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Drawn to Mr. King: Chapter 23

Jaxon

    phone on the kitchen counter in front of me.

What the hell?

I was so relieved when it connected—that Megan was finally going to talk to me. And then some guy answers and starts laying into me.

Said his name was Ryan.

Ryan…

“The bloody ex-boyfriend!” I hiss to the empty room.

She’s with her ex-boyfriend. What’s she even doing with him? She said she was going to see her parents.

I slam one palm against the cool marble as I raise the glass of green juice to my lips with the other hand.

Bloody ex-boyfriend.

I scowl at the glass and tip its contents down the sink, flicking the coffee machine on instead.

I stalk over to the window and stare out.

He’s right, though.

Every put down, every angry word out of his mouth—stupid, worthless, selfish piece of shit. They are all true. Maybe I should thank him? Be grateful that there are people who care about her enough to feel that anger towards me. There are people there for her who will support her, be there for her when I’m not.

But knowing that he’s there with her right now, and I’m not, stings. It bloody stings deep in my gut. But what do I expect? She won’t be alone forever. One day, some other man will come along and steal her heart. Hold her in his arms, watch the way her nose wrinkles, see her eyes light up when she’s inspired… lift my child up when they fall over, wipe away their tears, read them a bedtime story.

“Oh god.” The sob sticks in my throat as I squeeze my eyes shut.

It won’t be me.

It will be someone else, living my life, loving her, fathering my child.

It won’t be me.

Things I so desperately wish I could have.

But I can’t.

I may not be here in a couple of years. I will have abandoned them. It’s better for everyone this way. She can meet someone younger, someone fitter. Someone who will not put her through the agony that comes with seeing a person you love suffer and die.

All whilst you’re helpless.

Fucking helpless.

I sink down to the floor, my head in my hands, my chest heaving.

I can’t breathe.

My heart is hammering in my chest, the pressure of the blood in my veins making my head pound. My fingers tingle as I try to suck in a breath, failing miserably. This must be what dying feels like. Like you’re falling off a cliff, out of control, arms and legs flailing, fingers clawing, looking for that one hand or foothold, that one lifeline to pull you back up.

Only it never comes.


“I’m here already. I’m just checking in with some colleagues, and then I’ll come meet you out in the oncology reception.” Joanna’s voice is professional as it comes through the Jag’s Bluetooth speakers.

It would be professional. She’s in work mode now.

“There’s no rush. I’m almost an hour early. I wanted to make sure I could find parking.”

“Good idea. Parking can be a nightmare here.”

I suspect she is agreeing rather than calling me out on the real reason I’m early.

I want to get this over with.

After having what I realise now was an anxiety attack last night, I finally made it to bed. But only to toss and turn all night, feeling like I was awaiting my turn for the guillotine in the morning. The sheets were soaked in sweat when I woke—one more sign of how little control I have over anything right now.

I park up the Jag and take a ticket from the machine, tucking it inside my jacket pocket, and then head inside the hospital’s main entrance. The lighting and smell make my throat tight. They’re all the same. Every hospital I’ve ever been in has the same soulless quality.

It’s been years since I came in one willingly.

Too many memories.

I wander over to the newsagents to pass some time. It’s got all the usual items; get-well-soon cards, magazines for every potential interest, the latest novels, balloons with ‘new baby’ emblazoned across their inflated foil fronts. I stare at one shaped like a teddy bear as it swirls around menacingly, powered by the breeze from a nearby air vent.

“Jaxon?” The voice fires into my heart like a bullet.

What’s she doing here?

“Megan,” I breathe, turning around and staring straight into her eyes.

Her cheeks flush pink, and she eyes me warily, wrinkling her nose. Her hair is tied up in a high ponytail, and she’s wearing a pencil skirt and blouse, as though she’s on her way to work.

She’s even more beautiful than the last time I saw her.

When I left her.

I fight the urge to reach out and pull her into my arms, press my nose into her hair and smell berries. Hold her, feel her…

“You came? How did you know? Did Abigail tell you?” Her eyes search mine and then drop to my lips before she snaps them away. “You know what? Never mind. It doesn’t matter how you knew. We should go, though. The appointment’s in five minutes.”

