Thanks to Ariaboo for the feedback, glad you enjoyed the chapter. Thanks to Hubby for the edit, and help writing the interview scene.
I stared down at the ultrasound printout for what felt like the millionth time. No matter how many times I traced the outline of the baby’s tiny body, it still didn’t seem real.
Seeing my baby in black and white on the screen had made everything in life jump into sharp focus, and since the scan I’d thought of little else. My body was a swirling mix of breathless, heart-racing heat and hormones. I walked with a spring in my step, like I was floating on air.
It didn’t matter that the little one was only the size of a pea pod, and we wouldn’t be able to discern their gender for a few weeks yet, he or she had already formed fingerprints on their tiny fingertips.
Fingerprints. Can you believe that?
I couldn’t wait to hold their hand, and tell them how much I loved them. Since the moment I’d seen their little body on the monitor, and heard their heartbeat, I’d fallen completely and utterly in love.
I sighed, slipped the scan in my nightstand and patted my rounded tummy.
“Night-night, Baby,” I whispered.
After flicking off the bedside lamp, I snuggled under the covers; eager to get a good night’s sleep to prepare me for the busy day ahead.
About a week after the scan, I got a call from the letting agent. A prospective tenant had pulled out at the last minute, and a flat half a mile from my parents’ had become available. The catch? I had to pay the deposit and a month’s rent as soon as possible. Using my savings, I just about managed it, and the place was mine. With Stacey’s and Mum’s help, I was almost packed, and I’d roped Kian and Josh into helping me move. I’d hired a van to shift the bigger stuff, and the guys were due round early to help me with it.
I’d barely finished breakfast when the doorbell rang. Pulling on my dressing gown to cover my ratty pyjamas, I padded into the hall to answer it. I opened the front door to find Kian on the doorstep, a brown paper bag in one hand and a coffee holder with two polystyrene cups in the other.
“I brought breakfast,” he said, walking straight in without invitation and taking the food through to the kitchen. “Sausage and egg baps from Belly Busters, and a decaf tea for you.”
Walking into the kitchen, the smell of greasy food hit me full on, and I felt my stomach turn over.
“Get those away from me,” I said, turning around and rushing to the bathroom.
So much for being done with morning sickness.
I skulked out of the bathroom five minutes later, and was greeted by the smell of air freshener, and a glass of water on the coffee table.
Kian sat on the couch drinking his coffee. “Sorry. I figured since you’d said the morning sickness had eased off it’d be okay.”
“It’s alright.” I flopped down into the closest armchair and took a swig of water. “I thought it was okay too. It usually is. I had one of those sandwiches yesterday on my way to uni, and I was fine.”
“Guess the nipper fancied a change?”
I rubbed my stomach. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“So, what’s the plan for today? When are Josh and Stacey getting here?”
“She said ten-thirty, but you know as well as I do what their timekeeping is like.”
“Yeah, Davi had to bust Brownie’s balls for being late yesterday.”
I giggled, remembering how Stacey had slunk into class wearing the same clothes as the day before, and minimal makeup.
“Wanna get started now, save wasting half the morning for them two to get their asses in gear?”
“Alright, but you’re not lifting anything heavy.”
“You sound like my mum. When me, her, and Stacey were packing up my things she barely let me do anything.”
“She’s right,” Kian said, standing from the sofa and crossing the room so he was stood in front of me. When I nodded that it was okay, he placed a gentle hand on stomach. “We don’t want anything happening to the nipper.”
Since reaching an agreement about his role in the pregnancy, and what we'd do after the baby was born, the tentative relationship we'd formed since I'd found out I was pregnant had become a lot more relaxed.
After the ultrasound, we’d gradually begun spending more time together, as we met up for midwife appointments or chatted on the phone. We were starting to become more comfortable around each other, and finally acting like mature adults. I felt good knowing I’d have Kian’s support throughout the pregnancy, birth, and the sleepless nights that were to follow.
