Ryder (Slater Brothers #4)(2) by L.A. Casey

Sally was the fifty-seven year old mother of the delivery ward. I wasn’t on shift with her very often, but when I was, she cracked me up with tales from her younger days.

I shook my head, smiling joyfully. “I can’t say I’m sorry I missed it. I’ve fifty-three deliveries runnin’ with nothin’ other than regular bodily fluids and a baby poppin’ out.” I blessed myself before I said, “Thank God.”

“You know your first patient on shift tomorrow will shit herself just for that comment?”

“Bite me!” I quipped.

Ash gleefully laughed. “I’ll see you in the morning, but remember I can’t pick you up, okay? I’ve to bring my sister to college on my way into work.”

He usually picked me up on our way to work since I sold my car last year and Ryder always needed his Jeep.

“Yep, no problem, I’ll see you at work.”

I pocketed my phone and yawned before looking to Ryder who was still busy with his phone.

“Do you plan on being here long?” I asked, not looking at his hands in fear I’d take his phone just to see what was so captivating that he couldn’t look away from it.

He glanced at me and shook his head. “You wanna leave now?”

I nodded. “I’m on shift at eight in the mornin’ and wanna go to sleep early.”

Ryder pocketed his phone. “I’ll see if Damien wants a ride back.”

I absentmindedly smiled as I thought about my boy. He helped bring some life back into me when he came home and moved back into the house. He made it—me—feel less empty.

I blinked when Ryder stood up from the chair. He offered me his hand and, for a moment, I was hesitant about putting my hand in his. I shook it off and slid my palm into his large calloused one. I licked my lips when he pulled me to my feet, but frowned when he immediately released my hand and moved past me, heading towards his brothers’. I tried not to let it get me down, but I couldn’t help it. I missed him. I missed being close to him. I missed sex with him. I couldn’t remember the last time we were intimate, and I hated it.

I said goodbye to the girls, the brothers, and winked at Kane as he brought Jax into his room to put him to bed. I congratulated my sister and Dominic on finding out the gender of their baby once more, and followed Ryder out of Aideen’s apartment, down the hallway and into the elevator.

“Dame will be home later,” Ryder said as he hit the button for the ground floor.

The doors closed shut, encasing us together. I felt him look at me, so I kept my eyes dead ahead, making sure my body was tense and non-moving, too.

“Who were you talking to on the phone?” he asked me, his voice so low I barely heard him.

I was a little annoyed that he asked me an invasive question when he never answered any of mine. I wanted to counter with multiple questions of my own, asking where he went every night when he thought I was asleep and why he was on his phone all the time, but I had no energy for a fight. He wouldn’t answer me if I asked anyway; he never did.

“Just Ash who works the delivery ward with me.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ryder nod. He had never met Ash, so I had no idea what was going through his mind with my response.

“Are you okay?” he randomly asked a moment later.

I was so surprised at the question that I looked at him with raised eyebrows and said, “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”

He shrugged, staring down at me, his eyebrows raised. “You barely cracked a smile when Bronagh was announcing she was having a girl.”

Because I did my happy dance back at the hospital when she found out.

I looked forward. “I had a long day at work, I’m just tired.”

“Too tired to be happy for your sister?”

“I am happy for ‘er.” I snapped at the insult. “I don’t need to be all up in her face to be happy for ‘er, Ryder.”

Silence.

“It seems to me like you’re a little bit...”

“A little bit what?” I pressed.

The door of the elevator opened just as Ryder said, “Jealous.”

I stepped out of the elevator, politely nodded to the security man that manned the lobby desk of Aideen’s apartment building, and quickly walked in the direction of the main entrance.

“Branna?” Ryder called after me. “Look, wait a second.”

I didn’t. I picked up my pace and almost sprinted out of the apartment complex. When I got outside, I nodded to the security guards at the doors and headed straight for Ryder’s Jeep that was parked in-between his brothers’ cars.

I rushed to the passenger door and stared at the handle until I heard Ryder sigh and press on his car key, unlocking the doors. I gripped the handle, pulled the door open and got up into the car, slamming the door shut behind me.

“God dammit, Branna,” Ryder complained when he got into the driver’s seat. “Don’t take your bad mood out on my car.”

Fuck you and your stupid car, I inwardly growled.

“I wouldn’t be in a bad mood had you not said somethin’ so...”

“So what?”

“Insensitive!” I finished.

“Insensitive,” Ryder repeated and turned his body to face me. “How is me saying you’re jealous of Bronagh having a girl insensitive?”

I couldn’t even look at him.

“You aren’t stupid. Think about it and I’m sure you’ll realise why.”

Ryder didn’t move a muscle as he continued to stare at me.

“You are jealous,” he murmured then gasped. “You want a baby?”

I looked out the window, not answering him.

“Branna,” he pressed. “You want a baby?”

Without looking at him I said, “I’ve wanted a baby for years, I just never said anythin’ to push the issue with you because so much bullshit has happened to our families, and being the oldest pair we had to push everythin’ aside and make sure everyone else was okay. We’re the parental figures. We make sure everyone is doin’ good before we even consider lookin’ at our own needs.”

Ryder was silent as I spoke so I pressed on.

“You know I love kids and I probably would have had a few before I met you, but havin’ a life was put on hold when me parents died. I had to focus on Bronagh, not me, her. Bein’ a midwife was me dream, it’s the one thing I allowed meself to want. It’s why I worked me arse off to become one in me late twenties whilst raisin’ a bratty teenager.”

I glanced at him as he continued to remain silent.

“Do you think we’re at a point where we should have a kid?” he eventually asked, and I heard the doubt laced throughout his voice.

It killed me, but I agreed with him.

“No, we aren’t in the position to raise a dog, let alone a child.”

Ryder faced forward and jammed his key into the ignition and started up his car. He backed out of the parking spot, and pulled onto the road and began the journey of driving us home.

“Besides,” he argued, “we’d actually have to fuck in order to get you pregnant.”

I flattened my hands out on my thighs and resisted the urge to ball them into fists.

“We probably would if you didn’t go off every single night to do God knows what.”

The silent ‘or who’ was implied, but the words never left my lips because I was terrified it might turn out to be a ‘who’ that was the reason for him leaving every night. I didn’t think I would be able to handle that, and decided I was better off not knowing. My sister, and the other girls, would smack me around for resorting to this way of thinking, but they didn’t know what my home life or relationship with Ryder was like.

They thought they knew, but they didn’t.

“Don’t feed me that bullshit,” Ryder growled as his hands tightened around the steering wheel. “I’m home a lot and you still never put out. You left our bed to sleep up in Dominic’s old room, the farthest away from me that you can be in our house.”

I felt disgusted.

“Me purpose on this Earth isn’t to fuck you whenever you see fit, Ryder.”

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