Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 118
I had learned my lesson about going to public gyms. I had just finished on the treadmill. I sat on the bench watching Brian lift weights.
“What is she doing?” he asked.
“I don’t know, man. One moment, she’s all over me, making me feel like I’m everything she ever wanted, and the next, she’s so cold it kills me.”
“And your professional relationship?” Brian asked. “Doesn’t that have something to do with it?”
I shrugged. “I guess so. I just don’t get it.”
We sat in silence, the clank of the weights the only sound ringing around us.
“Where do you stand now?” Brian asked after a while.
I shook my head, even though he wasn’t looking at me. “She’s barely talking to me. Since Saturday, I haven’t heard from her. She wasn’t at the office at all on Monday, and the last time I talked to her, she was short with me.”
Brian finished his weights and sat up.
“I don’t know how to help you,” he said. “You don’t usually care about women, and they’re usually too clingy. Now it’s the other way around. I don’t know this Hanson any more than you know what she’s doing.”
I chuckled. “I’m not that bad,” I said.
Brian looked at me hard enough that I conceded.
“Yeah, okay. I get what you’re saying. She’s just impossible to read. It drives me crazy because I usually know women. But it’s not a big deal. I’ll just have to get ass somewhere else.”
I winked at Brian who shook his head.
“You’re something else,” he said, walking to the treadmill to finish his workout.
“I’m done here,” I said. “I’m going to hit the showers. I’ll see you later.”
Brian waved at me before pushing his speed up to a steady pace. I left the gym and walked to my locker. I had told Brian I would get ass somewhere else like I didn’t care, but I did care. I didn’t understand it, but I cared. I didn’t know what was going on with Lacey, and I didn’t like it.
Brian would never understand. He was hung up on an ex he saw as his star-crossed lover and I never even saw him hook up with anyone else. He never even hooked up with anyone at the party despite my urging. So how could he understand, when for whatever reason he kept himself closed off to contact of pretty much any kind whatsoever with other women? For once, talking to Brian about Lacey just wasn’t helping.
She had been upset about the photos of me and other women, almost like she’d been jealous. But I had been trying to make it clear that I wanted her and only her, and she wanted nothing to do with me.
If this was some kind of game she was playing, I didn’t understand it. At the party, she had been more than okay until the moment we’d been about to get down to it. She’d pulled away from me so fast and left me hanging with blue balls that I hadn’t wanted to take care of my needs with someone else.
When I’d tried to call her, she hadn’t answered her phone.
I was Hanson Bell. I never took it personally when a woman gave up on me. It was damn good riddance most of the time. But this time, it was almost offensive.
At least we had the meeting later today. She would be forced to see me, and maybe we would be able to figure something out. If this was the only way I was going to have contact with her, so be it.
Chapter 31 – Hanson
When I finally saw her, it was half an hour before our meeting was set to start. We met at an older building in Miami CBD. Lacey was already waiting for me when I arrived. She wore black pants and a green blouse that made her eyes look like the color of the ocean. Her lips were a pale pink and light pink toenails showed in her peep toe shoes. I walked to her and kissed her on the cheek.
She glanced at her watch when I pulled away as if the greeting had been no more than a handshake. It was hard to believe this woman was the same one that had come to my door, drunk out of her mind, and pulled me into bed with her.
“I want you to read over this before we go in there,” she said, handing me a paper. “This is the initiative of the company and what we’re trying to achieve through your working with them.”
I nodded and took the paper from her, glancing over it.
“You don’t want to run me through anything?” I asked.
Lacey shook her head. “I think that just about covers it.”
I nodded, looking at the page again. Giving me something like this was great, except for the fact that she really seemed uninterested in any more than the business at hand.
She was cold and distant. I couldn’t tell if she was upset with me. She didn’t seem a hundred percent okay, but when she spoke to me, there was no contempt in her voice. She didn’t seem upset or like she was biting anything back. She was just different.
“Please, talk to me,” I said after reading through the paper she’d given me.
“About what?” she asked, frowning
“I don’t know. Whatever’s going on with you. You’re so closed off it’s killing me. Are you angry?”
She shook her head. “There’s nothing to be angry about. Everything is going well, and there are no embarrassing photos of you online after the weekend. I’m only reading good things about you now, and that’s what we’ve been aiming for. You should be happy.”
Right. I nodded. I was happy, of course, with my progress and how things were going. I felt like I was a worthy team member again, and Coach seemed okay with me. Besides, doing these things had opened my eyes to the world around me.
When you had as much money as I did and spent so much time in only a few places, the gym, the field, and parties, you didn’t notice what was going on around you. I had lived this life of luxury long enough to have forgotten where I’d come from. Building up my image had somehow helped me build up myself.
If Lacey had been her usual self, everything would have been perfect.
“Here’s Mr. Clayton now,” Lacey said.
