She was going to kill him. Jaxxon was going to kill him. Maybe one day she would be able to understand why her husband liked to ignore her, but that definitely wasn’t today. She stormed through the kitchen of their house and out the back door. Then she trekked through the grassy land toward where Connor was darting round crazily on his mini racing track on a quad. Wisely he slowed his speed when he saw her nearing and then parked the quad, but she could see his body shaking with a muted laugh.
“Something funny?” she asked through her teeth, hating the fact that even while she was planning how to murder him and hide the body she couldn’t help admiring and desperately wanting said body.
Seeing that frustration was practically steaming from the woman he loved, making her look as provocative as ever, Connor decided it might be in his best interests to remain sitting on the quad for just a minute. “Now Jaxx, babe -”
“Oh no do not think that will work with me. Not only are you supposed to be helping me get everything ready, but I’ve asked you time and time again not to put her on that thing if you’re going to go all kamikaze!”
“But Mummy,” whined three and a half year old Isabel who was sat snug between her daddy’s legs. “I’ve got on my helmet and daddy wasn’t going that fast.”
“Not going that fast,” echoed Jaxxon in a quiet voice filled with disbelief.
“Maybe we were going a bit fast,” admitted Connor sheepishly, “but do you honestly think I’d drive at a speed like that if didn’t think I could control it?” He knew that wasn’t the point, and her facial expression said just that. But the fact was their daughter loved a good adrenalin rush and had absolutely no fear; something which concerned Jaxx but made him proud as all hell. “I remember when it was you I used to drive around, and we went a lot faster than that.”
“Oh yes I remember your misspent youth and how petrified I was that you’d crash.”
“It’s alright Mummy I’m fine, you don’t have to shout at Daddy.”
Jaxxon shot her a sweet smile. “I’m not shouting at him, angel, I’m just helping him hear.”
Knowing there was only one thing Isabel loved more than that quad, Jaxxon asked, “Aren’t you coming to give Ferrari his dinner? I can do it if you want.” The little girl practically leaped off the quad. Jaxxon had tried to get Isabel to name the puppy something normal, but as she was as obsessed with cars as Connor, there was no changing her mind. She skipped ahead of Jaxxon and Connor toward the house, her dark curls bobbing all over the place.
Connor wrapped his arm around Jaxx’s shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Yes, I’m sucking up to you because I don’t like being in your bad books.” He trailed seductive kisses along the curve of her neck. “I like it better when you do the sucking though.”
She laughed. “You say that with such desperation as if I didn’t do that just last night.”
“It was torture when I smelled that coffee this morning. It just reminded me of last night. I love it when you suck me off while you’re having a hot drink. Maybe once Izzy’s in bed I can make you another coffee.”
“I liked it better when I cuffed you to the bedframe.” She began shaking with giggles.
“That wasn’t funny. How would you like waking up to find you can’t move?”
“Just a little payback.” She’d teased him for a full half hour from head to toe before making him come. “You should be thankful I didn’t spank you as well.”
“One day you’ll admit you like that.” No sooner had they stepped inside than the doorbell rang. He swatted Jaxx’s arse. “You get that, I’ll help Izzy with the dog food.”
Jaxxon opened the door to find a very pregnant Anna and a flustered Warren on her doorstep. Clearly they’d had a tumble just before leaving their apartment. “Hi, get your arses inside, you’re the first ones here. Anna, sit down. Warren, make yourself useful and help Connor set the barbeque up.”
Warren saluted her. “Yes ma’am.”
“He hasn’t done it yet?” asked Anna.
“The race track was more interesting,” grumbled Jaxxon.
Anna smiled at the stunning little girl who was emptying dog food into two bowls. One for Bronty, one for Ferrari. “Hello Iz, are you helping your mummy like a big girl?” She responded with a solemn nod. Although she looked uncannily like Jaxxon, she had her dad’s serious expressions. She also had Jaxxon’s entrancing eyes which meant that she could wrap just about everybody around her little finger, especially Connor. He worshipped the ground the child walked on, just as he did Jaxxon.
