Drawn to Mr. King: Chapter 25

Jaxon

 .

Our baby is due on September tenth.

I bring up the image on my phone that Megan sent me yesterday. A tiny black-and-white photograph of our baby. I’ve stared at it all night. It’s ingrained in my memory forever now.

September tenth.

I suck in a sharp breath as I reposition myself on the sofa. My balls feel like a horse has trampled them. Well, my one remaining ball. I press the ice pack back against my shorts. The procedure itself was over in an hour. I had to stay in the hospital for a little while after for the anaesthetic to wear off. But after that, Joanna drove me home in my car, and Martin arrived for the night. They’re still the only two people who know what’s going on and why I’m now working from home for the next week. Joanna tried to insist upon two, but I won that argument.

Got to win something.

My phone lights up in my hand with her name on the screen. She must have a sixth sense.

“Hello, Joanna,” I answer.

“Hi, Jaxon. How are you feeling?”

“Fine. The same as this morning when you called. And the time after that.”

She sighs. “You’re a terrible patient, you know?”

I lean my head back on the sofa and stare at the ceiling. She’s only doing her job. Making sure I haven’t passed out with some freak post-operative complication.

“I’m sorry. It’s sore, but I’ve been moving about just fine since I kicked Martin out.”

I swear he would have stayed longer if he could. He was making himself rather at home on my sofa with his stinky-arse feet up. He said he wasn’t putting off going home, but I got the distinct impression he was stalling after Abigail’s phone call last night.

“How are you feeling?”

“I just told you.” I frown.

“I mean. In yourself? Are you feeling more positive?” Joanna asks carefully.

I shrug and run a hand over my jaw. “I’m still at an increased risk of it coming back, or developing another kind, somewhere else.”

“Jaxon,” her tone is clipped, “we’ve been over this. The cancer hasn’t spread. It’s gone. You don’t need any further treatment, apart from monitoring. I thought you’d be pleased. Relieved?”

“It’s gone for now,” I mutter. “Just means I don’t know when it’s planning to launch its second attack and take me down for good.”

“Jaxon,” her voice is weary, “why are you doing this to yourself?”

“It’s true, though, isn’t it? You’re the doctor. You know I have a higher chance of it happening again.”

“It’s not a guarantee, Jaxon.”

“It’s more likely,” I huff.

“Look,” she sighs, sounding exasperated, “you need to work through this. Whatever works for you. If you need people to speak to, I can recommend—”

“No, thank you.”

“Jaxon. This will eat you up if you let it. It’s gone. The cancer is gone. Move on.”

There’s still a chance.

“I’m fine, Joanna. Really. I’m going to take it easier for a couple of days. Then I’ll be back at work. Same as before.”

“A couple of weeks. You’re supposed to be taking it easy for a couple of weeks.”

“I know. I said I’d stay clear of the office for a week, and I’m not going on any runs anytime soon. But it’s Martin’s charity skydive this weekend. I said I would watch. There’s no way I’m missing it.”

“As long as you don’t get any sudden impulses to join him, then that’s fine.”

“I can safely say that won’t be happening.”

Joanna finally relaxes enough to laugh. “Although, the sight of it would be quite amusing. Jaxon King stepping out of his comfort zone and relinquishing control for once in his life.”

“Hmm, you’d enjoy that, would you?”

“Yes, I would, actually.”

A small smile tugs at the corner of my mouth as she keeps laughing. I’m glad one of us is finding something to laugh about today.

“Right. I will leave you to relax. Remember, no exerting yourself. And no sex. For at least two weeks,” she instructs before she says goodbye and hangs up.

No sex.

I drag my hands down my face.

There’s no chance of that. No chance at all.

The only woman I want to be with is Megan. And now she’s having our baby.

Joanna says the cancer is gone. But can I really believe that will last? Because if I were to move on, and then it came back… it doesn’t bear thinking about. I don’t want my child going through the pain of losing a father. Megan probably doesn’t want to know me now, anyway. I can’t blame her. What kind of arsehole am I? Pushing her away one minute, losing myself in her the next? Then telling her I can’t be a father to our baby and making up some stupid excuse, rather than telling her the truth.

She probably hates me.

“Jesus.” I sit forward too fast, and the ache in my groin turns into a shooting pain.

Doesn’t look like I’m going anywhere fast. Not today, at least. I lean back into the sofa again and bring Megan’s text back up.

September tenth.


“You know, if you hadn’t just had surgery, you’d be coming up there with me.” Martin grins at me.

I chuckle. “What a shame. Maybe next time.”

“Hey, you know you’re jealous. I get to wear the sexy suit and everything.”

