Missing (The Brannock Siblings Book 3) (3 page)

Aiden was proof that there are some people out there that
make the impossible, possible.

She didn't have the patience to wait for water to boil or
for butter to melt. She was very easily distracted and no matter how hard she
tried, she couldn't get it right.

Dreamy was definitely in for a treat. Hopefully he was
compassionate enough to accept that about her and hopefully she had enough
things about her that were wonderful, it made up for her flaws.

The cab stopped in front of a little boutique that Lily told
her about when she first moved to town. She hadn't ever really looked inside
since she never had a reason to wear a dress. She paid the driver and climbed
out of the car, steeling herself to go through with this whole nerve wracking ordeal.
She was going to find something to wear that would compliment her features,
namely her bright red hair. She was going to calm the hell down about meeting
the man of her dreams. She was going to walk into that boutique and deal with
whatever stuffy fake nosed person that was in there and she wasn't going to
leave until she had the perfect dress. One that would make Dreamy fall to his
knees and take her back to his place and rip it off of her.

It had been too long.

She really needed to get laid or she feared she would end up
like Lily and settle for bad sex just to keep the cobwebs away.

Never.

This was the start of something amazing.

She could feel it in her bones.

 

***

"Stupid bag!" Aiden grumbled when another tube of
paint fell to the floor. She hadn't noticed the giant hole in the bag holding
her art supplies until she was in the cab on her way home and pretty much
everything fell out of the flimsy plastic. She'd purchased a little more than
originally planned and was now lugging a huge bag of supplies and her new
perfect fit forest green sheath dress hanging in a garment bag over her arm. At
this point, her arms were holding everything so awkwardly that she wouldn't be
able to open her door without dropping something.

She climbed the last set of stairs to her floor and tried to
catch her breath. She needed to get in better shape or she'd end up passing out
before she could ever get home.

"Hope I get some exercise tomorrow night," she
mumbled to herself with a smile.

Her feet shuffled across the floor as she shifted her arms
to catch another tube of paint that was dangerously close to falling out of the
bag. She heard Gus' door click open the second before she passed it and started
walking a little faster, hoping to avoid him. It had never worked before, but
she always gave it a shot. He never let her go without saying
something
to her, whether it was a short greeting that she knew was forced or some kind
of joke about her cooking or a witty remark about whatever she was doing at the
moment. The man was relentless.

She felt his gaze on her as she strode past him and couldn't
miss the amused smirk on his handsome face. She rolled her eyes just right so
he could see her annoyance. He chuckled and just kept watching her, making her
more nervous than she already was. One of these days she was going to be
walking by looking sexier than ever and not stumbling all over the place. Then
he would grovel at her feet and apologize for all the stupid things he had said
to her and she wouldn't give him the time of day.

She sighed at the sugary sweetness she felt whenever the
daydream of getting revenge on him passed through her mind.

His eyes were still on her and somehow, she managed to get
her keys in her hand, but her shaking fingers could barely hold onto them. He
really needed to get a life if watching her walk to her door was a source of
entertainment for him.

"Need a hand?"

Damn! Why did his voice have to be so sexy? It made her
tingle in places she didn't realize were still in working order.

"I'm good," she said quickly and tried to push the
key into the lock. Her paints kept slipping, making it harder, and her key kept
scraping all over the doorknob, getting further and further from her target.
God,
I probably look like a penguin
, she thought to herself and felt her cheeks
flush with embarrassment. She could only move her wrist and hand and couldn't
even see the doorknob anymore.

She heard a sexy chuckle before she felt him beside her,
then his hand wrapped around the dangling keys and pulled them from her grasp.
The paints started to slip again and she slapped her hand around them to keep
them in place.

"Dammit!" she hissed.

Gus unlocked the door and pushed it open quickly before
smiling at her and taking some of the items out of her arms.

This wasn't the usual play by play action that happened
between them. She was pleasantly surprised at his chivalry, but she wouldn't
smile back. She couldn't. No way. Not after the way he had treated her in the
past.