We'd come a long way in the past few weeks, finally realising our own issues were insignificant compared to having the life of another human being in our hands, and we needed to act like proper parents so we'd be able to offer our child everything it needed to be healthy and happy.
“Come on, let’s get started.” Kian offered me his hand and pulled me to my feet.
“Sure, just give me a minute to get changed.”
“Alright, I’ll make a start loading the boxes from your kitchen into the van.”
Changed into jogging bottoms and a loose t-shirt, I headed into the kitchen and grabbed a box marked ‘cutlery’ and headed outside with it.
Kian and I had just finished filling up the van, and he was about to head over to my new place, when Stacey and Josh arrived.
“Sorry we’re late, we got a little distracted in the shower,” Stacey said, taking a box from me and handing it off to Josh, then linking my arm we walked back into my flat.
“Too much information, Stace.”
Stacey giggled. “Sorry. So, how are you and my favourite pea-sized person doing?”
“Meh, I’ve been better. I threw up this morning.”
My stomach fluttered and I rubbed it gently. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just think the nipper’s gone off sausage and egg sandwiches.”
Stacey gave me a curious look then grinned. “Yeah, not that I can blame them. Those things are gross.”
“Says the woman who has tuna and anchovies on her pizza.”
With only heavy items left in my little kitchen, Stacey and I made a start on the living room, carrying boxes to the front door, while Kian and Josh drove over to the new place with the things we’d already loaded up.
“But everything else is all right?” Stacey asked, as she carried a box of books, and I carried a pile of cushions.
“Yup, all good here.”
“And Kian?” I could tell by the inane smile on her face Stacey was fishing for gossip.
“Yeah, things with Kian are good. He brought me breakfast this morning. Just a shame I couldn’t eat it.”
“Uh-huh, and now you’ve taken to calling the baby nipper.”
“What?” I recalled the curious glance she’d given me, but I still couldn’t figure out where she was going with this.
“Nothing. It’s just that you’re spending more and more time together. He brought you breakfast, and now you’re talking like him.”
“He is the baby’s dad, what do you expect?”
“Oh nothing,” Stacey said in a sign-song voice, dropping the box, and turning towards the living room before I had a chance to say anything else. I simply shook my head and laughed.
We cleared the living room quickly, then stopped for lunch, before emptying out my bedroom. With my bed and the baby’s crib loaded in the van, all that remained was my computer desk. Stacey and Josh drove over to the new place, while Kian and I gave my old flat a quick clean. With only a few things left to move, and time to kill before Stacey and Josh got back, I headed into the kitchen to make me and Kian a drink. When I re-entered the bedroom, I found Kian sitting at the desk, looking at my portfolio like it was an alien spaceship.
“You're good. This stuff is better than some of the logos my sponsors come up with.”
Blushing slightly, I placed his coffee on the desk, and sat cross-legged on the floor so I could drink my tea.
“Thanks. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. When the other kids were drawing spaceships or princesses, I was designing graphics for things. All of my school books had their own individual designs for each subject, and one year I made all my family and friends Christmas cards myself.”
“You know, you should design something for the baby’s room.”
I giggled, stood up and walked back over to him. “Already one step ahead of you,” I said, leaning over Kian to pull something out of my portfolio.
I handed him a sheet of paper on which I’d designed a scene I planned to have turned into a wall decal for the baby’s room. It was of a tree, covered in leaves and apples, with a bird sitting on one of the branches, and a squirrel running up the trunk. At foot of the tree sat a floppy eared rabbit eating a carrot. Each different element was coloured in bold, bright shades.
“This is beautiful,” Kian said, holding the sketch in one hand as the other reached out to stroke my stomach. “The nipper’s gonna love it.”
“Thanks.” I stroked my tummy, and as my fingers flittered across the bump, they brushed Kian’s. I looked down at our hands, fingertips almost touching, then pulled away. “Come on. Josh and Stacey will be back soon, and I want to get everything moved in before it gets dark.”
