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Drawn to Mr. King: Chapter 24

Megan

    the text message to Jaxon and slip my phone back inside my bag, staring out of the car window at the rain lashing down.

“Are you okay?” Abigail asks from the driver’s seat, her voice full of concern.

“I don’t know what to think anymore. I really don’t.”

The sinking feeling that’s been in my chest pretty much every day for the last week is showing no signs of easing off.

“Neither do I, Meg. This isn’t the Jaxon I know. He’s not like this.” Abigail screws her face up in confusion. “It’s like he’s been taken over by something. Something that’s making him act like a totally different person.”

“I don’t understand why he came. Why did he even bother when he’s obviously more bothered about this stupid work trip he’s got today? He didn’t even stay until the end. The sonographer came back with the photographs and told me the due date, and he missed it. He’d already pissed off.”

My eyes sting as I bring my gaze back down to the little black and white images I’m holding in my hands.

“Work trip?” Abigail glances at me as she pulls up to a red light.

“Yeah. When I was at Mum and Dad’s, he texted me and asked to meet up on Tuesday. Said he had a work thing Monday, so it had to be Tuesday. But I guess he changed his mind when you told him about the scan.”

“Me?” Abigail turns to look at me. “What are you talking about? I didn’t tell him. I thought you must have?”

“No, I didn’t… Martin?”

Abigail shakes her head at me. A car honks its horn behind us, so she drives off, waving a hand up to the driver behind in apology.

“I never told Martin. It’s not my news to tell.”

I frown and screw up my nose.

“How did Jaxon know I had a scan booked, then?”

“Beats me.” Abigail shrugs. “Although, I saw Jo at the hospital whilst I was waiting for you.” She taps the fingers of one hand against the steering wheel as she thinks. “She came out to the main entrance area, looking around like she was expecting someone.”

“Who’s Jo?” I tuck the scan photographs in between the pages of my sketchbook and slide it back into my bag.

“Jaxon’s sister-in-law. Well, ex-sister-in-law, Penelope’s sister.”

“Oh, right. He’s never mentioned her.”

“I guess he’d have no reason to. It was strange, though. She seemed surprised to see me. She’d normally stop and chat for ages, but she seemed to want to get away. Maybe she was just busy, probably had a patient waiting.”

“A patient? Is she a doctor?” I ask, my mind wandering to Jaxon, the way he grabbed my hand at the scan and seemed so worried about the baby. And then the way he held my chin and kissed me back—kissed me like there was much more he wanted to say… but couldn’t.

“Oncologist, an amazing one. She treated Martin.” Abigail smiles as she says his name.

“Really?”

“Mmm-hmm. She’s incredible. She has a consultation clinic over on Harley Street but is often at the hospital.”

Abigail pulls up outside the Articulate building.

“Thanks for the lift.” I smile at her. “Now I just have to sneak inside without Phil noticing I’m late and hope that Lydia’s powers of distraction have worked.”

“Good luck!”

I roll my eyes. “Thanks. I have a feeling I’ll need it. Hey, do you fancy Barre class later, after work? It’ll stop me from going home and getting straight into my pyjamas again.”

Abigail’s eyes light up. “Yes! That would be amazing. Martin’s staying at Jaxon’s for the night, so I’m free as a bird.”

“Boys sleepover?” I scowl, a pang of jealousy disguised as anger hitting me. He’ll spend time with Martin, but he won’t even stay for the whole of his baby’s scan appointment.

“Yeah, I thought the same. He sometimes stays if there’s a sports game they want to watch, and it finishes late. But I get the bare minimum in the way of info. This time, though, he would not stop talking. The way he does when he’s up to something. Do you know what I mean? Like he’s over-compensating for not being one hundred per cent truthful.”

“You think he’s lying?”

Abigail chews on her bottom lip. “I don’t think he’s lying about going to Jaxon’s. But I think there’s more to it than he’s letting on.”

“Maybe they’re working on his book?”

Abigail shakes her head. “I don’t think so… I don’t know. Maybe I’m just reading something into it when there’s nothing there.”

I lean over and give her a hug. “Well, whatever they’re doing, it means I get you for the evening. So that’s good news.”

“Absolutely.” She grins. “See you later.”

I get into the office with no one even raising their eyes from their desk. Phil’s office door is closed, and there’s no sign of Lydia.

