‘Watch your f**king mouth!’
Watch my mouth? Watch my bloody mouth? I want to thump him, fall to my knees and cry in frustration, proper howl at the moon wails. I feel such a fool – humiliated and ashamed.
‘I’m not prepared to be a notch on your busy bedpost.’ I spit. I have a little more self-respect than that…kind of.
‘You actually believe that?’ He’s really very puzzled.
Give me strength. This man is the ultimate player, seeing and taking what he wants, when he wants it. Who does he think he is? Our confrontation is interrupted when his mobile starts ringing.
It’s swiftly removed from his pocket. ‘John?’ He turns and starts pacing. ‘Yeah…okay.’ The call is ended quickly. ‘I’ll take you home.’ He holds his hand out.
‘No, please. Just open the gates.’ I’m pleading, and it wasn’t the tone I was aiming for.
‘No, I’m not letting you out there on you own, Ava. End of. You’re coming with me.’
‘Yes, you are.’
I snap my head up when a car pulls off the main road.
‘Fuck!’ Jesse roars, yanking his phone back out of his pocket, at the same time trying to make a grab for me.
The gates start to open and I run to grab my bag from my car.
‘John, don’t open the f**king gates.’ he yells into his phone. ‘Well, tell Sarah not to!’
As soon as the opening is big enough to allow, I squeeze through, just as they start closing again. I see Jesse run to his car, bashing something on the dash board. The gates start opening again. Won’t the man just give it a rest? I get my phone out and dial a cab number as I start walking down the lane. The call connects and I go to speak, but the wind is knocked clean out of me when I’m grabbed around my waist.
‘What!’ I scream as I’m hoisted from my feet, spun around and tossed over his shoulder.
‘You’re not wandering around on your f**king own, lady.’ he grates, his tone full of authority, making me feel younger, or him older – I’m not sure
‘What’s it got to do with you?’ I spit. I’m boiling mad and bobbing up and down as he strides back to his car.
‘Apparently, nothing, but I do have a conscious. You’re not leaving here unless it’s in my car. Do you understand me?’ He places me on my feet, grasps my elbow and guides me into his car before slamming the door and getting into my Mini to move it to the side of the driveway.
I smirk as I watch him yank the lever to slide the seat back as far as it will go, but even at its furthest away from the wheel, he still struggles to cram his tall, lean body in. He looks pretty stupid. I want to yell at him some more when he wheel spins and skids to a stop. My poor Mini has never been so ill-treated.
He huffs his way back and throws himself in his car, giving me a ferocious scowl before he starts the car and roars off.
The journey home is painfully silent and frighteningly fast. The man is a menace on the roads, and I wish he would at least put the radio on to rid the car of the awkward silence.
I begrudgingly admire the interior of his DBS. I’m cradled in the seat, with acres of black, quilted leather surrounding me, as I stare out of the window the whole way home. I feel his eyes fixed on me every so often, but I ignore it. Instead, I concentrate on the guttural roar of the engine as it eats up the road ahead. What has just happened?
He pulls up outside Kate’s, after I direct him in with short, sharp instructions, and I let myself out.
‘Ava?’ I hear him call me, but I shut the car door and race up the path to the house, cursing out loud when I realise he’s got my bloody car keys. I turn to make my way back down the path, but I hear the roar of his engine burning off down the road.
I screw my face up in my own private disgust. He’s done that on purpose so I have to call him. Well, he’ll be waiting a long time. I would rather go without my car. I traipse back up the path and bash on the door.
‘Where are your keys?’ Kate asks when she answers the door.
I think quickly. ‘My car’s having some new brakes. I forgot to remove my house keys.’
She accepts my excuse with no further questions. ‘There’s a spare door key in the pot by the kitchen window.’ She runs back up the stairs and I follow, immediately opening a bottle of wine before rummaging through the fridge for something to eat. Nothing takes my fancy. Wine will do.
‘Yes, please.’ Kate comes breezing back into the kitchen. She’s already jimmy-jammed up, and I can’t wait to join her. I pour her a glass, while trying to morph my face into anything other than the shocked expression that I know is still visible.
‘Good day?’ I ask.
She collapses into one of the mismatching chairs around the chunky, pine table. ‘I spent most of the day collecting cake stands. You would think people would be kind enough to return them.’ She takes a sip of her wine, gasping in appreciation.
I join her at the table. ‘You need to start asking for a deposit.’
‘I know. Hey, I have a date tomorrow night.’
‘With who?’ I ask, wondering if this one will make it past the first.
‘A very yummy client. He stopped by to collect a cake for his niece’s first birthday – a Jungle Junction cake. How sweet is that?’
‘Very sweet,’ I agree. ‘How did that come about?’
‘I asked him.’ She shrugs.
I laugh. Her confidence is charming. She must hold the world record for first dates. The only long term relationship she’s ever had was with my brother, but we don’t talk about that. Since they split and Dan moved to Australia, Kate has been on endless dates, none of them progressing past the first.