An hour later and everything had been transported to my new place. With nothing left to do at my old flat, I locked up and dropped the keys round to the landlord, then the four of us headed for the other flat, where boxes upon boxes lay stacked up in almost every room.
“It still needs re-decorating, but otherwise I think it’s perfect,” I said, sitting down on the sofa and looking around my new living room with a contented sigh.
“Yeah, it’s a nice place you’ve got here. You were lucky to find it; especially at the price you’re paying,” Stacey said, sitting next to me.
“Luck has nothing to do with it. I had to use most of my savings to secure this place, but it’s worth it. Do you guys want to stop for some dinner? I don’t have much in, but you’re welcome to stay.”
“Thanks, but me and Josh are going to head back to his soon. He’s going away tomorrow, so we wanna make the most of our last few hours together.”
“I don’t wanna know.” I laughed and shook my head, as Stacey stood up from the sofa.
“Thanks for today.” I climbed to my feet, and walked her and Josh to the door. “You too, Josh. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem,” he said, then calling over my shoulder, added. “I’ll catch you in the morning, Murphy.”
“Yeah, see ya tomorrow mate.”
“See you soon,” Stacey said, pulling me into a hug. “Take care of the nipper.”
I didn’t miss the emphasis she put on the word.
Playfully smacking her arm, I shook my head and said, “Don’t go getting any ideas about double dates, you idiot.”
“Kian, are you staying for something to eat?” I asked, walking back into the living room.
“Sure but you can’t cook after doing all this moving. I’ll get us some takeaway,” he said, reaching into his jeans for his wallet.
“I’m pregnant, not an invalid. I can cook us some dinner.”
The argument went back and forth for a few minutes, until I finally conceded. The longer we argued, the longer it’d take to sort dinner, and I was starving!
“What do you fancy?”
“Whatever you want. I'm always so hungry, I’ll eat anything going.”
“As long as it’s not Belly Busters.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said, passing him the phone, and pile of takeaway menus that were already here when I’d moved in.
“How far is the place on Miller Street?”
“Too far. It’ll take an hour to get here. Find another one,” I said, heading through to the kitchen to make us a drink.
“Okay, what about Sam’s Sizzlers on Maple Avenue?”
“Nope, their pizzas are gross,” I called from the next room. “You want a coffee?”
“Sure. And is Papa Louie’s on Stanford Road any good?”
“Yeah, call them.”
When the pizza arrived, and with no plates or glasses unpacked yet, Kian and I ate straight from the box, and drank from semi-cool cans of Coke. Not that I minded; after a long day of moving, I’d be damned if I was going to care about plates and proper table manners.
“What time do you have to leave for London tomorrow? I asked as I licked the grease from my fingers and threw my last crust into the now empty pizza box.
Kian and Josh were conducting some media appearance to promote the upcoming fight, and they’d be in the capital for a few days while Kian filmed an advert for some new training gear for his sponsors.
“Just before ten,” Kian replied, crushing his empty Coke can between his two palms.
As his biceps twitched from the pressure needed to squash the can, I felt a fluttering in my stomach that had nothing to do with the baby, and everything to do with lust.
“Ah, right, cool,” I replied, hurrying to collect up the rubbish from dinner. “I'm just going to take these out to the bin.”
My cheeks flushed, and without waiting for a reply, I snatched the can from Kian’s hand, and scooped up the empty pizza box, then bustled out to the wheely bin.
Get a hold of yourself. I lent up against the wall to catch my breath. He's just a guy … a guy with huge biceps … a guy with huge biceps and tattoos …
Remembering the one and only time I'd see those tattooed arms very close up my heart raced.
Yeah, and look where you ended up because of that. I patted my growing bump affectionately.
Shaking the lust from my head, and putting the sudden hot-flush down to hormones, I went back inside, where Kian was flicking through the TV channels.
