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The Other Brother
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I got the call. The dreaded call every child fears. My dad wasn’t well, and the man who had always been my everything needed me.
There was only one thing to do; pack up and head back to my hometown. I had finally made my dream life in the city with the great job and loving boyfriend. But was there really a choice not to go?
I found a wonderful job, a quaint house to rent, my boyfriend was working on joining me in Binghamton, and my favorite pizza place was only miles away. Life was good.
Until I met my neighbor.
It’s been three years since I’d seen Aaron Walters, and my God is he all kinds of sexy gorgeous. Figures. He was supposed to be my forever, the man I grew old with, but he had different plans. How can a man who ripped my heart apart still trip me up? How can he make me still want him now more than ever?
I’m tempted, I’m drawn toward him, I’m completely and utterly unaware that I’m dating his biological brother.
Now two men own my heart. The question is, which brother will I choose?
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Eighteen years ago . . .
“Room two seventeen.”
“Thank you,” I say, feeling shy. I wish Dad came with me instead of getting me through the doors and then leaving. I wish he was holding my hand, telling me everything was going to be okay.
I know I’ve done this before, I’ve been in this position once already, but I still feel nervous, kind of sick to my stomach.
With my hands stuffed in my front pockets and my head turned down, lifted only enough to read the numbers on the doors, I make my way through the sterile hallway. Last time I was here, the hallways were busier, full of people working, making their way in and out of the rooms, but this time, it’s quiet, almost as if I’m the only one visiting.
Standing outside the room, I take a deep breath and stare at the number in front of me. Last time she was in room two twelve. I wonder if this one will look the same, have the same setup. I hope there is a couch in it like last time.
Gripping the inside of my pockets, I take another deep breath and push the door open.
The air is still, the smell is almost warm, and the only light coming into the room is from the half-opened blinds. Sitting on the bed, with her legs crossed and a baby in her arms, is my mom. Her dark brown hair is pulled back and the belly she once had is much smaller. She looks happy as she stares down at my brother, happier than I’ve seen her in a while.
Taking a step forward, I nervously say, “Hi, Mom.”
When she looks up at me, she smiles brightly. “Aaron, come here. Come meet your brother.”
Another one. I wonder if he will look like me, if he will have my eyes, my hair, my nose.
“Do I need to take off my shoes or anything?” I ask, nervous I’m going to get the room dirty.
Mom chuckles. “No, baby. You can leave your shoes on.”
“It’s just last time, I had to.” I walk toward her, hands still in my pockets as I approach.
Mom tilts the baby in my direction. The first thing that comes to mind is, he’s so small . . . and he looks nothing like me.
“He’s all red and puffy.”
“It’s because he’s still brand new. His color will change and his swelling will go down.” She pats the bed. “Would you like to hold him?”
I nod, even though I feel a little shaky in my arms.
Mom scoots over on the bed, making room for me. I keep one leg on the floor to the side for balance and tuck my other leg under me as I sit. Mom’s flowery perfume hits me, sending a wave of ease through my bones.
That smell. It reminds me of my mom. It reminds me of the good days. Of the early days. Of the days when I was loved . . .
“Put your arms out.” I do as I’m told and she places my brother in my arms. “He’s not heavy at all, is he?”
“No. He’s so little.”
“He’s the smallest out of you three. I was surprised actually when the nurse called out his measurements. I guess that would make him the runt.”
“Maybe that’s what I’ll call him.” I smile at my mom.
She presses her hand against my cheek lovingly. “You can call him whatever you would like, baby.” She looks behind her at the door that leads to the hallway, and her leg starts to bounce. “Are you okay with him? Can I go to the bathroom, take a shower maybe?”
“Uh, yeah. I can hold him.” I look at the little bundle in my arms and then back at my mom. “Does he need to be fed or anything?”
She shakes her head. “No, he should be good. Just hold him and talk to him, let him hear your voice.”
“Okay.” I nod.
Mom gathers some things into her arms and heads into the attached bathroom, leaving me alone with my brother.
This is weird. Talk to a baby? What do I say?
I take him in. His eyes are closed so he can’t see me. His lips are barely parted, which is kind of cute, and his fingers are really long for such a little guy. I was hoping I’d be able to tell if he looks like me but right now, there is no telling.
I clear my throat and lean back on the propped-up bed. “Hi, Runt. I’m Aaron, your big brother.” I move the blanket he’s wrapped in lower so I can see his face better. “I’m actually twelve years older than you. So I guess that makes me your really big brother.”
His head moves to the side and his lips parts, forming an O that makes me laugh.