The billionaires obsessi.., p.14
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       The Billionaire's Obsession, p.14
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         Part #1 of An Heir At Any Price series by Holly Rayner
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  “I realize that, Aiden,” I said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “I’m just trying to establish some kind of civility between us.”

  “Civility? Civil people don’t make promises they don’t intend to keep, and they don’t lie to each other.”

  “Are we going to really talk, Aiden? I’m wondering if you’re too angry to do that.”

  “I don’t know what you expect, Holly. Of course I’m angry. If you couldn’t do this or you had no intentions of doing this, or were just trying to trap a rich man into marriage…”

  “Are you kidding me? Do you think that I didn’t have multiple opportunities while I was working at the café if all I wanted was to snag a rich man? And of course I had the intentions of doing this. My mistake was in not getting to know you better before I agreed to do it.”

  “Because I’m such an emotionally damaged monster?”

  “Oh Aiden, none of this is getting us anywhere.”

  “Then let’s get down to it,” he said. I offered him a seat and he took it but stayed perched on the edge looking as if he might run at any minute. I noticed that his eyes kept moving from my face to my stomach and back again. The look he gave when he looked at my belly was one of longing and sadness.

  I sat down across from him and trying a softer approach I said, “I never intended to hurt you, Aiden.”

  He raised an eyebrow, “Really, Holly? You thought that running away with my child wouldn’t hurt me? Or did you just think I’d never find out? What did you plan on telling him when he got old enough to ask?”

  “I hadn’t thought that far ahead, Aiden. I will concede that I was wrong to run away. This talk we’re having now should have happened a long time ago. But it didn’t, and we’re here now, so are you willing to hear me out, or not?”

  “I will hear you out,” he said. “But be assured that I will be willing to take this as far as legal action if it’s necessary.”

  “Okay, Aiden,” I said, tired of the threats but trying to understand why he felt the need to make them. “I hear you. I know that you think having the law on your side is the most important thing here. I’m hoping that I can convince you otherwise. Are you ready to listen?”

  “Go ahead,” he said. “But don’t count on convincing me otherwise.”

  Taking a deep breath for patience I said, “First of all, when I signed that contract, I want you to know that I honestly believed I could do this. I thought I could put my emotions on a shelf and ignore them for a while. I was stupid to think that, plain and simple. I’ve never been one to be able to ignore my own feelings about things. I wear them on my sleeve and I usually get hurt because of it. My feelings for you were over the top and I could see it happening from the first kiss. I should have put a stop to it all right then and there, but I wanted a second kiss, and a third. I wanted to believe that it was more, or would be more, even though I knew you were just making a baby.” The look on his face clearly showed what he was thinking so I said, “You never led me to believe otherwise. I know that. You kept your end of the contract to the letter. I tried to do the same, but my emotions got in the way. I even began to resent that you were so hung up on the contract, that it was so important to you. Every time I fell asleep in your arms and woke up alone, I hurt in my heart a little bit more. I know that you can’t help how you feel and neither could I. The more I tried to not want you, the more I read little things in to what you said or what you did. I told myself as I was doing it that it was wrong and I was setting myself up for heartache, but short of walking away, I didn’t know what to do about it.”

  “So you just walked away?”

  “I thought you were going to hear me out?” I said, frustrated with his sarcasm.

  “I’m sorry, go ahead.”

  “Thank you,” I said. I swallowed hard trying to force down the lump in my throat and I sucked in a deep breath and continued, “As much as I was falling for you, I was also finding things out about you that worried me. You took this clinical, business-like approach to this whole thing. You talked about our child like he was the end result of a big contract you’d scored. Family is supposed to be so much more important than that.” I touched my belly absently; protectively…I did it now without even thinking about it. “This is a human being we’re talking about. He’s a human being that we created and we have a responsibility to him. Not as two business partners who coldly decide who he’ll live with and how he’ll be raised, but as two warm, loving parents who are mature and responsible enough to put their differences aside and take his best interest to heart.”

  “You don’t think that I would put my child’s best interests first?”

  “Not if you continue to think of him as another belonging, Aiden. You may think that his best interest is having a large staff to take him places and look after him, but that’s not what a child needs. A child needs love and special attention from his parents, not strangers who are paid to watch him. You’re very fond of saying “my” and “mine.” It’s like a contest. It took us both to make him and I don’t understand why we can’t both raise him. We don’t have to do it together I’m not asking you to live with me. Lots of parents co-parent their children from different homes. Wouldn’t that be putting our child’s interests before our own?”

  He didn’t answer that so I went on, “The day I heard you on the phone arranging for a “back up plan” that was the final straw. You were so cold and so clinical about it. There was no emotion in your voice at all, not a thought to how any of that would make me feel…”

  “We had a deal and at that point, it hadn’t gone anywhere. I was well within my rights to start looking at other solutions if this one didn’t pan out.”

  I smiled to keep from crying from sheer aggravation, “That attitude, Aiden is exactly what I’m talking about. That sounded just like something you might say about a business deal. This is a child, damn it!”

