Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(12)


by Jodi Ellen Malpas

We have an amazing day. I’ve laughed so much my cheeks ache. As it turns out, the only new waxworks’ in Tussaud’s are royalty. I had a photo with William and Kate, and Dan was captured squeezing The Queen’s boobs. We had dinner at our favourite Chinese in China Town and a few cheeky wines in a bar. I felt slightly guilty when I took my first sip, but I could hardly ask for water – Dan would have asked why. Besides, once I got the first glass down, the second was easier.

I hug Dan tight as we say our goodbyes at the tube. ‘When are you going back?’ I ask.

‘Not for a few weeks. I’m going up to Manchester tomorrow to catch up with some university friends, but I’m back in London next Sunday so I’ll see you again before I leave, okay?’

I release him from my squeeze. ‘Okay. Call me as soon as you’re back in London.’

‘I will, take care, yeah?’ He kisses me on the cheek. ‘I’m on my mobile if you need me.’

‘Okay.’ I smile. He’s worried.

He strides off and leaves me wishing he could stay forever. I’ve never needed him so much.

As I enter the foyer of Lusso, Clive is on the telephone. I walk straight past his desk on my way to the lift. I really don’t feel like chatting.

‘Thank you, goodbye. Ava!’ he shouts after me, and I stop and roll my eyes before turning to face him.

‘Yes?’

He shoves the phone into its cradle and hurries towards me. ‘A lady stopped by. I tried calling up to Mr Ward, but he didn’t answer. I’m afraid I couldn’t let her up. Mature woman.’

‘A lady?’ I ask. He’s got my attention now.

‘Yes, nice woman with blonde wavy hair. She said it was urgent, but of course, you know the rules.’ He raises his eyebrows.

Oh yes, I know the rules and for once I’m relieved he has stuck to the rules. Blonde, wavy hair? Not Sarah, surely. ‘How mature?’

He shrugs. ‘Mid-forties.’

Okay. I don’t like Sarah but she definitely doesn’t look like she’s in her forties. ‘What time was this, Clive?’

He looks at his watch. ‘Only half an hour ago.’

‘Did she give her name?’

He frowns. ‘No, she didn’t. I met her at the gate. She was expecting to go straight up to the penthouse, but when I wouldn’t let her through and said I would have to call Mr Ward, she started getting a bit vague with me.’

‘No worries, Clive. Thanks.’ I pivot and carry on towards the elevators.

I board the lift and punch in the code. A lady? And a vague lady who thought she could march up to the penthouse unannounced?

The elevators doors open and I step out to find Jesse’s front door open. Does this man have no regard for home security? Granted, he has a twenty four hour concierge downstairs to monitor the comings and goings, and a team of security, but a bit of common sense wouldn’t go a miss. I shut the door behind me and instantly feel on my guard. The sound system is playing. It’s not as ear piercing as last time, but it’s the track playing that has me on edge. It’s the same one I walked in to last Sunday when I found Jesse drunk.

Angel.

I run through the penthouse, leaving the music on. Finding Jesse is more important than turning off the tormenting song which reminds me of that awful day. I head straight for the terrace, but he’s not there. I dump my bag and take the stairs two at a time and bolt into the bedroom. Nothing. Where is he?

Panic starts to flood me, but then I hear the shower running. I fly into the bathroom and come to an abrupt stop when I see Jesse sat on the floor of the shower, n**ed except for a pair of running shorts that are soaking wet and clinging to his thighs. His back is against the cold tiled wall, his knees pulled up and his arms resting on top of them. His head in slumped as the water crashes down around him.

As if he senses I’m here, he lifts his head and meets my gaze. He smiles mildly, but he can’t hide the torture in his eyes. How long has he been like this? I exhale a long breath of relief, mixed with a little exasperation, before walking straight into the shower fully clothed and settling myself in his lap, wrapping my arms and legs around his soaking body.

He buries his head in my neck. ‘I love you.’

‘I know you do. How many laps did you do?’ He has done this before. He runs circles around the Royal Parks to distract himself…from me.

‘Three.’

‘That’s too much.’ I scold him. We’re talking twenty miles here. It’s not a quick jog around the park to alleviate some stress. His body is not strong enough for this at the moment.

‘I freaked out when you weren’t here.’

‘I kind of got that.’ I say with only a light dash of sarcasm. He shifts his hands to my h*ps and tweaks my hipbone. I jerk.

‘You should have told me.’ he says sternly.

Perhaps I should have, but he probably would’ve trampled it, and he can’t be running a marathon every time we’re apart. ‘I was always coming back,’ I assure him. ‘I can’t be joined at your hip.’

He exhales on a long breath and snuggles deeper into the crook of my neck. ‘I wish you bloody could be.’ he grumbles. ‘You’ve had a drink.’

I suddenly feel awkward, uneasy. ‘Have you eaten?’ I ask, not knowing what else to say. He’s probably burnt off a million calories running like Forrest Gump.

‘I’m not hungry.’

‘You need to eat, Jesse.’ I moan. ‘I’ll make you something.’

He tightens his grip on me. ‘Soon, I’m comfy.’

So, I let him be comfy for a while. I sit on his lap, my dress clinging to my body, my hair sopping wet, and just let him hold me. It can’t be like this every time we’re apart, I’ll never settle. We most certainly haven’t turned a corner, and I’m sorely disappointed. What happens now?

