“I didn’t see you at the gym, thought I’d pop round, see if you were alright.”
“Why wouldn’t I be alright?”
“Oh I dunno,” he said as he lounged in one of the chairs and Connor returned to the sofa. “Maybe because you’re spiraling into a state of depression all because you haven’t got the bollocks to go to the land down under and see her.”
“Oh don’t start, Dane.”
“I only speak the truth.”
“I’ve already told you, she told me not to go see her anyway.”
“What’s that got to do with anything? And why is there a brown stain all up the leg of your pants? Don’t tell me that’s dog shit.”
“Oh it’s, um, chocolate spread. I dropped it and some went on my pants.” Or, more accurately, he threw it in a rage when he found it under the bed and some of it splashed him as the tub burst.
“Why’s the dog still here?”
“Tony turned up the day Jaxx left but I said I’d keep him here.”
“And why would you do that?”
Maybe it would make sense for him to get rid of Bronty and anything else that reminded him of Jaxx, but even though having it all around him was torture, he didn’t want to let go of her. He didn’t want to forget her or the laughs they’d had.
“You do know Jaxx will want him back, don’t you?”
Connor’s voice was like a whip. “Don’t call her that.”
“Really bothers you that, doesn’t it? Soon enough she’ll be someone else’s Jaxx so get yourself ready for it.”
Slapping his hand over his face, Connor groaned. “Dane if you’ve come here to try to wind me up then just -”
Dane ignored him. “It’s not like you’ll get to enjoy the bliss of ignorance. It’ll be all over the papers, magazines.”
“And if she does have that Elvis wedding the photos will be everywhere.”
“Just out of interest, what did I do to you to deserve to listen to this?”
Luring him into a false sense of security, Dane quieted for a moment, letting Connor think the torture was over. “What are you going to do if you hear she’s pregnant?”
Connor’s eyes shot to his. “I’ll support the kid obviously.”
“I never meant with your baby you dumb dick. I meant with whoever she walks down the Elvis isle with.” As Connor took a long guzzle of his beer Dane saw just how much the idea of that pained him. “Why haven’t you flown out to see her? Don’t tell me it’s because she asked you not to. You jetted off to the Alps without hesitation, why not now?”
In a low, toneless voice he replied, “She said she loved me.”
“Let me guess, you still wouldn’t take things beyond casual.”
“You guessed right.”
“Relationships are such frightening things are they?”
They were to him. “I’m not made for all that.”
“And just what exactly did you think it was that you and Jaxxon had? You were faithful to her, you went on holiday with her – although, granted, it was a holiday you gatecrashed – and for Christ’s sake you even had her living with you. It might have only been for a few days but still. Was all that really that scary?”
“Why the hell are you here, Dane?”
“To hammer the truth home, mate. Why else?”
“The truth?” he echoed with a snicker.
“Be honest with yourself, Connor. This is about you being worried you’ll turn out anything like your parents.” When Connor’s gaze whizzed sharply at him Dane nodded. “Oh yeah there were a lot of things you told me that night when you got rat-arsed on Jaxxon’s fifteenth birthday. You’re nothing like your dad. You haven’t got it in you to hurt a woman or a kid. If I didn’t fully believe that I would never have made you godfather of my son.”
“I’m like him, Dane.”
“No. Being a bad-tempered bastard does not make you anything like him. Just like being able to drop people from your life doesn’t make you like your mum. Does Jaxxon know all about him and what he did?”
He shook his head. He might have told her after she revealed all that stuff about Crawley and that Matthew if she hadn’t followed the story up with and now I’m leaving.
“Go see her, Con. Not just because you want to see her, not just because you miss her, but because you genuinely can’t function without her here, can you?”
Connor buried his face in his hands, groaning. “No,” he admitted. The feeling that he needed another person wasn’t something he’d ever thought would happen. But Connor really did need Jaxx. He’d always seen her as his Achilles’ heel, but now that he thought about what the past five weeks had been like without her he realised she was also his biggest strength.
“It wouldn’t be because you love her, would it?” Dane’s voice was heavy with sarcasm.
“Yeah, I love her,” he said in the quietest voice.
At last, thought Dane. “It strikes me that you can, either, carry on believing what’ve always believed about yourself and let your parents mess this up for you…or you can stop being a dick, get off your arse and go get her. Maybe you’ll end up like me and Niki and you’ll get married one day and have some sprogs. On the other hand maybe you’ll bugger it up. But ask yourself: Do you want to go through life not knowing? Do you always want to have that ‘what if’ hanging there? More to the point, do you want to go through life without her?”
He shook his head. “No.”
“Then what are you going to do about it, you daft prick?”
Ticked off, Jaxxon was totally and utterly ticked off. She hadn’t slept one bit last night. The guests sleeping in the hotel suite above her had humped all night long. No matter what she jammed over her ears all she could hear was ‘harder’, ‘faster’, ‘say my name’, ‘who’s your daddy’, and ‘I love you, David!’ It turned out her suite was below the Honeymoon Suite. The newly-weds’ activities only served to remind her that her own body was crying out for sex.
If only seeing to that problem was simple. But Jaxxon didn’t do one night stands; she just wasn’t built that way and she didn’t trust people easily enough to hand her body over to a perfect stranger. At the same time, however, she didn’t want a relationship. Not right now anyway. That only left her with the option of a casual fling.
Oh wonderful, more casual crap.
The biggest problem of all was that her body just didn’t seem in the slightest bit interested in anyone she met. Oh it was as horny as all hell but it just didn’t respond to anyone. Anna said some crap about Jaxxon currently going through a transitional phase. In other words, her body was having withdrawal symptoms from her once pretty active sex life of a month ago.
