Erin still couldn’t believe Ajax Nikolau was standing in her small one and a half bedroom apartment talking to her. Saying…nonsense. She needed him to be gone. This situation was too dangerous. She wasn’t ready to let him know he was a father right now. She had intended going to him and being cool and collected. Calm. Not in her stockinged feet with her baby – their baby! – just feet away.
Before she could think of something appropriate to get him to leave he asked, ‘Why did you leave? Because of what happened between us?’
Erin swallowed. She wasn’t about to explain her emotional vulnerabilities to the man who had been responsible for them. She managed to force out, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. I took that job because it offered better prospects.’
Then he said, ‘I haven’t had a lover since you.’
He sounded almost accusing. He was looking at her intensely, the same way he had in that elevator. Blood rushed to her skin, making it tingle. Between her legs pulsed with awareness and it shocked her. She hadn’t felt so much as a blip of desire since the baby. Since Ajax.
She was confused. She was afraid to think too much about what it meant, that he hadn’t had a lover since her. Or how that made her feel. Slightly giddy.
Erin tried to ground this rapidly evolving situation in some reality again. ‘Why are you here?’ She was confused. Did he want her to work for him again?
Ajax shook his head slightly as if clearing it, ‘I think I came here because I haven’t forgotten what it was like… Have you?’
As if to help her, a memory flashed back of how it had felt to have Ajax’s body moving in and out of hers, skin slick with sweat, hearts pounding, straining to reach the building pinnacle of –
‘Yes,’ Erin lied desperately, ‘I’ve had other things to think about.’ Like his daughter. Her guts churned as memories of finding out about the pregnancy flooded her brain.
She’d thrown herself so completely into her new job to try and put what had happened between her and Ajax Nikolau behind her that three months had almost gone by before she’d acknowledged the bouts of morning sickness that had lasted for about a month, and noticed that her already irregular periods had actually stopped.
And, that the bloating wasn’t going away. In fact, it was getting worse. She could barely fit into some of her clothes any more.
And when yet another male client’s gaze had gone to her bigger – than – usual chest, she’d had to face the fact that she had to take a moment out of her schedule to get her symptoms checked.
Until the doctor had said the fateful words, ‘You’re pregnant, almost thirteen weeks along,’ she’d literally not even contemplated that possibility. Or maybe she’d been too scared to let the possibility exist.
She had a mild form of endometriosis and so whenever she was irregular or there were strange symptoms she put it down to that. And stress had always had a big effect on her periods, so to say finishing an affair – even short – lived – and starting a new job was stressful was an understatement.
The doctor had looked at her incredulously, ‘You really had no clue?’
Erin had shaken her head, feeling stupid. Pregnant. She’d been in a daze for days.
Ajax’s voice cut through the memories when he glanced at her ringless hand and said, ‘You’re obviously not married, or engaged.’
Erin covered her hand. ‘That doesn’t mean anything, I could be in a relationship.’
She’d forgotten how blunt he was. Just so we’re clear, I want you, Erin. She shook her head. ‘No…but are you really suggesting that there’s still something between us?’
He didn’t have to answer that. It sizzled between them, as much as Erin would like to deny it. Desperately she tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. ‘Do I need to remind you that you were the one who cut things off?’
‘Maybe I was a little too…hasty.’
The memory of how close she’d allowed him to get, made Erin say tartly, ‘It’s been almost two years, the opposite of hasty I would say.’
His gaze met hers, the intensity of his unusually light eyes made Erin quiver inwardly. He said, ‘I’ve been a little busy.’
‘Well, so have I.’ Birthing his daughter. Tell him. But her mouth wouldn’t form the words. Guilt was like acid in her stomach.
Ajax took a step closer to Erin. She knew she should step back but her limbs were like lead. He said, ‘How can you deny it when it’s running like electricity between us right now?’
His scent washed over her and she breathed it in – distinctive and achingly, instantly familiar – musky and woody with something spicy underneath. It hurtled her back in time and all Erin could see was Ajax. She was engulfed in memories, and treacherously, lust. The stresses and strains of the past months dissolved. She was just a woman again, standing in front of a man who had seared himself onto her psyche in more ways than one.
She really felt as if she’d been reconfigured after those two nights in his bed. Her cells re – aligned. Even though she hadn’t been an innocent, she’d felt as if he’d transformed her into a woman. A sexual woman. With a sense of her own sensual power. He’d given something to her, something she couldn’t even name, but it had felt precious. And she’d forgotten about it until now. Or maybe she’d blocked it out. But here, under his avid gaze, she was feeling all those things again. Sensual, powerful. Desired.
He reached out and touched her hair lightly. ‘It suits you.’
Erin felt self – conscious. ‘I…thank you.’
Ajax kept his hand lifted, he said, ‘May I?’
Erin wasn’t sure what he was asking, but everything in her body had her nodding her head. His finger tips traced the line of her jaw, down to her chin. He lifted it slightly, looked at her mouth. ‘I’ve dreamed of you…’
Erin had been too exhausted to dream much but there had been nights when she’d known she’d had torrid dreams. She’d just been relieved not to have remembered much about them. She’d felt them lingering in her body though, because she’d woken aching, feeling unsatisfied.
Ajax moved closer. Erin didn’t step away, even though she knew she should, but right now she couldn’t quite remember why. She was caught up in the intensity of Ajax’s proximity and the way he was looking at her and so when his head lowered towards her and his mouth touched hers, she felt nothing but a wild surge of desire. Yes please.
Had he asked if he could kiss her? She didn’t care. She’d given her assent just by accepting it. His mouth moved over hers, more insistent. Asking a question. Erin answered without hesitation, her mouth opening under his, allowing him to deepen the contact.
He moved closer, wound an arm around her back and pulled her into him where she could feel the hard thrust of his desire for her. It sent arrows of need right to her core where she was melting and –
Ajax pulled his head back abruptly, ‘What’s that sound?’
It took a second for Erin to register the cry of her baby. She reacted instantly, pushing free of Ajax’s arms, and ran to the bedroom.
Ashling had pulled herself up and was standing in her cot, crying. She stopped as soon as Erin appeared giving a gummy smile with glimpses of her newly forming teeth, undoubtedly the cause of her distress.
Erin went in and picked her up. Her cheeks were hot, classic sign of teething pain. She’d almost forgotten about Ajax so she startled a little when she turned around and he was in the doorway.
Ashling saw him and she went still in Erin’s arms.
He was looking at the baby, face like stone. Then he stepped back from the doorway so Erin could come out. She had no choice. She went into the sitting – room.
Ajax looked at Ashling again. And then, after a long moment, at Erin. ‘You said you weren’t with anyone.’
‘I’m not.’ She clutched Ashling to her like a shield.
He looked at the baby again. ‘Who…what?’
Reaction was starting to set into Erin’s body, she felt herself trembling. ‘Her name is Ashling.’
Ajax was transfixed. The resemblance between father and daughter was almost laughable as they studied one another. Sallow skin, dark hair. He dragged his gaze away from the baby to look at Erin.
He said, ‘She’s mine.’
It was emphatic. Even though Erin knew this was her opportunity to admit that he was right she heard herself blurting out, ‘How can you be so sure?’
Ajax was grim. ‘Because she’s the image of my son.’