Poles apart, p.18
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       Poles Apart, p.18
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           Kirsty Moseley

  “Look, this is what happens occasionally. I do something they don’t like, and my Twitter feed blows up with shit and abuse. It’s just part of this life. You’ll get used to it,” he reasoned. He sounded a little exasperated about it, as if maybe he was sick of having to deal with abuse, too. Maybe being a celebrity wasn’t all champagne and roses.

  “I won’t get used to it,” I countered.

  He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Just don’t look at it and don’t respond. Rise above it. My stupid little fan-girls are just pissed because they now realise I’m off the market. They’re annoyed at you for ruining their chances.”

  Even though I didn’t want it to, a little thrill went through me at the words ‘off the market’. That kind of insinuated he wasn’t going to creep around behind my back with them, didn’t it? A small part of me dared to hope.

  “Well, they’re welcome to you,” I retorted, trying to appear aloof when my words had never been more dishonest. “Maybe I should go tell everyone I don’t even want to be here and that you’re forcing me to marry you because you’re scared of your daughter not liking you! Maybe then they’ll stop hating me for taking you off the market, huh?”

  Gloria gasped at my outburst. “Carson, but… but… you said this was a mutual thing,” she blurted.

  I snorted, pushing myself up from the seat. “It is, if you call mutual blackmail into getting married, otherwise he’ll take me to court and take my daughter away from me!” I ground my teeth, watching as her eyes latched onto Carson who didn’t look so confident about his decision now.

  Her mouth popped open. “Oh, Carson, you didn’t!”

  He frowned, ignoring her as he slammed his hand on the counter and shook his head, turning to me. “Stop making this hard, for fuck’s sake. Get over it already and just be fucking grateful you now have everything people dream about.” His steely glare bore into me as he spoke.

  Words failed me. My mouth opened and closed, but nothing came out as I struggled to comprehend exactly how crazy he actually was. Apparently, he was expecting me to be grateful to him for forcing this life on me, disregarding what I wanted and taking away all my choices, free will and liberty.

  He blew out a hefty breath, looking away from me as he gripped his hand into the back of his hair. “You hate me, I know,” he muttered sarcastically.

  I shook my head. The most pathetic thing about me at that moment was when I realised I would never be able to hate him because I loved him too damn much.

  “I’m not hungry anymore. It was lovely to meet you, Gloria.” I turned on my heel, needing to escape before the tears came. Behind me, I could hear his housekeeper laying into him on my behalf. I silently prayed she would drum some sense into him.

  FOR THE NEXT TWO HOURS, I sat on the bed with my knees pulled up to my chest. My heart hurt. My tears had stopped over an hour ago. My emotions were now just resigned to the fact this wasn’t going to change and I was trapped.

  When a knock sounded at the door, I wiped my puffy face and went to answer it. As I pulled it open, Carson stood there, awkwardly kicking his toes against the expensive carpet. “Everything’s done now. Maybe we should go and pick up Sasha and Rory?”

  Not having the energy to argue anymore, I nodded, turning back and picking up my mobile phone and handbag from the side where I’d left them. The house was quiet as we walked through it. Lots had changed since I came in yesterday. Half of the furniture was now gone – stored somewhere, no doubt, because it was mostly sleek glass or expensive-looking china. Every socket was plugged with little plastic covers, and stair gates were fixed at the top and bottom of the sweeping staircase, ruining the beautiful effect of it.

  Wordlessly, I followed him to the interior door and down the staircase, which led to his garage. Instead of going to one of the sleek sports cars, he pressed the key to a massive black off-roader. To me, it looked a little like a monster truck. When he opened the passenger door for me, I had to climb to get onto the brown-leather bucket seat. A child car seat was already placed in the back. He certainly had thought of everything, it seemed.

  “So, where am I going?” he asked as he started the engine.

  After giving him the address and some basic directions to Lucie’s flat, I slumped down into my seat as he searched for her address on the satellite navigation system. When the garage door opened, my eyes widened as I spotted a few reporters camped outside the gates to his house. They all jumped up, snapping photos and shouting questions through the tinted-glass windows.