My eyes drop to his bright blue jumpsuit. It looks more like one of those puddle suits toddlers wear to keep them dry. All he needs is some little trains printed all over it.

“Besides, girls love this kind of thing. I’m telling you, all this adrenaline and excitement… Abigail is going to be all over me later.”

His eyes cast over Abigail and the rest of the friends and family who have come to watch. They’re stood out in the viewing field, far enough away from the aircraft hangar to hear what we’re talking about. There’s quite a turnout. A local news crew is even here to interview Martin and the other jumpers when they land. They’ve raised a considerable amount of money for a men’s cancer charity, and it’s attracted a lot of good press.

Abigail gives us a wave. Today is the first time I’ve seen her since Monday morning at the hospital. She isn’t giving me a death stare today, which is progress.

“Good luck, Marty. I’m proud of you.” I slap him on the back, and instead, he pulls me into a hug.

“Thanks, Jax. I’m doing this for our dads. And for us.”

I cough to clear the lump in my throat, but the bloody thing doesn’t budge. “I’ll go join Abigail. See you back on solid ground.”

Martin laughs as he lets me go, and I walk over towards Abigail. I’m halfway there when I see a glow of copper curls next to her. Abigail’s already seen me, so I can’t divert my route without it being obvious, not to mention rude. I take a deep breath and walk up to them.

“Hi, Abigail.”

She gives me a tight smile. “Hi, Jaxon.”

Then I turn my attention to Megan. She looks up at me, and our eyes lock.

“Hello, Megan.”

“Jaxon.” She nods in greeting before looking away, her gaze shifting over to the plane Martin and the other skydivers are getting into.

A breeze blows across the airfield. It’s flat here, and we are exposed. Megan pulls her coat tighter around herself.

“How are you?” I ask as I take my scarf off and wrap it around her shoulders.

My movement catches her by surprise, and she startles before noticing what I’m doing. Abigail is too busy watching the plane with a mix of nerves and worry on her face to pay any attention.

“I’m fine, Jaxon. I don’t need you to do that,” she objects as I wrap the scarf around the front of her.

It’s either that or I wrap my arms around her to keep her warm, and I don’t think that gesture would be very welcome.

“How’s the baby?”

She acts as though she hasn’t heard me, her lips pursed as she keeps her gaze firmly fixed on the plane.

“Megan, how—”

“Fine,” she snaps, “everything’s fine.”

“Did you get my text?”

“Yes.” She’s still avoiding my gaze. Her shoulders are back, and her face is calm, her nose pink on the end from the cold.

I lean closer. “Can we talk? I just want to talk.”

I’m close enough that I can see the twitch at the corner of her eye as she stares straight ahead.

“What else is there to say?”

“Megan, look at me, please.”

She sighs and looks up at me. I can’t lie to her anymore. It’s been eating me up all week.

The look in her eyes when I left the scan early haunts me. She thought work was more important to me than her.

More important than our baby.

I can’t live with myself knowing that she thinks I’ve chosen not to be a part of their lives so easily. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life after saying goodbye to my dad.

I need to tell her the real reason we can’t be together. Then she’ll understand. She’ll know why it must be this way. She will see where I’m coming from, I’m sure of it.

“What is it, Jaxon?” She sounds defeated, her eyes full of sadness as she looks at me.

My chest constricts, knowing that I’m the one responsible. I’m the one who dimmed the glow in them.

It’s my fault.

“I just want to talk. Please.”

“Abigail and Martin are dropping me home.”

“Come back to mine so we can talk. Then I’ll take you home.”

She shuffles, pushing her gloved hands deep inside her coat pockets as she looks around at the crowds of spectators surrounding us. “If I say no?”

“Then we’ll have to talk here.”

She frowns, looking around again. “Fine. I’ll come.”

My shoulders drop in relief. “Thank you.”

She wrinkles her nose and lets out a small sound of disgust. “I’m not doing it for you.”

Her curt tone is a slap in the face.

I lift my chin and turn my attention to the plane, which is now barrelling down the runway. It lifts into the air, and the group cheers around me, including Megan. She grabs Abigail’s hand and grins at her.

“This is so exciting! You must be so proud of him.”

“Yeah, he’s not so bad.” Abigail smiles. “He’s been through a lot, but he keeps going. It doesn’t stop him living.”

She catches my eye.

“I think you’re both incredible. It takes strength to go through what you two have.” Megan leans into Abigail, resting her head against her shoulder.

“It just takes love, Meg.” Abigail looks at me again over the top of Megan’s hair. “If you love each other, then anything can be worked out.”

