€ť
Danny really was a great guy, but she could understand her sister not wanting to be reminded of it constantly while they were in the process of separating. But going back to Boston and working at Kincaidâ€™s was a step in the wrong direction for Lydia.
â€śI donâ€™t know, Ash.â€ť
â€śPlease. You donâ€™t knowâ€”â€ť To Lydiaâ€™s dismay, her sisterâ€™s voice was choked off by a sob. â€śI canâ€™t do it, Lydia. I really, really need you.â€ť
Shit. â€śIâ€™ll be home tomorrow.â€ť
* * *
â€śWe got smoke showing on three and at least one possible on the floor,â€ť Rick Gullotti said. â€śMeet you at the top, boys.â€ť
Aidan Hunt threw a mock salute in the direction of the ladder companyâ€™s lieutenant and tossed the ax to Grant Cutter before grabbing the Halligan tool for himself. With a fork at one end and a hook and adze head on the other end, it was essentially a long crowbar on steroids and they never went anywhere without it. After confirmation Scotty Kincaid had the line, and a thumbs-up from Danny Walsh at the truck, he and the other guys from Engine 59 headed for the front door of the three-decker.
Some bunch of geniuses, generations before, had decided the best way to house a shitload of people in a small amount of space was to build three-story housesâ€”each floor a separate unitâ€”and cram them close together. It was great if you needed a place to live and didnâ€™t mind living in a goldfish bowl. It was less great if it was your job to make sure an out-of-control kitchen fire didnâ€™t burn down the entire block.
They made their way up the stairs, not finding trouble until they reached the top floor. The door to the apartment stood open, with smoke pouring out. Aidan listened to the crackle of the radio over the sound of his own breathing in the mask. The guys from Ladder 37 had gained access by way of the window and had a woman descending, but her kid was still inside.
â€śShit.â€ť Aidan confirmed Walsh knew they were going into the apartment and was standing by to charge the line if they needed water, and then looked for nods from Kincaid and Cutter.
He went in, making his way through the smoke. It was bad enough so the child would be coughingâ€”hopefullyâ€”but there was chaos in the front of the apartment as another company that had shown up tried to knock down the flames from the front.
Making his way to the kidâ€™s bedroom, he signaled for Cutter to look under the bed while he went to the closet. If the kid was scared and hiding from them, odds were he or she was in one of those two spots.
â€śBingo,â€ť he heard Cutter say into his ear.
The updates were growing more urgent and he heard Kincaid call for water, which meant the fire was heading their way. â€śNo time to be nice. Grab the kid and letâ€™s go.â€ť
It was a little girl and she screamed as Cutter pulled her out from under the bed. She was fighting him and, because his hold was awkward, once she was free of the bed, Cutter almost lost her. Aidan swore under his breath. If she bolted, they could all be in trouble.
He leaned the Halligan against the wall and picked up the little girl. By holding her slightly slanted, he was able to hold her arms and legs still without running the risk of smacking her head on the way down.
â€śGrab the Halligan and letâ€™s go.â€ť
â€śMore guys are coming up,â€ť Walsh radioed in. â€śGet out of there now.â€ť
The smoke was dense now and the little girl was doing more coughing and gasping than crying. â€śMy dog!â€ť
Aidan went past Kincaid, slapping him on the shoulder. Once Cutter went by, Kincaid could retreatâ€”they all stayed togetherâ€”and let another company deal with the flames.
â€śI see her dog,â€ť Aidan heard Cutter say, and he turned just in time to see the guy disappear back into the bedroom.
â€śJesus Christ,â€ť Scotty yelled. â€śCutter, get your ass down those stairs. Hunt, just go.â€ť
He didnâ€™t want to leave them, and he wouldnâ€™t have except the fight was going out of the child in his arms. Holding her tight, he started back down the stairs theyâ€™d come up. At the second floor he met another company coming up, but he kept going.
Once he cleared the building, he headed for the ambulance and passed the girl over to the waiting medics. It was less than two minutes before Cutter and Kincaid emerged from the building, but it felt like forever.
They yanked their masks off as Cutter walked over to the little girl andâ€”after getting a nod from EMSâ€”put an obviously terrified little dog on the girlâ€™s lap. They all smiled as the girl wrapped her arms around her pet and then her mom put her arms around both. Aidan put his hand on Cutterâ€™s shoulder and the news cameras got their tired, happy smiles for the evening news.
