“Same thing you always said: that I could go far if I got my act together.”
Jaxxon closed her eyes, feeling contentedness wash over. Then her eyes snapped open as she suddenly became aware of two things. One, he was idly plucking at her curls the way he used to when they were younger. Two, this was becoming way too comfortable. A strong urge to bolt came over her. She moved to get up but he held her to him. “I need to pee.” She cocked her head. “That your phone ringing?”
It was. “Bathroom’s through that door.” He smiled as he pictured shagging her in his shower in about, what, five minutes? Digging his phone out of pants pocket he saw that it was Dane.
“I know it’s late,” said Dane, “but I figured you’d be up.”
Something in Dane’s voice had Connor tensing. Even though Jaxx was in the en-suite bathroom for the moment he went into the kitchen to take the rest of the call. “What is it?”
“I just got back from The Pool Hall about fifteen minutes ago. Guess who I found crying fake tears all over my couch. Anita Donovan.”
Great. “I thought she went back to L.A.”
“Well if she did, she’s back.”
“So sling her out on her arse.”
“I must admit that was my first instinct, but Niki stopped me. Something’s off about Anita. She’s up to something.”
Connor sniggered. “She’s always up to something.”
“Right, and we wouldn’t have known exactly what she was up to last time if she hadn’t told Niki first. Niki wants to let her stay with us, play the sympathetic mate, and see if she can get her to spill what her newest little plot is.”
“Mate, you don’t have to do that.”
“She’s pretty wound up about the rumours of you and Jaxxon Carter.”
Connor stiffened. His protective instincts come rushing to the surface and all he wanted to do was drive to Dane’s and throttle Anita.
“I’ve agreed to let her stay a week. Hopefully Niki can come through for us again. She knows what it’s like, we’ve been through this ourselves. And we don’t want another spoilt little princess starting some shit.”
When Connor went back into his bedroom, it wasn’t to find Jaxx na**d on his bed as he’d pictured. Quite the opposite. It seemed that she was making another sharp exit. He grabbed the shoe she was reaching for, gaining her attention. He shot her a questioning look.
“I need a reason why I’m going home?”
“You need a reason why you’re rushing off. Again.”
“Oh,” she drawled as realisation dawned. “You’re one of those blokes.”
“The ones who like to do the leaving or the dictating when time’s up. You don’t like the reversal of roles. Well I’m sorry, Connor, but I didn’t come here to stroke your ego, I came here to stroke your cock, and I’ve done that.” She seized her shoe from his grip and slipped it on. “I’m shattered, and my bed is calling my name.”
“There’s a bed right there.” He double-blinked when he realised what he had just blurted out. Jaxx looked equally stunned.
“You want me to stay the night?”
No, he didn’t, he’d never spent the entire night with a woman. He actually had no idea why he was panicking – and he was being panicky – about the fact that she was going.
Jaxxon was fully expecting the ‘no’ in his eyes but it stung all the same. “If you’re still horny, I’m sure there are plenty of woman’s numbers in that Blackberry of yours.”
It wasn’t until she had walked passed him that the implications of what she had said settled in. “Are you shagging other blokes as well as me?”
She pivoted sharply. “Excuse me?”
“You seem to think I’d be up for shagging other people, so I’m asking if you’re doing the same.” Rage steamed from him as a thought formed. “Are you still shagging that ponce? He’s dead if you are.” A lesser man would have shrunk away from the anger blazing in her eyes.
“I’m sick of you carrying on like this. You persist in thinking you have some kind of hold over me when you do not. And why wouldn’t I think you’re still spreading yourself about? My understanding is that this” – she gestured from her to him – “is about strictly sex. No strings, no commitments, no questions. Are you saying you want more than that?” she asked rhetorically, wanting him to realise how he was coming across. He looked away. “Exactly. Don’t expect anything of me that you wouldn’t expect of yourself.” With that, she swerved back around and headed for the door. She near jumped out of her skin when he suddenly sprung in front of her.
“Alright, what if…What if we both agree that while we’re…”
Amused at his struggle to describe their lack-of-a relationship, she supplied, “While I’m your replacement shag doll?”
Connor did a double take. She had to know he’d never think so little of her. “While we’re having casual sex -”
“Oh very primly put.”
“- we don’t see other people?” He knew he sounded over-possessive and unable to control his jealous streak, but it wasn’t just about that. The idea of another bloke touching her made him feel sick. As he’d waited in her apartment after the charity event and the hours had ticked by with no sign of her, he’d known she was busy with her ponce. He had kept feeling more and more nauseous until he honestly believed he’d spew up. Now that he had been inside her and felt her come apart around him, the idea of another bloke touching her was even worse.
Jaxxon hadn’t expected him to say that. Not now. Not ever. It was a commitment – teensy, sure, but still one of sorts. It was a commitment that a woman wasn’t even guaranteed to get in an actual relationship. Not that Jaxxon thought he suddenly cared for her or anything. She was just surprised that he was willing to go to that length not to have to share her.
He gripped her by the nape of her neck and tugged her to him. “You won’t have time for anyone else anyway, not if I’m going to do all the things to your body I’ve got in mind.”
Jaxxon de-tensed as he massaged her shoulders. “Alright,” she agreed with a small nod. He seemed relieved. There would never have been a different answer from her, she hadn’t thought of anyone else since she heard his voice on her machine. “Got to go.”
As much as he wanted to haul her arse into his shower for that shag he had planned, he didn’t try to convince her to stay longer; he suspected he’d already pushed her by asking her to agree to things being exclusive. The simple contact of his lips against hers had his senses hyper. “If you give me a few minutes, I can drive you.” Any other time he’d have insisted on it, but again he was conscious of pushing her.
