“Please, please, please. Oh dear God, please.”
Billie wasn’t certain what she was praying for exactly. Perhaps to wake and find it was just a horrible nightmare.
Staring at the blue stick and watching the cross appear in the window, she wrapped her arms around her waist and fought the sudden nausea and churning from the pit of her stomach.
Pregnant. Oh God. How is that possible? It’s impossible. It’s a mistake. I can’t be pregnant.
Racing from the bathroom to the bedroom, still clutching the offending test, Billie tore open her handbag, dumping the contents on the bed. She sorted through the receipts, a lipstick, lid-less pen, colourful paper umbrella…the churning in her belly dropped as suddenly and heavily as a bowling ball when she found the thirty day pill packet and two white tablets glaring starkly at her.
How had she missed two? She was so careful about taking the damn things, every morning, before stepping into the shower…except for those two days when she didn’t get out of bed. Numb with shock she hadn’t even known two days had passed; until her sister had shown up and urged her out of bed
Billie sank to the carpeted floor, positive test in one hand, pills in the other, with her forehead on her knees she finally let the tears fall. She’d simply packed the new packet and taken them religiously while on holiday.
Cooper had used protection. Though she remembered with a shiver of alarm there had been one time the passion had taken them too suddenly for thought.
The third morning of their affair, Cooper returned to her private bungalow after his customary run along the waters edge and found her doing yoga, her bottom high in the air. A short two hours earlier she’d demonstrated her flexibility and had only now just gotten her heart rate and wondering mind back under control. With only a burning look as warning of intent Cooper hauled her up by her hips and crushed her between the wall and his sweaty body. With a wicked mouth and skilled hands he’d soon had her calm heartbeat racing in time with her blood, matching the pace of his own. His hands raced down her body, roughly cupped her bottom and with a speed that made her gasp with excitement, drove them both insane with desire.
All from the sight of her bottom in the air. The one part of herself she wasn’t entirely happy with, Cooper had found irresistible. After when he’d realised how out of control he’d been she’d assured him she was protected.
It wasn’t entirely not possible to be pregnant.
Billie stood wiping angrily at her wet cheeks, pushed her clinging hair out of her eyes. No use for tears. They’re not going to solve your problem, Billie Martin.
With a decided shake of her head she marched back to the bathroom and stared at her puffy, slightly pale, face in the mirror. Saw with disinterest her brown hair sticking everywhere in spiky tufts. Billie combed a hand through it trying without success to tame the wild tangles.
Right. First thing’s first. After tidying myself up, go to the doctor. Need to find out what harm the pills have done to the baby.
Suddenly a warm glow spread heating her entire body. Billie spread her hands over her flat stomach in wonder at the little life beginning to form, trying to picture what it would look like. Ten tiny fingers and toes. Button nose, big round eyes, tiny ears. It was a miracle all of that was forming and growing inside her.
Another realisation struck her. She had no idea about babies. What did they need? Did they have classes for such things? How did she change a nappy? What did babies eat? At some stage they had more than milk, she knew that much, but how was she supposed to know what to feed one?
What was she allowed to eat? God, what if the egg and cheese sandwich she’d had on the way from the gym to the supermarket today was bad for the baby?
“Definitely need a book.” They had them for random things like the shape of rain drops for goodness sake; surely there was one about pregnancy. And parenting. Her mind tumbled over all the stages she knew she’d have to go through. Toilet training, school, ‘the talk’. Shutting her eyes to stop the onslaught all the images did to her already fragile emotional state she forced the hard lump from her throat and took a deep breath. She was resourceful. She’d figure it out.
Of course it would be easier if they were a family.
Billie stared into her wide, slightly gold, brown eyes now rimmed red from tears. A family was more than a mother and baby. Even if the father was across the ocean, they could still visit, still be a family… if she could find him. If he wanted to know.
Slowly she washed her tears away with a warm flannel as the tumult of shock, then the warm joyful glow of discovery clashed with the sudden fear and melted into a deep sadness that Cooper wouldn’t be there to share it. To love them.
He was marrying someone else.
Just because she had been the bigger person and had walked away from a bad situation, didn’t mean she couldn’t handle this one. She would love the child enough for two parents, hopefully.
There wasn’t much she regretted in her twenty five years. Now her regret was for the man who had shown her nine nights of blistering, fantastic passion. That he’d made her the other woman. That he wasn’t here to share the joy of the baby.
