The Brightest Sunset(6)

By: Aly Martinez

And that was when I realized we’d only thought we knew the darkness.

“Charlotte!” Brady called as he came barreling through the door to the conference room, his wife, Stephanie, hot on his heels.

I’d been waiting, and thus pacing, for over two hours. My body was numb, and my brain was scrambled. Nothing felt real anymore. Over the course of the day, I’d woken up next to Porter—the man I was falling in love with—found out my son was dead, grieved my son on the side of a bridge, found out my son wasn’t dead, and then seen him for the first time in nearly a decade. And all of this had happened just before discovering that the man I’d woken up next to had known where my son had been all along.

Yeah, there was nothing that could have prepared me for a day like that. I was living it and still couldn’t wrap my head around it.

It felt like a nightmare in the middle of the sweetest dream.

My heart was breaking while simultaneously being filled to the cusp.

“Hey,” I whispered, crossing my arms over my chest to ward off the chill that usually accompanied Brady.

He stopped a few feet away, grabbed the back of his neck, and cut his eyes to the floor. “Tom says you saw him.”

I swallowed hard and did my best to keep my voice from shaking. “I did.”

He lifted his gaze, a million contradictory emotions dancing within. His usual death glare was nowhere in sight as he asked, “What’s he look like?”

My heart melted. Brady was a dick, but his son was alive too, so I put our history aside for a minute and answered him.

“You. Me. Everyone.” I paused, my chin quivering. “No one.”

His lean body was on mine in a second. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d touched him. We both loved our son, but Lucas was the product of a one-night stand. Brady and I hadn’t been lovers in any regard. Friends? Maybe once. But not in a long time.

The hug was awkward at best. No one could deny that Brady was an attractive man, and he’d aged well over the years. But the hug was all wrong.

His arms were tight, but he wasn’t warm like Porter.

Jesus, why was I still thinking about Porter?

Oh right, because I’d have given anything for him to be standing in that room with me. His body protectively embracing me. His lips at my ear as he told me that it was going to be okay. His darkness stilling the world for me. Him having had nothing to do with my son’s disappearance.

In other words, pipe dreams for the insane.

I shouldn’t have needed him the way I did. That was my first mistake with Porter: depending on him when reality got too hard. But I had. And, at the moment, if my life had ever fit into a category, “too hard” was exactly it.

My mind still couldn’t make heads or tails of why he’d had Lucas. The obvious being that he’d taken him. The not so obvious? Hell, I still didn’t have a theory on that one.

Hooking my arms under Brady’s, I returned his hug.

“I…uh…” Stephanie stammered. “How about I wait in the hall and give you two a minute alone.”

Brady released me and leaned toward his wife, brushing her blond curls away before gently cupping the curve of her jaw. He whispered something soft in her ear that caused her lids to flutter shut. When he was done talking, she tipped her head slightly, offering her husband her mouth.

He pecked her once. And then again before breathing, “I love you.”

It was so sweet and unlike anything I knew of Brady, so much so that it momentarily made me uncomfortable.

He watched her with warm eyes as she glided to the door, and then, with one last glance over her shoulder, she was gone.

Brady turned back to me and blew out a ragged breath.

He stared at me.

And I stared at him.

Neither of us uttered a word, but it was as far from my comfortable silence with Porter as one could get.

Finally, in a shaky voice, he said, “It’s over. It’s really over.”

But it didn’t feel like it was over to me. I was terrified that it was just getting started.

And I had no one who could understand that feeling. I was getting everything I wanted and it still scared the shit out of me.

And, for reasons that could only be explained by the staggering loneliness caused by Porter’s sudden departure from my life, I chanced a darkness confessional with Brady.

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