“I wish,” grunted Connor. It was tormenting him that her na**d body was so close yet so far. All he would have to do was loosen that tie on her robe…
Anna blushed. “Hi. Didn’t see you there.” She turned back to Jaxxon. “I’ve phoned you like a gazillion times but you didn’t answer. When you didn’t phone me back I thought I’d check on you.”
Jaxxon suspected that Anna had also intended on sharing more information about her and Warren and was gasping to reveal it. But, obviously, she wasn’t going to do it with Connor and Dane there – neither of whom made any move as if to leave. “How was the carvery?”
“Gorgeous. Warren’s waiting for me in the car.”
“She’s seeing Warren?” Dane asked Connor.
“Who’s he?” asked Anna. Before anyone else could speak, there was another knock at the door. Anna let Warren in.
Connor sniggered. “Maybe we should just invite the neighbours in as well so they can see you na**d.”
“Sorry,” said Warren, though he wasn’t if this was winding Connor up. “I saw your car in the car park and figured you were with Jaxxon so I came up to say hi.”
“Hi,” returned Connor then made a gesture for him to leave. He couldn’t wait much longer to whip that robe from her body.
Warren laughed. “Alright then. Jaxxon, nice seeing you again, even if it was brief. Dane, want a lift home? Something tells me Connor isn’t leaving just yet.”
Once they were finally alone, Connor pulled her to him and scrutinised her face. “You sure you’re alright?” He certainly wouldn’t be if the situation had been reversed.
“I’m insulted that you think I’d be shaken by some pathetic cow’s lies.”
That comment got him thinking about another pathetic cow. “Have you heard much from Leah since you moved in here?”
She stiffened. Faking indifference she replied, “Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that you haven’t mentioned her at all. You two had a falling out?”
Jaxxon left his embrace and, purely out of the need to fidget, went to the kitchen to boil the kettle. “I haven’t seen or heard anything from her since the day she left care.”
That had him frowning. He would never have imagined Leah actually leaving Jaxx behind. “At least you had Roland.”
She sighed. “He left a couple of months after you.”
The truth hit him like a blow to the gut: all this time Jaxx had been alone.
“Want one?” She gestured to the coffee tin. He shook his head. “I would’ve thought you might have heard from Leah,” she said casually as she prepared a cup of coffee she had no intention of drinking.
His frown deepened. “Why would I have heard from her?”
“Just before she left she mentioned you’d told her to find you when she got out of care.”
He was just about to pounce on that comment when two things registered that unsettled him. She wasn’t looking at him and hadn’t since he had first mentioned Leah. Also, although her face was blank she had swallowed heavily twice now; a movement that, coming from Jaxx, hinted at pain. He suddenly had a very bad feeling. “Jaxx, what else did she say?”
A long pause. “Enough.”
“Oh don’t make me say it, Connor,” she said as she leant back against the counter, coffee in hand. “It makes me sick just thinking about it.”
Yep, the bad feeling was justified. He closed the distance between them and placed a hand on the counter either side of her, caging her in. “What did she say?”
Jaxxon met his eyes then. “That you loved her, that you’d been shagging her.”
He slammed his hand on the counter. “I don’t know what I’m more pissed about: that she could want you to believe something like that, or that you actually do believe her!” He twirled around to face the wall, taking a moment to try to regain his composure. He was livid.
“Why wouldn’t I believe her?”
He turned back to her. “Oh I don’t know maybe because when a chronic liar tells you something so farfetched it’s reasonable to consider that just maybe they’re talking drivel!” He laughed a totally humourless laugh. She truly believed he could do that? It explained why she hadn’t wanted to phone him after he left her that message asking to meet up.
“It wasn’t farfetched. It made sense.”
“Tell me you didn’t just say it made sense.”
Resisting the urge to pour the coffee all over him she placed it on the counter. “It made me remember all the times she’d whisper stuff in your ear and you’d never tell me what it was.”
“It was always a bit graphic and I knew you’d be upset if you knew how much she used to come on to me.”
“And the times when she’d phone asking you to pick her up and off you’d go.”
“Because she was your sister otherwise I wouldn’t have given a crap whether she got herself in shit!”
“And I’d never met a boy who didn’t want her, and she was your age.”
“She was a pain in the f**king arse!” he spat, getting more livid by the second. “I absolutely despised her! I wouldn’t have touched her with someone else’s dick, let alone my own! Christ, Jaxx, how could you not know that it was you I cared about?!”
“Really?” she said skeptically. “If you cared about me back then it was as a sister.”
“Then why would I have kissed you the night before I left if that was all it was?”
“Other than that one time, never had you kissed me or even hinted that you looked at me differently so is it any wonder I find it hard to believe there was more to things?!” Especially when you never came back like you said you would, she refrained herself from adding.
“We were only young and you were two years younger than me! Unfortunately it was hard to remember that – you were a very early bloomer and more mature than anyone I knew! I didn’t dare touch you because I knew I wouldn’t have stopped and you’d have ended up losing your virginity very early!”
“Yeah?!” she yelled back even louder than before. “Well maybe if you’d had the bollocks to act on what you say you wanted I wouldn’t have lost my virginity to -” Jaxxon stopped dead, swallowing back the rest.
Connor took a long, calming breath. “Jaxx…finish that sentence.” If she told him she’d been raped, he wasn’t sure what he would do – other than hunt down and gut the sick bastard. But he had to know. It was one of those things that would be worse not to know the truth of.
“Go Connor.” Her voice was toneless, dead.
“Not a chance. Finish that sentence.”
At the sharpness of his tone Jaxxon’s blood boiled. He wasn’t asking, he was demanding. Like the information was rightfully his to know and she was disobeying him by withholding it. There was no sensitivity there or any respect for boundaries. “You are one selfish, inconsiderate arsehole.”