Of course he had a right to know he was going to be a father-
Billie raced up the stairs to the door when the bell rang and stared blankly at her sister, glanced at her watch.
“Oh blast.” She had to go to work. She’d have to go to the doctor tomorrow. Whirling she pulled up short at the base of the stairs and stared flabbergasted at the chaos she’d created in her normally ordered apartment. Clothes were on the lounge floor, a shirt on the lime green couch. Mail tossed on the floor, not the coffee table.
Wandering mutely down to the lowest level she saw she hadn’t even put the groceries away. When she’d walked down the feminine hygiene aisle at the supermarket the blue and white box had shone at her from the shelf claiming to show a result in one minute, and she knew. Just knew it.
Now looking at the mess she realised a baby, a child, would undoubtedly make worse mess. And her one bedroom three storied inner-city
A weight of sudden magnitude settled on her shoulders. She was so totally out of her depth. Unprepared for a baby. She longed to call her mum but wanted to let it all settle in her head first. Besides she should probably try to contact Cooper first.
This was not what she’d been looking for when she’d embarked on her aborted honeymoon alone, agreeing to an affair to shake herself out of comfortable.
Now she was pregnant. And single-
“Are you okay?”
“What?” She was snapped from her musings by her sister’s voice and the sound of footsteps on the stairs. She’d forgotten Camryn was even there. She supposed her rapid emotional changes were due to the pregnancy. Another thing she’d have to find out about.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Just a busy day.” Very busy past hour. Mentally. Emotionally.
From amongst the packets and tins she gathered up the milk and yoghurt – probably can’t eat them anyway - and shoved them into the fridge before heading for the bathroom.
She swiped up the test with discarded clothes from her bed on the way and hoped Camryn hadn’t seen it. Last thing she needed was to explain something she was still getting her own head around. She sped through her makeup application and reached for a shirt.
“Is it Ryan?” Camryn perched on the corner of her bed as Billie walked out of the bathroom.
Billie paused in the act of smoothing down her fitted cream work shirt - really should have ironed it.
Ryan was the farthest person from her mind. In fact she hadn’t thought of him at all apart from the slight annoyance when she’d packed the rest of his things into the large box and shoved it in the corner, the day after she’d arrived back from holiday.
So strange to feel so little after having spent five years with him.
But she felt so much after only nine nights with another man. Tall, tanned, handsome. Sexy as sin and in bed…
“You came straight back to work and haven’t even taken the time to get rid of his stuff. What are you going to do with it all?”
“I haven’t decided.” Billie shook her head from the past and watched as Camryn bent down to the box and flipped through a book. It was hard to believe that box contained all that was left of the man she’d been on the verge of marrying.
“You should’ve taken time off.” Camryn insisted, dropping the book and nudging the bulging box with a booted foot. “You do so much for that place, they owe you.”
“It’s my job,
Camryn snorted. “It was supposed to be your wedding and honeymoon-”
“I’m fine. Drop it okay?”
When her sister crossed her arms and raised a carefully plucked eyebrow, Billie flushed at the inspection of her face. Obviously she didn’t look fine. She never could hide much from her baby sister.
Except the current situation.
“What happened in
Billie paused from shoving her things back into her handbag. Even to her ears it sounded dull and unconvincing. Nothing at all compared to the passion and excitement she’d felt.
“There was a guy, wasn’t there?”
Blinking back the wave of shock and dizziness the whirl of memories that flew through her head that was caused by Camryn’s rapt tone, she had no idea how she got them both out of the apartment and led the way down The Terrace, nor what her response had been.
There was only so long before Camryn would find out. Billie wanted more time to sort it all out first.
How long before she started to show? Oh God. A cold wash of horror filled her so suddenly she gasped and fought for breath, feeling almost dizzy. She’s gonna get fat. Every woman complained of baby fat after they’d had a baby, didn’t they? Her mind whirled instantly to her own mother. She was slim at fifty, after two children. Billie forced her mind to believe if her mother could do it, so could she. Where did she even go for pregnancy clothes? There had to be a shop that specialised in those things.
A wave of nausea hit her at the mental image of herself in a size twenty t-shirt stretched taut over an enormous belly and massive breasts. She really needed to get that book, search the net. She forced these thoughts to the back of her head.