I fire up my computer and work my way through my emails. Most are the usual office notices, Phil insisting that people label and date their lunch clearly if they put it in the fridge. Apparently, someone left some cream cheese in there, which was weeks out of date, and began growing a questionable green fur.

I click on an email from T. Laverty at King Publishing.

Good morning Megan,

I just wanted to say again what a pleasure it has been meeting and working with you on this project. You are an exceptionally talented illustrator. I know the future holds great things for you, whether that be at Articulate or somewhere else.

I sincerely hope this isn’t the last time our paths cross, and we get the chance to work together again. Call me anytime. To talk about work, ideas, or just for a chat.

Tina.

I sit back in my seat. That’s so nice of her. Working with Tina is a dream. She’s nothing like Phil. I can’t imagine her giving me a “not another one” look if I were to tell her I’m pregnant. Not like Phil did when one of the design team fell pregnant last year. He turned down her application for flexible working, and her desk has now become a dumping area for extra files from his office. He still hasn’t sorted them out yet, even with roping Lydia in to do most of it for him.

That is one conversation I am not looking forward to having. I still don’t know what to do. What my feasible options are. Take nine months’ maternity, I guess? Then what? Come back full time and lose most of my salary on childcare costs?

I rub my temples with my fingertips. This is too much to think about right now.

“Hey, hot mama.” Lydia appears, perching herself on my desk, wearing what I can only describe as the sexiest work dress ever made.

“Lyds!” My eyes widen as I take in the skin-tight black dress.

It hugs her in all the right places and has a red lace edging around the hem and red lace peeking out from the low-cut sweetheart neckline.

“I know, pretty sweet, huh?” She pouts at me, her bright red lips glistening. “Did the trick, though. Phil sat at his desk like a good boy all morning whilst I did more filing in his office.”

I shake my head and grin at her.

“I owe you. Thank you.”

“Anytime, that’s what friends are for. Besides, black seems to have awoken the dirtier poetic side to Tim.” She bites her lip before a wicked grin spreads across her face.

“Do I want to know?” I pull a face at her.

“Probably not. But let’s just say, this dress will get even more attention tonight after work.” She smirks.

“He’s still speaking to you after you turned him down, then?”

“Of course, he is. That’s all sorted. I told him to think of being down on his knees in front of me as practice for what I have in mind for him later.”

I pretend to cover my ears.

Lydia giggles as she slides off the desk. “Fine. Tell me about this morning. How did it go?”

I pull my sketchpad out of my bag and open it to the page where the scan pictures are tucked, handing them to Lydia.

“Meg. This is your baby.” She looks back at me, her eyes bright and full of energy.

“So, it would seem.” I smile.

“This is really happening,” she whispers, a grin glued to her face. “I’m going to be such a cool auntie.”

“Yes, you are.” I laugh. “Although we might need some ground rules on appropriate language and conversation topics.”

She shrugs her shoulders. “I can behave. It’s not as much fun being a boring adult, but you’re going to love your auntie Lyds,” she coos to the photos.

I laugh. I wouldn’t have had her down as a baby person. She’s young and carefree, going out partying at the weekends and dreaming of taking off travelling. Lydia’s a free spirit. I guess loving other people’s babies is entirely different from having your own. No life-changing choices over what to do about work, no night feeds, nappies, sore boobs, stretch marks, no giving birth. I shudder.

My phone rings in my bag, and I pull it out.

“It’s my mum,” I say to Lydia.

She gives me a small wave and mouths, “see you later,” as she struts off toward the lifts. Probably on her way to accounts to give Tim a sneak-peek of what he has in store.

I hit answer.

“Hi, Mum.”

“Hi, Megan. I’m not disturbing you, am I? I just wanted to see how this morning went at the scan?” Her voice is breathless, as though she has just run up a flight of stairs.

“It was good. They said it all looks normal. Baby is healthy.”

My hand drops to my stomach. Apart from being bloated, there’s nothing there yet. I should have time to figure out what to do about work before Phil notices anything.

“Oh, that’s wonderful news. Just wonderful,” she puffs. “Listen, your father and I have been talking. We think you should move back home with us. Just whilst the baby’s small. We can help. You’ll never be able to afford London rent and childcare by yourself.”

I rub my lips together. She’s right. I know she’s right. The figures don’t add up. But the idea of moving back in with Mum and Dad seems like giving up somehow.

