This man, p.59
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       This Man, p.59

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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Page 59

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  ‘Sit. ’ He points to the bed. I sigh dramatically, plonking myself on the end. ‘I’m ignoring you. ’ he grumbles as he kneels in front of me, lifting one foot at a time to put breathable running socks on and a rather swanky pair of black, Nike, running shoes. He can ignore me all he likes. I’m not happy, and I want him to know it.

  When he’s done, he pulls me up, stands back and runs his gaze up and down my sporty clad body. He nods his approval. Yes, I certainly look the part, but I’ve always just thrown on my baggy sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt. I don’t want to look better than I actually am. I’m not bad, though.

  ‘Can I use your toothbrush?’ I ask, sidestepping him and heading for the bathroom.

  ‘Knock yourself out. ’ I hear him call, but his toothbrush is already in my hand.

  After brushing my teeth, I feel instantly more alert and even more determined to wipe the smugness from his face. I’ll run, I’ll keep up and I might even finish with a few sit-ups. I’ve been meaning to get back into the habit and there’s no time like the present. I walk back into the bedroom, back straight and raring to go.

  ‘Come on then, lady. Let’s start the day how we intend to finish it. ’ He takes my hand, leading the way downstairs.

  ‘I’m not running again today!’ I splutter. This man really is mad.

  He laughs. ‘That’s not what I meant. ’

  ‘Oh, what did you mean?’

  He flashes me a dark, dirty grin. ‘I mean by being out of breath and sweaty. ’

  I gasp slightly and shiver. I know which way I would prefer to get out of breath and sweaty, morning, noon and night. And it doesn’t involve this get up. ‘You’re not seeing me tonight. ’ I remind him. His hand tightens around mine and he grunts a few times. I spot my handbag by the door. ‘I need a hair tie. ’

  He releases me and goes into the kitchen, leaving me to retrieve a hair tie from my bag. I scoop my hair up into a high ponytail and re-arrange my shorts. They’re chaffing. I need some pants on. I delve through my bag and come across my Little Miss Stubborn knickers.

  Oh, no! I flush, cringe and die a thousand deaths all at once. He must have had a real good rummage to find these beauties. I’ve never worn them. They were Mum and Dad’s idea of a joke stocking filler and have been living at the back of my underwear drawer for many years.

  Resigning myself to a fate full of continuous blushing, for as long as Sam’s in my life, I whip my shorts off to pull them on.

  ‘Ha! Let me see those. ’ He grasps my hips, bending down to have a good inspection. ‘Can you get these in Little Miss Drive Jesse Crazy?’

  I roll my eyes. ‘I don’t know. Can you get Mr Unreasonable Control Freak?’ He digs his thumbs into the hollow space above my hip bones, prompting me to fold over in laughter. ‘Stop!’

  ‘Get your shorts back on, lady. ’ He smacks my bum.

  I pull my shorts back on with a big grin on my face. He’s in a really good mood today. But, then again, I’m conforming.

  We make our way down to the foyer, finding Clive with his head in his hands.

  ‘Morning, Clive. ’ Jesse nods formally as we pass. He’s far too alert for this time of day.

  Clive grumbles to himself, waving an absentminded hand at us. I don’t think he’s getting the hang of all that equipment.

  Jesse stops us in the car park. ‘Stretch. ’ he instructs, releasing my hand and pulling his lower leg up to his backside to stretch his thigh. I watch as it bulges under his running shorts. I cock my head, more than happy to stay right here and watch him do that. ‘Ava, stretch. ’ he orders.

  I throw him a disgruntled look. I’ve never stretched in my life – only in bed – and it’s never done me any harm.

  On an over exaggerated sigh, I turn my back to him and spectacularly, and oh so very slowly, spread my legs and bend down to touch my toes, thrusting my backside in his face.

  ‘Oh!’ I feel his teeth sink into one of my cheeks, followed by a swift sting of his hand colliding with my bum. I turn back around and find an arched brow on a peeved face. The man is serious about his running, where as I just do a few miles now and again to keep the wine and cake from creeping onto my hips. ‘Where are we running?’ I ask, mirroring Jesse stretching his thighs and calves.

  ‘The Royal Parks,’ he answers.

  Oh, I can do that. It’s roughly six miles around the circumference and one of my regular runs. No sweat.

  ‘Ready?’ he asks.

  I nod and make my way over to Jesse’s car, while he makes his way to the pedestrian gate. What’s he doing? ‘Where are you going?’ I shout over to him.

  ‘For a run. ’ he answers coolly.

  What? Oh no. Realisation dawns on my waking brain. He’s going to make me run all the way to the parks, around them and back again? I can’t do that! Is he trying to kill me off? Crazy superbike rides, shock visits to my work place and now death by running?

  ‘Urh…how far is it to the parks?’ I try to sound completely blasé, but I’m not sure I’m pulling it off.

  ‘Four miles,’ His eyes are dancing with delight.

  What? That’s a fourteen mile round trip! He can’t seriously run that far on a regular basis, it’s over half a bloody marathon. I choke slightly and disguise it with a cough, determined not to give him the satisfaction of knowing I’m affected by this. I pull my vest down and walk over to the cocky, smug, Adonis of a man that has my heart in a tangled mess.

  He punches the code in. ‘It’s eleven, twenty seven, fifteen,’ He glances at me with a small smile. ‘For future reference,’ He holds the gates open.

  ‘I’ll never remember that. ’ I call over my shoulder as I pass him, starting my jog towards the Thames. I can do this, I can do this. I repeat the mantra – and the code – over and over in my head. I’ve not ran for three weeks now, but I refuse to let him get the better of me.

