Willow & Aiden After Forty

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Chapter 33

I grab the last box of my clothes and carry it into the house.

“Hey, is that the last box?” Ryan asks.

“Yep, I’m all done for the day, thank you for your help.” Warmth spreads through my chest; he is such a good kid. I wish he would spend more time here at Aiden’s, I mean, my house, so I could get to know him better.

I know he has a girlfriend who is a sophomore at State University. Aiden was surprised when he brought her home one night when he stopped to change clothes after work. She’s as cute as can be, and I can tell by the sweet soft smiles they gave to one another that night, they are really into each other.

Aiden was relieved to know Ryan spends most of his night at her apartment near campus and not out drinking and causing trouble. Ryan also told Aiden he wanted to pay less in rent so he could save for a place for himself. Aiden has kept all of his money, and he agreed to less rent. But he didn’t hide his dislike of the idea of him being satisfied washing cars and that he didn’t sign up for classes for the winter/spring semester.

“Are you staying at Jana’s tonight?” I ask Ryan.

“Yeah, but if you need help moving anything else, text me, and I can come right over.”

“That’s so nice, thank you. You need to let me make dinner for you to thank you for the help today, Jana is also invited. I’d love to get to know her better.” I shift the box of clothes to my hip and hug Ryan on my way past him to hang up my clothes.

“No problem, Willow, I’ll bring her by sometime soon. Later.”

I smile, “Later.”

I carry the last box into the bedroom. Lexi, Vi, and Sage are all lying on my bed. All three look ready to go to sleep. “Girls, are we taking a break? Who wants me to make another pot of coffee? We have plans tonight, wake up, you old ladies.”

“Whose bright idea was it to go out on a dreary winter night in February? Let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day in June.”

“Don’t let Aiden hear you say that Lex, he is really looking forward tonight. He’s so stressed, he was all set to take time off and decide what to do next, and then this case came up. He’s pretty tight-lipped about it, but I know he’s counting down the days until he’s done.”

“Is he going to write? Are the two of you going to travel, as he wants? Have you given the heads up to Laura?”

“Yes, he is planning on writing, and we plan to travel. No, I haven’t mentioned anything to Laura.”

“Didn’t you say she is going to invest in a lower starting price per gown, wasn’t that your idea?” Violet snuggles Sage on my bed.

I shrug. “Please don’t make me feel guilty. I don’t want to quit; that’s a discussion still to be had between Aiden and me.” Violet shakes her head. I see Sage is starting to suck her thumb, it won’t be long before she’s out for the night. “Thanks girls, for helping get the last of my things, I can’t wait to see what Aiden has to say about how we rearranged the furniture. You guys need to get up and quit being comfortable, it’s six, and we have reservations for seven-thirty.”

I look at Vi. I bet a hundred dollars she cancels on us tonight. Ever since she and Kara parted as friends, she’s been reluctant to go out as much, choosing to stay home. “I can’t wait to go to The Table again, everything was so delicious and the view, the view is spectacular.”

“I can’t believe Aiden got us reservation tonight. I can’t wait to go there.” Lexi sits up.

“It’s so expensive, do you know how much food we could buy for what Aiden will drop tonight. We could feed hundreds of kids in India,” Violet says.

Lex stands up from the bed and stretches. “Stop Vi, don’t make us feel guilty for enjoying a night out.”

She sighs, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I should go tonight, I’m feeling grumpy, and I don’t want to ruin anyone’s time.”

“I knew it, Vi, you are not ditching us tonight.” The doorbell rings. “I wonder who that could be.”

“Ooh, maybe Aiden is sending you another Valentine present,” Lexi chirps.

I walk quickly to the door, Aiden is a crazy loon, he has spoiled me too much for our first Valentine’s Day together, but I can’t wait to see what’s next.

I swing open the door. POP, POP, POP!

Aiden

We’ve got him. Monday, this shit show that Glassman got us involved in is over. Lamar, goddamn Lamar, he’s never going to let me live this down. He was able to uncover shit that would have taken me months to investigate. Gus Wendle is a sick fuck, and he will always regret the day he entered my world.

Lamar sent a man in undercover, and the stupid motherfucker let him right in on his drug ring operation. Gerald and Gus have left the money laundering business long behind. I bet little boy Gus thinks he’s untouchable. People think Gus and Gerald are the good guys, no reason for anyone to pay attention. That is until the dumbfuck gave the go-ahead to dump shit from his plastic plant into the river. Gus knew it still contained resin. Fucking plastic is destroying our waterways. Our fucking oceans are filled with shit, and people have finally taken notice.

I scoff, Gerald has no idea about the drugs. I can’t wait to see his face Monday when he learns; his son is much more corrupt than he ever thought to be. I can’t wait to get home to Willow. I smile, she has no idea that we have a room at the hotel after dinner. I’ve planned a whole night for us, and I plan to end the night an engaged man.

I shake my head. Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I find myself going down this path. Who would have guessed that I would discover Willow, a woman who slays me every day with her smiles and one smell of her being, and I’m a whipped man, forgetting about all else?

I look at the radio clock in my car; it’s after six. I smile, I hope Willow hasn’t showered yet. I pull onto Riverside Drive, and I see emergency lights up the street. Cars are turning around, and a crowd of onlookers is blocking the street ahead. My heart pounds, Willow. What the fuck is going on up there.

I get out of the car and call Willow’s phone. It rings and rings, I jog up the street. My feet pound the pavement, my breath leaves me. They are at my house. An ambulance is at my home. I run past the cop who is guarding the entrance to my property, and I yell, “WILLOW!”

I’m grabbed from behind, “Get the fuck off me. This is my house,” I roar.

“Stop, sir, please, give the EMT room, what’s your name?”

“Aiden Markley, and I need to get up there! What happened?” I can’t catch my breath.

“Sir, I understand. Come with me, I’ll take you inside, but don’t touch anything, this is a crime scene.”

I shrug his hand off my shoulder and run up the front steps. Blood is on the porch, and I see two stretchers, “Willow.” Thank God, her eyes are open.

I run to her side; a cop tries to stop me.

“Aiden, I’m going to be fine,” Willow croaks out. “Please, please stay with Ryan.”

I have no idea what the fuck happened, but Ryan? Willow is carried down the steps, and I turn and see them working on Ryan, and they are rushing out the door to the squad. I lay my hand on his chest; he’s unconscious, gray, and covered in blood. “Ryan, dear God, Ryan, I’m here.”

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