Having Jay's Baby (Having His Baby #2) (16 page)

BOOK: Having Jay's Baby (Having His Baby #2)
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Good. Tense suited me just fine. We were going to hash this out until I got what I wanted, and I didn’t need her holding back.

“Do you have tea?” she asked.

“I don’t know.” I nodded towards the cupboard. “It’ll be up there somewhere if we do.”

“We?” She lifted her brows at him as she crossed to the cupboard.

The comment caught me off-guard. “Force of habit,” I said, irritated by the side-line in the conversation.
She’d better not start making accusations about my marriage
. “I’m talking more about the housekeeping staff than Elizabeth, if you must know.”

“I take it she’s not here, or we wouldn’t be, either,” Stella said.

She was rummaging in the cupboard but I recognised a thread of anxiety in her tone. Was she threatened by Elizabeth?

“She’s staying at a hotel,” I said. “The apartment’s on the market; we’re selling up.”

Stella paused, coming up with a box of something that looked like tea. Her eyes glanced off me and around the white, laboratory-like kitchen. She didn’t say anything, merely closed the cupboard and started to search again.

Tightly infuriated by the constant distraction, I crossed to the counter and lifted the kettle, filling it with water and switching it on. Taking the box from her, I found a cup and threw a tea bag into it. “What do you take?”

“Nothing,” she said. “It’s peppermint. Just add water.”

I stared at the box blankly for a moment, before tossing it down. I leaned back on the counter to face her.

“I’ll need to call Monica,” she said, easing her hands back on to the counter opposite. She looked like she wanted to melt through the marble object, anything to escape me. “I said I’d let her know how it goes with the apartment, and she’ll want to know where I am.”

“I’m glad somebody else apart from me seems to give a damn where you’re living,” I said. “She told me, this morning before she left, to talk some sense into you.”

Stella flinched at this.

“You must know none of this is in Nina’s best interests,” I said. I couldn’t stall the conversation any longer. “I can see your independence is obviously important to you, but this isn’t about you. It’s about giving Nina the best start in life.”

She turned to concrete. It seemed on the tip of her tongue to say something, but she bit it back. Whatever it was that had made her come here without argument, I could see it shimmering in the depths of her eyes again. Of course, under that stiffness she looked like she could easily take a swing at me.

Her silhouette seemed slight, nonetheless, against the panoramic view, and, not for the first time that morning I wondered what was going on inside her head.

Why the hell is she so brittle? What did I ever do to her?

The kettle switched itself off. I poured boiling water into the cup and placed the cup down. Water sloshed over the side, making her frown at me.

I glowered back.

She blew on the water a couple of times before placing it in front of her to cool. She seemed to cool down in the process, too, regret weighting her features. “That apartment looked a lot nicer online than it did in real life,” she said eventually. Her eyes were mutinous. “I wouldn’t have taken it, you know. I knew as soon as we headed north off the park that it wasn’t going to work.”

“Then why did we look at it?” I asked.

Her down-turned lashes cast a shadow on her cheekbones. “I … I couldn’t leave the man from the agency hanging.”

“And you wanted to show me you were in charge,” I said, my arms firmly crossed.

Her head jerked up. “I am in charge, of my life! Don’t tell me you always make perfect decisions, Jay. I’m sure you don’t have someone barging into your life and threatening to take over every time you mess up.”

“You’d be surprised,” I said dryly, thinking of my father. Just the mental image of the older man in that hospital bed made my chest ache. Anger steeled me again. “I’m not trying to take over your life, Stella. I want to help,” I said. “I don’t think that offering to put a roof over your head is such an imposition.”

Her mouth was tight, forming a parallel line with her brows. “You’re not the only one making adjustments here, you know.”

“With all due respect, Nina doesn’t have time to wait for you to get your shit together, Stella.”

On the way to pick up her tea, she froze. “That was with all due respect?”

“She needs stability.”