  He looked shocked at my anger. So far he’d seen a lot of emotion from me, but not the anger I was feeling right now.

  “Okay, fair enough,” he said. “I can see a lot of your points. Now, is it my turn?”

  I smiled again. That still sounded like something he would say in a business meeting.

  “No, one more thing,” I said. “My reaction to you being drunk needs to be addressed as well. I probably should have told you this before, but my mother is an alcoholic.” I actually knew that he had to already know that. He’d turned up at her rehab looking for me, after all. I wondered then how he had found out and I was about to ask him but he beat me to it.

  “I know. I had you checked out Holly before I moved forward with the contract. I think you’ll understand that was something I had to do. I was, after all, inviting you to live in my home and be privy to matters I couldn’t trust just anyone to.”

  “So, that whole time I worried that if you found out you wouldn’t want me to be the mother of your child, and you already knew? How did you find out where she was in rehab?”

  “I have some of the best investigators in the world on my payroll, Holly,” he said in a matter of fact tone, like it was something everyone had, or at the very least something I shouldn’t be surprised about. I tucked that away to think about later. I didn’t really need anything to fuel my anger right now. It wasn’t really the most important issue we had to address here tonight. I refocused my thoughts and moved on.

  “Anyways, she’s always been an alcoholic, but I didn’t realize it until I got into my early teens I guess. My father covered for her a lot. He was the buffer, my safe haven. I was embarrassed of her and I didn’t want any of my friends to know. I could never have friends over and my father wouldn’t ever let her drive us anywhere. I learned how to pretend…all the time. My imagination and my dreams saved me, until my father died. I was fourteen when he died and my life suddenly became all about taking care of my mother. I cleaned her up, I fed her, I took her to the doctor and sometimes the hospital and I bailed her out of jail. I had a 4.0 GPA and I got
offers from four colleges. I had to turn them all down. I couldn’t leave her alone. I couldn’t play sports or go on dates…when I saw you like that, and I thought about you handling your problems that way…I was so afraid that this child would have to grow up like I did. I at least had my father for a big part of that time; he was only going to have you. I couldn’t just walk away Aiden and let that happen.”

  “I’m sorry you had to grow up that way, Holly,” he said, sounding very genuine. “I’m not an alcoholic. I was depressed and angry and I drank too much. It happens, but with me, not often. I can’t even recall the last time I was drunk before that. I like to be in control, as you well know. I don’t like giving myself over to alcohol, that was a fluke. Had you stuck around, when I sobered up I would have told you that. I can understand however that with your upbringing how that would have bothered you. As you know, my childhood was tough after the loss of my parents. My mother was amazing and I loved her more than life itself. When she died, I was so angry. I didn’t know who to be angry with, or where to put it all. I kept getting into fights and getting expelled from school. That went on for years until one time I got into a fight with this boy who unbeknownst to me had a seizure disorder. I punched him and he fell to the ground and began flopping all around. I thought he was dying…It was horrible. I found out later that he’d been having a seizure, but that feeling stayed with me. I can still call it up now. I never wanted to feel that again. So I did something that had a lot to do with shaping my personality.”

  “I’m sorry, Aiden, that is terrible.”

  He nodded and said, “I decided then and there that my emotions were just that, mine. I was the one who could control them, the only one. So I learned how to keep everything in tight little boxes in my head. I think it’s called compartmentalizing. I didn’t fight any longer, but I rarely allowed myself to actually feel an emotion at all, I’d just tuck it away because when I did let myself feel things, it always ended badly; it always ended with me getting hurt.” He paused and said, “Can I have some water?”

  “Of course,” I said starting to get up.

  “No, you don’t have to wait on me, Holly. I can get it.” He motioned me back down and went to get his water. While he was gone I thought about him as a little boy, broken hearted because he missed his parents so badly and trying to channel it into beating someone up. I felt another tug at my already vulnerable heart. I guess that’s what love does; it makes you want to forgive things you wouldn’t otherwise.

  He came back and when I saw his face, I didn’t even have to guess what was in his hand.

  “Is this my son?” he asked. He was holding the ultrasound picture and he had a look of pure awe on his face. I had to smile; it was a beautiful thing no matter how angry I’d been at him.

  “Yes, that’s him,” I said.

  He sat back down and stared at the picture. Finally he said, “It really is a miracle, isn’t it?”

  “Yes, it is,” I agreed.

  “Seeing this picture puts so many things into perspective, just like that. Is that strange?”

  “No, I don’t think so, anyways. It had the same effect on me. It does every time I look at it.”

  “He’s beautiful.”

  I laughed, “Yes, he is,” I agreed again.

  He looked at it again and took a deep breath. Then he said, “I got a little carried away with the sob story before. I’m sorry. I’ve never talked about that part of my life to anyone before.” He looked embarrassed, like he’d said too much. I was glad that he was opening up.

