Poles apart, p.15
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       Poles Apart, p.15
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           Kirsty Moseley

  When he didn’t bite, I shoved my way past him into the lounge and pulled out my phone. I needed to talk to Rory. As I dialled his number, the recorded voicemail message came on immediately, telling me I was out of credit and that I needed to top up before I could make a call. I shoved my phone back into my bag roughly.

  Why is everything so fucking hard?

  “What’s wrong?” Carson asked quietly.

  I gritted my teeth, pinching the bridge of my nose, wishing he’d just leave me alone and let me have some space for a few minutes so I could calm down. “Out of credit,” I snapped harshly.

  He sighed and dug into his pocket, producing his phone. “Use that. I’ll arrange for a contract phone for you.” He didn’t wait for a response, just tossed it into my lap and turned, stalking out of the room.

  It took me a while to figure out how to use it, but I finally managed to get it to dial Rory’s number. When he answered, he sounded a little hesitant, probably because he wouldn’t recognise the number on his screen.

  Nausea rolled over me. I was actually frightened to tell him because I couldn’t bear the thought of him thinking badly of me, too, or hating me for lying to him. “Hey, Rory. It’s me,” I said, trying not to let the sadness leak into my voice.

  “Oh, hey! I’ve been worried about you. Is everything okay? Did the press guy sort everything?” he asked quickly.

  I gulped. “Not really.” I swiped at the tear that fell down my cheek. “Listen, I gotta tell you some stuff I should have told you a while ago. Please don’t freak out on me because I really need my little brother right now, so please don’t get angry with me. We’re a team, right?”

  “Sure, we’re a team. What’s up?”

  I took a big breath. “You know I told you Sasha’s dad was a guy I dated and that he didn’t want anything to do with me and Sasha once we broke up?”

  “Yeah…”

  Oh, God, this is hard! “Well, that wasn’t true. I lied to you when I said I was dating the guy. Sasha’s dad is actually someone I met at the club. We slept together a few times. I never told him I was pregnant, so he didn’t know about Sash until today when the paper printed it.” I covered my eyes with my hand, waiting for him to shout at me for deceiving him.

  He was quiet for a minute before he spoke. The silence was actually a little painful. “Okay, I get that you lied. But I’m still confused as to why all the reporters are suddenly all over our flat. Why would they even care about you and Sash?”

  “Her dad is Carson Matthews.”

  “Holy shit! No fucking way!”

  My mouth popped open in shock. I’d never heard Rory swear before. “Rory! Watch your language!” I chastised. “And you’d better not be anywhere near Sash speaking like that!”

  “Oops, wait…” He went quiet for a couple of seconds, and I heard a door close. “No, she didn’t hear me,” he admitted sheepishly. “Carson Matthews, though? Seriously?”

  I nodded even though he couldn’t see me. “Yeah.”

  “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming,” he muttered. I swallowed the lump in my throat, grateful to Lucie for not spilling all and telling him what this was about. I needed to explain it to him personally. “He didn’t even know about Sash?”

  “No. I never told him. He found out this morning from the papers. He’s really angry with me because I didn’t tell him about her. We’re trying to work some stuff out right now. He, er…” I frowned down at my lap. “He wants to be a dad to Sasha.”

  “That’s good,” Rory replied.

  “Yeah, kinda good. But he wants something else, too.” I had no idea how I could explain this to Rory. I decided just to put it out there and see how he reacted. “Carson refuses to let her live in our flat, so he’s insisting the three of us move in with him. He wants us to get married.” I winced, waiting for his reaction.

  There was a sharp intake of breath down the line. “Married? Is this even what you want? How the hell is that going to work? You two aren’t even dating, are you?”

  “No, we’ve never dated, but Carson isn’t seeing sense right now. He’s being irrational, and he’s not thinking clearly. He thinks this is a good idea for Sasha to have a parental unit. I don’t get a say, apparently.”

  “Don’t get a say? Of course you get a bloody say! If you don’t want to move in with him and marry him then don’t!” Rory ranted angrily.

