For a moment, Malcolm said nothing. “Really?”
“Absolutely,” replied Spencer. “No woman is worth the absence of my daughter. It was a no brainer really.”
He silently pulled me in for a hug. There, he forced me against his chest and I took no shame in taking comfort from his touch. His words were nothing but a lie, yet hearing them still hit hard.
“For what it’s worth, I think you’re making the right choice.”
Fuck you, Malcolm!
“I trust you will tell Isabelle’s lawyer,” snapped Spencer, unappreciative of his personal opinion.
“Of course. Leave it with me.”
Before anything else could be said, the line was cut short, plunging us both into a moment of stillness.
“He’s an arsehole!” I declared, making Spencer laugh.
“He’s a good lawyer. That’s all that matters.”
I couldn’t argue with that. If Malcolm was as good as everyone made him out to be, I had no reason to doubt his ability. Still, I didn’t much care for the man. He was arrogant, cold and a little too laid back for my liking.
“Are we really doing this?” I asked, slightly put out by the thought of actually following things through.
Could I really handle a year apart from Spencer?
“Yes. We stand a better chance of helping Isabelle and Leila if we’re clever, But no one can know. This stays between us.”
“Even our families?” I questioned, unconvinced they’d accept our news without a thorough explanation.
Between the lot of them, they possessed protectiveness like no other.
“Perhaps we can let them in on Alister’s bribe. We won’t go into detail. All they need to know is that he found out something regarding our relationship and has offered to keep the case away from the court if we agree to separate.” He released a deep sigh, in need of letting out some tension. “But let’s not mention our suspicions regarding their relationship. If Isabelle is a victim of domestic abuse, I doubt she’ll want everyone knowing.”
He had a point.
“And we’ll agree to six months, not a year. I can’t live without you for a full year, Jessica.”
“I’m sorry it’s come to this. I’m sorry my past is putting us in this position.”
Against my better judgement, I began to sob, stopping for nothing and no one. Spencer’s only response was to vigorously caress my back, likely shocked at the extremities I was willing to go to. I’d never known myself to get so upset over something, then again, this wasn’t just something. This was my life and I was moments away from losing it all on a temporary basis.
“Don’t cry, beautiful,” he soothed, sensing my need to be comforted. “It’s okay, baby. It will all be okay.”
I wept into his chest, inhaling anything and everything he had to offer, clutching at his shirt with my hands. His familiar smell was all that I needed in a moment like this, yet it did very little with regards to easing my anxiety.
“I love you,” I revealed, kissing his neck. “So much.”
He echoed my thoughts and moaned his appreciation as my lips met the sensitive spot on his jaw. He always did like it when I kissed him there and the sudden realisation that this was perhaps the last time I’d be doing so for quite a while made me want to cry even harder.
“Do you hate me?” I sniffed, wiping under my eyes.
“I could never hate you,” he replied, grasping at either side of my wet face. “I’m just thankful you told me. It can’t be easy for you, given my history with Isabelle.”
He was wrong. Offering to support Isy was incredibly easy for me. Whether I liked her or not was irrelevant. No woman deserved to be frightened in her own home and I’d fight with all I had in order to help her. After all, she was Leila’s mother and if anything bad happened to her, that little girl would suffer for it.
Not an option!
“I love you both,” I expressed, pulling away from his chest. “You and Leila are my family now. I’ll fight for you.”
“And we’ll fight right back. We’re a team, Jessica. We’ll tackle whatever obstacle comes our way.” He concluded his statement by kissing my lips. “Oh, and I decline your resignation.”
My earlier suggestion to resign hadn’t gone down well. I had figured we needed to make our separation seem legit and stepping down from my role was the only way to ensure that. Obviously, Spencer had other ideas.
“We have to convince everyone we’ve broken up, Spencer. If we don’t, Alister will know we’re playing him.”
“He won’t suspect a thing,” he ensured, returning to his seat at the table.
There, I joined him by taking up residency on his lap.
“We must promise not to contact each other. Once I spoken with Isabelle privately, I’ll be in touch.”
He didn’t have an answer.
“I’ll figure that bit out. In the meantime, you find out what you can about him. Dig into his past a little. See what you come up with.”
“Okay,” I sighed, pulling on his collar.
