This man, p.60
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       This Man, p.60

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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Page 60

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  ‘I’ll run a bath. ’ He looks at me in sympathy, but I detect a little enjoyment mixed in there too. The smug bastard! I’m lifted from the stool and carried upstairs in my usual chimp like manner.

  ‘I don’t have time for a bath, I’ll have a shower. ’ I say as he places me on the bed. What I would do to crawl under the covers and emerge sometime next week.

  ‘You have plenty of time. We’ll grab some breakfast and go to The Manor mid-morning. Now, stretch. ’ He drops a kiss on my sweaty forehead and turns towards the bathroom.

  We’ll go to The Manor? What for? Realisation kicks in before my brain has a chance to instruct my mouth to blurt the question. He was completely serious when he permanently marked out my diary for the rest of the academic year?

  Oh, shit!

  The one hundred grand is to keep Patrick quiet while he gets his fix of me, morning, noon and night. Oh, bloody hell. What about my other clients – Van Der Haus being the most important other client? He alone will boost Patrick’s turnover tenfold. Oh God, I feel a trample coming on.

  ‘Jesse, I need to go to the office. ’ I try for a calm and reasonable tone. I don’t know why I picked this one in particular. As appose to what? Demanding? Ha!

  ‘No, you don’t. Stretch. ’ Is the straight flat answer, followed by a terse demand that I get thrown back at me from the bathroom.

  I’m going to lose my job. I know it. He’ll get his fix, trample all over my social life and career, and then drop me like a hot potato. I’ll be job-less, friend-less, heart-less and, most frighteningly, Jesse-less. I feel light headed. What am I going to do? I’m too exhausted to run away at the start of a countdown – not that I would get very far, even firing on all cylinders. And a sense fuck will probably finish off my already strained heart.

  ‘All of my equipment is at the office. My computer programmes, reference books, everything. ’ My voice is small.

  He presents himself at the doorway of the bathroom, chewing his lip. ‘And you need all that stuff?’

  ‘Yes, to do my job. ’

  ‘Okay, we’ll stop by your office. ’ He shrugs and returns to the bathroom.

  I throw myself back on the bed in exasperation. What in God’s name am I going to say to Patrick? I exhale a weary sigh. He’s lead me into a false sense of security by bringing me home in a taxi and carrying my tired body up the stairs when my legs felt like they could give out. I’m just as deluded as he is. I’m never going to be in control.

  ‘Bath’s ready. ’ he whispers in my ear, snapping me from my unrest.

  ‘You were serious, weren’t you?’ I ask as he lifts me up from the bed and carries me into the bathroom. The enormous bath dominating the room is only half full.

  ‘I was serious about what?’ He places me on my feet and starts peeling off my wet running gear.

  Thick skin! ‘About holing me up with you,’

  ‘Yes. ’

  ‘What about my other clients?’

  ‘I don’t want to share you. ’ He pulls my shorts down my legs and taps my ankle. I do as I’m bid, lifting my feet in turn.

  How am I going to play this? For one thing, I’m less than delighted at the thought of spending more time than I have to at The Manor under the icy glare of old pouty face, and for another, I need to keep on top of my current clients. That’s what they are paying me for. He doesn’t want to share me?

  What?

  With anyone?

  And for how long?

  ‘I don’t need to be at The Manor to collate designs, Jesse. ’

  He lifts me into the bath and starts undressing himself. ‘Yes, you do. ’

  I sink down into the hot water. It’s a welcome relief for my screaming muscles. It’s a shame it won’t relax my screaming brain. ‘No, I don’t. ’ I affirm. I’m attempting to put my foot down again. What a laugh!

  I look up to a very disgruntled face as he climbs in behind me and pulls my back against his chest. He’s silent for a short while before he takes a deep breath. ‘If I let you go to the office, you have to do something for me. ’

  If he lets me? This man is beyond self-assured and arrogant. But he’s negotiating, which is an improvement on demanding or forcing me. ‘Okay. What?’

  ‘You’ll come to The Manor’s anniversary party. ’

  ‘What? Like a social event?’

  ‘Yes, exactly like a social event. ’

  I’m glad he can’t see my face, because if he could, he would see a screwed up contortion of displeasure. So, now I’m between a rock and a hard place. I get out of going to The Manor today, but I’m negotiating delaying the chore, not completely avoiding it. And for a social event? I would rather boil my head!

  ‘When?’ I sound less enthused than I feel, and that’s saying something.

  ‘Two weeks today. ’ He wraps his arms around the tops of my shoulders and nuzzles his face into my neck.

  I should be dancing around the bathroom in joy. He wants to take me as a date. It doesn’t matter that it’s the posh hotel that he owns, he wants me there. But I’m not sure I’m prepared to spend the evening under the unfriendly, watchful eye of Sarah. And it’s a dead cert that she’ll be there.

  ‘You’ll come. ’ He thrusts his tongue in my ear, swirls it around a few times and kisses under the hollow of my lobe, before thrusting it back in my ear.

  I squirm under his hot tongue, my body slipping over his. ‘Stop!’ I shudder.

  ‘No. ’ He squeezes me to him as I writher, water splashing everywhere. ‘Say you’ll come. ’

  ‘No! Jesse!’ I laugh when his hand moves to my hip. ‘Stop!’

  ‘Please. ’ he purrs in my ear.

