This man, p.52
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       This Man, p.52

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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Page 52

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  ‘I’m just browsing, thanks. ’

  ‘This section is all new season stock,’ She runs her arm along a suspended rail of dresses. ‘We have some beautiful dresses. Please, just ask if you need another size. ’ She smiles.

  ‘Thank you. ’

  I start cruising through the rails, spotting some truly gorgeous dresses – albeit stupid prices, but gorgeous nevertheless. I pick up a fitted, cream silk, sleeveless affair. It’s shorter than I usually wear, but lovely.

  ‘You’re not wearing that!’

  I snap my head up and see Jesse stood in the doorway, looking at the dress like it could spit poison. Oh, how embarrassing! The sales assistant looks wide eyed at Jesse and back to me. I half smile at her. I’m horrified. Who the bloody hell does he think he is? I throw him my dirtiest look, mouth fuck off and watch as the proverbial steam fires out of his ears.

  I turn to the assistant. ‘Have you anything shorter. ’ I ask sweetly.

  ‘Ava!’ he barks. ‘Don’t push me. ’

  I ignore him, keeping my eyes on the assistant expectantly. The poor girl looks like she could have a panic attack, her gaze flicking, very nervously, from me to Jesse and back again.

  ‘No, I don’t think so. ’ she says quietly.

  Okay, now I’m feeling sorry for her. I shouldn’t be dragging her into this pathetic disagreement over a dress. ‘Okay, I’ll take this one. ’ I smile, handing her the dress.

  She looks at me, then at Jesse. ‘Urh…is this the correct size for you?’

  ‘It’s a ten?’ I ask. I can literally feel the shop shaking under his wrath.

  ‘It is, but I would recommend that you try it on, we don’t offer refunds. ’ she advises me.

  Well, I was going to risk it not fitting, but at that price, maybe not. She shows me to a changing room, hanging the dress on a fancy hook for me.

  ‘Just call if you require any help. ’ She smiles, pulling the velvet curtain across, leaving me and the dress alone.

  I’m being as pathetic as Jesse by doing this; I’m purposely pushing him. We’re talking about the man who made me sleep in a winter jumper in the middle of spring because another male was in the flat. Is this necessary? I decide it is – he can’t behave like this.

  I fight my way into the dress, struggling with the zipper where it meets the seam on the bust line. I’m not giving up. I know if I can just get it over that line of stitching, it’ll be just fine. I smooth down the front of the dress. It feels lovely.

  Pulling the curtain across, I stand back from the floor length mirror to take a good look. Wow! This dress really does it for me. It compliments my olive skin and dark hair perfectly.

  ‘Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph!’

  I swivel, finding Jesse gripping his hair, pacing up and down. He looks like he’s been Taser gunned. He stops, looks at me, opens his mouth, snaps it shut and starts with the pacing again. I’m quite amused.

  He stops stalking and looks at me, all wide eyed and traumatised. ‘You’re not. . . you…you can’t. . . Ava…baby…oh, I can’t look at you!’ He walks out adjusting his groin, muttering some crap about an intolerable female and heart attacks. Then I’m alone with the dress again.

  The assistant approaches with caution. ‘The dress looks incredible. ’ she says quietly, looking over her shoulder for Jesse’s whereabouts.

  ‘Thank you, I’ll take it. ’ The dress is easier to remove than it is to get on. I hand it over to the assistant and get myself dressed.

  When I exit the changing rooms, Jesse is inspecting some very high heels. The look of mystification on his beautiful face makes me melt slightly, but then he spots me, shoves them back and scowls at me. And I remember…I’m furious with him. I get my purse from my bag and hand my credit card over. Five hundred quid for a dress? It is way too extravagant, but I’m being defiant. And I called him a child? This is ridiculous. Where did he get the idea that he has the right to call the shots of my wardrobe choice?

  The assistant begins wrapping the dress in all sorts of fancy tissue paper. I want to tell her to shove it in a bag and be done with it, before Jesse resorts to ripping it apart. But I fear the poor girl might lose her job if she did something as common as that. So, I resign myself to shutting up and waiting patiently while she does her thing.

  After an age of wrapping, folding, tucking in and punching in my pin number, the assistant hands me the bag. ‘Enjoy the dress, Madam. It really did look lovely on you. ’ She flicks a cautious glace at Jesse.

  ‘Thank you,’ I smile. Now, how to get out of the store? I turn, finding Jesse filling the doorway, still scowling and still brooding. I walk with purpose, I don’t really feel, and stop in front of him. I’m really crapping myself, but I won’t let him see that. ‘Excuse me. ’

  He looks at me, then at the bag. ‘You’ve just wasted hundreds of pounds. You’re not wearing that dress. ’ he says emphatically.

  ‘Excuse me, please. ’ I accentuate the please. His lips press into a straight line as he shifts his tall, lean body to the side, leaving a gap for me to pass.

  Stepping out onto the street, I head towards the office. I’ve only had forty minutes, but I’m not spending the rest of my lunch break arguing over touching in public and my wardrobe choice. Today started so well…when I was complying.

  I feel his hot breath on my neck. ‘Zero,’

  I yelp as I’m yanked into an alleyway and shoved up against a wall. His lips smash to mine, his hips grinding against my lower stomach, his raging arousal evident beneath the button fly of his jeans. He’s turned on by getting cranky over a dress? I suppose it’s better than being tortured. I try and resist the invasion of his tongue…a little. Ah…it’s no good. I’m instantly consumed by him and the need to have him all over me. I link my arms around his neck, accepting him willingly, absorbing his intrusion and meeting his tongue, stroke for stroke.

