This man, p.71
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       This Man, p.71

         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
 
Page 71

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  Oh? ‘I’m sorry. ’ I feel bad. That was a plea. Something terrible happened to him, and it makes me feel sick to know that he was hurt in some way.

  He pulls my hand up to his face and kisses my palm. ‘Please, don’t be. It’s not something that’s important to the here and now. Dragging up my past serves no purpose other than to remind me of it. ’

  His past? So, he has a past? Well, everyone has a past, but the way he said it and the fact that we’re talking about a vicious scar here makes me really nervous. I look up at him. ‘What did you mean when you said that things are easier to bear when I’m here?’

  He looks down and places his hand on the back of my head, pushing my cheek back down to his chest. ‘It means I like having you around. ’ His tone is dismissive. I don’t believe him for a minute, but I leave it anyway. Does it matter?

  I push my lips into the void between his pecs, nuzzling into him, while giving myself a mental ticking off. I’m basking in the sun on Central Jesse Cloud Nine, and I’m loving every minute of it, until the need for another countdown or a sense fuck.

  And it will come – I have no doubt.

  Chapter 35

  I wake abruptly and sit up in bed. I feel refreshed, revitalised and rested. This bed is way too comfortable. Getting back in mine after a few nights here is going to be a bit of a come down. The only thing that’s missing is Jesse.

  I peek under the covers, finding I’m still in my underwear, but the shirt has been removed. I don’t remember coming to bed. I sit quietly for a few moments, listening to a constant whirring sound, accompanied by a consistent thud, thud, thud in the distance.

  What is that?

  I make the long journey to the edge of the bed and out onto the landing, where the sounds are slightly louder but still muffled. I scan the space below, seeing no sign of Jesse.

  Deciding he must be in the kitchen, I make my way down the stairs, but as I approach the archway into the kitchen, I stop and back track. I look through the glass door to the gym, set on an angle just before the kitchen, and see Jesse in a pair of running shorts, going hell for leather on the treadmill. Well, that explains the strange distant noise. I watch him running with his back to me, his solid expanse of skin shimmering with sweat beads as he watches the sports news on the suspended T. V in front of him.

  I leave him be. I’ve already disturbed one run. I make my way into the kitchen to fill the kettle and go about making myself a coffee. It’s not Starbucks, but it’ll do.

  The familiar sound of my phones ring tone fills the room, and I look across the kitchen to see it charging on the worktop. I scoop it up and disconnect it from the charger. It’s my mother. I’m promptly reminded of her call to me yesterday – the one that I’ve not yet returned and really, really don’t want to. My wide awake, good mood is instantly drowned out.

  ‘Hi, Mum. ’ I greet cheerfully, screwing my face up in apprehension. Here come the twenty questions.

  ‘Oh, you’re alive. Joseph, cancel the search party. I’ve found her!’

  I roll my eyes at my mum’s idea of funny. Obviously, she was expecting a call back before now. ‘Point taken. What did Matt want?’

  ‘I have no idea. The man never called us once when you were together. He asked how we were, made small talk, you know. It was all very strange. Why is he calling us, Ava?’

  ‘I don’t know, Mum. ’ I moan tiredly, but I suspect I do. He’s on a worming mission.

  ‘He mentioned another man. ’

  ‘He did?’ My tone is high pitched, a complete give away to my surprise and probably my guilt too. Damn you, Jesse Ward, for intercepting my phone. It would have been easier to brush off Matt’s tales if I didn’t have to explain about the mystery man who answered my phone yesterday.

  ‘Yes, he said you were seeing someone else. So soon, Ava. Really?’

  ‘Mum, I’m not seeing someone else. ’ I do a quick check over my shoulder to make sure I’m still alone. I’m doing more than seeing someone. I’m in love with someone.

  ‘Who was that man who answered your phone?’

  ‘I told you, just a friend. ’ Please drop it!

  ‘Good. You’re in your mid-twenties, in London Town and fresh out of a shitty relationship. Don’t be falling into the arms of the first man that shows you a bit of attention. ’

  I blush scarlet on the spot, even though she can’t see me. I don’t think you could describe what this man gives me as “a bit of attention”. At only forty seven herself and having had Dan at just eighteen and me at twenty one, she missed out on all the benefits of being young in London. She’s now retired in Newquay before the age of fifty. I know she won’t be pleased if she finds out I’m being swallowed up in lust.

  ‘I won’t, Mum. I’m just having lots of fun,’ I assure her. I’m having fun all right. Just not the sort of fun that she has in mind. ‘How’s Dad?’

  ‘Oh, you know. Golf mad, badminton mad, cricket mad. He has to keep on the go or he’ll go mad. ’

  ‘It’s better than sitting on his backside all day, though. ’ I say, collecting a mug from the cupboard. I make my way to the fridge.

  ‘He made such a fuss about leaving the city, but I knew he would be dead in a few years if I didn’t get him out. Now I can’t tie him down for anything. He’s always got something happening. ’

  I open the fridge – no milk. ‘That’s good, isn’t it? Keeping him active?’ I sit myself on the bar stool without my needed coffee.

  ‘Oh, I’m not complaining. He’s lost a few pounds too. ’

  ‘How much?’ This is good. Everyone always said Dad was a walking heart attack candidate, with his weight, love of a few too many pints and a stressful job. As it turns out, everyone was right.

  ‘Just over a stone,’

  ‘Wow, I’m impressed. ’

  ‘No more than me, Ava. So, what have you got to report?’