An older man with black eyes and hair graying at the temples stepped out of the building. He held out his hand from a couple of feet away and came to me with a broad smile and lengthy steps.
“Mr. Bell, it’s such an honor to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” I said.
“Lacey,” Clayton said, shaking her hand, too, and holding on to it with both of his. “Please, come inside.”
We followed Clayton through a maze of dull brown corridors. The building was lifeless and beige, with everything built for efficiency only, no more.
“As you may know, we have several homeless shelters throughout Miami that we try to put our effort and money into. It’s a difficult job, though, and money runs out fast. We rely on volunteers to help us by dedicating their time and talents. This is where you come in, Hanson. We’re hoping that by jumping in and helping us out, you’ll set an example for your fans.”
I nodded. I hadn’t grown up without a home, but I had been poorer than a lot of my friends. I knew what something like this could do for someone. I couldn’t forget my roots. I had become way too comfortable in a life some people didn’t even dare to dream of.
“We have several places for you to get involved in,” Clayton said.
“I read through the options,” I said. “Of all of them, the youth programs and special events stood out to me the most. I would also like to donate to the food and clothing drives.”
I felt Lacey’s eyes on me and glanced at her. She was watching me, an expression on her face I couldn’t read.
“That’s fantastic, Hanson,” Clayton said. “We’re so excited to have you on board.”
He handed me a form to fill out with times and dates I would be available.
“We’ll be in contact,” Clayton said, after he explained few of their processes to me. “And I look forward to having you on our team of do-gooders.”
We left the offices.
“What was that all about?” Lacey asked.
“You looked like you were really into it. I thought this w
I shook my head. “I wasn’t in a good place all my life. I know what it’s like to suffer. I’m actually excited to get involved here.”
Lacey nodded slowly, her eyes still on me.
“You know,” she said. “Every now and then, you do something that catches me completely by surprise. That’s not easy to do.”
I shrugged. “I assume that’s a good thing.”
She smiled. For the first time in days, her stony mask cracked a little to show the light beneath.
“Have lunch with me,” I said. She started shaking her head, but I cut her off. “It can be at your place or at mine. I don’t care, but I want to spend some time with you.”
She sighed. “I think it’s better if we just keep this professional.”
I blinked at her. Where was the sexy minx I had known from before?
“Come on. I won’t do anything, I promise. I just want to chat. I want to talk about the new direction my life is taking. I want to share this with you. It’s because of you I’m doing this now, after all.”
Lacey hesitated before finally nodding.
“Okay,” she said. “Is it okay if we go to my place? I don’t feel very well.”
I nodded. “Of course.”
We drove together back to her place in silence. I glanced at her every now and then. Her face was serious, her brows knit, and she looked pale.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She waved her hand. “It’s probably nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
I let it slide. I didn’t want to push her now that she’d agreed to spend a bit of time with me. We stopped at her place, and I followed her inside. Once the door was closed, she relaxed visibly. She pressed her hand against her cheek.
“What would you like to eat?” she asked. “I didn’t prepare for guests.”
“Anything works for me,” I said. “Even just a cup of coffee.”
Lacey nodded and walked to her kitchen. I followed her. She stood in front of the coffee maker, her hand pressed against her stomach. She didn’t look very well.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She shook her head and rushed toward the door.
“Excuse me,” she said.
I heard the bathroom door slam, and a moment later, it sounded like she was throwing up. I was concerned. When she’d told me it was nothing, I had wanted to believe her, but something wasn’t right.
After a while, the sounds of her vomiting stopped. I walked to the bathroom and knocked on the door.
“Are you alright in there?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” she said.
I heard a tap running, and then she opened the door. Her skin was shiny with a sheen of sweat. Her lids drooped, and her hair was a little disheveled.
“I think you need to go to a doctor,” I said.
Lacey shook her head. “I’m fine.”
“Yeah, you said that. And now you’re throwing up. This isn’t a good sign, Lacey.”
She kept shaking her head. “Really, it’s fine, Hanson.”
She walked to the kitchen again. I followed her. I wasn’t going to let this one go.
“Why are you being so difficult?” I asked. “I get it if you’re pushing me away because you don’t want to get too close to a client. It’s confusing, but there’s logic to it. But why are you rejecting help now? Why is it so hard for you if someone cares?”
Lacey turned to me. I expected her to be angry. Instead, she looked like she wanted to cry.
“I’m not going to the doctor. They can’t tell me anything I don’t already know.”
My heart dropped. What if it was something serious? What if she was ill? Or dying?
“Lacey, what do you need? Do you need treatment? If it’s about cash, I can take care of it. You know I can.”
She shook her head. “It’s nothing like that, Hanson,” she said. She took a deep breath, and tears rolled over her cheeks. I stepped closer to her.
“Hey,” I said. “Whatever it is, it’s going to be okay.”