  “Don’t be sorry,” I told him. “I’m the one that has been begging you to open up. I know it’s not easy and I appreciate it. I also want you to know that what you tell me tonight won’t be used against you at all, even if we did have to go to court. You have a lot on your plate, and I wouldn’t doubt that talking to someone about it would help you work through some of it that is still unresolved.”

  He nodded, and his attitude seemed to be softening. I’m sure it had much more to do with the baby’s picture than it did with me.

  “I’ve kept my emotions in check for a very long time. The closest I’ve come to letting them out in years was with you. I think that’s where the whole getting drunk thing came from. I was feeling things again and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I just wanted to be numb. Before you it was with my son. At least the boy I thought was my son. I let myself feel the love and the awe. He was so amazing…I’m sure that he still is. I still miss him.” I could see the love in Aiden’s eyes when he talked about that little boy. It made me feel even guiltier for wanting to take this one from him. “The woman who professed to love me and supposedly wanted to spend the rest of her life with me lied. She let me believe he was mine, she let me fall in love with him and then she took him away. Her cheating wasn’t even as much of a violation as that was. I could live with her falling in love with someone else if she had told me that. But instead she snuck around, and only to keep from getting caught, she let me believe the baby was mine. When I found out you were pregnant and you had left without telling me, that’s exactly where my mind went. I saw red, all those boxes in my head opened at once and I felt so many things again. The only one that didn’t hurt was the rage, so I settled on that. I was sure that the woman I’d started caring for deeply had done the same thing to me as she had.”

  “I’m sorry; I should have talked to you. I was afraid and confused. I also had no idea that you cared for me, Aiden. Every night after we had…our baby-making session, you left me alone, like you couldn’t bear to have to wake up next to me every day.”

  “I left because waking up next to you every day was only going to intensify what I was feeling for you and I looked at that as dangerous. I was afraid that if I allowed myself to be vulnerable to you, you might take advantage of me and break my heart.”

  “Aiden, you can’t go through life with a wall around your heart, not just from me but from anything that causes you to have a real feeling. If you do, and you never let anyone in, you’ll never truly be happy.”

  “I know that, Holly. I try to tell myself that I need to be more open to love…but look where you are, and why. You left me, rather than stay and talk, or stay and fight. I have to be worth at least that much before I would be willing to let you inside any walls.”

  “You’re right. I already knew that running was wrong, but I did that emotionally, and once it was done, I didn’t know how to undo it. I’ve ached for you every day since, and I’ve regretted what a mess we both made of things.”

  “We’re both a hot mess, aren’t we?” he said. I don’t know why, but that made me laugh, long and hard. He joined me and it felt like a lighter mood had fallen across the room.

  “Yes, we are,” I told him when I stopped laughing. “But, we don’t have to be. Now that we know what’s wrong, we can work on fixing it. It’s similar to my mom with her alcoholism…you have to admit there is a problem and then work on understanding it and go from there. I could even move back to the city, if you would agree…”

  “No, Holly!” he said.

  I felt like he stabbed me in the heart. Had I misunderstood? I thought he was leading towards us working something out, “So you plan to take me to court?” I asked.

  “No,” he said, again. “I plan for you and me to figure out a schedule for our baby like adults, and this time, I don’t expect you to be the one to change your life to do that.”

  I could feel the tears stinging my eyes. That was the first time he’d called the baby “ours” I was so happy that; I missed what he said next, “What? I’m sorry?”

  “I asked if you might consider giving me another chance where your feelings for me are concerned, unless you’ve replaced those all with anger or disgust because of my behavior.”

  “Um…yes, I’d love that, both things. I promise to talk to you, and be honest with you. No more running away.”

  “And I will do my best to stop trying to control every situation, and to vo
ice how I’m feeling. It’s going to take me some time. This is how I’ve been for a long while now. I think that it will make me less stressed if I can accomplish it. Having to win all the time puts a lot of pressure on a person.”

  “I understand. I hope you’ll trust me first. I already love this baby, and I care deeply for you. I want us to be a family more than anything in the world.”

  “So do I,” he said, pulling me in close. I closed my eyes as he kissed me and as my lips parted; I could feel in my heart that a whole new life was opening up to us all.

  When we came up for air, Aiden said, “I forgot one important thing, the contract.”

  Confused again, and still somewhat light-headed from the kiss I said, “The contract? But I thought we were going to do this together?”

  “We are,” he said. He picked up the stack of legal papers and tore them into shreds. Then he threw the shreds into the air like confetti and pulled me in for another deep kiss. It felt like New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

  ~

  Chapter Eighteen

  ~

  AIDEN

  The air was warm, but not so hot as to be uncomfortable. The tall palms swayed in the light breeze and the sun streamed down through the green fronds. The sand was damp and cool beneath my bare feet. I wore a comfortable pair of beach shorts and a shirt that would have made any surfer proud. The boat ride out had been one big, fun party with all of my favorite people aboard. I was thirty years old and about to have everything I’d ever desired.

 
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