Arabelle sat on the floor of her bathroom and tried not to be sick, or faint, or scream, or cry. She looked again, no change, two lines. She was pregnant. She cried.
This was not how it was supposed to go. She’d spent a year researching and stalking people and finally got proof of Phoenix’s civilian identity. Any other villain would have taken that knowledge and sold it to the highest bidder. It would have been a sensation in the newspapers, turned out he was Jason Winters, heir to the family millions and a genuinely successful entrepreneur in his own right. He even paid decent wages, the asshole. She had a better idea.
She staged the death of her alter-ego, Darkness, it had always been a dumb name anyway. Then engineered an ‘accidental’ meeting with Jason Winters. It was kind of vomitus, looking back, but it worked.
They’d started seeing each other, and it had been going so well. He was falling in love with her, it was so obvious, it was embarrassing. Another month, and she’d dump him and he’d be devastated, drained and distracted, and she’d resurrect Darkness, or maybe create a new identity, that might be better, and she’d destroy him completely.
But now, there was this. How? They’d been so careful. Except for that time when… and then… and when he… Crap, they hadn’t been careful at all.
She looked at the test again. Still saying the same thing, and he’d be here in an hour. You know what? Fuck it. She’d been saying ‘another month’ for four months now, it was time to go. Some other villain could take advantage of her hard work, she was done.
Tossing the horrible little stick in the bin, she stood. It was a good thing she always had a couple of escape plans ready. She’d take the big one this time, new identity and all, and find a nice, quiet place with no superheros to raise her kid.
She opened the bathroom door, and shrieked, Jason was leaning against the wall opposite, arms folded.
Arabelle put a hand to her heart. “Don’t scare me like that.”
She paused. “How did you get in anyway?”
He smirked, and she realised he’d taken out his contact lenses, the ones that hid how his eyes glowed gold when he battled the bad guys as Phoenix. “I have my ways. But I’m curious. What disaster has come up that has Darkness crying in the bathroom?”
She recoiled. “What? Who?”
He pushed upright and took the two steps necessary to loom over her. “Sweetheart, did you honestly think I didn’t know?”
Her breath was coming too fast, and a black fog started to push in on the sides of her vision. That was wrong, that was her power, not his. Oh crap, it wasn’t a power, she was going to faint.
She came to, feeling like crap, lying on her bed. He’d even put her in the recovery position, asshole.
She opened her eyes, and wished she hadn’t. Jason had pulled one of her dining chairs into the bedroom and was sitting in it, watching her.
How long had she been out?
She blinked slowly and watched him back. He wasn’t smug any more. His jaw was clenched and his mouth was grim and hard.
He held up one hand. There was a small white stick in it. Arabelle wondered if she could faint again, it really would help.
He growled. “Don’t even think of sitting up. You are going to lie there until you tell me what the hell’s going on and why this,” he shook the pregnancy test, “had you sobbing like the world had ended.”
She looked at it, then at the hurt in his eyes not even the glow could hide. Her lower lip wobbled. She bit it. It didn’t help, the tears started up again. “Go away. Haven’t you done enough?”
He landed on the bed beside her. “Not even close to enough, Belle. Tell me.”
She rolled so she didn’t have to face him. “I’m pregnant, okay. Are you happy now? You’ve managed to string me along, play me for a fool and knock me up. Do you want a photo so you can hang it in that stupid headquarters of yours and gloat?”
He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her onto her back, then cupped her cheek when she would have turned her face away. She closed her eyes. Yes, it was childish, so sue her.
She felt the warmth of his breath as he ghosted his lips across her other cheek, up across her forehead and back. The stupid waterworks came again as she felt the brush of those ridiculous eyelashes of his brush against her skin.
“The only photos I want are ones of us, and our baby.”
That got her eyes open. She searched his face, trying to work out what he was up to. He was very good at radiating truth and intent; it had always made her suspicious.
He shifted, pulling her into his arms. “Marry me, Belle, win our battle by becoming my wife and ruling my world forever more.”
That worked, she shoved him away from her as hard as she could, then swung her legs so she was sitting on the opposite side of the bed, back to him once again.
“No! I will not be roped in to your stupid happy-ever-after fairy tale and I am not going to be trapped into some high society marriage.”
She stood. Wobbled, but turned to glare at him as he moved towards her. “I’m leaving. I’ll find a place, a good place to raise a kid and I’ll … keep in touch. A child should know their father. But I will not be locked inside your cage, no matter how pretty the bars.”
His eyes flared. “I’ll find you.”
“I’m sure you will, but you won’t control me. Or the baby.”
“What if they have powers?”
“Of course they’re going to have powers. And I’ll deal with it. Just like I deal with everything else in my life.”
He’d rolled off the bed as well now, and was prowling around it towards her. “Except it’s not just your life now, and I want to be involved.”
She huffed. “I never said you wouldn’t be. What I did say was that a child should know their father.”
“So we get married and…”
She clenched a hand in her hair. “Why do you never listen? This isn’t some grand love affair with a Hollywood ending. It’s a grubby mess between two people trying to one-up each other. That is not a relationship I’m bringing my kid into.”
“It’s my kid too!” He was flushed now, angrier than she’d ever seen him.
“I never said it wasn’t. We’ll do joint custody, or co-parent, or something. You are totally going to be paying for school and stuff because this kid is going to the best and you can afford it and-”
She broke off in confusion, why the hell was he laughing? She looked down at the finger she’d been poking into his chest. When had he gotten so close?
He took her face in his hands and kissed her. “You win, Darkness. Phoenix is out of the game, I’ll send out the retirement announcement in the morning. Hell, I’ll even kill off Jason Winters if you want me to. You’ll find a place to raise our kid. I’ll follow you there because I can’t not, and then we’ll raise him or her, and any more that come along, to turn the world upside down.”
Where did she even start with that statement? Then one part blazed up. “More?! Are you crazy?”
He laughed, and kissed her again. “Must be. I’ve never felt so damn good in my life. How long before we can run away?”
He’d blown a brain gasket, Arabelle groaned. He wasn’t safe out on his own like this. She’d just have to take him with her.
“Make any calls you need to make, we disappear tonight.”