Home > Heat Exchange(7)

Heat Exchange(7)
Author: Shannon Stacey


    Aidan didn’t exactly wallow in regret. He was tired of it. He was tired of women who saw his face and didn’t look any further. He was sick of women who got off on banging firefighters and the women who saw him outside the rink with his bag and wanted to spend a little time with a hockey player.

    He didn’t mind at all if a woman wanted to use him for hot, dirty sex. But he also wanted her to laugh with him and enjoy a quiet evening on the couch. And he needed her to stroke his hair when the day was shitty and to hold him when the nightmares came.

    Lydia’s laughter rose above the noise of the bar, but Aidan didn’t turn to look. He just knocked back the rest of his beer and kept his eyes on the television.

    * * *

    THE OVERLY CHIPPER chime sound that indicated an incoming text made Lydia very reluctantly open her eyes the next morning. Ashley’s guest room mattress had seen better days and it had taken her forever to fall asleep.

    With a groan, she reached over to the nightstand and felt around until she found her phone. She had just enough charger cord to read the message without picking her head up off the pillow.

    What the hell, girl?

    She had no idea what the hell, since she wasn’t even awake yet. But then she realized it was a group text, the group being her two best friends, Becca Shepard and Courtney Richmond. With Ashley as their fourth, they’d been inseparable growing up, and there was a group text going on more often than not.

    This time it was Becca, and Lydia wondered which of them the message was aimed at. Probably her.

    Before she could respond, another text from Becca came through.

    Heard you were at KP last night. Ninja visit?

    Lydia didn’t have time to compose a reply before a response from her sister popped up.

    I’m taking some time off. L’s home to cover for me.

    How long?

    Don’t know.

    Since Ashley was not only awake, but able to type coherently, Lydia dropped the phone onto the blanket and closed her eyes again. Kincaid’s didn’t open until eleven, so she didn’t have to jump out of bed.

    But when the phone chimed again she realized that, even if she didn’t join in the conversation, the alerts would drive her crazy. After a big stretch, she picked up the phone again.

    GNO!

    That was Courtney, and Lydia rolled her eyes. While a girls’ night out was appealing, she barely had her feet under her. She hadn’t even worked a shift at the bar yet, so trying to get time off would be tough.

    Soon. Stop at KP & say hi if you can.

    That might hold them off for a while. Long enough to get coffee into her system, at least.

    That turned out to be the end of the messages, but Lydia knew she’d tipped past the mostly awake point and wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep now. After unplugging her phone, she made a quick stop in the bathroom and then headed downstairs.

    Once she reached the top of the stairs, she could smell the coffee and followed the aroma to the kitchen. Ashley was sitting at the table, her phone in hand, and she looked up when Lydia walked in.

    “Hey, how did you sleep?”

    “Like a baby.” It was a lie, but Ashley already felt bad about asking her to come home. No sense in piling on guilt about it. And even a crappy mattress was better than staying at her dad’s.

    Once she’d made her coffee, she sat down across from her sister and sipped it. If it wasn’t so hot, she’d guzzle the stuff. Lydia was a better cook than Ashley, but her sister was definitely better at making coffee.

    After a few minutes, Ashley put down her phone and looked at her. “It’s been ten days.”

    “Ten days?” A week and half had gone by before her sister bothered telling her that her marriage was over?

    “I thought he’d come back, you know? Like maybe he’d blow off some steam and then we’d talk about it. But he didn’t come back. And when I called him, he just closed up and it was like talking to a machine.” Ashley stared at her coffee, shaking her head. “More than usual, even. So the more I hope we can work it out, the more he does the thing I can’t live with anymore.”

    Lydia took the time to consider her next words carefully. She had her sister’s back, 100 percent, but sometimes having a person’s back wasn’t as cut-and-dried as blindly agreeing with everything they said. “He’s always been quiet. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the other guys call him the ice man. It’s not just with you.”

    “He can be however he wants with other people, especially the other guys. I’m his wife. If I’m upset and worried or pissed off, I need to feel like he at least cares.”

    “Have you thought about counseling?”

    Ashley shrugged. “I mentioned it once and he changed the subject. I’m not sure what the point would be in talking to somebody when he doesn’t talk.”

    “That is the point. A professional can help you guys communicate, including helping him break through whatever block he’s got up and talk to you.”

    “I left a message on his voice mail, asking him if we could set up a time to meet somewhere for coffee. If he shows up, I’ll mention it.”

    “Just don’t make it about him—that he needs help because he can’t communicate. Make it about you feeling like it would be good for your marriage.”

    She nodded. “Assuming he even calls me back. He keeps texting me, but I want him to stop taking the easy way out and actually talk to me. I want to hear his voice.”

    “Where’s he staying? With his parents?” Ashley’s mouth tightened and Lydia leaned back in her chair. “No. Don’t even tell me.”

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