Okay, so it wasn't really that bad and he was only being honest
and had never been truly cruel to her. In fact, the things he said were quite
clever and she had filed them away to use on others she would meet in the
future. She should technically be thanking him for the witty remarks she now
had stored away in her brain.

No! I will not be thanking him for
anything.

She hurried past him and threw the items on the kitchen
counter with a loud clatter. The apartment always looked like a mess. It was
clean, just cluttered. She always found herself too absorbed in whatever piece
she was working on to take a break and organize herself. She just needed to
find a damn studio, then she wouldn't have to worry about situations like this.

Turning around was not an option. She didn't want to see the
disgusted look on his face as he glanced around and saw her mess of a life. She
had caught a few glimpses at the inside of
his
apartment and it was
basically spotless, tasteless. A place for everything and everything in its
place. So different from the personality she had discovered over the last few
months.

She pulled the dress off of her sweating arm and hung it on
her bedroom door down the hall. When she returned to her kitchen, Gus was
watching her with his arms crossed over his chest, his chiseled jaw ticking.
Her mouth went dry. Those arms looked strong and she could only imagine what
his workout routine consisted of. He was usually in a dress shirt and tie, but
today he was wearing well fitted jeans and a tight black T-shirt that showed
off the cut of his shoulders and chest. It was too mouthwatering and she wanted
him to get out of there. Now. He probably had bad guys to chase and criminals
to shoot at. He didn't need to be in her apartment.

He made no move to leave and she started to fidget with the
supplies on her counter. As long as she didn't engage him in any conversation,
she figured he would be gone in the next few seconds.

"I didn't know you paint," he said softly.

She shrugged and kept her eyes on the counter.

"What do you paint?"

A smirk crossed her face and she finally looked up at him.
"Pictures."

"Of course you do," he said with a shake of his
head and a wide smile.

Damn that smile. His teeth were too straight, his lips
looked too soft, and that face was too smooth. He towered over her and where
other women might find that intimidating, she found it disturbingly comforting.
His hair was a deep dark brown, like chocolate with a lighter caramel at the
tips. His golden tan was a perfect shade for his dark hair, but the one thing
that stunned her every time, the one feature that made her chest tingle, was
his eyes. A light blue surrounded by grey, making them look like thunderclouds
with a beautiful piece of blue sky peeking through. Those eyes never missed a
single detail either. He was a cop, so that was a good skill to have, but she
often felt like he knew all of her secrets, all her fears, and all of her flaws
just by looking at her.

She watched his lips widen further and quickly looked away.
She'd been caught checking him out about a million times too many, but he never
called her out on it. He was just too pretty and it pissed her off.

"You can leave now."

His smile faltered and he blinked a few times before
shrugging and saying, "Not until you thank me for helping you. It was a
nice thing to do and I went out of my way to do it."

She rolled her eyes and her chest burned, but not with the
oh so familiar tingle of attraction. No, he had just reminded her why she had
only ever acted on that attraction once and ended up getting insulted. This
burning was now anger. "Ugh, you are such an
ass
."

"Thanks. See? It's easy."

She walked over to the door and held it open, gesturing for
him to walk out of her apartment. When he didn't move she felt her jaw clench
and her back teeth grind together. The man was infuriating.

"Fine. Thank you, Fergus."

He smiled once more and started walking towards the door.
"No need to thank me, Red. It was the right thing to do."

She wanted to punch him. Punch him right in his beautiful
face and possibly break that too perfect nose, maybe give those grey blue eyes
of his a bruise or two in the process. Knowing her luck, she would go to jail
for assaulting an officer of the law.

Damn her luck.

She glared at him as he stepped over the threshold and
turned around to face her. When he opened his mouth to say something, she
slammed the door shut.

Take that, jackass
.

She heard a muffled laugh coming from the other side of the
door and knew he was still just standing there ready to get the last word in.
She didn't want to hear it but was curious as to what he would say. Probably
something she would normally find hilarious if it wasn't directed at her. So,
tough as she was, she gave in and stayed by the door, pressing her ear to the
worn wood.