Once they were back on the other side of the engine and out of view of the cameras, Kincaid grabbed the front of Cutterâ€™s coat and shoved him against the truck. â€śYou want to save puppies, thatâ€™s great. If thereâ€™s time. Once youâ€™re told to get the fuck out, you donâ€™t go back for pets. And if you ever risk my life again, or any other guyâ€™s, for a goddamn dog, Iâ€™ll make sure you canâ€™t even get a job emptying the garbage at Waste Reduction.â€ť
Once Cutter nodded, Kincaid released him and they looked to Danny for a status update. They had it pretty well knocked down and, though the third floor was a loss and the lower floors wouldnâ€™t be pretty, the people who lived in the neighboring houses werenâ€™t going to have a bad day.
Two hours later, Aidan sat on the bench in the shower room and tied his shoes. Danny was stowing his shower stuff, a towel wrapped around his waist. Heâ€™d been quiet since they got back, other than having a talk with Cutter, since he was the officer of the bunch. But he was always quiet, so it was hard to tell what was going on with him.
â€śGot any plans tonight?â€ť Aidan finally asked, just to break the silence.
â€śNope. Probably see if thereâ€™s a game on.â€ť
Aidan wasnâ€™t sure what to say to that. He didnâ€™t have a lot of experience with a good friend going through a divorce. Breakups, sure, but not a marriage ending. â€śIf you want to talk, just let me know. We can grab a beer or something.â€ť
â€śTalk about what?â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t bullshit me, Walsh. We know whatâ€™s going on and itâ€™s a tough situation. So if you want to talk, just let me know.â€ť
â€śShe doesnâ€™t want to be married to me anymore, so weâ€™re getting a divorce.â€ť Danny closed his locker, not needing to slam it to get his point across. â€śThereâ€™s nothing to talk about.â€ť
â€śOkay.â€ť Aidan tossed his towel in the laundry bin and went out the door.
A lot of guys had trouble expressing their emotions, but Danny took it to a whole new level. Aidan thought talking about it over a few beers might help, but he shouldnâ€™t have been surprised the offer was refused.
Heâ€™d really like to know what had gone wrong in the Walsh marriage, though. He liked Danny and Ashley and heâ€™d always thought they were a great couple. If they couldnâ€™t make it work, Aidan wasnâ€™t sure he had a chance. And lately heâ€™d been thinking a lot about how nice it would be to have somebody to share his life with.
A mental snapshot of the little girl cradling her dog filled his mind. He wouldnâ€™t mind having a dog. But his hours would be too hard on a dog, and he wasnâ€™t a fan of cats. They were a little creepy and not good for playing ball in the park. He could probably keep a fish alive, but they werenâ€™t exactly a warm hug at the end of the long tour.
With a sigh he went into the kitchen to rummage for a snack. If he couldnâ€™t keep a dog happy, he probably didnâ€™t have much chance of keeping a wife happy. And that was assuming he even met a woman he wanted to get to know well enough to consider a ring. So far, not so good.
â€śCutter ate the last brownie,â€ť Scotty told him as soon as he walked into the kitchen area.
Aidan shook his head, glaring at the young guy sitting at the table with a very guilty flush on his face. â€śYou really do want to get your ass kicked today, donâ€™t you?â€ť
* * *
â€śMaybe I shouldnâ€™t have called you. I feel bad now.â€ť
Lydia dropped her bag inside the door and put her hand on her hip. â€śI just quit my job and burned a chunk of my savings to pay Shelly for two monthsâ€™ rent in advance so she wonâ€™t give my room away. Youâ€™re stuck with me now.â€ť
Tears filled Ashleyâ€™s eyes and spilled over onto her cheeks as she stood up on her toes to throw her arms around Lydiaâ€™s neck. â€śIâ€™m so glad youâ€™re here.â€ť
Lydia squeezed her older sister, and she had to admit that coming back was about the last thing sheâ€™d wanted to do, but she was glad to be there, too. When push came to shove, her sister needed her and when family really needed you, nothing else mattered.
When Ashley released her, Lydia followed her into the living room and they dropped onto the couch. About six months after they got married, Danny and Ashley had scored the single-family home in a foreclosure auction. It had gone beyond handymanâ€™s special straight into the rehab hell of handymanâ€™s wet dream, but room by room theyâ€™d done the remodeling themselves. Now they had a lovely home they never could have afforded on their salaries.