“Think about it,” she says when I don’t answer. “It’s an option, Megan.”

“Okay, Mum. Thank you.”

“Good.” She lets out another big puff.

“Mum, what are you doing?”

“I’m just out… having a walk. With your father.” More puffing, and this time the unmistakable wheeze of my dad in the background.

“Mum! He sounds like he’s about to have a heart attack.”

“Oh, he’s fine. Aren’t you?” A small murmur of agreement pants in the background.

“I didn’t know you and Dad had started up power-walking?”

This is the most bizarre thing I’ve heard in a long time. The idea of my dad doing anything more strenuous than a stroll to the local pub for a pint and a bag of pork scratchings is totally out of character.

“It’s never too late to make healthier choices. Besides, we want to be around to see our grandchild grow up.”

“Mum, you’re hardly that old.” I smile as I study the scan images. White curves and bumps. A little head, a tiny tummy. “Dad will give up the pub next.”

“He’s going to cut back.” She drops her voice low, “even got him to try a green smoothie this morning. Full of antioxidants and cancer-fighting free radicals. I read it in the paper.”

“I’m impressed. I never thought Dad would ever drink anything green, even if it is full of cancer-fighting—” my heart plummets in my chest as ice spreads through my veins.

“Mum,” my voice is scratchy in my throat, “can I call you back?”

“Okay, love. Speak later,” she puffs.

I end the call and dial Abigail, blood rushing in my ears as my heart pounds against my ribs.

“Hey, Meg. What’s—”

“Abigail,” I blurt. “What if Jaxon wasn’t there for the scan at all?”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“Crap, my boss is on the prowl. I’ve got to go. We’ll talk about it tonight.”

I end the call as Phil comes out of his office.

My mind’s whirling with possibilities. None of which are good.

It can’t be.

I’m just getting carried away, reading too much into things. It’s just a coincidence. Jaxon told me himself, he doesn’t want to be involved because he’s too old to do the dad thing again.

That’s all there is to it.

Yet I know as well as he does what that excuse is.

A load of crap.


“Think about it,” I say to Abigail, blowing on my hot chocolate.

I don’t care that I’m probably undoing all my work from the Barre class we’ve just done. My mind’s been spinning all day since speaking to Mum. I need the sugar.

“I don’t know. It could just be a coincidence.” Two lines appear between her eyebrows as she frowns.

This is the second time we’ve been over this, yet we’re still no closer to figuring anything out.

“I hope so. I just can’t shake this feeling that something’s off. If you didn’t tell him about the scan, and Martin didn’t know…. there’s no other way he could have even known about it. What if he wasn’t there for the scan at all? What if he was there for some other reason?”

“Like what?” Abigail takes a sip of her drink as she eyes me over the rim of the mug.

“I don’t know.” I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “I mean, could he have been having some tests, do you think? I know it sounds stupid, but you said you saw Jo there and said she seemed like she was looking for someone? Do you think it could have been Jaxon? Or do you think I’m just being paranoid?”

She looks at her mug, seeming to give my wild theory serious consideration. “I mean, it’s possible. Or maybe he was visiting someone at the hospital?”

I shake my head. “Surely he’d have said if he was. Plus, the way he left so quickly before the appointment was over… I was so angry at him, thinking he was rushing off to a work thing. I saw his phone. I didn’t put it together before. But the name on the screen… it was Joanna calling him. It got me thinking. When you mentioned his sister-in-law, Jo—”

“Short for Joanna,” Abigail cuts in, her eyes widening.

I nod. “Exactly. Tell me, why would she be calling him? He said he had to go, and the look on his face, Abigail—” I rub my hands down my cheeks, “he looked broken.”

She puts her forearms on the table between us and leans forwards.

“Okay. Say he was meeting Joanna for some health issue. Why wouldn’t he just tell you about it? You guys are having a baby.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to think anymore. He tried to tell me he was no good for me from the beginning. But then things changed, and it was wonderful. He was wonderful. For the two minutes it lasted, anyway,” I mutter.

“Then that’s when he ended things?”

I breathe in past the dull ache in my chest.

“Yeah. That’s when he ended things out of the blue. He was sick from work, which Tina, his colleague, said never happens. And when I went over to his place, it was a tip. He looked like he’d been on some junk food bender.”

“Jaxon, and junk food?”