"Red?"

"It's Aiden!" she couldn't help but shout.

Then she heard it. The telltale sign that she was about to
look like a complete fool.

The jingle of keys and the sound of one being pulled out of
the lock.

Son of a bitch!

"You want me to hang onto these, maybe make a copy so I
don't have to break in again to leave you important gifts?" Even muffled
his voice was still sexy and when he was amused, it was a hell of a lot more
effective.

She rolled her eyes and cursed her deprived hormones, but
couldn't stop the grin on her face. She was still trying to figure out how the
hell he had gotten in that day. Probably picked the lock.

She swung the door open and made a grab for the keys
dangling from his fingers but he pulled them away at the last second.

"Wait. First, you have to promise you won't be cooking
anything tomorrow night."

She barely kept herself from stomping her foot like a child
and glared at him. "God, will you just give it up. I'll never get better
at it if I never practice."

He smiled and shook his head, "Sometimes practice
doesn't always make perfect. It just makes people sick."

"Ugh! Fine! I won't be here tomorrow night anyway so
don't get your panties in a twist."

"I'm not even going to go there," he said with a
wink.

She stiffened as she remembered the exact same banter she
had with Dreamy over texting. Then she shook her head clear and told herself
that the guy in front of her was a jerk and the guy she was meeting in person
the next night was freaking adorable. Not. One. Similarity.

"You got a hot date tomorrow night?" he inquired
annoyingly.

"As a matter of fact, I do."

"Good, you need to get laid soon." Before she
could respond, he tossed her keys at her and she caught them on a reflex. He
hurried down the hall and into his apartment leaving her standing there in
shock.

"Payback is a bitch, jackass!" she shouted from
her doorway.

The only sound she heard was a deep, sexy laugh before she
slammed her door shut.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

Gus

"Good night, Detective."

The sound of my captain's farewell sent a shot of adrenaline
through my veins.

Detective.

For the last couple months, it was one of two things in my
life I was the most proud of. My family was the first, as always, but
accomplishing something as big as making detective in my department was a very
close second. Luke and Con always had it easy when it came to climbing up the
ranks. They could focus on all different kinds of cases without breaking a
sweat.

Me? I couldn't get my mind off the missing and the sick
fucks that took these innocent people. Sure there are plenty of other bad guys
doing bad things, but ever since I found little Katie in that rundown shack and
shot that piece of shit that had taken her, my head was only in one game when I
got to the station each day. Find them.

I was good at it. Luke and Con could take down all the drug
lords and mob bosses they wanted. I was going to eradicate every last child
stealing son of a bitch I could.

"Night, Captain," I replied with a brief salute.

"Thanks for coming back in again. I know you've had a
long week."

"No thanks needed, Cap. It's the job, right? This is
what I signed up for."

I had taken the day off after spending the last week
relentlessly searching for new leads on a recent kidnapping and until the night
before, I had been expecting to cancel my date for the next night. It would
have been disappointing, but I would have done it.

"You talk to Johnny again?"

"Yes, sir. Spoke with his parents this morning and he
asked to talk to me. Had a lot to say."

"He's a good kid. You and Lincoln did a fine job,"
he said with a rare smile.

Captain Frank Payne was probably the most bad ass man I had
ever met in my life, aside from my father. He was in his 50's but didn't look a
day over 30. No matter how often I found myself at the gym, he was there before
me and always stayed after I left. The man was a beast and I couldn't have
asked for a better boss. He backed me up with every case I managed to get my
hands on. There was no explanation to how I was able to find these kids. I just
got that feeling, heard the right clues, and four out of five times, put the
pieces together.

Other books

Chase Me by Elizabeth York
The Pleasure Tube by Robert Onopa
Everyman's England by Victor Canning
Cast a Cold Eye by Mary McCarthy
Strangers by Carla Banks
Madly & the Jackal by M. Leighton
Afterlight by Rebecca Lim
Appraisal for Murder by Elaine Orr
Cat Coming Home by Shirley Rousseau Murphy