"If you don't make her happy, I'll destroy you, I don't give a fuck the weight you got behind you with that Club."
Steele still said nothing.
Aaron drew in another breath.
Quietly, he gave it to him.
"I actually do love her."
That got him something.
"Next one you get, do better with that."
Then Carson Steele hung up on him.
Aaron clenched his teeth.
Then he grabbed his glass, went down to the kitchen, poured another drink, and called his attorney.
"I WILL, ANGIE. And thank you." Pause then, "Right. I'll call when I decide. Thank you again for everything. 'Bye."
Carissa dropped her phone and looked to Joker.
"I don't get it," she declared.
Joker had been watching her lying on the couch, legs out, back up, talking on the phone while her son crawled all over her, alternately trying to eat her dress and the duck head toy he was dragging with him.
She might not get it.
But Joker got it.
Aaron Neiland had a soul.
Just barely, but he had one.
"Told you he phoned me, Carrie," he reminded her quietly.
"I know. But he offered a settlement of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to see to Aaron's care and upbringing while I quit work and go to school," she announced.
Joker's body got tight.
That jackhole didn't get to take care of his girl.
If she wanted to quit and go to school, he could shove his money up his ass. Joker would take care of that for her.
He didn't get a chance to say that since she kept talking.
"She also said that Aaron's attorney told her that once I finish with school and start with my career, he'll continue child support until Travis is eighteen, if I so wish. Any adjustments to that due to cost of living or Travis's needs should be requested through my attorney and he'll consider it. And if Travis goes to college, a decision about continued support and who'll pay tuition and other expenses will be negotiated at the time."
"Visitation?" Joker forced out.
"He feels Travis is coping with the current schedule and encourages me to allow it to remain the same without further negotiations."
"And?" Joker asked.
"And what?" she asked back.
"What do you think of all this?" he prompted.
She threw up her phone hand then used it to catch her son before he rolled off her and the couch after he got too involved with banging her on the belly with his duck and lost balance.
"I don't know what to think, sweetie." It was a soft cry, probably so she wouldn't freak Travis. "That meeting was nasty. I told you how nasty it was. Now this?"
"He had a change of heart."
"Aaron doesn't get those," she muttered, putting both hands on Travis and setting him on the floor considering he was leaning that way and grunting.
Once on the floor, Travis boogied to where Joker was stretched out opposite her, pushed up to his knees and banged Joker on his hip with the duck
Joker grabbed the kid and hauled him to his stomach.
He started crawling all over him.
"Then a miracle has happened," he told her. "Roll with it. What else would you do?"
"I don't want his money," she was still muttering, her eyes on her boy.
"Carrie," he called.
She looked to him. "I don't."
He hated the idea of her ex taking care of her.
But still, that was a shit-ton of money.
So it hurt, but for her, he had to ask, "Is that smart?"
"Maybe not, but, Joker, he was nasty. Or, his father was, and his father is an extension of him."
"I get you, but-"
"LeLane's hired me when I was pregnant," she cut him off to say. "They work with my schedule as best as they can. They deserve loyalty. I want to be a stylist, but I want to make it so I'm a stylist. Not be giving some woman fabulous hair and thinking that Aaron was the one who made it so I could do that."
Joker felt his lips twitch.
"So, I'll take support," she declared. "And he's right. Travis is okay with this schedule, and if Aaron stops being a jerk, then it'll settle even more for him because he'll feel it's settled for all of us. I'll work for a while at LeLane's, and with Travis's support money coming in, save up for my own education. Once I'm there and I can give it to myself, I'll go for it."
"You're turnin' down a quarter of a million that, bottom line, that guy owes you, baby," he said gently.
"I'm turning down guilt money that will make him feel better for being so mean to me," she returned. "I don't care if he feels better or not. I don't care about him at all. I'll take his support money for Travis because he's Travis's dad. Other than that, he doesn't exist for me."
He grinned at her.
"Your call," he said.
"It is. Now, it's time to feed my family. Are you doing the cooking and I'm doing Travis, or the other way around?"
"You ever gonna make that chili you promised me?"
She smiled at him. "Guess I'm doing the cooking."
Joker smiled back then grabbed hold of her boy.
He dragged him up his chest as the kid squealed.
When he got him face to face, he said, "That means I get you."
And for his troubles, he got clocked in the face with a duck.
* * *
Three weeks later, Joker was walking from Ride to the Compound when his phone rang.
He pulled it out, saw who was calling and put it to his ear.
"You busy right now?"
"Nope," he answered, seeing as he wasn't. Carissa's ex had Travis so she had an afternoon shift. He was done with what he wanted to get done on his new build that day, so he was headed to the Compound to have a few beers with his brothers.
"Need you at Children's Hospital," Lee told him.
Joker stopped dead.
"Callin' a marker, brother," Lee said quietly.
"I'm on my bike," Joker told him.
"Maternity," Lee replied.
"Got it. I'll be there."