“She has stability—damn it, Jay.” Getting up, Stella strode towards the window and stopped, her shoulders rigid. When she turned back her face was so white she looked like she was in pain. “It’s obvious to me that your definition of stability has a lot more to do with material possessions than mine, and we both know I can’t compete with you on that front.” 

I let out an exasperated sigh. “That’s not what I’m saying at all. Why does this have to be a competition?”

“Then what are you saying?” Her temper flared visibly. “You have no right to judge me as a bad mother, or a selfish person, just because I can’t provide for her the way you can. I’ve done pretty well considering what life’s thrown at us in the last six months.”

“I’m not judging you,” I said. “This is your problem, Stella. You have to accept, for Nina’s sake, that you need help. This damned pride of yours isn’t doing anybody any good.”

“This has got nothing to do with pride,” she countered heatedly. “You’re not listening to me. Of course I put Nina’s best interests first. She’s here, isn’t she?”

“Well, yes—but only because I threatened you with lawyers as far as I can tell.” My frown clashed with her sullen expression. Taking a second to let my pulse settle, I said, “Can we just focus on moving forward?”

“I am!”

“You need a place to live.”

Her brows lifted. “I’m aware of that,” she said.

“My apartment is empty.”

“It’s not empty if you live in it, Jay.” My expression must have darkened like thunder because she practically flinched in her seat. “I’m just saying that we should take into consideration that we’re all going to be living here together,” she reasoned. “Why are you being so aggressive?” 

Was I?
I sat back, realising that I was clenching my teeth. I wondered for a moment if I resembled my father; this was his style, to sit the family down at the table and bully them into submission. I pushed aside the image of him in his hospital bed for about the hundredth time that morning.

She got up again and paced away from me. “I need some assurances, if we move in here.”

“Fine,” I said tightly.

“No sex,” she said.

The suspicion in her glance was so inappropriate that a laugh nearly escaped me. I paused. “Well, Stella—are you saying I need to lock my bedroom door? Because, if I recall correctly, I wasn’t the one sneaking into your bed the other night.”

“I’m stating an intention,” she said.

I couldn’t trust myself to say anything civil. Lifting my brows, I waited for her to go on.

“No more arguing,” she added.

This time I couldn’t quite keep the amusement hidden. “It takes two to argue.”

“What I’m saying, is I want to talk about things. The few weeks has been—” Her voice stopped abruptly. I couldn’t see any obvious emotion in her expression, but I felt an odd shift in the air. “Conflict, like this, has a habit of escalating.”

Escalating?
“Are you telling me I have to agree with everything you say?”

“Of course, I’m not!”

“We’re not always going to agree on everything, Stella,” I said. “That doesn’t give you an excuse to run away every time we cross words, though. Not if you’re taking care of my daughter.”

I would have gone on, but then I noticed she was touching the scar on her cheek. I’d seen her doing it at the house in D.C.—it was like a nervous compulsion, a self-comforting thing. The sight disturbed me for a reason I couldn’t quite pin down.

She noticed me staring and lowered her hand. “I won’t,” she said, while I scrabbled to gather the loose threads of the conversation. “But, I admit, I don’t deal well with conflict.”

“How did you get that scar?”

She flushed. “Don’t change the subject,” she said.

Uncomfortable, I exhaled. “Why, no sex?”

“I’m getting—emotionally involved.”

The gently-spoken words hit me over the back of the head like a baseball bat.

“It’s complicated,” she said, looking away. “You—and Nina.” She was wringing her hands now, her pale brow creased. “I think I’m still hormonal. We need to keep things simple until—until we can see more clearly what’s what.”

I took in a long, faintly shuddering breath. What did that mean? Was she saying she was only emotionally involved because of the hormones? Did I want her to be emotionally involved?

What the hell did emotionally involved mean, anyway?