Billie left her sister at the bottom of Plimmer Steps on a busy Lambton Quay and walked briskly towards the Harbour View Hotel,
She had to meet the new boss this afternoon. Had to make sure she kept her job. She may not know all she needed to about babies but she did know she’d need the money. She’d heard all about the other employees being fired after meeting with Mr Wilde. She was pretty certain her record would vouch for her.
Despite the beautiful spring day, she shivered and pulled her thigh length red Paddington coat tighter at her throat, when the southerly wind slipped its fingers down the back of her neck after having wound its way around the various sized steel and glass buildings on the busy waterfront city.
All things going to plan, he would be impressed with her initiative and the changes she’d installed. He could be really nice and not at all like the big overpowering mountain of a man she had imagined when management had told them the hotel had been bought by a company called Wilde Enterprises.
No one had even known the hotel had been on the market.
Probably a corporate take-over. They did happen all the time.
Luckily her department had already been under way on the revamping project she’d started after returning from
Tall, generously built, American. She’d drooled over him on the beach, he’d shown her all the passion and excitement she’d wanted and then broke her heart.
Not that she’d fallen in love with him or anything.
It hadn’t been part of the deal. Caring, even a small bit, had been an express no-no. It was her problem.
But now they both had a problem.
Not that she thought the baby was a problem. The problem was how to tell Cooper’s fiancée he was going to be a father with the woman he had an affair. Though it shouldn’t be her concern, Billie could only imagine how the poor woman would feel. A lot worse than when she’d found Ryan in bed with someone else the day before their wedding, that’s for sure.
She really should find out where Cooper was. He should at least know about the baby. A baby deserved to be acknowledged and loved by both parents, even if they didn’t love each other. Her own parents had taught her that at least.
As she strode down the wide, slightly smelly alley-way behind the hotel to the staff entrance, she glanced again at her watch. She’d have time to call the hotel in Vanuatu to see if he was still there, or at least find out where he’d gone.
Surely she could persuade them to tell her.
Billie scowled at the scribbles on her page. After twenty minutes on her cell to the hotel, not only would they not tell her where he was, she’d realised she didn’t even know his surname.
They’d shared nine nights of hot, blistering passion, it had been a wonder the sheets hadn’t caught aflame, but hadn’t shared important details such as last names or where they lived.
Well he hadn’t anyway. He definitely knew she was from
All she’d been able to tell the snippy male on the other end as she’d bitten back her frustration was that Cooper had been in management and had stayed in a suite there. He refused to tell her anything.
He wouldn’t even confirm if they had a Cooper on staff when she knew very well they did. She had a moment of fear that he’d lied about his name. After pleading with the man that it was a matter of a precious life did he finally concede to tell her a Cooper left three weeks ago, but wouldn’t say where.
Billie ran her fingers through her hair, wincing at the snag. How on earth was she supposed to find him now?
Ten nights of passion. No future. And according to her fantastic lover, anything outside of their holiday had been a no go for conversation.
“Tough day, Billie?”
Billie looked up sharply at Sally, Mr Wilde’s temporary Executive Assistant standing in the doorway.
“A bit. Oh God am I late?” Her gaze flew to the clock on the wall then to her watch realising it was already.
“No, no. I was on my break and swung by on the way up.”
“Thanks, Sally.” Shrugging into her dark brown uniform blazer she gathered up her report and followed Sally down the white corridor lined with stacked chairs and large oval tables, trolleys holding clean glassware stacked in crates, and into the glaringly white, chipped and stained, large staff lift.
On the ground floor they quickly walked through the small walkway behind the guest toilets and staff kitchen through another door, and into the guest hallway with décor of warm chocolate and cream shot through with burgundy swirls. The only sound was their muffled footsteps in the plush carpet. Billie broke the silence.
“Do you know anything about him?”
Sally turned her pale blue eyes towards Billie and shifted her long ash blonde plait over her right shoulder.
“No. He’s been here two days and hasn’t said if he’s bringing his own assistant or anything. I don’t know if I’ll still have a job when he leaves.”
“You know how long he’s staying?”
The plait flapped back on the left shoulder. “Nope. He keeps talking to someone on the phone about hoping it won’t take too long, but so far I haven’t been able to figure out what it is he’s referring to.” Sally let Billie past her out of the elevator.
“Maybe he’ll be gone by the end of the week and have appointed a new manager.” Billie said with a quick smile.
“I’m sure I don’t know. So far he’s only fired people, not hired them.”