Megan says nothing. If she does, I can’t hear it over the sound of my heart drumming in my chest.

If only love was all that is needed for us. I have enough for the three of us.

We stand and watch as the plane with Martin and the others climbs to the required ten thousand feet and circles back around. There’s an excited gasp from a woman to my right as the first blue dot drops out of the plane’s open door. There’s no way to tell who it is from here. There are six jumpers, and they’re all strapped to the front of one of the experienced instructors.

Megan and Abigail bounce up and down, cheering and whistling, as one by one, each six drop out. I can’t tear my eyes away from Megan’s face. Her eyes are sparkling, and she’s grinning from ear to ear as she gazes at the sky.

“Oh my god! Jaxon, are you watching this?” She turns to me, delight all over her face, everything else temporarily forgotten.

For a brief second, it’s just the two of us, sharing a moment of awe. Martin isn’t the only one floating on air right now. The breath leaves my lungs as I gaze back at her.

This moment… her… it’s beautiful.

I keep my eyes firmly glued to her as she turns back to watch. I’m transfixed. Watching her smile with Abigail… the joy on her face… this woman…

It must only be about thirty seconds before the first parachute opens, followed by the others. One by one, they float down, looking so calm and serene in the clear sky.

Envy pulls at my gut.

Maybe I should be up there, just for those precious seconds where nothing else exists, except the peace of looking down on the world.

They begin to land in the field behind us, where other members of the parachute team are waiting to help them. Abigail sets off in a run to meet Martin, and I’m left standing in front of Megan. Her cheeks are flushed, her eyes bright.

“That was incredible! I can’t believe he just did that!” She looks over to the field where they’ve all landed and then back to me, sensing me watching her. “What?”

“I just love to see you smile.”

I realise my mistake the second the words leave my mouth. Megan’s face closes off, her smile a mere memory.

“I’m going to see Martin,” she murmurs. But before she can move, he appears, grinning from ear to ear, his hair a ruffled mess.

“That was… that was such a rush! Woo!” He tips his head back and shouts at the sky as Abigail giggles beside him. “Jax, mate, you’ve got to do it with me next time.” He slaps me on the back.

“Next time?” Abigail raises an eyebrow at him.

“Oh, babe, it’s amazing. I thought I’d feel like I was falling, but I didn’t. It was like floating on a cushion of air. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I feel alive!” He punches the air to highlight his point.

“Come on, Mr Adrenaline-junkie. Let’s go get you changed. Then we can chat to the others who jumped.” Abigail wraps an arm around his waist.

“Megan, are you still sticking around? We’ll drop you back?” She looks between the two of us.

“Actually, Jaxon offered to take me home. You guys take your time. I’m sure the news crew will want to talk to Martin and take some photos.”

“If you’re sure?” The corners of Abigail’s lips turn down as she looks at me.

“Yeah, it’s all good,” Megan replies with a forced smile, her voice unnaturally high.

Abigail doesn’t look happy about leaving us after we say goodbye. Martin leads her back towards the hangar where the changing room is. She glances over her shoulder more than once, making eye contact with Megan, communicating in some sort of secret female language.

“Are you ready to go?”

“Sure,” Megan replies.

We walk alongside each other in silence. I open the door to the Jag for her, and she slides in, my scarf still wrapped around her. I slip into the driver’s seat next to her and start the engine.

The drive to my place isn’t far, but it feels excruciatingly slow. Megan doesn’t say a word to me, so I talk nonsense—polite one-sided small talk—until we get into my apartment, and I close the door.

“Tell me why you wanted to talk, Jaxon.” Megan turns to face me the moment we’re inside.

“May I take your coat?” I extend a hand towards her.

She hesitates. Taking it off is her accepting this won’t just be a quick conversation.

After a few moments, she sighs, handing it to me, along with my scarf. I hang them up alongside my coat in the entryway and gesture for her to move inside to the open-plan kitchen and living space. She hovers for a moment, her eyes darting around as though she doesn’t know where to sit or stand.

“Can I make you a hot drink? It was cold out on that airfield.”

“Okay.” She nods. “Ginger tea, please.”

“Are you still getting the morning sickness?”

She purses her lips, unwilling to meet my eyes.

“Not so much. I just like the tea.”

“I’ve converted you.” I smile, attempting to make her more at ease.

Attempting to make myself more at ease.

She gives me a tight smile back as she wanders over to the bookshelf in the living area.

“You?” She points to a photograph on the shelf.

I place the kettle on to boil and walk up behind her, torturing myself by being so close to her as I peer over her shoulder at the frame.

“Yes. Me and my dad, about six months before he died. From diagnosis to his last day was four months.”

