‘Oh, I bet that was nice for you.’ I tease, imagining Kate hissing and spitting like a cat at poor Matt. It’s no less than he deserves.
‘No, it wasn’t. The part where he told me that you were going out for dinner with him was particularly unpleasant.’ She purses her lips at me. ‘Ava, what are you thinking? I’m here to threaten you.’
‘Oh, and there was me thinking you’d come to support your friend in her working triumph.’ I raise my eyebrows.
‘Pah! Your working life is not an area in which you need support. On the other hand, your personal life is very interesting lately.’ She jiggles her eyebrows up and down suggestively. I know what she’s getting at, and she’s not heard the half of it. Damn Matt as well. We’re not even together anymore and he still can’t resist winding her up.
I feign a hurt face. ‘You needn’t worry. I assure you, I’m not going back to that. I’m enjoying being man free, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Anyway, for the record, Matt’s winding you up.’ I sip my champagne.
‘Not even for tall, handsome, slightly older blondes?’ She grins.
I narrow my eyes on her. ‘Not even then.’ I confirm.
‘Oh, don’t be such a bore.’
‘Excuse me?’ This time, my hurt expression isn’t feigned. Boring? I’m not boring. Kate’s Wild! I look at her in disbelief, genuinely hurt by her harsh remark. I wait for her to back track, but she doesn’t. Instead, she’s looking over my shoulder with the biggest smirk on her face.
Impatient and quite pissed off with her, I swing around to find out what’s caught her amused attention.
‘He’s like a bad penny, isn’t he?’ she remarks coolly.
Oh, she has no idea.
I’ve not even filled her in on any of the developments since she met him at lunch. And here he is again, stood chatting with the acting estate agent, wearing a navy suit and pale blue shirt, one hand in his pocket and the other holding a file. He looks, as always, like a f**king God. And as if he can sense me staring, he looks up and our eyes meet.
‘Shit!’ I curse, turning back to Kate. She drags her gaze from Ward and onto me, her eyes dancing with delight.
‘You know, I was going to go home and cry into my Haagen-Dazs, Bridgette Jones style, but I think I’ll just hang around for a bit. You mind?’ She sips her drink through her grin, while I snarl at her. ‘This is not the behavior of someone, supposedly, unmoved by a certain someone, Ava.’ she teases.
‘I went to The Manor on Tuesday and nearly slept with him.’ I blurt.
‘What!’ Kate splutters, grabbing a napkin to mop up the trail of champagne that’s dripping down her chin.
‘He apologised for the text he sent. I went back to The Manor and he had the big guy lock me in a room. He was waiting for me half naked!’
‘Get out! Oh my God. Who’s the big guy?’
‘Well, he’s not a butler. I’ve no idea what role he plays. Trapping women for Ward, maybe.’
‘Why haven’t you told me this?’
‘It was a disaster. I ran out when I heard his girlfriend calling him. Ward screwed and turned up at the house last night making demands.’ The urgency to bring Kate up to speed has me spitting out the basic facts in a rush.
‘Fuck! What sort of demands?’ She’s shocked. She should be. It’s shocking.
‘I don’t know. The man’s an arrogant arse. He asked me how loud I’d scream when he f**ks me.’
She spits more champagne. ‘He what? Fuck, Ava, he’s coming over, he’s coming over!’ She shifts on the spot, her eyes still skipping with amusement.
Why is he here? I start planning my escape, but before my brain can even instruct my legs to move, I can feel him stood behind me; I can smell him.
‘Nice to see you again, Kate.’ he drawls. ‘Ava?’
I remain with my back to him, knowing all too well that if I turn to acknowledge him, I’ll be hauled into the hazardous place that is Jesse Ward’s realm – a place where I struggle to maintain any rational thinking. I drained my reserve tank of strength last night, and I’ve not had a chance to replenish it yet. This is not good news. He said I wouldn’t have to see him again. If I told him what he didn’t want to hear, then I would never have to see him again. I met the terms of his demand, so why is he not keeping to his end of the bargain?
Kate’s eyes are darting between us, waiting for one of us to say something. I certainly won’t be.
‘Jesse.’ She nods at him. ‘Excuse me. I need to powder my nose.’ She places her empty on the worktop and beats feet. I mentally curse her arse to Hell.
He circles around me so he’s stood before me. ‘You look stunning.’ he murmurs.
‘You said I wouldn’t have to see you again.’ I challenge him, ignoring his compliment.
‘I didn’t know you would be here.’
I look at him tiredly. ‘You sent me flowers.’
‘Oh, so I did.’ A smile tickles the edge of his lips.
I don’t have time for his games. He’s really met his match in me. ‘Please, excuse me.’ I go to side step him, but he moves with me, effectively blocking my path.
‘I was hoping for a tour.’
‘I’ll get Victoria. She’ll be happy to show you around.’
‘I would prefer you.’
‘You don’t get a f**k with a tour.’ I snap.
He frowns. ‘Will you watch your mouth?’