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Ride Steady


PAGE 53


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I shook my head. "Honestly, not to be mean, but I don't care. I didn't lie when I said I was tired. We just had dinner. I have things to do before tomorrow. Can you please explain why you're here so you can leave and I can do them?"

He glanced at Joker then back to me. "I had hoped to speak to you one on one."

"That's not gonna happen," Joker put in on a subdued growl.

Yes, oh heck yes, I could love that man.

"And who are you, exactly?" Aaron asked Joker.

"That his business?" Joker asked me.

Gosh, I wanted to kiss him.

"I should know who's spending time with my son," Aaron pointed out, his deep voice that once could lull me into believing just about anything verging on a snap.

"This is a friend of mine," I said quickly and got Aaron's eyes. "He's called Joker and we're..." I paused and put it out there, "dating."

"Dating?" Aaron asked incredulously.

And hurtfully.

"You lost interest in me but that doesn't mean the entirety of mankind did," I returned.

"Of course not, you're beautiful," Aaron spat and I blinked. "But you've got a job and a child to raise."

"Seeing as you work so much, I'm surprised you forgot," I shot back. "But you also have a job. And a child. Not to mention a fiancée."

Aaron scowled at me before he took in a visibly deep breath, ran his hand through his thick, shiny, dark hair, and rearranged his features.

"I didn't come here to fight," he shared when he again focused on me.

"I'm glad you mentioned that, because we still haven't established precisely why you've come here," I returned.

"If you have issues, Carissa, we should work them out one on one," he declared.

I stared.

Then I looked to Joker. "Is he kidding?"

Joker held my eyes then his roamed my face.

After he did that, he smiled at me.

Right out. Blinding and beautiful. Strong white teeth stark against his thick black beard and everything.

It was all I needed.

I turned back to Aaron. "You don't take my calls."

"I will in future."

"Will you share with me my son is ill in future too?"

His face turned to stone.

Tory was going to get it but I didn't care.

Regardless, I noted, "You shouldn't be angry with her. She did the right thing. One hundred percent. The person who didn't was you. She's not his mother. But you are his father and it should have been you who shared that with me."

"So you hired the most expensive firm in Denver to handle your hissy fit?" Aaron fired back.

Gustafson, Howard and Pierce were the most expensive firm in Denver?

No.

Wait.

My hissy fit?

"You took my son to the hospital, Aaron," I said, voice trembling with fury.

"It was just croup," Aaron blew it off.

"You took my son to the hospital, Aaron," I repeated.

He shook his head. "This is not the point. The point is, you cannot afford that firm."

"No," I volleyed. "The point is, you're terrified I'm going to use what little bit of money I have battling you by using attorneys that aren't scared of the mighty Neiland network and you'll have to pay their fees as well as the child support you should be giving Travis ."

"If you want money, Carissa, you just have to ask," he retorted.

"Who? Tory?" I returned. "Since you refuse to speak to me, that is."

His mouth got hard.

"You created this situation, Aaron. And I know how it pains you, and you're my son's father, so it gives me no pleasure to point out that you've instigated another fail. You thought since you played me and mistreated me for years that I'd roll over for you. But you're no longer dealing with a girl who lost half her world by the time she was eighteen and therefore held on to all she had left with all she had in her. You're dealing with a mother. That's an entirely different breed. So I'd advise you change your tactics and your goals. Because your current fight is a fight there is no way in hell you can win."

"I don't want to hurt you anymore, Carissa," he said gently.

What a liar.

He didn't want his epic fail to bloom out of control and damage his reputation.

"Then reach out to my attorney," I suggested. "We can meet to rearrange our agreement so it's more beneficial for our son. But that will happen with my attorney present. Where it won't happen is in the late evening in my living room during a meeting that was meant to be an ambush. Now, please, give me my son and leave."

Aaron stared at me. He did this a while. Too long. So long I could actually feel Joker losing patience.

I was right there with him.

Then Aaron said, "You've changed."

"That happens when a girl dreams of nothing but being a part of a happy family and her husband cheats on her and then kicks her in the teeth. Repeatedly. If she can pick herself up, she learns, and that girl turns into a woman who'll fight, scratch, and die before she's brought low again."

"I still wish you'd speak with me alone," Aaron coaxed.

"Think we went over that," Joker stated.

Aaron looked to him. He did it angrily at first but then he did it strangely. Not with anger, more like focus, like he wasn't looking at him but he wanted to put his finger on something and couldn't find it.

But really, I was done.

"Aaron, my son," I prompted.

My ex-husband turned his attention back to me.

Then he got close and that was when I felt Joker get tense.

But Aaron stopped and I watched as he bent his neck to kiss Travis's baby head.

"'Night, little guy," he whispered.

Ugh.

Carefully, he transferred our son to me, and once I had him, I cuddled him close.

Aaron looked at me.

"You look good, Carissa," he murmured.

Another lie. I didn't. Unfortunately, on my first date with the handsome biker Joker I was in my LeLane's uniform, my hair in a ponytail, and my makeup was ten hours old. There hadn't been time to change into my tube top.

But I was totally wearing my tube top when I met Aaron with our attorneys. He might be shocked but I didn't give a hoo-ha. He could kiss my behind.

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