“I’m sorry, Jaxon,” Megan says gently as she keeps her back to me.

I lift my hands, screwing them into fists and dropping them quickly—stopping myself before I succumb to the urge to wrap them around her waist and hold her against me.

“I wish I could go back to the day that photo was taken. Before we knew what was coming. Just to be with him again. Hear his voice, his laugh.”

I tear myself away and turn back to the kitchen to make Megan’s tea, pouring myself one as well.

“Here.” I hand it to her, and we sit down together on the large sofa.

“Thank you.” She dips her nose towards the rim and closes her eyes as she inhales.

“Megan, I…”

She places her mug down on the coffee table and looks at me, waiting. I put my mug down next to hers and lean forwards, resting my elbows on my knees.

“I…” I pause, my eyes roaming around the room as though the right words might appear in front of them. I blow out a big breath. “Thank you for coming. I should start with that.”

I look at her. She doesn’t look as though she’s about to jump up and rush out of here, but she doesn’t look comfortable, either. She’s on the edge of the seat, her arms wrapped around her sides.

“Are you cold? Do you want a jumper to wear? Or a blanket?”

I move to fetch her one when her words stop me.

“No, Jaxon. I’m fine. Say what it is you wanted to.” Her voice is even and not giving away any hint of which emotion she’s feeling right now. She could be about to explode and hurl her tea over me or sit and listen calmly. I have no idea. It would be easier if she did or said something.

I sit back down on the sofa.

“I owe you an explanation.” I screw my eyes shut and rub a hand over the back of my neck. My skin is burning. “I didn’t want you to think I left the scan early to go to a work meeting.”

“You didn’t know I was having a scan, did you?” She’s sat rigid in her seat as she looks at me.

“No, I didn’t. I wasn’t there for the scan.”

“Would you have come if you’d known?” Her eyes bore into mine, waiting for my answer.

“Honestly, Megan… yes, I hope I would have.”

I take a deep breath. It wouldn’t have been wise to go had I known in advance. But after being there… seeing our baby… I’m so thankful I got to be a part of it. I got to have that one moment with her.

And I will treasure it always.

I blow out a long breath before looking back at her.

“I would love nothing more than to be with you, next to you, every step of the way, having our baby, Megan.”

She looks at me, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “Then why aren’t you?”

“That day in the hospital. I was there for surgery.” My eyes drop to the floor and rest on the leg of the coffee table. “I was having… I was…” I rub my fingers over my eyes. I at least thought I would be able to get the words out. I can’t even do that.

“You were meeting Joanna?”

“How do you—” I look at Megan, and she chews her lip, and I fight myself from reaching over and tugging it free.

“Abigail saw her. She said Joanna seemed like she was looking for someone. It seemed too much of a coincidence when I realised there was no way you knew about the scan appointment.”

I nod my head and rub my chest where it’s started burning.

“Yes, I was meeting Joanna. She’s been treating me… for testicular cancer.”

My shoulders drop, the weight of deceit finally gone with revealing my confession.

She tries to hide it, but I still catch the gasp as Megan’s hand covers her mouth.

“Is that what this has all been about? You’ve got cancer?”

“Yes.” It’s all I can manage to say. My throat is thick like someone has stuffed balls of tissue down it.

“So, you being older than me?”

“A lie,” I whisper.

I don’t care that I’m older than Megan. I don’t even notice it.

When I’m with her, all I see is her. All I feel is joy, pure joy.

“Martin’s one of my closest friends, and he’s younger than you, Megan. Age means nothing when you’re with someone you connect with.”

Her hand drops away from her lips as she blinks at me. I wish I knew what she was thinking. It’s no excuse for my behaviour, but maybe it will go some way to explaining to her why I’ve been the way I have. If she ever thought for one second that she’s done something wrong, that she wasn’t enough… the idea sears a hole in my heart like a hot poker.

“When did you find out?” Her voice is barely more than a whisper as her eyes search mine.

“I suspected it the day after we met. I had all the tests done, but I didn’t find out for sure until last week.”

Her brows are knitted together as she listens.

“It’s why I never called you. I had your number. I looked at it every day and wanted to call you. I just… I needed to know what I was dealing with… what I was pulling you into. Then we started working together.” I let out a low groan before continuing, “we started working together, and I couldn’t keep away. I wanted to be near you all the time, Megan. I was like a bloody bee to a flower. All I could think about was how much I admired you, how attracted to you I was. I was a selfish idiot for drawing you into all this. I should have kept away.”

I rake my hands through my hair, grabbing fistfuls of it before I meet her eyes again.

Tears are falling down her cheeks.

