This man, p.77
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       This Man, p.77
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         Part #1 of This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
Page 77

  Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

  ‘Do not disturb. ’

  ‘Oh. Clive, I know he’s home. Please, can I go up?’ I plead. I can’t believe he’s being so difficult.

  He leans over his desk, narrows his eyes on me and looks to either side, checking the coast is clear. ‘I can get in serious trouble for not following protocol, but as it’s you, Ava,’ He winks. ‘Go on. ’ He thumbs over his shoulder and straightens his green hat.

  ‘Thanks, Clive. ’

  I jump in the elevator, punch in the code and pray he hasn’t got around to re-programming it in the short time I’ve been gone. I let out a relieved breath of air when the doors close and I start my journey to the penthouse. He’s got to answer the door yet – I don’t have a key.

  My stomach does a few three sixties as the elevator door slides open and I’m faced with the double doors into Jesse’s apartment. I frown to myself. The door’s open and there’s music – very loud music.

  I walk to the door, gently pushing it open, my ears instantly bombarded from every direction by an extremely powerful and poignant, but equally sad track. I recognise it instantly – Angel. The words hit me like a thunderbolt, immediately putting me on guard. Right now, it sounds so loud and depressing, not soft and ardent like it was when we made love. I need to find a remote control so I can turn it down, or off. It’s so affecting. And with it coming from all of the integrated speakers, there’s no escaping it. Maybe he’s not here. Maybe the system has malfunctioned because he couldn’t possibly sustain this noise level for long. But the door was wide open. I clamp my hands over my ears as I glance around the huge space trying to locate a remote control. Running into the kitchen, I spot one on the island and quickly find the volume button to turn the music down – a lot.

  Once I’ve taken care of the noise levels, I go in search of him, making my way through the open plan area. As I reach the stairs, I kick something and watch as it clatters across the floor. I pick up the glass bottle and place it on the console unit at the bottom of the stairs before taking them two at a time.

  I go straight to the master suite, but he’s not in there. I proceed to frantically search every other room on the floor. He’s in none of them. Where is he? I get half way down the stairs, stopping abruptly when my eyes land on the empty bottle that I scooped up.

  It’s vodka. Well, it was. It’s been drained dry.

  A wave of uneasiness rolls over me as a million thoughts invade my head. I’ve never seen Jesse drink – not ever. Every time alcohol has been on offer, he’s refused, ordering water instead. It never occurred to me to wonder why. Have I ever seen him drink? No, I don’t think I have. Now, looking at the empty bottle of vodka placed carefully on the table and thinking about how carelessly it was tossed on the floor, something isn’t right.

  ‘Oh, please no. ’ I whisper to myself.

  His insistence on me not drinking on Friday comes rushing back into my mind like a tidal wave. Our little altercation in The Blue Bar, when he tried to force feed me some water, suddenly doesn’t seem so unusual or unreasonable.

  I hear a crash, my eyes snapping from the empty bottle of vodka to the outside terrace. The huge glass doors are open. I sprint the rest of the way down the stairs, across the living space, skidding to a halt at the doors when I see Jesse struggling to get himself up from one of the sun loungers. Have I had my eyes closed for the past few weeks? I’ve missed so much.

  He has a towel wrapped around his waist and a bottle of vodka in his hand, which he’s keeping a tight hold of as he fights to push himself up on his free arm. He’s swearing profusely.

  I’m froze on the spot as I watch this man that I’ve fallen in love with, a physically powerful, passionate and captivating man, reduced to a drunken wreck. How did this slip past me? I’ve not even wrapped my head around all of the other shit that’s been landed on me today. And now this on top of everything else? What have I done to deserve this?

  Once he’s hauled himself up, he turns to face me, his eyes hollow, his face washed out. It doesn’t look like him.

  ‘You’re too late, lady. ’ he slurs viciously, glaring at me. He’s never looked at me like this before. He’s never spoken to me like this before. Not even when he’s been crazy mad with me. What’s happened to him?

  ‘You’re drunk. ’ I blurt. What a stupid thing to say, but all other words have run, screaming very loudly, from my brain. My eyes have been tortured way past repair today.

  ‘That’s very observant of you. ’ He lifts the bottle and swigs the rest of the vodka before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. ‘Not drunk enough, though. ’ He walks forward purposely, and I instinctively move out of his way, knowing he would cause me damage if he crashed into me.

  ‘Where are you going?’ I ask as he passes me.

  ‘What’s it to you?’ he spits, without so much as looking at me. I follow him into the kitchen, watching as he drags another bottle of vodka from the freezer and tosses his empty into the sink. He starts unscrewing the cap. ‘Bastard!’ he hisses, shaking his hand. It’s then that I notice the mass of swelling and cuts marring it. He perseveres with the screw cap, eventually removing it before knocking back a huge swig.

  ‘Jesse, your hand needs looking at. ’

  He throws his hand up in front of him, taking another mouthful from the bottle. ‘Look then. Yet more damage you’ve caused. ’ he snarls. I’ve caused? What’s he trying to say? That on top of everything else, I’ve pushed him over the edge to drink? ‘Yeah, you can stand there…stand there looking all bewildered…and…and…confused. I fucking told you!’ he shouts. ‘Didn’t I warn you? I…I warned you!’ He’s hysterical.

