What the hell was the mental bugger doing? “Um, Connor -”
“I wanted to ask you while I was in my favourite place.” He slipped a finger inside her, indicating what he meant. “But I figured that if I did that you’d think I’d only asked you because I got carried away while we were shagging.” He brushed his lips against hers. “I admit I do get carried away when I’m inside you.”
“If this is some sort of gesture -”
“No, no gesture. I’m 100% serious.”
“But you just told me about why you never wanted any of this.”
“I also told you I’ve been a blind prick.” He maneuvered her so she was fitted against him; face to face, chest to chest. “I love you, Jaxx,” – kiss – “and I want to marry you” – kiss – “and I want my kids to grow right here.” He stroked her stomach gently. “And if you say no I’ll put the cuffs back on and keep them on ’til I can get you to change your mind.” He wasn’t kidding.
“I didn’t end this because I wanted you to ask me to marry you. All I wanted was to know that it could happen one day.”
“Good. We’re ahead of schedule then.”
She was so tempted to relax into him and the moment, but she couldn’t quite get her head around his complete change of intentions for the future from permanent bachelor to committed husband and dad. “I don’t want you to force yourself to do this and then end up changing your mind later.”
“If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t ask you, would I?”
“Technically you haven’t asked at all.”
Realising she was right, he smiled. “Marry me, Jaxx.” Not that she really had a choice. He wasn’t living without her, he couldn’t.
“You’re sure this is what you want?”
“Positive. The question is: Is it what you want as well?” As the seconds dragged on and she remained silent he was about ready to panic, but then her lips curled into a cute, little smile that plucked at his heart.
“Yes you dick,” she whispered. Without missing a beat his lips landed on hers and he took her mouth in a soul-wrenching kiss. In record time both their clothes were off and he was inside her again. It had started off slow and sensual but the fact was they just weren’t ‘slow’ people. Before long he was hammering into her at his usual feverish pace that they both revelled in and then she was screaming his name while he was growling hers.
They were still panting and shuddering with the aftershocks when her mobile began ringing. As she was comfy sprawled over Connor with him still inside her she didn’t bother getting it. But then it rang again. And again. Huffing she reached over the bed to where he had dumped her bag and dug out the still chiming phone. It was Ollie. “Hello.”
“Jaxxon, there’s, er, someone here who says you know them and wants to, er, see you.”
“Who?” Her mouth dropped open wide at his answer. She sat up abruptly. “Where?”
“In the reception area, but if you want to do this and you want some privacy we can meet you in my room.”
“Alright. I’ll be five minutes.”
“What is it?” asked Connor the second she finished the call. She didn’t shout her answer until she was in the bathroom. He swore at the news and jumped up. As she’d locked the door, he stood outside it. “Why wasn’t your response ‘f**k off’?”
Little more than twenty seconds later she was back in the bedroom redressing with Connor following her about the room like a lost kitten. “What happened to my shoes?”
“Jaxx, you don’t have to do this,” he said as he quickly threw on his own clothes.
“I don’t want you upset.”
“Who says I’ll be upset?”
“Her pastime was upsetting you.”
“I’ll be fine.” Finding her shoes under the bed, she slipped them on. Now fully dressed – bar her thong which Connor had destroyed – she made her way to the door.
“Babe, you don’t owe her this,” he said as followed her out of the suite toward the elevator. “She left you -”
“So did you,” she said softly and non-judgementally. “And I’ve just said I’ll marry you. If I can do that, then I can give my sister two minutes of my time, can’t I?”
He supposed that was a fair comment. He hated that it was a fair comment. He was still tormenting himself over leaving her. But this was Leah they were talking about; the one who had spent years picking at Jaxx’s self-esteem until she didn’t even see herself as the beautiful person she was, inside or out. What’s more, she was the one who had let Jaxx think for the past eight years that he’d spent their time in foster care shagging Leah, that he’d loved Leah. What he knew now was that even back then he’d loved Jaxx. It still ticked him off knowing that she’d spent all that time they’d been apart angry with him and believing that of him. And it was all Leah’s fault.
He wasn’t exactly surprised that she’d made a reappearance now that Jaxx was a celeb. Nor was he all that surprised that she hadn’t come earlier. She had probably spent the past few months resenting Jaxx and being bitter as hell. Obviously she had now calmed down and was ready to use emotional blackmail or some other technique to get herself money or something. And he absolutely despised the thought of Jaxx being manipulated or used. He just wanted to sweep her up and take her back to his suite. As they reached the door to Ollie’s suite he sighed. “If it was the other way around, she’d tell you to sling your hook. You know that, right?”
“Connor, calm down before you hyperventilate. I’ll be fine, I’m not fourteen anymore.”
He combed his hands into her hair. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“I’m sure. Now move.” It was only seconds after she knocked on the door that Ollie opened up, looking as awkward as he’d sounded on the phone.
“Er, why don’t you go in. Me and McKenzie will wait out here.”
Connor huffed. “Oh no, I’m going in with -”
“No, you’re not.” And with that, Jaxxon swung the door shut. Taking calming, steady breaths, she strolled leisurely through the suite. She found Leah in the small kitchenette, washing out a coffee mug. She looked so different. It shouldn’t have been such a shock considering it had been years but the transformation was pretty dramatic. Her long, straight blonde hair had faded to a mousey shade and was just above shoulder-length. She’d put a little weight on and actually had boobs. Jaxxon never thought she’d ever see Leah look smart, but she did in that black pencil skirt and lavender blouse. Not like a business woman, but like…a housewife. Jaxxon’s flicked a glance at Leah’s left hand and there was both an engagement and wedding ring. Whatever she’d expected, it hadn’t been this.
