Dirty Daddies

Page 85

“I thought he loved me,” she breathes, and she’s ashen. A paper doll where there’s usually so much life.
I look across at Jack and his jaw is gritted. I find myself glad Kevin’s surely heading back into Gloucester by now, because I wouldn’t fancy his chances if Jack caught up with the sack of shit anytime soon.
It surprises me how willing I’d be to teach the kid a lesson myself.
“Nobody ever called him Eli,” she whispers. “He said he was using a fake identity, for the drugs.” She shakes her head. “I feel so stupid.”
“You aren’t stupid,” Jack says. “He’s a cunt and you were vulnerable.”
He’s hit the nail right on the head there, although I’d probably have phrased it slightly differently.
“What do I do now?” she asks and her eyes are wide and scared. “He took your money…”
“Fuck the money,” Jack says. “He hurt you. All that matters now is that he’s never going to do it again. Not ever, Carrie.”
She nods so slowly. “You thought it was me.”
“No,” Jack says. “You wanted me to think it was you. If I really thought it was you, I’d have had you over my fucking knee already and given you the fucking belt for it.”
He smiles, and my heart races and as she smiles too.
“You wouldn’t have thrown me out?”
“For the sake of a few bits of furniture and a couple of hundred quid? You’d have to try a bit harder than that, sweetheart.” He sighs. “I caught you on the doorstep, remember? I was pulling you back, not chasing you off.”
“I thought he loved me,” she says again and brushes a tear away as soon as it falls.
I place my hand on her knee and squeeze as tight as I dare. “He didn’t,” I tell her. “But we do.”
I can hardly believe the words that come out of Jack’s mouth next. They don’t sound like him at all. He pulls her into his arms, even though she’s rigid and trembling, and whispers them right into her ear. “You have us now, Carrie, and we’ll always hug you so tight that all your broken pieces will fit back together again. You’ll see.”
With a lump in my throat, I take the space on the sofa he pulled Carrie from, and I wrap my arms around her from behind, until her trembling stops and her breath is even and her arms wrap around us right back.
I don’t know if a hug really can fit someone’s broken pieces all back together, but we can try.
We’ll never, ever stop trying.CarrieI don’t know how long they hold me there, but I never want to move.
I’m scared I’ll fall apart without their arms around me. I’m scared I’ll shatter into pieces and never pick them all up again.
I remember all the times the guy who called himself Eli touched me. I remember all the times he told me that that was what love felt like.
But love feels nothing like that, and I know it now.
I want to forget every second I ever spent with him. I want to feel how much I’m loved for real this time.
I want to feel kind hands on my body. I want to feel kisses that give, not kisses that take.
I want them. The only two men who’ve ever counted.
I need to know I’m still theirs and they’re mine, and words aren’t enough.
Words will never be enough now I know how easily a random guy like Kevin Baker could speak whatever he wanted in my ear.
I’m still in their arms as I press my lips to Jack’s neck. Michael is still pressed to my back as I reach for him.
Jack doesn’t respond at first as I kiss my way up to his jawline. He breathes and strokes my hair but doesn’t kiss me.
“Carrie, you don’t have to,” he begins, but I know.
I tell him so.
“Love me,” I whisper and it sounds so hollow. “I need to know you love me. I need to know you still want me. Both of you.”
“We should call the police,” Jack says, and I know we have to, but it can wait, just a little while. I tell him that, too.
It’s Michael who gathers my hair into a ponytail and kisses the back of my neck. It’s his lips that replace my frightened shivers with better ones.
“Whatever you need,” he whispers, and I finally come to know how much these past few weeks have changed all of us.
There’s a rawness to his words that speak to my soul. A tenderness in his touch that’s outside any guideline he holds himself to at work every day.
He’s more than his job. He’s more than the lines they make him colour inside.
“I need you,” I whisper. And I do.
I do need them.
I need them both like I need air.
Jack reaches for my arm and takes my bruised wrist in his hand. He presses it to his mouth as though he can kiss it all away, and maybe he can.