Poles apart, p.19
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       Poles Apart, p.19
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           Kirsty Moseley

  His breath seemed to leave his body in one large gust as his eyes glazed over. His eyebrows knitted together as a smile slowly spread across his face, his devotion and happiness clear. “Hi, Sasha,” he croaked, seeming to be struggling to breathe.

  “You gots a boo boo,” Sasha informed him, pointing at his bloody nose.

  Carson sniffed and nodded, putting his hand to his face. “Yeah, I ran into something stupid,” he answered. I chuckled at that as Rory made a small scoffing noise in his throat. Carson grinned, putting the tea towel to his face and attempting to wipe the blood away but just succeeding in smearing it around so it looked even worse. His eyes were filled with tears as he looked over at me before looking back to Sasha again.

  A little hand closed over my chin and forced my face toward Carson. “Mummy kiss boo boo,” Sasha proclaimed rather proudly.

  I chuckled awkwardly and took her hand. “I’m sure he’s fine.”

  Carson laughed and let his eyes wander over her again. “She’s so beautiful,” he whispered. I nodded proudly, planting another kiss on Sasha’s cheek. “She’s amazing, I…” He shook his head, still clearly awestruck.

  I smiled and set Sasha down on her feet, watching as she ran back to the living room, shouting about dominoes again. Lucie stepped forward. “Why don’t you help Carson clean up his face while Rory and I pack up their overnight bags?” she suggested.

  Rory answered before I could speak. “We’re not packing. We’re not going with him. All three of us are either staying here or going home.” He turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder, bending to look me in the eyes because he was so much taller than me now. “You don’t have to do this. Screw him. Let him try and take Sasha away. He won’t win; a court won’t side with a prick that’s not been in her life for two years. You’re her mother.”

  My mouth was dry. Rory didn’t know the full story. If it went to court then of course I would lose. I worked in a lap dancing club, I danced on stage in barely any clothes, I let men push five pound notes into my thong, I took one of them in particular to the backroom for sex. They wouldn’t view me the way Rory did.

  I gulped and looked at Lucie for help. She smiled sadly back at me. Carson was watching me, waiting for my reaction and I knew what I needed to do. I couldn’t take the risk of losing Sasha. I couldn’t afford to go to court at all; I wouldn’t even have the money to consult to a lawyer about it.

  “I have to do this, Rory. Please, don’t make it any harder, all right? Just… just go with this for now.”

  Rory shook his head adamantly. “I figured a way out of it. Kiss and tell,” he stated proudly. “They’ll pay you for a story, then you’ll have money to fight him in court.”

  Carson’s body jerked behind him. “The fuck? No! What are you smoking, kid? Whatever it is, it’s messing up your brain. Kiss and tell? She’ll make herself look like a slut!” he ranted.

  I groaned and gripped my hands into my hair as Rory rounded on Carson again. “She’s not a slut!” he growled.

  “I never said she was,” Carson spat back, stepping closer to him so their chests were practically touching. They stood the same height so they met toe to toe, eye to eye. “She’ll make herself look like one if she does what you’re suggesting. What’s wrong with you two? Why can’t you see this is a good thing? The three of you will want for nothing, yet you’re both acting like I’m forcing you to drink acid!”

  Rory shoved on Carson’s chest, pushing him back a step as he sneered at him. Anger was building inside me while they carried on arguing about me and what was best for me. Plus, they were both swearing in earshot of my daughter.

  “You two need to stop this fighting and swearing, right now! If Sasha comes out here and sees this then I’m gonna go seven shades of crazy on your arses,” I growled. I gripped Rory’s arm and pulled with all my might, forcing him to step back. “Go pack up whatever you need to. We’re going along with this for now, and that’s final!” I motioned up the hallway with my chin, keeping my eyes locked on his so he knew I was serious. If he shot his mouth off to the reporters and I ended up losing my daughter because of this, I’d never forgive him. “Go pack. Seriously, I don’t have the energy for all this. Just do as I ask. I don’t ask much from you, do I? Just do this for me.”

  He sighed and his shoulders loosened as he bent forward, planting a little kiss on the side of my head. “Fine. But I’m never going to like the prick,” he grumbled, pulling away from me and stomping off up the hallway.

  “And this swearing stops immediately,” I called after him, watching as he waved his hand over his shoulder in acknowledgement.

