Aidan’s face has gone as white as no doubt mine is. “I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry, Luc, everything happened so fast that before I even had time to think, much less remember you were stopping by my apartment for that contract, we were walking in the door. I would have never let that happen if I’d had any idea you were there.”
Shoving back from my desk, I ask impatiently, “Do you have any cigarettes?” That’s about the last thing I want, but smoking a joint while drinking a bottle of whiskey is probably out. I’m just hoping a smoke will help in some way to release the freaking tension choking me.
He looks startled by my abrupt subject change but pulls a pack from his suit pocket. “Um, yeah, right here.”
“Let’s go up to the roof,” I snap as I stride toward him.
He gives me a wary look before standing. “I’m not sure I want to go anywhere that far from the ground with you right now.”
His comment surprises a brief smile from me as I imagine how my demand must have seemed to him. “I either smoke one of those nasty fuckers or I kill someone. You’ll just have to take your chances that the first option will work so that the second won’t be necessary.”
“That’s really comforting,” he mumbles as he follows me out my office door. When we make it up to the roof, Aidan doesn’t waste any time as he hands me a cigarette. “For God’s sake, start puffing,” he encourages as I lean over his lighter.
After a couple of deep inhales and exhales, I grimace in distaste. “If Lia smells this on me, I’m blaming it on you.”
“I thought you were getting by without resorting to smoking,” he says as he releases a cloud of smoke from his mouth.
“Well, I have been until that clusterfuck over the weekend. It’s not going to be a regular occurrence though since I can’t do it around Lia and I don’t intend to spend my life standing in the front of my apartment building smoking. Not to mention, it’s just damn disgusting.”
“Shit works though, doesn’t it?” He smiles faintly as we finish in silence.
When I’ve stubbed mine out, I pick up our earlier conversation. “That can’t happen again, Aidan. I know we’re at cross purposes here, but surely you can see where I’m coming from.”
“Of course, I can,” he says earnestly. “I’d feel the same in your shoes so I do get it, Luc. I would never try to push her on you.”
“What happened after we left Friday night?” I ask out of some type of morbid curiosity.
“She never mentioned anything about you or Lia afterward. She answered basic questions when I asked, but that was about it. It’s almost like dealing with a small child,” he admits wearily. I can see he’s disappointed and I wonder what he was expecting from her visit. Maybe that she would instantly return to the person she was before. If he has any memory at all, then he should hope to hell that she stays as she is now.
“I know there’s not an easy answer that will make both of us happy, but we have to come up with something,” I say as I stare out at the surrounding area. The city I love is once again beginning to feel like a prison thanks to Cassie.
He clears his throat. “Luc, I’m going to take a leave of absence for a while.” I can do nothing but gawk at him for a long moment, stunned into silence.
“Aidan, that’s not necessary, brother. We can figure something out.” A sense of panic fills me at the thought of not having my best friend by my side. We’ve seen each other through every high and low in our lives for years. I don’t want to lose him over this.
He lights another cigarette, but I wave the pack away when he offers it to me. My stomach is in knots now, and I can’t imagine a load of nicotine will help. “We’re all she’s ever had, Luc. Her father bailed out long ago so that just leaves me.” He looks at the sky and laughs humorlessly. “I don’t even know if it’s about being in love with her anymore. Time and tragedy have chipped away at that. Even without those feelings though, I love her and I’ll always remember her as that scrappy little girl who was determined to be one of the guys. That’s who I’m trying to save. I don’t even know the other Cassie.”
His revelation leaves me completely flabbergasted. That’s the first time I’ve heard him concede that his feelings might not be what they were for Cassie. A part of me is relieved because I had started to wonder if he wasn’t somewhat deluded about a possible life with her. “I’m sorry,” I say and mean it. I love Aidan and it tears at something inside me to see him so defeated. “We’re family here. You don’t need to distance yourself to help her.” Even as I say the words, they sound hypocritical even to my ears. Hadn’t I just told him earlier that he needed to keep Cassie away from me?
“I’m going to rent something close to the clinic and give her recovery my full attention for a few months. That way, I’ll be able to let her spend time with me away from there without having to worry about us running into someone she knows. And it’s not just for you; it’s for her as well. I hadn’t given much thought to what it could trigger for her to come home. I don’t think that’s the best idea for her right now. Especially with no one really knowing what could happen when and if her full memory returns.”
“Ah fuck,” I mutter. I can tell by the tone of his voice that he’s already made his decision and I won’t be able to sway him. Still, I give it one last try. “You don’t have to completely relocate to help her. You’ve already been spending a lot of weekends there. Why not just keep it that way. She can still come stay with you wherever you’re staying.”