I’m frozen to the spot.

She turns back to me and frowns.

“Unless you’d rather not come?”

“No, I’m coming,” I say, catching her up.

I have no idea where she’s going, but she’s talking to me and wants me to go. That’s enough for me.

“Abigail is here somewhere,” Megan murmurs as we cross the tiled entry foyer.

“She’s there.” I spot Abigail, who’s got her arms crossed, a scowl on her face. She looks me up and down as we approach.

“I see you decided to join us then, Jaxon.” Her tone is clipped as she arches a brow.

“Yes, I did.”

“Megan, I’ll be in there when you come out.” Abigail points to the open-fronted coffee shop across the foyer.

She gives me one final scowl before stalking off. I’ve known her for years, through Martin, but it’s obvious whose camp she’s in.

Not that I blame her.

“We’ve grown quite close. She’s become a good friend, a protective one,” Megan says as we walk.

“So, I see. I’m glad you’ve got good friends, Megan.”

She looks up at me sideways and opens her mouth, but then shuts it and sighs to herself.

I’m not even looking where we’re going. I can only focus on the heat coming from her body, the way her pulse is beating in her neck, causing her delicate skin to flutter. Her mouth is pulled into a tight line, and her back is rigid as she walks.

My eyes drop to her stomach, and my chest burns.

“There are so many things I want to say to you just so you know.” Her voice is controlled as she glances at me. “But now is not the time or place.”

She’s cool and calm, devoid of emotion. So different from Wednesday. There are no words I can say that will make this any better. Instead, I nod in understanding as we turn down another corridor.

We walk to the end, and it opens into a small waiting area with a reception desk off to one side.

Megan approaches the older lady with a kind face behind the desk. “Hello, I’m Megan Curtis. I’m here for an early scan.”

Scan?

The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

The lady taps into her keyboard.

“Ah, yes, here you are. If you could just fill this in, please.” She hands Megan a clipboard with a form and pen attached. “Why don’t you and your partner take a seat over there?” She gestures to two empty seats together in the waiting area.

Megan gives her a polite smile, and we walk over to the two seats and sit down. She doesn’t look at me. Instead, she concentrates on filling in the form. But the seats are so close together that I can smell her berry shampoo.

I wipe my palms on my trousers. The urge to wrap an arm around her and bury my nose in her hair is more overwhelming than when I first saw her in the hospital shop.

“How was your weekend?”

“Fine,” she says, not looking up.

“And your parents?”

“They’re fine, too.”

“And Ryan?” The words are out before I can stop them.

Her eyes snap up to mine, and the fire in them makes me lean back.

“Ryan is just fine, thank you, Jaxon,” she hisses.

“Did he tell you we had a chat?” I ask, the heat of her gaze still burning into me.

“He did.” She goes back to filling out the form.

“He’s what, thirty? Thirty-one?”

She pauses, her pen hovering over the paper as her nose wrinkles. “He’s thirty-one.”

I clear my throat. “Only one year older than you.”

“Not everything is about numbers, Jaxon,” she snaps, standing up to take the clipboard back to the lady at the reception desk.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper when she sits back down.

“I know, you keep telling me.”

She folds her arms across her chest as she looks around the waiting room. Posters cover the walls, pictures of smiling babies coming at us from every angle. A couple sitting opposite us catch Megan’s eye, and she smiles at them.

“How many weeks are you?” Megan asks.

The couple look at each other, the man’s hand rubbing her stomach as they grin.

“Thirty-three,” the lady answers. “We’re here to check which way round the baby is. They think he might be breech. How about you?”

“Almost ten, I think,” Megan answers without looking at me.

My eyes drop to her stomach again.

“Oh, that’s so exciting. Is it your first?” The lady’s eyes look between the two of us.

I hold my breath, waiting for Megan to answer.

“Mine, yes.”

The couple looks to me and back to Megan.

“Oh, he’s not the father. Just the sperm donor,” she says, her voice matter of fact.

I stare at her as a wave of nausea crashes over me.

Just the sperm donor.

There’s an uncomfortable silence until they call the couple into one of the consultation rooms. The guy leaps out of his seat as though they’ve just said they’re giving away winning lotto tickets, pulling his wife up with him.

