This Man (This Man #1)(9)


by Jodi Ellen Malpas

‘Shhhh.’ He hushes me, unclasping my bra and running his hands under the straps.

He lowers them down my arms, letting it drop to the floor, before his hands find my br**sts and knead deliberately. He continues to breathe hot, heavy breaths in my ear.

‘You.and.me.’ he growls and spins me around, crashing his lips against mine, robbing me of breath.

I’m back to where I want to be. His tongue skims my bottom lip, seeking entry, and I don’t deny him. I accept him into my mouth, our tongues dueling, his mouth hot, his tongue lax but severe. I fling my arms over his shoulders to pull him closer as he presses his groin into my lower stomach. His erection is as hard as steel and bidding for escape from the confines of the denim encasing it. Every part of him feels perfect. It’s everything I imagined.

A low moan escapes his mouth as both of his hands drift up my back to cup my head, his fingers splayed around the back, the heel of his palms resting on my cheek bones. He breaks the kiss and I whimper at the loss. His shoulders are rising and falling with the deep breaths he’s struggling to get into his lungs, and he rests his forehead against mine with his eyes clenched shut. He looks in pain.

‘I’m going to get lost in you.’ he breathes, his hand traveling back down the curve of my spine to the rear of my thigh. With one gentle tug, he pulls my leg up to rest against his hip, cupping my bum with his other. He searches my eyes desperately. ‘There’s something here,’ he whispers. ‘I’m not imagining it.’

No, he’s not. I think back to Friday, when I first laid my eyes on him. I felt like I’d been electrocuted, all sorts of strange reactions firing off in my mind and body. That wasn’t normal, and I’m so relieved that I wasn’t the only one to feel it. ‘There’s something.’ I confirm quietly, watching as his eyes change from uncertainty to complete satisfaction.

I’m stood on one leg, semi draped around his waist, ready to jump the gun and wrap my other leg around him. I need to feel all of him. I need his lips on mine. As if reading my mind, he tilts his head and lowers his mouth to mine, but this time he’s calmer as he gently brushes his lips over mine at the most dreamy pace. He tilts his pelvis into me, and I instantly recognise the start of a huge build-up of pressure in my groin. I’m powerless to control it; I don’t want to control it.

Grinding his h*ps against me, he continues to take my mouth slowly, the combined sensation having me tinkering on the edge. One touch and I’m likely to explode.

His kiss hardens, the grinding of his h*ps increasing. ‘Oh, Jesus,’ he mumbles against my lips. ‘Don’t ruin this.’

Don’t ruin this? Why is he pleading with me, or is he pleading with himself? But then it all becomes clear when I hear someone calling Jesse’s name. I recognise the cold, unfriendly voice as Sarah’s. And just like that, my building pleasure dies of death, retreating faster than it came.

Fuck off, f**k off, f**k off! I’m screaming it repeatedly in my head. My languid, worked up body suddenly stiffens, my fingers digging into Jesse’s shoulders. What am I doing? His girlfriend is prowling around, possibly outside, and I’m shacked up in here with her boyfriend’s hands all over me. I’m hideous!

He deepens the kiss, pushing onto my lips to the point of pain, his tongue invading my mouth with urgency. I know he’s trying to keep me in the game. He releases my thigh and brings his hands to my h*ps to keep me still. He thinks I’m going to run. I am going to run. He releases my lips, my head dropping automatically.

‘The door’s locked.’ he assures me quietly.

I can’t carry on with this now! I may not like the woman, but I’m not a home wrecker. I’ve done some damage, but I can stop this progressing to the point of no return. He brings one hand up to seize my jaw, tilting my head up and holding it firm as he focuses his green pools straight on me. His frown line is clear as he searches my eyes for something – hope, I think.

‘Please.’ he mouths.

I shake my head slightly in his grasp, my gaze plummeting to his chest, my eyes squeezing shut. His hand tightens on my hip and he shakes my jaw slightly in a desperate attempt to drag me out of the shell I’ve crawled into.

‘Don’t run.’ He almost grinds the words out, making it sound more like an order.

‘I can’t do this.’ I whisper, feeling his hands drop away from me on a frustrated growl.

‘Jesse?’ I hear Sarah’s voice again, but closer this time.

In a complete daze, I scoop my dress up from the floor before running into the bathroom, slamming the door behind me and flipping the lock. I lean against the back of the door, virtually naked, trying to control my erratic breathing. I look up to the ceiling in an attempt to prevent the tears from falling. I’m so disappointed with myself.

I think I hear the sound of muffled voices coming from the bedroom, and I try to stabilise my breathing so I can listen to what’s going on. But, there’s nothing. No noise, no talking…nothing. Damn me for being half n**ed so I can’t escape. Instead, I’ve resorted to fleeing into the bathroom, hiding like the desperate tart that I am. I’m not comfortable with these feelings. I’m truly ashamed of myself. I’ve been cheated on plenty of times, and I’ve annihilated all of those women who’ve intruded on my relationships. Over many a bottle of wine, I’ve condemned them, bad mouthed them and wished them some truly merciless reprisals. Now, I’m one of them. I groan, smacking the heel of my hand on my forehead.

Tart!

When I hear a door shut, I stiffen. Is that him leaving, or is he coming back? Either way, I need to get dressed. I search for my bra within the bunching material of my dress that’s gathered in my hands – no bra. Shaking my dress out frantically, I pray for its appearance but still…nothing. I sigh and step into my dress, pulling it up my body and reaching around to fasten the zip. I’ll have to do without because I’m certainly not attempting to retrieve it from the bedroom.

