Thanks to Ariaboo for the feedback, and to Hubby for all the help with this chapter. Both are greatly appreciated.
Megan halted mid-way down the corridor, and turned to me, her bottom lip pulled between her teeth. “What last name will the baby have?”
I slowed my pace and fell in step beside her, my own brows forming a frown as I thought about her question. I shrugged. “I dunno. What do other people in our situation do?”
“I haven’t got a clue. Everyone I know with kids is married.”
“Yeah, same. I guess we could ask our parents, but aren’t they-”
“-just going to want us to continue their family name?” she finished for me.
I laughed. “Exactly.” I shrugged again. “Maybe we could look online, or something?”
We started walking again, until Megan reached the door that would lead us out into the car park. “I suppose, but there’s only three options, really. The baby has your last name, the baby has my last name, or we hyphenate both our names.”
The second she opened the door we were assaulted with flashing lights and shouts.
“Kian, is it true you’re going to be a father?”
“Is this the mother? Are you together?”
“Will you retire from MMA now you’ve lost your championship, and you’re going to have a baby?”
I looked around to where a small gathering of paparazzi had congregated.
What the fuck?
Grabbing Meg’s hand, we raced to the car.
“What the hell is going on?” she asked breathlessly, as she fastened her seatbelt.
My first instinct was to take off at top speed, but with the pregnant mother of my daughter sitting next to me, I wasn’t taking any risks.
Focusing only on the road, and not the reporters buzzing around, I drove out of the carpark.
“I have no idea. Only a few people know about the pregnancy, and none of them would tell anyone.”
Megan quickly tapped out a text, and nodded her head. “I only told people I trust. Unless…”
I was slightly alarmed at how her eyes had widened, and her cheeks flushed.
“What is it?”
“Shit, this is all my fault. I let her get to me. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“How did you know?”
“She came storming into my hospital room after you spoke to her. She was ranting over the fact I’d gotten you pregnant and never told her. After I made it clear I had no interest in her, and the pregnancy was none of her damn business, I buzzed for a nurse to escort her out. When she didn’t come back or call a few days later, I figured she’d got the hint.”
“You really think she’d do something like this?”
I blew out a long breath. I should have seen this coming. “Well none of our friends or family would. I can just imagine her thinking if I won’t get with her, in revenge she’ll make my life as difficult as possible.”
Megan sighed and turned to face the window, and my pulse hitched. Having paparazzi hassling me was something I’d gotten used to, but I didn’t want them harassing Meg.
“It’ll be okay. I’ll call one of my media contacts, release a statement and request they respect our privacy.”
When Megan turned back to face me, her eyes softened, and she smiled. “Thanks.”
“Just let me know if anyone hassles you, yeah? I’ll keep them away.”
She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again and shook her head.
“It’s nothing … it’s just … I … there are these girls at uni who’ve been giving me a hard time about the pregnancy, and well, I can just imagine their reactions when they find out you’re the father.”
What the hell was that meant to mean? Was she ashamed? I assumed Meg of all people wouldn’t care about my reputation.
As if sensing she’d said the wrong thing, she reached out and took my hand.
“I didn’t mean it like that. These girls are bitches, and they’ll find some way to turn you being the dad against me. I can just imagine it now: ‘I don’t know why someone as hot as Kian Murphy would sleep with a loser like you.’”
I let out a breath and laughed. “They must be insane. You’re way too cool to be a loser.”
Megan smiled and squeezed my fingers.
When we pulled up outside Megan’s flat, I had chance to check my phone and saw three missed calls from Davi. The media circus must have reached him, too
“Will you be okay if I shoot-off?” I said, as we reached the front door.
“Yeah, I will be, but will you? You look kinda pissed off. Why don’t you come in for a cuppa?”
I learned against the doorframe and considered her offer. I needed to see what Davi wanted, and sort out this whole mess, but fuck it, I was tired of this shit. I wanted to be normal for once. I’d just found out I was having a baby girl. Why couldn’t I hang out with Meg for a bit, and discuss names? Instead of having to chase down reporters.
I smiled. “Sure, but only if you’ve got biscuits.”