But right now, it wasnâ€™t a happy home. Lydia sighed and kicked off her flip-flops to tuck her feet under her. â€śWhatâ€™s going on?â€ť
Ashley shrugged one shoulder, her mouth set in a line of misery. â€śYou know how it is.â€ť
Maybe, in a general sense, Lydia knew how it was. Sheâ€™d been married to a firefighter, too, and then sheâ€™d divorced one. But the one sheâ€™d been married to had struggled with the job, tried to cope with alcohol and taken advantage of Lydiaâ€™s unquestioning acceptance of the demanding hours to screw around with every female who twitched her goods in his direction.
That wasnâ€™t Danny, so other than knowing how intense being a firefighterâ€™s wife could be, Lydia didnâ€™t see what Ashley was saying.
â€śHeâ€™s just so closed off,â€ť her sister added. â€śI feel like he doesnâ€™t care about anything and I donâ€™t want to spend the rest of my life like that.â€ť
Lydia was sure there was more to itâ€”probably a lot moreâ€”but Ashley didnâ€™t seem inclined to offer up anything else. And after the packing and driving, Lydia didnâ€™t mind putting off the heavy emotional stuff for a while.
â€śI should go see Dad,â€ť she said.
â€śHeâ€™s working the bar tonight. And before you say anything, I know heâ€™s not supposed to be on his feet that much anymore. But you know heâ€™s sitting around talking to his buddies as much as being on his feet, and Rick Gullottiâ€™s girlfriendâ€™s supposed to be helping him out.â€ť
Rick was with Ladder 37 and Lydia had known him for years, but she struggled to remember his girlfriendâ€™s name. â€śBecky?â€ť
Ashley snorted. â€śBecky was like eight girlfriends ago. Karen. We like her and itâ€™s been like four months now, which might be a record for Rick.â€ť
Lydia looked down at the sundress sheâ€™d thrown on that morning because it was comfortable and the pale pink not only looked great with her dark coloring, but also cheered her up. It was a little wrinkled from travel, but not too bad. It wasnâ€™t as if Kincaidâ€™s was known for being a fashion hot spot. â€śAnd Karen couldnâ€™t keep on helping him out?â€ť
â€śSheâ€™s an ER nurse. Works crazy hours, I guess, so she helps out, but canâ€™t commit to a set schedule. And you know how Dad is about family.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s Kincaidâ€™s Pub so, by God, there should be a Kincaid in it,â€ť Lydia said in a low, gruff voice that made Ashley laugh.
Even as she smiled at her sisterâ€™s amusement, Lydia had to tamp down on the old resentment. There had been no inspirational you can be the President of the United States if you want to speeches for Tommyâ€™s daughters. His two daughters working the bar at Kincaidâ€™s Pub while being wonderfully supportive firefightersâ€™ wives was a dream come true for their old man.
Lydia had been the first to disappoint him. Her unwillingness to give the alcoholic serial cheater just one more chance had been the first blow, and then her leaving Kincaidâ€™s and moving to New Hampshire had really pissed him off.
Sometimes she wondered how their lives would have turned out if their mom hadnâ€™t died of breast cancer when Lydia and Ashley were just thirteen and fourteen. Scotty had been only nine, but he was his fatherâ€™s pride and joy. Joyce Kincaid hadnâ€™t taken any shit from her gruff, old-school husband, and Lydia thought maybe she would have pushed hard for her daughters to dream big. And then she would have helped them fight to make those dreams come true.
Or maybe their lives wouldnâ€™t have turned out any different and it was just Lydia spinning what-ifs into pretty fairy tales.
After carrying her bag upstairs to the guest room, Lydia brushed her hair and exchanged her flip-flops for cute little tennis shoes that matched her dress and would be better for walking.
â€śAre you sure you want to walk?â€ť Ashley asked. â€śItâ€™s a bit of a hike.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s not that far, and I wonâ€™t have to find a place to park.â€ť
â€śIâ€™d go with you, butâ€¦â€ť
But her not wanting to be at Kincaidâ€™s was the entire reason Lydia had uprooted herself and come home. â€śI get it. And I wonâ€™t be long. Iâ€™ll be spending enough time there as it is, so Iâ€™m just going to pop in, say hi and get the hell out.â€ť
Ashley snorted. â€śGood luck with that.â€ť
It was a fifteen-minute walk from the Walsh house to Kincaidâ€™s Pub, but Lydia stretched it out a bit. The sights. The sounds. The smells. No matter how reluctant she was to come back here or how many years she was away, this would always be home.
