An incoherent growl, which the police chief simply took as another form of assent.

“Just wish she’d stop,” Thornton forced himself to admit between clenched teeth.

“Stop what?”

“Trying her damnedest to seduce me.”

Aidan gaped at his brother. “That’s your problem? A nice, pretty girl is doing her best to get you into bed with her? Is that why you’ve come down to the police station for?” Aidan asked sarcastically. “You want to file a complaint against your shop assistant for having a crush on you?”

He saw his brother’s jaw clamp shut at his quip, but that was it. Thornton only stared at him, and that was answer enough. Most people assumed his younger twin was a rather complex being to understand, but actually, it was the opposite. Being a man of few words, Thornton could be expected to always respond with a swift yes or no to any question. His two short but grueling years in service, on the other hand, made Thornton a man of honor, and one could reliably expect his brother to always speak the truth.

As such, Thornton refusing to answer a question only meant one thing.

“Why are you having such a hard time admitting to the fact that you want her?”

Thornton struggled to put his thoughts into words. “I’m having a hard time understanding why…she likes me so much. How she could like me so much…from the start. It doesn’t…make sense.”

And that was the crux of the matter, Aidan realized. Even when they were kids, Thornton had always been the type to rationalize things. Applying reason and logic had been his twin’s way of processing their parents’ indifference and, later on, their untimely death, and it had also been Thornton’s coping mechanism when encountering the unspeakable atrocities of war.

Only Blake’s instant attraction to him had defied logic, Aidan thought ruefully, thus his twin’s instinctive resistance. A pity, really: if only Blake had played it just the slightest bit coy the way other women did, then she wouldn’t have had any problems getting Thornton to admit his feelings.

But if she had been like other girls, she might not have captured Thornton’s interest from the start. She might never have been hired in the first place even, and so there couldn’t have been a chance for Aidan’s twin to gradually become attracted to her.

“Aidan.” Impatience faintly edged Thornton’s tone. “I know you’ve figured things out.”

“Not that easy,” his twin answered with a grimace, “since this is you we’re talking about.”

“Just say it.”

“Alright.” Aidan leveled a look at his twin. “To start with – you do acknowledge that she likes you. Right?” He saw Thornton actually seem to seriously consider the question and almost groaned. “For fuck’s sake, man.”

Thornton scowled. “It just—”

“Doesn’t make sense, I know.” Aidan was exasperated. “But for this to work, how about we set all reason aside for now and start with the premise that she does like you.”

“She’s young,” Thornton muttered. “And she’s never had a boyfriend. There’s a possibility that she’s misunderstanding—”

“Thorn,” Aidan growled.

Thornton threw his hands up. Whatever. If Aidan believed acknowledging the girl’s feelings for him as real was the only way to get the ball rolling, alright then.

Aidan could already see Hartland’s collective population shaking its head at Thornton’s sheer denseness. One only had to be in Blake’s company for five minutes to know just how head over heels she was for his twin, and it wasn’t just because she enjoyed wearing her heart on her sleeve. She also loved talking about it – a lot – to the point that people tended to make up excuses to leave the moment she mentioned Thornton’s name.

It was exactly what happened earlier, actually. Their younger brother Ethan, along with his close friend Doctor Ronan Slater, had dropped by at the cafe, and the moment they heard Blake saying Thornton’s name, the two men had practically tripped over each other in their haste, wanting to leave before Blake could see them.

“Fine, she likes me,” Thornton was saying in a hard tone. “What next?”

“And you like her back, correct?”

“Not at first.” Thornton’s tone was discomfited. “But yeah, eventually.”

“And that’s what’s bothering you, isn’t it?” Aidan carefully pointed out. “That things didn’t really start out the same time for the both of you?”

Thornton grunted.

“So if you were to do something about it, and your suspicions about her not really liking you turns out to be true, then you’d have made your life unnecessarily complicated.” He only got another grunt in response, but Aidan was far from bothered. With his twin, answers that were anything less than straightforward automatically meant he was winning the argument.

“You’re holding yourself back on the presumption that her interest in you is just a passing fancy, but what if I can prove to you that it wasn’t?” Aidan challenged.

“If that only means you’re simply going to ask her—”


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