Ryder (Slater Brothers #4)(6) by L.A. Casey

Dominic snorted. “I can bench press my own weight without breaking a sweat, and even halfway through pregnancy you’re still fifty pounds or so lighter than me.”

Bronagh clapped her hands together. “I hope it stays that way.”

“It won’t,” I evilly grinned. “You’ll put on another twenty pounds by the time you have ‘er with the way you eat. Dominic has been orderin’ pizza for you at least five times a week he said.”

Bronagh scowled at me while Dominic laughed.

“You know,” he began as I stirred the spoon in my cup of tea. “It bugs me that you haven’t come around to calling me Nico like the other girls.”

I grinned. “I knew you as Dominic long before you were the Nico who was hasslin’ Bee in school.”

His lip twitched. “Hassling? Please, she loved every second of my focus on her.”

“Yeah,” Bronagh said with a playful roll of her eyes. “Interaction with your annoyin’ self was what I lived for back then.”

Dominic gestured to his body. “You can’t blame yourself. You have incredible taste, sweetheart.”

Bronagh lazily swung for him, and he easily ducked out of the way, laughing softly. He got in her face before she could jump down from the kitchen counter and start a mess fight with him.

“And now,” he murmured, resting his hands on her swollen abdomen. “We’re having a baby together.”

Bronagh leaned her head forward, and nuzzled her nose against his. I smiled at the pair of them, adoring the love they had for one another. They were still opposites in so many ways, but one thing no one could deny was how hard they loved each other. It was dangerous, the dependency they had on one another, but I understood it.

I understood what it was like to love someone so deeply that you invested your soul in theirs. I had that with Ryder, and it’s why I was so broken now that it was fading away. I was slowly dying without his unconditional love, and I only had myself to blame.

You should have guarded your heart better, my mind sneered.

I looked away from Dominic and my sister and looked down to my phone when it pinged. It was a text message from Ash. I read it and snickered. I thumbed out a reply, hit send then pocketed my phone. I looked up to find the two love birds staring at me.

“Who was that?” Dominic asked, his eyebrow raised.

Nosey git.

“A co-worker,” I responded then flicked my eyes to Bronagh. “He is pickin’ me up to head back to work, are you still collectin’ me at four?”

“Four?” she questioned. “Why not eight?”

I shrugged. “It’s trainin’ day for fourth year midwives from the university, I opted out of being part of it so I get to come home earlier. I’m exhausted and need to get some mental rest. I’m gettin’ old, it appears.”

That was a bullshit lie if I ever told one. What I wasn’t saying was that I needed some me time to figure out how I was going to break up with Ryder. I was going to do it sooner rather than later. I wanted to do it like ripping off a plaster, quick and painless. Or just quick.

Dominic waved my concerns off. “You’re still the hottest thirty-something year old I know.”

No one was allowed say my real age, thirty-something was as close as they could get.

My lip quirked. “Thanks, that makes me feel so much better.”

“He’s right,” Bronagh grinned. “You have a bangin’ body, and your boobs are still perky.”

Dominic’s eye flicked down to my chest and it made me laugh.

“He is so predictable,” I said to Bronagh.

My sister looked at him and gave him a nudge, regaining his attention.

“I’m sittin’ right here,” she scowled.

Dominic scratched his neck. “You were the one who was talking about her tits, not me.”

Bronagh shook her head, grinning. “How dare I.”

I smiled then stood up when I heard a horn beep outside. “That’s for me,” I said as I picked up my bag, and hooked the strap over my shoulder before pointing at my sister. “Four o’clock. Don’t forget, I don’t want to have to get the bus.”

Bronagh saluted me. “I’ll be there.”

I gave her a hug and poked Dominic in the sides before I left their house. I smiled when Ash came into view as I approached his car. I carefully opened the passenger door and slid into the passenger seat. When I was buckled up I turned my attention to Ash and smiled, “Hello, loser.”

He feigned hurt and his facial expression caused me to laugh, loudly.

“How was your break?” he asked as he pulled away from the kerb.

I yawned. “Not long enough, I could sleep for a year.”

“Me too,” Ash agreed, looking as tired as I felt. “I’m probably just going to hit the deli in the hospital for lunch in the future, being at home is too tempting because my bed is there.”

I chuckled. “I agree, next time we can stay on site and shoot the shit in the café.”

“Sounds like a plan, buddy.”

We got to talking, and before I knew it we arrived at the hospital and were back on the delivery ward within half an hour.

“What are you doing?”

I looked up at Ash when he spoke. He placed his elbows on the desk of the nurse’s station I was sitting behind, his blond hair falling into his sky blue eyes.

I pointed to the stack of paperwork next to me. “Signin’ off on discharges, admittance forms and fillin’ out the supply list that needs to be filed by the end of the day. It’s nearly four and I want this done before I go home.”

Ash gripped onto the counter, then heaved himself up until he was sitting on it and looking down at me. I shook my head at him.

“Sally will wipe the floor with you if she catches you sittin’ up there.” I commented. “She is on shift today, she came in after lunch.”

Ash smirked. “Please, Sally loves me.”

My lips quirked. “It’s ‘cause you flirt with ‘er all the time.”

“I flirt with everyone,” he corrected.

I chuckled. “You’re such a flirt slut.”

Ash didn’t deny the charges, instead, he embraced them. “A man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.”

I shook my head good-naturedly and looked back down to the form I was filling out, but once again my thoughts shifted to Ryder and it caused me to sigh.

“Hey,” Ash murmured. “You okay?”

I glanced up at him and nodded. “Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m great.”

He deadpanned, “You wanna try telling me the truth this time?”

His awareness of me caused me to smile as I looked back down to the form I was filling out. “You don’t want to hear about me silly drama, Ash,” I assured him.

I looked up just as he raised an eyebrow and said, “I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to know.”

I thought about that for a second then said, “I... I just had a fight with Ryder last night.”

He winced. “Another one?”

Ash was the only person in the world who I talked to about Ryder because he was outside of my family circle. He didn’t go and tell the brothers or girls about my worries, he kept them between us, and I really liked that. It was kind of therapeutic to be able to vent to someone and not worry if they would tell Ryder or one of his brothers.

I nodded solemnly. “It was a bad one. He was so insensitive about me feelin’s with Bronagh’s baby. He called me jealous and told me it was me own fault I wasn’t pregnant because we never have sex.”

I left out the crude things Ryder said because Ash didn’t need to know how he spoke to me.

“What a fucking prick,” my friend grumbled, surprising the hell out of me.

I widened my eyes at him and he shrugged his shoulders unapologetically. “I’m not sorry,” he stated. “Your fiancé becomes a bigger dick every time you tell me about him. Does he not realise how good he has it with you?”

I felt my cheeks heat up. “I don’t think I’m anythin’ to fuss over, Ash.”

“You bloody well are,” he countered. “Don’t allow him to make you feel less than perfect, you’re all of that and more. Own it.”

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