I’m still staring at Megan. She turns to face me, and her eyes bore into mine with an edge I haven’t seen before.

“What was that?” I can’t hide the hurt in my voice.

She flinches momentarily before jutting her chin out.

“That’s what you’ve chosen to be, Jaxon. You just use different words to describe it.”

“Jesus Christ, Megan.” My voice is strained as I lean my head into my hands.

She thinks so little of me. I’ve made her believe I’m the kind of man who would turn his back on his own child. But I’m not.

If there was any other way.

If I knew what the future held, If I could guarantee her, I would never leave them both.

“Megan Curtis?” A young female doctor is smiling at us both from one of the examination room doorways.

I rub my hand across my eyes and stand, following Megan into the room.

“Please, both of you, take a seat. My name is Gail. I’m one of the sonographers here at the hospital.”

The room is small and dim. The blinds at the window block out most of the light. There are a couple of chairs next to a desk with a computer on, which Gail gestures to as she takes a seat at the desk. Behind her is an examination bed surrounded by a lot of equipment, including a large screen fixed to the wall at the foot of the bed.

I gesture to Megan to sit down first and then take the seat next to her. She sits on the edge of her seat, her hands clasped on top of her knees, chewing on her lip as she watches Gail.

“Right then, Megan. Let’s see.” Gail clicks the end of her pen as she reads the questionnaire Megan completed outside. “So, the date of your last period was the thirtieth of November?”

“Yes.” Megan nods.

The thirtieth of November… less than two weeks before the hotel re-opening.

Gail brings up a calendar on the computer and taps her pen against the screen.

“That would make you… ten weeks today.” She looks at my confused face. “We count the weeks from the first day of the woman’s last period, even though the magic probably didn’t happen until around ten to fourteen days after that when Megan would have ovulated.” She smiles at me.

“Ah, I see.”

I steeple my fingers under my chin as I lean forward on my knees, eyes glued to the calendar.

“So really, the baby has only been growing in there for a little over eight weeks,” Gail adds.

I swallow the lump in my throat.

Our baby has been growing for eight weeks. That day I saw Megan again at Articulate, and each time since, our baby was inside her… growing… living.

“Pretty special, isn’t it?” Gail smiles.

“Yes,” I shake my head in disbelief, “incredible.”

Megan shifts in her seat next to me. She looks away as I turn to her and focuses on Gail, who’s reading her answers again.

“Okay, tell me about the bleeding? That was around week six?” Gail frowns as she reads.

“Bleeding?” I whip my face toward Megan. “You didn’t tell me you’d been bleeding.”

I look at her lap as though I might see red seeping through her clothes. She bristles, a muscle twitching in her jaw. She still won’t look at me.

Gail looks between the two of us.

My pulse is skyrocketing in my chest.

“Is the baby okay?” I search Megan’s face and then look at Gail.

“It’s okay, relax,” Gail says, her voice calm. “Implantation bleeding can happen. It shows up around the time you’re expecting your period, so some women don’t think they’re pregnant and don’t find out until the following month.”

“So, the baby’s okay?”

“That’s what we’re here to check.” Gail’s smile returns. “It’s more common than people realise.”

“Thank God,” I breathe, my body relaxing.

Megan clears her throat. “It was lighter, mostly brown, a bit of red. And it was shorter. I thought nothing of it. I thought it was my period.”

She finally looks at me, and the hurt in her eyes makes my breath catch in my throat.

Hurt and worry.

She’s worried.

She thinks I’m going to accuse her… of what? Knowing about it? Lying to me? Covering it up?

Getting pregnant on purpose?

I reach over and grab her hand, entwining my fingers with hers, pleased when she doesn’t pull away. She looks at me, her eyes shining with the threat of tears. I look back into them, my heart heavy, and plead with her through my gaze.

Don’t blame yourself, Princess. It’s a miracle. Our baby is a tiny, beautiful miracle.

“Right then, let’s have a look.” Gail grins as she gets up and rolls out a sheet of medical paper on the bed, tearing it off at the end. “Lay yourself back on here, Megan.” She pats the bed.

Megan lets go of my hand and goes over to lie on the bed.

