‘Not really,’ I muse, picking up my cheeky lunchtime wine and taking a sip. ‘Anyway, it’s only been four weeks since Matt and I split up. I don’t want any men in my life, not in any capacity.’ I like the fact that I sound resolute. ‘I’m enjoying being single and carefree for the first time ever.’ I add. And it really does feel like the first time ever. I was with Matt for four years and previous to that, I was in a three year relationship with Adam.
‘Have you seen the prick?’ Kate face distorts into one of disgust at the mention of my ex’s name.
She can’t stand Matt and was delighted when I split up with him. Kate catching him at it with a work colleague in a taxi only confirmed what I already knew. I don’t know why I ignored it for so long. When I confronted him calmly, he fell apart with apologies and nearly fell over when I told him I wasn’t bothered. I really wasn’t, much to my own surprise. The relationship had run its course, and Matt was of the same opinion. It’s all been very amicable, much to Kate’s disgust. She wants flying plates and police intervention.
‘No.’ I confirm.
‘We are having fun, aren’t we?’ She grins as the waitress approaches with our lunch.
‘I’m just going to the loo.’ I get up, leaving Kate dowsing her chips in mayonnaise.
After using the toilet, I stand in the mirror re-applying my lip gloss and fluffing my hair. It’s behaving today, so it’s down and tumbling all over my shoulders. I brush down my black capri pants and pick a few hairs off my cream blouse. My phone rings as I make my way back to the bar. I drag it from my bag, rolling my eyes when I see it’s him again. He’s probably wondering where my reply to his inappropriate text message is. I’m not playing games with him.
‘Reject.’ I huff at my phone, stabbing at the red button and stuffing it in my bag as I continue down the corridor. ‘Oh God, I’m Sorry!’ I splutter, slamming straight into a chest.
This chest is a very firm chest, and the intoxicating fresh water scent that’s washing over me is way too familiar. My legs refuse to move, and I know what I’m going to see if I look up. His arm is already wrapped around my waist to steady me, my eyes level with the top of his chest. I can see his heart beating through his shirt.
‘Reject?’ he says softly. ‘I’m wounded.’
I push myself away from his grasp, attempting to regain my composure. He looks stunning, wearing a charcoal suit and crisp white shirt. I laugh at myself and my inability to get my eyes past his upper body for fear of being hypnotised by the potency of this man’s sludgy gaze.
‘Is something funny?’ he asks. I suspect he’s frowning at my random outburst, but because I refuse to look at him, I can’t confirm that.
‘I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going.’ I side step him, but he grabs my elbow, halting my escape.
‘Just tell me one thing before you leave, Ava.’ His voice prickles at my senses, and I find my eyes travelling up the leanness of his body until our stares meet. His face is serious, but still stunning. ‘How loud do you think you’ll scream when I f**k you?’
WHAT? ‘Excuse me?’ I manage to splutter around the lead that is my tongue.
He half smiles at my shock, placing his index finger under my chin and pushing my gaping mouth shut. ‘I’ll leave that one with you.’ He releases my elbow.
I flash him a displeased scowl before I walk back to the table as steadily as my boneless legs will allow. Did I really just hear him right? I slide myself onto the chair, immediately glugging down my wine to try and moisten my parched mouth.
When I look up at Kate, she’s openmouthed, exposing half chewed chips and bread. It’s not attractive. ‘Who the f**k is that?’ she mumbles around her food.
‘Who?’ I look around, simulating unawareness.
‘Him,’ Kate points with her fork. ‘Look!’
‘I saw, and I don’t know.’ I grate. Drop it!
‘He’s coming over. You sure you don’t know him? Fuck, he’s hot!’ She looks at me. I shrug.
Please, go away. Go away, go away! I pick up a stray piece of lettuce from my BLT and start nibbling at the edges. I’m tense all over, and I know he’s getting closer because Kate’s gaze is lifting upwards to accommodate his height. I wish she would shut her bloody gaping mouth!
‘Ladies,’ His low, throaty voice prickles at my skin, doing nothing to relax me.
‘Hi,’ Kate spits, chewing rapidly to rid her mouth of the obstruction to speech.
‘Ava?’ he prompts. I wave my piece of lettuce at him to acknowledge his presence but without having to look at him. He laughs lightly.
Out the corner of my eye, I see his body slowly lowering until he’s squatting at the table next to me, but I still refuse to look at him. He rests one arm on the table, and I hear Kate cough and splutter on the remnants of her food.
‘That’s better,’ he says. I can feel his breath on my cheek.
Reluctantly, I look up through my lashes and find Kate gawking at me – all wide eyed and yes-he’s-still-there-talk-you-idiot! I can think of nothing to say. Once again, this man has rendered me useless.
I hear him sigh. ‘I’m Jesse Ward, pleased to meet you.’ I see his hand reach across the table.
Kate takes it eagerly. ‘Jesse?’ she splutters. ‘Oh! Jesse,’ I can feel her glaring at me accusingly. ‘I’m Kate. Ava mentioned you have a posh hotel.’
I scowl across the table.