This man, p.12
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       This Man, p.12
 

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
Page 12

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas Oh shit. He would as well. Okay, I’ll let him in, listen to what he has to say, and then he can leave. Anyway, I need my car back. I’ll just have to keep as far away from him as possible, keep my eyes closed and hold my breath so I can’t smell him. I must not let him breach my defences. I put my glass down on the console table at the top of the stairs and look at myself in the mirror. My hairs piled up on top of my head, but at least I haven’t taken my make up off yet. It could be worse. Wait…why am I worried, anyway? The worse I look the better, surely? He needs telling to back off.

  Bang, bang, bang!

  I storm down the stairs in confident and determined strides, opening the door in a huff. I’m doomed. I keep underestimating – or forgetting – the affect this man has on me. I’m trembling already.

  His hands are braced on the door frame as he looks up at me through hooded lids, panting and looking really quite pissed. His blonde hair is all disheveled, he has his stubble back and his pale pink shirt is undone at the collar, tucked into grey trousers. He looks delicious.

  He punches holes into me with his sludgy eyes. ‘Why did you stop it?’ His breathing is laboured.

  ‘What?’ I ask impatiently. He’s here to ask me that? Isn’t it obvious?

  He grits his teeth. ‘Why did you run out on me?’

  ‘Because it was a mistake,’ I grate, through equally gritted teeth. My irritation at his audacity is overpowering the other more unwelcome affect he’s having on me.

  ‘It wasn’t a mistake, and you know it,’ he grinds. ‘The only mistake was me letting you go. ’

  What? Oh, I can’t do this. I go to push the door shut, but his hand slams against the other side to stop it.

  ‘Oh, no you don’t. ’ He pushes against me, easily overpowering me, and steps into the hallway, slamming the door behind him. ‘You’re not running this time. You’ve done it to me twice already, not again. You’re going to face the music. ’

  With bare feet, I’m almost a foot shorter than him. I feel small and weak as he towers over me, still breathing hard. I back away, but he walks forward, keeping the distance between us minimal. My plan to maintain space is failing fast, and he smells divine in all his minty, fresh water magnificence.

  ‘You need to leave. Kate will be home in a minute. ’

  He stops his approach, scowling at me. ‘Stop lying,’ he snaps, slapping my hand away from my hair. ‘Quit the bullshit, Ava. ’

  I have no idea what to say to him. Defence isn’t working – maybe disinterest. He’s incredibly thick skinned and obviously use to getting what he wants.

  I turn away to walk back up the stairs. ‘Why are you here?’ I ask, but before I make it very far, he’s behind me and grabbing at my wrist. I’m spun around to face him, the contact putting me on instant red alert. I know I’m on dangerous ground here. Just being near this man turns me into a reckless, irrational fool. This is plain kamikaze territory. Why did I let him in?

  ‘You know why. ’ he spits.

  ‘Do I?’ I ask incredulously. I do, actually. Well, I think I do. He wants to pick up where we left off. He wants mission accomplished.

  ‘Yes, you do. ’ he says simply.

  I yank my wrist from his grip, backing up until my butt hits the wall behind me. ‘Because you want to hear how loud I’ll scream?’

  ‘No!’

  ‘You are, undeniably, the most arrogant arsehole I’ve ever met. I’m not interested in becoming a sexual conquest. ’

  ‘Conquest?’ he snorts, turning away and commencing pointless pacing. ‘What fucking planet are you on, woman?’

  I stand there in utter shock. How dare he come here and start shouting the odds at me. I feel my unease disappear and my earlier irritation convert into boiling rage. The urgent need to defend myself, to put him straight, has my jaw clenched to aching point. His opinion of me is very low if he thinks I’ll just jump into bed with any man I meet. But then, I don’t have to answer to him. The fact that he has a girlfriend is immaterial at this point. He thinks he can just take what he wants or throw a wobbly if he meets some resistance.

  ‘Get out!’

  He stops pacing and looks at me. ‘No!’ he yells, recommencing his marching.

  I start thinking of how to get him out of the house. I’m never going to be able to manhandle him and touching him would be a massive mistake. ‘I’m not fucking interested! Now, get out. ’ My shaky voice lets down my cool front, but I stand firm.

  ‘Watch your fucking mouth!’

  Oh, the cheek. ‘Get out!’

  ‘Okay,’ he says simply, quitting the marching to hammer me with his stare. ‘Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t want to see me again, and I’ll go. You’ll never have to lay eyes on me again. ’

  Okay, that should be relatively easy, but to my utter shock, the thought of not seeing him again actually sends a nasty ache to my stomach, which is, of course, completely ridiculous. He’s a virtual stranger to me, but God does he spark a reaction in me. He makes me feel. . . I’m not sure exactly what it is. But even now, when I’m raging at his damn nerve, I’m fighting to control the unwanted reactions he sparks in me.

  When I say nothing, he starts advancing towards me, his long, even strides having him directly in front of me in just a few paces. There’s barely an inch between us.

  ‘Say it. ’ he breathes.

  I can’t get my mouth to function. I’m aware of my shallow breathing, pounding heart and a dull throb in my groin. I’m alert to similar reactions emanating from him. I can see his heart hammering under his pale pink shirt. I can feel his heavy, minty breath on my face. I can’t vouch for the throb, but I suspect it’s there. The sexual tension ricocheting between our close bodies is tangible.

  ‘You can’t, can you?’ he whispers.

  I can’t! I’m trying. I’m trying really hard, but the bloody words won’t come out. The proximity of our bodies and him breathing on me is re-establishing all of those incredible feelings. I’ve been catapulted back to our previous encounter, except this time there’s no risk of being interrupted by unfriendly girlfriends. Nothing to stop me, apart from my conscience, but that’s drowning in desire right now, so it’s of no help to me, whatsoever.