Megan laughed and opened the front door. “Actually, I have this really awesome cake from work. I have a couple of slices left. Do you want some?”
“Sounds good.” I followed her through to the kitchen, watching as Meg got out mugs and put the kettle on.
“So, surnames aside, any thoughts on what we should call the nipper?”
Megan dropped the teabags in the bin, and turned to face me. “A few names came to mind when we found out it’s a girl. Do you like Elizabeth, Charlotte, Chloe, Eleanor or Sophie?”
I opened the fridge and handed Meg the milk. “Not keen on Charlotte, Chloe or Sophie. Eleanor and Elizabeth aren’t names you hear too much anymore. Are they in honour of anyone?”
“Yeah, Elizabeth is my mum’s name and my middle name. And my Nan, God rest her soul, was Eleanor.”
“Wouldn’t it be weird calling the baby Elizabeth if that’s your mum’s name and your middle name?”
Megan handed me a mug of tea and slice of cake. “Hmmm, yeah. Good point. Okay, So I’m down to Eleanor. You?”
I took a sip of tea, and titled my head back as I thought. If Meg’s choice was to name the baby after her Nan, maybe I could do the same?
“What about Rose or Mary?”
“Ohhh, Rose is pretty. Is that after someone?”
“Yeah, my granny is Rose.”
“Eleanor Rose has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”
Eleanor Rose Murphy. Eleanor Rose Green. Eleanor Rose Murphy-Green.
“It does.” I grinned, then put my mug down and crossed the kitchen to Meg.
Resting my hand on her tummy, I lent down and spoke to the nipper. “Eleanor Rose. Do you like that?”
“Oh my god, Kian. She moved. I think she can hear you. Do that again.”
I shuffled closer, and placed both hands on Meg’s tummy. “Eleanor Rose?”
This time I felt it. A small tap, like someone was pressing against my palm. I looked up at Megan, who was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
“I think that settles it. Eleanor Rose it is,” she said.
I pulled back and climbed to my feet. “Perfect. If only the last name was this easy...”
Megan took my hands, and stepped closer to me.
For a moment I was overwhelmed by the nearness of her. The scent of her shower gel filled the air. The floral smell was something I’d come to associate specifically with her, whenever I caught a whiff of it elsewhere, my mind instantly went to Meg.
Her presence comforted me, and my hands instinctively slipped from hers, to wrap around her back and pull her into me, as I breathed in the familiar smell.
I bent forward, and pressed my lips to the top of her head.
“I really should get going and sort all this reporter crap out,” I said, not ready to let go of her just yet.
“Yeah, I’ve got some uni stuff to catch up on.”
I dropped my arms, and stepped away. “Okay, I’ll let you get to it.”
Meg scooped up our cups and dropped them in the sink. “All right. I’ll call you this evening.”
“Sure. Speak to you later.”
I headed for the door, casting a glance at Megan, who was now washing our cups and some other stuff in the sink.
Without another word, I let myself out, and headed to the car.
When I reached the gym, Ruby was talking to a reporter at the edge of the carpark. Her eyes narrowed when she saw me, and a second later, she started crying.
“All I’d ever done was love him, but he cheated on me and got someone else pregnant.”
Counting to ten in my head, I walk passed them, and went straight inside to Davi’s office.
“This isn’t my fault,” I said once I’d stepped inside and closed the door behind me. “Ruby has gone insane. She’s telling that reporter we were together and I cheated on her.”
Davi rubbed his temple. “She’s still out there? I’ve already fired her, and kicked the reporter off the property.”
I blinked, but couldn’t suppress the smirk on my lips. “You fired her?”
“Yeah. She had to have been the one who told the press about Megan and the baby.”
“I figured as much. There were reporters outside the hospital, too.”
“I know. Amelia text me, it’s all over the internet. And if they knew where to find you, that means Ruby went through my files.”
“She needs to be stopped. I’ve come too far to let anything fuck this up now.”
“Don’t go off half-cocked. You’ll only make thing worse.”
“I’m not. I just want to give the reporter my side of things.
Davi let out a low whistle. “Well, at least you’re trying to sort stuff out.”