I walk over to the mirror to inspect myself. It’s as I suspected; I look dreadful. My eyes are swimming with unshed tears, my lips swollen and red, and my cheeks are flushed. I look harassed; I am harassed. I try in vain to straighten myself out, so I can at least exit with a bit of dignity in tack, but there’s no escaping the distraught look I’m displaying. This will be the ultimate walk of shame.

I flinch when there’s a knock on the door.

‘Ava?’

I keep quiet. Oh God, he sounds almost angry. I pull my fingers through my hair and dab my eyes with tissue to soak up the tears. I look no better, but I know I’ll feel better when I’m out of here. Geeing myself up to face the music that’s a disappointed man blocking my escape, I gingerly unlock the door. It flies open, nearly knocking me off of my feet, and Jesse is filling the doorway. He is angry. And he’s blocking my path.

I look past him into the bedroom, finding we’re alone. He must be a bloody convincing liar because he’s still shirtless, and there’s no Sarah trying to rip my hair out. As if he has the right to look at me all disapproving and make me feel like a letdown. I push past him.

‘Where the hell are you going?’ he shouts after me.

I don’t respond. I keep my pace up, grabbing my bag and stalking out onto the gallery landing, hearing Jesse curse as I make my escape.

‘Ava!’ he yells.

I take the stairs fast, glancing up as I go, spotting Jesse flying out of the suite, fighting to get his t-shirt on. Detouring into the bar to collect my phone, I find Mario serving some gentlemen. My good manners prevent me from demanding it immediately, so I stand patiently and wait, fidgeting and flustering the whole time.

‘Did you get what you came for?’ Sarah’s cold voice stabs at my flesh. Oh God, does she know? Is there a double meaning there?

I turn, plastering on a false smile. ‘You mean measurements? Yes.’

She looks me over, her elbow resting on her hip, with her sloe gin and tonic suspended in front of her face. She knows. Oh, this is awful.

Jesse races into the bar, skidding to a stop in front of us. I look at him in horror. Could he be any more obvious? I glance at Sarah to gage her reaction to this little scene, finding her looking thoughtfully at us both. She definitely knows. I need to leave, right now.

I turn back towards the bar. Thank God, Mario spots me. ‘Miss O’Shea, here, you must try.’ He hands me a short of some sort.

‘Do you have my phone, Mario?’

‘You try.’ he demands.

In my desperation to get out of here, I knock the whole thing back in one foul gulp. It burns the back of my throat, continuing the burn as it makes its way down my throat and into my stomach.

My mouth forms an O as I squeeze my eyes shut. ‘Wow!’

‘It is good?’

I blow out a long, hot breath, handing the glass back to him. ‘Yes. It’s very good.’ I begin to get the aftertaste of…cherries? He takes the glass, winks and hands me my phone.

I smooth my dress, taking a deep breath, before turning back to face the two people I never want to see again. I’m sure there’s a gigantic, neon sign saying Tart flashing on my forehead.

‘You left this upstairs.’ Ward hands me my folder but doesn’t release it when I tug gently.

‘Thank you,’ I frown at him as he stares at me, his brow completely furrowed as he chews his bottom lip. He finally lets it go, and I tuck it in my bag. ‘Goodbye.’ I leave them both in the bar, making my way to my car. He can’t pursue me with Sarah there to bear witness and that is a major relief.

I get in and start my car, ignoring the voice in my head screaming “You’re probably over the limit!” This is so irresponsible of me, but desperation leaves me with no alternative. I reverse out of the space and see Jesse come bounding out of the doors. He can’t be serious? Why doesn’t he just come out and tell her exactly what just happened?

Frantically, I shift into first gear, pulling off sharply and leaving a cloud of dust in my wake. I’ve never drove my Mini so erratically. As the fog of dust clears behind me, I see Jesse in the rear view mirror, throwing his arms around in the air like some raving lunatic. I speed down the tree covered driveway, my head spinning – a mixture of drink and distress – trying to block everything out of my mind and concentrate on the road ahead of me. I’m in no state to be driving. All my senses are dulled, the drink only a minor contributing factor to my hysterical state of mind.

Glancing down at the dashboard, I note I’m driving stupidly fast and without the headlights or my seatbelt on. My head is all over the place. The gates come into view and I release the accelerator. ‘Open, please, open.’ I plead as I pull to a standstill. ‘Open!’ I thump the steering wheel in frustration and the horn screams, sending me on a startled jump in my seat. The sound of a car approaching drags my eyes to the rearview mirror. The headlights are getting closer.

‘Oh, f**king hell!’ I curse.

It skids to a stop behind me and the door flies open. Jesse gets out and strides forward at a leisurely rate, but I’m not trying to kid myself that he doesn’t look fuming. Just because he didn’t get his rocks off? I dramatically slump my arms and head onto the steering wheel, feeling completely flattened. My aim to escape, no questions asked or explanations given, has been well and truly dashed – not that I owe him any explanations. The situation, in all its hideousness, speaks for itself.

The driver door is yanked open and he grabs my arm, gently pulling me from the car and taking my keys from the ignition. ‘Ava,’ He looks at me all disapproving. I want to yell at him, but he gets in first. ‘You’re half pissed! I swear to God, if you’d of hurt yourself…’

I wince at his words, mentally scolding myself for being so reckless. I stand in front of him, soaking up his displeasure, feeling humiliated and pathetic. He grasps my jaw in his hand to look down at me. He’s moving in for a kiss, I can see it in his eyes. Oh, please. I really don’t need this. I pull my face from his grip.