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The spray sluiced away the suds in his hair. Why couldn't he stop thinking about her? It was probably because she'd shown no hesitation in reminding him about their past. And his behavior. He certainly wasn't proud of it, but they'd been seventeen. Everyone was an idiot at seventeen, weren't they? Wasn't there a statute of limitations or something about that?

Wait until she found out what the town council was planning. He'd already been approached by someone in the tourism department. Laurel had only been back in town a few weeks, since the garden center opened for the season. They probably hadn't asked her yet. After this morning's reception, he was pretty sure what her answer was going to be.

Dressing up in a wedding gown and kissing him on the stone bridge? Hah. She couldn't even look at him without her mouth tightening up like a chicken's asshole. There was no way she'd agree to recreating the picture that had been taken of them when they'd been all of five years old. They'd been ring bearer and flower girl at a wedding, and the picture of the two of them had been adopted as the promotional photo for the town's famous Kissing Bridge. Cute back then, he supposed. Embarrassing as hell now.

He still took his share of grief for it. People had long memories, and the milkshake incident had been a sensation. The flip-side of small-town living: everyone delighted in everyone else's business.

He stepped out of the shower and toweled off, efficiently pulling on underwear, a pair of board shorts, and a T-shirt. He didn't do a thing with his hair besides run his hand through it and give it a shake, sending droplets of water spattering onto the mirror. A quick application of deodorant and he was done, taking a spare five seconds to hang up his towel.

"Yo, bro. You beautiful yet? I need to take a leak."

Aiden grinned. His slightly younger brother, Rory, must have finished work early today. The two shared the apartment, which was essentially the upstairs above the veterinary clinic. Rory got the rent cheap for being the "on-site" vet. Perks of being the newbie just out of vet school. "Something wrong with the clinic bathroom?"

"Naw." Rory looked up as Aiden entered the kitchen. Rory was already halfway through a beer. "I'm clocked out for the day is all. Last appointment cancelled."

"Does this mean you're cooking?"

Rory chuckled, shouldering his way past Aiden. "I can. Unless you want to go to Mom and Dad's."

Aiden didn't. News of the robbery had spread through town and he was sure his parents had heard. They'd have questions, not just about the robbery but also about Laurel. "I'd rather stay here. I can cook if you don't want to."

"Oooh, frozen pizza. Again."

"I can make more than frozen pizza." Aiden went to the fridge, considered the beer, and grabbed a soda instead. Somehow he just wasn't in the mood.

There was silence for a second as Rory headed for the bathroom, then a loud curse. "Shit, your shorts are on the floor. Gross."

Aiden laughed. He'd been in a hurry for the shower, but he deliberately left stuff around just to spool his brother up. Rory was such a damned neat freak. He needed to relax once in a while. The fact that he'd knocked off work was definitely unusual.

In the end, the choice for supper was taken out of his hands. One phone call and a not-so-subtle guilt trip later about how they never made time for their mother anymore, and both boys headed to the family home.

The Gallaghers lived just outside Darling, on a couple of rolling green acres dotted with tall maples and oaks. The house was huge by modern standards: only twenty years old but built in that old-fashioned colonial style so popular in New England. The front faced the dirt drive, but the back had a huge deck that overlooked the lake. Aiden sometimes wondered why his parents kept it, now that all six of the kids were up and grown. Only the twins lived at home, and even then only part of the time. It was a lot of house for two
people, and so much work.

But as he and Rory drove up in Aiden's truck, he understood. It wasn't the kind of property—or home—that a person could turn their back on easily.

(This excerpt ends on page 14 of the paperback edition.)


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