Poles apart, p.14
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       Poles Apart, p.14
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           Kirsty Moseley

  over on the right-hand side, about four spaces in. Just get in the car and ignore anything they ask you,” he instructed.

  I nodded once in acknowledgement, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the door, refusing to even glance in his direction. “Fine.” I pulled my hand from his and caught the door handle, yanking it open and stepping out. As soon as I was out of the building, reporters swarmed around me, taking photographs and shouting questions. I raised my chin, put on a fake smile and stalked toward Carson’s shiny silver car parked exactly where he said it would be. A second later, the door slammed closed behind me, and then the reporters were shouting questions at him, too. He answered ‘no comment’ to everything as he jogged to catch me up.

  When his arm slipped around my waist, I didn’t push him off in front of the cameras. If I had to act like the dutiful little wife so I could be in my daughter’s life, then I would.

  When we were level with his car, he opened the door for me, waiting until I was in before putting my two bin liners’ worth of possessions in the boot and heading to the driver’s side. As we peeled out of the car park, I slumped down in my seat and looked out the window, watching as he sped me away from the only place I had truly called home. Admittedly, it wasn’t much, but it was home to me. The first and only place I had been happy.

  Awkward silence filled the car as I ground my teeth, wallowing in my self-pity and self-hatred. I pulled out my mobile, turning it on and sending a text to Lucie to tell her I was with Carson and I’d call her later. Less than a minute later, she replied telling me Rory and Sasha could stay with her as long as I needed them to.

  I relaxed marginally as I read her message, but then my thoughts drifted to Rory and what he would know now. He’d know I’d lied to him about who Sasha’s dad was for the last couple of years. I’d have a lot of explaining to do. A lump formed in my throat as I wondered if my little brother would think I was some kind of dirty whore now, too. If he looked at me like Carson had, I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope.

  I didn’t bother paying any attention to where we were going, just watched the streets whizz past without actually seeing them. When we slowed down, I looked out the windscreen to see a big white house, three stories, big windows and heavy-looking wrought iron gates outside. Those big, iron gates were currently swinging slowly open to allow the car inside. The place was incredible, beautiful even. It looked very, very expensive. This kind of property in London would easily set someone back a couple of million pounds. It was every little girl’s dream house – but it looked more like a prison to me.

  A RED LIGHT AT THE SIDE OF THE GARAGE flashed at the car and a couple of seconds later, the double garage doors automatically rolled open.

  “Number plate recognition camera,” Carson answered my unanswered question as I frowned at the light, wondering what it was. He pulled the car into the garage, cutting the engine before turning in his seat to look at me. I had nothing to say to him, though. It was like we were strangers now, because the Carson I had met three years ago was long gone, replaced by this mean, nasty person before me. I shoved my door open, climbing out, wanting to be as far away from him as possible.

  As I stepped from the car, I couldn’t help but gasp as I looked around. The garage I thought was just a double from the front was actually a large, expansive area, which must have stretched under the house itself. It housed five shiny, sleek cars and three motorbikes. It was perfectly clean and looked more like a showroom. I raised one eyebrow in understanding. I’d found what Carson liked to spend his money on.

  Behind me, I could hear him getting my bags from the boot, but I didn’t bother to offer help. He was the one who insisted on this ridiculous charade, so I figured he could struggle and suffer the consequences.

  “This way,” he muttered, stalking toward the door at the back of the garage.

  I followed him quietly, watching as he punched a code into a little black box next to the door. When the door lock clicked, he pushed it open, stepped to the side and motioned for me to step through in a ‘ladies first’ gesture. I resisted the urge to laugh. I’d gone from prostitute to lady in the space of half an hour; that was impressive.

  After walking up a flight of stairs, I opened the door at the top and stepped into the hallway of his house. I stopped immediately; the damn hallway was bigger than my lounge, and it was exquisite. I gulped as I stared at the expensive-looking ornaments on the side. Glass doors led to, what I assumed was, the lounge because it had sofas and one whole wall was completely covered in a pull-down TV. The place screamed three words: money, show and bachelor.

  I smiled wickedly to myself. Sasha is going to have a field day smashing up all his expensive crap!

