Home > Heat Exchange(8)

Heat Exchange(8)
Author: Shannon Stacey

    “He’s staying with Scotty.”

    “Of course he is.” Lydia’s hand tightened around the coffee mug and it took supreme will not to chuck it at the wall. “Is Scott working today?”

    Ashley looked at her, and then slowly shook her head. “Don’t, Lydia. You’ll only make it worse.”

    “It’s not right. You’re his sister.”

    “It’s better than not knowing where Danny is or having him shack up with God knows who.”

    “There are plenty of other guys who could offer him a couch,” Lydia argued. “He could crash with Aidan or Rick. Jeff. Chris. Any of them. It didn’t have to be your brother. In our father’s house.”

    When Ashley just gave a small shrug, Lydia wanted to shake her. As far as she was concerned, Scott had crossed a line and she wanted her sister to be pissed off about it. To demand the respect and loyalty the Kincaid men should be showing her, and not Danny.

    But she knew Ashley wasn’t wired the same way she was and it took a lot to make her angry. Just like their mother, once she’d had enough, she could give Lydia and Scott a run for their money, and that’s what Lydia wanted to see.

    “Did I really jam you up by asking you to come back?” Ashley asked. “I’m sorry about what I said about your job, by the way. I was so desperate to get out of being at the bar, but that was dirty.”

    “I forgive you because God knows I’ve vented at you often enough. That’s what sisters are for. And you didn’t jam me up at all. You were right about me hating that job and, when I go back, I’ll find one I like more.”

    “You should go back to bartending. You’re a natural.”

    Lydia shrugged. Bartending was something she was good at and she honestly enjoyed it, but she’d taken the waitressing job because she wanted something different. Tending a bar that wasn’t Kincaid’s Pub had seemed at the time like it might be too painful for her.

    “I thought about going to school,” she said. “But I spent weeks looking at brochures and stuff online and nothing jumped out at me. If I’m going to invest that time and money, I want it to be for something I really want to be, you know?”

    “If I had the chance to go to college, I’d go for office or business stuff. I don’t even know what it’s called, but I think it would be awesome to work in a medical clinic, like for women’s health.”

    “Have you thought about going to the community college?” They’d both been thrown into work young and college had never been a big deal in their family, but if Ashley wanted to go, she should.

    “Danny and I talked about it a while back. He was supportive, but Dad made a big deal out of needing me at Kincaid’s and you were getting a divorce. Plus working around Danny’s hours would be a pain. It was easier to forget about it.”

    Lydia shoved back at the guilt that threatened to overwhelm her and make her say something stupid, like offering to stay in Boston so Ashley could go to college. Her dad had accused her of being selfish when she’d taken off, and maybe she was, but she couldn’t be responsible for everybody’s lives. She was still working on her own.

    “I’m going to take a shower,” Lydia said when it became clear Ashley had nothing else to say at the moment. “We should go out for breakfast.”

    “I already made pancake batter. I was just waiting for you to get up.”

    Her sister wasn’t the best cook in the world, but she made amazing pancakes. “I hope you made a lot. I’m starving.”

    Ashley’s face lit up with a real smile. “I know you and my pancakes. I practically had to mix it in a bucket.”

    * * *

    AIDAN HELD UP a metal rod and looked over at Scotty. “What is this? Does this go somewhere?”

    They both looked at the piece of playground equipment they’d spent the past hour assembling, and then Scotty shrugged. “It doesn’t look like it goes anywhere.”

    “I don’t think they said, ‘Hey, let’s throw a random metal rod in there just to mess with the idiots who have to put it together,’ do you?”

    “I don’t know. If you set something on fire, I know what to do with it. Building things? Not my job.”

    Chris Eriksson joined them, scratching at a slowly graying beard. “I don’t think you’re supposed to have extra pieces. A bolt maybe. A few nuts. That looks important.”

    “Where did the instructions go?” Aidan asked, scanning the playground to see if they’d blown away.

    “There were instructions?”

    “Funny, Kincaid.” Eriksson shook his head. “My kid’s going to climb on this thing. If we can’t figure it out, we’re breaking it down and starting over.”

    Aidan stifled the curse words he wanted to mutter as he started circling the playground structure. They were surrounded by an increasingly bored pack of elementary students and a photographer waiting to snap a few pictures of the kids playing on the equipment the firehouse had donated and built. When Eriksson had come to them, looking for some help for his son’s school, they’d been all-in.

    And they still were. This was their community and they all did what they could. But it would have been nice if somebody had been in charge of the directions. After a few minutes, one of the teachers—a pretty brunette with a warm smile—moved closer and beckoned him over.

    “We built one of these where I did my student teaching, and I think it’s a support bar for under the slide,” she whispered. “If you look up at it from underneath, you should see the braces where it bolts on.”

    “Thank you.”

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