So here she was, half asleep and moody, in a large drugstore in Perth, Australia – a place that was fantastic apart from the fact that it was roasting hot and so she was in a dress. Yes, a dress. She still wasn’t a big fan of those things. Of course Ollie didn’t care that she was irritated, it made her eyes feral the way he liked.
Just as they did in every All-Sorts store they stopped in – the store that the Allure products were exclusively available at internationally – as part of the tour, she stood on a platform with Ollie while he rambled on to the frighteningly big crowd about the essentials of skin-care and big tips on make-up. Naturally his every solution included the use of one of the Allure products, and the crowd were swallowing up every word like he was the king just as the crowds did wherever they went.
Once his mini lesson was over Jaxxon had to say a few words, as the face of the campaign, and then it was question time while some small Allure samples were passed around. Once it was done, they were bombarded with people who wanted photos or autographs. Both she and Ollie obliged anyone who was within easy reach as they made their way down the cordoned off area that led them behind the shop floor. Minutes later they were sneaking out of a private entrance/exit and jumping into their black limousine, returning to their hotel.
Jaxxon snuggled back into the seat and closed her eyes. A little doze would do her the world of good right now.
“Are you and Anna going to spend your last day in Perth tomorrow going off to see the sights?” asked Ollie. “I can arrange a driver for you.”
“I don’t know yet,” she said tiredly. Anna had been flying to and from London to see Jaxxon every couple of weeks for a few days. Richie probably wouldn’t have allowed the disturbance on Anna’s schedule if he and Ollie hadn’t been concerned about Jaxxon after the whole Sean thing. Apparently the fact that she hadn’t had some sort of breakdown was worrying the hell out of them. The Sean thing she could move on from without being tempted to dwell. In fact, instead of it feeling like a terrible event, it all actually gave her a sense of peace. Maybe that was because she finally felt as though she’d fought back against bastards like him, or maybe it was because now she could relax knowing that he wouldn’t be terrorizing any of the people she cared about while she was gone.
“I noticed you and Anna talking to that rock band last night who’s staying in our hotel. They’re on their own tour, right?” At her nod, he continued, “The lead singer’s taken a shine to you.” A real shine to her, but much to the bloke’s disappointment she hadn’t been responsive which he’d attributed to her being with McKenzie – the world hadn’t yet clicked on that their ‘relationship’ was over, which was good because it was giving her time to heal. But what concerned Ollie was that she wasn’t healing. She was still her normal blunt, rude, playful self…but something was missing. He wasn’t sure if he most wanted to pummel McKenzie or demand that he come and fix what he’d broken. “Oi, did you see the most recent FHM magazine addition?”
“I can’t say one of my pastimes is reading men’s mags.”
“You got the top spot on the Hottest 100 Women.”
She shot him a skeptical look. “You’re taking the Mick.”
He giggled at her incredulity. “Luv, may God strike me down dead now if I’m lying. You’ve heard of that actor who seems to be Hollywood’s favourite right now, Aiden Roberts, haven’t you? Well, when he was asked in an interview what celebrity he would love to date, he said you.”
She sighed. “Ollie, stop with the Cupid crap. I’ll bother with a bloke when I can be arsed.”
“If this was Anna you’d be just as -”
“Oh for the love of God, Ollie, will you shut your gob so I can sleep!”
He fought the urge to laugh. “Shutting up right now.”
But Jaxxon didn’t sleep. Most of the time she managed not to think about Connor. She had accepted it was over and knew that spending time thinking about him was counterproductive to healing. Her mind understood that and was clear about moving on. Her body and soul were lagging behind. Was it possible to force yourself to stop loving someone? She wasn’t optimistic considering that she had spent the past eight years in that state over him. Would it take eight years to dig herself back out of it? Could she? Realising what she was doing, she gave herself a mental slap. Hadn’t she promised herself that she wouldn’t pine over him, that instead of treating it as an ending she’d look at it as the beginning of something new? In so many words that was what Ollie was hinting at, wasn’t he – move on, make a fresh start with someone else. It was the ‘someone else’ part of his solution that she had trouble with.
In spite of the fact that every bone in her body was exhausted, she was strides ahead of Ollie as they exited the limo and headed into the hotel. Bed. She was going to go to her room, munch on chocolate, then collapse into bed. And if her upstairs neighbours decided to talk a bit more about who the daddy was or cry again about how much David was loved, she’d go up there and give them something to really bloody cry about.
Jaxxon abruptly stopped in her tracks as a tingle spread down her spine and the hairs on the back of her neck bristled. Someone was staring. It didn’t feel wrong the way it did when Sean had watched her, but there was something intense about the gaze locked onto her. Like the time at the charity event. Like the time in the restaurant at the Alps. Slowly she turned…and hitched in a breath. There Connor stood about ten feet away from her in a simple get up of a dark blue t-shirt and blue jeans; he was still so gorgeous, masculine and tempting that it hurt. A rush of heat and hunger assailed her as her body leapt to attention.
So long, it had been so long since Connor had last been able to soak up just the mere sight of her. His pulse was racing; not just with the craving he had for her or the anticipation he was feeling at the prospect of touching her, but with just being near her again and breathing the same air as her. He wanted to go to her and touch her, but she was looking pretty cheesed off. In fact, she’d looked like that before she even seen him. Now…it was bad. Her eyes were more feral than he’d ever seen them, but it only made his dick jerk.
As she watched him advance on her, Jaxxon’s heart went into hyper-drive. It was pulsing just as wildly as her clit. Her entire body throbbed and ached for him which just made her want to kill him. She despised herself for the fact that she was happy to see him and tempted to feel his hands on her. Fortunately for her, she had enough anger curdling inside to fuel a decent rejection. She could do this; she could think passed her need for him and her jolt of happiness at seeing him, tell him to sod off and walk away a third time. She had to.