“Anything good on?” I asked, plopping down on the sofa and kicking off my ballet flats.
“See for yourself.” he handed me the remote.
As our hands brushed, a jolt of electricity sparked between us, and I yanked my arm away as if burnt, then began flicking though the channels, hoping for a distraction.
“Boring, already seen it, and that's just gross,” I said, as I flicked from show-to-show, and then settled on Step Up: Revolution. “Perfect!”
“Oh Lord, you're as bad as my sister. She loves these movies. She went insane when Mum bought her the last one for Christmas.”
“I haven't seen it yet. Stacey keeps promising to lend it me, then forgets she ever mentioned it. Total flake.”
“I'll ask Marie if you can borrow hers.”
“Awesome. Thanks,” I said, turning to Kian with a maniacal grin.
“No problem. Just stop smiling at me like that; you're giving me the creeps.”
“Your face is giving me the creeps.” I reached for the closest cushion and smacked it off his arm.
“You’re gonna pay for that,” he said, grabbing my foot and tickling the sole.
“Ahhh! Stop! Stop! Kian, you bastard.” This time I aimed the cushion at his head.
Kian stopped the torment, but my heart continued to race. His gaze drifted to the telly, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
A week later, I’d finally gotten everything unpacked and arranged how I wanted. Now all my things were there, it was starting to feel like home, and though I’d need to decorate eventually, I could imagine me and the baby being happy in the new flat.
After a tiring week at uni and work, Mum took me to the new day spa that had opened in the city. I'd been feeling decidedly frumpy and unattractive since I'd started to gain weight, and Mum thought a day out pampering ourselves might make me feel better about myself and the physical changes my body was going through.
She was right!
After trying almost every beauty treatment available, Mum and I headed to the spa restaurant for some lunch and a few drinks. Me sticking to virgin cocktails of course, though I desperately missed being able to drink wine. As we sat down to our bowls of Greek salad with tuna, feta cheese and olives, Mum filled me in on how Dad was getting along at work.
He’d recently started tutoring computer science at the local community centre, along with his regular job repairing PCs for a tech shop in town.
“He’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t start hitting his pupils with a newspaper,” I said, referring to when he’d done the same to me after growing frustrated when trying to teach me how to take the PC apart and upgrade the RAM myself.
Mum chuckled “You know he only did that because he couldn’t understand how you could follow those graphic design programs, but not his instructions.”
I laughed too. “I know. And hey, at least he didn't poke me incessantly with a paint brush.”
I stuck out my tongue at Mum, as she took a sip of her wine and chuckled at the memory.
While we ate, the conversation drifted from one topic to another, though mostly focusing on the baby, uni and work, until Mum touched on a something that’d been on my mind for the past few days. With a parent-like uncanny knack, she knew I'd been thinking of Kian and my changing feelings for him.
I hadn’t been able to get him out of my head since the weekend he’d helped me move, and I still wasn’t sure if the feelings I was having were because he was the baby’s dad. Mum listened with rapt attention and a look in her eyes as I prattled on, until I paused for breath and caught the way she was gazing at me.
“Nothing, Dear. I'm just wondering when you’re going to admit you’re falling for him.”
“Don’t be daft, Mum.”
“Come on Megan. It's obvious from the way you talk about him that you feel something for him.”
“Of course I do, he’s the father of my baby, but that's as far as it goes. Even though he’s promised to support me through the pregnancy and be a part of his child’s life, he also made it clear that he isn’t looking for a relationship. Despite having a child on the way, his career is his priority, and he doesn’t want to settle down any time soon.”
I wasn’t sure who I was trying to convince, her or me.
“And you’re okay with that? You’re all right playing happy families one day and then accepting he doesn’t want to settle down the next day? Because I wouldn’t be.”
