Poles apart, p.16
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       Poles Apart, p.16
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           Kirsty Moseley

  I bet you were an easy target for her. A young, impressionable boy with no clue how girls like that work. I bet her gold-digging eyes lit up when you first met!”

  “I didn’t have anything when we first met, actually,” Carson shot back. “I hadn’t even been signed to a team when I first met her. I was a nobody. Emma doesn’t want my money.”

  “Of course she does!”

  “If she wanted my money then why has she never demanded it all this time? Sasha is almost two, yet Emma has never asked me for a penny!”

  I flopped down on the sofa next to Kimberly, and she patted my arm sympathetically. “This is a mess,” I muttered, putting my head in my hands.

  The shouting continued as I sat there with my heart in my throat, barely managing to keep my tears at bay. “That little girl isn’t yours, Carson. Wake up! She’s taking you for a fool and exploiting you! Have you asked for a paternity test?”

  “I don’t need a paternity test. Emma’s word is good enough for me. She says Sasha is mine, and that’s all I need to know.”

  I smiled weakly because I actually loved that Carson trusted me like that.

  “If she really is yours then why did she never tell you about her?” Carson’s mother shot back sarcastically.

  Carson sighed heavily. “She said she was doing it for me because she wanted better for me than to be a teenage father.”

  “Sheer and utter bull poop!” his mother scoffed. “Another lie to lure you into her web!”

  “Look, if Emma was after my money then she would be the one insisting we get married, not me. You’ve got her all wrong.”

  “Married?” his mother shrieked, clearly horrified.

  “Married?” Kimberly whispered next to me.

  I nodded and looked up at her shocked face. “Apparently,” I confirmed noncommittally.

  “You can’t marry a stripper! Have you lost your mind?” his mother cried.

  “Mum, seriously, you need to stop this judgemental act. That’s the mother of my child you’re disrespecting. You just need to get to know her. She’s not like you’re thinking she is!”

  “What is she like then? Because I’m thinking she’s approaching her thirties, boob job, slutty clothes, and crude tattoos covering her body.”

  Carson laughed incredulously. “She’s just turned nineteen, definitely no boob job, she rocks a hoodie, and no tattoos at all,” he answered before adding, “Not that there’s anything wrong with tattoos, of course.”

  “And when do I get to meet the little gold-digger so I can make my own judgement on her?”

  I sank into the seat further, wanting to disappear or run for the hills.

  “She’s right in there, hiding and probably listening to every nasty word you’ve said about her,” Carson answered.

  When two sets of footsteps sounded toward the room, I jumped to my feet and watched the door, horrified. His mother’s eyes were hard as she stepped into the room. The blue to her eyes was the exact colour of Carson’s and my daughter’s. Without speaking, her gaze raked down me slowly as if sizing me up and seeing exactly what level of depravity she had to deal with. Carson walked into the room, bypassing his mother and coming to stand next to me. Unconsciously, I cringed into his side, wanting to hide from the judgemental, scathing look on his mother’s face.

  “Mum, this is Emma, my fiancée. Emma, this is my mum, Jillian Matthews.” He placed his hand on the small of my back and the heat emanating from his skin was strangely calming.

  “Nice to meet you, Mrs Matthews,” I forced out, my voice small and intimidated. I knew right then and there I would never like this woman, and by the disgusted look on her face, the feeling was going to be mutual.

  One of her perfectly-plucked eyebrows rose as her lips pressed into a thin line. She didn’t answer as she swung her handbag from her shoulder and looked through it, coming out with a chequebook and pen. “So, how much will it take for you and my supposed grandchild to disappear?” She dropped her bag on the floor and flicked open the chequebook, looking at me inquisitively. “Ten thousand? Fifteen? Or have you set your sights higher than that?”

  I almost choked on air. It looked like it wasn’t only Carson who thought I was a nasty prostitute that needed money thrown at her. “I don’t…” I shook my head firmly as Carson growled in frustration.

  “Mum, what the hell? Just stop it!” he cried angrily.

  She ground her teeth. “Well, someone has to sort this situation out! Her claiming you two have a daughter together will be disastrous for your career!”

