I took my insulated cup of coffee and headed down the hallway to my office. That was probably being generous. It was meant to be a nursery, right off the master bedroom. But, that wasn’t ever going to happen. Or at least not for a long time.
When I’d dropped him at the airport the day before, Ian had told me not to work too hard while he was gone. I’d wanted to go with him, but I had this project to finish for a client. And after a month of thinking he was dead, his parents deserved to spend some time with him. Just him. Even with those arguments, he’d still tried to convince me to go along.
Maybe next time, I’d go with him. But, for now, I had work to do.
I flipped on the light and headed toward my desk. But, I froze when I saw the black letters scrawled across my whiteboard on the other side of the desk. What the hell?
I looked harder at it even as I thought maybe I should have mainlined the coffee. I hadn’t slept well the night before. Ever since almost losing Ian, I had trouble sleeping when he wasn’t there. But, no, I didn’t think I was imagining this.
Whatever happens, don’t die. See you Monday.
What the hell? I shook my head, read the words again and let out an exasperated laugh. Did he actually think that was funny? He was the one who had almost died. Now, he was joking about it.
No, I realized after a moment. That wasn’t his writing. And I’d been in here just before we’d left for the airport. The board had been blank then. Hadn’t it?
I was almost sure of it. And now a shiver skittered down my spine. Who could have gotten in here to leave this for me? The deputy was still locked up, and I hadn’t thought the note was threatening until I thought of him.
I snapped a quick picture of the message and attached it to a message to Ian. Did you do this?
It only took a few minutes for his response to come back. No. Get out of there.
Shit. That’s what I was afraid of. But, I didn’t know who– I turned at the cackling sound from the doorway and saw my little brother, Connor, standing there, laughing his head off. “What are you doing?” I demanded.
“Your face,” he said, still laughing. “It’s priceless.”
“Did you do this?”
“It was a joke,” he said, “I thought you’d laugh. You laugh when Ian does stuff like that.”
Because Ian didn’t have a cruel bone in his body. “It’s way too soon, Connor. It hasn’t even been two weeks since I found out Ian wasn’t actually dead.” I grabbed the eraser for the board and swiped it over the words. “Get out. Go home.”
“I’m sorry, Aid,” he said as he turned from the doorway. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
That didn’t make it hurt any less. I waited until I heard the front door slam then dialed Ian’s number. “Are you safe?” he asked as soon as he answered.
“It was Connor, the little shit,” I told him. “I didn’t realize he stayed here last night.”
Ian let out a quick laugh. “Sometimes I wanted at least one sibling. Then, I met your crazy brothers and sisters. Maybe being an only child really was better.”
I laughed and sank into my desk chair, letting it spin toward the window. “I miss you. It hasn’t even been a day.”
“I know,” he said softly, as if he was thinking the exact same thing. “But you should have seen Mom and Dad. The relief on their face when they saw me. Like they hadn’t believed I was actually still alive until they saw it with their own eyes.”
I knew that feeling. I wouldn’t have believed it either, if I hadn’t seen him myself.
“My plane gets in Monday morning,” he said. “Will you be there to pick me up?”
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” I told him. “I can’t wait until you’re back.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” he said. “Don’t let those wood nymphs in the basement get you before that.”
I laughed at the joke he’d made up when this had all started for us. Was it any surprise I’d fallen so hard for him?
Ian and Aidan just don’t want to leave me alone. And I’m perfectly okay with that. 🙂 I still have to finish the original short story that started this(“Hang On”), which is where the joke about wood nymphs started. That’s one of my side projects(I’m up to 11 now) that I add at least 100 words a week to. Eventually it’ll get done.