This Man

Page 37

‘Hey, it’s me,’ I know I sound forlorn, but I can’t feign chirpiness when I really don’t feel it. I groan. ‘Oh, Kate… I’ve made a monumental f**k up. I’ll be home soon.’ I drop my hand to the bench and resolve to the fact that I’m pretty damn stupid. What was I thinking?

My phone jumps to life in my hand, and I connect the call without looking at the display, assuming it will be Kate. ‘Hey.’

‘Where are you?’ He speaks softly down the phone.

I don’t know whether my heart sinks because it’s not Kate, or just because it is Jesse. I don’t know anything. My life was resuming rather well, man free and commitment free, and now this is going to play on my conscience. I’m a firm believer in Karma, in which case, I’m in big trouble.

‘I’m at home.’ I lie again. It’s coming naturally these days. I’m twiddling my hair, a sure sign of my Pinocchio behavior.

‘Okay.’ he whispers and hangs up.

Oh? Well, that was easier than I contemplated. After I didn’t comply with hand holding orders and abandoned him with the g*yest of the g*y mauling him, I had expected pissed off. So, he’s got what he wanted and that’s it. I’m not sure why I feel so neglected. It’s what I had expected, and it’s no less than I actually deserve. His persistence had worn me down, but now it’s out of my system. Now, I can get back to me and my life. And if I’m lucky, Sarah won’t ever find out about this mild indiscretion.

Mild? It was far from mild.

Nevertheless, Jesse can continue with his serial seductions and move on to the next lucky woman, for all I care. I’m sure Sarah will find out soon enough, just not now. A woman scorned and after my blood is the last thing I need.

After sitting and musing for a while, I reluctantly get up to go and hail a cab. There’s only so long you can sit feeling sorry for yourself. I need to put tonight behind me fast. I need to forget about it, eradicate it from my memory and put it down to experience. He’s hazardous. I know it.

As I turn and look up, Jesse is stood a few feet away, quietly watching me. How the hell am I going to achieve any of my objectives if he stalks me?

Where’s Sarah?

We face each other, still and silent, his face impassive as he studies me. And then I burst into tears. I don’t know why, but I put my face in my hands and I sob. God only knows what he must be thinking. But then I feel his warm body swathe me and my head rests in the crevasse of his neck, my arms, on reflex, reaching under his to cling onto him. We say nothing for a long time. We just stand there in each other’s arms, silent while he massages the back of my head with the palm of his big hand, keeping me tucked tightly against his body. There is only a small part of me wondering where Sarah is, but I don’t dwell on it. I feel sheltered and safe, and I’m only mildly alert to the fact that I should be running away from these arms, not into them. I should be treating them with caution, not accepting the comfort they’re giving me. Why can’t I run?

‘How long have you been stood here?’ I ask when my sobs have finally abated.

‘Long enough,’ he murmurs. ‘What’s all this about a monumental f**k up?’ He squeezes me tighter. ‘I hope to God you weren’t referring to me.’

‘I was.’ I don’t beat around the bush. It would be pointless.

‘You were?’ he sounds surprised and a little pissed, but then a few moments later he follows it up with, ‘Will you come home with me?’ I feel him tense slightly.

I’ve just told him that he’s my monumental f**k up, and he wants to take me home? What about Sarah? They obviously don’t live together then. ‘No.’ I answer. What I’ve done already is bad enough.

‘Please, Ava.’

‘Why?’ I ask. I need to know what his fascination is with me, because if I spend any more time with this man, I may be in even more trouble. I can’t be getting caught up in sordid affairs with older, unavailable men. Although, exactly how old is still to be determined. There is something about this man, and it’s screaming bad news.

He pulls back to look down at me, his beautiful brow furrowed. ‘It feels right. You belong with me.’ He says it like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

‘So, who does Sarah belong with?’

‘Sarah? What’s she got to do with anything?’ He looks really confused now.

‘Girlfriend,’ I remind him. He really has no regard for the poor woman.

His eyes bulge. ‘Oh, please don’t tell me you’ve been ignoring my calls and running away because you thought…’ He releases me. ‘You thought me and Sarah were…’ He steps back. ‘Oh, f**king hell, no!’

‘Yes!’ I exclaim. ‘She’s not?’ Oh, now I’m really confused. The woman couldn’t have made her claim any clearer if she’d have pissed all over him. Who the hell is she then? Oh, I really don’t like her now.

His hands delve into his hair. ‘Ava, whatever made you think that?’

Is he winding me up? ‘Oh, let me see,’ I smile sweetly. ‘Maybe it was the kiss in the hallway of The Manor. Or when she came looking for you in the bedroom. Or it could be her frosty reception to me,’ I draw breath. ‘Or, perhaps, it’s the fact that she’s with you every time I see you.’ I can’t believe this. I’ve been beating myself up about this, and over a woman that I really don’t like. What a waste of conscience! ‘Who is she?’ I ask, completely riled.

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