“Exactly,” I raise my eyes to Abigail’s, “the two rarely go together. He doesn’t even drink.”

“I know. He’s always telling Martin how important taking care of your health is. Especially since his diagnosis.”

We fall into silence for a few minutes.

“I’m calling Martin.”

“What?”

Abigail looks back at me, a steely determination in her eyes.

“He’s there now, with Jaxon. They’re having their boy’s night. Boy’s night, my arse. They’re up to something,” she snorts.

She places her phone between us on the table, raising a finger to her lips, before hitting the speaker button.

“Hey, babe,” Martin answers, sounding like his usual self. “You missing me already?”

“You wish.” Abigail rolls her eyes. “I’m going to enjoy having the bed to myself tonight.”

Martin chuckles.

“So, what are you boys doing?”

“Oh, you know…” he trails off as Abigail looks at me, raising an eyebrow.

“Is the game good?”

“What?”

“The game? You said you two were watching a sports game tonight.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah… it’s good.” There are some muffled sounds, as though Martin is covering the phone and talking to someone else.

“What is it that you’re watching? Rugby?” Abigail presses.

“No, um… a baseball game. It’s on one of Jaxon’s fancy-arse extra TV channels he pays too much money for.”

“How’s Jaxon doing?”

Martin’s voice is hesitant, “what do you mean, how’s he doing?”

“Just that.” Abigail keeps her voice light. “Can’t I ask after our friend?”

“He’s fine. He’s Jaxon. Same as usual. No different to normal,” Martin says quickly, his voice uneven.

Abigail looks at me with a half-smile.

“Okay then, babe. I’ll leave you boys to it.”

“Alright, baby,” Martin sighs, sounding relieved.

“Love you.”

“Love you too.”

She jabs the button on her phone. “See. I told you! Lying through his teeth.”

“He sounded a bit flustered,” I agree, staring down at her phone.

“I can always tell when he’s lying. He’s so crap at it.”

I sit back in my chair. If only it were that easy to tell with Jaxon. Maybe the nice guy was the act? And this is the real him? I can’t let myself believe that. I’ve seen the kind, genuine side of him. It’s real. It’s this other Jaxon that’s the imposter.

Abigail drums her fingers on the table. “We should go over there. See what they’re really doing.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” As much as I want to know what he’s hiding and find a reason for his behaviour, turning up at his place unannounced tonight isn’t the way to go. After all, look how well that turned out last time. Saying that, he’s already ditched me and pushed me away. What else is left?

Abigail crosses her arms and lets out a sigh. “Yeah, you’re right. Martin knows I’m onto him, though. He’ll be sweating tomorrow when he gets home. Maybe he’ll let something slip.”

“Yeah, maybe. You know what?” I straighten my back in the seat. “Even if I don’t find out what’s going on, I don’t need him. I can do this alone.”

“You’re not alone, Meg.” She reaches over to take my hand.

“I know, thank you,” I whisper. “My mum and dad have offered for me to move back home with them, too. So, that’s an option.”

“One you don’t like the sound of?” She frowns as she studies my face.

“God, I sound so ungrateful, don’t I?” My face drops into my spare hand.

“Of course not! You’re a thirty-year-old woman with a career. Why would you want to give that all up and move in with your parents?”

“I know. It’s just… what if it’s better, you know? For the baby? We will have more support around, and maybe I could do some freelance work like I wanted to.”

“But you’d be leaving your life behind. Your friends, your job at Articulate.”

I smirk. “Leaving a boss like Phil behind doesn’t seem like such a bad thing… But then, I still think I’d choose him over being unemployed and reliant on my parents. Why does being a grown-up have to be so complicated?”

“Beats me.” Abigail smiles.

“My mum gave up her dreams when she had my brother and then me. Is it selfish that I don’t want to give up mine?”

“It’s not selfish, Meg. You’re human.”

“I know, but it’s not about me anymore, is it? I have someone else to think of.”

“Yes. And you also have yourself to look after. You don’t cease existing as an individual when you have a child. You still need your own dreams. Besides, what better example is there than a mum who still kicks arse, following her dreams? There’s no better example you could set for the baby.” She smiles at me, her eyes full of warmth. “You’ll be okay, Meg.”

I smile back at her as my brain runs away with theory after theory of what could be going on with Jaxon.

Maybe I will be okay.

Will he?


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