Shaking my head, I shrugged in reply. I’d known on the night we slept together it wouldn’t be a regular thing, and if I hadn’t got pregnant, I probably wouldn’t have given Kian second thought. Sure, I was attracted to him, but we were still getting to know each other, and with only six months before the baby was born, it would be difficult to form any sort of relationship.
“Just because we slept together once, and we’re having a baby together doesn’t mean I’m looking for a relationship,” I said finally. “I couldn’t be happier about the baby, but I still want some independence. Being in a relationship would get in the way of that, in ways having a baby won’t.”
“And will your ‘independence’ and not being tied down in a relationship be enough when you’re left holding a screaming baby, and he’s got some busty blonde on his arm?”
“Mum, I told you, I never wanted or expected more than one night with Kian. As long as he keeps any promises he makes to our baby, he can see all the busty blondes he likes,” I said, though the thought of seeing him with someone else, while I stayed at home with our baby made my muscles tighten and my jaw clench. I put the reaction down to the fact I was worried what effect Kian seeing someone would have on his relationship with the baby.
Besides, I told myself, getting into a long distance relationship is stressful and there’s no guarantees it’ll last.
Could I put my baby through that?
I hated the thought of our baby seeing their mum and dad at each other’s throats because we’d gotten together and it hadn't worked out. Growing up, I’d seen too many of my friends suffering because of their parents splitting up. It was something I’d promised myself I'd never do to my own child when I had one.
“Whatever you say, Dear. Just mark my words, once that baby arrives, everything will change.”
Later that evening, with the comments Mum made earlier in the back of my mind, I idly flicked through the telly channels; looking for a distraction. When I reached the sports stations, I paused on a talk-show, and the presenter said they had an interview with Kian coming up. Curious to see what he was like in ‘work mode’, I watched the adverts and waited for his segment to begin.
The interview started in the standard way, with a summary of who Kian was over the top of some clips of his fights.
I stared at the screen in silence, absorbing everything that was going on. It was my first time seeing him in the cage, and the sight of him violently hitting another person made my stomach quiver and my mouth went dry. He moved too quickly, the way his fists hammered down on the guy make me dizzy.
The presenter, a short man in glasses, asked Kian how his training had been going and how he’d been enjoying London. He then moved onto some more generic questions, like asking Kian what his pre-fight diet consisted of. I was amused to note he said protein shakes, sausage and egg sandwiches.
Belly Busters should start sponsoring him!
“How old were you when you started cage fighting?”
“I’d not long turned twenty. I’d been going to Davi Silva’s gym to work out for a few years, and I was thinking of getting into boxing, like my dad. Then Davi told me the local MMA promotion was looking for fighters.”
“That’s Davi Silva, former light heavyweight boxer and now the owner of the most successful gym in the Midlands?”
Kian grinned. “Yeah, that’s the one.”
“And your dad was a boxer too, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah, Brien Murphy.” Another grin from Kian. “He was big back in Ireland.”
“So you didn’t think of following in either of their footsteps?”
“Sure I thought about it. But I wanted to make my own path, ya know?”
“How very ambitious of you.” I couldn’t tell if the presenter has a slight sneer on his lips. His expression changed so quickly I wondered if I’d imagined it, and then he moved onto the next question.
“And now I’d like to get your thoughts on your last fight against Matthews.”
The programme went on to show a clip of Kian getting injured in the cage and made note of how he’d broken his collarbone in a bike accident.
In a little cut-out screen, to the left of the fight clips the camera focused on Kian, capturing his reaction to seeing himself injured in the cage. I could tell by the way his fists were balled at his side that reliving that moment was uncomfortable for him. Not that I could blame him. It made me uncomfortable too. I’d never seen an MMA fight, and although I knew they were brutal, this was far beyond what I expected. I covered my face with my hands, peeking out from between my fingers, as the other guy – who was much stockier than Kian, with more defined muscle structure – yanked Kian’s arm and twisted it behind his back, pulling in a way no one’s limbs should ever bend. I subconsciously rubbed my shoulder blades, as on screen, Kian sat stone faced.