I laughed. “Yeah, aren’t you proud of me? I’m learning from my mistakes.”
“I am proud of you. You’ve really grown up these last few months.”
“Hey man, don’t go getting all sentimental on me now.” I stood up and headed for the door. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
When I got back outside, Ruby was still bullshitting the reporter, though her earlier crocodile tears had stopped. Instead, she was practically shoving her tits in his face.
I shook my head, wondering what the hell I ever saw in her.
“You want the real story?” I said, strolling up to them. “Instead of her bullshit.”
The journalist whipped around to face me. “Of course.”
“All right. Follow me.”
Without a second glance at Ruby the reporter followed me. I lead him inside, and down the corridor to the locker room, which was currently empty as everyone was in training.
I sat down in front of my locker – that hadn’t been touched in weeks – and the reporter pulled up a folding chair opposite me.
It felt good being back in the locker-room, even if it wasn’t for fighting, and having a journalist’s rapt attention caused a buzz of adrenaline.
I closed my eyes and bowed my head for a moment.
This isn’t about making headlines, I told myself. This is about setting the record straight, and getting reporters off Meg’s back.
With my mind clear, I opened my eyes, raised my head and said, “So, what do you want to know?”
The reporter hit record on his Dictaphone. “Is it true you’re going to be a father?”
“Yes, it is. And I’m very happy about it. Having kids is something I’ve always wanted, and I can’t wait to be a dad.”
“How does the mother fit into all this? Ruby said she’s some random girl you cheated on her with.”
“Ruby and I were never together. I slept with her a couple of times, but I was always clear I didn’t want a relationship. The mother is someone I met a few months back. She’s sweet, and funny and caring, and is going to be an excellent mum. But she isn’t from the MMA world, and I don’t want her dragged into all my shit.”
“Are you together? Do you love her?”
I paused, and a rubbed my chin, considering my words carefully. I didn’t want to say anything that might give Meg the wrong idea, or lead her on. But at the same time, I wanted to make it clear to everyone Kian Murphy was officially off the market.
“She’s carrying my child, what do you think? That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter. I don’t want to discuss our private lives. That’s actually the reason I agreed to speak to you. I don’t want people hassling her or following us around. I’m happy to answer questions, but I don’t want reporters turning up outside the hospital and shit.”
“Okay, if your relationship is private, how about your MMA career? What can you tell me about that? What are your plans now you’ve lost the title to Matthews?”
I smiled, and leaned back in my chair. “Okay, here’s an exclusive for you. Kian Murphy is taking a hiatus from fighting until after the birth of his child.”
“What? You’re quitting MMA?”
“I never said that, but ending up in hospital made me realise what’s important, and right now that’s my baby and being the best damn father I can be.”
I did, I almost said. “Wanting to be good parent.”
“And until the baby is born? What have you got planned?”
“I’m still finalizing some things.” Aka I didn’t have a fucking clue. “But once it’s all official, you’ll be the first to know.”
“Brilliant. That’s all I need. Thanks for your time, Kian.”
“Yeah, sure man. Thanks for hearing me out.”
The reporter switched off the Dictaphone, then quickly checked there wasn’t any problems with the recording.
Once the reporter had everything he needed for the story, I headed outside to see him off, and make sure Ruby didn’t talk to him, then turned to her with my eyes narrowed.
“You screwed up my exclusive,” she said.
“Go fuck yourself you attention-seeking whore. The fuck gives you the right to tell people about my shit?”
Ruby scoffed. “What? That you got that little tramp up the duff?”
I clenched my first to my sides and stepped closer to her, my voice a dangerous whisper.
“Don’t you ever speak about Megan like that again, you hear me? In fact, don’t speak to her or talk to anyone about her. Keep away from me and my family. I can’t stop you working here, but if you come near me again, I’m getting a restraining order.”
“Kian, wait. I didn’t mean that. What I meant was … well look at her. She’s hardly pretty, is she? And imagine how hideous she’ll be covered in baby puke. You deserve better.”
“Someone like you, you mean?”
Ruby pushed her tits up against my chest and squeezed my arm.