  Lucie cleared her throat. “I’ll go pack up Sasha’s things, too.” She stalked off quickly, leaving me and Carson alone in the hallway.

  I gulped, not knowing what to say. “Sorry about that,” I muttered, wincing as I looked at his blood-stained face and shirt.

  He shrugged easily, his eyes sparkling with mirth. “It’s fine. He doesn’t hit too hard, so it’s all good.”

  I fought a smile and nodded toward the kitchen. “We should probably get that cleaned up before Sasha thinks that’s just your normal face.” I turned and walked up the hallway, heading to the kitchen and picking up the kitchen roll from the side, running the tap and filling a bowl with warm water. “Sit there,” I instructed, motioning toward the kitchen table. Carson sat obediently and looked up at me.

  As I stepped between his legs and wet some of the kitchen roll, his eyes met mine. The beautiful colour of them startled me, as it did every time I looked into his eyes like this. His eyes were my favourite thing about him. They made my stomach flutter and my palms sweaty. His eyes were so much like the Carson I used to know, the one who would never threaten me or make these demands of me. My heart actually hurt, and I longed to turn back the time so he could always be the person I thought he was, instead of this person who felt like he was ripping my heart out.

  For a few agonising seconds, I couldn’t look away from him. My whole being longed to move closer, to settle myself on his lap and have his arms wrap around me. I wanted that closeness and intimacy which we only ever had after sex when we both caught our breaths. I wanted to press my lips against his and have his hands tangle into my hair. But I knew that intimate relationship we had was long gone.

  “This might hurt a little,” I mumbled, wiping the damp paper towel over his face, clearing the blood away.

  “Sasha’s beautiful.” My hand faltered, and my lungs constricted at the emotion and feeling that went into those two words. “I can’t believe I missed it all. She can talk and everything. You should have told me about her. This wasn’t fair. I’ll never be able to get that time back, Emma.” His forehead creased with a frown as his jaw tightened, so I knew he was angry with me again.

  I frowned as well and continued to wipe his face. He was probably right to be angry. Me keeping this secret, although what I thought was best for him at the time, had actually taken his beautiful little girl away from him for the last two years. He’d missed out on things I hadn’t even thought he would be interested in.

  “I don’t want to argue with you anymore, Carson.”

  He blew out a big breath and looked away from me. “Me either.” Suddenly, he sat forward, almost making me stick the wet tissue up his nose. A groan escaped his lips as he reached for the newspaper sitting on Lucie’s table, pulling it to him before reading it aloud. ‘Poles Apart’ – the headline jumped out at me before I saw the photo of me and Carson leaving my flat yesterday. “He’s in pole position, she’s a pole dancer. The two of them are poles apart.” He made a scoffing noise in the back of his throat before he continued to read.

  “Carson Matthews, MotoGP race driver and British heartthrob, is finally off the market. Petite blonde, Emma Bancroft, works at the lap dancing club Matthews frequents when he’s in England. Emma, now nineteen, fell pregnant with the star’s daughter when she was just sixteen, but the couple have been hiding it until now. The Peoples’ Post
suggested yesterday that the pair had an illicit relationship and Carson paid for Emma’s services in the backroom of Angels Gentlemen’s Club where she works part-time as a dancer and waitress. However, The Peoples’ Post and Rodger Harris have printed a retraction this morning, apologising because they had made assumptions without facts. Carson’s press team confirmed the couple have a rocky, on-off courtship and have been in and out of a relationship for the last three years. After the story broke yesterday, they appeared to be working things through as they left Emma’s flat and then holed up at Carson’s London home for the night. The statement from the Matthews camp also quashed rumours that Carson had no knowledge of his daughter until the story broke in the tabloids yesterday morning. The full statement can be seen on page five. The story continues to unfold, but young girls everywhere will be devastated that Carson now appears to be spoken for. If the social media site Twitter is anything to go by, the public reaction to Carson being engaged to a lap dancer hasn’t gone down too well and has left a bitter taste in his female following’s mouths.”

  He looked up at me then before shaking his head and pushing the paper away. “Pile of crap.”