As the sound of their heels clicked a staccato loudly on the foyer tiles of dark brown with gold flecks, Billie’s palms suddenly grew clammy and she blinked in alarm. The new owner’s dark brown office door loomed ahead when they turned right, passed concierge and the inviting couches at check in, and she was suddenly overcome with dread.
“You don’t think he’ll fire me do you?”
God she needed this job. Now more than ever. What if he didn’t approve of the changes she’d made, that they were still undergoing.
“Of course he won’t. You’ve worked so hard. Made the ballroom so beautiful. All those lights.” Sally stepped behind her desk with a sigh and a dreamy roll of her eyes and gave Billie an encouraging smile. “Oh. Brace yourself. He’s hot.”
“Hot?” She wiped her still damp hands on her dark skirt, tucked a stray hair behind her left ear, regretting she hadn’t freshened up before coming down. A quick pat confirmed her hair was a mess, not the carefully controlled array she’d managed before her phone call to
“Incredibly. And built.” With a wink Sally pushed the intercom on her phone and announced Billie was there.
Great. Hot and built. That was all she needed. She’d just spent the last twenty minutes trying to track down the father of her baby who was hot and built but totally clueless about love and relationships.
This one was bent on firing people. And she looked a mess. She regretted her wrinkled shirt too and hoped he wouldn’t notice it under her dark chocolate blazer.
If Sally was right, he probably had an ego the size of the Pacific to go with his looks. No way she wanted another run in with an egotistical male. Too many secrets.
Of course, Sally tended to think any man in a suit was hot.
Opening the door and with a suggestive wiggle of the eyebrows Sally mouthed ‘Hot’ before Billie walked in.
And came to an abrupt halt, her heart slamming to lodge in her throat.
‘Hot’ burst through her suddenly foggy brain, as did the image from her memory of a built body practically naked in transparent white boardies. The indecent swim shorts showing every inch of maleness and the rivulets of salt water licking a gorgeously sculpted frame, causing tremors of desire through parts of her body she’d thought long asleep. Built was an understatement.
What on earth was he doing here? She was very mindful of her body’s reaction to his magnificent body covered in a crisp white shirt and black pleated pants. Just as her body had reacted with the same intensity when he had been practically naked. Like a flash fire she was suddenly too warm. The sight of his firm lips, the memory of them bruising her own in a possessive kiss. The intense blue eyes.
From a distance she heard the door pulled carefully shut and suddenly she was made aware of her unschooled reaction.
“I thought you preferred bold suggestions to gaping like a fish when you meet a man.”
Her face flamed in mortification from her recollection of how they’d met. “I want to lick those nipples and trace the sexy line of hair over that incredible body where it disappears into those clinging, shamelessly white boardies.” She hadn’t been aware she’d spoken out loud when she’d watched the water caress his body.
She hadn’t meant to say her thoughts out loud two months ago. It seemed her brain wasn’t functioning well now either, but at least she had control this time of what came out of her mouth.
“Cooper. What’re you doing here? I just tried to contact you.”
“After your sudden departure, I can’t imagine why.” His derisive tone was completely lost on her as his deep American accent rumbled through her very core, sparking any un-alerted nerve endings into sudden overdrive. The memory of his voice she’d had in her head every night since leaving the beautiful island was nothing to the reality.
Of course she’d never expected to see him standing before her in
Another memory, hard and sharp burst through the passion-filled haze.
The voluptuous blonde perfectly dressed, perfectly pretty with her perfect pout making cow eyes at Cooper. “But Cooper, honey, you will be back in time for our wedding? It’s in three months. I don’t want to put it off again.”
She sternly reminded herself why she’d left in the first place. He wasn’t capable of things such as love, commitment. Fidelity.
The very things she’d realised she wanted. Not just the passion and excitement from their love making. So they’d had a blistering affair. Now she had a baby to think about. It would not do to give in to her desire again.
“How do you know Clarissa?” That was the last thing Cooper expected her to say. He’d been waiting for her to say something bold and outrageous like she had on the beach. The memory of her words and her exotic eyes making their bold journey over his body was making it hard to focus, to remember why he was here.
To end it.
“Don’t you have a wedding to attend next month?”
“It’s not for five weeks.” He waved the question away. “I’ve got plenty of time.”
When he’d bought the hotel hoping to find Billie and finish what she’d abruptly cancelled by her departure, he’d planned on treating their meeting like he did all his meetings. In control. Sure of the outcome.
