“Can we talk?”
I glance up to see Chris hovering in the doorway of my office, his eyes locked on mine. We’d avoided each other since the whole party scene, but it was inevitable we would have this conversation.
“Yup,” I nod to the chairs in front of my desk, dropping the papers from my hand onto the table.
Chris sits down, leaning forward so his elbows are resting on his knees.
“About Jolie…” he begins, meeting my eyes. “It’s obvious she likes you, and with the baby and all…”
Obvious she likes me?
“What are you saying, Chris?” I sigh, wanting him to just get to the point.
“I’m stepping away, mate.”
I blink, unsure I’d heard him correctly.
“She doesn’t look at me like she looks at you,” he admits, twisting his thumbs around one another.
For some reason, my heart is hammering in my chest, and I can’t stop the smile from spreading across my face. The thought of Jolie looking at me in a way that told Chris to back off made me very fucking happy.
“She does need her car fixing though,” he chuckles awkwardly, and I nod.
“I’ll sort it.”
We’re silent for a moment, and I realise I’ve got to say something.
“I’m sorry if I was a dick. I’m just protective over the baby—”
“Come on Jax, I see the way you look at her,” Chris shakes his head as he stands up. “It may have just been a one night thing between you but I don’t think it is. At my party, it felt like you two were married. Like I’d been with someone’s wife.”
I laugh then, but it’s hollow and cheap. I know what he means, my reaction was beyond territorial.
“She’s Rads ex,” I say slowly, as Chris’s eyes bulge in response.
“No way,” he whispers, and I see fear in his eyes.
I smile ruefully, and pick my papers back up.
“Then she needs you more than ever,” Chris mutters, standing up. “I hope we’re cool—”
“We’re cool. Thanks, Chris.”
He nods and leaves, and I sink back into my chair.
Chris is a decent guy, and he’s behaved well considering everything. Rad hasn’t been to work since he found out about the baby, and I haven’t bothered to get in touch.
Jolie needs me, that much is true.
I care for her deeply, and I can’t stand all these men around her. It fucks me off, to be frank.
Well, of course it’s because she’s carrying my baby.
Is there anything more than that?
No, I don’t think so. I care for her, and yeah, she’s hot, and strong. Independence is fucking attractive. But I’d offered her a relationship and she’d declined every time.
I’m interrupted by the phone ringing, and I answer it.
“Mr Riley for you, Sir,” purrs Angel, and I hear a click as my top customer is transferred through to me.
My mind should be on the job, and the conversation regarding a fleet of cars needed for Mr Riley and his family, but it’s not. I feel almost mechanical as I make the arrangements for the sale, the sheer amount of money not pleasing me.
I drum my fingers on the desk, exhaling with frustration as I stare at the photo of Imogen. It was taken when she was three, all ice cream and smiles on her beautiful face. My heart aches for her, and I know just one cuddle from my girl would make this all okay. I need to break the news to her about being a big sister, but first I have to tell my parents.
My dad will be disappointed. My mother will be pleased to have another grandchild, but my dad not so much. He thinks every woman is after my money, and so far he’s been right, after Larah.
Larah. Everyone loves Larah. Including me.
I lost her, and despite it being completely out of my control, I still feel shit.
Now there’s Jolie.
Did she look at me differently?
I don’t think so. I didn’t seem to affect her—she’s horny and ready to fuck anyone—Chris and Rad had been more than willing to do it, if I hadn’t have stepped in.
But then I think of her smile, and the way her body feels against mine.
Maybe I do like her.
“God, this is fucked up.”
The door opens again, and this time they don’t knock.
“Hi,” says a voice, and I look up to see Jolie. Caramel strands of hair frame her face, which is flushed. Her eyes are wide as they flicker over me, and she grips a brown paper bag in both hands.
“Jolie? Is everything okay?” I jump to my feet as she nods.
The swell of her stomach is visible through her t-shirt, and I can’t help but smile.
“Yes, I just thought I’d buy you lunch,” she says in a small voice, bowing her head. “It’s been a weird couple of days…”
She looks so beautiful standing there, her eyes darting around my office as she takes in the degree certificate behind me.
“You went to university? I didn’t know.”
“Business management,” I say, perching on my desk in front of her. “These fools wouldn’t take me seriously without it.”
“Oh. When did you do that?” She lowers herself onto the chair Chris had vacated moments earlier, and pulls her hair over one shoulder. She hands me the bag, and I smile gratefully.
“Night school,” I swallow, noticing the way she gazes at me. “Still had to earn.”
“I understand. Look, Jax, I’m sorry about everything. It’s been a mess.”
“It’s okay,” I say, as her tongue wets her lips. “I’ve been a dick too.”
“Well, the meal is on Saturday… you don’t have to come…” she shrugs, and I frown.
“I have Immie Saturday,” I say, and her face lights up.
“Can she come? My Aunt would love to meet her.”
“Uh, she could but I haven’t told her about the baby.”
Something flickers in Jolie’s eyes then, and I’m not sure what it is.
“But I’m going to,” I add, and she nods.
“I’m almost four months,” Jolie reminds me tearfully, and I cross over to her, dropping to my knees. “It’s Christmas soon, and I’d like to get Imogen a couple of presents without being the weird lady from the car boot.”
I chuckle, taking her hands into mine, her warm, soft, delicate hands. My thumbs run circles on her skin, and her eyes search mine as I clear my throat.
“Can I come and see you after work? We’ll talk it all out, including Christmas.”
My voice is hoarse, and I realise it’s because she’s looking at me with the same heated longing I saw not so long ago.
“Of course. Lauren and her new boyfriend have invited me round for Christmas, which is nice but… I feel like a third wheel. Haha,” she laughs easily, and I raise her hands to my lips without thinking.
“You’re not a third wheel,” I mumble, resting my head on her hands.
She hesitates, before allowing her fingers to brush through my hair. I move closer to her, my lips hovering over her stomach as her breath hitches in her throat.
“May I?” I whisper, looking up to see her biting her lip, her eyes shining with emotion.
She nods, and I lift her t-shirt up, exposing her skin. My lips drift over her stomach, and I mumble to my unborn child how much I love them. Jolie is stroking my hair, and my lips are dotting kisses across her stomach softly. I pull her towards me, and I’m almost hugging her bump.
“I’m here for you both,” I say, and I look up to see Jolie crying. I lift my head up, my thumbs wiping away her tears as she fans her face, trying to compose herself. “Hey, don’t cry.”
There’s a moment between us where she rests her forehead against mine, and our fingers lace together, our eyes closing.
“I’m so scared, Jax.”
“Don’t be. I’ve got you,” I mumble, and she falls into my arms, her sobs filling the room. I comfort her the best I can, kissing her head as I murmur words of reassurance. Whatever had happened to her had cut her deep, and I vow to protect her and this baby forever.
It doesn’t matter about attraction or sex. Right now all that matters is that she feels safe, and cared for.
I can do that.