This Man

Page 13

My phone rings again and I quickly reject it. Christ, give me a chance to reply! Am I even going to reply? I’m never going to get rid of him. I need to be brutal.

If you need to discuss your requirements, you should be calling Patrick, not me.

There. No sign off and definitely no kiss. I’ve not said in so many words, but he should get the message. I put my phone down, all set on getting something done, but it chimes again. I pick it straight back up, grabbing my coffee with my spare hand as I do.

My requirement is to make you scream. I don’t think Patrick can help me there. I’m gagging just thinking about it. That’s a thought...will I need to gag you? Jx

I spray coffee all over my desk as I cough. The cheeky sod! How brazen and unashamed can a man be? Does he think I’m easy or something? I switch my phone to silent, chucking it down on my desk in disgust. I’m not even dignifying that with a response. Replying will only encourage him. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and Jesse Ward triple jumps that. I feel sorry for old pouty lips. Is she aware of her man pursuing young women?

I watch as my screen lights up again. I snatch it up, silencing it before it draws attention. I open my top drawer, drop it in and slam it shut on a huff. He’ll get the message.

I make a meager attempt to carry on with some work, but I’m far too distracted. Strange words – all having no place in work related correspondence – are appearing in my emails as I absentmindedly tap away at my keyboard. The office phone rings.

Glancing up, I see Sally away from her desk, so I answer. ‘Good afternoon, Rococo Union.’

‘Don’t hang up!’ he blurts down the phone. I sit up straight in my chair. Even his urgent voice prickles my skin. Get the message, he will not. He’s really quite thick skinned. ‘Ava, I’m really very sorry.’

‘You are?’ I can’t hide the surprise in my voice. Jesse Ward doesn’t look like the kind of man to offer apologies willy-nilly.

‘Yes, really, I am. I’ve made you feel uncomfortable. I’ve overstepped the mark by a long shot.’ He sounds sincere enough. ‘I’ve distressed you. Please accept my apology.’

I wouldn’t say I was distressed by his bold behavior and comments. Shocked would be more apt. Some people might even admire his confidence, I suppose. ‘Oh, okay,’ I say hesitantly. ‘So, you don’t want to make me scream or gag me?’

‘Ava, you sound disappointed.’

‘Not at all,’ I blurt.

There’s a brief silence before he speaks again. ‘Can we start again? I’ll keep it professional, of course.’

Oh no. He might be sorry, but that doesn’t extinguish the affect he has on me. And it doesn’t escape my thoughts that this is just a ploy to get me back on side so he can re-commence pursuing me.

‘Mr Ward, I’m really not the right person for this job,’ I swivel in my chair to check if Patrick’s in his office. He is. ‘Can I transfer you to Patrick?’ I push, mentally pleading for him to take the hint.

‘It’s Jesse. You make me feel old when you call me Mr Ward.’ he grumbles.

I slam my mouth shut when my lips part and that question nearly falls out. I’m still intrigued on that subject, but I’m not going to ask again.

‘Ava, if it makes you feel better, you can deal with John. What would be the next stage?’

Oh? Would it make me feel better? Big guy has intimidation in equal measure to Wards boldness. I’m not sure I would feel any more comfortable with his offer to replace himself with John. But the fact he’s prepared to do this, tells me he really does want me to do the designs and that, I suppose, is a compliment. The Manor will be a great addition to my portfolio.

‘I would need to measure the rooms and draw up some schemes.’ I spit the words out impulsively.

‘Perfect,’ He sounds relieved. ‘I can get John to take you around the rooms. He can hold your tape measure. Tomorrow?’

Tomorrow? He’s keen. As it happens, I can’t. I’ve got various appointments dotted across the day, and Wednesday’s out too. ‘I can’t do tomorrow or Wednesday, I’m sorry.’

‘Oh,’ he says quietly. ‘Do you do evenings?’

Oh, do I? Well, I don’t like doing evenings, but many clients work nine to five jobs and are unavailable during the working day. I prefer evenings to weekends. I never get dragged into weekend appointments.

‘I can do tomorrow evening.’ I blurt, turning the page in my diary to tomorrow. My last appointment is at five with Mrs Kent. ‘Seven-ish?’ I ask, already pencilling him in.

‘Perfect. I would say that I’ll look forward to it, but I can’t look forward to it because I won’t be seeing you.’ I can’t see him, but I know he’s probably grinning. I can hear it in his tone. He just can’t help himself. ‘I’ll let John know to expect you at seven.’

‘-ish,’ I add. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get out of the city at that time of day.

‘-ish,’ he confirms. ‘Thank you, Ava.’

‘You’re welcome, Mr Ward. Goodbye.’ I hang up and commence tapping my fingernail on my front tooth.

‘Ava?’ Patrick calls from his office.

‘Yes?’ I swing my chair to face him.

‘The Manor, they want you, flower.’ He shrugs, returning to his computer screen.

No, he wants me.

Chapter 4

I fly through Tuesdays appointments, leaving Mrs Kent’s lovely new town house at just past six.

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