“I suppose we should be getting to bed, too. We both have work in the morning,” I said.

It was as strong a hint as I could give, but Jinx either didn’t get it or was ignoring it. I knew he wasn’t dumb, so I figured it was the second one. Instead of leaving, he sat down on the nearby comfortable chair. I both hoped and dreaded that he might try to sit with me on the couch, but he seemed to be trying to keep things friendly between us. I had made it pretty clear that I wasn’t interested in getting back together. Doing everything short of blasting Taylor Swift at him. Something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, let alone the man I once loved.

I still loved Jinx even if I wasn’t willing to admit it. He had been so tender and responsible with Billy over the last couple of weeks. My ex could have just been trying to get into my good graces, but it didn’t feel that way. I could see he could be a great dad given the chance. Something that made me want him even more. Having my former lover treat me with a friendly distance was really painful, despite the fact that it was pretty much what I asked him to do.

Despite the hints to leave, I really didn’t want Carl to go. I wanted him to stay and take me right there on the couch. That was the part that scared me the most. I guess I didn’t really know what I wanted, but in my heart, I knew what was going on. The pain from what had happened before and the fear of getting hurt again was holding me back from really going after the man I loved.

I had to change the subject in my mind to something less risky. “What kind of involvement do you want in Billy’s life? I assume you want more now than we have been doing with our family dates.”

Jinx nodded. “Honestly yes, though that’s not to say it hasn’t been fun. It’s given me something to look forward to other than work.”

“Oh, well, that’s good.”

He leaned towards me. “Yeah, I’ve really liked it, though if I’m honest — which I’m really trying to be, as much as possible — I would like a lot more than a few hours here and there. I want full time.”

“Oh,” I said, trying to sound calm, though I was hit by a pang of cold fear, afraid that he might sue for custody.

I unwillingly flashed back to how Conrad, Jinx’s father, had treated me when he first found out I was pregnant with his grandson. Carl was still around then, in body at least, his mind was somewhere else entirely. Billy’s grandfather was pretty insistent on how my son should be raised, citing how well Carl had turned out as proof of his method. Except that it was being around him that had lead to Carl going off the rails and any goodness there was in my ex had come from direct rebellion against his father’s example. Something Conrad didn’t seem to fathom, sure he was the god-king of the city, if not the world.

I tried to go along with it, continuing to work as a Blackjack dealer as long as I could. Though when it came closer to the time for Billy to be born, I had what could be called a moment of clarity and left it all behind. I was in a shelter for a while but then I remembered that Aria also lived in Vegas and decided to give her a call. She really did save me from a fate worse than death.

I remembered what I said to Carl about how I wouldn’t have run away. What bullshit. Running way was something we both had in common, and honestly, if he hadn’t gone into rehab, I would have left him eventually. His leaving and me running from Conrad were two the best decisions we had made.

Even knowing that I still couldn’t quite forgive him. Not for leaving but for not contacting me after he got back. I understood him going to rehab. Jinx really did need help at the time. I could even accept him not telling me he was leaving. It must have been a spur of the moment thing. But he could have called me when he was out, let me know he was okay, maybe even ask how I was. That was the part that still really hurt. Yet, despite that, I still loved him, even if I couldn’t completely trust him.

“Don’t worry,” Carl said, bringing me back to reality, “I’m not planning to sue for custody or anything. I hate all that shit. You know how I feel about the government in general.”


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