Blue-Eyed Devil Page 14

"It wouldn't do any good," I told him, even though that wasn't true. Regardless of my father's attitude, my brothers would have given me anything I asked for. Especially Gage. The few occasions we had talked on the phone, he had asked if there was anything he could do for me and Nick, and I had said no, absolutely not, things were fantastic. I was afraid to give Gage any hint of how things really were. One pulled thread and I might unravel completely.

"Your dad will have to start doing things for us when we have kids," Nick told me. "It would be a public embarrassment for him to have grandchildren living in a damn shack. He'll have to cough up some money then, the stingy bastard."

It worried me that Nick seemed to regard our future children as tools that would be used to pry open the Travis family coffers. I'd always planned to have children when I felt ready, but this situation couldn't begin to accommodate a fussy, demanding infant. It was all I could do to keep my fussy, demanding husband happy.

I had never had problems sleeping, but I began having dreams that woke me up at night, leaving me exhausted the next day. Since my tossing and turning kept Nick awake, I often went to the sofa in the middle of the night, shivering beneath a throw blanket. I dreamed of losing my teeth, of falling from tall buildings.

"It was so weird," I told Nick one morning while he was drinking his coffee, "this new one I had last night. I was in a park somewhere, just walking by myself, and my right leg fell off. No blood or anything. It was like I was a Barbie doll. I was so upset, wondering how I was going to get around without that leg, and then my arm broke off at the elbow, and I picked it up and tried to hold it in place, and I was thinking, 'I need this arm, I've got to find someone to reattach it.' So then — "

"Did you take your pill yet this morning?" Nick interrupted.

I had been on birth control ever since we had started sleeping together. "No, I always take it after breakfast. Why? Do you think the hormones may be giving me bad dreams?"

"No, I think you're giving yourself bad dreams. And I asked because it's time for you to go off the pill. We should start having kids while we're still young."

I stared at him. A huge wave of unwillingness went through me, every cell in my body resisting the idea of a great big hormone-fueled helplessness that would make everything impossible But I couldn't say no. Thai would set off a bad mood that might last for days. I had to work Nick around to changing his mind. "Do you really think we're ready?" I asked. "It might be better to put away some money first."

"We won't need to. Your dad will be a lot more reasonable once he finds out Gage and Liberty aren't the only ones who can pop out a kid."

I realized Nick had less interest in the baby itself than in its usefulness as a way to manipulate Churchill Travis. Would he feel differently when the baby was born? Would he be one of those fathers who melted at the sight of the small person he had helped to bring into the world?

As hard as I tried to imagine it, I couldn't see Nick summoning the patience to deal with a screaming infant, a messy toddler, a needy child. It frightened me, thinking of how tightly I would be bound to him, how dependent I would be once we had a baby together.

I went into the bathroom to get ready for work, brushing mascara onto my lashes, slicking on lip gloss. Nick followed, rummaging through the assortment of cosmetics and hair products I had set out on the counter. He found the round plastic container my birth control pills came in, and flipped it open to reveal the wheel of pastel-colored tablets.

"You don't need these anymore." He tossed the pills into the trash.

"I need to finish the cycle," I protested. "And usually before you try to get pregnant, you go in to get a checkup — "

"You're healthy. You'll be fine." He put a hand on my shoulder, forcing me up as I bent to retrieve the pills. "Leave them."

A disbelieving laugh bubbled from my throat. I had been conditioned over months to tolerate Nick's whims for the sake of harmony, but this was too much. I was not going to be forced into having a baby neither of us was ready for.

"Nick, I'd rather wait." I picked up a hairbrush and began to drag it through my tangled hair. "And this really isn't a good time to talk about having children, with both of us getting ready for work and — "

"I'll decide what we talk about and when!" The explosive intensity of his voice startled me into dropping the hairbrush. "I didn't realize I had to make a goddamn appointment with you to talk about our personal life!"

I went white with alarm, my heart kicking into a violent rhythm. "Nick — "

"Do you ever think about anyone or anything besides yourself?" Anger had knotted his throat and the tiny muscles of his face. "It's always about what you want . . . you selfish bitch, what about what I want?"

He leaned over me, towering and furious, and I shrank against the mirror. "Nick, I just . . ." My mouth had gone so dry, I could ha rely force the words out. "I'm not saying no. I just want . . . would like . . . to talk about it later."

That earned a look of soul-shredding contempt. "I don't know. It may not be worth talking about. This whole marriage may not be worth a shit pile. You think you did me some big f**king favor, marrying me? I was the one who did you a favor. You think anyone else would put up with your crap?"

"Nick — " Panicky and confused, I watched him walk to the bed room. I started to follow, but 1 hung back, fearful of maddening him further. The men in my family were generally slow to anger, and once they worked up to an explosion, it was over soon. Nick's temper was different, a fire that fed on itself, growing until its proportions had far outstripped the cause. In this case, I wasn't sure what the best strategy should be . . . If I went after him to apologize, it might pour fuel on his rage. But if I stayed in the bathroom, he might take new offense at being ignored.

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