“Maybe you should have a few more of those muscle drinks.” The interviewer’s tone was light and teasing, but Kian’s lips formed a thin line.
He forced out a dry laugh. “Yeah, maybe that’s it.”
“So Kian, what is it about you that makes you so susceptible to injury? I know you lost a lot of fans following the accident, how did that affect your career?”
“Did I lose a lot of fans? I made a full recovery so it’s…”
“Yes, but injuries never really heal do they?”
“Doesn’t that depend on the…”
“There are plenty of fighters who’ve suffered an injury and just don’t have the drive to get back to 100 percent. There are people out there who think you can’t ever get back to full health.”
“Ah, it’s like that then? Okay, well I’ve been training non-stop for the last...”
“But is that enough-”
“You cut me off again I swear I’m going to f***ing hurt you.” The TV interview bleeped out Kian’s words, but nothing could disguise the tone of his voice, and I winced, having experienced that anger first hand. “If I get injured, my goal is always to get fit, then get back into fighting shape. That’s the same with anyone who’s suffered an…”
“But can fighters ever really…”
“You think ya funny mate? You trying to make a joke? Let’s see how p***ed off you can make Murphy on your s***ty little show?”
“No, of course not. But answer me this: Aren’t you worried someone much bigger and tougher is going to come along and end your career? The last time you faced Matthews, he dislocated your shoulder.”
“You think I’m scared? Do I look f***ing scared?”
Kian stood up from his chair, and stalked towards the interviewer, standing just inches from him.
“Kian, please. I’m just doing my job, please take a seat.” The presenter shuffled back, but Kian didn’t stand down.
“Yeah? And how about I do what I do right here, right now?” Kian jabbed a finger into the man’s shoulder.
“All I meant was-”
“All you meant was,” Kian said in a mocking voice. “You don’t think I can beat Matthews, do ya? You asked if I’m worried someone much bigger and tougher is going to end my career. I ain’t fucking scared of no one. No one, you f***ing hack.” Kian threw the microphone to the floor, and pressed forward so he was towering above the interviewer.
“You’d f***ing love that, wouldn’t ya, ya little snake? Seeing me get my arse beat. Get a kick out of it, wouldn’t ya? ‘Cos you’re too much of a pussy to do it yourself.”
The interviewer tried to stand, but Kian shoved him back in his seat. “You, Matthews, you’re gonna be disappointed, ‘cos when I face him, I’m going to f***ing kill him.”
The show abruptly cut to the adverts, and I was left I staring at the screen in shock. What the hell had just happened? Why was Kian, a man who a few days previously had gone to the effort of mailing me his sister’s Step Up DVD and some baby clothes his mum had knitted, attacking a TV interviewer? Was this what he was like in ‘work mode’? Was it normal for him to lose his cool so quickly and then get both physically and verbally abusive with a virtual stranger?
Still stunned by what I'd just witnessed, I thought back over all the interaction we’d had in the past few months for any hints that this was ‘normal’ behaviour for him.
Since the scan, he'd been nothing but a perfect gentleman and doting father-to-be. But I remembered what he’d said about breaking that guy’s arm, and the fights we’d had over the paternity test, and how Emilia had asked if he’d hurt me after we’d argued that night in the restaurant.
Memories of his icy blue eyes boring into me flashed through my mind, and I let out an involuntary shudder thinking about how his every muscle had tightened with rage.
He obviously had a short fuse and a history of violence. Hell, that’s probably one of the reasons why he’d become a fighter; to let out all that pent up tension.
I turned off the telly, and sank down on the sofa, my head falling into my hands.
Was this really the type of man I wanted involved in my life? In my baby's life? Would these ‘outbursts’ keep happening, and could the baby and I be at risk?
Not knowing the answers to any of the questions, I dug out my phone and decided to call the one person who might be able to offer me some insight into what Kian was really like – Emilia Silva.