  “They can’t see in, don’t worry,” Carson assured me, turning carefully into the street as the reporters surrounded the car, still shouting their questions and asking for a quote.

  “Why are they still hanging around here? Hasn’t the story already broken? What more could they possibly want?” I asked incredulously.

  He shrugged. “We’re big news right now, Em. They have to make money somehow.”

  I huffed and folded my arms over my chest, knowing another outburst from me would do no good. Clearly Gloria the friendly housekeeper hadn’t been able to make him change his mind, either. Silence weighed heavily on me as I stewed inside, wondering how long this attention surrounding us would last. I had work tonight – would they follow me there asking for an exclusive quote, too? I hoped not.

  “What do I do if the reporters are at the club tonight? Do I call Mason?” I asked, chewing on my bottom lip.

  Carson snorted and shook his head. “You’re not going to the club.”

  I raised one eyebrow at the sternness in his tone. “I am. I have work tonight. I can’t pull a sickie two nights in a row, Jason will be pissed.” I didn’t want to lose my job. Although I hated doing it, it was the only source of income I had.

  “You don’t work there anymore. I’ll sort it out.” He kept his eyes firmly fixed on the road as he spoke. “I can’t let you do that anymore, I’m sorry.”

  I almost choked on air as I gaped at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”

  He shrugged. “The press would crucify us if you carry on doing that. It’s not exactly a respectable job, is it? Now that you’re in the public eye, things will need to change.”

  “Not respectable enough for a celebrity’s fiancée, you mean?” I spat. He shook his head but didn’t look at me. “It was respectable enough for you to get your kicks with, though, huh? A lap dancer isn’t exactly marriage material, though, is she? I guess you have to think of your image and what other people think of you.” I ground my teeth in frustration at the disrespect. “What happened to the ‘I don’t care what you do, you’re Emma Bancroft to me’ shit you spouted last week?” I asked acidly. Talk about double standards! “My job was all right when you were just after a casual fuck, but now all of a sudden I’m not good enough?”

  “I never said you weren’t good enough!” he snapped, glaring at me before turning his attention to the road again. “I just can’t have you do that job if we’re getting married.” He shook his head forcefully as he pulled into an empty space outside Lucie’s block of flats. “I don’t want to argue with you anymore. I’m done. You no longer work there. End of.”

  “‘End of’? Are you shitting me?” I gasped, watching as he opened the door and climbed from the car, slamming it so hard the whole car shook. I laughed incredulously as he walked around to my side of the car and opened the door for me, silently motioning for me to get out. I held my ground, shaking my head in rejection. “I’m not done. No ‘end of’,” I stated firmly.

  He sighed deeply, watching as a couple of cars pulled into the car park, screeching to a halt before the same reporters from his house sprang out and started running toward us. “I don’t really want them to witness this domestic and have it spread all over the front page tomorrow. If you could just put on your happy face and smile, that’d be great.” He smiled at me, but it was forced and didn’t reach his eyes, which instead held a silent warning.

  Knowing I had to play along, I forced a smile as we
ll and took the hand he was holding out to me, letting him help me from the car. By the time I was on my feet, we were surrounded and the clicking of cameras filled my ears. Carson’s shoulders seemed to loosen now that I was playing along. As he closed the car door, he bent forward and, before I could even guess what was about to happen, his soft lips covered mine. The kiss lasted no more than a second, and I didn’t even have time to react and kiss him back before it was over. The excited buzz around me clearly signalled the one-second kiss was enough for the reporters, though. They would have the picture they wanted.

  I gulped as Carson’s hand tightened on mine, pulling me against his side as he turned to the reporters. “We’re now going to pick up our daughter. If you print a picture of her, or Emma’s brother, then I’m going to sue your arses for every penny you have. Just a friendly warning,” he said sternly. The authority in his tone made the hair on the nape of my neck stand up. Without waiting for a response, he turned and stalked into the building, tugging me along behind him.

  Once we were alone, I pulled my hand from his, ignoring how his face fell and his eyebrows knitted together. I didn’t mind putting on an act for the cameras if we needed to, but there was no way I was belittling myself like that in private.

