When I wake up, Jolie is sitting cross legged at the end of the bed, staring at me anxiously. Her eyes are almost vacant, and I know something is wrong.
I’m still woozy from sleep and the meds, but I lift myself up, gritting my teeth as I do. “What’s wrong?”
“I feel something for you, Jax, and before this gets any further…” she swallows, breathing out as she fans her face to stop herself from crying.
My heart is in my mouth now, but I know whatever she’s going to tell me is irrelevant. I can’t deny I’m falling in love with Jolie Summers. It’s the way I feel around her, like I’m untouchable. Smiling is standard when I’m around her, her infectious laugh making my heart ache for her. Yet now, watching her deal with whatever trauma is on the top of her tongue, my stomach is in knots. I feel like someone is holding a knife to my throat.
“I don’t think things can get much further,” I joke, as she smiles faintly.
“I need to tell you about who I really am. Who I was.”
I’m nodding, but I’m moving towards her, my body yearning to be closer to hers. Fuck, she could tell me she’d killed a man and I’d only hope it was Rad.
I tense at the thought of his name, and try to focus on Jolie instead.
“My mother was an alcoholic because she just was, there was no death that made her that way,” Jolie begins, her hands trembling.
“Your dad didn’t die?” I ask, confused.
“No, well, I don’t know,” she admits, staring at her fingers as she tears as the skin around her nails. “I think she made it up when I was too young to know the difference. She used it against me, saying I should have died instead of him. In reality, she didn’t even know who my dad was.”
My heart drops at the thought of a young Jolie believing such a vile lie, and beating herself up every day at the actions of her vindictive mother. I hate that she didn’t even know who her father was.
“She was such a bad mum. She, um, slept around…”
I wait, reaching out to cup her hands in mine.
“For money,” she whispers, closing her eyes. “To feed her habits.”
I don’t even know what to say. I’m not naive—I know shit like this happens all the time in the world, but it’s another thing entirely when it’s happened to someone you love.
“Yet she didn’t feed me, not often, anyway.”
“What?” I whisper, my own eyes stinging with tears at the pain in her eyes.
“I got by, because when she got drunk and passed out, I’d steal money to buy food on the way to school or whatever. It got worse when I got to secondary school.”
I can barely breathe now.
“My Aunt Lillian got involved as much as she could, bringing me dinner and trying to get my mother to let me stay with her,” she smiles wistfully. “But my mother was selfish, and wanted me to be there so she could release her anger and frustration.”
“Fuck, baby, I’m so fucking sorry you went through that,” I whisper, scooting closer to her.
Jolie nods, looking up at me through her lashes. “Some of the men… they tried to touch me. I fought them off, and eventually I moved to my aunt’s house. I couldn’t stand it for another second.”
I’m well and truly stunned, but the idea of anyone touching my girl without her permission makes my skin crawl.
“Then I met Rad, and other than my aunt, he was the first man to touch me; to love me,” tears are streaming down her face as she bites her lip, shaking her head as though doing so would make the memories fade away. “But you know how that ended.”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” I exhale, dragging her into my arms as she resists, looking up at me.
“So, my mother was an addict, an alcoholic and a prostitute. I don’t even know who my Daddy is, and my ex is a fucking psycho. I’m not a good person to love, Jax.”
Her tears fall, and she sniffs, wiping her tears on her hand.
“Now I’m pregnant after a one night stand and I can’t help but wonder if she was right,” Jolie is sobbing now, and I can’t help but drag her onto my lap, moving her hair away from her face as I search her eyes.
“Listen, I don’t know who the fuck she was, but I already know that anything that came out of her mouth was horse shit.”
“She said I was cursed, looking like an angel yet creating destruction and havoc wherever I went.”
“That’s not true, Jolie,” I whisper, shaking my head as she cries, baring her soul to me. “Look at me.”
She does, trembling as she shakes her head.
“Rad knew, about some of it. He just knew I had a bad childhood, yet he still doesn’t want me to be happy without him.”
“Jolie, please, just stop talking,” I plead, wiping her tears away, catching them with my thumbs as they fall. My heart is breaking seeing her like this. I’m so angry I want to rip her mother’s skull out of her mother fucking head, and stamp on it until it’s dust. How could anyone do this to their child?
“You aren’t cursed, and you don’t create destruction. Rad did this to me, not you. Do you understand?”
She nods so slightly I almost miss it, but I continue regardless.
“So you’re pregnant from a one night stand,” I whisper, caressing her wet cheek with my thumb. “But that man, who was only meant to be a one night fling, has fallen in love with you, Jolie.”
Her breath hitches, her head snapping back up as her eyes widen, filling with tears again.
“I understand why you are so independent now, but you have to let me in. I love you, Jolie.”
I’m terrified she’s going to bolt, her mouth opening and closing as she tried to speak, her all I want to hear is four little words back.
I love you, too.
“I feel like I’m falling for you too, Jax,” she confesses, pain shoots across my mouth as I grin, the stitches be fucked. “But I needed you to know who I really am, because I don’t want anything f we have to be built on a lie.”
I kiss her then, not giving a fuck about my mouth. Jolie squeals beneath me as I cup her ass, lifting her into my arms. Pain be damned, I’m claiming my woman.
“Say that again,” I whisper against her mouth, my tongue begging for entrance as she gasps, moaning into my mouth.
“I don’t want—”
“Not that, the first bit,” I mutter, my hands gripping the flesh of her ass as she smiles.
“Mmm,” I say, dotting soft kisses on her throat. “You think, huh?”
She giggles, and my heart is soothed for a moment, the sound of her laughter wrapping around me like a warm blanket on a chilly winters night.
“I’m falling in love with you,” Jolie whispers, her fingers playing with the hair at the base of my neck. It needs cutting, but right now I don’t care if I resemble a yeti.
“So can you say it, baby?” I beg, burying my face into her neck, inhaling her scent.
“I love you, Jax Cohen,” she whispers into my ear, her teeth nipping on the bottom of my lobe as I lift her up, holding her face in both of my hands.
“I do,” she says slowly, as though she’s trying the words on for size. “If you still want me knowing everything. I promise I’ll be the best mum to our baby—”
“I don’t fucking doubt it, not for one second,” I swallow, kissing her lips softly. “Knowing everything, knowing nothing, I love you exactly the same.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before—”
“Sshh,” I mumble, wrapping my arms around her and holding her there. “Wait till I tell Imogen you’re in love with me.”
She giggles against me, and I stroke her rounded bump carefully.
“When’s our next scan?”
“We gonna place bets? Boy or girl?”
Jolie looks up at me then, shaking her head as she bites her lip, an act that drives me fucking crazy. “I don’t want to know, do you?”
“I’m easy, whatever you want,” I lie, trying to hide my disappointment.
I hate surprises.
“We’ll find out when they arrive,” Jolie sighs happily, resting her head on my shoulder as her fingers dance down my back. We fall back onto the bed, and instead of our usual love making, Jolie rests against me, her breathing heavy as she relaxes.
I now have a list in my mind of people I want to kill with my bare hands.
Rad, her mother and her deadbeat father.
Who better not know she exists, or I really will murder the fucker. Because you never leave your child with someone so fucked up.
God, I love her so much.