Undone / Page 7

Page 7


She was babbling endlessly and the strange thing was, the more she talked, the angrier he seemed to get. His brows drew together until his face resembled a thundercloud.

“Just wait a damn minute. I will be involved. I have the right to be involved in this pregnancy.”

She blinked. “Well, okay. I wasn’t saying you couldn’t be. Just that I thought maybe you wouldn’t want to be.”

His expression grew fiercer. “You thought wrong.”

“Cam, look. I’m not too sure what I’m doing here. I’m trying to be civilized and cooperative, but you’ve got to help me. You’re sitting there glaring at me and I have to tell you I’m this close to completely losing my mind.”

The words rushed out in shaky succession and her hands trembled as she clasped them in front of her.

Cam cursed softly and rose to stand in front of her. “Sit down. Please.”

She hesitated only a moment before allowing him to guide her back to the couch. He curled his hand around hers and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“Now, here’s what I think we should do. First we’ll get you to a doctor so that we can make sure you’re in good health and everything is okay with your pregnancy.”

She nodded. That much she could deal with. Going to the doctor was a logical first step. At least one of them was capable of rational thought.

“Then I think we should get married.”

So much for rational thought.

Before she could ask him if he’d lost his mind he put a finger to her lips. Then he heaved in a deep breath almost as if he was having to convince himself every bit as much as her.

“Just hear me out. We can get married, have separate living arrangements—or rather, quarters. My house is large enough for us to share without tripping over each other. You’d have your space. You’d be provided for. But most important, I could be assured that you and the baby were safe.”

She gaped incredulously at him. “Are you insane?”

His eyes narrowed.

She yanked her hand away from his and pushed upward to her feet. The room was too small. She felt caged and like her world was spiraling out of control.

“Don’t be unreasonable, Pippa.”

She swung around. “Unreasonable? Cam, three weeks ago you told me in no uncertain terms that you wouldn’t call me, that this was just sex and you didn’t do commitment. Well, guess what. Marriage is a big freaking commitment!”

“I wasn’t suggesting we have a relationship,” he said tightly.

Oh, this was just going from bad to worse.

“What are you suggesting, then?”

“A mutually beneficial partnership. You and our child will be well provided for and I’ll have peace of mind.”

Her brow furrowed. “Peace of mind for what, Cam? I feel like there’s something huge I’m missing here. You keep harping on wanting to be sure me and the baby are safe. That we’re provided for. Look, I appreciate that. More than you could possibly know. It touches me that you aren’t turning the other way. I just don’t understand your adamancy here. What are you so afraid of?”

Silence fell. So pronounced that she could hear them both breathing. Pain flashed in his eyes and his lips tightened. Then as if someone had flipped a switch, his face became impassive. His expression gave nothing away.

“Isn’t that enough?” he finally asked. “That I’m willing to step up here? That I want you and our child to have the protection of my name and everything else that goes with it?”

Slowly she shook her head. “No. It’s not enough.”

“It was damn well good enough for you three weeks ago,” he growled. “You didn’t want anything but a night of sex, either, so don’t make me out to be the bastard here.”

“This isn’t about you!”

It came out as a near shriek and she put both hands to the sides of her head in frustration. For a moment she stood there, eyes closed, her nostrils flaring as her breaths blew out in angry puffs.

When she reopened her eyes, Cam was staring at her, concern etched into his brow. “Pippa…” he began.

“No, just listen to me for a minute. Please,” she begged. “You made yourself clear before we went to bed together. You were honest. I was honest. But things have changed in a huge, huge way. What I wanted then isn’t what I want now. And no, I’m not asking you for anything. I need you to understand that. I’ve changed. My priorities have changed.

“You were right. That night I wanted sex. With you. I was attracted to you. I wasn’t looking for more. A relationship isn’t what I want or need at this stage of my life. But I’m pregnant now. And there is no way I’m going to shortchange myself or my child by entering into a cold, loveless relationship for the purpose of convenience. When I get married, it’s going to be to a man who loves me and is willing to be a full-time father to my child. I need those things. Especially now.”

“I can’t give you that,” Cam said flatly.

“And I’ll never settle for anything less,” she said quietly.

He shot off the couch and turned away, his hands clenched into tight fists at his side. “I’ll be damned if I watch you marry another man when you’re pregnant with my child.” He turned back around, raw anger lighting his eyes. “I have a right to fatherhood, Pippa. You can’t take that from me. I won’t allow it. I’ll fight you with every breath I have.”

Some of her frustration fled. She took a step forward and put her hand gently on his arm. He flinched underneath her touch but she curled her fingers tightly into his skin. There was something terrible and painful in his eyes. Something that knotted her stomach and made her want to soothe some of the torment she sensed within him.

“I’d never take that from you, Cam,” she said softly. “I’m merely giving you reasons why I won’t settle for a relationship like the one you’re offering.”

“I want my child safe,” he gritted out.

“So do I. I love this baby already. I’ve lain awake at night imagining its future. I’d never do anything that wasn’t in his or her best interests.”

“Then let me take care of you both. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Move in with me. If you won’t marry me so my child has my name, then at least move in with me so you’re both provided for.”

She wondered if he even knew that he was nearly pleading with her. As vehement as he was that he could never give her what she wanted or needed from a relationship, he seemed just as determined to tie her to him.

She let her hand slide down his arm until she caught his fingers and laced them with hers. “If I agreed to this, I could never respect myself. If I have a daughter, I want her to know she never has to settle for second best or nothing at all. If I’m going to teach her to be strong and resilient and self-reliant, I can hardly have settled in my own life.”