  I stopped walking. “I’m not done talking about this. I need to work.”

  “Not there you don’t,” he answered forcefully.

  I groaned in frustration, throwing my hands up in the air. “Well, what the hell am I supposed to do for money? I don’t exactly have a line of people queuing up to offer me a job!” I snapped.

  His hands fisted into his hair. “You don’t need to worry about that anyway. I have more than enough. Over the next week, I’ll sort out a bank account card and stuff for you. There’s no need for you to work.”

  The air suddenly became thicker, feeling like it was choking me. Trapped. Now I was totally and utterly trapped because I’d never have the money for a way out if I didn’t work. “So, I’m just supposed to be a good little housewife, relying on her husband like someone out of the forties? Times have changed, Carson. Women don’t have to do that now; they can work if they want to!”

  “You’re in full-time education, Emma. You’re a student. That and looking after Sasha is enough for a job, surely,” he countered, eyeing me cautiously. “I’m not saying you can’t ever have a job. Just finish your university course and then you can work wherever you want. You don’t need to be working in that place anymore.”

  “Maybe I like working there. Did you ever think of that?” I countered, folding my arms over my chest and raising one eyebrow in question.

  He scoffed and shook his head. “Do you?” he snapped. “You really like dancing for guys and having them leer at you while you parade around in hardly any clothes? You really like going into the backroom for sex?”

  “Yes, actually!” I answered before I could even think it through. He recoiled, clearly shocked by my answer. It was then that I realised my answer only related to half his question. A frown lined my forehead as I backtracked. “No, I don’t like dancing for guys, of course not. It’s… There are parts of my job I hate, but others I actually lived for.” I chewed on my lip. “The best part of my job was you.” I hated to admit it, but it was the truth.

  Silence filled the hallway as my face flamed with heat.

  “Well, then you have no reason to go there anymore, do you? You have me full-time now,” he answered. The hair on my arms prickled at his words. My heart swelled in my chest because that was the first kind-of-nice thing he’d said to me for the last two days. But then he had to carry on speaking and my hopes, which were only just starting to take flight, came crashing down to my feet again. “Besides, I’d much rather watch you dance in the bedroom anyway.” A cocky little smirk crept onto his face as his eyes sparkled playfully. Maybe he was joking, I didn’t know, but his words cut me deeply, reminding me that I would never escape this stigma. I would never forget what I was, because he saw that every time he looked at me.

  “Screw you,” I whispered. My chin wobbled as my stomach twisted in a knot. Needing to be away from him, I turned and marched up the stairs.

  “Oh, for fuck’s sake. I can’t say anything right, can I?” he muttered dejectedly.

  Lucie’s flat was on the sixth floor, and her apartment block was slightly nicer than mine. The walls of the stairwell were painted an ugly grey, but at least they weren’t covered in graffiti tags and crudely-scrawled notes about who had slept with whom and who needed to die, like mine were. I didn’t speak to him again as I stomped up the stairs and stopped outside my best friend’s door.

  When the door swung open, Lucie smiled at me warmly before stepping forward and engulfing me in a much-needed hug. I sighed and closed my eyes, feeling my shoulders relax as she patted my back supportively. “Oh, baby doll, are you okay? Did you sleep? You look terrible!” she asked as she pulled back and regarded me with her motherly concern she used on her kids.

  I forced a smile and shrugged. “I’m okay.” That was a lie. I was far from it, but I didn’t want to talk about it with Carson watching my every move. “Where’s Sash and Rory?”

  Lucie stepped back and waved me in, looking at Carson with tight eyes. I could tell he’d gone down a peg or two in her estimations after this. “They’re in the living room.”

  As I looked toward the door, Rory stepped out, closing it firmly behind him. I sighed and relaxed a little more. It felt nice to be around familiar surroundings and people. He strutted toward me quickly and I smiled, opening my arms for a hug. Only, I noticed too late that he wasn’t looking at me, and he certainly wasn’t smiling.

  He stalked forward, and before I could open my mouth and tell him not to do what I knew was coming, he raised his arm and threw his fist straight into Carson’s face.

  “RORY, WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING? Stop it!” I cried as Carson slammed back into the wall behind him.

