“Good morning, handsome. Is everything okay? Is Immie okay?” The panic in Larah’s voice made her last words high pitch.
“She’s fine, mate.”
I lean against the stone counter, stirring sugar into my coffee.
Fuck the healthy eating plan. Daddy has issues.
“Then why are you calling me at seven thirty in a Saturday morning?” Larah asks, the sound of her feet pounding on the treadmill echoing in the background.
“Well, a couple of months back I kinda had a one night—hey baby, you okay?”
Imogen nods, pouring more cereal into her pink bowl. Her eyes are still swollen from sleep, but would she stay in bed?
“Wanna say hi to Mum?”
I hand the phone over to Imogen who immediately tells her mother about Harry and The Red Pen, and I sip my coffee. I’ve barely slept after Jolie’s text, and when I did nod off, Imogen woke me up demanding Coco Pops.
Imogen thrust the phone back to me, picking up her bowl and skipping back to the television.
“You had a one night stand?” Larah huffs, now running on the treadmill.
“Yeah,” I cringe, rubbing my forehead.
“Is she pregnant?”
Lara is anything but subtle. She has a way of dropping words like bombs, uncaring that they wreak devastation on the people they land on. But right now, I needed her raw honesty.
“Yep,” I pop the P, as my ex sucks in a breath.
“I know,” I grimace. “I wore a condom, but we did it so many—”
“Alright, I don’t need details. Who is she?”
“Her name is Jolie.”
“Well, at least you remember her name,” Larah chuckles. “Surname?”
I bite my lip, racking my brains again.
“You don’t know do you?”
“What does she want?” Larah sighs, the beeps of the treadmill filling the silence between us as she slows down. “Is she okay?”
“I assume so,” I gaze out of the window, watching a bird drink from the bird bath in the garden. “She doesn’t want anything, she just wanted me to know.”
“Hmm. You’re a meal ticket, you know that,” Larah says gently. “How many women have tried to trap you in the past eight years?”
Psycho Helen, who broke up with me when I refused to have a child with her. We’d been together six months. She smashed my television up, claiming I gave it more attention than her.
I wonder why.
“You're listing them in your head aren’t you?” Larah drawls. “It was a rhetorical question.”
“We should’ve got married, Lar,” I mutter, and she laughs.
“Me and you? Married? I’d have been cheating on you constantly,” she teases, and I chuckle.
“That’s true. But women would have left me alone.”
Larah is in love with June, a stunning girl she’d met through work when she was three months pregnant.
“Oh, darling come on. It’s not that bad is it? You’re a great dad.”
“To Imogen. I don’t want to be one of those blokes that falls out with the babies mother constantly. It will all go to shit, you know what women are like.”
“It doesn’t matter what she’s like,” Larah exhales. “It matters that you’re there for the baby.”
“I know, but the girl approached me in a bar, steaming. How do I know it’s mine?”
“Jax, are you telling me you took a hot, drunk girl back to your place and fucked her all night?”
I roll my eyes.
“That’s not like you. You’re normally so picky. So what was it about her that made you take advantage of her drunken state?”
“I didn’t take advantage, she begged for it.”
“Whatever,” Larah says. “Answer the question.”
I think back to that night.
“She had this confidence,” I start. “But sweetness too. Blonde—”
I had a soft spot for little blondes. Larah was one herself.
“What am I going to do?”
“Man up. Go and see her, and talk to her. She must be scared, Jax, you’re a pretty intimidating guy.”
I scoff. “But how do I know—”
“Jax. Quit whining like a bitch, and go and see her. It’s not often a woman lies about who the father of her unexpected baby is.”
“I’ve arranged to meet her on Monday. I’m with Immie aren’t I,” I point out.
“So? Bring Immie here for a few hours and then come and get her after you’ve spoken to this Jolie girl. We’re having a barbecue later.”
I frown, looking up at the dark sky.
“It’s crap weather,” I point out.
“I know, but June’s been watching this smoker show on Netflix, so she wants to cook some meat. Indoors, obviously.”
“Obviously,” I laugh.
“Great for low carb,” adds Larah. “Listen, Jax. Don’t worry, alright? Shit happens, but a baby is never wrong.”