Next to arrive was Dane, Niki, their six month old baby boy Lewis, and Little Dane who told Jaxxon that he didn’t want to be called ‘Little Dane’ anymore because he was ‘five and three quarters’. As usual, he followed Isabel around like she was a guiding light. As usual, Isabel didn’t seem to notice. Ten minutes or so later Ollie and Louisa, who had been seeing each other for the past five months, arrived. Then shortly after that were Richie, Tony, Lily and Ant. They all made a humungous fuss of Isabel.
“You know,” began Ollie to Jaxxon who was in the kitchen getting the salads and pastas ready, “most kids would lap up that kind of attention, but your Izzy always shrugs it off. I wonder who she gets that from.”
“I can’t imagine.”
“I asked her what she wants for her birthday this year. You should probably know she wants a baby brother.”
Jaxxon nearly choked on the slice of cucumber she was munching. “Well that’s a big progression. Last time I asked her she said a goldfish.”
“When did you get the puppy?”
“When she reached exactly three and a half. You know what Connor’s like. Any excuse to buy her something.”
Ollie never thought when they first met that he would ever be of the opinion that Connor was good enough for Jaxxon. But the bloke had proved himself again and again and he had even won over Richie and Tony. The world followed their relationship even more closely than before, and the rate of celebrity Elvis weddings rocketed after Jaxxon and Connor married in Vegas. The only complaint Ollie had was that the pair still threw too much sexual tension around. They were even doing it right now with their heated gazes while they stood at the barbeque grill.
Dane inhaled the dreamy smell of the burgers and kebabs and sausages and steaks as they sizzled on the barbeque rack. “I’m famished. So famished that Ferrari’s dinner is starting to look real nice.”
“Blame Connor about the delay,” said Jaxxon.
He looked at Connor. “Does that mean you were too busy playing on your track with Izzy? I still can’t get Dane anywhere near a bike or quad. He’s not into cars either. He likes golf, DVDs and chocolate; that’s the extent of his world.”
Jaxxon smiled. “He’s got very good taste in food.” What she wouldn’t give for some chocolates right now. “And girls.” She gestured toward Little Dane who was chasing Isabel round the garden while Ferrari and Bronty yapped playfully at their heels.
“Just like her mother,” sighed Connor. “Always got males chasing her.” He received a scowl from Jaxx for that.
“She’s going to break hearts when she’s older,” said Dane. The kid really was a little stunner, which was hardly surprising considering her gene pool. He couldn’t help smiling as he turned to see Connor curling his arms around Jaxxon’s front and kissing her nape. Dane was feeling very chuffed with himself; he’d played an extremely big part in his mate having all he had now. God, he’d even helped organize the wedding well before Connor even knew he was going to propose. Their Vegas wedding had to have been the most hilarious experience of Dane’s life. Nothing normal about it, not even for Vegas. And now Connor was no longer stood all alone when they were at a party. Looking at him now, no one would have thought he was a bloke who hadn’t wanted marriage or kids; he was in his element, more settled than Dane had ever seen him. The only time there had ever been any anxiety was when they were told Sean Beckett was coming out of prison, but then he violated his parole conditions by coming near Jaxxon and was now back in prison again, where he belonged.
“Only three more people left to come,” said Jaxxon.
“I don’t even know why you invited them,” grumbled Connor.
“Don’t be a D-I-C-K,” she said with a smile. “And try not to snarl this time.”
“I didn’t snarl last time.”
“Yes you did. Just like you did at our wedding, and Izzy’s Christening, and Izzy’s first birthday party, and Izzy’s second birthday party and -”
“Alright, I’ll try not to snarl.”
Dane chuckled. “I wouldn’t get your hopes up if I were you, Jaxx.”
Connor looked at him, brows raised. “You’ll have to remind me when it was that I said you could call her Jaxx.”
“Oh for God’s sake, Connor,” she groaned.
