Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(7)


by Jodi Ellen Malpas

‘I rang,’ I defend myself.

‘Yeah, and I know you’ve not given her the whole story. What’s with this new man?’

I freeze mid-pace. That’s a good question. ‘Dan, there are some things you can’t tell your parents.’

‘Yes, but you can tell your brother.’ he says firmly.

‘Can I?’ I blurt. I highly doubt that. Big brother would probably join my Dad in the heart attack ward. This is the reason I didn’t go to Newquay; interrogation and nagging. I will have to face up to it eventually, but not now. I’ve never been so glad that my parents live so far away.

‘Yes, you can. So, when can I see you?’ he asks, chirping up a little.

See me or squeeze me for information? ‘Tomorrow?’ I try.

‘I thought we were doing today?’ He sounds so disappointed.

So am I. I really want to see him, but I really don’t too. ‘I’m sorry. I’m looking at a few places to rent, and then I’ve got stacks of drawings to finalise.’ I lie again, but I couldn’t possibly muster up the strength to appear reasonably normal in such a short space of time. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll have dragged myself out of my hole of depression and uncertainty. I very much doubt it, but at least I have time to try.

‘Great, we’ll make a day of it.’ he confirms my fears.

A whole day of evading his questions? ‘Okay, ring me in the morning.’ I say, and secretly hope he goes out with all of his mates tonight and suffers a dreadful hangover which delays his call to me. I need time.

‘Sure thing. See you tomorrow, kid.’ He hangs up.

I start thinking of ways to get around this and after an hour of aimless pacing around the penthouse, I come up with none. I can’t avoid him forever.

The intercom phone system chimes and I answer it to Clive. ‘Ava, the maintenance man is on his way up to fix the door. Oh, and Mr Ward’s window has been replaced.’

‘Thank you, Clive.’ I hang up and make my way to the door.

I answer to an old boy, who is already inspecting the damage. ‘You have a rhino ram-raid you?’ he asks, scratching his head.

‘Something like that.’ I mutter.

‘I can secure it for now, but it’ll need replacing. I’ll get it on order and let you know when it arrives.’ he says, placing his tool box on the floor.

‘Thanks,’ I leave him chipping chunks of splintered wood off the doorframe and turn to find Jesse half asleep, looking suspiciously at the door.

‘What’s going on?’ he asks.

‘John had a fight with your front door when you didn’t open it.’ I inform him dryly.

His eyebrows shoot up, but then he looks worried. ‘I should ring him.’

‘How are you feeling?’ I ask, assessing him and concluding that he looks a bit brighter after an hour power napping.

‘Better. You?’

‘Fine, I’ll get my bag.’ I sidestep him and make my way past.

His hand flies out and grabs my arm. ‘Ava.’

I halt and wait for a follow up, any words that are going to make this all better, but I get nothing, just his heat seeping into my flesh from his harsh grip of my arm. I look up at him and find him watching me, but he still doesn’t open his mouth.

I sigh heavily and pull myself free, but then I remember my car isn’t here. ‘Shit.’ I curse quietly.

‘Watch your mouth, Ava. What’s up?’

‘My car’s at Kate’s.’

‘We’ll take mine.’

‘You can’t drive one handed.’ I turn to face him. His driving scares the shit out of me at the best of times.

‘I know. You can drive.’ He tosses his keys at me, and I panic slightly. He trusts me to drive a car worth more than one hundred and sixty thousand pounds?

Holy shit!

‘Ava, you’re driving like Miss Daisy. Will you put your foot down?’ Jesse moans.

I throw him a scowl, which he chooses to ignore. The accelerator is so sensitive, and I feel so small behind the wheel. I’m scared to death I’m going to scratch it. ‘Shut up.’ I snap, before doing as I’m told and roaring off down the road. It’s his tough shit if I do bump someone.

‘That’s better.’ He looks at me and smiles. ‘It’s easier to handle if you’re not pu**y footing around on the power.’

I could pin that statement on him. He is right, though, but I’m not telling him so. Instead, I concentrate on the road and getting him to the hospital in one piece.

After three hours in Minor Injuries and an x-ray, the doctor has confirmed that Jesse’s hand is not broken, but he has some muscle damage.

‘Have you been resting it?’ The nurse asks, ‘If it’s been a few days since you incurred the injury, I would expect the swelling to have subsided by now.’

Jesse looks at me guiltily as the nurse wraps his hand in a bandage. ‘No,’ he says quietly.

No, he’s been clenching bottles of vodka in it.

‘You should have been,’ she reprimands him, ‘And it should be elevated.’

I raise my eyebrows at him and he rolls his eyes while the nurse puts his arm in a sling before sending us on our way. As we get to the entrance, he removes the sling and chucks it in the litter bin.

‘What are you doing?’ I gasp, watching him walk out of the hospital doors.

‘I’m not wearing that thing.’

‘You bloody are!’ I yell, fishing it out of the bin. I’m shocked. This man has no regard for the wellbeing of his body. He has assaulted his internal organs with gallons of vodka, and now refuses to co-operate so his hand heals properly?

I stalk after him, but he doesn’t stop until he gets to the car. I’m holding the keys, but I don’t trigger the door release. We glare at each other over the top of the DBS.

‘Are you going to open the car?’ he asks.

‘No, not until you put this back on.’ I hold the sling above my head.

‘I told you, Ava. I’m not wearing it.’

