Home > Heat Exchange(3)

Heat Exchange(3)
Author: Shannon Stacey


    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. He’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.

    “Got any plans tonight?” Aidan finally asked, just to break the silence.

    “Nope. Probably see if there’s a game on.”

    Aidan wasn’t sure what to say to that. He didn’t have a lot of experience with a good friend going through a divorce. Breakups, sure, but not a marriage ending. “If you want to talk, just let me know. We can grab a beer or something.”

    “Talk about what?”

    “Don’t bullshit me, Walsh. We know what’s going on and it’s a tough situation. So if you want to talk, just let me know.”

    “She doesn’t want to be married to me anymore, so we’re getting a divorce.” Danny closed his locker, not needing to slam it to get his point across. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

    “Okay.” 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 shouldn’t have been surprised the offer was refused.

    He’d really like to know what had gone wrong in the Walsh marriage, though. He liked Danny and Ashley and he’d always thought they were a great couple. If they couldn’t make it work, Aidan wasn’t sure he had a chance. And lately he’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 wouldn’t mind having a dog. But his hours would be too hard on a dog, and he wasn’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 weren’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 couldn’t keep a dog happy, he probably didn’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.

    “Cutter ate the last brownie,” 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. “You really do want to get your ass kicked today, don’t you?”

    * * *

    “MAYBE I SHOULDN’T have called you. I feel bad now.”

    Lydia dropped her bag inside the door and put her hand on her hip. “I just quit my job and burned a chunk of my savings to pay Shelly for two months’ rent in advance so she won’t give my room away. You’re stuck with me now.”

    Tears filled Ashley’s eyes and spilled over onto her cheeks as she stood up on her toes to throw her arms around Lydia’s neck. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

    Lydia squeezed her older sister, and she had to admit that coming back was about the last thing she’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 handyman’s special straight into the rehab hell of handyman’s wet dream, but room by room they’d done the remodeling themselves. Now they had a lovely home they never could have afforded on their salaries.

    But right now, it wasn’t a happy home. Lydia sighed and kicked off her flip-flops to tuck her feet under her. “What’s going on?”

    Ashley shrugged one shoulder, her mouth set in a line of misery. “You know how it is.”

    Maybe, in a general sense, Lydia knew how it was. She’d been married to a firefighter, too, and then she’d divorced one. But the one she’d been married to had struggled with the job, tried to cope with alcohol and taken advantage of Lydia’s unquestioning acceptance of the demanding hours to screw around with every female who twitched her goods in his direction.

    That wasn’t Danny, so other than knowing how intense being a firefighter’s wife could be, Lydia didn’t see what Ashley was saying.

    “He’s just so closed off,” her sister added. “I feel like he doesn’t care about anything and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life like that.”

    Lydia was sure there was more to it—probably a lot more—but Ashley didn’t seem inclined to offer up anything else. And after the packing and driving, Lydia didn’t mind putting off the heavy emotional stuff for a while.

    “I should go see Dad,” she said.

    “He’s working the bar tonight. And before you say anything, I know he’s not supposed to be on his feet that much anymore. But you know he’s sitting around talking to his buddies as much as being on his feet, and Rick Gullotti’s girlfriend’s supposed to be helping him out.”

    Rick was with Ladder 37 and Lydia had known him for years, but she struggled to remember his girlfriend’s name. “Becky?”

    Ashley snorted. “Becky was like eight girlfriends ago. Karen. We like her and it’s been like four months now, which might be a record for Rick.”

    Lydia looked down at the sundress she’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 wasn’t as if Kincaid’s was known for being a fashion hot spot. “And Karen couldn’t keep on helping him out?”

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