A few people called to her, but she just waved and kept walking. Every once in a while sheâ€™d step up the pace to make it look like she was in a hurry. But the street was fairly quiet and in no time, she was standing in front of Kincaidâ€™s Pub.
It was housed in the lower floor of an unassuming brick building. Okay, ugly. It was ugly, with a glass door and two high, long windows. A small sign with the name in a plain type was screwed to the brick over the door, making it easy to overlook. It was open to anybody, of course, but the locals were their bread and butter, and they liked it just the way it was.
Her dad had invested in the placeâ€”becoming a partner to help out the guy who owned itâ€”almost ten years before his heart attack hastened his retirement from fighting fires, and heâ€™d bought the original owner out when he was back on his feet. Once it was solely Tommyâ€™s, heâ€™d changed the name to Kincaidâ€™s Pub, and Ashley and Lydia had assumed their places behind the bar.
After taking a deep breath, she pulled open the heavy door and walked inside. All the old brick and wood seemed to absorb the light from the many antique-looking fixtures, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust.
It looked just the same, with sports and firefighting memorabilia and photographs covering the brick walls. The bar was a massive U-shape with a hand-polished surface, and a dozen tables, each seating four, were scattered around the room. In an alcove to one side was a pool table, along with a few more seating groups.
Because there wasnâ€™t a game on, the two televisionsâ€”one over the bar and one hung to be seen from most of the tablesâ€”were on Mute, with closed-captioning running across the bottom. The music was turned down low because Kincaidâ€™s was loud enough without people shouting to be heard over the radio.
Lydia loved this place. And she hated it a little, too. But in some ways it seemed as though Kincaidâ€™s Pub was woven into the fabric of her being, and she wasnâ€™t sorry to be there again.
â€śLydia!â€ť Her fatherâ€™s voice boomed across the bar, and she made a beeline to him.
Tommy Kincaid was a big man starting to go soft around the middle, but he still had arms like tree trunks. They wrapped around her and she squealed a little when he lifted her off her feet. â€śIâ€™ve missed you, girl.â€ť
She got a little choked up as he set her down and gave her a good looking over. Their relationship could be problematic at timesâ€”like most of the timeâ€”but Lydia never doubted for a second he loved her with all his heart. Once upon a time, heâ€™d had the same thick, dark hair she shared with her siblings, but the gray had almost totally taken over.
He looked pretty good, though, and she smiled. â€śIâ€™m glad you missed me, because it sounds like youâ€™ll be seeing a lot of me for a while.â€ť
A scowl drew his thick eyebrows and the corners of his mouth downward. â€śThat sister of yours. I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going through her mind.â€ť
She gave him a bright smile. â€śPlenty of time for that later. Right now I just want to see everybody and have a beer.â€ť
A blonde woman who was probably a few years older than her smiled from behind the bar. â€śIâ€™m Karen. Karen Shea.â€ť
Lydia reached across and shook her hand. â€śWe really appreciate you being able to help out.â€ť
â€śNot a problem.â€ť
Lydia went to the very end of the back side of the bar and planted a kiss on the cheek of Fitz Fitzgibbonâ€”her fatherâ€™s best friend and a retired member of Ladder 37â€”who was the only person who ever sat on that stool. She supposed once upon a time she might have known his real first name, but nobody ever called him anything but Fitz or, in her fatherâ€™s case, Fitzy.
There were a few other regulars she said hello to before getting a Sam Adams and standing at the bar. Unlike most, the big bar at Kincaidâ€™s didnâ€™t have stools all the way around. It had once upon a time, but now there were only stools on the back side and the end. Her dad had noticed a lot of guys didnâ€™t bother with the stools and just leaned against the polished oak. To make things easier, heâ€™d just ripped them out.
About a half hour later, her brother, Scotty, walked in. Like the rest of the Kincaids, he had thick dark hair and dark eyes. He needed a shave, as usual, but he looked good. Theyâ€™d talked and sent text messages quite a bit over the past two years, but neither of them was much for video chatting, so she hadnâ€™t actually seen him.
And right on Scottyâ€™s heels was Aidan Hunt. His brown hair was lighter than her brotherâ€™s and it needed a trim. And she didnâ€™t need to see his eyes to remember they were blue, like a lake on a bright summer day. He looked slightly older, but no less deliciously handsome than ever. She wasnâ€™t surprised to see him. Wherever Scotty was, Aidan was usually close by.