  That was when I saw red. “Claiming? I’m not claiming it, we do have a daughter,” I growled. Clearly this woman thought I was after one thing and one thing only: money. Yes, I worked at a strip club and yes, we had a daughter together, but it wasn’t like I was using the information to fund my own life. I had never wanted anything from Carson other than for him to love me – which would never happen. “But I’ve already told him he doesn’t have to be involved. If he wants to brush this under the carpet, then he can. I’m not the one you should be waving your chequebook at! I’m not the one insisting we play happy families, he is!” I pointed at Carson angrily. Of course, I could understand I’d done wrong by her son in her eyes, but in my eyes I had always tried to shield him from this. It wasn’t my fault the papers suddenly investigated it. If anything, it was Carson’s fault for giving me that necklace when the reporter was sitting there watching.

  Her hard gaze fell on Carson. “See, she’s willing to let this all go away. Why can’t you?” she asked harshly.

  “And be like Dad?” he retorted. “You want me to be like him and watch my kid and her mum struggle while I just go on living my life? I wouldn’t have thought you’d wish that on anyone seeing as you went through it once.”

  Her tough exterior faltered, her eyes twitched as her lips parted. “Of course not. I don’t want anyone to struggle like we did, but you don’t have to do this. You should do a paternity test. If the little girl really is yours, then you can see they’re all right for money. This doesn’t have to ruin your life,” she said, her voice softer and calmer now.

  I looked up at Carson, actually willing him to listen to her. He wouldn’t listen to me when I said the same thing; maybe her being angry like this would actually make him see sense.

  Carson’s arm snaked around my waist and I was tugged closer to him, pressing against his side. “They’re not ruining my life. Sasha is mine. Emma and I are getting married. Everyone else and their opinions can go fuck themselves for all I care.”

  Jillian threw her hands up in exasperation. “I can’t believe this. Honestly, this is ludicrous. I refuse to stand by and watch you throw your life away for that!” she stated, jabbing an accusing finger at me on the word ‘that’.

  “Then don’t watch,” Carson answered calmly as he raised his chin confidently.

  They scowled at each other for an agonising couple of seconds, locked in some kind of battle of the stares, before Jillian sighed and looked away. “Come on, Kimberly, we’re leaving. Let’s let your brother make his own mistakes,” she stated, turning on her heel and marching out of the room.

  Kimberly immediately stood and smiled sadly. “I’ll call you later, Carson. It was nice to finally meet you, Emma.”

  I gasped and shook my head as she walked out the door, too. I didn’t want to break up his family; I didn’t want them to fall out over me. “Carson, go after her! Don’t leave things like this, it’s not right,” I pleaded.

  He ground his teeth, glaring at the door with rage-filled eyes. “I’m not going after her. If she wants to come back and apologise to you then she can. If not then screw her, too.”

  “That’s your mother! She loves you and just wants the best for you, that’s all,” I persuaded.

  “If she loves me then she’ll support me and my choices.”

  I closed my eyes as an empty feeling settled in my heart. I had never wanted to hurt Carson or take things away from him, and now it appear
ed he was close to losing his family because of me. I hated myself for it.

  “I’m not worth you losing your family for,” I croaked as the emotion bubbled over and the tears finally fell.

  He sighed deeply, pulling me against his chest and wrapping his arms around me tightly. I buried my face against his shoulder and cried silently for the hopelessness in this whole situation. “You’re my family now, Emma. And I won’t lose you, not because people are too narrow-minded and quick to judge before they’ve even gotten to know you. If she’d taken the time to talk to you, she’d see you’re sweet and adorable, kind and caring. It’s her loss if she chooses not to know you.” While he spoke, his hand slid up my back, holding the back of my head, tangling his fingers into my hair.

  “Sorry, I forgot my bag.”

  I jerked back quickly, seeing his mother standing in the doorway, watching us awkwardly. Through my blurry, tear-filled eyes I saw she was crying, too. Wordlessly, she marched over to us and stooped to pick up her handbag from the floor where she’d left it. I silently begged Carson to say something, to make this right, to fix his family before it was too late – but apparently he wasn’t going to concede. His eyes were narrowed in anger, and every muscle in his body appeared to be taut with stress.