“Yeah. Remember how good it was the last time. No one gets you like I do, Ki. I know the real Kian Murphy.”
The touch of her skin caressing my arm made me feel dirty, and I shrugged her off.
She didn’t know the real me at all. She only saw the Kian I showed her.
“Get off me. I’m done. I mean it, come near me again, and I’m speaking to my solicitor.”
Without a backwards glance I stalked away from her.
I headed inside, and went straight to Davi’s office. “The reporter’s gone,” I said, flopping down into the chair opposite him.
“I told her I’d get a restraining order if she comes near me or Meg again.”
Davi leaned back in his chair, his expression softening as he stared at me. “I’m glad you’re finally sorting all this out, Kian.”
“Yeah, me too.” I blew out a long breath. “I just want all this craziness to die down so I can focus on the baby. We found out we’re having a girl. We’ve decided to call her Eleanor Rose, after our grandmothers.”
“Congratulations, my friend. That little girl will be your whole world.”
I grinned. “She already is. I’d do anything to protect her and make sure she has a good life.”
Davi laughed. “She’s gonna have you wrapped around her little finger in no time.”
“Gladly. But I’m going to need some help. Like a job, for starters. The reporter asked me about my MMA career, and I told him I was taking a hiatus until after the baby is born. What happened with Matthews was a wakeup call. I don’t want to get knocked out again and never wake up, and have my little girl grow up without a dad.”
“Why do you think I quit boxing? After me and Valentina split, I barely saw the girls as it was. I didn’t want my work to jeopardize that further. So I opened this place.”
“Shame I don’t know any gyms for sale.”
“You could buy into an already existing gym? I’m not getting any younger. I want to retire to somewhere hot and exotic while me and Amelia are still young enough to enjoy it.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“Buy into the gym. I’ll train you up as coach and manager. Then in a few years, you can take over and I can buy that little villa in Lisbon I’ve always wanted.”
I let out a laugh, as a jolt of adrenaline shot through me. “Shit man. Are you serious? I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything yet. Take a few days to think it over. Discuss it with Megan and your family.”
“Thanks. I will.”
We fell silent as I considered Davi’s offer. Getting into the gym business wasn’t something I’d ever seriously considered. I wasn’t even sure I’d like it. Yeah, training the guys would be great, but the other side of it scared me. I had no idea how to run a business or shit like that. But it’d mean I’d still be connected to the world I loved, without risking my life, and I could continue providing for Megan and our daughter.
I’d take Davi’s advice and think about it. I’d talk it over with my family and Megan before making any decisions.
My skin tingled as I realised I considered Megan in the same breath as my family, and factored her into my future decision making. I knew she’d be involved in my life because of the baby, I just hadn’t realised how … I searched my mind for the right word … anchored she made me feel.
The freefall of the last few years was coming to an end, and tethering me to reality was Megan and the nipper.
I looked up at Davi. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, go for it.”
“Weren’t you tempted to stay with Valentina for the kids’ sake?”
“Never. The love was gone. As the mother of my children, I still care for her, but it’s in a different way. The passion, the spark, neither were there. Staying together like that wasn’t fair to either of us.”
I thought about Megan and our daughter. I’d do anything for both of them, but was that just because of my instinct to protect my child?
I remembered when I woke up in hospital, and heard Megan’s tearful confession. I smiled, as warmth spread through me.
Then I recalled my earlier conversation with Ruby. She’d claimed she knew the real me, but she couldn’t be further from the truth. Thinking about her, and how we’d used each other made my skin crawl. The way she manipulated people and used her sexuality to get what she wanted disgusted me. I felt sick knowing I’d played into that. Not just played into that, but enjoyed it.
I used to revel in being the bad boy with a reputation, and seeing how that reputation affected women excited me.
Thinking about it now felt hollow and pointless.
“You’re thinking about Megan, aren’t you? And if all this is real?”
“Yeah … how did you know?”
“Aside from the fact it’s written all over your face? I’ve seen the effect she’s had on you, Kian. You’ve changed since you met her.”
“Yeah, because of the nipper. Because I want to be a good dad.”
