This man, p.45
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       This Man, p.45

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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Page 45

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  I let out a sigh of relief. What’s Jesse thinking? He’s a client. He can’t come into my office and start throwing his weight around. I can hardly pass off Jesse’s temper as a normal client grievance scenario. He’s already heaved me out of the office once.

  The office door opens and the flower delivery girl –Lusso girl again – trundles in with two lavish sprays. ‘Flower deliveries for Ava and Sally?’

  I watch as Sally nearly passes out at her desk. I bet she’s never had flowers brought for her. I already know who they’re from, though. The smooth bastard.

  ‘Me?’ Sally gushes, grabbing the colourful bouquet from the delivery girl and shooing her towards my desk.

  ‘Thanks. ’ I smile, taking the simple spray of calla lilies before signing on behalf of Sally and myself. Sal looks like she might be in a daydream for the rest of the day. ‘What does the card say, Sal?’ I call, watching her eyes dart from left to right across the words.

  She leans back, placing her hand over her heart. ‘It says…“Please accept my apologies. That woman makes me crazy” Oh, Ava!’ She looks up at me all soppy. ‘I would love to make a man that crazy!’

  I roll my eyes, retrieving the card from my own flowers. I bet I don’t have an apology. And Sally wouldn’t be saying that if she was on the receiving end of Jesse’s unreasonable, neurotic behavior. I make him crazy? What a joke.

  I open my card.

  You’re the one I’ve been waiting for…

  Jx

  My soppy side swoons slightly, but then the sensible side of my brain – the part that’s not completely consumed with Jesse – is screaming that The One is actually someone who drops to their knees and obeys his every command, demand and instruction. While I’m fully aware that I’ve done exactly that, on numerous occasions, I also need to keep a hold of my identity and my mind. It’s bloody hard when I’m so affected by this man. He’s already got my body – or claimed it, more like.

  My phone starts ringing. I ignore the pang of disappointment at hearing the standard ringtone, but I can’t ignore the pang of panic when I see Matt’s name flashing up on the screen, though. What does he want?

  ‘Hello?’ I greet as bored as I intended it to be.

  ‘Ava, I didn’t think you would answer. ’ His voice is cautious, and it should be after the stunt he pulled. I don’t know why I even answered.

  ‘Why would you think that, Matt?’ The sarcasm is dripping from my voice. The worm has a nerve after what he said and how he behaved.

  ‘I’m sorry, Ava. I was bang out of line. Everything got on top of me. My boss told me that redundancies are going to be happening…and…it…urm…well, it put me on edge. ’

  Oh, lovely. So he thought he’d try to get me back on that basis? Does he want financial security if he happens to lose his job? Cheeky twat! Does he realise what he’s just said?

  ‘I’m sorry about that. ’ I reply flatly.

  ‘Thanks. It just brought things home. I’ve lost you, and now I might be losing my job. It’s all gone tits up. ’ His voice is quivering with emotion.

  I sigh. ‘I’m sure you’ll be fine. ’ I assure him in my best calming tone. ‘You’re good at your job. ’ He really is. He has the confident – a bit too confident – attitude required of a sales person.

  ‘Yeah, I just wanted to make amends with you, though. ’

  That’s okay with me, as long as he doesn’t hit me with another “I want you back” speech. What was he thinking? ‘It’s fine, don’t worry. I’ll see you about, okay?’

  ‘Yeah, we could do lunch again,’ he adds quickly. ‘As friends…of course, I still have these boxes with the last of your stuff. ’

  ‘I’ll pick them up next week. Take care, Matt. ’ I ignore his lunch suggestion.

  ‘You too,’

  I hang up, tossing my phone onto my desk. As much as he’s a twat, I don’t wish unemployment on him. He’ll be fine. I put Matt out of my head and concentrate on getting some work done. I pretend not to check my phone every ten minutes to make sure it’s on and the volume is up. Why hasn’t he called?

  I walk down our street after picking up a bottle of wine and see Kate in the distance, jumping around in the middle of the road like the red headed nutter that she is. As I near, I do a double take. Parked up next to Margo is another bright pink van, but this one’s brand spanking new. So, Kate’s finally invested in some new wheels. It’s about time.

  ‘Nice wheels. ’ I say as I approach.

  She spins around, her blue eyes dancing, her pale cheeks flushed. ‘Do you know anything about this?’

  Me? ‘Why would I?’

  ‘I just got home and it was parked here. I admired it for a bit, walked through the front door and trod on the keys. Look. ’ She thrusts the keys under my nose, prompting me to look at the note attached to a piece of string on the key ring.

  ‘No more bruised butts, please. ’

  No! He wouldn’t have, surely? I think back to his fierce reaction to my battered bottom.

  ‘Have you spoken to Sam?’ I ask.

  ‘Yep, he said I should speak to Jesse. ’

  ‘Why would he say that?’ I ask shortly.

  ‘Well, obviously, because he thinks Jesse is the mystery van buyer. ’ She rolls her eyes. ‘If the Lord has brought me a van so you don’t bruise your arse again, then I’ll…well, I’ll love the fact that you bruise like a peach!’

  This can’t be right. ‘Kate, you can’t accept it. ’

  She looks at me in disgust, and I know that there’s not a hope in Hell of her returning the van. I can see it in her delighted eyes.

  ‘No fucking way! Don’t you dare make me give it back, I’ve already christened her. ’

  ‘What?’ My tone is seriously lacking patience.

