Page 29 of From Rags by

“When did you last see her?” asked Connor.

“That night that I was talking to Jaxxon at the bar.”

“So you two were seeing each other,” said Jaxxon; not a question, a statement. When it was mentioned that she might have a stalker she had tried thinking about anyone who might have acted strange around her, which brought her to think of Luke. But it didn’t make any sense to her that someone like him – gorgeous, rich, always had girls throwing themselves at him – would bother following her around. Then she remembered when they were in the bar and Connor had appeared. Jaxxon had witnessed surprise and betrayal and, finally, understanding flash on Luke’s face, but she had been positive that they weren’t directed at her or Connor – he had been thinking of someone else. So she asked herself, assuming someone else was involved, who could possibly be connected to both her and Connor that would want to play games.

Luke rubbed his chin and sighed. “Only for a couple of weeks. There wasn’t much going on other than shagging. To be honest, I thought she was a bit weird but she was good in bed so that was overlooked; she was adventurous and imaginative when it came to games -”

Jaxxon held up a hand. “Too much information, Luke.”

“Not sex games. I mean, well, they were sex games but not like what you’re thinking. We’d go out to a bar and she’d pick out a bloke and I’d pick out a girl and then we’d dare each other to go after them. We’d try to get their phone numbers, a kiss, an invite back to their place…We never used to go, it was just a game we played. Whichever one of us got the farthest had control in the bedroom that night.”

“But you didn’t try to get my number or a kiss or an invite to mine. You wanted me to go with you.”

“Anita turned round one day and said, ‘Hey I dare you to go after Jaxxon Carter’. I said if we were ever out one night and you were there I’d approach you.” Connor growled but he ignored it, even though the sound chilled him. “But she said, ‘No, I’m changing the rules; you’ve got to approach her out of a bar and then get her to come back here’.”

“Hence, the pretend-jog incident?”

“She told me you walked your dog in the park on Saturday mornings.”

The fact that Anita knew that didn’t sound good to Connor but he didn’t interrupt, he wanted every detail.

“I had it all in my head what I was going to say to you,” said Luke, sighing, “but when I got up close it just all left me. I was just, well, mesmerised by you.” He was surprised when she looked confused about that. He wasn’t surprised that Connor growled. “Anyway she teased me for hours when I came back here without you and she wouldn’t let the dare drop. But, well, my ego was all sore and I didn’t fancy getting brainfreeze and making an idiot out of myself in front of you again so I told her to forget it. Then she said -” Here was where he suspected Connor wouldn’t be too pleased.

Jaxxon arched a brow. “She said…?”

“She said she had it on good authority that you were into threesomes.” As he anticipated, Connor growled again and spat a curse. “She said if I managed to get you back here then the three of us could…I mean come on I’m only bloody human.” He turned to Connor and Dane. “Don’t tell me you two wouldn’t have been intrigued by the idea.”

“I’m married,” said Dane.

“I never would have shared her no matter who it was with,” stated Connor honestly.

“Whatever.” Luke turned back to Jaxxon. “I’d heard you and your mate talking about going to Frankie’s bar that night so I went. And, well, you weren’t easy to charm and then he showed up. And that’s when everything clicked into place. I remembered that Anita had been engaged to him ’til recently and I thought about how weird it was that she’d seemed so determined to get you here where she’d be waiting. When I went back home without you she was fuming. I asked if it had all been some revenge game for McKenzie and she flipped her lid, ranting about men and commitments and models and babies. Then she stormed out and I haven’t seen her or heard from her since.”

Dane exchanged a look with Connor before he informed Jaxxon and Luke, “That was the night Anita turned up at mine in tears looking for somewhere to stay.”

“So you know where she is?” asked Luke, not that he really cared.

Nodding, Jaxxon smiled. “She’s at Dane’s house, she’s absolutely fine and she’s very pregnant.”

Luke gaped. “She’s what? Wait a minute, it’s not mine. We used protection.”

“Did she ever try to get you to go bareback?” asked Connor, now seeing where Jaxxon’s thoughts had taken her.

He shook his head. “No, never.” Then a memory came to him. “We did go bareback once in the car because I had no condoms but she said she was on the pill.” Three sympathetic looks were directed his way. “You think this baby she’s having is mine?”

Jaxxon sighed. She couldn’t help feeling sorry for the bloke. “The facts are that Anita was planning to ‘accidentally’ get pregnant with Connor’s baby but he found out and we were presuming he ended it before she had a chance to get the plan live and kicking. Then she told me a week ago that she was pregnant, but I can tell you right now Luke she was lying her arse off. Or, as it turns out, she was under the impression that she was. Yesterday she did a test and it was positive. I don’t think she’d have waited this long to do a test if it was Connor’s, it makes no sense. So if she hasn’t been able to come up with a positive until now then she must only be in the early stages of pregnancy. If that’s true, the baby can’t be Connor’s. But it could be yours,” she added more sensitively. “I think she thought she could pass off your baby as his; you have dark hair and dark eyes like him.”

Luke clenched his fists. ‘Information overload’ didn’t even begin to describe this right now. He switched his attention to Connor. The man’s face was blank. “I’m not just going to presume this kid’s mine, I’ll be having a paternity test doing.”

“Same here,” said Connor.

He turned back to Jaxxon then. He felt so mixed up; he wanted to kill Anita for her deviousness and how she could play with people’s lives like this, but a part of him kept going over the fact that soon he might be a dad and he couldn’t find it in him to hate that idea. “I’m not going to say this is great news. But, still, I’m glad you told me. I wouldn’t want to have a kid somewhere and not know anything about it or be there for it.”