“I know but Immie—”
“Will be fine. I promise. Take care of Jolie.”
“I do love you, Lar.”
“I love you too, big man.”
I arrange to drop Immie home with a view to spend the evening with June and Larah eating smoked meat. Immie loves it when we spend time together, and I just admit, so do I.
It’s a strange set up, but I’m so fucking grateful. Losing Larah nearly killed me, but she couldn’t deny who she truly was.
Morning. Can I come and see you?
This morning? I just want to talk.
Give me an hour. I’ll send you my address.
I exhale, dragging my fingers over my eyelids.
“Immie? I’ve got to see a friend this morning, so I’m gonna drop you back at your mums for a little bit, is that okay?”
“Yeah!” Calls back my angel.
She’s so cute and lovely, I wonder if there’s any of me in her at all.
She has my eyes.
Forty minutes later we’re on the road, and Immie is chatting away about my mother.
“She said I can bake brownies next time we go. Can we go today?”
“Nah, babe, not today. I’ve got stuff to do, then when I’ve done that, me and you are having an indoor barbecue with your Mum and June.”
Imogen giggles, and the sound lifts my heart.
“June’s been watching that show again, hasn’t she?”
A short while later I drop Imogen at the door of a beautiful detached house, and Larah kisses her head as she dashed past her into the house.
Larah is breathtaking. Honey gold hair curls under her chin, her wide blue eyes set against her olive skin make her look like she’s a Pixar character.
“Go on then.”
I nod, turning back to my car with a groan.
How the fuck had I got this girl pregnant?
On the drive over to her house, I call Rad.
“What’s up, brother?” He coughs.
“It’s early man, I’m sorry. I just wanted to know what happened.”
“The Jag is back,” Rad yawns, and I smile. “That’s all you need to know.”
“Alright. Thanks, Rad.”
“You got Immie today? Or did you shit the bed?” Rad asks.
“Ha. I’ve got Immie.”
And another on the fucking way.
“I need sleep.”
With that Rad hangs up, and I peer at my sat nav.
After passing the house three times, I finally cut the engine. The area isn’t too bad, and the house in question is a pretty little terraced house on a quiet road.
I swing my legs out, locking the door as I walk towards it.
Before I can knock, it opens, and there stands my pretty little blonde. She’s wearing black leggings and an off shoulder sweater, revealing bronze shoulders. Her eyes flicker over me, and she steps back to let me in.
“Hi,” I say, moving past her into the house.
I’m hit with the smell of ginger and cinnamon, and as I follow Jolie into her kitchen, I notice how clean it is. Everything had a place.
“Do you want a drink?” Jolie asks, a chill to her words.
“I’m good, thanks.”
I turn to the table behind me, dragging a chair out as she makes herself a tea. She turns towards the table, munching on a biscuit.
God. She is beautiful.
She’s all caramel hair, button nose and thick lashes. The crumbs on her mouth draw my attention to her lips, and I force myself to look away.
Thinking with my dick got me into this trouble in the first place.
“I’m sorry about my reaction,” I begin, as she nods.
“I don’t sleep around, but if I did, you shouldn’t shame me for it.”
She sips her tea, looking at me pointedly.
“Right,” I swallow, taken aback. “So, how are you?”
“I’m fine,” shrugging her shoulders, she picks up another biscuit. “A bit of sickness, but it is what it is.”
I don’t know what to do with my hands. Well, I know what I’d like to do with them, but that’s inappropriate right now.
“I have the scan next Friday.”
I lift my eyes to hers, and it’s then I notice how tired she looks.
“It gets easier after three months,” I say carefully. “According to my ex, anyway.”
Nice one, Jax.
Jolie doesn’t respond, she just folds her arms and gazes at me. For a minute I’m lost in her eyes, but she soon changes that.
“Look, Jax, I’ll be honest with you,” she drags her hair over one shoulder as she leans forward. “I told you because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t need your money, or anything else. I’ll be fine.”
I don’t doubt it.
“Jolie, I appreciate you telling me.”
I sit up, reaching for her hand. It’s cool to the touch, and she jerks it back from me like I’ve burnt her.
“But if that’s my child, I want everything to do with them.”