  She spreads her long, pale fingers over the bonnet. ‘Meet, Margo Junior. ’ She lays her torso down on the bonnet of Margo Junior, caressing the pink metal.

  I shake my head in exasperation, stomping up the path to the house. No doubt she loves the impossible prat even more now. What’s his game, with flowers for Sally and a van for Kate? Oh, and tossing the Queen’s currency on the kitchen table like it’s a tea towel?

  ‘I’m taking her for a spin!’ Kate yells up the path to me.

  I don’t reply. Instead, I take myself up the stairs and straight into the kitchen to put my flowers in a vase and crack open my bottle of wine. I finish my first glass and go for a shower. He brought Kate a van?

  I take my time washing the day away and leaving my conditioner in for five minutes while I shave. As I turn the water off, I hear the Stone Roses track I’ve been desperate to hear all day and nearly break my neck scrambling out of the shower to sprint across the landing. The phone rings off, the screen clearing to reveal eight missed calls.

  Oh, no. He’ll be ripping his hair out again. I dial him as I walk across the landing and into the lounge, looking out of the window to see if Kate’s back.

  She’s not, but Jesse is pacing up and down the garden path, looking his usual Godly self, in jeans and a thin knitted, navy jumper. I smile, tingling from top to toe at the sight of him. He’s frantically punching buttons on his phone and, just like I knew it would, my mobile lights up in my hand.

  Ah! ‘Hello?’ I say, all cool and casual.

  ‘Where the hell are you?’ he barks down the phone. I ignore his tone.

  ‘Where are you?’ I counter. Of course, I know damn well where he is. I stand at the window, watching him rake his hand through his hair, but then he disappears from view into the recess of the front door.

  ‘I’m outside Kate’s kicking the door down,’ he snaps, ‘Is it too much to ask that you answer your phone the first time I call you?’

  ‘I was otherwise engaged. Why haven’t you called all day?’ I ask, making my way down to the front door.

  ‘Because, Ava, I don
t want you to feel hounded!’ He’s completed exasperated, making me smile. I love every crazy element of him.

  ‘But you’re still shouting at me. ’ I remind him. I look out of the viewer, dissolving on the spot when I see him leaning against the wall in the open porch way.

  ‘I am,’ he says softly. ‘You make me crazy. Where are you?’

  I watch him slide down the wall until his arse hits the floor, knees bent, head dropped. Oh, I can’t see him like that.

  I open the door. ‘Here,’

  He looks up and drops his phone from his ear, but makes no attempt to get up. He just looks at me, relief flooding his handsome face. I step out and slide down the wall opposite him so we’re sat across from each other, knee to knee. I half expect him to throw me inside because of my half naked state, but he doesn’t. Instead, he reaches forward and places his big hand on my exposed knee. I’m less than surprised when it sends hot sparks of fire flying off all over me.

  ‘I was in the shower. ’

  ‘Well, take your phone next time. ’ he orders.

  ‘Okay. ’ I salute him.

  ‘Where are your clothes?’ He runs his green eyes over my towel clad body.

  Ha! I wouldn’t have dared kept him waiting while I got dressed. I probably would’ve found him dead of a seizure. ‘In my wardrobe,’ I answer dryly.

  His hand disappears under my towel, clasping me above my hip bone, prompting a jerk and the loosening of my towel.

  ‘My man!’

  I look down the path and see Sam walking up. When I return my eyes to Jesse, he looks like he may, very well, have a seizure now. His eyes are wide as he jumps to his feet and yanks me up, doing a spectacular job of keeping me covered by the towel.

  ‘Sam, don’t fucking move!’ he yells. I’m scooped up and bundled through the door at breakneck speed, hearing Sam laughing as Jesse jogs up the stairs with me in his arms, muttering about ripping prying eyes out. I’m tossed on the bed. ‘Get dressed, we’re going out. ’

  I snap my head up. I’m not going to The Manor. I get up from the bed, minus one towel, and go to my dressing table. ‘Where?’

  His gaze travels down my naked form. ‘Well, it occurred to me when I was out running that I’ve not taken you for dinner yet. You have the most incredible legs. Get dressed. ’ He nods at my wardrobe.

  If he means dinner at The Manor, then I’m not game. I’ll avoid that place at all costs if she’s there. And the chances are – now I’ve established that she works for him – she will be.

  ‘Where?’ I ask again as I start rubbing coco butter into my legs.

  ‘A little Italian place I know. Now, get dressed before I collect on my debt. ’

  I stand, slowly massaging my cream in. ‘Debt?’

  His eyebrows rise. ‘You owe me. ’

  ‘I do?’ I frown, but I know exactly what he’s talking about.

  ‘Oh, you do. I’ll wait outside at the risk of cashing in sooner,’ He gives me his roguish grin. ‘I wouldn’t want you to think this was all about sex. ’ He leaves me with that little comment before stalking out.

  Oh, it’s not all about the sex? Those few words have just made my day. Maybe tonight I’ll find out what goes on in that beautiful, complex mind of his. I’m suddenly filled of hope.

  After much deliberation on what to wear – I’m shocked the decision hasn’t been made for me – I settle on my beige capri pants, a nude, silk shirt and cream ballet pumps. I make sure I put my coral lace underwear on – he loves me in lace. I rough my hair up and smoke my eyes out. Nude gloss finishes me off.

  I walk onto the landing, finding an irritable Jesse pacing up and down. I frown. ‘I didn’t take that long. ’
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