  Carson cleared his throat behind me, setting my bags down. “I’ll give you a quick tour now, and I’ll sort out keys and passwords and stuff for the doors later. Other than vehicle recognition, the main entrances are opened by keypad, so if you forget a key then you can still get in. Handy really, considering I’ve almost locked myself out tons of times,” he joked, smiling weakly.

  “Great,” I mumbled, trying to fake interest.

  He sighed and a frown creased his forehead, which I longed to smooth away with my fingertip. “You could at least smile or something. This place is infinitely better than the shithole you were living in. At least here you can step out the front door without the fear of being gang-raped or shot for sport.”

  I scoffed and shook my head incredulously. “Oh, I’m sorry, you were expecting me to fall at your feet and thank you for letting me live in your incredible house? Was I supposed to take one look at your stupid, elegant sweeping staircase and be all grateful you’re making me marry you under threat of losing my daughter?” I retorted sarcastically. I made a show of patting my jeans’ pockets before I shook my head. “Nope, sorry. Looks like I’m all out of fucks to give.” If he was expecting me to be impressed by the fact he had a nice house and suddenly love the idea of being married against my will, even though he thought I was some kind of tramp, then he would be sorely disappointed. No one had ever hurt me as much as he had. It had been the look in his eyes. If it had been someone else that had said it then maybe I could have shaken it off, but seeing that look from the man I loved had crushed my soul a little. I’d never forget it.

  His frown grew more pronounced as a muscle in his jaw twitched. His eyes told me he wanted to say something nasty back, but he was obviously choosing his words carefully. Instead, he said nothing and turned his back on me, stalking up the long, marble hallway toward the door at the end.

  I chewed on my lip in anger. Maybe we needed to have a good argument, a good airing-out session before we could then talk about it and reason it out – but it appeared Carson wasn’t the arguing type. After hesitating for a few seconds, I finally followed him, leaving a big gap between us. He stepped into the room at the end and held the door open for me, not looking at me. As I stepped through, I came face to face with the most beautiful kitchen I had ever seen. My stomach instantly growled at the thought of cooking in a place like this. The cupboards were white, sleek and shiny. There were no handles, so it was extremely sophisticated-looking. The built-in appliances were stainless steel, and the worktop was black granite. It looked like something out of a celebrity magazine.

  “Obviously, this is the kitchen. You can use anything you want. There’s not much food in at the moment, I don’t think, but I’ll fix that. You’ll have to write me a list or something of stuff you three like and I can order it in.” He pointed to the oven and frowned. “I don’t know how that works. There are probably some instructions around somewhere.”

  I raised one eyebrow. “You don’t cook then?”

  He shook his head in answer. “No, I have a housekeeper. I pay her extra to cook for me.”

  “I guess this is how the other half lives,” I muttered under my breath, touching the cold granite surface, still awed over how stunning it was.

  “I’ll show you the rest.” He didn’t wait fo
r me as he stalked from the room and down the hallway. I followed behind him like a wounded puppy. After looking in the dining room, the games room, the conservatory, the study, the TV room, and then the formal lounge, I came to the conclusion that I would never, ever feel at home in this place. It was all too clinical, too white, no colour or personality. It was like Carson had a designer come in and set the house up just for show. He probably didn’t even spend that much time in any of these rooms. With a two-year-old living here, it wouldn’t stay this beautiful for long. Once sticky fingers touched the walls and juice cups were carelessly abandoned on the cream carpets, the place would certainly feel lived-in then.

  Just as we were about to head upstairs, his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID and stopped walking. “I have to take this. It’s Mason.”

  I nodded, folding my arms across my chest while he headed into the lounge. I tried not to listen to him talking to his press agent, but I couldn’t exactly help it. His voice was getting louder as he spoke; they were talking about Sasha and me. He was telling Mason about how it was true and how we were moving in with him and getting married. The way he explained everything so calmly made it all sound so incredibly normal, and a little shiver ran through me. Mason obviously wasn’t too sold on the idea, though, because Carson was getting angry. I could hear him telling Mason it wasn’t a mistake, that he wasn’t going to brush it under the carpet and he wasn’t going to pay us off and deny everything to the press just to make his life easier.