Despite, or maybe because of the turbulent morning, and all the rancour between us, I lost the urge to fight. She seemed deflated, too. Her silhouette was whittled down to a sliver in the face of the afternoon sun, as though she were floating away above the park. The idea that she, and ergo my daughter, might actually slip away from me seemed disturbingly real.

“I have reports to read,” I said. I had to get out of this room, away from her. I moved towards the door, stopping only before I entered the hallway. “I don’t want to argue over everything like this from now until she’s eighteen years of age, either, Stella. But you have to face the fact that Nina has two parents, and right now, one of them can support her, and one of them can’t.”

Her troubled gaze imprinted on my brain like a bruise as I turned away.

#

My lawyers’ offices were only two blocks down from the apartment. Marginally satisfied that Stella had at least stayed the night—and that we’d managed not to break any of the rules by arguing or having wild sex, which had involved both of us retreating to our room before the sun had even set—I was able to take care of some real estate business before leaving the house. I left the apartment grimly satisfied of having made some progress in the midst of all this mess.

Arriving at my lawyer’s offices with ten minutes to spare, I slipped into a pleasant stupor as I looked out over the park, remembering the scene at breakfast. Nina had been in a silly, playful mood. With a deadline approaching, Stella had begged off to finish up some work, so I’d had my daughter all to myself for the first time. She was … I sighed, wishing I could come up with a word that could encapsulate her. If Nina could have spoken, I was sure she would have used a million new and wonderful words to describe the world, a world that fascinated her. The smallest thing made her pause: a passing bird; a fluffy toy tickling her soft skin; a song on the radio.

I loved her. I was astonished how simple it was, and how uncomplicated. It was unquestioning, unconditional. I was the luckiest man alive. She was bright and receptive, my girl, and I was struggling to assimilate, in contrast, just how blind and reactive I’d become. I had to change that.

I planned to take Elizabeth aside, after the mediation, and break the news to her about Nina. It would hurt her, but she had to know.

“Fitzsimmons.”

Elizabeth’s head lawyer arrived, offering his hand. I turned to see Elizabeth standing by the door. I shelved the errant train of thought.

She was particularly stunning today, dressed in a demure skirt and jacket, her hair sleek and face perfectly made up. She had an aloofness that intimidated, like a tragic heroine in a black and white detective movie, and as well as I knew her, I could see it was intentional. She moved past me with a blind, general greeting and sat down in the chair offered by—staggeringly—my lawyer, who was noticeably flushed with excitement around the jowls.

The first hour moved slowly. “So what exactly is the status of your employment?” Elizabeth’s lawyer asked me.

I watched my soon-to-be ex-wife out of the corner of my eye. Despite the tiring melodrama, something about her countenance today was unnerving. Too calm, yet plainly nervous; there was an unstable thread to every tiny gesture, even her stillness.

I turned my attention back to the opposing counsel. “I’m in the process of starting up a new firm,” I said, narrowing my gaze on the two men and two women in suits across the table from me.

“Because your last firm was under investigation for fraud. Is that correct?”

“No,” I said.

“Isn’t it true that your father invested some of his stock in your firm, along with Ms. Benson’s father?”

“You asked me if my firm was under investigation for fraud, and that’s incorrect,” I said.

“A technicality, Mr. Fitzsimmons,” the lawyer said with a wry smile. “It’s now a matter of public record that stocks in your company were traded fraudulently by members of your family.”

“What my father does with his stock is up to him,” I said. “What does this have to do with my divorce?”

“Fitzsimmons & Jones is a significant piece of collateral, Mr. Fitzsimmons,” the lawyer said. “You have, reportedly, made enquiries into selling off your stock at a very low price, and this new firm you speak of is likely to be worth a fraction of the previous one. As a result, your net worth is now potentially a fraction of what it was. Ms. Benson’s obviously concerned that you’ve squandered the value of your shared assets. She actively contributed to your company’s success by supporting you in a loving marriage.”

BOOK: Having Jay's Baby (Having His Baby #2)
12.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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