This man, p.14
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       This Man, p.14

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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Page 14

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  I feign a hurt face. ‘You needn’t worry. I assure you, I’m not going back to that. I’m enjoying being man free, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Anyway, for the record, Matt’s winding you up. ’ I sip my champagne.

  ‘Not even for tall, handsome, slightly older blondes?’ She grins.

  I narrow my eyes on her. ‘Not even then. ’ I confirm.

  ‘Oh, don’t be such a bore. ’

  ‘Excuse me?’ This time, my hurt expression isn’t feigned. Boring? I’m not boring. Kate’s Wild! I look at her in disbelief, genuinely hurt by her harsh remark. I wait for her to back track, but she doesn’t. Instead, she’s looking over my shoulder with the biggest smirk on her face.

  Impatient and quite pissed off with her, I swing around to find out what’s caught her amused attention.

  Oh no!

  ‘He’s like a bad penny, isn’t he?’ she remarks coolly.

  Chapter 8

  Oh, she has no idea.

  I’ve not even filled her in on any of the developments since she met him at lunch. And here he is again, stood chatting with the acting estate agent, wearing a navy suit and pale blue shirt, one hand in his pocket and the other holding a file. He looks, as always, like a fucking God. And as if he can sense me staring, he looks up and our eyes meet.

  ‘Shit!’ I curse, turning back to Kate. She drags her gaze from Ward and onto me, her eyes dancing with delight.

  ‘You know, I was going to go home and cry into my Haagen-Dazs, Bridgette Jones style, but I think I’ll just hang around for a bit. You mind?’ She sips her drink through her grin, while I snarl at her. ‘This is not the behavior of someone, supposedly, unmoved by a certain someone, Ava. ’ she teases.

  ‘I went to The Manor on Tuesday and nearly slept with him. ’ I blurt.

  ‘What!’ Kate splutters, grabbing a napkin to mop up the trail of champagne that’s dripping down her chin.

  ‘He apologised for the text he sent. I went back to The Manor and he had the big guy lock me in a room. He was waiting for me half naked!’

  ‘Get out! Oh my God. Who’s the big guy?’

  ‘Well, he’s not a butler. I’ve no idea what role he plays. Trapping women for Ward, maybe. ’

  ‘Why haven’t you told me this?’

  ‘It was a disaster. I ran out when I heard his girlfriend calling him. Ward screwed and turned up at the house last night making demands. ’ The urgency to bring Kate up to speed has me spitting out the basic facts in a rush.

  ‘Fuck! What sort of demands?’ She’s shocked. She should be. It’s shocking.

  ‘I don’t know. The man’s an arrogant arse. He asked me how loud I’d scream when he fucks me. ’

  She spits more champagne. ‘He what? Fuck, Ava, he’s coming over, he’s coming over!’ She shifts on the spot, her eyes still skipping with amusement.

  Why is he here? I start planning my escape, but before my brain can even instruct my legs to move, I can feel him stood behind me; I can smell him.

  ‘Nice to see you again, Kate. ’ he drawls. ‘Ava?’

  I remain with my back to him, knowing all too well that if I turn to acknowledge him, I’ll be hauled into the hazardous place that is Jesse Ward’s realm – a place where I struggle to maintain any rational thinking. I drained my reserve tank of strength last night, and I’ve not had a chance to replenish it yet. This is not good news. He said I wouldn’t have to see him again. If I told him what he didn’t want to hear, then I would never have to see him again. I met the terms of his demand, so why is he not keeping to his end of the bargain?

  Kate’s eyes are darting between us, waiting for one of us to say something. I certainly won’t be.

  ‘Jesse. ’ She nods at him. ‘Excuse me. I need to powder my nose. ’ She places her empty on the worktop and beats feet. I mentally curse her arse to Hell.

  He circles around me so he’s stood before me. ‘You look stunning. ’ he murmurs.

  ‘You said I wouldn’t have to see you again. ’ I challenge him, ignoring his compliment.

  ‘I didn’t know you would be here. ’

  I look at him tiredly. ‘You sent me flowers. ’

  ‘Oh, so I did. ’ A smile tickles the edge of his lips.

  I don’t have time for his games. He’s really met his match in me. ‘Please, excuse me. ’ I go to side step him, but he moves with me, effectively blocking my path.

  ‘I was hoping for a tour. ’

  ‘I’ll get Victoria. She’ll be happy to show you around. ’

  ‘I would prefer you. ’

  ‘You don’t get a fuck with a tour. ’ I snap.

  He frowns. ‘Will you watch your mouth?’

  ‘Sorry,’ I mutter indignantly. ‘And put my seat back when you drive my car. ’

  He grin’s a real boyish grin, and I’m even more furious with myself when my heart speeds up. I mustn’t let him see the affect he has on me.

  ‘And leave my music alone!’

  ‘I’m sorry. ’ His eyes flicker with mischievousness. It’s so bloody sexy. ‘Are you okay? You look a little shaky. ’ He reaches out, softly running his finger down my bare arm. ‘Is something affecting you?’

  I jerk away. ‘Not at all,’ I need to get off this line of conversation. ‘Did you want a tour?’

  ‘I would love a tour. ’ He looks pleased with himself.

  On a huff, I lead him out of the kitchen and into the massive living space. ‘Lounge,’ I wave my hand about in the general space around us. ‘You’ve seen the kitchen,’ I say over my shoulder as I walk through the open space and onto the terrace. ‘View,’ I maintain my tired tone, hearing him laugh lightly behind me.

  I lead him back through the lounge to the workout room, not saying a word as we trek through the penthouse. Jesse shakes hands, greeting various people on our travels, but I don’t pause to allow him time to stop and chat. I march on in a bid to get this over with as soon as possible. Damn this place for being so big.