  He places the tip of his finger on my shoulder, his touch sending an inferno racing through me, and slowly, lightly, he drags his finger up the column of my neck until it rests at the sensitive pressure point under my ear.

  My heart goes into overdrive.

  ‘Boom…boom…boom,’ he breathes. ‘I can feel it, Ava. ’

  I go rigid, pushing myself further into the wall. ‘Please, leave. ’ I barely get the words out.

  ‘Put your hand over my heart. ’ he whispers, grabbing my hand and placing it on his chest. He needn’t have done that. I can see his heart going ten to the dozen under his shirt. I didn’t need to feel it.

  ‘What’s your point?’ I ask quietly. I know exactly what his point is. He’s just as affected by me as I am by him.

  ‘You are one stubborn woman. Let me ask you the same question. ’

  ‘What do you mean?’ I ask quietly, still not looking at him.

  ‘I mean, why are you trying to stop the inevitable? What’s your point, Ava?’ Wrapping his fingers around my neck, he tilts my face up so I meet his eyes.

  I’m immediately consumed by them. His lips are parted and moist, his minty breath invading my nose, his blazing eyes staring down at me. His long lashes are fanning his cheek bones as he leans down so his lips brush my ear. I release a quiet gasp.

  ‘There it is,’ he murmurs as he trails feathery light kisses down the side of my throat. ‘You feel it. ’

  I do. I’m incapable of stopping this. Any rational thinking has been besieged. I’m completely immobilised. My brain has shut down and my body is taking over. As his mouth works its way across my jaw, I reside myself to the fact that I’m lost – to him, I am l
ost. But then I hear the sound of a mobile phone ringing. It’s not mine, but the interruption is enough to snap me out of the trance he sends me into. Oh God, it’s probably Sarah.

  I raise my hands to his firm chest and shove him away. ‘Stop, please!’

  He pulls away, yanking his phone from his pocket. ‘Fuck!’ He rejects the call and looks at me. ‘You still haven’t said it. ’

  I’m staggered at my inability to utter some very simple words. ‘I’m not interested. ’ I whisper. I sound desperate, and I know it. ‘You have to stop this. Whatever you think you felt, what you think I felt, you’re mistaken. ’ I don’t mention Sarah because that would be admitting that I can feel something, that she’s the only reason I’m stopping this. It’s not, of course. There’s the obvious age gap, the fact that he has heartbreaker written all over him, and the even more important part…he’s a cheater.

  He laughs a proper amused laugh. ‘Think? Ava, don’t you dare try and pass this off as a figment of my imagination. Did I imagine that? Just then, was that my imagination? Give me some credit. ’

  ‘You give me some fucking credit!’

  ‘Mouth!’ he shouts.

  ‘I told you to leave. ’ I say calmly.

  ‘And I told you, look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t want me. ’ He stares at me expectantly, like he knows I can’t say it.

  ‘I don’t want you. ’ I murmur, looking straight into his green pools. It actually causes me physical pain. I’m shocked.

  He inhales sharply, looking wounded. ‘I don’t believe you. ’ he says softly, flicking his eyes to my twiddling fingers.

  I remove them instantly. ‘You should. ’ I define the words clearly, and it takes every bit of strength I have.

  We stare at each other for what seems like an eternity, but I’m the first to look away. I can think of nothing more to say, and I silently implore him to leave before I take the dangerous path I know he’ll be. He runs his hands through his hair in frustration, curses and stalks out. When the front door slams behind him, I allow air to rush into my lungs as I sag against the wall.

  That was, irrefutably, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, which is crazy, because by reason, it should have been the easiest. I can’t even begin to understand the whys and wherefores of it. His wounded expression when I conformed to his demands to deny that I wanted him had nearly crippled me. I wanted to scream, “I felt it too!” but where would that have got me? I know exactly where – against the wall with Jesse buried deep inside me. And while the thought of that makes me shiver with pleasure, it would be a gargantuan mistake. I feel riddled with guilt already at my deplorable behavior. The man is a cheating arse. An Adonis to boot, but a cheating arse, nonetheless. Everything about this man screams trouble. And he’s still got my fucking keys.

  I shudder and head for a shower, content that I’ve done the right thing. I’ve put Jesse Ward in his place and saved myself another boat load of guilt. I shall ignore the painful ache in my gut because acknowledging it would be as good as admitting out loud, to myself and Jesse, that…yes, I felt it too.

  Chapter 7

  I’m wide awake and my alarm hasn’t even gone off yet. On a long, drawn out sigh, I drag myself out of bed and head for the bathroom to take a shower. I’ve got a busy day at Lusso ahead of me so I may as well get started. I’ve not slept for shit, and I’m completely ignoring the reason why.

  I’m going to be on my feet all day, traipsing around the complex ensuring everything is just right, so I chuck on some baggy ripped jeans – I can’t bear to throw them away – a white burnt out t-shirt and my flip flops. I scrape my hair into a loose, messy up-do and pray it behaves later when I pin it up for the evening. I doubt I’ll have time to come home and shower, so I get my mini suitcase and load it with everything I’ll need to shower at Lusso later. I retrieve a suit bag and put my knee length, cherry red pencil dress in, smoothing it neatly and quietly hoping it doesn’t crease. Lastly, I grab black suede heels, my black onyx studs and check my work case is loaded with everything I’ll need at Lusso. It’s going to be a ball ache lugging it all on the tube, but I have little other option with my car still being kept captive by a certain hot headed, arrogant male. Kate might well be taking Margo to Yorkshire.
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