  Loads! ‘Nothing much, I’ve been stacked out at work. I secured the next project from the developer of Lusso. ’ I need to talk work. I’ll have no hair left if she starts prying into my social life.

  ‘Brilliant! I was showing Sue the photos on the internet. The penthouse!’ she sings.

  Yes, I’m sat in it now. ‘Yeah,’ I need some wine.

  ‘Can you imagine living in such luxury? Your Dad and I are not short of a few, but that’s a whole other level of wealth. ’

  ‘It is,’ I agree. Okay, the subject of work hasn’t gone as I planned. ‘What time does Dan land tomorrow?’ I blurt to divert the conversation.

  ‘Nine in the morning. Are you coming down with him?’

  I flop forward onto the worktop. I’ve hardly given Dan’s impending arrival a second thought. What with all the crazy shit going on, I’ve not had a chance. I feel guilty all of a sudden. I’ve not seen him for six months.

  ‘I don’t think so, Mum. I’m just so busy. ’ I whine, mentally pleading for her to understand.

  ‘That’s disappointing, but I understand. Maybe Dad and I could come up to see you when you’ve sorted a place of your own?’ She’s hinting that I need to pull my finger out. I’ve done nothing in that area of my life.

  ‘That would be really good. ’ I don’t fake my enthusiasm. I would love for Mum and Dad to come back to London for a visit. They haven’t been back since they left, and I know it’s because they both secretly worry they’ll want to move back to the hustle and bustle.

  ‘Wonderful. I’ll speak to your Dad. I’d better go. Send my love to Kate. ’

  ‘I will, I’ll ring next week when Dan’s there. ’ I add quickly before she hangs up.

  ‘Lovely. Take care, darling. ’

  ‘Bye, Mum. ’ I slide my phone across the counter and drop my head in my hands.

  If only she knew. My Dad would probably have another heart attack if he found out about my current state of affairs, and my Mum would be moving me d
own to Newquay. The only reason my Dad didn’t drive up after me and Matt split up was because Mum called Kate to find out if I really was okay. What would they think if they knew I was caught up with a neurotic, self-assured control freak, who is – in his own words – fucking me into oblivion? The fact that he’s super wealthy and owns the penthouse would not soften the blow. Christ, Jesse is probably closer to my Mum in age than I am.

  I swing round on my stool when I hear a commotion coming from outside of the kitchen. Getting up to go and investigate, I’m nearly taken off my feet when Jesse’s naked chest flies at me.

  WHOA!

  ‘Fucking hell, there you are. ’ He grabs me, lifting me up to his sweat riddled body. ‘You weren’t in bed. ’

  ‘I’m in the kitchen. ’ I splutter in my dazed state. He’s squeezing me so tight, I’m struggling to breathe. ‘I saw you running. I didn’t want to disturb you. ’ I wriggle a little to indicate that I’m being constricted to death. He releases me, setting me back on my feet, his glistening, stubbled face giving me the once over. His panicked features ease a bit as he holds me steady by my forearms in front of him. ‘I was just in the kitchen. ’ I repeat. He looks like he could keel over at any moment. What’s wrong with him?

  He shakes his head slightly, as if ridding himself of a nasty thought, picks me up and walks me to the worktop, sitting me on the cold granite. He pushes his way between my thighs.

  ‘Sleep well?’

  ‘Great. ’ Why does he look like someone’s broken some really crappy news? ‘Are you okay?’

  He blesses me with a heart stopping smile. I feel instantly at ease. ‘I woke up with you in my bed wearing lace. It’s ten thirty on a Sunday morning and you’re in my kitchen…’ He runs his eyes down my front, ‘wearing lace. I’m amazing. ’

  ‘You are?’

  ‘Oh, I am. ’ He tips my face up, planting a light kiss on my lips. Oh, I could wake up to this every morning. ‘You’re too beautiful, lady. ’

  ‘So are you. ’

  He brushes the hair away from my face, looking at me affectionately. ‘Kiss me. ’

  I fulfill his request immediately, taking his lips calmly and following the slow, gentle strokes of his tongue. We both hum in harmony. Oh this is good. But our intimate moment is broken by the loud, shrill of Jesse’s phone.

  He grumbles and reaches past me, still maintaining our kiss. He glances up at the screen as he holds it over my head. ‘Oh, go away. ’ he gripes against my lips. ‘Baby, I’ve got to take this. ’ He pulls away and answers, keeping himself firmly between my thighs, his free hand around my waist. ‘What’s up, John?’ He starts chewing his lip. ‘What’s he doing there?’ He drops a chaste kiss on my lips. ‘No, I’ll be there…yes…see you in a bit. ’ He hangs up and studies me thoughtfully for a few seconds. ‘I need to go to The Manor. You’ll come. ’

  I recoil. ‘No!’ I blurt. I’m not being yanked off of Central Jesse Cloud Nine by her!

  He frowns. ‘But I want you to come. ’

  Absolutely not! It’s Sunday, I’m not working and I’m not going to The Manor. ‘You’ll be working. ’ I search my brain for a feasible excuse for me not to go. ‘You do what you need to do, and I’ll see you afterwards. ’ I reason instead.

  ‘No, you’ll come. ’ he presses forcefully.

  ‘I’m not coming. ’ I try to wriggle myself free of his grasp, but I’m going nowhere.

  ‘Why?’

  ‘Just because,’ I snap, earning myself a mighty scowl. I’m not about to start whining about Sarah and off loading trivial jealousies on him.

  He searches my eyes. ‘Please, Ava. Will you just do what you’re told?’
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