Missing (The Brannock Siblings Book 3) (9 page)

"And Aiden?" Lily asked quietly, her hand pressed
against her chest right above her heart like she was about to faint right

I wasn't sure why, but it made my chest puff out. I may be
an ass but I
quite the charmer.

"Aiden is the sweet, vulnerable woman that literally
takes my breath away. When you show me that sweet side, all sugary and smiling,
you're Aiden. She's been around a lot more lately."

Her arms dropped to her sides and her chocolate eyes
widened. I couldn't take my gaze off of her, but I heard Lily gasp and saw her
start to fan herself out of the corner of my eye.

"I-I… I'm not sweet," Aiden argued, her blush now
covering her neck and collarbone, just above the neckline of her dress. It made
me wonder how far down that blush would go.

"You are when you want to be and when you want to be,
it's spectacular. Almost as spectacular as when you throw me that sass."

I needed to stop myself or she was going to run.

"What's for dinner?" I finally tore my gaze from
her and looked at Lily who was still fanning herself.

"I, um… gosh, I can't remember," she breathed.

So much for baby steps.



The thickness in the apartment faded only slightly during
dinner. I kept my thoughts to myself, but every time I locked eyes with Aiden,
it became that much harder to keep my mouth shut. The brief moments we had
shared in the past - mostly negative and ending in one of us seeking revenge on
the other - suddenly felt like foreplay. Aiden Murphy had a passionate side
that contrasted with the sweet MysteryGirl I had fallen so hard for. She was
strong and stubborn, but so incredibly giving when it came to the people she

To say the sexual tension between us felt stifling, was an

Lily noticed, but she was too busy trying to keep Aidy from
throwing her food around her plate. Her occasional wicked grin didn't go
unnoticed, however.

Dinner was chicken parmesan with garlic bread and the beer I
had brought over. Dessert was ice cream and apple cobbler and so mouthwatering.
It was baffling to see that Lily was an amazing cook and her sister was, well,
the worst cook I had ever seen.

I didn't bring it up, but the glares from Red every time I
complimented the meal told me she knew exactly what I was thinking.

Lily asked questions left and right about me and my family.
I told them about Ash and Luke and their upcoming nuptials and about just
finding out that my little sister was pregnant. Lily gushed and asked about a
hundred questions I didn't have the answer to. When is she due? Is she having
morning sickness? Do they have any names picked out?

Men don't know this shit, do they?

She acted disappointed when I told her that I only knew she
was pregnant and the wedding was moved up from December. Then she rolled her
eyes and muttered, "Typical".

Aiden listened as I spoke, commenting here and there, but
never asking one question. Even Little Aiden asked me how old I was and what my
favorite color was.

"Red," I'd told her without hesitation and winked
at Aiden, wanting to fist pump the air when that blush covered her face once

When I told them vague details about what had happened to
Ash months before, they were speechless. Then, I explained the situation with
Conall and Emily and how they got together and everything that happened in
between. Telling someone else about it brought back all the melancholy I had
been feeling since I came back to Detroit. I missed my family like crazy and
constantly mulled over the idea of moving closer to them.

"How do you guys do it?" Lily asked.

"Do what?"

"Be cops. Detectives or whatever. How do you deal with
that stuff when you get home? When you're family is so affected by it?"

I shrugged and took the last bite of my dessert before
saying, "You have to have a support system. My family is the best around
and have been there for me. My dad also had my mom, Luke has Ash, and Con has
Emily now. It works when there is someone at home ready to welcome you back."

"And you?" This time, it was Aiden.


"Yes. How do
do it?"

I looked at her for a long moment, hoping she could see
everything running through my mind so I wouldn't have to say it out loud. I
hadn't ever had anyone but my family. After Mom died, that hole in my heart
never filled and I knew I'd never be able to fill it. She was my mother and no
one could take her place, but there was something clearly missing. I spent
years in meaningless relationships - if that's what you called them - and up
until recently, it was working for me. Distracting me while waiting for the
right one to come along. The one that Dad always said
come along.

When Ash and Luke finally got together, it was a wakeup
call, but it was Con finding Emily that made me so envious of all of them that
I couldn't think straight anymore. I had already been talking to Aiden by then,
but immediately started pushing for more.

Call me a pansy, call me sensitive. I was done flying by the
seat of my pants. I wanted the more that everyone else had and I'd wanted it
with her.

"I talk to my family a lot, especially Con and Luke.
They help me through a lot of the sh- I mean, crap that I see," I glanced
at Aidy who had a face covered in ice cream and wasn't listening to a word that
was being said. Didn't mean I needed to curse in front of her.

"No recent girlfriend?" Lily asked casually.

"No. Hadn't found the right one yet," I replied,
moving my eyes back to Aiden, who was staring right back.

A shrill ringing sounded from the kitchen counter and Lily
jumped up in a flash to go answer her phone.

"It's Grandma and Grandpa!" Aidy shouted and
started clapping her hands.

I was still watching Aiden as she rose from her chair and
started to clean her niece's face and hands. "Take your plate to the sink,

Aidy, very ungracefully, shoved her chair out, grabbed her
plate and ran to the sink, dropping it in with a loud clatter, then took off to
the living room where her mother had disappeared.

"Can I help with the dishes?"

Aiden paused in clearing the table and finally looked at me.
She seemed anxious, but smiled sweetly. "You don't have to."

"I want to."


We cleared the table together and washed the dishes, me
drying and putting them away while Aiden kept her eyes on the soapy water
inside the sink, not saying a word. I was usually good at keeping conversation
going and I'd proven it with the hours we had spent on the phone together, but
now? Right now, all I could think about was the way she smelled and the way her
hair fell into her face, brushing against her neck before she flipped it back,
sending that sugary scent my way again. It was a vicious cycle.