  “It’s not that simple,” I countered.

  “Why isn’t it that simple? Tell the twat you don’t want to marry him and that’s that. What can he do? Frogmarch you up the friggin’ aisle and force you to say the words? No, he can’t.” His tone showed his fury.

  I sighed. “Rory, I haven’t got the energy for this right now, all right? I’m just going along with it for now, and I’ll make him see sense before it gets that far. He’s just angry and upset because I didn’t tell him he had a daughter. He’ll calm down, and then we can talk it all through.”

  “You should punch him in the face,” he muttered angrily.

  I smiled weakly. “I haven’t got the energy for that, either,” I admitted. Carson walked in then, setting a sandwich down on the table for me before heading over and pulling out a laptop, sitting on one of the other sofas. I looked at the sandwich. He must have taken over making it where I left off. That was actually quite sweet. I felt myself start to smile at him before I gritted my teeth and looked away. No, I’m not going to forgive him because he made me a damn cheese sandwich!

  As calmly as possible, I explained everything to Rory: how Carson and I met, how we’d go to the backroom together, how he was now demanding we get married, how he would take me to court if I didn’t, and how I’d already packed up a few days’ clothes for the three of us. I deliberately left out the part about Carson’s father leaving when he was a kid; it seemed like too much personal information to share with my brother. I told him about the statement going out in the papers that was going to say we were dating on and off for three years. The whole time I spoke, Carson just sat there, either not listening to me or pretending not to. I made sure to add a few digs in there about how I thought the idea was stupid and how I would rather just live at our place. I could have sworn I saw Carson’s body twitch when I told Rory that two people who didn’t love each other shouldn’t get married, and that we were both going to be miserable in the long run. Carson’s fingers drummed a little bit too hard on the keyboard as I spoke, so obviously he was listening to me.

  Rory hadn’t reacted as badly as I thought he would to the knowledge his big sister sold herself to a client at the club every weekend. In fact, he’d barely even acknowledged I’d said it. I had the distinct impression he didn’t know how to deal with the information so he just chose not to address it at this point. No doubt his feelings on the subject would become apparent sooner or later, though. For now, he just sided with me and vowed to be there for us both regardless. He promised never to tell anyone about the real circumstances of our relationship, and that he’d let me deal with it as requested.

  After I’d told Rory everything, I spoke to Lucie, explaining everything to her. Her reaction wasn’t the doom and gloom or anger of Rory’s; instead, she was actually a little excited about it. “You should just make the most of it, Emma! You’re on easy street now. You’re marrying a millionaire; you’ll want for nothing!” she enthused.

  I frowned. She sounded just like Carson with his ‘I’ll give you everything in the world’ speech. “But I don’t want his bloody money. If I’d wanted his money, I would have demanded it when Sasha was born,” I retorted, hearing the frustration leak into my voice.

  “Well, there’s not much you can do about it now, sweetie. Just suck it up and thank your lucky stars you get to live with the guy you’ve been in love with for the last three years,” she said matter-of-factly.

  I groaned. I should be happy, I really should, but I couldn’t stop my anger about this whole situation. Since I’d moved out three years ago, I had been in total control over my life; I
had the first and last say in everything. Right now, I felt trapped, like I wasn’t in control of my life anymore. I silently wondered if this was what having an arranged marriage felt like.

  “Whatever. Look, I’ll call you tomorrow and tell you what time I’ll come for Sash and Rory, okay? You sure you’re okay having them for the night?” I asked.

  She laughed. “Of course I am! We’re all good, so stop stressing. You know what you should do?”

  “What should I do?” I asked, running a hand through my hair.

  “Go drag that fiancé of yours up to the bedroom and ravage his body. Everything looks better post-orgasm,” she said, laughing to herself.

  I snorted incredulously. “I don’t want him anywhere near me again after what he said to me, so sex is off the cards, but thanks for the suggestion.”