What did surprise her was that the second his gaze met hers, her first thought was that sheâ€™d like to throw everybody out of the bar, lock the door and then shove him onto a chair. Since she was wearing the sundress, all she had to do was undo his fly, straddle his lap and hold on.
When the corner of his mouth quirked up, as if he somehow knew sheâ€™d just gone eight seconds with him in her mind, she gave him a nod of greeting and looked away.
For crapâ€™s sake, that was Aidan Hunt. Her annoying younger brotherâ€™s equally annoying best friend.
Heâ€™d been seventeen when they met, to Lydiaâ€™s twenty-one. Heâ€™d given her a grin that showed off perfect, Daddyâ€™s-got-money teeth and those sparkling blue eyes and said, â€śHey, gorgeous. Want to buy me a drink?â€ť
Sheâ€™d rolled her eyes and told him to enjoy his playdate with Scotty. From that day on, he had seemed determined to annoy the hell out of her at every possible opportunity.
When her brother reached her, she shoved Aidan out of her mind and embraced Scotty. â€śHow the hell are ya?â€ť
â€śMissed having you around,â€ť he said. â€śSucks you had to come back for a shitty reason, but itâ€™s still good to see you. I just found out about an hour ago Ashley had called you.â€ť
â€śShe just called me last night, so it was spur-of-the-moment, I guess.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s good to have you back.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t get too used to it. Itâ€™s temporary.â€ť
Sheâ€™d always thought if she and Scotty were closer in age than four years apart, they could have been twins, with the same shaped faces and their coloring. Ashley looked a lot like both of them, but her face was leaner, her eyes a lighter shade of brown and her hair wasnâ€™t quite as thick.
Scotty was more like Lydia in temperament, too. Ashley was steadier and liked to try logic first. Scott and Lydia were a little more volatile and tended to run on emotion. Her temper had a longer fuse than her brotherâ€™s, but they both tended to pop off a little easy.
They caught up for a few minutes, mainly talking about his fellow firefighters, most of whom she knew well. And he gave her a quick update on their dadâ€™s doctor not being thrilled with his blood pressure. It didnâ€™t sound too bad, but it was probably good Ashley had called her rather than let him try to take up her slack.
Then Scotty shifted from one foot to the other and grimaced. â€śSorry, but Iâ€™ve had to take a leak for like an hour.â€ť
She laughed and waved him off. â€śGo. Iâ€™ll be here.â€ť
He left and Lydia looked up at the television, sipping her beer. She only ever had one, so sheâ€™d make it last, but part of her wanted to chug it and ask for a refill. It was a little overwhelming, being back.
â€śHey, gorgeous. Want to buy me a drink?â€ť What were the chances? She turned to face Aidan, smiling at the fact sheâ€™d been thinking about that day just a few minutes before. â€śWhatâ€™s so funny?â€ť
She shook her head, not wanting to tell him sheâ€™d been thinking about the day they met, since that would be an admission sheâ€™d been thinking about him at all. â€śNothing. How have you been?â€ť
â€śGood. Same shit, different day. You come back for a visit?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be here awhile. Maybe a couple of weeks, or a month.â€ť She shrugged. â€śAshley wanted to take some time off, so Iâ€™m going to cover for her. You know how Dad is about having one of us here all the damn time.â€ť
His eyes squinted and he tilted his head a little. â€śYou sound different.â€ť
â€śI worked on toning down the accent a little, to fit in more at work, I guess. Even though itâ€™s only the next state over, people were always asking me where I was from.â€ť
â€śYou trying to forget who you are?â€ť It came outÂ fuh-get who you ah. â€śForget where you came from?â€ť
â€śNot possible,â€ť she muttered.
He gave her that grin again, with the perfect teeth and sparkling eyes. They crinkled at the corners now, the laugh lines just making him more attractive. â€śSo what youâ€™re saying is that weâ€™re unforgettable.â€ť
She laughed, shaking her head. â€śYouâ€™re something, all right.â€ť
Aidan looked as if he was going to say something else, but somebody shouted his name and was beckoning him over. He nodded and then turned back to Lydia. â€śIâ€™ll see you around. And welcome home.â€ť
She watched him walk away, trying to keep her eyes above his waist in case anybody was watching her watch him. Her annoying brotherâ€™s annoying best friend had very nice shoulders stretching out that dark blue T-shirt.
Her gaze dipped, just for a second. And a very nice ass filling out those faded blue jeans.