She shook her head and turned away from me.
“It won’t be,” she said.
“Come on,” I said, spinning her carefully around to face me again. “Tell me what’s wrong. Please.”
I wanted to be there for her. I wanted to care for her. The urge was suddenly so strong, I didn’t know what to do other than go with it. She looked at me, and her eyes were like ice.
“I’m pregnant, Hanson.”
I blinked at her. “What?”
She nodded. “You heard me. I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby.” She hesitated, and I didn’t want to hear the next words out of her mouth. “It’s yours. I didn’t want to tell you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you right away. I just didn’t know if it was fair to burden you with this.”
What the fuck? I hadn’t been ready to hear this, she was right. But it wasn’t like I was going to bail on her now.
“It’s not fair to burden you with this either,” I heard myself say, even though I hadn’t planned on speaking.
My body felt like it had turned to lead. Her face fell and I realized that what I said could be taken the wrong way.
“What I mean is, we both made this baby and it affects both of us. I’m here for you.”
Tears were streaming down her cheeks, now, and I felt like shit for not choosing better words to comfort her. A baby hadn’t been in the cards for me, not any time soon. I had just started turning things around for myself. I know she felt the same way. But underneath that was some excitement and hope— and that’s what I should have been focusing on.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me right away,” I told her, even though I knew that wasn’t the best thing to say, either.
I seemed to just be saying whatever words came to mind in stream of consciousness style.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “But it could wreck everything, for both of our careers. I didn’t want you to have to deal with another problem, when I’m supposed to be solving problems for you.”
“Don’t think of it that way,” I told her, reaching out to hug her. “This isn’t a problem. I mean, yeah, it’s unexpected, but it’s not a problem.”
That had to be a better thing to say. I was sure of it. And I meant it. But she didn’t look very convinced.
She pulled away from my grasp, making me feel rejected. I tried to tell myself I had bigger things to worry about now than my feelings, but this one wasn’t a pleasant one.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought you should know, but I don’t need anything from you. I’ll be fine.”
She turned around and walked to the front door.
“Where are you going?” I called after her.
“You have to go,” she said, opening the door and holding it open.
“Lacey…” I said, following her and trying to hug her, wanting to stay with her.
But she was insistent.
“Hanson, please,” she said, shaking her head and looking like she was going to cry. “Just leave. Please.”
I stepped outside the door, not because I wanted to but because I didn’t feel I had a choice. It was her house, and she was telling me to leave.
For a second she stepped out with me and I got my hopes up, but it was clearly just to make sure I was leaving. Because with a firm nod, she turned around and went back in, closing the door behind her.
And just like that, she was gone. I couldn’t help but think she had taken two things with her that were mine— her, and our baby.
Chapter 32 – Lacey
When I was younger, I had thought the worst thing in the world to do to someone was what my dad had done to my mom. I was a love child, and my mom had been his side dish. Instead of picking up the pieces when he’d broken my mom’s heart, he’d told her to stay away from him and gone back to his perfect life with his perfect wife.
I had grown up with a father I only saw occasionally to preach to me about mortal sins and repentanc
After I’d left Hanson, I had stood just outside the door, gasping for breath and unable to breathe. I had thought that doing it all alone would be hard. Now, I felt like it would be impossible. But I just didn’t want to give Hanson anything to regret, and my child a life of misery.
I didn’t tell anyone about it, of course. For some reason, I knew instinctively that I wanted the baby, even though in the past I hadn’t thought I had wanted children. Now that the reality was upon me, I felt differently.
But I had to protect my own career and Hanson’s. Word couldn’t get out that we had had sex and created this child; that the baby was his. He didn’t seem to care enough about his career to protect it, but I would do it for him because that was my job.
It would be two months before I showed, and if I changed my style, I would be able to hide it a while longer still. I didn’t want anyone at the office to know about it. I didn’t want anyone to know about it until I had decided what I was going to do.
I hadn’t even been able to tell Kina. I hadn’t known what to say or how to say it. I hadn’t known what response to expect from her, and that had been just as terrifying.
The plane was late. I waited in the passenger lounge, drinking orange juice that tasted like crap, considering the price I’d paid for it. I paged through a magazine, not taking anything in. I had to fly to Houston, Texas with the Sharks. They were playing an away game against the Houston Hornets, and Coach Thompson had not only implored me to watch the game live after everything I’d done for Hanson, he’d also bought me a ticket.
It wasn’t first class, of course, but I preferred it that way. I didn’t want to sit with the other players, and I didn’t want to take up first class space when I felt like a nobody. I also didn’t want to look at Hanson when he so obviously wanted nothing to do with me.
When we arrived in Houston, I was taken to the Crown Plaza, a four-star hotel that had everything I could ever need. It was luxurious and large and a real treat. I took a bath in a large jet bath in my bathroom, the moment I had time for myself.