Jolie looks alarmed, and she chews on her cheek.
“Okay, but just so you know, I’m not putting any pressure on you. I won’t have any expectations.”
“ I won’t let you down, though. I want to come to all of the scans—”
“Seriously?” Jolie asks, peering at me.
Our eyes lock then, and an unfamiliar feeling tugs in my heart.
She looks… vulnerable.
“Okay. I’ll let you know in advance, and Friday’s scan is at 11am, I’ll text you the details.”
She suppresses a yawn, and I watch as she stretches.
“I don’t want this to be awkward,” I say, as she shrugs.
“It won’t be. Is there anything else?”
I’m stunned by her clipped tone.
“Am I keeping you from something?” I ask, as she allows a wry smile.
“Yes. My bed.”
It’s like someone has turned the heat up in the room. Her eyes drop over my chest and I recall fucking her hard in my bed.
“We can always talk there,” I find myself saying, and she scowls at me.
“And I’m the whore?” Jolie gasps, her plump lips parting in anger.
Oh fuck, she’s insanely hot. Especially when angry.
She’s pregnant with your child.
“Sorry. Bad timing,” I say, watching her sweater slip down her chest further as she yawns. “Can I get you anything or—”
Jolie looks up at me, swirls of gold adding an air of Christmas to otherwise autumnal eyes. Shades of grassy green blend perfectly with the flecks of chocolate scattered throughout her irises.
“No, Jax. I don’t need anything, other than sleep and ginger biscuits. Which I’ve got lots of, as you can see.”
Her hand waves over towards the kitchen side, and I see stacks of biscuits piled high.
“Do they help?” I ask, genuinely curious.
“Yes and no,” Jolie smiles. “A little with the nausea, but I eat so many it’s contributing towards my ever expanding stomach.”
She leans back in the chair, and I want to tell her she’s beautiful.
“What’s your surname?” I blurt out instead, as she cocks her head at me.
“Summers. Yours is Cohen, right?”
Her voice is thick with tiredness, and I can’t help but want to carry her to bed.
And join her.
“How old are you?”
“Is this an interrogation?” Jolie rests her head on her hand, and I notice how every movement she makes is cute.
“I’m thirty two,” I offer, folding my arms across my chest.
“I’m twenty seven,” Jolie says. “I run my own business from home, and I own this house, and the car out front. I have a clean bill of health, prior to the condom splitting, and I always brush my teeth before bed. Anything else?”
An independent woman.
So why do I want to take care of her?
“Check you out,” I grin, but she doesn’t return it. “I know you say you don’t need me—”
“I don’t, but you have a right to be in your child’s life.”
“Which I will be. I want to be. But can we spend time together? I’d like to get to know you.”
“Jax, I’m not interested in a relationship. You made it quite clear the other day that you aren’t into that.”
I chew on my lip, feeling like a dick.
“That was before I knew you were pregnant,” I say defensively.
“Alright, we can get to know each other. As parents.”
I nod, trying to look away from her fucking mouth.
“I own X Motors,” I say, as her eyes flicker with recognition. “I have Imogen, as you know, from a previous relationship. I live in Merton—”
“Merton? But I thought you lived in town,” Jolie frowns, tilting her head as her hair falls over her chest.
“That’s my apartment,” I say, clearing my throat. “My house is a little further out of town. I like the solitude.”
We’re silent then, and she yawns, her eyes closing once more.
“I’ll let you get some sleep,” I say, hoping she tells me to stay.
As if she would.
“Thanks for coming,” Jolie mumbles, standing up.
She’s smaller than me, and when she looks up at me there’s a moment where I almost reach out to stroke her face. She frowns at my hesitation, and I back off.
“Will you text or call me if you need anything?” I ask gruffly, shoving my hands in my pockets so I don’t touch her.
I want to.
I can’t help it then. I reach out, tilting her chin up so she’s gazing at me.
“I know. You won’t need me. But if you do, I’m there. Alright?”
The urge to kiss her is so strong I almost do it, but she tugs her head back, her stony expression replacing the vulnerable one.
I turn and open the door, walking out towards my car. I look back to see her closing the door firmly behind me, and I feel an ache deep within me.
I had no luck in the world with women.