‘I hate this song.’ I say quietly, after we’ve sat in a tight clinch for an age.

‘I love it. Reminds me of you.’

‘It reminds me of a man I don’t like.’ I never want to hear it again.

‘I’m sorry.’ He nips at my neck, drawing his tongue up the length to my jawbone. ‘My arse is dead.’ he mumbles.

It’s the longest shower I’ve ever had. ‘I’m comfy.’ I mock. He moves his hand and grasps my hipbone, causing me to flinch and yelp. ‘Stop!’ I cry. ‘I need to feed you!’

‘Yes, you do. And I want my Ava, stripped n**ed and laying on our bed so I can binge on her.’ He stands himself up with me wrapped around his body, and with little effort, considering his injured hand and depleted body.

My Ava? That’s fine. Our bed? I will file that away for now.

‘I’m all for that, but I need to feed my man.’ I’ve already caused him to run himself into the ground with no fuel in his body. I’m not going to be the cause of him starving to death as well. ‘Food now, loving later.’

‘Loving now, food later.’ he challenges as he walks us out of the shower and positions me on the vanity unit.

‘I’m feeding you. End of.’ I inform him sternly. I mean it. ‘Where’s your bandage?’ I ask.

‘End of, ah?’ He picks a bath sheet up from the pile on the shelf and starts rubbing the wetness from my hair with his good hand. It could do with a shampoo and condition. ‘It was getting in my way.’ He brushes off my worry.

I start to shiver, my clinging dress rubbing on the goose bumps that are engulfing me. Jesse drapes the towel around my back and uses the corners to pull me into him, kissing me hard on the lips. I catch him wince.

‘Yes, end of. My man is rubbing off on me.’

‘Your man wants to rub onto you.’ he whispers, pushing his groin into my thigh and taking my mouth gently.

‘Please, let me feed you.’

He pulls back on a little pout. ‘Okay, food now, loving later.’

Another submission? This certainly is progress. Nothing usually gets in the way of him taking me wherever and however he pleases. ‘How’s your hand?’ I ask.

He flicks his eyes to his fist that’s clenching the corner of the towel. ‘Not bad. I was a good boy and put some ice on it.’

‘You brave boy!’

He smirks and nuzzles our noses, then kisses my forehead. ‘Come on, you need some dry clothes.’ He goes to lift me off the unit, but I brush him away. ‘Hey.’ He scowls at me.

‘Your hand. It’s never going to heal if you’re hoofing me all over the place.’ I jump down, kick my sodden ballet pumps off and undo the side zip of my dress before pulling it over my head. I’m then thrown up over his shoulder and carried out of the bathroom.

‘I like hoofing you about.’ he declares, chucking me onto the middle of the bed. ‘Where’s your stuff?’

‘In the spare room.’ I say, recovering from my flight.

He makes a point of demonstrating his disgust with an audible grumble before he stalks out of the room and returns moments later with all of my stuff spread between his good hand, under his arms and in his mouth. He dumps it all on the bed. ‘There.’

I reach into my bag and retrieve some clean knickers and my oversized, black sweatshirt, but my comfortable cotton knickers are soon snatched out of my hand. I frown as I watch him riffle through my bag and pull out a pair of lace replacements.

He hands them to me. ‘Always in lace.’ He nods in approval to his own demand, and I comply without hesitation or complaint, putting the lace knickers on, and then my oversized jumper. I watch as Jesse ditches the wet shorts and swaps them for a blue jersey pair. I can see new definition in his back and arms as his muscles roll and flex when he pulls them up. I sit and admire from my position on the bed before he picks me up again and carries me down to the kitchen.

First, I turn the music off on a little shudder, then I stand in front of the fridge scanning the shelves. ‘What do you want?’ Maybe some eggs, he could probably use the protein.

‘I don’t mind, I’ll have what you’re having.’ He comes up from behind and reaches past me to grab a jar of peanut butter, dropping his lips to my neck.

‘Put that back!’ I make a grab for the jar, but he evades me and beats a hasty retreat to the barstool, shoves the jar under his arm to unscrew the cap before dipping his finger in to scoop a dollop out. He smirks at me as he slides his finger into his mouth and forms an O with his lips as he pulls it out.

‘You’re a child.’ I settle on chicken fillets, grabbing them from the fridge. I’ve already eaten, but I’m going to have to tuck some more away if it means he will eat with me.

‘I’m a child because I like peanut butter?’ he asks over his finger.

‘No, you’re a child because of the way you eat peanut butter. No one over the age of ten should finger dip jars and as I’m being kept in the dark over your age, I assume that you are over ten.’ I fire a disgusted look at him as I find the tinfoil and wrap the chicken up with some Parma ham, then put them in an oven dish.

‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Here.’ He thrusts his peanut butter covered finger over the island and into my line of vision. I screw my face up. I detest peanut butter.

‘Pass.’ I say, putting the chicken in the oven. He shrugs and then licks it off himself.

I get some sugar snap peas and new potatoes from the fridge and load them into the built in steamer, then fiddle with a few knobs before it kicks into action.

Lifting myself up on to the worktop, I watch him on a small smile. ‘Enjoying that?’

He pauses mid-scoop and looks up at me. ‘I can eat the stuff until I feel sick.’ Another finger goes in.

‘Do you feel sick?’

‘No, not yet.’