‘Jesse, let go of my hand.’
‘No.’ he shoots back, short and firm, and without even looking at me.
I stop, abruptly, half way down the stairs and scan the room below. No one is looking at us, thank God, but it won’t be long before someone clocks us. Jesse turns, looking up at me from a few steps below.
‘Jesse, you can’t expect me to parade through here holding your hand. That’s not fair. Please, let me go.’
He looks at our hands locked together, suspended between our bodies. ‘I’m not letting you go,’ he murmurs sullenly. ‘If I let you go, you might forget how it feels. You might change your mind.’
There is absolutely no chance of me forgetting how we feel flesh on flesh, but that’s not the part of his statement that’s bothering me. ‘Change my mind about what?’ I ask, totally perplexed.
‘Me.’ he says simply.
What about him? My mind hasn’t been made up on anything, so there’s nothing to change. I need to focus my attention on persuading him to release my hand before someone spots us. I’ll file that comment, just like I’ve filed the other strange comments he made upstairs.
Holy shit! I nearly fall down the stairs when I see Sarah breezing across the terrace. Reality has just come crashing down around me. Surely when he sees her he’ll stop being such an unreasonable fool. She’s heading back inside. I don’t have time to f**k about. I narrow my eyes on him and use brute force to yank my hand from his, nearly dislocating my shoulder in the process, but it works. He scowls at me, but I don’t hang around long enough to take much notice. I take the stairs fast, down to the vast openness of the penthouse. Even if she spots us together, she’ll be suspect. The woman has made it obvious that she dislikes me. I can hardly blame her. She saw me as a threat and as it turns out, her fear was warranted.
I hit the bottom of the stairs and see Tom come running through the crowd of people, waving his arms about frantically.
‘There you are! Where have you been? Patrick has been looking for you everywhere.’ He clasps my shoulders, checking me up and down, ever the drama queen. Noting my disheveled state, he eyes me suspiciously. I feel the heat rise in my cheeks.
‘I was giving Mr Ward a tour.’ I offer, rather unconvincingly, while waving my hand over my shoulder in the general direction of Jesse. I know he’s close behind me; I can still feel him brooding. And I can smell him too. Mind you, that could be his scent all over me. I feel like I’ve been marked…or claimed, even.
With his hands still clasped on my shoulders, Tom looks past me. He gasps, yanking me closer, so his mouth is at my ear. ‘Darling, who is that divine being growling at me?’ he asks, sniffing me.
I struggle out of his hands and turn to see Jesse drilling holes into Tom. I roll my eyes at his pathetic behavior. Tom’s the g*yest g*y man in London. He can’t possibly be threatened by him. Not that he should be feeling threatened by anyone.
‘Tom, this is Mr Ward. Mr Ward, Tom. He’s a colleague. He’s also g*y.’ I add the last bit sarcastically. Tom won’t care – not that it isn’t bloody obvious anyway.
I look at Tom, who’s grinning widely, then cast my eyes over to Jesse, who’s stopped growling but doesn’t look any less pissed. Tom prances forward, grabs Jesse’s shoulders and air kisses him. I stifle a laugh, watching as Jesse’s eyes bulge and his shoulder tense.
‘It really is a pleasure,’ Tom sings in Jesse’s face while stroking down his biceps. ‘Tell me, do you work out?’
A burst of laughter falls from my mouth and, rather immaturely, I decide to leave Jesse to cope with Tom’s outrageous flirting on his own. I catch his eyes as I turn to leave, seeing I’m being thrown daggers. I couldn’t care less. He’s being stupidly unreasonable.
I find Patrick in the kitchen, chatting with the developer. He waves me over and hands me a glass of champagne. It looks like the car will be staying here tonight.
‘Here she is,’ Patrick announces, draping his arm around my shoulder and hugging me against his big body. ‘This girl has transformed my company. I’m so proud of you, flower. Where have you been?’ he asks, his blue eyes twinkling brightly and his cheeks bright red – a clear sign that he’s had too much to drink.
‘I’ve been giving a few tours.’ I lie, smiling sweetly as I’m squeezed against him.
‘I’ve just been talking about you. Your ears must have been burning,’ Patrick says. No, not my ears! ‘I was just saying to Mr Van Der Haus, you’ll be more than happy to assist on their new venture.’
Mr Van Der Haus? Oh, he’s the other partner. I’ve not met him.
‘My partner insisted on it.’ Van Der Haus says, smiling broadly. He’s very classy – all tall and white blonde, with a bespoke suit and dress shoes. He’s quite handsome…for a mid-forties man – Another older man.
I blush. ‘I would be delighted, Mr Van Der Haus. What have you got in mind for the next project?’ I ask eagerly.
‘Please, call me Mikael. The building is nearly complete,’ He broadens his smile. ‘We have settled on traditional Scandinavian. We’re going back to our roots.’ His mild Danish accent is really sexy.
Traditional Scandinavian? Okay, this most definitely panics me. Does this mean I’ll be hijacking Ikea? Shouldn’t they employ someone Scandinavian for this? ‘It sounds exciting.’ I say, turning to place my glass on the worktop, spotting Jesse across the room with Sarah as I do.