“I didn’t want you to keep away. I felt the same. It’s like I’m filled with this buzzing energy whenever you’re near me.”

The burning in my chest is about to engulf me. I can’t bear to see her cry, knowing I am the cause.

“What did they do in the surgery?” She wipes her cheeks with her fingers.

“They removed one of—” I clear my throat, “they removed one of—”

“You still have the other one?” Her eyes search my face. There’s no pity in them, just concern.

I couldn’t handle it if she pitied me.

“Yes, I still have one. It doesn’t feel that different now the swelling’s gone down.”

“Do you need more treatment? Chemotherapy? Radiotherapy? I’m sorry, I don’t know much about it.”

I look up into her face.

It’s open and caring and makes me feel even more of a bastard.

“Just monitoring. The cancer was all removed.”

“But that’s great news, isn’t it? You don’t seem happy?” The concern in her voice makes way for the edge of doubt that’s creeping in.

I can barely look at her.

“I know how these things go, Megan. It could come back in the blink of an eye. I’m at a higher risk than before now.”

“But you’ll get monitored. They’ll catch it early if it does. And the chances aren’t that high, are they? Abigail said—”

“It’s different for Abigail and Martin,” I cut in, “they’re not having a baby.”

Megan’s forehead wrinkles as she stares at me.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

“I lost my dad when I was twelve. It destroyed my mum. I can’t do that to you or to our baby.”

She stares at me, her eyes wide, and I can tell the exact second that she processes the meaning of my words. The small glimmer of hope in her eyes fades—vanishing—and taking with it the last shred of belief I have in myself that I am anything other than a one-hundred-per cent undeserving bastard.

“You still don’t want to be involved, do you?” she whispers.

Her face is pale, and dark circles are suddenly visible under her eyes. If there was any question over whether she’s been struggling recently, then the answer is blindingly obvious.

My chest burns so much I feel like I’m choking getting the words to come out.

“I want nothing more, Megan. But I can’t. I can’t do that to you both.”

She shakes her head as tears pool along her lower lids.

“What? You can’t live your life? You can’t be happy?” Her voice is loud as she scrubs at her cheeks with the sleeve of her jumper. “Are you just going to sit around and wait for something that may never happen?”

“Megan—”

“Don’t you dare ‘Megan’ me!” She stands up, her hands shaking by her sides. “You’re a coward, Jaxon King. You’re a bloody coward! You think you’re doing what’s best for me. Who the hell are you, thinking you get to decide what’s best?”

The tears in her eyes are spilling out, coursing down her cheeks, but there’s a fire there now.

A fire that’s lit and burning so bright, no amount of tears will extinguish it.

I stand up, so I’m facing her. “Megan—”

“No, Jaxon! I don’t want to hear any more of your shit. You’re not the only one hurting here, you know. I needed you. I found out I was pregnant, and I was scared. I needed you to be there for me… for us. I don’t need you to tell me what’s best for me. I can make my own decisions. Whether you’ve got years, weeks, or months left to live, I would still have wanted to be with you. I’m falling in love with you. Can you not see that?”

Her eyes search mine as she pants, her chest rising and falling. I stare back at her, processing her words.

I draw in a breath, my voice heavy with emotion as it cracks.

“I love you, Megan. I fell a long time ago.”

Her eyes light up momentarily, and it’s too much. My vision blurs as hot tears sting my eyes.

She takes a step towards me. “Jaxon, we can—”

I move backwards. I’m not strong enough to resist her comfort if she reaches me.

I don’t deserve it.

“It’s because I love you, Megan. That’s why it must be like this. You can meet someone else. Someone who isn’t a grenade waiting to go off and rip your life apart when you least expect it.”

It takes every ounce of strength I have to keep myself standing.

“No…” Her eyes search mine for a moment before she shakes her head and steps back. “You’re giving up on us? You’d rather not be a part of our lives at all?”

“Megan, I…” I drag my hand down over my face.

What can I say?

That even though I love her, I’m still doing this? It’s still the only choice?

How can she not see it’s the only choice I have?

I cannot let the past repeat itself.

She stares at me, her voice breaking. “If I go out of that door now, Jaxon. I’m never coming back through it. Do you understand?”

I look back into her eyes, wishing it wasn’t like this. Wishing the pain reflected at me wasn’t there.

I can’t speak.

All I can do is watch in silence.

Watch her face as it crumples into more tears… watch her put her coat on… as she opens the front door… as she steps through it.

She doesn’t turn around.

She doesn’t look back.

The door closes behind her with a soft click, leaving a full cup of ginger tea on the coffee table.

And my empty heart shattered in my chest.

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