  I cleared my throat, willing my voice to work. “Mrs Matthews, don’t leave it like this, please? Can’t you two just talk or something?”

  She sighed and turned to me. “What difference does it make to you? Surely it’s better for you if he cuts off from his family. It’ll be easier for you to get your hands on his money then,” she replied.

  I pushed away from Carson, stepping closer to her, deciding to tell her the truth. “I fell out with my parents a few years ago. I lost any relationship I had with them. They look at me exactly how you do, and although I pretend like it doesn’t, it actually hurts to think that I don’t have that support there. I don’t want Carson to go through that, especially not because of me. Please?” I begged.

  Her eyes met mine, and I could see the indecision there as she pondered over what I’d said. When they left mine, they flicked to Carson and her chin trembled as cracks started to show in her hard exterior. “Maybe I was a little too quick to judge,” she whispered. Her attention turned back to me. “Maybe I should get to know you before I make assumptions about your morals and your intentions.”

  I nodded in agreement, feeling the smile twitch at the corner of my mouth. I wasn’t stupid enough to think I would ever get her approval, but that didn’t matter, as long as Carson didn’t lose his family over this.

  Carson stepped forward, setting his hand on my shoulder. “Look, just leave it for now, all right? We’ve all had a shock and have a lot to take in. Call me tomorrow or something,” he suggested uncomfortably. I could still hear the anger in his tone, but he was trying to disguise it.

  Jillian sighed. “I didn’t mean to be harsh; I’m just saying what everyone else is thinking.” She shouldered her bag and stood tall, raising her chin, her hard exterior now back. “I’ll speak to you tomorrow then.”

  I watched as she walked out for a second time. I didn’t like her. She reminded me of the nasty Carson I’d met today, and I silently wondered if that was a sure sign I’d been deceived by an act all those years ago and that this was the real Carson Matthews. Maybe he’d just put on a front to ‘charm me into bed’ like he so often joked. It had certainly worked, but from now on I was putting my guard up so I wouldn’t be hurt or fooled by him again.

  ONCE HIS MOTHER AND SISTER HAD LEFT, Carson and I were thrust into awkward silence. I didn’t know what to say. My body felt cold, and my insides squirmed with a mixture of anger and mortification. His mother’s opinion of me hurt a lot more than I thought it would. Deep down, I had known the meeting wouldn’t go well. In the ten minutes before she’d arrived, I’d prepared myself marginally for her disapproval, but I hadn’t expected her to be that horrified at the thought of her son with someone like me. All I wanted to do was curl into my own bed, in my crappy little flat, and cry myself into oblivion.

  “I want to go home,” I whispered.

  He sighed deeply. “Don’t start that again. This is what’s happening. People, including you, will just have to get used to it,” he replied confidently. “Look, I’m sorry about her. She shouldn’t have said any of that, and you shouldn’t have had to listen to it.”

  I frowned and flopped down onto the sofa, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the deep pile carpet. “It’s no worse than what you said earlier. I don’t know why you bothered defending me,” I replied, swiping at my face and wiping the tears wetting my cheeks.

  “I defended you because she was wrong. She just doesn’t know you, that’s all. She’ll come around.” He sat down next to me, so closely I could feel the heat emanating from his body to mine as he pressed against my side. “This wouldn’t be such a bloody shock to everyone if you’d just told me two fucking years ago about Sasha.” His tone was harsh and accusing again.

  I closed my eyes, not having the words to explain this to him. I’d probably never be able to explain my actions to Carson. He’d probably never see I was trying to do the best thing for him, or that I thought he was better off without us. If I’d told him I was pregnant, his life probably wouldn’t have gone down the route it was now. For all I knew, he might have given up racing to get a ‘real job’ so he could support Sasha, and then he wouldn’t have the mansion he was currently trying to pretend was my ‘home’.

