“It’s not about being a coward. It’s about bringing a dramatic early end to your plan. If falling to my death means I get to stop you from having what you want, I’ll happily do it.”
No, it couldn’t be happening again. He couldn’t stand this feeling of being so close but so bloody far. She was right there…He finally had her. No, he wasn’t going to let her rob him of this. Not a chance would he let her.
He abruptly reached out to grab Jaxxon, but he hadn’t known a few things. He hadn’t known that she was expecting this, that this was what she wanted him to do, that she in fact had no intention of leaping to her death. And there was something else: Sean hadn’t known what had happened with Matthew. Every time Matthew had touched her he’d tied her hands behind her back first. She’d never been able to figure out whether that was a precaution or if he’d just liked it that way, but Jaxxon had hated that feeling of being totally helpless. She’d learnt over time how to untie that knot, but never had she freed her hands; it hadn’t been that she intended to fight back, it had been that she then had that small knowledge that she wasn’t helpless. It helped remind her that she was allowing it to happen, she was doing it for Annie. But right now the only person she had to protect was herself.
Her movements were just as quick as his: she flung out her arms like they were wings and sharply sprung to the side. As she’d hoped, he lost his balance and fell flat on his stomach; leaving from his head to halfway down his torso dangling over the hole. He dropped the knife and it fell through the hole and hit the floor below with a clang. He could have easily slid himself backwards out of harm’s way…if Jaxxon hadn’t sat on his legs, keeping a firm grip on him.
“Now I haven’t seen this film,” she said. “Usually the victim makes a run for it when she gets her opening, doesn’t she? Then the killer chases her and eventually closes in on her, delivering the killing blow.”
Sean attempted to struggle, trying to buck her off him, but then stopped abruptly when the floorboards beneath him creaked.
“I don’t feel like running, Sean. I ran last time and look what happened. You came after me. How old was I back then, fourteen? Is that how old all the other girls were? Or were they even younger like your daughter?”
He grunted when she dug her fingers into his legs. “Get off me!”
“Hurting any kid is vile but your own daughter, Sean…How could you do it?”
“Get off me!”
“Shall I tell you how? Because you’re certifiably evil. Oh I’m not saying you were born evil. No, because that would be the same as saying that you can’t help the things you do and that it’s part of your make-up. No, you’re evil because you choose to do such cruel, disgusting things.”
He gritted his teeth against the pain of the cracked floorboard digging into his chest. “Get off me you bitch!”
“Are you sure you want me to do that? There’s a good chance that if I do you’ll topple to your death.”
“Get off me!”
“Doesn’t feel good being helpless, does it?” she growled. “It turns out you’re not so big and bad without your knife.”
“You bitch! I’m going to f**king kill you!”
“You know, that’s really not the way to get in my good books and make me consider letting you up and, thereby, live. I could so easily shove you down that hole and you know it.”
He sniggered. “You wouldn’t kill me. You’re a lot of things, Jaxxon -”
“Oh you mean like a slut, a bitch, a slag -”
“- but you haven’t got it in you to take someone’s life.”
“Maybe you’re right. But then maybe you’re not.”
“If I were you I’d run so far so fast -”
“How can you not realise how ridiculous you sound threatening me right now?” She dug her fingers into his legs again, wrenching another grunt from him. She could tell he was in some serious pain. He was shaking from the effort to keep his upper body from dangling, and his hands were bleeding from where he was clinging to the broken, spikey boards. “Would you like me to move off you so you can get up? I’ll want something from you.”
“Oh yeah?” he snickered.
“Yeah, I’ll need you to apologise to me for everything you’ve done.”
“Sorry, that plan’s already been foiled. Let’s instead hear you say a great, big sorry.”
His words came out through gritted teeth. “Get off me, bitch!”
Jaxxon sighed loudly. “This is very disappointing. But you know, Sean, even if you were sorry and I genuinely believed that you’d never, ever, ever hurt another kid ever again, that you’d never take another girl’s innocence away, that you’d never beat up or rape another woman or hurt any human being ever again…it just wouldn’t be bloody good enough.” She punctuated that by digging her fingers into his legs again.
“You want a promise? I’ll make you a promise! I swear I’m going to f**k every hole you have in your body and then I’m going to slit your throat! Now get the hell off me!”
“If you insist.” With that she sharply stood to her feet and moved away. Having lost her bodyweight he toppled over, hoarsely crying out. There was then a load thud. Jaxxon walked carefully to the edge and peeked over. Sean was perfectly still, sprawled on his back. She couldn’t tell whether he was still alive or unconscious. She should care, but she didn’t. How many lives had he ruined? How much innocence had he stolen? It had been a case of her life or his, and she’d choose her own over a bastard’s like that any day.
As her body sagged in relief she backed up a few steps and lowered herself to the ground. There she sat, breathing through the madness in her mind and regaining her sense of composure. It could have been seconds or minutes or hours later when she became distantly aware of noises and voices. And then a set of arms wrapped around her and she was hurled to her feet and crushed against someone’s chest. She knew who it was and she hugged him back just as fiercely.
The next few minutes passed in a sort of blur. Connor and Ollie both fussed around her before being pushed aside by a paramedic who examined her and, satisfied she was fine but might need a needle for the shock, handed her back to Connor. A team of police officers and paramedics went into the warehouse and an unconscious and badly injured Sean was brought out on a stretcher. Connor and Ollie both expressed their wish that he died before reaching the hospital. While she remained in the area cordoned off with tape from the public, she was asked dozens of questions by different people until she finally reached her limit and told the male Copper who was now in front of her that if he liked his bollocks he should consider shutting his trap and moving out of her way.