  Figuring the tour wasn’t going to resume anytime soon, I sat on the bottom step and rested my head on the wall. Carson was getting even more passionate in there as he talked about wanting to get to know his daughter, and how he would take care of her – her and me. I couldn’t help the little smile, which tugged at the corner of my mouth when he lumped me in with Sasha. Then they were down to planning, statements which needed to be drafted, and when we were going to pick up Sasha. Carson wanted something called a blanket order put on both Sasha and Rory. If I remembered correctly, that meant no one would be able to print a picture of their faces in the papers or magazines.

  My eyes were getting heavy as I eavesdropped.

  I SNUGGLED AGAINST the warm thing, pressing my face into it, breathing it in. It smelt delicious and made my heart race. Cracking my eyes open, I looked around. Confusion settled over me as I realised I wasn’t at home. All I could see were white walls, splashed with the occasional canvas. I was laying on something soft; I turned my head and looked up to see Carson looking down at me.

  What on Earth?

  Then I remembered everything: the reporters, the arguing with Carson, the demands he was making. I gulped as my heart broke all over again, remembering the way he looked at me, the way those spiteful words sounded in his smooth voice.

  It took me a couple of seconds to realise I was lying on my back on the sofa with my head in his lap. His arm was resting across my body, his thumb stroking my stomach lightly, making my skin break out in goose bumps at the feel of his skin on mine. I wanted to punch myself for reacting to his touch when I was supposed to hate him. Apparently, my stupid, traitorous body couldn’t seem to remember the way he looked down his nose and sneered at me so distastefully.

  I pushed myself up, sitting on the sofa, and blushed because I was so close to him. My body still reacted to his even though I didn’t want it to. My mouth yearned to be on his, and my fingers itched to touch him and caress him. As I sat up, his hand dropped off my stomach and he looked at me with a small, sad smile on his face. I’d never felt awkward around Carson since the first moment I met him, but it was almost as if we didn’t know how to act around each other anymore. As if we’d lost the connection we once had, the connection I treasured.

  “Hey. You okay?” he asked, brushing my hair behind my ear, making the skin on my cheek tingle where his fingers touched. I gulped and nodded. The corner of his lips twitched with a smile. “You must be the only person I’ve ever met that can fall asleep sitting up with your head against a wall.”

  I laughed uncomfortably. “Yeah, it’s one of my many talents.”

  Flicking my eyes around the room again, I spotted a clock on the wall. It was just after one. As if on cue, my stomach rumbled, signalling lunchtime. Carson smiled. “If you’re hungry, I could make you something? My housekeeper doesn’t work weekends, so it’ll have to be sandwiches or something. Unless you want me to order in?” He raised one eyebrow in question.

  “Sandwiches are fine,” I muttered, pushing myself off the sofa.

  He stood as well, his hand brushing against mine as he moved. I shied away from him, ignoring the flicker of disappointment in his eyes. I frowned, confused by the look. His disappointment and the caring way he’d obviously carried me into the lounge while I was sleeping didn’t match the awful way he’d spoken to me or the threats of taking Sasha away from me. Him carrying me into the lounge and letting me sleep in his lap was something I could associate with the old Carson, the one I was starting to wonder actually existed or if I was too blinded by my feelings. Maybe I’d imagined him to be something he wasn’t.

  “Shall I make them?” I offered, trying to break the uneasy silence that had settled over the room. When he shrugged in answer, I stalked back to the kitchen, pulling open his fridge, just finding butter and a block of cheese.

  As I put all the ingredients on the side, he was just watching me silently. The way his eyebrows were furrowed told me there was something he wanted to talk to me about, but he wasn’t sure he should. I sighed deeply and turned to him. “Just spit it out, Carson.”

  He recoiled slightly before seeming to compose himself. “Okay, well, I’ve instructed someone from Selfridges to come over this afternoon and look around here. They’ll put in an order for everything Sasha needs for her bedroom and the safety stuff like stair gates and things. If you could be on hand in case they have questions about what she likes, that’d be great. Obviously, I don’t know what she needs.” He scowled down at the worktop angrily. “The manager I spoke to while you were asleep said they can come and evaluate, you can choose which design you like and then they’ll have everything delivered and installed tomorrow morning.”

  I gulped at the hard tone to his voice. Clearly, he was extremely angry with me because he didn’t know what type of things his daughter needed. “Okay.”

