This Man

Page 23


I’m keen not to get into a conversation about Matt. Kate doesn’t know that he still calls me now and then. I don’t know why he does.

‘I’ve got to get back to work,’ I lean over, giving Kate a peck on the cheek. ‘Luv ya.’

‘Yeah, ditto. I’ll be late tonight. There’s a cake convention at The Hilton.’ She gets up, waving me away when I try to give her some money for lunch. ‘It’s my turn.’

I put my money back in my purse. ‘Okay, but it’s my shout next time.’

We leave each other outside the bar, Kate heading back to her workshop, me back to the office.

***

I collapse onto the sofa when I get home. I need an early night. Tomorrow will be a long day at Lusso and I need to be on form. My phone rings. I roll my eyes as I look at the screen, but it’s not who I expected it to be. It’s Matt. I groan to myself. When will my phone ring and it be someone that I actually want to speak to?

‘Hi,’ I all but groan.

‘All right?’ he greets, with his usual confident tone.

‘Yeah, and you?’ I know he’s fine. I’ve heard he’s out almost every night, catching up on lost time. Not that our relationship prevented him from living exactly how he wanted to anyway.

‘All good. I was ringing to wish you luck for tomorrow. It’s tomorrow, right?’

I’m surprised he remembered. He never really took an interest in my career. ‘Yeah, thanks. I was just thinking about getting an early night.’

‘Oh, okay, I won’t keep you then,’ He sounds disappointed. ‘I’ve boxed up the rest of your things.’

‘Oh, right,’

‘There’s no rush,’ he adds. ‘If you’re free sometime, it would be nice to catch up.’

It would? Catch up on what? How many women he’s slept with since I left? It’s nice that we’re still on talking terms, I did spend four years with the guy, but he’s taking the whole “let’s be friends” role a bit too far, treating me like one of his mates and filling me in on all of his latest conquests. I don’t care, but I also don’t want to hear about it.

‘Sure, I’ll ring you.’ I suggest.

‘Make sure you do, I miss you.’

WHOA! Where did that come from? Is he drunk? ‘You do?’ I ask. The shock in my voice is quite clear.

He laughs. ‘I do. Good luck tomorrow.’

I hang up and sit wondering if it’s time to collect my things and sever all ties. I’m not so sure the friend’s scenario is going to work with us. Does it ever work? My phone rings again, but it’s a number that I don’t recognise.

‘Ava O’Shea.’ I announce down the line, but there’s no reply. ‘Hello?’

‘Are you alone?’

The voice hits me like a sledgehammer to the gut. Oh, f**king hell. I stand up and sit back down again. Visions of him stood half naked before me, pleading to me with his eyes, start to assault my mind’s eye. This is exactly why I’ve been avoiding his calls. The affect he has on me is unsettling and most unwelcome.

Why didn’t his name come up on my phone? ‘No.’ I lie, a sweat breaking out across my brow.

I hear him sigh. It’s a loud sigh. ‘Why are you lying to me?’

I jump back up from the sofa. How does he know? Darting across the lounge, my wine swishing out of my glass, I look out of the window to the road, but I can’t see his car. How does he know I’m alone? In a panic and with a lump in my throat, I hang up. It rings again immediately. I chuck my phone onto the couch and let it ring off. And then it rings again.

‘Go away!’

I pace the lounge, biting my nails and swigging my wine. Tuesday’s events flood back into my mind, but not the bad stuff. Oh, no…it’s all the bloody good stuff. How he made me feel, how his hands felt on me. Everything before I heard the shrill, cold voice of his girlfriend. I slam a lid on my thoughts immediately. I’m a pawn in his sexual exploits, and he’s probably feeling hard done by after I pulled the plug on his charade. My phone declares a text message. I creep cautiously towards the sofa, like my phone might launch itself upwards and bite me.

For God’s sake, I’m being pathetic. I grab my phone and open the text.

Answer your phone!

It rings again in my hand, making me jump, even though I completely expected it. He’s relentless. I let it ring off again and, quite childishly, text back,

No

I pace some more, up and down, swigging wine and clutching my phone. It’s not long before another text arrives.

Fine, I’m coming in.

‘What? Oh no!’ I shout at my phone. It is one thing ignoring the phone, but it’s a whole other level of resistance trying to repel him when he’s flesh and blood and looking right at me.

Shit, shit, shit! I frantically pull up my call log to call him. It rings once.

‘Too late, Ava.’ he drawls down the line. I stare at my phone in uncertainty, and then the banging starts.

I run onto the landing, leaning over the banister as he hammers on the door.

‘Open the door, Ava.’ He bangs again.

What’s he thinking? Is he that desperate?

Bang, bang, bang!

‘Ava, I’m not going anywhere until you talk to me, please.’

Bang, bang, bang!

‘I’ve got your keys, Ava. I’ll let myself in.’

Oh shit. He would as well. Okay, I’ll let him in, listen to what he has to say, and then he can leave. Anyway, I need my car back. I’ll just have to keep as far away from him as possible, keep my eyes closed and hold my breath so I can’t smell him. I must not let him breach my defences. I put my glass down on the console table at the top of the stairs and look at myself in the mirror. My hairs piled up on top of my head, but at least I haven’t taken my make up off yet. It could be worse. Wait…why am I worried, anyway? The worse I look the better, surely? He needs telling to back off.


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