The Brightest Sunset(7)

By: Aly Martinez

“I’m scared.”

His eyebrows drew together. “What? Why?”


I focused over his shoulder at the door. “I have no idea.”

“That’s crazy, Charlotte. This is what we’ve been praying for since day one. And it’s finally happening. Don’t be scared.”


Steeling myself and ignoring the pain in my chest, I flashed a tight smile at him. “You’re right.”

Faking it.

He inched closer and lowered his voice, but it wasn’t the soft one he’d used with his wife. It was as if he were whispering over gravel. “You have to get that shit out of your head. I don’t want him seeing that. He needs to feel like this is a good thing. Because it is a good thing. Lucas is coming home.”

I swallowed hard. “Right. I’m sorry. I’ll get it together.”


Noise at the door drew my attention. Mom came walking in, two cups of coffee in her hands.

“Hey, Brady,” she said, suspiciously glancing between the two of us.

She’d been with me since I’d arrived, only stepping out of the room twice. Once to check with Tom to see what was going on. And the other about ten minutes earlier to get coffee—and I suspected once again to check in with Tom, seeing as he was following her in.

He came straight to me. “Brady tell you?”

“I hadn’t had a chance,” he replied, moving away.

Alarm pricked the hairs on the back of my neck. “Tell me what?”

Tom’s face softened as he whispered, “It’s him.”

“I know,” I replied.

I could have told him that back at the house. I had not one single doubt about it. I don’t know how I had known, but the minute I’d seen him with fresh eyes, I had known he was mine. Yet Tom’s next words still hit me harder than I ever could have imagined.

“No, Charlotte. It’s really him. Remember the prints we lifted off his toys when he was first taken? They’re a match. He’s yours.”

Proof. Undeniable. Absolute. Final.

I blinked again, but this time, panic blasted through my system, causing my vision to go blurry.

“Oh, honey,” my mom breathed, sidling up beside me before pulling me into her side.

“So, when do we get to see him?” Brady asked, ignoring my impending meltdown.

“Well,” Tom started. “He’s down the hall. So I guess that’s up to you. I passed off all the paperwork to Brady’s attorney, who’s running them out to Judge Gratham’s house now. Assuming he’s got everything he needs, he said he’d sign off on a temporary custody order until a formal hearing can be set. Social Services is going to want to have a word with you two before you can take him home, but you can meet him any time you’d like.”

“Temporary custody?” Brady snarled.

“It’s a formality,” Tom assured.

In a quiet voice, I found the courage to ask, “What about Porter?”

Tom’s face got hard. “What about him?”

“Yeah,” Brady snapped. Taking a giant step in my direction, he parroted Tom but with a lot more attitude. “What about him?”

I licked my dry lips and flashed my gaze between the two men. “I mean…what’s going on with him? How is he involved?”

“He kidnapped our son!”

Tom lifted his hand to silence Brady. His face remained hard, but his voice gentled. “Our guys are still working with him, trying to figure out his role in all of this.” He pointedly cut his gaze to Brady for a second before sweeping it back to mine. “It doesn’t appear that he was part of the actual abduction. Lucas was already four when he met Catherine Reese. We believe her child died, though we don’t have a cause of death yet. It appears to be of natural causes. Maybe SIDS or some underlying medical condition. Who knows? She was probably distraught, saw Lucas at the park, and took him to replace her son. Just slipped him right into Travis’s life.”

I lifted a shaky hand to cover my mouth and breathed, “So, Porter didn’t know?”

“You have got to be fucking kidding me here,” Brady seethed.

Tom turned a scowl to Brady, who was all but vibrating beside me. However, with my old friend hope infusing my system, I didn’t give a damn.

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