  I stop struggling. Please? Did I hear him right? I’m stunned on the spot. Jesse Ward said please? Okay, so he’s brokering a deal, and he said please. Well, on the bright side, at least I know he’s looking at least a few weeks into the future with me. If I had of spent all day at The Manor today, there’s not a shadow of a doubt that I would be attending The Manors anniversary party anyway. I should be grateful, I suppose.

  ‘Okay, I’ll come. ’ I sigh, earning myself a super tight squeeze and an over-the-top nuzzle. I reach up and wrap my hands around his forearms. I’ve made him happy. And that, in turn, makes me very happy.

  So, I’m going to be his date. That will please Sarah no end. Actually, I will go, and I’ll look forward to it too. He wants me there, and that has to signify something, doesn’t it? I can’t help the little satisfied smile playing at the corners of my mouth. I’m not usually the competitive type, but I really dislike Sarah and I really like Jesse, so it’s a no brainer really.

  ‘How many years?’ I ask.

  ‘What?’

  ‘The Manor’s anniversary, how many years is it?’

  ‘A few,’

  I crane my neck around to get him in my line of sight, finding a completely blank expression. He’s giving nothing away. I shake my head, turning back around and letting him have his stupid age secret. I’m past caring now. I love him – nothing could change that.

  ‘I’ve never had a bath before. ’ he says quietly.

  ‘Never?’

  ‘No, never, I’m a shower man. But I think I might be a bath man now. ’

  ‘I love having a bath. ’

  ‘Me too, but only if you’re in it with me,’ He squeezes me. ‘It’s a good job the designer of this place anticipated the need for a big one. ’

  I laugh. ‘I think she did well. ’ Never in a million years did I anticipate enjoying a soak in it when I helped coordinate the crane lift of the damn thing. At the time, I was regretting being so extravagant, but now I’m reaping the benefits of the giant, bespoke tub, it was definitely a ball ache worth enduring.

  ‘I wonder if she ever considered being in it?’ he muses.

  ‘No, she didn’t. ’

  ‘Well, I’m glad
she is. ’ He tugs at my ear lobe with his teeth as I feel his feet slide down my shins, rubbing across the tops of my feet above the bubbly water.

  I close my eyes and rest my head against his chest. Perhaps I should ditch work and stay with him all day after all. In my sleepy bath time slumber, I decide that tub talk with Jesse is one of my new favourite pastimes. And I might even start running in the morning. Not crazy distances, but around the Royal Parks once or twice every other morning. I must remember to stretch.

  ‘You’re going to be late for work. ’ he says softly in my ear. I pout to myself. I’m way too comfortable. ‘Just think…if you didn’t go to the office, we could stay longer. ’ He kisses my temple and rises to get out, leaving me silently wishing I had of relented to his insistence on staying with him all day.

  I give my own little private huff of disgust and grab the men’s shampoo. It looks like it’s going to be another bad hair day.

  Chapter 31

  I pad into the bedroom and find my cream, fitted dress spread out on the bed, with my nude heels and some fancy lace underwear that I don’t recognise. I frown to myself, picking up the unfamiliar bra and knickers set. He’s brought me underwear, and he’s brought me underwear in the right size? He really does think he can dictate my wardrobe.

  I thread my fingers over the pretty, delicate lace in a soft cream colour. It’s beautiful, but a bit over the top for work. I start going through my gym bag to find an alternative, but there’s no underwear to be found and no other option in the clothes department either. In fact, there are no other clothes at all, the sly sod.

  I resign myself to accepting my fate, getting myself ready and slipping into the underwear and dress that Jesse has decided I’m wearing today. I suppose I should be grateful that he’s not laid out my oversized, chunky knit jumper. I’m super relieved that he’s had the initiative to leave me a hairdryer, though. I apply my make-up, blow-dry my hair into a tousled, slightly messy mass, pile it up and make my way downstairs.

  I find Jesse at the kitchen island on his mobile, dunking his finger into a jar of peanut butter. He glances up at me, nearly knocking me off of my heels with his roguish smile. Oh yes, he’s super satisfied with himself.

  I run my eyes over his grey suited, black shirted physic and sigh in admiration. His dirty blonde hair has been ruffled with wax and set in a messy array to one side, and I’m super appreciative that he’s not shaved. He looks rugged and mind-bogglingly handsome. Why did I insist on going to work?

  ‘I’ll be there when I’ve dropped Ava at work. ’ He turns himself on the stool, cocking his head to the side. ‘Yes, tell Sarah I want it on my desk when I get there. ’ He pats his lap, and I make my way over, fighting the scowl from my face at the mention of her name. ‘We revoke his membership, simple. ’ I lower myself onto his knee, smiling when he buries himself in my neck and inhales deeply. ‘He can kick off all he likes, he’s gone, end of. ’ he spits harshly. What’s he on about? ‘Get Sarah to cancel it…yes…okay…see you in a bit. ’

  He hangs up, tosses his phone on the worktop and snakes his arms under my knees to pull me up from floor and onto his lap, greeting me with a greedy, full on kiss. He moans into my mouth in pure satisfaction.

  ‘I like your dress. ’ he mumbles around my lips. He’s extra minty, mixed with a little peanut butter. I can’t stand peanut butter, but I love him and all this attentiveness, so I’ll ignore it.

  ‘You picked it. Of course you like it. What’s with the underwear?’

  He pecks my lips and puts me down. ‘I told you, always in lace. ’ He runs his eyes down my body.

  I don’t argue – a pointless exercise if ever there was one, and I’ve got it on now.

  ‘Breakfast?’ he asks.
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