“Oh my God,” said Leah as she turned. Usually when you saw a celeb up close without the abundance of make-up or camera tricks to hide the blemishes they weren’t as stunning. But Jaxxon was even more-so. She could see the apprehension and hesitation in Jaxxon’s eyes and it broke her heart. Leah knew it was only what she deserved though. “Hi.”
“Alright,” Jaxxon greeted quietly. “How’ve you been?”
“Good, actually. You?”
Jaxxon nodded. “Yeah, great.”
“You look really well.”
“What are doing in Australia?”
“I live here. Me and my husband migrated here a few years ago. I couldn’t believe it when I first saw you in a magazine. My baby sister.”
If there was one thing that Leah had never referred to Jaxxon as before, it was that. ‘My sister’, yeah. But the affectionate ‘my baby sister’, never. “What do you want, Leah?”
A fond smile crept up onto her face. “Still blunt as anything. I think you were born blunt.” She drew in a long breath and exhaled slowly. “I’m not here to ask you for anything, but I don’t blame you for thinking I might be. Actually, I want to show you something.” She dug into her pocket where she’d placed the item she was anxious to show Jaxxon.
Still apprehensive, Jaxxon took what was a photograph from Leah’s outstretched hand and looked at it. Whoa.
“He’s the image of you. He’s got my nose and Alan’s eyes. Alan’s his dad, my husband. But the rest – those chocolate curls, the olive skin…it’s just you.”
She was right. This little toddler looked exactly as Jaxxon did when she was that young.
“His name’s Riley. He’s adorable but he’s going through the terrible twos at the minute so he’s driving me up the wall. You know, he’s got so many of your expressions. He really looks like you when he’s upset. And it makes me think of all the times I put that look on your face.” Tears welled up then. “Jaxxon, I’m here to say sorry.”
Instantly Jaxxon’s head snapped up. This was unexpected to say the least, and she couldn’t help but feel suspicious. Her instincts told her she didn’t need to be, but still she was a little.
“I know you probably couldn’t give a damn. But I am. I was messed up over what mum did. I know that’s no excuse – she was your mum too and you didn’t let it turn you into a bitter cow. But I was nowhere near as strong as you and, I’ll admit, I was jealous of you for that. And for how people seemed to automatically like you. It always amazed and frustrated me that you could have been the most popular girl in school but you didn’t want any of that whereas me…I wanted it so badly. I needed to feel liked, I can’t explain why. I envied you so much and I hated myself so much and…well I was a bitch. You might not believe it, but I hate myself for it, Jaxxon. I really do. Because I did and do love you. Every time I look at my son I think of you and how I treated you…” She trailed off as the tears finally flowed over.
Words failed Jaxxon. First Connor’s appearance followed by the ‘I love you’ and then the proposal. Now this. Hearing her sister had come here had been surprising enough.
“What I said about Connor…Again I was jealous. He never showed any interest in me but you he’d have done anything for. I’m glad that you two got together.” She gestured to the beautiful ring on the hand that was holding the photo. “I take it he gave you that.”
Jaxxon, still utterly speechless, just nodded.
“Congratulations.” And she meant it. “I won’t lie and say I planned to come and see you. It wasn’t until I knew you were in Australia that I really thought about it. I was just so ashamed of myself. I hadn’t even told Alan you were my sister, I didn’t want to have to tell him why we’d lost touch and why I was too scared to try to see you. But then I broke down one day and told him everything. He convinced me to come, said if you were anything like the person I’d made you out to be then you wouldn’t turn me away without letting me talk to you.”
“How long have you been married?”
“Four years now. He’s a kind of handy man – electrician, plummer, computer expert. Geeky, really.” She laughed. “Never thought I’d fall for a geek.”
“No, I didn’t see that coming. But then, I never would have thought I’d have gotten into modelling either. I thought if either one of us was going to be a celeb, it’d be you.”
Smiling, Leah waved away the comment. “I was never going to be famous. I just craved attention so bad. It was pathetic really. I’d never have been secure enough to survive that world – one critical comment and I’m thrown. Not like you.” She braced herself for a snort. “This might sound stupid, but I’m proud of you. It must be weird for you to hear something like that from me – or any kind of compliment.”
“I’m glad everything’s worked out for you. I can’t believe you’re a mum.”
“I panicked when I found out, whining to Alan that I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body. But I’d like to think I’m doing a good job. Not making any of the mistakes our mum made. Keep that photo, I’ve got thousands. I can’t stop taking pictures of the little bugger.” Bracing herself for the rejection she deserved, Leah went to Jaxxon and offered her a slip of paper. “That’s my address and phone number. Just in case you ever feel like getting in touch. I know you’ll probably be too busy to visit but…” She literally sighed in relief when Jaxxon took it. “My e-mail address is on there too, just in case you use e-mail more than phones...”
“I’ll want more pictures of Riley e-mailed to me,” said Jaxxon with a smile.
She laughed – it was dripping with relief. “Like I said, I have thousands, I can send you loads.” She squeezed her sister’s hand tight, hoping this wasn’t the last she ever saw of her. “Take care of yourself, Jaxxon.”
Jaxxon nodded. “You too.” At that, Leah grabbed her handbag and left the suite. Jaxxon just stood there staring at the photo, engrossed by the sight of her nephew who could easily pass as her son.
She turned toward the voice; it was soft, cautious, concerned. As was Connor’s face. He had no need to be. She felt a million times lighter. She hadn’t realised how much her strained relationship with her sister and her lack of answers as to why it had ever been strained had affected her ’til now. That fourteen year old girl in her was as high as a kite; Connor McKenzie loved her and had proposed; Leah did love her and was happy for her. And that was why Jaxxon could do something she’d never been able to do before. She flung himself into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist, like the young girl in her wanted.