She nodded. “Good. At least the poor little thing will have one parent who’ll care for it.”

“And if it’s Connor’s…?”

She shrugged. “That’ll be his business.” He didn’t even want her to be part of his life, he would hardly want her to know his kid if he did have one. She thought it was sad that Connor had resigned himself to a life totally marriage-free, love-free, and children-free. Connor would make a good dad, he was protective and caring though he didn’t seem to see it. Maybe one day he would, like Dane, meet someone who meant enough to him to stop him from boxing himself away from all that stuff.

It was while Dane was driving Connor and Jaxxon back to Connor’s apartment that he finally asked, “Do you want kids one day, Jaxx?” Quickly he corrected: “Jaxxon?” Connor still growled.

She nodded. “Yeah, I do. I never had much by way of family. I’d like to start my own someday. And I need to keep the Carter blood going. The world wouldn’t be the same without us Carters.”

Dane laughed.

“I think you might be right there,” said Connor, smiling. It was a smile that covered the pain he felt knowing that one day she’d have that family…but it would be with someone else.

“What about marriage?” asked Dane.

She shrugged again. “Maybe.”

Connor gawped unattractively. “You always said you’d never get married.”

“I know, but that’s because I never saw a marriage that worked. Every relationship I’d ever seen was a mess. But after seeing Lily and Tony together it made me realise what it can be like. I suppose, like everything else, it’s what you make of it.”

“You’re right there,” said Dane, nodding. “It’s not easy, you’ve got to work at it. But it’s worth it.” He smiled as a thought occurred to him. “I’d be interested to see what kind of wedding you have. I just know it wouldn’t be anything traditional or even normal.”

“Probably not. I couldn’t have a big princess wedding in a huge church surrounded by a load of people I don’t even know. I don’t think I could cope with the serious atmosphere either, I’d end up laughing.”

“What about an Elvis wedding?”

“Now that might be fun.”

“That big hound of yours, Bronty, could give you away.”

“That’d save me from having to choose between Ollie, Richie and Tony.” All of whom she thought would probably vie for the position but only after they’d lectured her on her choice of bloke. She got the impression that they had no problem with the blokes around her until it looked as though some bedroom action might get going.

“You could have Anna and Warren as your witnesses. All that’s missing is the groom. Although I don’t think you’ll have much trouble finding one.”

“Ah but not all blokes are comfortable with having their bollocks at risk on a daily basis. As Anna said, I’d need a man-man.”

“A man-man?” echoed Connor, not enjoying this conversation whatsoever.

“Someone who won’t be intimidated by me or be all submissive. Oh and who’ll have a healthy sex-drive.”

Feeling suddenly defensive, as if needing to compete with this hypothetical bloke, Connor very nearly pointed out that he wasn’t intimidated by her or submissive and he had a healthy sex-drive. Then he realised that if he had, then he would have, in effect, been calling himself a perfect match for her. He’d like to think that he was but, in the end, it didn’t matter because he couldn’t offer her anything. Again he found himself wishing he could.

Something else that had his stomach knotting was that, seen as there was no way of being around her without wanting her, they couldn’t even keep in touch when things were over. There would be no way he could be in the same room and not touch her, and there was no way he could hear her voice over the phone and have a purely platonic conversation. At some point the words ‘I need to f**k you’ would come out and then the call would be abruptly put to an end by Jaxx. No, there was no way he could fit her into his life after this was over, but how could he not have her in his life to some extent?

He really had had enough of the bollocks that went through his head.

Anita was glad when Connor answered the door to his apartment with a beer in his hand. Maybe him being under the influence might make the seduction easier. But she wasn’t going to play the injured soul or the in-need-of-a-rescue-princess this time. No, because now she had something she could hold over him, something that would make her be the one in control. That idea brought her confidence and gave her the spunk she needed to face him and his abruptness down. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

Connor hmmmd. “No, I don’t think I will.” Although Dane had warned him she was coming he hadn’t been able to work up the patience to deal with her.

“You should. This is important, Connor.”

“Then you better spill it and quickly because you’re letting in a draft.”

She placed a hand on her hip and arched a perfectly plucked blonde brow. “I suppose, if you really do want your private business aired before your neighbours, we could just have this conversation here in the hallway. But I think you’ll want to be sitting down for this.”

He sighed and then strolled away, leaving her to let herself in and close the door behind her. He squeezed onto the sofa next to Bronty. “Alright, I’m sitting down. Tell me what this is all about.”

“You’re not even going to offer me a drink? And when did you get a dog?” It was more like a donkey. And it didn’t appear to like her. Well that was a mutual feeling. Come to think of it, the creature looked a bit familiar –

“Anita, get on with it.”

“If you insist,” she said cockily. The idea that soon she would have him right where she wanted him made her smirk. She relaxed into one of his armchairs and crossed her legs.

“Did I say you could sit down?”

“You know what, Connor, you’re going to have to grow out of this immaturity. And soon.”

“Why’s that?” His tone made it clear that he was absolutely bored.

She leant forward, flashing him her cl**vage. “I’m pregnant, that’s why.” She waited for that ‘I’m going to be a dad?’ smile. This was a guy who had grown up without a family – of course he would be overjoyed to now have one! But the smile didn’t come.

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Don’t be an idiot, Connor. You know this baby’s yours.”

“Do I? We weren’t exclusive or anything.”

“So now you’re accusing me of sleeping around on you?” She should have expected that he might have a brief moment of denial. “How could you say something like that?”

“As I’ve just said, we weren’t exclusive.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Romance