"Your turn, Aid. Mom's got some juicy gossip she's just
dying to share."

Lily placed the phone in her hand and replaced her at the
sink while I watched as Aiden left the room with the phone pressed to her ear.
Her hips swayed back and forth and drew my eyes to that delectable ass. I
briefly thought of what it would be like to sink my teeth into that soft flesh
while she writhed beneath me, but was interrupted when Lily cleared her throat.

"So. You honestly had no idea she was the woman you had
been talking to for months?"

She looked skeptical and I couldn't blame her. I was still
trying to figure out how I missed that. She handed me another plate to dry with
a wicked grin.

"I know it's crazy, but after everything that happened
between us back when she moved in, I didn't think it was a possibility,

"Yeah, Aid tends to react strongly when a situation is
not what she thought it was." She chuckled and covered her mouth.
"The whole cookie thing was hilarious and she sees that now, but at the

"I shouldn't have been so blunt."

"No, you
have. You're perfect for her and
that's one of the reasons why."

Lily glanced down the hall and then turned to make sure Aidy
was still watching her show. She turned back to me, leaning forward and
dropping her voice. "I knew all along. Not for certain, but for the most
part. There is no one,
no one
, more perfect for Aiden than someone who
can make her laugh the way you do - and believe me, she laughed - and be
completely honest with her no matter what. She's spent too long wondering and
guessing. She's spent too long alone and I hate to see her withering away like
this. Sure, she's happy with her life, with me and Aidy, but there's something

Sounded awfully familiar if you ask me.

"The problem is that she refuses to live her life
without bringing Aidy and me with her. She's spent so long helping me and
following in my footsteps. We've been as close as sisters could possibly be and
she doesn't want to give that up. You… well, you scare her."


She bit her lip and glanced back to the hallway before
taking a deep breath. "It's not really something I can
She needs to see it for herself and leave me and my mistakes far away from

She didn't let me ruminate on this new information very long
and we finished washing the dishes while she told me about their family. Rose
and Jerry Murphy were the picture perfect couple, much like my mom and dad.
They had been together forever and never once made their children think
marriage was difficult. They made it look so easy. Isabelle and William
Brannock were the same. I knew without a doubt it wasn't easy, but they were so
in love that the hard times were so insignificant and paled in comparison to
all the good.

"I thought I had that with Brandon. He was always so
sweet and loving, such a romantic. Then I got pregnant and his true colors were
blinding. I realized I didn't really know him at all, just the façade he put
out there to make himself look good. I don't know why he spent so long faking
it, but he did. Thank God I have my little girl or it would have felt like a
huge waste of time."

"Is he still around?"

She shook her head, "No. Doesn't want to be except when
he wants to be, if that makes any sense."

"He's missing out."

"Yes, he is."

The sadness in her voice was overwhelming, but she squashed
it with the smile she gave me. "Aiden likes you."

"Which one?"

"Both of them."

My chest warmed and I couldn't help but feel a hint of
giddiness. Luke and Con would kick my ass if they knew I was acting like a 16
year old girl. I
both of them to like me and I wanted to ask her
more about Aiden, but the voice coming down the hall stopped me.

"No, Dad. I'll manage on my own, but thank you again
for the offer. Okay, love you, too. Bye."

She set the phone on the table with a sigh.

"Why don't you let him help you, Aid? He has the best
real estate agent and you wouldn't have to waste your time wandering the city
and ending up with a dump," Lily said as she grabbed her phone off the
table and threw it back in her purse.

"Are you moving?" I asked a little louder than I
had intended.

The two women looked at me, one with exasperation on her
face and the other with what could only be labeled as anxiety.

"No. She's not," Lily clarified. "She's
looking for a place to use as a studio."

"For your painting?" I asked Aiden.

She nodded, her cheeks flushed with what I could only assume
was embarrassment.

This was perfect. I rented out a little studio apartment
across the street for storage since the owner had been desperate for renters
when I first found it. The apartments were small and I needed a place for some
of my stuff so I took advantage. Cheap rent, close by, and the perfect size for
an art studio. I made a mental note to go and clean it out over the next few
days and offer it to her if she didn't find anything else soon.

"Well," Aiden sighed. "I hate to kick you
out, but I need to go to the grocery store before it gets too late. I need a
few things for tomorrow."

"We need to get going anyway," Lily said quickly
and called for Aidy who came bursting into the kitchen at light speed.
"We'll see you again soon, Gus."

"Bye!" Aidy shouted.

Then they were gone, leaving the two of us staring after
their hasty exit.

Aiden looked like she was about to make a run for it .
"Well, that was strange. Couldn't get out of here fast enough I

She turned back to me, her brown eyes unsure and the air in
the room thickening all over again. Her cheeks were still rosy and her hair was
sticking up in a few places as if she had been running her fingers through it.
She had looked beautiful in that dress the night before, all made up and sexy,
but this was
. This was the beauty she radiated every day without
even trying. How had I missed this?

"I could go with you."


"To the store. I need some things, too. Plus, I have a
car, so you can get whatever you need and not have to worry about a cab."

"That's okay, I can manage," she said and grabbed
her purse.

"Come on, Aiden. It's getting late and I don't want you
to be out alone."

She blinked up at me for a moment before puffing out her
cheeks and blowing out a long breath. "Fine."

I followed her out of the apartment and quickly entered mine
as she locked up. I snagged my keys off the counter and my wallet, then met her
at the stairs.

The drive to the grocery store was silent and only slightly
awkward, but I didn't think it had to do with our situation. In fact, I was
almost positive it had to do with the fact that Aiden hated grocery shopping.
She said so the minute we got into the car and had been stewing about it ever

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