He matched my action with a move of his own, only his was far more empathetic towards my emotional needs. He held me close and caressed my hair, kissing it as he went.
“This isn’t your fault, Jessica. I may be at risk of losing my daughter but I could never regret being with you. You two girls are everything to me. It’ll all be over with soon.”
“My past puts your rights in jeopardy, Spencer. This is my fault entirely and whether you like it or not, I will continue to blame myself,” I explained, gently pressing my hand to his warm chest. “That doesn’t mean I won’t do everything in my power to fix it. I promise I will make everything right again.”
“I trust you,” he responded, pulling on my thighs so that I straddled his lap. “But just so you know, I could never blame you for this.”
I smiled, settling into my new position. “I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. You will get her back, Spencer. I promise.”
“We will get her back,” he corrected, squeezing down on my hip.
“We,” I repeated, fixing my mistake.
I looked into his emerald green eyes and knew that without a doubt, we were doing the right thing. Spencer and I were both adults and understood the complexity of the situation. Leila did not and would not understand. Being a parent meant putting your child’s needs first and that was exactly what we were doing. These weren’t some low-key accusations being made. Spencer was deemed incapable by many and if by proving he was a great Dad I needed to be removed from the equation, so be it. I already had regrets with regards to my past and wouldn’t let what I did ruin Spencer and Leila’s life. I’d do anything for my loved ones; self-sacrifice included. I knew Spencer would make this work and knew he had the potential to make me extremely happy. Hell, he already did. In less than three months, he had shown me the true meaning of love and not only that, but the true importance of communication. He had shown me just how fundamental it was to fight for each other. Spencer and I were equals and saw ourselves as exactly that. We both contributed to the relationship in fair amounts and didn’t think of the other as inferior. We were respectful, loving and kind. We were committed. And together, we made one hell of a team.
“Promise me you won’t stop fighting until you get her back,” I expressed, reaching for his chest underneath his many layers.
There, I found his fast beating heart in an instant and flattened my palm against it. Feverishly, it pumped blood around his body and spoke strong of the determination he was feeling.
“I promise. As long as you promise to be there when it’s all over,” he countered, resting his hand on top of mine.
Rather than responding vocally, I decided to offer him confirmation in the form of a loving kiss. It started off sweet and delicate but soon turned into something far less elegant, bordering on frantic. Teeth clashed and tongues swirled, leaving me in a daze. His taste was intoxicating, giving me no option but to savour each and every flavour presented to me. I clung to him as though my life depended on it and refused to let up. Even as he carried me towards the bedroom, I never once loosened my grip around his shoulders. I stuck to him like glue and muttered my appreciation when he rested me in the centre of his bed; silk sheets spread out before me.
“Will you submit to me?”
“Without a doubt,” I responded, dragging my nails across his torso.
Off came his shirt, followed swiftly by my own, leaving us both bare from the waist up. I was no longer in control of my actions and struggled to keep my mind focused on the bigger picture. This was a parting gesture. A goodbye of sorts and whilst six months wasn’t a lot for some, it seemed like a lifetime to me. Thinking of all the things I’d miss out on during that time had me in a slump. I’d no longer wake up next to him on a morning. We wouldn’t enjoy mid-afternoon walks together and we certainly wouldn’t engage in acts of intimacy. Everything I enjoyed about being with Spencer was moments away from being nothing more than a fond memory. But it was all for the greater good. Or so I kept reminding myself. If I slipped into the mindset of this plan failing, I risked giving up and that simply wasn’t an option. Not when Spencer and Leila’s happiness was concerned. Those two deserved to be with each other and I deserved to be a part of it. Sure, not everyone would see it that way but I wasn’t about to let their opinion stop me. Spencer’s judgement was the only one that mattered and if he was willing to love me despite my flaws, I had nothing to worry about. His acceptance was all I needed. To some degree, I required other’s approval but it wasn’t a necessity. In time, I would tell our friends. Scott, Rosalie, Bethany, Calvin and Lucy. They’d all learn of the truth soon enough and what they did with the information was up to them. I loved and respected them all and just hoped they had the same mental approach as Spencer. For once, I was truly happy and I wouldn’t let a pathetic man like Alister Branning take that away from me. I wasn’t ashamed of my past. Not anymore.