  He nodded. “And I was also thinking we should talk about how it’s going to work… with us, I mean.”

  Us. Wow, now there’s an ‘us’. I ignored the little thrill that went through me at the thought of there being an ‘us’. I really needed to protect my heart because he was in serious danger of crushing me if I let myself buy into this little fantasy. I didn’t say anything, so he continued.

  “Because people are aware of Sasha now, there’s going to be a statement put out about us being together and that we’re getting married,” he explained, massaging the back of his neck roughly. “It’s going to say we’ve been secretly dating on and off for the last three years, and now we’ve decided to confirm our relationship seeing as The Peoples’ Post forced our hand.”

  I averted my eyes. “Will I get a chance to tell Rory before this happens? I don’t want him finding out through some newspaper.” I stabbed the cheese, cutting it into rough slices as my anger escalated again.

  “Yeah, you can talk to Rory. You want me to go pick him up or something? Bring him here?” His voice was soft and caring, just like it used to be.

  I sighed in frustration. His kind voice made it hard to stay mad at him. “I’ll call him and talk to him. I don’t think I really want to see the look on his face right now.” I winced at the thought of it.

  “Everything will be fine, Emma. I’ll take care of you all from now on. We’ll sort everything out together. Rory will be fine, and if he’s not, then I’ll just buy him a car or something as bribery,” he joked.

  I laughed and rolled my eyes. “He’s fifteen.”

  “Right, well, I’ll buy him an iPad.” He shrugged
casually, winking at me playfully.

  I wanted so very much to sink into our easy routine, but if I did that then I’d let myself believe in the lie. I’d let myself believe he wanted to marry me for me, and I couldn’t do that because it simply wasn’t true. Carson was only interested in being a good father to Sasha, and marrying me was just something he felt was morally right to do.

  He sighed. “Look, I really want to make this work. I’ve missed two years of my daughter’s life already, and I don’t want to miss any more of it. You’ve been struggling on your own to cope with her and Rory, and now I’m here to take that all away. Why are you not happy about this? Seriously, most girls would love to have me propose to them and offer to give them everything in the world.”

  My eyes shot up to his. My heart was in my throat; burning rage simmered just below the surface. “You think that’s what you did?” I growled.

  He frowned and pulled the cutest little confused face I had ever seen, but my hand was itching to slap it off him. “Huh? What I did? What does that mean?” he asked. I closed my eyes and counted to ten, trying to rein in my anger before I took the blunt knife I was using to butter the bread and tried to butcher him with it. He touched my elbow, and I gritted my teeth to stop myself from spitting my words at him. “Emma?”

  “You think that’s what you did? You think you proposed to me?” I couldn’t keep the bitchiness from leaking into my voice.

  His body went ridged. “Yeah…?” he trailed off, suddenly looking a little unsure.

  I couldn’t even be bothered to explain that ‘proposing’ was when someone you loved suggested you spent your lives together. Proposing was getting down on one knee and smiling at someone with a ring, asking them to take your last name. Proposing was a good thing. He hadn’t proposed; he’d demanded I marry him under threat of losing custody of my daughter.

  I put down the knife and pushed the half-made food away from me. “I’m not hungry anymore.” I turned to walk off, ignoring that he was practically on my heels as I marched back down the hallway, grabbing my handbag from the floor.

  “Emma, what’s wrong with you? Seriously, you’re so bloody confusing! I can give you anything you want, anything in the world. You should be happy right now. Why are you being such a bitch? I’m sorry for saying what I did about paying you for sex. I was angry! I didn’t mean it. I don’t think of you like that!” he said desperately, stopping at my side.

  I blew out a big breath and shook my head. “Carson, it doesn’t matter anymore. You want to be a good dad to your daughter, and I’m really grateful for that. She’s going to love you, and I’m sure she’ll be spoilt rotten and have everything a little girl could ever wish for. Just don’t expect me to be happy that my life has suddenly started to be dictated. How would you like it if someone came along and demanded you move away from your home with someone who, quite frankly, looked at you like you were a piece of shit?” I glared at him challengingly, wanting him to shout at me, scream at me, something other than the confused and exasperated look on his face right now.

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