  ‘I’m not going to let you wear that dress. ’ he moans into my mouth.

  ‘You can’t tell me what I can and can’t wear. ’

  ‘Stop me. ’ he challenges.

  ‘It’s just a dress. ’

  ‘It’s not just a dress on you, Ava. You’re not wearing it. ’ He pushes his groin into my lower stomach, a clear demonstration of what the dress does to him, and I know he’s thinking other men will have the same reaction.

  Crazy man.

  I exhale wearily. Buying the dress is one thing. Putting it on and making it to the pub, is another challenge entirely. I’m twenty six years old, and he said himself I have great legs. I decide I’m not going to get anywhere with this. Not now, anyway. I do, however, intend to discuss, in full detail, his illusions that he has control over my wardrobe. In fact, we need to talk about his unreasonableness full stop – but not now. I only have twenty minutes left of my lunch break, and I highly expect that conversation to take considerably longer.

  ‘Thank you for the cake. ’ I say as he kisses every inch of my face.

  ‘You’re welcome. Did you eat it?’

  ‘Yes, it was delicious. ’ I kiss the corner of his mouth, rubbing my cheek up his stubble. A low rumble escapes his lips as I hum in his ear and nuzzle into his neck, inhaling his lovely fresh water scent. I just want to crawl inside him. ‘I’m not supposed to be spending any more time on you until you’ve settled your bill. ’ I hold onto him, squeezing a little tighter as he nibbles at my ear lobe.

  ‘I’ll trample anyone who tries to stop me. ’ He licks up the edge of my ear, triggering a shiver to ride through me.

  I’ve no doubt he will. The man is crazy beyond crazy. Why is he like this? ‘Why are you so unreasonable?’

  He pulls back and looks at me, surprise at my question evident on his stunning, stubbled face. His frown line jumps into position. ‘I don’t know. Can I ask you the same question?’

  My mouth falls open. Me? This man is crazy delusional. H
is list of misdemeanours goes on and on. I shake my head on a frown. ‘I’d better get back to the office. ’

  He sighs. ‘I’ll walk you. ’

  ‘Half way, I can’t be seen to be entertaining clients for lunch without Patrick knowing, especially ones in debt,’ I grumble. ‘Pay your bill!’

  He rolls his eyes. ‘God forbid Patrick should find out that you’re having your brain fucked out by a non-paying client. ’ A small smirk breaks the corners of his mouth as I gasp in shock at his crude summary of our relationship. ‘Shall we?’ He waves his arm in the direction of the alley entrance on a smirk. Fucked? Well, we had, I suppose. But hearing the statement from him hits a nerve.

  We walk towards my office, and the silence is uncomfortable – for me, anyway. I’m totally wounded by his statement. Is that how he sees me? Like a little play thing he gets to fuck and control? I wilt on the inside and, yet again, contemplate the agony that I’m setting myself up for. The man throws off so many mixed signals; my poor ego can’t keep up.

  I feel his hand brush against mine, and I automatically pull it away. I’m really sulking. On a slight growl, he tries again. I say nothing but pull my hand away. I’m in a mood and want him to know it. He’ll get the message. He doesn’t. He grabs my hand again, holding it in a vice grip, to the point of pain. It’s what I would have expected. I’m beginning to read this man like a book. I flex my fingers, looking up to see his fixed glower fade into contentment, as I give up fighting and let him keep hold of me. Let him? Like I have any other option.

  At this exact moment, the fates thought it would be riotously funny to send Matt’s friend, James, bowling around the corner and down the street towards us. I try my damnedest to free my hand, but he just increases the pressure around it.

  ‘Shit! That’s Matt’s friend. ’ I spit urgently.

  His scowl is back when he whips his face to mine. ‘Mouth, your ex?’

  ‘Yes, let go. ’ I try to prize his fingers off, but it’s useless. After Matt’s “I want you back” plea, his subsequent “I’m so sorry” speech and general crappy situation at the moment, it would be unfair for me to rub his face in it.

  ‘I told you, Ava. I’ll trample. ’ he warns, looking straight ahead at James, his face completely unaffected and determined, his grip harsh.

  I try holding him back, giving me time to get myself free and avoid the impending disaster that would be James clocking me hand in hand with another man. I’m not one to cause anyone any unnecessary hurt, and this is completely unnecessary. Matt is feeling crappy enough, without Kate’s snipe being confirmed.

  I continue to struggle and Jesse continues to be a complete twat. I am, quite literally, dragged closer and closer to James. It’s only seconds before he looks up from his phone and spots me. He might not look up. Maybe we’ll pass on the street and that will be it. Oh, I hope so, because there’s not a chance of me shaking Jesse off, and an even lesser chance of him being reasonable and letting me go.

  As we near, I resolve to stop struggling and drawing attention to myself. James is pretty wrapped up doing something on his phone, the chances of him looking up getting slimmer by each step we take towards him. I mentally send a string of explicit language to Jesse, jerking my hand to reinforce my anger, but he just looks straight ahead, continuing with his purposeful strides.

  ‘Trample. ’ he growls.

  Just as we’re passing on the pavement, I start to relax. We’re nearly past James, but then Jesse speaks.

  ‘You got the time?’

  WHAT?

  The fucking stupid, stupid man! I die a thousand deaths on the spot as I’m forced to stand there holding hands with Jesse, right in front of James. I want to point to the dirty great big Rolex on his wrist, or yank it up and tell him the bloody time myself. He really is a self-absorbed, unreasonable rogue.

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