  From the corner of my eye, I saw Carson’s face crumble a little when I mentioned what he’d said. I knew he was probably sorry, but I couldn’t let go of the hurt I felt inside. Carson really did think of me as a prostitute, and I would never be able to forget that.

  “Shame. It might make you smile again,” Lucie replied.

  “I gotta go. Can you do me a favour and call Jason? I’m supposed to be working tonight. Can you tell him I won’t be coming in because I need to get stuff sorted here?”

  “Sure thing.”

  “Thanks. I’ll call you tomorrow. Any problems with Sash and Rory then call me, okay?” I said, wishing I could just get a hug from my best friend or my brother. I disconnected the call and pushed Carson’s phone onto the glass coffee table, already noting that particular piece of furniture would have to go before Sasha could be let loose in here. Carson probably had no idea how one little almost-two-year-old could affect his life. It was going to be amusing watching his life change so rapidly.

  “I’m ordering you a new contract phone. You have any preference which you get?” Carson asked, obviously choosing to pretend like he hadn’t just listened to my whole conversation about him.

  “I don’t need a new phone, just credit.”

  “iPhone. Blackberry. Galaxy. What do you want?” he continued, ignoring my comment.

  A tear escaped even though I was trying my hardest to keep them at bay. “I just want to go home, Carson,” I whispered.

  “You are home,” he replied immediately. “I’ll just get you an iPhone if you’re not gonna choose.”

  For the next half an hour, we ignored each other while we ate and he tapped away on his laptop, ordering goodness knows what. When the ring of his phone cut through the deafening silence of the room, I watched as he looked down at the screen with wide eyes before answering it.

  “Hi, Mum.”

  Mum. My back stiffened. I hadn’t even had time to consider how his family were going to be feeling about the news.

  “You’re what? No, it’s not a good time right now. Can’t you just leave it until next week? I’ll call you tomorrow or something.” A frown lined his forehead. “Mum, but…” He groaned and shook his head, tossing the phone onto the seat next to him before looking up at me with tight eyes. “My mum’s on her way over. I didn’t get a chance to explain it to her; she’s just flicked on the TV and seen us all over entertainment news. She’ll be here in ten minutes.”

  DREAD SETTLED IN THE PIT OF MY STOMACH at the ominous sound of the doorbell. I looked to Carson for reassurance, which unfortunately didn’t come because he looked just as nervous as I felt. For the last ten minutes, scenarios of how this meeting was going to go were running through my brain. In reality, I actually had no idea how his mother was going to react to me at all.

  Carson set his laptop on the coffee table and stood. “Come on; let’s get the awkward first meeting out of the way.”

  My mouth was dry when I tried to swallow. “Okay,” I croaked, standing as well and following him into the hallway, deliberately hanging back and barely stepping out the lounge door.

  Through the patterned, frosted-glass panel down the side of the door, I could see two figures standing there. As Carson opened the door, I held my breath and nervously wrung my hands.

  Carson’s mother looked the total opposite to what I thought she would. Carson was incredibly handsome - your typical heartthrob with his chiselled good looks and striking blue eyes - but his mother was plain in comparison to what I had envisioned. I had always figured she would look like a tall, leggy goddess, so I was a little shocked to see a shorter, dumpy brunette lady. She was dressed impeccably in a pencil skirt, high heels and white shirt combo. Behind her stood a girl about my age. Judging by the flawless complexion and light-brown hair, I immediately guessed this was one of Carson’s little sisters. To my horror, it was then that I realised I didn’t even know their names.

  His mother barely stepped foot into the house before the inquisition started. “Carson, what’s all this nonsense I’m seeing about you and a lap dancer this morning?”

  I cringed, wishing the polished white marble floor would open up and swallow me.

  “It’s not nonsense,” Carson answered, closing the door behind them. “I met Emma three years ago in the club she works at. We… hit it off immediately.” He raised one eyebrow as he obviously left her to draw her own conclusions about what ‘hit it off’ meant.

  “Hit it off? With a lap dancer? Carson Matthews, have I really brought you up to be this person? Someone who has sex with girls like that?”