“That means she’s fine,” said Ollie. He’d make sure she stayed that way, just as he would next time. Because, sadly, there would be a next time. Many next times. It was, unfortunately, the price that came with this life. He knew from the business he was in just how much power people believed came with beauty. They seemed to believe that if you were beautiful things could come easy. More often you had to put up with bitterness, envy, pettiness, and even obsessions. As such, celebs were often stalking targets. He wouldn’t be surprised if Jaxxon had more than just Sean stalking her. “I’m going to call Richie, let him know you’re alright.”
Connor ran his hand through her hair as he held her to him. Just the thought that she could be dead right now…He felt sick. “You sure you’re alright?” He felt her nod against his chest. “Come on, I don’t want you standing round here any longer. Will you come back to mine with me?” He held his breath as he waited for her answer.
She peered up into his eyes. “I can’t,” she said in a whisper. She knew nothing had changed for him. Why would it? Maybe if this was a Hollywood film Connor would now be declaring something corny like that coming so close to losing her made him see exactly how much he cared for her and now he wasn’t prepared to let her go blah, blah, blah. But Connor’s decision to not have his own family had been made before they even met; it was a decision that she didn’t know the real reason behind, but she knew enough to know that it would take someone very special to him to get passed whatever it was, and that person wasn’t her.
He dropped his forehead to hers and sighed. “Jaxx, I do care about you.”
“I know.” She tried to leave his arms but he tightened his hold and mashed his lips with hers. For once, it wasn’t a kiss of hunger. It was a kiss filled with feeling and adoration and a hint of desperation. But that affection was just like a slap in the face because it was nowhere near enough. The verbal equivalent of this moment would have been for her to say ‘I love you’ and him to say ‘thank you’ or ‘and I love spending time with you’.
Jaxxon tore her lips free and stepped away. “Will you promise me something?” He said nothing but she continued, “I want you to promise me you won’t get in touch. No texts, no calls, no surprise visits.”
“I want to get on with my life, Connor, I want to face this head-on like I’m going to do with what happened with Sean and like I do everything with else, but I can’t do that if you’re popping in and out of my life whenever your addiction gets too much.”
“You honestly think we can cut each other out of our lives just like that?” He’d always known it would have to be this way, always, but now that it was actually happening, his mind, body and soul were fighting it.
“Are you saying you can give me more than casual?” It was a rhetorical question but when he didn’t say ‘no’ she was surprised. She refused to let hope well up inside her this time though. “Well?”
The words came out hoarse. “I can’t.”
“Then yes I can just cut you out.” And for the second time that day, she walked away from the bloke she loved.
Connor had never actually talked to a dog before, not like this. It turned out that they were good listeners. Bronty had lay on the sofa peering up at him with an almost worshipping look as if every word that came from Connor’s mouth was a pearl of perfect wisdom. Even better, there was no judgmental crap. He could easily tell the dog how he was missing Jaxx, how he couldn’t look at his kitchen counter without thinking about the time he lay her on it and shagged her senseless, how a shower was no longer relaxing because it only made him think of the mornings they’d spent in it, how every time he sat on the sofa he remembered the time she’d rode him on it so hard his dick should have snapped. Worse, he couldn’t stop dreaming about her night after night. He’d wake up sweating and aching for her and hard as a rock. Christ, she’d only been staying here a few days and the whole place was marked by her and memories of her.
Anyone else would have told him to shut the hell up moaning, but not Bronty. What the dog couldn’t help him with was the answer to the question of whether this was normal: Was this what it was like when you were trying to get over someone? At first he’d thought that this all must just be part and parcel of it all. But it had been five weeks now and if anything he felt worse. It was like he was grieving and no matter what he did, he couldn’t make peace with the fact that she’d gone. He couldn’t find it in him to accept the situation and move on.
Only one thing in his life was separate enough from her that it didn’t make him think of her: racing. Or so he had thought until he got to the test track and all of a sudden he remembered how she cute she’d looked that time when he’d sat her in an old sports car that was perched outside of a car museum.
He couldn’t even go the gym without talking to someone who ended up eventually asking ‘You still seeing Jaxxon Carter?’ Not once had he said no. The word never came out. He couldn’t bring himself to disclaim her, to say she wasn’t his, to face the fact that it was over. Somehow there was comfort in thinking that no one yet really knew the truth, it was nice to be around people who thought the status quo hadn’t changed because then he could pretend for just a while. Jesus, this really was like grieving. But was it normal?
He also wanted to know if this was how Jaxx was feeling. Or had she moved on like she’d said she would? Did she think about him? Did she miss him? Did she still love him? Was she happy? As much of a bastard as it made him, he hoped she wasn’t happy without him. He wanted her to be missing him as much as he was her. He knew that was cold and selfish but he didn’t want to believe she could cut him out as effortlessly as she’d made out she could.
So many times he’d had her number up on his Blackberry screen with his thumb hovering over the call button but never could he pluck up the courage. Then one night he finally pressed it…only to discover that she’d changed her number. That just made him feel even more like crap; knowing that she genuinely didn’t want to hear from him.
On top of all that, he had the knowledge that she was as far as Australia right now. The other side of the world from him. He was sorry he’d asked Warren to find out her location from Anna. He’d thought it would make him feel better to at least know where she was, but he’d come to the conclusion that nothing could make him feel better short of having her there in front of him.
The knock on the door had him groaning. As per usual, Bronty didn’t bark. Weren’t dogs supposed to go mental when someone invaded their territory? Shrug. The dog could do what the bloody hell he liked for being such a good listener. It wasn’t a surprise that the visitor was Dane. His judgmental frown wasn’t a shock either. And this was why he liked Bronty better.