  ‘Gym,’ I state, walking in and abruptly leaving again when he enters. I head for the stairs, hearing him laugh behind me. I take the back-lit, onyx staircase, proceeding to open and shut doors, one at a time, while declaring what lies beyond. We reach the pièce de résistance, the master suite, and I wave my hand round at the dressing room and en-suite bathroom. The place really does deserve more passion and time than I’m devoting.

  ‘You’re an expert tour guide, Ava. ’ he teases, regarding one of my favourite pieces of art. ‘Care to enlighten me on the artist?’

  ‘Guiseppe Cavalli,’ I toss the name at him, folding my arms over my chest.

  ‘It’s good. Is there any particular reason why you chose this artist?’ He’s blatantly trying to temp me into conversation.

  I stare at his broad, suit covered back, his hands resting lightly in his trouser pockets, his lean legs slightly spread. My eyes are very pleased, but my brain is in a jumbled mess. I sigh and decide, wisely or not, to indulge him. Guiseppe Cavalli most definitely deserves my time and enthusiasm. I drop my arms and walk over to join him in front of the piece.

  ‘He was known as the master of light,’ I say, and he looks at me with genuine interest. ‘He didn’t think that the subject was of any importance. It didn’t matter what he photographed. To him, the subject was always the light. He concentrated on controlling it. See?’ I point to the reflections on the water. ‘These rowing boats, as lovely as they are, are just boats, but see how he manipulates the light? He didn’t care for the boats. He cared for the light surrounding the boats. He makes inanimate objects interesting, makes you look at the photograph in a different…well, a different light, I suppose. ’ I tilt my head and observe the picture. I never tire of it. As simple as it seems, the more you look at it, the more you get it.

  After a few moments silence, I rip my eyes away from the canvas, finding Jesse staring at me.
  Our eyes meet. He’s chewing his bottom lip. I know I won’t be able to say no again if he pushes this. I’m all out of willpower. I’ve never felt so desired than when I’m with him, and I keep trying to fool myself that the feeling is unwanted.

  ‘Please don’t. ’ My voice is barely audible.

  ‘Don’t what?’

  ‘You know what. You said I wouldn’t have to see you again. ’

  ‘I lied,’ He’s not ashamed. ‘I can’t stay away from you, so you do have to see me again…and again…and again. ’ He finishes the last part of his declaration slowly and clearly, leaving no room for misunderstanding.

  I gasp, instinctively backing away from him.

  ‘You persistently fighting this is only making me more determined to prove that you want me. ’ He starts slowly pursuing me, taking slow, cautious steps forward, maintaining his deep eye contact as he does. ‘I’m making it my mission objective. I’ll do anything. ’

  I stop my retreat when I feel the bed at the back of my knees. In two more strides, he’ll be upon me, and the thought of imminent contact in enough to snap me out of the trance he sends me into.

  ‘Stop,’ I hold my hand up in front of me, halting him in his tracks. ‘You don’t even know me. ’ I blurt, in a desperate attempt to make him see how crazy this is.

  ‘I know you’re impossibly beautiful,’ He starts towards me again. ‘I know what I feel, and I know that you’re feeling it too. ’ We’re body to body now, and my heart is hammering in my throat. ‘So, tell me, Ava. What have I missed?’

  I try to control my rushed breaths, but with my chest heaving and my body physically shaking, I’m struggling. I drop my head, ashamed at the tears gathering in my eyes. Why am I crying? Is he enjoying reducing me to tears? This is hideous. He’s so desperate to bed me, he’s resorting to stalking me, and I’m crying because I’m so weak. He makes me weak, and he has no right to.

  I feel his hand slide under my chin, and the warmth would be welcome, if I didn’t think he was such an arsehole right now. He tugs at my jaw to raise my head. When our eyes meet, he winces at my tears.

  ‘I’m sorry. ’ he whispers softly, sliding his hand around to cup my cheek, slowly stroking the rolling tears away with his thumb. His expression is pure torment. Good. It should be.

  I find my voice. ‘You said you would leave me alone. ’ I look at him questioningly as he continues to smooth his thumb over my face. Why is he chasing me like this? He’s clearly unhappy in his relationship, but it doesn’t make this right.

  ‘I lied, I’m sorry. I told you, I can’t stay away. ’

  ‘You already said that you’re sorry, but here you are again. Am I to expect flowers tomorrow?’ I don’t hide my sarcasm.

  His thumb pauses and he drops his head. Now he’s ashamed. But then his head lifts, our eyes connect and his gaze drops to my lips. Oh, no. Please, no. I’ll never be able to stop this. He begins searching my eyes, looking for any sign that I’m going to block him. Am I? I know I should, but I don’t think I can. His lips part and they slowly start lowering to mine. I hold my breath. As our lips brush, only very lightly, my body gives way, prompting my hands to fly up and bunch his jacket in my fists. He growls his approval as he moves his hands to the base on my spine and pushes my body closer to him, our lips hovering over each other, our breaths mingling. We both shake uncontrollably.

  ‘Have you ever felt like this?’ he breathes, running his lips across my cheek to my ear.

  ‘Never,’ I answer honestly. My short, gasping breath is unrecognisable.

  He grips the lobe of my ear between his teeth and tugs gently, letting the flesh drag through his bite. ‘Are you ready to stop fighting it now?’ he whispers, tracing down the edge of my ear with the tip of his tongue, working his way back up and brushing his lips lightly over the sensitive flesh under my ear. His hot breath causes a rush of heat to crash between my thighs. I can’t fight this anymore.
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