I roll my eyes before narrowing them back on him. ‘Why?’ I ask shortly. The stubborn Jesse is back, but this trait I’m not so pleased to see.

‘I don’t need it.’

‘Yes, you do.’

‘No, I don’t.’ he mocks.

Good Lord! ‘Put the f**king sling on, Jesse!’ I shout over the car.

‘Watch your f**king mouth!’

‘Fuck!’ I hiss back petulantly.

He scowls real hard at me. What must we look like in the middle of the hospital car park, shouting f**k at each other over the roof of an Aston Martin? I don’t care. He is such a caveman sometimes.

‘MOUTH!’ he roars, and then winces at the sound level of his yell, his bad hand shooting up to clasp his head. ‘FUCK!’

I burst into laughter as I watch him dance around in circles, shaking his hand and swearing his head off. That will teach the obstinate fool.

‘Open the f**king car, Ava.’ he shouts.

Oh, he’s mad. I squeeze my lips together to suppress my laugh. ‘How’s your hand?’ I ask on a giggle that breaks out into a full belly laugh. I can‘t hold it in. It feels so good to laugh.

When I recover and straighten up, he’s looking at me fiercely over the car. ‘Open,’ he demands.

‘Sling,’ I snap, throwing it over the roof.

He grabs the material and throws it on the tarmac before returning his furious eyes to me. ‘Open!’

‘You’re a child sometimes, Jesse Ward. I am not opening the car until you put that sling on.’

I watch as his eyes narrow on me and the edges of his mouth lift into a concealed grin. ‘Three.’ he says, loud and clear.

My jaw hits ground. ‘You are not giving me the countdown!’ I screech disbelievingly.

‘Two,’ His tone is cool and casual, while I’m stunned. He leans his elbows on the roof. ‘One,’

‘You can get stuffed!’ I scoff, standing firm. I only want him to put the damn sling on for his own sake. It makes no odds to me, but this is principle.

‘Zero,’ he mouths, and starts stalking around the front of the car towards me, while I instinctively head around the back. He stops and raises his eyebrows. ‘What are you doing?’ he asks, circling the other way.

I know that face; that’s his you’re-really-copping-it face. I know he won’t think twice about pinning me to the ground and torturing me until I submit to whatever he demands through fear of peeing myself. What would I be submitting to, though?

‘Nothing,’ I say, making sure I keep to the other side of the car. We could be here all day.

‘Come here.’ His voice is that low, husky familiar tone that I love, and another piece of him that has returned, but I’m being distracted.

I shake my head. ‘No,’

Before I can anticipate his next move, he breaks into a full sprint around the car, and I dash off in the opposite direction on a squeal. People are staring as I weave myself through the other parked cars in the car park like a deranged madwoman, before I skid to a stop at the back of a high top, four wheel drive. I peek around the corner to see where he is.

My heart falls out of my mouth, straight on to the tarmac. He’s doubled over, his hands braced on his knees.

Shit!

What the hell am I doing encouraging such stupid behaviour when he should be recuperating? I run towards him as a few passersby clock him and start to approach. ‘Jesse!’ I shout as I near.

‘Is he all right, love?’ An old boy asks me as I make it to him.

‘I don’t…WHAT!’ I’m hoist off my feet with one arm and thrown over Jesse’s shoulder.

‘Don’t mess with me, Ava,’ he says smugly, ‘You should know by now, I always win.’ He reaches up my skirt and rests his hand on the inside of my thigh as he strides towards the car with me draped over him.

I smile sweetly at everyone we pass, but I don’t bother to fight him. I’m just happy he has the strength to lift me. ‘My knickers are flashing.’ I complain as I reach around to smooth my full dress over my bum.

‘No, they’re not.’ He lowers me down his body slowly until my face is level with his, my feet off the ground, his chest firm and warm against me. His eyes have won back a bit of sparkle and they are searching mine. He’s going to kiss me. I have to stop this.

I wriggle in his arms. ‘We need to go to the supermarket.’ I say, focusing my sight on his chest as I squirm my way free.

He sighs heavily, dropping me to my feet. ‘How can I fix things if you keep dodging my attempts?’

I brush my dress down and return my eyes to his. ‘That’s your problem, Jesse. You want to fix things by distracting me with your touch instead of talking to me and giving me some answers. I can’t let that happen again.’ I trigger the door release and climb into the car, leaving Jesse with his head hanging, chewing his lip.

We pull into the supermarket and I drive up and down looking for a parking space. I’ve learnt something new about Jesse today – he’s a crap passenger. I’ve been bullied into overtaking, cutting people up and jumping lanes, all in an attempt to gain a few yards. This man is a hothead when it comes to driving. Actually, this man is a hothead full stop.

‘There’s a space.’ He thrusts his arm across my line of sight, and I bat it out of my way.

‘That’s a parent and child space.’ I dismiss, passing it.

‘So,’

‘So…I don’t see any child in this lovely car of yours. Do you?’

He drops his gaze to my stomach, and I suddenly feel extremely uncomfortable. ‘Did you find your pills?’ he asks, maintaining his stare on my stomach.

‘No,’ I answer, swinging into a parking space. I want to blame him for distracting me from my normal personal schedule, but the truth is, my personal organisation skills have always been rubbish. I was forced to pay another mortifying trip to Doctor Monroe to replace the second batch of contraceptive pills that I lost in a week, and I made myself have tests to ensure I hadn’t contracted any sexual diseases after constant unprotected sex with Jesse. The suggestion of Jesse’s active sex life left me little choice.