  ‘Warned me about what?’ I ask quietly, but I know what he’s going to say. This is the further damage I would cause if I left. This is what he won’t recover from. Things were more bearable with me around because he wasn’t drinking. Why?

  He throws back more vodka. I try and mentally calculate how much he’s had. This is the third bottle I’ve seen, but what about the ones I haven’t? Can anyone drink that much?

  ‘Fucking typical. ’ he shouts at the ceiling.

  ‘I didn’t know. ’ I whisper.

  He laughs. ‘You didn’t know?’ He points the bottle at me. ‘I said you would cause more damage if you left me, but you still left anyway. Now look at the fucking state of me. ’

  I flinch at his words. I feel like crying. Seeing him in this state makes me want to cry hard, but shock is controlling the tears. This is not the Jesse I know. This man is a stranger – a hurtful, cruel and merciless man, who I don’t love at all. I don’t need this man.

  He starts pacing towards me. I back away. I don’t want to be anywhere near him. ‘That’s it, run away. ’ He continues stalking forward, gaining on me with every step. ‘You’re a fucking prick tease, Ava. I can have you, then I can’t, then I can again. Make your fucking mind up!’

  ‘Why didn’t you tell me you’re an alcoholic?’ I ask as my back hits the wall. There’s no more retreating space. Why didn’t you tell me everything?

  ‘And give you another reason not to want me?’ he spits. He then seems to consider something. ‘I’m not an alcoholic!’

  Denial! Just how bad is this? I’ve never seen him drunk before.

  He’s on top of me, looking down at me. This close up, his eyes are even more hollow and dark.

  ‘You need help. ’ I say on a cracking voice. I’m going to need help too.

  ‘I needed you and…you…you left me. ’ His breath is hot, but it’s not his usual minty smell. All I can smell are alcohol fumes, so whoever claims you can’t smell vodka is lying.

  I plant my palms on his bare chest to push him away, applying only a little pressure for fear I might push him over. It’s laughable. This tall, lean, strapping man, but he’s so unstable on his feet. His chest feels like him – that I recognise, but it’s the only part of him that I d
o at the moment.

  He takes a step back, tipping the bottle to his lips again. I want to grab it and smash it on the floor. ‘Sorry, am I invading your space?’ He laughs. ‘It’s never bothered you before. ’

  ‘You weren’t drunk before. ’ I retort.

  ‘No…I wasn’t. I was too busy fucking you to think about having a drink,’ He looks at me with disgust, leaning forward. ‘I was too busy fucking you to think about anything. And you loved it. ’ He smirks. ‘You were good. In fact, you were the best I’ve had. And I’ve had a lot. ’

  Rage flies through me like a rocket. So fast, I don’t even notice that my hand has flown out and slapped him clean across his face – not until the sting sets in and it starts throbbing. Fuck, that hurt!

  He holds his face to the side, where my vicious hand has put it, before slowly turning it back to me. He laughs mildly. ‘Fun, wasn’t it?’

  I look at him in complete contempt, shaking my head. I feel like I’m being dragged through a madcap movie. This sort of shit just doesn’t happen, especially not to me. Sex houses, crazy madness and alcoholic arseholes. How did I get caught up in all of this freakiness?

  ‘You’re one fucked up sorry state. ’

  ‘Watch your mouth. ’ he slurs.

  ‘You don’t get to tell me what I can say!’ I shout. ‘You don’t get to tell how to do anything. Not anymore!’

  ‘I’m. a. fucked. up. sorry. state. and. it’s. all. because. of. you. ’ He punctuates each and every word on a slur, jabbing his finger in my face. I fear I might actually punch him in his drunken face if I don’t leave now. But all of my stuff is here, and I need to get it. I don’t want to ever come back.

  I brush past him, hurrying for the stairs. With any luck, he’s too drunk to climb them, and I can snatch my things up without any further vicious exchanges. I take the stairs fast, barreling into the bedroom and standing for a few moments wondering where he would’ve put my bag.

  Finding my overnight case tucked neatly behind some shoe boxes in the wardrobe, I yank it free, pulling down my clothes from the hangers and scooping up my things from the floor at the same time. I rush back into the bedroom, finding Jesse stood in the doorway. It’s taken him a lot longer than usual, but he’s made it up the stairs. I ignore him and run into the bathroom, all but flinging my toiletries into my bag without checking they’re sealed. I’ll probably have a pile of clothes caked in shampoo by the time I get out of here, but I couldn’t care less. I need out, and I need out quickly.

  ‘Does this bring back memories, Ava?’

  I look up, finding him stroking the top of the vanity unit, his face straight as he caresses the marble counter. I try to blank out our launch night encounter. In this very suite was where I finally surrendered to this man. In this bathroom was where we made love for the first time. No, we fucked for the first time. And now it all ends here too.

  He’s blocking my path with his tall, swaying body. I notice the bottle of vodka has been abandoned, his towel working its way loose. I try to side step him, but he moves with me, hampering my attempts to pass.

  ‘You’re really going?’ he slurs softly.

  ‘You think I would stay?’ I ask exasperated. After everything that’s transpired today? I’d thought I could overcome The Manor and all the crap that accompanies it, but this on top of all that has just catapulted my already crumbled world into complete obliteration. No amount of love or feelings could ever fix this mess. He’s led me on a merry dance. He’s purposely deceived me and manipulated me.

  ‘So, that’s it? You’ve turned my life upside down, caused all this damage, and now you’re leaving without fixing it?’
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