  ‘Girls like that.’ Ouch. That stings. I stepped back into the doorway, half-hiding as my eyes filled with shameful tears.

  Carson’s forehead creased with a frown as his shoulders pulled back. “You brought me up to see the good in everyone, yes,” he rebutted.

  She made a distasteful sound in her throat and shook her head. “All you can ever see in a girl like that is what you can use her for.”

  Carson’s sister’s gaze flicked to me and her lips parted as her eyes widened. Carson’s mother was clearly too busy glaring at her son to see me cowering in the doorway like a wounded puppy. I winced, squirming on my feet.

  “It’s not like that,” Carson stated. “Emma’s nice, you’ll like her.” Seeing Carson stand up to his mother on my behalf made me feel a little flicker of love inside. No matter what he thought of me and what he’d said to me earlier in my bedroom, he was standing there facing her and telling her he saw the good inside me. Even though he’d hurt me so damn much today, I couldn’t help but feel proud he was willing to stand up to his mother for me.

  “Like her? You’re not seriously going to continue with this sordid little affair, are you? You need to think about your career and your sponsors. Have you even thought about the damage an association like this can do? You’ll lose all sorts of advertising campaigns after this. People don’t like to have their companies associated with scandal,” she retorted angrily. “And what’s all this bull poop about her having a child? For goodness’ sake, they’ve even linked you to it! Have you spoken to Mason? What’s he doing about all of this? They’ll obviously have to print a retraction and apology. It’s ridiculous.”

  They still hadn’t moved far from the front door. His sister was just watching with wide eyes like I was. “Actually, it’s not ridiculous,” Carson answered. “Emma does have a child, a little girl called Sasha. She’s mine.” His voice was firm and confident as he spoke.

  His mother’s mouth popped open in shock as she recoiled. “Yours? Don’t be obtuse!”

  Carson sighed and raked a hand through his hair. “She’s mine, Mum. Emma got pregnant not long after we met. I only found out about it today, too. I haven’t even met her yet.”

  His mother’s eyes closed as she massaged her temples in a small, circular motion. “But how can she be? Did you not use protection? Even with someone like that? Carson, for goodness’ sake, she could have given you anything! Goodness knows what she’s contracted through sleeping with other men or sharing needles!” Her eyes popped open. “Please, tell me she’s not a drug addict.”

  “What the hell? No! S
he doesn’t do drugs. Jesus. Judgemental much?” Carson snapped angrily. “It isn’t like that. Emma isn’t like that at all!”

  “Well, she’s a lap dancer!”

  “Yeah, and she’s also in her second year at university studying to become a social worker!” Carson rebutted.

  “This has to be a dream. This can’t be real,” his mother muttered, shaking her head.

  Behind her, Carson’s sister stepped forward. “I’m going to go sit in the other room while you two shout this out,” she stated, walking toward me and catching my elbow, pulling me into the lounge with her. Carson and his mother didn’t even acknowledge her leaving as they glared at each other. “Hi. I’m Kimberly, Carson’s sister,” she said once we were safely away from the family feud happening in the hallway.

  “Emma,” I croaked.

  She nodded. “I know who you are. Carson’s told me about you before. He said you were really pretty and sweet-looking.” She smiled kindly. “Please excuse my mother’s behaviour. She gets extremely protective over her family. She’ll calm down soon and see sense. She just goes off on a tangent and storms in without thinking everything through.”

  I nodded weakly. That was exactly what I’d thought earlier about Carson, too. Clearly he’d inherited a lot from his mother – just not her looks.

  “He’s told you about me?” I asked, watching the door to make sure they weren’t going to follow us in here.

  She threw herself down onto the sofa and pulled out a packet of chewing gum. “Yep. He said you two were friends.”

  “With benefits,” I added, biting on my nails nervously.

  She chuckled. “Yeah, with benefits.”

  Raised voices in the hall made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. “And by working things out you mean that greedy little witch is putting in her claim for as much as she can! She’ll bleed you dry. Just watch, she’ll lay claim to everything you own.
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