“Thanks but I’ll be alright.” Jaxxon needed to physically demonstrate to him that her small concession didn’t make her another of his rats following the Pied Piper. He needed to have the memory in his head of her casually breezing out of his apartment, indifferent about leaving him behind. She couldn’t afford for him to see that she did care for him. Predators and weaknesses…Disastrous mix.
Awkward – that about described the situation. Jaxxon supposed this was what it was like to have a father sit his teenage daughter down for a ‘talk’. Only in this case it was three blokes. And they were all self-appointed honourary uncles. And she was twenty-two years old.
Tony, the bugger, had ushered her away from his dining table the second she had polished off the Roast Dinner a la Lily and had urged her into a lounge where Ollie and Richie were waiting. Tony had gestured for her to take a seat and now the three men were stood looking down on her with expressions that said they were anxious.
Ollie slapped today’s newspaper onto the coffee table in front of her. “Well aren’t you going to flick through it?”
Instead, she mirrored their posture; arms folded, face twisted in a grimace. She didn’t need to look at the paper. Anna had raced over to Jaxxon’s apartment at a very unreasonable hour of the morning to share all the details about her time with Warren – who she was now dating – and then she had produced the newspaper. There were three photos of her and Connor outside the bar; one of her giving him a wedgie while he was carrying her caveman-style, one of her running from him after she’d played a little with his car, and then one of him holding her close with her legs around his waist while they laughed.
The tabloids, predictably, had blown it out of proportion – suddenly her and Connor were infatuated with one another and in a serious relationship: Connor McKenzie so besotted that his primal instincts have kicked in and, for the first time ever, he is territorial over a woman; and hard-arse Jaxxon Carter is melting under his sensual nature and his utter determination to have her. She could only imagine what Connor must be thinking of all this. The more she thought about it, the more she became convinced that he would want to get out of this now just to set the world straight.
“Will you leave the poor girl alone,” griped Lily, her face a mask of frustration, as she barged into the room. Her short sandy-blonde hair bounced with her harsh footsteps.
Ollie began, “I’d heard the rumours about you and McKenzie, but I didn’t think much of them until I saw these photos. Then Tony tells me McKenzie was waiting for you at the end of your photo-shoot on Wednesday like some sort of weirdo.”
Jaxxon snickered. “He wouldn’t have known where to wait if your secretary had any sense of discretion. A few flowery words and he had my phone number, address and schedule.”
Shocked, Ollie was about to curse loudly but then narrowed his eyes at Jaxxon. “Don’t you change the subject. We’re talking about you and McKenzie.”
“I already know what goes where and that babies aren’t made in a factory so we really don’t need to have ‘the birds and the bees’ chat.”
“I want to know exactly what’s going on with you two.”
She shrugged. “I’m using him for sex.” She heard Lily chuckle.
“Going by the loved-up expressions on that last photo, the tabloids have a different theory.”
“And like most stuff in the tabloids, it can be filed under ‘fiction’, or ‘complete shite’.”
Richie smiled gently. “We just want to be sure that you know what you’ve got yourself into. Connor McKenzie might be handsome and successful but he’s also -”
“A good shag,” she finished. “That’s all I need to know. And anyway, you and Ollie have spent the past how many months jabbering on at me to get in some kind of high profile relationship, and now that the tabloids think I’m in one, you’re fuming?”
Ollie waved his hand dismissively. “McKenzie isn’t like Bruno or that footballer. He isn’t some brave yet ever so foolish soul who’ll be intimidated by you and do as he’s told. He’s a law onto himself. I don’t like that this bloke who’s never chased after a woman has been on your case. He even carted you out of a bar over his shoulder.”
“Is this about you not liking him?”
Sighing, Ollie shook his head. The way she had looked smitten with the bloke had spooked him. He needed her to understand what was to come. “The reason the tabloids are all over this is because you’re both liked by the public for being people who don’t live to please others. You’re entertaining because when you’re angry you show it, when you’ve got something to say you say it, if you don’t want to smile for the cameras you won’t. You’re not interested in putting up an act for everyone, you’re real. And now you’re together – or so the public believes – embarking on an exciting, spontaneous, no-holds-barred relationship: something most people dream of having themselves.”
“I know I do,” grumbled Lily for which she received a frown from Tony.
“Throw in the fact that most blokes would happily be Connor McKenzie and most females would happily be you, and you’ve got a very nice following of fans,” said Richie.
“They will follow your relationship like it’s all a soap opera,” continued Ollie. “That means that when it ends, it’ll end with the world watching. And believe me, luv, it will happen, and it’ll be nasty. You won’t get a happy ending from him, just ask his past lovers.”
Tony held his hands up in a helpless gesture. “We don’t want you to be one of the multitude of girls who have fallen for him only to end up broken.”
Ollie nodded. “You won’t get to keep your pain private, no, because the world will be watching.”
“You’ve said that already,” said Jaxxon in a bored tone. “And for the record, I know that he doesn’t do committed relationships. Do you know why that’s okay? Because I’m not looking for that. So you can simmer down and breathe, Caption Cautious.”
But Ollie couldn’t simmer down at all. He didn’t want to see this girl who he instinctively knew had already been through enough to have to go through what was inevitable if she didn’t end things with McKenzie now. He wiped his face with one hand. “Why couldn’t you have just picked a nice, well-mannered lad like Bruno?”
Jaxxon leant forward in her seat. “Do you want to know what nice, well-mannered Bruno said to me when he was plastered at the charity event? He said that I was even more gorgeous than his dick, and that if I was hungry I could always put my mouth around it.”