  Thankfully, a buzz of the doorbell deemed my reply unnecessary. “That’ll probably be the personal shopper woman.” Carson sighed and pushed himself to his feet, stalking into the hall to answer the door. I could hear him talking to someone through an intercom, and a couple of minutes later Carson and a lady dressed in a smart, blue business suit walked into the room. From her expression and the doe eyes she was shooting Carson, I already knew she had a thing for him and knew who he was. She smiled politely when Carson introduced us, telling me her name was Marian and she was here to order the furniture for Sasha.

  It was weird watching Carson and her interact. She’d sat on the sofa between us, pointing out things and gushing about the way it was manufactured. Carson had seemed a little out of his depth the whole time and kept waiting for me to make the decisions, but when I didn’t play along he’d had to take charge. I actually couldn’t care less what type of wood Sasha’s cot was made out of or if it turned into a toddler bed, or what was the ‘most popular range’ they had. We were happy at home with the cot Lucie had given me, but I didn’t have the will to protest anymore.

  By the time she got to the back of the catalogue, Carson seemed to have purchased one of everything in the most expensive range they had, regardless of whether it was a necessity or not. After she had a list almost down to the bottom of the page on her clipboard, they took a tour of the house while she noted down the safety equipment that needed to be ordered. I heard plug covers and stair gates mentioned, and when they went into the kitchen they were counting cupboards so they knew how many child locks to order. I didn’t bother following them as they walked around the expansive house while Carson spent money as if it were water. I hadn’t even been upstairs yet, but I didn’t need to. I would bet my life it was just as breathtaking as the lower floor – either way, it still felt like a prison to me. I closed my eyes and sat back against the sofa, settling myself into the soft cushions and willing the dull aching in my head to subside.

  The sales rep was in the house for a grand total of two hours, and in that time I had probably spoken less than ten words. Once they were finished, she assured Carson it would be delivered in the morning and her staff would assemble it and put it all in place for him. Clearly it didn’t matter that it was Sunday tomorrow. No doubt there was no expense spared from Carson’s direction to make that happen.

  By the time she left, I was mentally exhausted and sat there listening to Carson making endless phone calls to the people he worked with: his press agent, removal companies
which would pack up and transport all our possessions to his house, his family and his friends. The whole time, the depression was building and building inside me. Carson seemed determined to do anything other than speak to me.

  AT TEN O’CLOCK, we’d barely exchanged more than a few sentences. I stifled a yawn and ignored him tapping away on the laptop ordering goodness knows what else he felt he needed to buy. “You want to go to bed?” Carson asked suddenly, catching me off-guard.

  I nodded, blinking my heavy eyelids.

  “I haven’t even showed you upstairs yet, have I? Mason called while I was giving you the tour…” He frowned, turning off his laptop and standing.

  I shrugged, pushing myself up to my feet, too. “It doesn’t matter.”

  I followed behind him, watching as he checked the front door was locked before tapping in a code on the house alarm and signalling for me to go upstairs. When we got to the top, he stopped and pushed open a door. “I thought Rory might like this one. If not then there’s another one down the hall he could have,” he said, motioning for me to look in.

  I gasped when I surveyed the room. The place was probably almost the same size as my whole flat. There was a little sofa area with an enormous flat-screen TV at one end and a bed at the other. Rory was definitely going to love it. It was plain, like the rest of the house; white walls, cream carpet.

  “You don’t go much for colour, huh?” I asked, still shocked at the size of the room.

  “He can change it to whatever he wants. No one stays in there; I don’t think I’ve ever used that room. It’s probably a little boring for a teenager,” he admitted. “Come on, I’ll show you Sasha’s room next.” He took my hand and, before I could snatch it back, pulled me down the hallway.

  He stopped outside another door and pushed it open, flicking on the light. The room was smaller than Rory’s but, even so, was bigger than the lounge and kitchen in my flat. He followed me in and stopped behind me, his chest pressing against my back. “We’ll decorate it and make it more girlie. What kind of thing is Sasha into?” he asked. He was standing so close to me I could feel his chest rumble against my back as he spoke. I gulped and willed my voice to come out normally.

  Why does his body still affect me when I’m trying so hard not to forgive him?

  “She likes anything really. The Fimbles and Charlie and Lola
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