  He’s caught up with me and running alongside me within a few yards. I look up to his lean loveliness. Does this man do anything badly? He runs like his upper body is disconnected from his lower body, his legs transporting his tall, lean body with ease. I’m determined to keep up with him, even though his pace is a little faster than I would normally take.

  I get into my stride and we run along the river in a comfortable silence, throwing each other glances every now and then. Jesse is right – running in the morning is really quite relaxing. The city isn’t quite in full swing, the traffic is mainly delivery vans and there are no horns or sirens ringing in my ears. The air is surprisingly fresh and cool too. I might be changing my running pattern.

  Half an hour later, we hit St James’s Park and follow the green lushness at a steady pace. I feel surprisingly good, considering I’ve run somewhere near four miles already. I glance up at Jesse, who’s putting his hand up to every fellow runner as they pass – all women – who smile brightly at Jesse and eye me suspiciously. I roll my eyes at the desperate losers, glancing up to gage his reaction, but he looks completely unaffected by both the women and the running. That was probably just his warm up.

  ‘Okay?’ he asks on a half-smile as he looks down at me.

  I’m not talking. That’s a sure way to puff me out, and I’m doing really well at the moment. I nod and return my focus on the path ahead of us, willing my muscles not to give up. I have a point to prove.

  We maintain our steady pace, making our way around St James’s Park, eventually reaching The Green Park. I glance up again and still see a completely unaffected, virtually refreshed face and body running next to me. Okay, I’m feeling it now, and I don’t know whether it’s my fatigue, or the fact that crazy man here is increasing his pace, but I’m struggling to keep up. We’ve got to be knocking on nine miles now. I’ve never ran nine miles in my life. If I had my iPod with me, I would be hitting the button for my power track, right about now.

  We hit Piccadilly and I
start to feel my lungs burning, my breath getting harder to keep steady and constant. I think I may have hit the proverbial runner’s wall. I’ve never ran far enough to hit it before, but I can now completely appreciate the meaning of the statement. I feel like I’m pushing against a ton of bricks wedged in sand.

  I must not give up.

  Oh, it’s no good. I’m bloody shattered. I detour off of the road and into The Green Park, collapsing, unceremoniously, onto the grass in a sweaty, overheated heap. I lay spread eagled, dragging valuable air into my overworked lungs. I don’t care that I’ve given up. That’s my personal best achievement. Man, he can run.

  I close my eyes and concentrate on taking in deep breaths. I feel sick. The cool morning air invading my sprawled body is most welcome, until it’s swallowed up by a hunk of leanness closing in on me from above. I open my eyes, finding a gaze so green, it could rival the trees surrounding us.

  ‘Baby, did I wear you out?’ He grins around his words.

  Jesus, he’s not even broke a sweat. I, on the other hand, can’t even talk. I heave underneath him, like the running loser that I am, letting him smother my face with kisses. I must taste God awful.

  ‘Hmmm, sweat and sex. ’ He licks my cheek and rolls us over so I’m sprawled across his stomach. I proceed to pant and wheeze all over him as he runs his firm palms all over my sweaty back. My chest feels tight. Can you have a heart attack at twenty six?

  When I’ve finally got my breathing under control, I push my hands into his chest and straddle his hips, sitting up on his body. ‘Please don’t make me run home. ’ I plead. I think I could possibly die. He places his hands under his head, all casual and amused by my laboured breathing and sweaty face. His toned arms look edible as they flex. I could just about muster up the energy to lean down and take a bite.

  ‘You did better than I expected. ’ he says on a raised brow.

  ‘I prefer sleepy sex. ’ I grumble, falling forward onto his chest.

  His hands come around to secure me against him. ‘I prefer sleepy sex too. ’ He traces circles across my back.

  Okay, today, I really, really love him. And it’s only six thirty in the morning. But I should bear in mind that a lot can change and very quickly with Mr Jesse Ward. Give it an hour and I might have disobeyed or not conformed, and then, very suddenly, I’m dealing with crazy mad, Mr Unreasonable Control Freak and being given the countdown or a sense fuck – I’ll take the sense fuck, I’ll leave the countdown.

  ‘Come on, lady. We can’t frolic in the grass all day, you have work to do. ’

  Yes, I do. And we’re miles from Lusso. I’m actually closer to Kate’s than I am to Jesse’s, but my things are at Jesse’s so it looks like I’m taking the long option. I heave myself up from his chest and stand. I’m slightly wobbly on my feet. Jesse, of course, rises to his feet like a dolphin gliding across the calm ocean. He makes me sick.

  He wraps an arm around my shoulder and walks us onto Piccadilly, flagging a taxi down and bundling me in.

  ‘You brought money for a taxi?’ I ask. He knew I wouldn’t make it?

  He doesn’t answer. He just shrugs and yanks me across the taxi into his arms.

  I feel a little guilty for cutting his run short, but not too much. I’m too beat to dwell on it for long.

  I’m dragged, quite literally, through the foyer of Lusso and into the elevator. I feel like I’ve been awake for a month, when, in reality, it’s not even been two hours. I’ve no idea how I’m going to make it through the day.

  When we reach the penthouse, I collapse on a bar stool in the kitchen, resting my head on my arms. My breathing is only just returning to normal.

  ‘Here,’

  I look up and find a bottle of water being waved under my nose. I take it gratefully, swinging the lovely ice liquid and wiping my mouth with the back of my hand.
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