The Best Kind Of Surprise - Chapter One
This day officially sucks.
Sitting on the couch in my brother’s living room, I stare at Ember, his new fiancée. They just came back from their extended trip around the world last month, ridiculously happy and engaged. I take a big swig from my beer bottle because it’s five o’clock somewhere. Okay, maybe it’s been five o’clock somewhere for a while, since this is my third, or maybe fourth? I haven’t paid a lot of attention, to be honest.
Ember’s gaze flicks back and forth between me, the phone in her hand, and the front door. She insists that Logan should be home any minute, indirectly confirming my suspicion that she can’t—or doesn’t want to—deal with me by herself. I must look as crappy as I feel. Or maybe she just thinks I’ve lost my mind.
“Come on, Aiden, just spit it out. What’s going on with you? You’ve been acting weird for the past few weeks. It’s not like you to mope around like this.”
Maybe that’s part of the problem. People expect me to be this happy person all the time, but it’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
Looking at her, I consider telling her. I was planning on talking to my brother, but maybe a woman’s perspective could help with my dilemma. “Are you sure you want to know?”
She hesitates for a moment, my question probably making her expect the worst or, at the very least, reconsider her question.
After pulling at the hem of her shirt, she nods. “Yes.”
“All right, you asked for it.” I take a deep breath and hold up my beer bottle as if I’m about to make a toast. “I think my dick is broken.”
Her eyebrows shoot up a second before she chokes on the sip of coffee she just took, successfully spraying the liquid across the whole coffee table, and almost hitting me in the process.
I can’t help myself and chuckle at the mess in front of me. “Wow. That was pretty impressive.”
Just then, the lock on the front door clicks, and my brother walks in. He looks back and forth between Ember and me, probably wondering what on earth he just walked in on.
Disregarding me, he goes to Ember, who’s still coughing, and bends over the couch to pat her on the back. “You okay, baby? What happened?”
She nods. “Yeah, thanks. I just choked on my drink.” She points her finger at me. “Ask your brother why.”
“I’m listening.” Logan turns to me, pinning me with his gaze, his eyes narrowed. “Well?” His eyes move over me, taking in the bottle in my hand before he sits down next to Ember, gently rubbing her back.
I shrug and repeat what I already told Ember. “I think my dick is broken.”
Logan sits up straight in his seat. “What on earth are you talking about?”
Shrugging once more, I put the bottle to my mouth and chug down the rest of it. “I don’t know. I’m not interested in hooking up anymore, so something’s clearly wrong with me.”
My brother covers his forehead with his hand before rolling his eyes. “You can’t be serious. Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“What? Why?” I wave my bottle around, and consider pouting when my brother takes it away from me before remembering it’s empty. “Of course I’m serious.”
He blows out a loud breath, clenching his hands, and I wonder if he’s about to kick me out. It wouldn’t really surprise me. I’d probably kick my whiny ass to the curb too, if I were in his shoes.
Instead, he gets up from his spot and walks over, sitting down next to me before putting his hand on my shoulder. “What’s going on with you? I’ve never seen you like this before.”
My shoulders sag and I avoid his gaze, trying like hell to keep him from seeing my emotions—which is hard with him being my twin and all. Sometimes that weird connection thing people always talk about regarding twins is totally true. When I look up a moment later, his eyes are still on me, waiting for a real reply, and I sigh.
“I met this chick last month, and I don’t know...she snuck out in the morning. I guess I’m still pissed about that because I can’t stop thinking about her. It’s like she keeps cock-blocking me from afar.”
My brother’s hand falls from my shoulder and he leans back into the cushions, but not before sharing a look with Ember who, weirdly enough, has been awfully quiet while cleaning up the mess she made.
Out of the blue, she jumps up and makes her way into the kitchen. “I think I’m gonna get us all a drink. Looks like we might need it.”
I have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about, but I’m going to keep my mouth shut if it means I can drown my sorrows in alcohol.
When she comes back with our drinks—wine for herself and beer for Logan and me—I look back and forth between the two of them, ready for some answers. “So, what am I gonna do? How am I gonna fix this?” I hold up my free hand. “And before anyone says I should just get with another girl, don’t bother. I’ve already tried that, and it didn’t work. Which is how I came to the conclusion that my dick’s broken.”