He twirled her around, pulled her tight against him and spoke against her lips, “You’re my Jaxx, no one else’s.” It was definitely a mistake aligning her body to his but he doubted it was a mistake he’d learn from.
“Why not just pee in a circle right around me.”
“I might have to, actually, just to stop Ferrari from doing it anymore.” At the sound of the doorbell and the puppy barking – Bronty still didn’t bother with barking – Connor had to swallow back a sigh. “Go on, go let them in.”
The second she opened the front door Riley dashed in and hugged her legs. “Aunty Jaxxon!”
She scooped him up and kissed his cheek. “You’re getting so big.”
“I know, I’m the biggest boy ever,” he added as he spread out his arms.
“Hi,” Jaxxon said to Leah and her husband Alan – who was very geeky – as she gestured for them to follow her inside. “How was the flight?” And then she heard a squeal. “Oh bugger, what’s she done?” Jaxxon raced to the garden to find Isabel laughing hysterically on the ground.
“She tried to ride Bronty again,” said Connor with a sigh. The dog had bucked all over the place like a rodeo bull, just as Isabel had known he would. He held his daughter up high above his head and tickled her sides, wrenching delighted squeals of laughter from her. “You. Have. To. Stop. Giving. Me. Heart. Attacks.”
“So she’s still got no fear then,” giggled Leah.
“None,” confirmed Jaxxon.
Leah nodded at Connor. “Alright Connor.” He simply nodded back and gave a similar greeting to Alan. Jaxxon rolled her eyes while Leah hid a smile at his attempt at civility. She doubted he’d ever forgive her for the fact that Jaxxon had spent eight years of her life despising him, and Leah could understand that. That was why although Jaxxon’s home – and what a gorgeous home it was; spacious but modest and cozy – had room for them to stay, Leah, Alan and Riley always stayed in a hotel when they came to London. She didn’t think it would be fair to make Connor feel uncomfortable in his own home. She preferred that Connor was so protective of her sister; that was the way it should be. Looking at them both now, cuddling – though it was obvious that Connor was making lewd suggestions down Jaxxon’s ear – she didn’t think she’d seen a couple so well-suited.
After giving Isabel a big cuddle and kiss, Leah approached Jaxxon and handed her a little gift wrapped box. “I know you didn’t want us to bring you anything, but there was no way I couldn’t get my baby sister a present.”
“I told you not to,” groaned Jaxxon.
“Actually,” said Anna, “we did too. I stashed it in the living room.”
“So did we,” admitted Dane.
Ollie, Louisa, Richie, Tony, Lily and Ant all nodded guiltily.
Jaxxon gawped and shook her head. “I said the only way I was having a birthday party was if it was nothing big and fancy, if there were only a few people, and if there were no gifts.”
Connor had to smile at the look on her face. She’d always felt awkward accepting presents from anyone. She was great at giving them, just not receiving them; it made her feel uncomfortable. He was just relieved that she was actually celebrating her birthday properly again. Although he’d been able to get her to privately celebrate her birthday over the past few years she hadn’t had an actual party before now and if she had thought about Matthew at all today, she’d never once shown it.
“We don’t have you a secret birthday present upstairs hiding under my bed wrapped in silver paper, Mummy,” declared Isabel, shaking her head.
Connor groaned at the little girl balanced on his arm.
“We don’t have an even bigger secret one hidden under yours and Daddy’s bed either.”
“Alright, Iz, you can stop now before that big vein in Mummy’s head bursts.”
“And we didn’t buy you a big, massive secret cake either.”
As Connor watched Jaxx’s face slowly become a disturbing shade of purple, he didn’t know whether to laugh or wince.
“And it’s not a secret chocolate cake, Mummy, I promise.”
Jaxxon raised a brow. “Chocolate?”
He nodded. “But if you don’t want the chocolate cake -”
“Let’s not be unreasonable,” said Jaxxon, “you’ve obviously gone to a lot of trouble getting me a cake so I don’t see why -” His tight, one-armed hug and firm kiss cut her off.