He tensed again as if to argue, but she squeezed his hand. “No, listen to me, Cam. Neither of us wanted this. We sure didn’t plan it. Think about what you’re doing here. Our emotions are heated. Neither of us are thinking straight. Don’t do something we’ll both regret. That speech you gave me three weeks ago speaks to the heart of you. That’s what you want. Not marriage. Not the inconvenience of a wife underfoot when the last thing you want is commitment. Because you know what? Sooner or later I’ll resent you for not being able to give me what I want. And it’ll eat away at me until I hate you for it. What kind of environment is that for our child?”

His lips thinned. He looked as though he wanted to argue further. But he remained silent, his hand in hers as they stared intently at each other.

“I’m willing to let it go for now,” he said grudgingly. “But there are things that I will want to do to ensure your safety and you’re just going to have to deal with it.”

She lifted an eyebrow in question. “What on earth is your obsession with safety? I can’t live in a bubble. You can’t hover over me for the next eight months.”

“The hell I can’t.”

“What are you so afraid of?”

It was the second time she asked the question and for a moment she thought he might actually respond.

But he went silent again, his eyes darkening.

“Will you at least let me move you into a more secure apartment?” he asked.

She shot him an incredulous look. “What’s wrong with the apartment I have?”

“It opens to the street. There’s no security. The steps are dangerous, particularly in winter.”

She blew out a frustrated breath and shook her head. “There’s nothing wrong with this apartment. And by the time I’m bigger, winter will be long gone. I like my apartment. I like the location. This is the area where I want to try to start my café. Besides, I can’t afford more than what I have right now.”

“I don’t give a damn what you can afford.”

“Well, I do. I can’t just halt my life and allow you to sweep in and take care of me until the baby’s born. What would I do afterward?”

“I wouldn’t just quit because the child was here,” he said in outrage.

“Please just stop,” she begged. “We’re getting nowhere. I’m tired. I’m stressed. I honest to God want to go to bed and cry.”

He looked horrified by the possibility. Instant regret flashed across his face, and she knew, she knew deep down, that they weren’t really the two people who stood here so volatile and on edge. They had been pushed beyond their endurance. The past weeks had put enormous strain on them both. They just needed time. And distance. A better perspective. Anything but standing here in her apartment arguing endlessly.

“I think you should just go now,” she said gently. “We both have a lot to process and we’re both too raw to have a sane, intelligent conversation. We’re going to have a long eight months together. Let’s not start it off by arguing endlessly over details.”

“I’m sorry,” he said gruffly.

To her surprise he pulled her into his arms. She rested her forehead against the hollow of his throat and closed her eyes.

“I didn’t intend this to happen,” he said in a quiet voice. “I would have given anything at all for it not to. But it’s a reality and it’s something we must both come to terms with. Like you, I want this child very much. I have to know you’re both safe. Grant me that at least.”

She nodded against him before pulling away.

He grimaced and checked his watch. “I didn’t bring dinner as I said I would. I was in too big a hurry to get here. I know you’re tired and upset, but perhaps we could order in and have a quiet dinner together.”

“Would it offend you if I only wanted to crawl into bed and go to sleep? Fatigue is killing me so far.”

He looked as though he might argue and then he simply nodded, touching her cheek before he walked past her to the door.

Eight

“So when exactly were you going to tell me the news?” Devon asked in an irritable voice.

Cam turned to find his friend leaning against the door frame of his office.

Even though they shared a suite of offices, Cam hadn’t seen his friend in quite some time. With his other partners, it was understandable—ever since they’d gotten married, Rafe and Ryan spent most of their time overseeing projects on their respective islands where they’d settled with their wives. But Cam had to admit that he’d avoided Devon ever since the night he and Pippa had left Ashley’s housewarming. Pippa was very good friends with Ashley, and Ashley was nothing if not intensely loyal. She’d probably already filled Devon’s head with all the ways in which Cam was a first-rate jerk.

Cam sighed and motioned Devon in with a wave of his hand. Devon ambled forward and dropped into one of the chairs in front of Cam’s desk.

“Well?”

Cam swore under his breath and took a seat in his leather executive’s chair. “Well, what? I’m sure you know the whole bloody story by now. With the way Pippa’s avoiding me, you probably know more than I do at this point.”

Devon raised an eyebrow. “Avoiding you? Don’t tell me that fatalistic charm of yours is an epic fail?”

“Charm has nothing to do with it,” Cam bit out.

“Evidently.”

Cam sighed. “Did you just come to put the screws to me or do you actually need something?”

“More like I was wondering why my best friend doesn’t bother to tell me he knocked up my wife’s best friend.”

Cam winced and closed his eyes. “Christ, Dev, you think I set out to do it on purpose? You of all people should know this is the very last thing I’d ever want.”

Devon slowly nodded. “Yes, I do know. Which is why I found this all a bit strange.”

“It was supposed to be a one-night thing. I was attracted to her. She was attracted to me. Things kind of came to a head the night of your housewarming and we went to my place.”

“You brought a woman back to your cave? I knew you had the hots for her but didn’t think you were serious about taking her back to your place.”

The utter disbelief in Devon’s voice annoyed Cam. It wasn’t as though the decision was earth-shattering.

“It made no sense to drive back into the city and get a hotel or go back to her place when my house was a quarter mile away.”

“Of course,” Devon said mockingly.

“Whatever,” Cam muttered. “The point is, this was not planned. In fact, the effort was made to prevent it. Unfortunately, the damn condom broke and here we are, both about to be parents. She isn’t any more thrilled about it than I am. I mean, with the way it happened. Hell, I’m making it sound like neither of us wants this baby. We do. We just don’t agree… Well, we don’t agree on anything so far.”


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