Wanting to strip her out of her ugly blazer and see her delectable body as he’d seen it everyday for nine days, boldly outlined in flirty dresses or the skimpy alluring red bikini. His desire flared dangerously at the memory of her strong supple body on display for his caress. Eager and always ready for him.
He hadn’t planned on the instant desire the sight of her caused to his system. After nine nights of passion, throat clutching intensity and such searing heat he thought he’d be able to see her and not feel a quickening to his pulse, the out-of-control hum in his blood.
Obviously she wasn’t out of his system.
It was just as he suspected. He needed that one last night to finish it. Then she’d be out of his head and he could concentrate on business. Be back in total control of his body as well as his mind.
Cooper watched her carefully try to smooth her wayward hair behind her left ear, her blazer gaping at the front, her shirt pulling tantalisingly across her breasts. The action, so small caused no small ripple through his body. It amazed him the effect she still had on him.
Hardening his resolve he willed his body under control. He could not allow his body to control his mind. Never again.
“What’re you doing here, Cooper?” She gulped and took a small step back as he purposefully strode from around his desk, her strange, beautiful accent doing its damnedest to dent his resolve.
Cooper found her retreat curious. She wasn’t the bold and confident woman he knew. Why was her reaction almost timid now?
“I own this hotel. And we have business to settle. It’s not finished between us, Billie. We had an agreement. Ten nights. I’m here to finish it.”
“You think I’m a business deal? You waltz in here and expect me to jump at your command?” Her eyes blazed like molten gold, nostrils flaring slightly, her timidity replaced with sudden heat.
Cooper felt relieved as indignant colour bloomed in her cheeks. He preferred her passionate response to the uncertain one.
“I always claim what’s mine, Billie.” He stalked her across the room, now amused at her retreat, noticing her gold eyes were wide, and her breathing suddenly laboured. Was it from desire? He was dying to find out.
Her breathy reply was the answer he sought. It was most definitely desire. He hadn’t even touched her. Yet.
“I still have one more night with you.” He let himself touch her face, trailed a feather-light path from her hairline at her temple around her delicate ear to the tantalising jumping pulse in her neck. He smiled when she swallowed convulsively.
She seemed to have lost her ability to think when he touched her. Interesting. It occurred to him he’d never taken the time to explore her every reaction to him. They’d never done much talking during their passionate affair. The desire to learn it all burned deep inside the pit of his stomach.
He forced the desire down. He had to stay in control.
“We agreed to ten.” If he had her one more time, perhaps it would be enough to drive her taste, her intoxicating scent, the sound of her moans, her from his mind once and for all. “I want that night, Billie.”
Hauling her close he smoothed his hands up her slim body to cup the sides of her breasts, pausing as he imagined an added fullness that hadn’t been there before. He cast the thought aside; reality was better than memory. Holding her still with one hand spanning her ribs, he slid his other to trail down his favoured path of her long sexy spine, thrilled at her impossibly soft skin. Her shiver and gasp of passion made him smile.
“What about Clarissa?”
“Forget Clarissa. I want that night Billie. I want you.”
Capturing her mouth with his, he plundered, spanning his hands under her shirt to cup her through her lacy bra, feeling her nipples strain and pearl beneath his thumb. Holding on to a tiny sliver of hard won control so as not to lose himself in the feel of her, lose himself completely as he’d allowed himself to do that last time they’d been together. He could not afford to go there again. He had to get her out of his mind, not lose himself in her.
Billie pulled her mouth away and he feasted on her exposed collar, thrilled that the exotic floral scent was still there. Uniquely blended with an unnameable scent. All Billie. He could feel his control falling millimetre by slippery millimetre as the scent of her filled him, branded him.
“I – I can’t.”
Lifting his head Cooper was grateful for the break in contact with her bare skin; he was able to haul his wavering control back again and locked them behind iron will.
He saw the desire on her face, felt it racing through her body where his hands possessed her. He was sure of the outcome now. He was in control.
Cooper felt triumph mix with the heat of his desire.
Drawing her parted lips to his, he thrust his tongue inside, glorifying at her shudder, the small hitch in her breath then the bold mating of her tongue with his. He didn’t know how he did it, the iron bars wobbled slightly at her boldness when she found his skin under his shirt with her seeking fingers, tangled her fingers in the short hairs on his chest, but he remained in control.
Satisfied with her response he pulled back so only their breaths mingled.
“Can’t or won’t?”
copyright Kerrin Hearfield 2009