Leila didn’t answer but James had already worked it out. At first he had thought he might have caused offence when she didn’t respond to his flirt. And after eight hours being lectured by Manu as to just how offensive he could be at times, James had been certain that was why she hadn’t responded to his text. Now though he knew the truth.
She had been like this for hours, James realised, just lying on the bed with her pain.
‘Go,’ Leila said.
He made it to the kitchen and found some green tea bags, which were the only remotely herbal thing James had, and added some honey, no doubt from the wrong bees, and brought it in to her.
‘It’s nice,’ Leila said, and sipped the hot tea.
‘I didn’t have orange blossom honey though,’ James said. ‘We’ll have to do a Leila shop tomorrow.’
It was the saddest thing he had ever seen—watching her trying and failing to smile for him.
He got undressed and got into bed; no sex was going to fix this and so he held her instead.
Don’t disown me, she wanted to say.
Please don’t hurt me.
Please don’t come home stinking of perfume.
Even pretend to love me, just never let me know that you don’t.
Her mother’s words had more than stung, they had crushed, and she didn’t know what to believe anymore.
His hand was on her stomach, the reason he was here perhaps.
‘She called the baby a dirty street bastard,’ Leila finally spoke.
‘Excuse me!’ James said, perhaps a little too loudly for her fragile state, but as the baby kicked and she realised he was talking on behalf of the baby, now Leila managed a pale smile. ‘I think someone’s rather offended,’ James said as the baby kicked again, and he rubbed her stomach. ‘Tell your mother,’ he said to their child, ‘that we can fix that and I’ll marry her any day that she wants.’
‘You can’t fix this, James.’
No, but he could make contact with Zayn, James thought, especially when later she cried in the night, for so wretched were her tears.
* * *
He was up and dressed and certainly he would not be late for Manu this morning.
‘I’ve got meetings till six,’ James said, knowing that Manu flew back tonight. ‘Will you be okay?’
‘We have the ultrasound at two.’
‘Of course we do.’ James eyes briefly shuttered. ‘I’ll meet you there at ten to two.’
He’d forgotten, Leila decided.
He paused; a part of him wanted to tell her his plans, but the other part of him that was terrified of promising something he could not achieve was confirmed when he met a stony-faced Manu in the foyer of The Chatsfield.
‘What the hell?’ Manu demanded.
She handed him a newspaper and James looked. Their kiss in Central Park had been captured—even worse, his hand was on her breast.
‘I didn’t think anyone was around...’
‘We’re not discussing this here,’ Manu said. ‘I’ve booked a business suite on the seventeenth floor.’
Manu swiped the door and they stepped into the suite and then set straight to work. Manu took the newspaper from him and James didn’t really need to be told how bad it looked.
‘I didn’t know there was anyone nearby and certainly not someone with a camera.’
‘Your hand is on her breast,’ Manu said. ‘While I get that you want to fool the public here that your relationship is real, talk about a slap in the face for her parents and for her brother...’
James blew out. He wasn’t trying to fool anyone now; he and Leila had moved far past all that.
‘You get their virgin daughter pregnant,’ Manu said, and it felt like judgment day. ‘You leave her alone to deal with it and have been seen with other women since then...’ She just spelled it out and James could see the disgust in Manu’s eyes. ‘Yes, you propose and then you make out with her in the park.’
‘It was a kiss that went too far.’
‘Any kiss in public is a kiss that has gone too far. It is not just this kiss. You walk in the street holding her hand—that must only happen behind the closed doors of your home. Can’t you see that everything you do just further insults not only her family, it insults Leila. You’re not even married...’