Ember chuckles into her wine glass while my brother’s lips are pressed together so tightly, they’re almost white. It’s pretty obvious he’s trying not to laugh—the twitching corners of his mouth are a dead giveaway.
I grumble, feeling annoyed with both of them. “This is not funny, guys.”
“Of course not.” Logan shakes his head but is now sporting a wide grin. He gives my shoulder a few claps before he goes to sit back down beside Ember. “But your dick isn’t broken, dude, you know that.”
“Feels like it though.”
“I’m sure it does.”
Ember leans forward and sets her glass on the coffee table. “Aiden?” She clears her throat, and I’m not sure I’m going to like whatever comes out of her mouth next. “Do you like this girl you were talking about?”
“What? Yeah, sure. I mean, otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken her home, right?” I remember the hours of conversation Stella and I had at the restaurant right before images of my night with her flood my mind—her brown hair spread out on my pillow, her almond-shaped, dark eyes staring up at me with an intensity I’ve never witnessed before. Her beautiful mouth. All her perfect curves.
My heart speeds up, and I realize something was different with her, even though I haven’t been able to put my finger on what exactly. Until now. “Shit.”
I look up at my brother, whose gaze is already on me. His mouth is slightly open, and I can practically hear his shock. Even I never believed in the possibility of me ever finding a woman I liked for more than just one night.
That’s something Logan and I have never seen eye to eye on. He left for his photography job and dated a bit, but not excessively, whereas I opened up my first restaurants, taking advantage of women’s offers whenever I could. I mean, we’re in our mid-twenties, so why not have some fun?
At least, it used to be my thing. Now, suddenly, not anymore.
My soon-to-be sister-in-law gives me a kind smile. “That’s what I thought. Do you have her number? Can you call her?”
“Hmm.” She taps her chin with her index finger. “Where did you meet her? Maybe you could find her that way?”
I flinch. “I met her at the restaurant when she had a drink at the bar.”
This time, it’s Logan leaning forward, both of them now sitting at the edge of the couch. “Dude, that’s so bad for business.”
No kidding. I hold up my hands. “No need for a lecture because I already know that. Which is why I usually don’t do that sort of thing, but there was something about her...I don’t know. She sat there by herself and looked all sad, so I wanted to cheer her up a little.”
“With your dick?” My brother is having a ball with this, unable to keep the smirk off his face.
“You’re a dick.”
“Wow. That’s a winner right there.” He’s back to relaxing in his seat, his shoulders shaking with amusement. Apparently, he doesn’t think this situation warrants the same urgency I do.
Letting my head fall back onto the soft cushion, I close my eyes. I’ve already gone through the whole scenario a hundred times.
Obviously, I can’t go back in time and undo what happened—not that I’d want to—but I also can’t find her without having any info. We didn’t do anything more than exchange first names, and when I woke up the next morning, it was too late and she was gone.
Ember’s voice pulls me out of my thoughts, her finger poking my knee. “Hey, maybe you’ll be able to find her somehow, you never know. I mean, miracles can happen, right?”
I groan in reply and stand. “Well, this was fun, guys, but I better get going.”
Ember waves goodbye and my brother walks me to the door.
After opening it for me, he leans against the doorframe. “You’re okay?”
“Yeah.” I scratch the back of my neck and look at Logan. People always ask me if it’s weird to look at my brother and kind of see myself, but it’s not. It’s normal for me since that’s how it’s been my whole life. Plus, there are little things, like scars and our beard or hair length that make it easier for him to look different—to me anyway.
“Call me if you need anything, you hear me?”
We say goodbye, and I’m out the door. It’s still early, the sun not yet ready to set. Tourists and locals are milling around in the warm Santa Barbara weather, happily chatting away as I walk the few blocks back to my place. When I get there, I’m surprised to see someone waiting on the front steps of my building.
The woman is halfway in the shadows, making it hard to see her. Then I hear her voice.
Taking a step closer, I gulp loudly. “Well, I’ll be damned.”