“Why do you hold back from me?”
“Why do you have this insane need to know everything?”
“You never used to shut me out like this.”
She growled. “Can’t you just accept the fact that my business isn’t yours to know?”
“Like it or not, your business became mine the minute you let me inside your body.”
“You’re wrong there, McKenzie.”
“Tell me why you’re holding back, why you’re shutting me out!”
“Why would you want to be let in?”
He didn’t have anything to say to that. He shouldn’t want to complicate things any further and yet, at the same time, he wanted to be important to her; someone she trusted and confided in like she used to. He wanted to be to her what she was to him.
“Why would I let in someone whose part in my life amounts to using me to satisfy his sexual urges?”
That stung. It belittled what was between them…but it was the truth, wasn’t it? “Fine.” He stalked toward the door. “I’ll phone you next time I get one of those urges, shall I?” he added bitterly before slamming it.
It was after at least forty-five minutes of Anna sitting on Jaxxon’s sofa telling her all about her nicely developing relationship with Warren that she realised something: Jaxxon was hurting. The girl always kept her pain hidden so well. Anna might not have picked up on it had it not been for the fact that when she asked what time Connor had left Jaxxon had winced ever so slightly. And didn’t that make Anna feel like absolute crap! Here she had been sitting, announcing how fantastic things were going and how Warren treated her like a princess, and the entire time Jaxxon was in pain over a certain F1 driver. Not once had Jaxxon looked envious or bitter or even attempted to change the subject. On the contrary, she had shot plenty of questions at Anna, wanting every detail she could wring from her and then being so amazingly chuffed for her. She was just the best in Anna’s opinion.
“Okay, what’s he done?” asked Anna gently.
“Oh let’s not talk about me and Connor. I’m not spoiling your good mood.”
Humungous sigh. “It’s not so much something he’s done. It’s just that…sometimes I just feel like he wants too much from me. First he wanted me to agree not to see anyone else then he’s complaining that I don’t ‘let him in’ and share all my past with him. And you know what really gets to me? When he does want to see me he doesn’t phone, he just shows up and expects me to accommodate him. Even worse, I do. I can’t help it, it’s like I’ve got no willpower when it comes to him. I’m just his beck-and-call girl and I hate it but I can’t seem to fight it.”
Anna nodded. “I was in a situation like that once. It proper scared me when I realised I always put my life on hold just in case the bloke phoned. I’d be ready to drop anything if he wanted us to meet up – I literally didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter, it was like I was obsessed. But he never used to give me any indication of when he’d phone next and we never did anything together other than meet and shag. I was like a doormat, I felt so weak…I almost hated myself. And him for taking me for granted. So you know what I did?”
“Went abroad.” When Jaxxon’s eyebrows raised, Anna nodded. “I didn’t tell him I was going. I didn’t have to because we weren’t serious as far as he was concerned. So when he next phoned and realised that I was out the country and, yes, I was going to have a life outside of him and that I wouldn’t always be dropping everything when he phoned, it made him do a double-take and then, suddenly, he stopped taking me for granted and shaped up.” She let Jaxxon consider that for a minute before adding, “I think you should do the same. That way, the next time Connor phones you’ll likely be abroad – it’ll shock the life out of him that will – so you won’t have to worry about trying to resist his offer because it just won’t be possible to see him, and with all that distance between you it might make you feel stronger. And it’ll teach him a couple of things.”
“Like what?” Jaxxon was starting to like Anna’s idea.
“Well, he’ll learn that he won’t always know where you are even with your work schedule. He’ll also learn that if he really wants to see you he’s going to have to do better than just materialising out of thin air or you might not be available. And it will serve to remind him that you have a life that exists outside of him that he can’t always invade as he pleases.”
Oh Jaxxon was really, really, really starting to like this idea. This was what she needed: some distance between her and Connor, a way of stopping herself from running into his arms when he next turned up out of the blue, and it would also be a change of scenery. As it was, Jaxxon had never been abroad in her life.
“And I’ll be coming,” Anna quickly added. “A girl’s holiday, just the two of us having a laugh and mellowing out.”
“Aw, Anna, you don’t have to do that, I know you’re enjoying spending loads of time with Warren at the minute -”
“All the more reason to go. It’ll teach him exactly what it will teach Connor.”
Jaxxon couldn’t stop a wide smile from creeping onto her face. “Where were you thinking?”
Leaning forward in her seat, Anna returned Jaxxon’s smile. “Ever been skiing?”
Is this who the Eastenders’ character Ian Beale is based on? Jaxxon wondered as the cockney bloke in front of her heading for the Bunny Hill shot her what he seemed to think was a come-get-me smile that actually came across as I-am-so-creepy-so-stay-away-for-your-own-safety grin. He was obviously one of those blokes who had a wealth of experience in the art of freaking women out. Oddball.
She knew he didn’t recognise her or Anna as celebrities. How could he when they were each snug in several layers: long thermal top and bottoms, an additional long-sleeved t-shirt, a fleece sweater, ski jacket, ski pants, ski socks, neck warmer, helmet, goggles, a pair of waterproof winter gloves, and ski boots. It all gave them an anonymity that they needed right now. The fact that Jaxxon was a female was apparently all that was needed to inspire him to flirt so sleazily and poorly.
Only an hour after Anna having suggested the skiing trip they had booked their one-week holiday over the internet, booking a flight for the following morning, completely disregarding both their work schedules. Although Ollie hadn’t been thrilled, when Jaxxon mentioned that it was just them, no Connor, he had all of a sudden become very accommodating and supportive. Even to the extent that he offered to take Bronty in while they were gone.