  A livid-looking Rory turned back to me and pointed an accusing finger in Carson’s direction as he clutched his bleeding nose. “You said you didn’t have the energy to punch him in the face, so I figured I’d do it for you!” he barked.

  An unwilling smile twitched at the corner of my mouth. Although I didn’t approve of violence at all, the fact he was standing up to someone older than him on my behalf just served to remind me what a great little brother I had. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t really want to reprimand him, but I knew I needed to.

  Carson pushed himself upright, shaking his head. “You’re fucking lucky you’re underage,” he grumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose.

  One of Rory’s eyebrows rose in challenge. “Oh, yeah, and why’s that, dickwad?”

  I shook my head quickly, stepping between them and holding my hands up in protest. “Rory, just don’t,” I pleaded.

  “Tell me you’re not seriously moving in with this bellend!” Rory snapped, narrowing his eyes over my shoulder. “I could just kick the snot out of him and throw him out.”

  “You could try!” Carson growled from behind me, stepping closer to me and gripping my hips as he attempted to push me out of the way so I wasn’t between them. “Don’t stand there, Emma. If your runt of a brother foams at the mouth again, you’ll get hurt.”

  I shoved his hands off me and held my ground. “Just stop it, both of you. What are you, three? Grow up!”

  “Runt of a brother?” Rory repeated, gritting his teeth. “Twat.”

  Twisting on the spot, I put one hand on each of their chests and pushed as hard as I could, separating them. “Stop it!” I shouted angrily.

  “Mummy?” I heard from the living room. The four of us in the hallway fell silent and looked toward the living room door as the handle rattled where Sasha was obviously trying to get out because she’d heard me. “Muuuuuuummmmmmmmyyyyyyyy!”

  When I looked back to Carson, I saw his mouth was open as he stared at the door. He wasn’t moving. The blood had stopped from his nose, but it covered his lips and chin a
nd had dripped down onto the front of his shirt. He looked like something from a horror film.

  “Your face,” I muttered with wide eyes.

  His hand shot up, cupping his nose and mouth. I didn’t even see Lucie disappear, but she came running back from the kitchen with a tea towel in her hand which she threw at Carson just as the living room door opened.

  Sasha’s little face peeked out of the room, looking left before turning to the right. Her blue eyes lit up when she saw me, and a gigantic smile stretched across her face as she giggled and rushed out of the room, running toward me as her brown curls bounced with each step. “Mummy!”

  I grinned and bent, catching her just as she jumped at me. “Hey, beautiful,” I greeted, planting a big kiss on her lips. I stood and lifted her, hugging her tightly to me. “I missed you! Been good for Lucie?” I asked.

  She nodded. “Play minoes. Falls down!” she replied excitedly, pointing back toward the door.

  I looked at Lucie for help, not knowing what she was saying. “Dominoes,” Lucie explained. “We’re trying to make a domino trail, but it’s not going well. Keeps falling down, right, Sash?”

  I grinned and nodded. “Dominoes? Sounds like fun.”

  I turned to Carson. He was just staring at Sasha with wide, clearly-awed eyes. His mouth still hung open, the tea towel Lucie had given him long forgotten as he dragged his eyes over every inch of his daughter’s face. His whole body was alert and on edge. The way he was looking at her so adoringly made my heart ache and my stomach clench. It was as if he were looking at the Eighth Wonder of the World. He wasn’t even blinking, and he was barely breathing. I’d never seen love at first sight, but if I had to describe what it looked like it would be Carson looking at his daughter for the first time. Impossibly, my love for him seemed to double just because of the tender, adoring way he was looking at my little girl.

  I looked back at Sasha as she played with my hair, wrapping it around her chubby fingers. “Sasha, there’s someone here who wants to meet you,” I said, swallowing the lump in my throat. Her big, blue eyes came up to meet mine. I motioned toward Carson with one hand, not really knowing how to make this introduction at all. “This is Carson. He’s your daddy. Can you say hi, Daddy?”

  When she looked up at him for the first time, he gulped.

  “Hi, Daddy,” she murmured in her singsong voice.

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