  My body was kind of numb. Other than the newspaper Carson had shoved into my chest yesterday, I hadn’t seen anything else that had been printed about us. Seeing it sitting there so casually on my best friend’s dining table kind of brought it home to me a little more. Tears filled my eyes as I angrily tossed the wet tissue into the bin. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. Anger, shame and embarrassment swirled around in my stomach, making me feel a little nauseous. Everyone would now know what I did for a living: my university lecturers, my friends in my classes… my parents. The last thought actually hurt. It would just confirm everything they thought they knew about me. I was a dirty little tramp that brought shame on their family.

  When arms slid around my waist and a hard chest pressed against my back, I jumped, startled by the sudden affection. I had no idea why he was doing it, or trying to comfort me after I’d lied to him all these years, but I welcomed the support. My eyes fluttered closed as I pressed back against Carson, letting his warmth surround and cloak me in an invisible layer of protection.

  “Everything will be fine,” he whispered. His breath blew down my neck as his arms tightened on me, crushing me against him. “You’ll get used to this stuff. Just let it roll off you. Ignore it. Just get on with your life and don’t look back. We’ll make it.”

  ‘We’ll make it’. The way I wanted that phrase to be intended – that we’d make it as a couple – wasn’t how it was intended at all. I wanted it to mean we’d get through it together, that he would be part of the team Rory and I had formed over the last couple of years. But he didn’t mean it that way at all. All that was meant by those three words were we’d get past this and people would forget about it soon enough and move on to the next freshly-broken story.

  I gulped and swallowed my sadness. “I’m not so sure,” I muttered, shaking my head and pushing myself from his arms. I had never been a person to wallow, so I needed to shake myself, dust myself off and carry on. Hopefully, in time, everything would get easier and this overwhelming sadness would stop creeping up on me unexpectedly.

  TO SAY THE CAR RIDE with Rory and Carson had been awkward would be the understatement of my life. The air was practically crackling with waves of hatred coming from my little brother. Before we’d left Lucie’s flat, I’d taken him aside and we’d had a long chat about how he needed to act, how he needed to go along with it for me so I could continue to work on Carson in my own terms and make him see this was not a good idea. I had every faith that my constant whining, Gloria’s input, and the media attention would eventually wear him down and he would stop this ridiculous façade.

  The media had again been waiting outside Lucie’s flat for us to come out. As I’d carried my daughter from the building, Carson’s arm was securely around my waist as he repeated his earlier words about them not being able to print a picture of Sasha or Rory because of the blanket order. Thankfully, as they were shouting their questions at us, Rory had kept his promise and kept his lips sealed.

  Carson had been quiet the whole trip and kept sneaking glances at Sasha using his mirror. A little smile had twitched at the corner of his mouth the entire time. By the time we turned onto Carson’s road, my head was aching from stress. The drive to his place had seemed to take forever as Rory sat there in the back, grumbling about not being able to walk to school or pop around to his friend’s now that we lived in a different part of London.

  “Jesus, how much money do you actually have?” Rory muttered as we pulled into the driveway of Carson’s impressive house.

  I rolled my eyes and, once in the garage, pushed myself out of the monster-like truck, jumping down because the seats were so high. As I pulled Sasha’s door open, Carson had already run around the car and was standing close behind me, watching our every move as I plucked her from her car seat.

  “Need a hand?” he offered.

  I shook my head. “I’ve been managing perfectly fine for the last two years, thank you.” I didn’t mean it to sound as nasty as it came out; after all, it wasn’t his fault he wasn’t around and I’d been on my own.

  Rory tossed a holdall bag full of clothes in Carson’s direction. “Here, you can help me instead.”

  Carson’s jaw tightened, but he didn’t say anything in return as he waved his hand toward the interior door of the garage. I headed in that direction, watching as he typed in a passcode to get the door to open.

  “You looking forward to seeing your new bedroom, Sasha?” Carson asked, smiling down at her.

  She didn’t answer, just turned her face into my neck. Sasha had been quiet for the last hour. She always could be a little shy around strangers. Like me, it took her a little time to fully trust someone, but once she did trust, she let them see every part of her. Carson just needed to keep working on her and she’d let him be part of her inner circle. He looked extremely disheartened by her not answering him, but he covered it with a sad smile.

