‘Sorry,’ I mutter indignantly. ‘And put my seat back when you drive my car.’
He grin’s a real boyish grin, and I’m even more furious with myself when my heart speeds up. I mustn’t let him see the affect he has on me.
‘And leave my music alone!’
‘I’m sorry.’ His eyes flicker with mischievousness. It’s so bloody sexy. ‘Are you okay? You look a little shaky.’ He reaches out, softly running his finger down my bare arm. ‘Is something affecting you?’
I jerk away. ‘Not at all,’ I need to get off this line of conversation. ‘Did you want a tour?’
‘I would love a tour.’ He looks pleased with himself.
On a huff, I lead him out of the kitchen and into the massive living space. ‘Lounge,’ I wave my hand about in the general space around us. ‘You’ve seen the kitchen,’ I say over my shoulder as I walk through the open space and onto the terrace. ‘View,’ I maintain my tired tone, hearing him laugh lightly behind me.
I lead him back through the lounge to the workout room, not saying a word as we trek through the penthouse. Jesse shakes hands, greeting various people on our travels, but I don’t pause to allow him time to stop and chat. I march on in a bid to get this over with as soon as possible. Damn this place for being so big.
‘Gym,’ I state, walking in and abruptly leaving again when he enters. I head for the stairs, hearing him laugh behind me. I take the back-lit, onyx staircase, proceeding to open and shut doors, one at a time, while declaring what lies beyond. We reach the pièce de résistance, the master suite, and I wave my hand round at the dressing room and en-suite bathroom. The place really does deserve more passion and time than I’m devoting.
‘You’re an expert tour guide, Ava.’ he teases, regarding one of my favourite pieces of art. ‘Care to enlighten me on the artist?’
‘Guiseppe Cavalli,’ I toss the name at him, folding my arms over my chest.
‘It’s good. Is there any particular reason why you chose this artist?’ He’s blatantly trying to temp me into conversation.
I stare at his broad, suit covered back, his hands resting lightly in his trouser pockets, his lean legs slightly spread. My eyes are very pleased, but my brain is in a jumbled mess. I sigh and decide, wisely or not, to indulge him. Guiseppe Cavalli most definitely deserves my time and enthusiasm. I drop my arms and walk over to join him in front of the piece.
‘He was known as the master of light,’ I say, and he looks at me with genuine interest. ‘He didn’t think that the subject was of any importance. It didn’t matter what he photographed. To him, the subject was always the light. He concentrated on controlling it. See?’ I point to the reflections on the water. ‘These rowing boats, as lovely as they are, are just boats, but see how he manipulates the light? He didn’t care for the boats. He cared for the light surrounding the boats. He makes inanimate objects interesting, makes you look at the photograph in a different…well, a different light, I suppose.’ I tilt my head and observe the picture. I never tire of it. As simple as it seems, the more you look at it, the more you get it.
After a few moments silence, I rip my eyes away from the canvas, finding Jesse staring at me.
Our eyes meet. He’s chewing his bottom lip. I know I won’t be able to say no again if he pushes this. I’m all out of willpower. I’ve never felt so desired than when I’m with him, and I keep trying to fool myself that the feeling is unwanted.
‘Please don’t.’ My voice is barely audible.
‘You know what. You said I wouldn’t have to see you again.’
‘I lied,’ He’s not ashamed. ‘I can’t stay away from you, so you do have to see me again…and again…and again.’ He finishes the last part of his declaration slowly and clearly, leaving no room for misunderstanding.
I gasp, instinctively backing away from him.
‘You persistently fighting this is only making me more determined to prove that you want me.’ He starts slowly pursuing me, taking slow, cautious steps forward, maintaining his deep eye contact as he does. ‘I’m making it my mission objective. I’ll do anything.’
I stop my retreat when I feel the bed at the back of my knees. In two more strides, he’ll be upon me, and the thought of imminent contact in enough to snap me out of the trance he sends me into.
‘Stop,’ I hold my hand up in front of me, halting him in his tracks. ‘You don’t even know me.’ I blurt, in a desperate attempt to make him see how crazy this is.
‘I know you’re impossibly beautiful,’ He starts towards me again. ‘I know what I feel, and I know that you’re feeling it too.’ We’re body to body now, and my heart is hammering in my throat. ‘So, tell me, Ava. What have I missed?’
I try to control my rushed breaths, but with my chest heaving and my body physically shaking, I’m struggling. I drop my head, ashamed at the tears gathering in my eyes. Why am I crying? Is he enjoying reducing me to tears? This is hideous. He’s so desperate to bed me, he’s resorting to stalking me, and I’m crying because I’m so weak. He makes me weak, and he has no right to.
I feel his hand slide under my chin, and the warmth would be welcome, if I didn’t think he was such an arsehole right now. He tugs at my jaw to raise my head. When our eyes meet, he winces at my tears.
‘I’m sorry.’ he whispers softly, sliding his hand around to cup my cheek, slowly stroking the rolling tears away with his thumb. His expression is pure torment. Good. It should be.