“It’s more than that. All your energy and passion seems focused into her. I’ve never seen a woman hold your attention like she does.”
“It doesn’t matter, I can’t go there.”
“Why not? Amelia’s certain Megan has feelings for you.”
“She does. She told me as I was coming round in hospital.”
Davi’s eyes lightened and he smiled. “She’s good for you.”
I raked my hand through my hair and clenched my jaw. “Too good. That’s the problem. I don’t deserve her. I’m only just starting to believe I’ll manage to pull off being a decent father, but there’s no way I can commit to a serious relationship. I’ll only end up screwing it up, then she and the nipper will hate me.”
“Kian, you’re being too hard on yourself. You’ve changed so much since you met her.”
“Ha, that’s what Marie said, too.”
“She’s right. Have you spoken to Ollie about this?”
I shrugged. “Nah, not yet. I’m still trying to work through the Matthews shit, and what happened in our fight.”
“Fair enough, but when you have, I’d talk to him about Megan. You owe it to both of you, and your little girl, to at least give it a shot.”
“Yeah, I’ll think about it…” I wiped my hands on my jeans, then pulled out my phone. More missed calls; mostly from numbers I didn’t recognize but assumed to be reporters. “I better head home. These reporters aren’t giving up.”
“Okay. Call me if you need anything.”
“Cheers, will do. And I’ll be in touch about your offer.”
I quickly made my way to my car and headed home. I was glad there were no reporters hanging around when I got back, and hoped the story the reporter from earlier sent out would be enough to get them off my case.
Once inside, I pulled out my phone, and bought up the website that reporter was from. My exclusive was top of the gossip section. I quickly scanned the article to make sure he’d included everything, and was glad to find he’d left out anything about Ruby.
Closing my web browser, I opened up social media, and did something I hadn’t done in a while, searched the ‘Kian Murphy’ tag.
When I’d first started fighting, I’d been sort of obsessed with what people were saying about me, and used to stalk the net looking for comments from people who’d watched my fights, or women who wanted to fuck me.
The thought of getting into all that shit again made a dull ache settle in my chest, and I was about to switch off my phone and jump in the shower, when something caught my eye.
[MegG: “@KMIsGod @SocialBoss1997 You don’t know what you’re talking about. Fuck off, yeah?” 6mins ago…]
I couldn’t help myself and clicked on the comment, opening up the entire thread of a conversation.
I read from the top.
[KMIsGod: “@SocialBoss1997 You obviously never fucked him or you’d know that man is a god. She’s a lucky bitch to have snared him LOL!” 11mins ago…]
[SocialBoss1997: “@KMIsGod We got a lucky escape, more like. @KMurphy might be hot as hell, but he’s a proper psycho!” 9mins ago…]
[KMIsGod: “@SocialBoss1997 Right?!!! I actually feel sorry for @MegG, being stuck with him for the rest of her life!” 7mins ago…]
[MegG: “@KMIsGod @SocialBoss1997 You don’t know what you’re talking about. Fuck off, yeah?” 6mins ago…]
[KMIsGod: “@MegG @SocialBoss1997 Soz LOL! Don’t send your pet psycho after me! ;)” 5mins ago…]
[MegG: “@KMIsGod @SocialBoss1997 None of you have a clue what you’re talking about. You don’t know him. He’s going to be a fantastic dad to our baby. Saying you had a lucky escape and I’m stuck with him? DO ONE! Kian is a kind, caring, hilarious guy. You were just too shallow to see past the MMA ‘celeb.’” 4mins ago…]
A flash of adrenaline ripped through my body.
I re-read Megan’s comment. My chest swelled as all the tension left my body.
The fuck was the last time someone talked about me like that; as a person?
Grinning, I screen capped Meg’s message, then turned off my phone. My mind replayed what she’d said, along with my earlier realization that I thought about her along with my family. Then I remembered Davi’s words about me and Meg owning it to each other to give our relationship a chance.
Could I go there?
I didn’t believe I could be with her without screwing it up. But the tiny slither of hope that I might not, the small chance that maybe I was good enough for her made me question everything.