“I need to be this side with the equipment. But there’s a seat on that side, Daddy.” Gail points to a chair on the other side of the bed.

I stand and hover, looking at Megan.

“Sit, Daddy,” she whispers and tips her head toward the chair.

I fall into the seat and stare at her, a million wishes trying to burst out of my head.

Daddy.

“Okay, if you can lower your skirt and pull your blouse up.”

Megan does as Gail says, lifting away from the bed and sliding her skirt and panties down over her hips, exposing the smooth skin of her lower stomach. Gail tucks some tissue paper into the top of Megan’s skirt, and I can’t help staring as her fingers graze low against Megan’s skin.

I suck in a breath as my dick twitches inappropriately in my trousers. Even the magnitude of our situation can’t hide my body’s natural reaction to her. I’ve kissed that skin, made love to that skin, caressed, stroked…worshipped that skin. And now it’s keeping my baby safe as it grows beneath it.

Our baby.

“I’m sorry if it’s cold.”

We both watch as Gail squirts some clear gel onto Megan’s skin. Then she places the ultrasound wand on top of it and spreads it about.

“Let’s see what we have here.”

For a moment, nothing happens. There’s just the sound of my heartbeat in my ears, thu-dum, thu-dum, thu-dum. It’s fast, muffled.

“Your baby has a nice, strong heartbeat. Around one hundred and fifty-three beats per minute.” Gail looks at the computer screen’s readings as she moves the wand around over Megan’s stomach. My breath hitches in my throat. Thu-dum, thu-dum, thu-dum. That’s not my heartbeat; it’s the baby’s.

“Daddy?” Gail says to get my attention.

I look up. Megan’s smiling. Her face is lit up like when she sees a beautiful work of art that captures her. Only this time, her face is even brighter. She’s in total awe. Gail nods to the foot of the bed, and I turn.

It’s hard to make out what’s on the black-and-white screen until there’s movement.

“Oh my God.” The distinct blob wiggles.

“This bit here is the head,” Gail explains, “and this bit is baby’s—”

“Tummy,” I cut in. I can see them loud and clear.

Our baby.

“Here’s the heart.” Gail moves the wand, and a dot appears, pulsing inside the blob. I’m transfixed.

Our baby has a heartbeat, an actual heart beating away inside Megan as it grows. If someone asked me to describe this feeling—seeing our baby, hearing their heartbeat—I couldn’t. No words could do justice to how incredible it is.

“I just need to take some measurements,” Gail says as she draws lines across the screen and enters figures into the computer.

I look at Megan, and she’s watching me, her eyes full of tears.

My throat burns. It burns and aches, just like my heart.

Gail flicks off the screen. “Okay. We’re all done. I’m just going to grab some things from outside. You take your time getting up, Megan. I’ll be back in five minutes.”

Megan sits up and wipes the gel off her stomach with the tissue.

“That’s our baby,” I whisper.

Megan nods as she adjusts her clothes. “I know, crazy, huh?”

I stand up and take a step towards her, grabbing the bottom of her chin so I can tilt her face up to me. Her eyes hold so much pain and so many unanswered questions. But all that matters at this moment is that our baby is healthy.

I’m so close to her, my lips hovering over hers, breathing in her sweet breath. I hesitate, and she senses it. Her eyes look between mine, and she reaches up to either side of my face, closing the gap between us. I moan as her soft lips meet mine, and she kisses me.

It’s tender and sweet and loving.

Everything that I should be giving to her right now.

“Think about what you have to lose, Jaxon,” she whispers against my lips.

I screw my eyes shut.

I have everything to lose. Only if I lose it later it will be a million times harder.

I open my mouth to speak. She needs to know why, no matter what I do, we all lose.

We will all lose in the end.

Losing now will be easier for her, easier on the baby. The crushing sensation in my chest that’s choking the air from my lungs is almost enough to make me change my mind.

Almost.

“Megan…”

She looks at me, waiting.

My phone rings in my pocket. Loud, incessant ringing. Megan’s face drops as I pull it out.

Joanna.

I’m meant to be getting prepped for surgery in less than ten minutes.

“I have to… I have to—”

“Go,” she says, turning away, “just go, Jaxon.”


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