  “All right, Sash?” I whispered, kissing the side of her head. She nodded, gripping her hands into my hair and twisting it around her fist absentmindedly as she kept one eye on Carson. “Daddy bought you a beautiful new chair made out of teddy bears, want to go see?” I asked, trying to help him out a little because the sad look on Carson’s face actually hurt me, too. She nodded against my neck, so I smiled over at Carson. “Maybe Daddy will show us the way?” I offered.

  Carson’s tense shoulders seemed to loosen as I included him. He smiled gratefully at me and placed his hand on the small of my back as we walked up the stairs to the house. “I can definitely do that,” he said quietly.

  Rory made a strangled choking sound as he stepped into the hallway behind us. “Damn. Big,” he muttered, looking around with wide eyes.

  Carson smiled over at him. “Go look around. My house is your house,” he stated, waving his hand in invitation. “TV room is in there. Your bedroom is on the first floor, first door on the right.”

  Rory nodded, dropping his bag carelessly as he walked in the direction of the TV room. “You know, Emma, maybe this might work out after all. Live with him for a couple of years, then divorce his arse and take half of everything,” he suggested, his voice serious, as if I should actually consider it.

  I frowned at my brother for the mere suggestion. “I’m sure there will be a strict pre-nup agreement. Celebrities usually insist on those, especially if they’re marrying someone like me,” I muttered.

  “I don’t want a pre-nup,” Carson chimed in, sliding his hand from the small of my back to my hip instead as he stepped closer to my side. “If you two girls want it, then take it. I don’t care.” He shrugged, looking down at Sasha.

  I rolled my eyes and gritted my teeth. “How many times have I told you I’m not interested in your money?” I snapped.

  He smiled warmly. “Plenty. And that’s one reason why I don’t need one
.”

  I opened my mouth to answer, but Sasha tugged on my hair to get my attention. “Teddy chair,” she whined in my ear, obviously impatient to get to her room.

  Nodding, I looked at Carson. “Your little girl wants to see her room. Let’s save this conversation for another time, huh?”

  After following him up the stairs and into Sasha’s bedroom, I immediately stalked over to the chair and sat down in it, settling Sasha on my lap. She didn’t let go of me straight away as she looked around with wide eyes. “What do you think? See how cute this chair is? Mummy wants one of these for her room,” I said, touching one of the bear’s noses as I smiled. It was gorgeously designed.

  “I’ll get you one,” Carson stated, walking into the room and watching me with a smile on his face.

  I rolled my eyes. “It was just a turn of phrase. You don’t need to buy everything I mention a fancy for, you know.”

  Ignoring my dig, he walked over to the tall, white-wood wardrobe and pulled open the door. On one side, there were two full racks of clothes in every single colour; on the other, shelves and shelves of teddy bears, dolls and toys. Sasha’s little body jerked as she looked at the array of things inside.

  “These are all yours,” Carson stated, picking up a stuffed monkey from the top shelf and doing a monkey-type chatter impression.

  Sasha giggled and looked up at me uncertainly. I smiled reassuringly and nodded. “They’re all yours, Sash. Daddy bought them all for you. Go check them out,” I instructed, helping her off my lap as she squirmed to get down.

  She walked hesitantly over to Carson and took the offered monkey from his hand. “Sasha’s?” she asked. When Carson nodded, she brought the monkey to her face and kissed its nose before smiling up at her dad. I didn’t need to see inside his chest to know his heart melted at her smile – it was clear on his face.

  Sasha immediately turned on her heel and marched over to me. “Mummy, up!” she ordered, taking my hand and tugging. “M’key chair!” she announced, setting the stuffed monkey in the space I’d just vacated.

  I chuckled and sat on the floor instead, watching as she methodically made her way back and forth from the wardrobe, plucking out the toys one by one. She looked up at Carson each time as she asked, “Sasha’s?” checking they were really hers before she marched over to the chair and arranged them all in one big pile.

  By the time she was finished inspecting every inch of her room, the place looked like a bomb had exploded inside it. Carson was grinning from ear to ear, probably because Sasha had already been won over by his gifts and was now accepting of him and no longer shy. When my tummy rumbled, I looked at my watch to see it was after five.

  “Do you mind if I make some dinner?” I asked nervously.

  Carson frowned. “You don’t need to ask my permission for stuff like that. This is your home now, Emma.”

  I sighed. “It’s not home; it’s just a place where I’m currently living because you told me I have to.” As I pushed myself up from
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